Modern Masters 2015: 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.)
As for my rating system, I’ll merely state if it’s a high, medium, or low pick in draft. A HIGH pick means that you should take it as soon as you see it (if it’s in your colors of course). HIGH picks are bombs that won’t come around the table a second time. MEDIUM picks are cards that have good synergies with other cards and are great at filling your mana curve or acting as role players. These cards might come around a 2nd time if you pass on them, so if there is another card that ranks higher, take that one and wait for this to come back. LOW picks are cards that are the leftovers. Maybe you need a 23rd card for your deck to round things out – THAT’S what a LOW pick is. You can take these ratings to mean the same for sealed as well. )
Before I even start today’s article, I just want to say that I’m a little disappointed with red. The first Modern Masters gave us Blood Moon, Kiki Jiki, a number of burn spells, and more than enough ways to build a good storm deck. It was a great support color in the last set, but I kind of feel like red was nothing more than an after thought in MM2. Let’s take a look at the cards I’ve chosen and maybe you’ll see what I mean.
Let’s start off with the card steeped in legend and the best burn spell every printed. We will probably never see Lightning Bolt in a standard set again, which means we’re only ever going to get our fill through supplemental products like duel decks or in special expansions like Modern Masters 2015. I don’t think you can go wrong with drafting this in any red deck you play. Red is not the most powerful of colors, but if you are playing the Bloodthirst archetype, you’re going to want as many cheap ways to deal damage as possible. I consider this a high pick in draft, and I wouldn’t let it pass me up unless there was no way I could run the colors. If it seems like your archetype could spread into red on pack 2 or 3 (Like UW affinity into RUW Affinity/Voltron), strongly consider getting this early.
Burst Lightning is another solid Burn spell that enables Bloodthirst early. Being able to deal 4 damage later one when you have the mana is also a plus. The kicker will kill quite a few creatures, but don’t hold onto it too long if you can press your advantage with it. Not a first pick, but another high pick in red.
RATING: High to Medium
Here’s where we start losing a little bit of that efficiency, but with Fiery Fall we get some value out of it at least. If you really need that land you can cycle it, and that’s not always a bad thing. It’s like having a Rampant Growth but in red. I could see this card being a clutch spell in both RUB Bloodthirst/Proliferate and WUR Affinity/Voltron as it gets you the mana you need while also acting as removal. It would also be good in a Domain deck if you could pull it off. Bolt is amazing, but Fiery Fall is well worth saving a spot for in your deck as well. I like it.
RATING: Medium to High
It’s not really a burn spell but being able to switch between having a huge glass cannon that can swing for 6 damage or trade with a creature and kill another one when it dies is pretty awesome. Great in Green ramp/Domain, but also playable in just about every other red archetype out there. This is one of my favorite red creatures in Modern Masters 2015, and I think I would take it pretty high in draft if I could. Easy to splash, but only if you’re willing to forgo its Evoke cost.
RATING: Medium to High
If you’re playing red, Blood Ogre is a solid 3 drop that will most likely get the Bloodthirst bonus when playing him. What makes him a good roleplayer is that first strike ability. Red is packed with a lot of subpar elementals, but Blood Ogre stands taller than all of them. Grab him the second time he comes around in the draft, I don’t think you’ll have to take him early unless somebody else playing red too (and I don’t think it will be a main color too often).
RATING: Medium to Low
Speaking of Bloodthirst cards, Skarrgan Firebird is a nifty creature that gets better the longer a game goes. His 6 mana casting cost is a little steep though, which means you’ll want to play him alongside some ramp. I could see it being a good card in GR, GBR, or even RW with some ramp cards like Alloy Myr and Sphere of Suns. If you’re playing this guy, you’re probably in red and there is a very good chance you’ve gotten all of the burn spells I’ve mentioned above which makes him a much more dependable asset. If you have a game plan for him, he won’t let you down.
Gorehorn Minotaurs is another solid card in red decks, as you’ll mostly likely be playing him as a 5/5 for 4 mana. If you’re going for the Bloodthirst theme, I would recommend getting a flyer heavy color to support it such as white (spirits) or blue (birds and elementals) along with any burn you can get your hands on.
