M15: Playing to your Weaknesses – Red
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
One of the colors I’m most excited about in M15 limited is red. It has some interesting spells that are playable in limited, but what I think will end up shifting power towards red are its aggressive creatures. Let’s take a look at the pre-release promo.
This just downright isn’t fair. Siege Dragon will downright end a game when he gets played. A 5/5 flyer that creates a one way Pyroclasm each time he attacks will surely put your opponent on the ropes after just one time. Heck, the only other color’s promo that can stand up to him is Indulgent Tormentor, but even then Siege Dragon has a better cards at his disposal that can deal with the demon. Lighting Strike or another burn spell will zap the 5/3 and make your opponent a sitting duck. There are also very few flyers with a toughness of 3 or higher as well. If he lands it’s pretty much game over. I was tempted to do black before at the pre-release, but now I think I might change that to red. As slow as the format is looking, this just might be the card that becomes king.
I’d like to start off in red with another card in the friendly color creature cycle, Kird Chieftain. Just like the other colors, the Chieftain gets +1/+1 if you have a forest, becoming a 4/4, but even without a forest a 3/3 body for 4 mana isn’t bad. However, I think you really do want to play this guy in a GR deck though. Being able to give a creature trample and +2/+2 will go a long way in limited, especially in a slower format. I think he’s a good card in sealed where you might not have as many choices, but he should be even better in draft when you can construct a good GR shell around him. I expect RG to be more popular than RB and RU in draft, so you want to take him very highly if you get him in pack 2 or 3, though in pack 1 I think I might wait until all the packs have gone around the table ones. That means he’s probably an 8th+ pick.
I’m a pretty shallow person, I like Thundering Giant for his body ^_^. A sturdy 4/3 body with haste for 5 mana will go a long way in limited I think. His 4 power is very respectable, and 3 toughness makes him somewhat difficult to deal with since a large majority of creatures in M15 hover around the 2 power level. He’s a great addition to any red deck you’re playing, so I’d draft him rather high in packs 2 and 3, and maybe take him around my 7th pick or so in the first pack after I’ve established I’m playing red.
Well it’s no Flame Slash, but Stoke the Flames is a pretty good removal spell. Playing it on turn 4 for cheap is a definite possibility, and 4 toughness takes out A LOT of creatures in this format. I think it will be highly coveted by players in draft, so I would probably take this as one of my first 5 picks if not sooner. The great thing about Convoke is that tapping a creature pays for 1 OR one mana of its color. Red looks as though it will have a lot of early, aggressive creatures so casting this should be no problem.
Whereas the blue and black paragons had a good abilities, the red one is actually better for its anthem effect. There are so many cheap, aggressively costed creatures in red that giving them a +1/+1 is a great bonus. He would really shine in a deck full of cheap goblins and human warriors. If there is going to be one offense based strategy in M15, it’s going to come from red. I recommend trying out a R/x deck with aggressive red creatures and him, then using the rest of your spots for removal spells from black or blue. I would take him earlier or later depending on how deep red is in the packs you’re opening. If you see a lot of red, he might be a good 5th-6th pick, but if red seems light, I would probably hold off on him until you’ve gotten some good red cards and opened your next 2 packs.
Geez! Can’t a non-red player catch a break? As I said, red is all about aggressive creatures. Three toughness means he matches up well against most of the cards in M15, and your opponent will be losing at least 2 creatures when they block him. Giving him trample is also a nice effect to ensure that his death isn’t in vain. His only draw back is probably going up against other red decks since they can just Lightning Strike him for 3 damage or hit him with a Stoke the Fire. For other colors he’s a nightmare though. He’s a great beater for red, so if you already have 4-5 good red creatures in your deck I’d take him to power up your deck and give you a late game. Not an early pick, but something you want in your red deck so you can escalate your attack.
There it is, the card I’ve been talking about quite a lot in my articles without even showing it. Lightning Strike is the most efficient form or removal in M15 limited. Three damage deals with close to 70% of the creatures in the set, and for 2 mana that’s a great trade off. Probably a #1 pick in packs 2 and 3, but in pack one of draft I think it would be very high as well. Not number one, but maybe my 2nd or 3rd choice. You simply won’t find a better removal spell in M15.
I did say that I think red will be somewhat popular, meaning that Krenko’s Enforcer’s Intimidate won’t be AS useful as it could be in a limited environment without it. He should still do well though, since a majority of the decks probably won’t be playing red. I expect him to get in a few points of damage for you, but he can be even more effective if you can put some enchantments or equipment on him to add to that damage. Intimidate is usually one of the better forms or evasion. RB and RG will probably be the best place for him. I don’t know if he’ll be drafted too early, but you should be alright waiting a little bit later to get him. I’d take him as my 7th+ pick in that first pack, but maybe as a 3rd-4th in the following ones.
I usually don’t recommend playing with enchantments in limited because your creatures can too easily be destroyed, causing the loss of both the creature and the enchantment. However, in M15 I think the amount of fast, efficient removal is very low meaning that cheap enchantments might not be bad to use. As you can see, this enchantment gives your creature a +2/+0 power boost, but you can also pay a red mana to turn it into a 2 damage Shock attack. This means that your 1/1 creature can potentially do 5 damage. Three with the enchantment, and 2 more afterwards. This is also a great way to catch opponents off guard and kill their creature they/you just blocked. I think it’s a clever little enchantment, so I won’t mind putting it in one of my last few slots in my deck. For draft, I don’t think I would be against taking it as a 5th-6th pick either if I already had some good red cards.
The drawback is that you can’t target an opponent with it, but in a creature heavy format you always want cards like this to deal with their threats. This is especially good if they have a lot of 4 toughness or higher creatures that can’t be taken out by a Lightning Strike or other similar removal spell. I’d save this for their finisher if they have one. I’d take Stoke the Flames or Lightning Strike over this any day, but if that wasn’t an option this would be a fine alternative. Not incredibly important to get early in draft (maybe a 7th-8th pick in the first pack), but also something you probably won’t see come around a second time.
I hope your opponent can play a creature every turn, cause if they can’t they are going to be pinched to death by this little brawler. He’s good both early and late in the game with his “can’t block” ability, and I’d expect him to go early in draft if somebody is running a red aggro deck. Putting him in a GR deck with lots of beefy monsters is a good way to ensure you get some large chunks of damage through. He’s good in other color combinations as well, especially with blue’s “creature cannot be blocked” abilities. He might not be as good in RW or RB, but I still think he’s one of the best one drops in the set. I’d take him somewhat high in draft, perhaps as my 5th-6th choice in the first pack. Take him early or you’ll be sorry. He won’t make it back around to you unless nobody else is playing red.
One card, 3 targets. This card is pretty valuable in limited as it has the ability to take out up to 3 creatures. It’s a good removal spell that I’d pick up around my 5th-6th pick in the first draft or number 1 in pack 2 or 3 to strengthen a red deck. Most of the time you’ll be able to 2 for 1 an opponent, but on a few occasions you’ll be able to 3 for one and really hurt them.
I’m not sure how effective this will be, but I’d like to give Brood Keeper a chance. There are some decent Auras in red and black that could find their way onto a Brood Keeper, but the dilemma is, do you really want to play 3-4 Auras in order to activate her ability a few times? If you draft a lot of Hammerhands or Inferno Fist then yes. Multi-use enchantments would work great with her since they’d activate her ability and do something else, but otherwise I could see her barely making the cut in a limited deck. I’d pick her late in your first pack, but if you’ve managed to get some good Auras, then consider using her as part of your strategy. You should have no problem passing her up and letting her come back around the table.
Yikes, the brutality of red never ceases in M15. You definitely want her in an aggressive red deck, and she most certainly won’t be playing defense. She’s a good early drop in your curve, and not bad if you draw her later on either. Not a first pick, but I’d take her as one of my first 5 cards in pack one if I had the chance. Good in sealed too.
Most of the other slivers need multiples to be useful, but Belligerent Sliver is good in and of itself. Playing this card alongside a Frenzied Gobin, Borderland Marauder, Goblin Roughrider, or Krenko’s Enforcer will pile the damage on your opponent quickly. This is a very high pick in draft IF you are going with the Red/x aggro route. Otherwise it’s a good 5th-6th pick to help fill your 3 drop slot. If you can get your hands on any other slivers, it only gets better. The blue sliver isn’t bad, but you probably want those type of UR decks to be heavy on the Auras to increase the power of their attacks.
It’s a good thing red is full of decent burn spells this time around, because Altac Bloodseeker won’t be getting too much help from the other colors. It would shine in a BR deck where you have multiple ways to kill opponents creatures, and this card can be downright sick with a Siege Dragon in play. If I started off with a red bomb rare as my first choice in draft, I would follow it up with Altac Bloodseeker. Cone of Flame also becomes a much sweeter burn spell with it in play. Kill 3 creatures, deal 8 damage. Add in some “can not be blocked” effects and you have a deadly attacker. I really like this card.
My last choice for red in M15 limited is Act on Impulse. Red never gets any type of good card advantage, but Act on Impulse is a step in the right direction. It’s much better than those cards that make you discard your hand in order to get anything new. Later on in the game this card can give you the gas you need to put your opponent away. Play another land, play another spell, play another creature . . . 3 (possible) cards for the price of one. Not a high draft prospect, but I wouldn’t be disappointed getting this as my 8th or 9th card. I think you should play it in your sealed deck as well, especially if you’re playing GR or RW where card advantage is non-existent.
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Goblin Roughrider – What’s not to like about a 3 mana 3/2 creature in sealed/draft?
- Hammerhand – I don’t think there are many 1 drop creatures I’d want to put this on, but this is a decent card to put on a two or 3 drop. Taking a creatures toughness up to 3 or 4 early on will make it very hard for your opponent to block, and even if they can, you get to choose a creature that can’t block it which increases its effectiveness.
- Generator Savant – I like the ability to play my dragon with haste on turn 5, and it’s also fits your curve well. Worth a try.
- Scrapyard Mongrel – A 3/3 body for 4 mana is decent, and if you get a playable artifact like Haunted Plate Mail he becomes playable. I think you’ll see quite a few of them in the 4 spot if there isn’t anything else taking it.
Coming Up Next
I’m feeling even better about red after looking through the cards one more time. I think you won’t be sorry if you choose it as either your main or support color. It has great creatures for limited, good removal, and it’s rares are pretty good too. The most common color combinations with it are going to be RB, RG, and RU. Black gives you more power and kill spells, green gives you harder hitters, and blue gives you speed and tempo. All could be good if you get the right cards. That does it for today, so feel free to put in your two cents if you want. I’ll be working most of the day tomorrow, but I should be able to finish green before the midnight pre-release here in Japan. Of course I’ll still have artifacts and lands to talk about, but the most important parts will be finished after tomorrow. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back tomorrow!