I didn’t think about it was that good at first, but after playing in some limited events during the release weekend, I think Wrap of Flames is pretty good in this format. There are lot of 1 toughness creatures (mostly tokens), but the ability to stop a creature from blocking is also incredibly important. This card would be really good in a RW voltron deck and also has great synergy with Bloodthirst archetypes because it allows your creatures get through so Bloodthirst can be activated. Not a first pick, but I’d take this somewhat high if I was playing red.
RATING: Medium to High
The enchantments might suck in this set, but there are a lot of playable pieces of equipment that Bloodshot Trainee can use and he’ll definitely make good use of them. He’s a tough little guy and amazing in a RW voltron deck full of equipment, as is Spikeshot Elder. He can easily make up for any shortcomings you might have with removal, so consider that when putting together a deck if you’re a little short on burn. the Trainee is a tough little guy!
I didn’t think domain/Sunburst decks would be that easy to play, but with all the bounce lands and mana fixing through Rampant Growth and mana creatures, you’ll probably be able to activate his ability more than you think you would. Having first strike as a base ability also isn’t bad. If you’re playing a two/three color red deck, don’t be afraid to splash those bounce lands so you can make him a dragon! If you have the mana fixing, play him.
One of the only Elementals I like from the set is Inner-Flame Igniter. His ability to pump up everybody with a mini-anthem effect of sorts makes him very playable. I really like him in a GR token deck alongside Eldrazi spawn and Saporlings, and he’d also be good with a lot of blue or white flyers in more of an aggressive tempo deck. Mirran Crusader and the Skyhunter Skirmisher are his best friends! It’s also a great mana sink for the late game that gives you +3/+0 and trample to push through damage if you pay the activation cost 3 times.
The last card I’d like recommend is Stormblood Beserker. If you’re playing Gut Shot, Lightning Bolt, and Burst Lightning you’ll have no problem getting the Beserker out early on an empty board to put pressure on your opponent. The friend I drafted with on release weekend said that red is one of the best colors but is lacking good 2 and 3 drop creatures. If you can be aggressive and can find ways to consistently push damage through (flying, burn spells, etc) you can easily run away with a game. As I said above and in my other articles, it’s worth it to try and put some proliferate effects in your deck if you have a number of Bloodthirst cards you’re playing with. Playing a BRU flyers/proliferate or RBW token/proliferate deck seems like it would be really good. Not a first pick, but something I’d grab if I already had a lot of burn in my hand or evasion.
RATING: Medium to Low
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Goblin Fireslinger – If you have a decent amount of bloodthirst cards and want to have a surefire way to get those bonus counters, Fireslinger is the way to go. I would personally rather have more burn though
- Worldheart Phoenix – without the 5 differently colored mana to activate its strong ability after death, the Phoenix becomes a lot worse value wise. A 2/2 flyer for 4 mana is “meh”, but a 4/4 is pretty insane.
- Tribal Flames – if you have tons of Evolving Wilds and are playing a 3 color deck this can be a decent removal spell. Great in 5 color elemental/domain decks.
- Smash to Smithereens – absolutely draft this first in pack 2 or 3 if you see it. There are definitely going to be artifact decks out there, and you’re going to need all the removal you can get.
- Gut Shot – great card for Bloodthirst decks, but otherwise I don’t feel like it’s good enough to be considered removal in other red based decks.
- Combust – great removal against white and blue creatures.
Coming Up Next
As I said before, I’m a little let down with red. The burn is pretty darn good, as well as the Bloodthirst creatures, but I feel like all of the Elemental cards that got crammed into the set do not belong there. They seem to be counter-productive, or as other people are saying “a trap”. I think most players will be going for blue, black or green decks in draft and limited, so if you draft red you can go pretty deep if you stick with it early. Just a though.
Well, that does it for today’s article. I’m sorry that I didn’t have the time to get it done before many of you did a midnight or afternoon release on Saturday, but hopefully it will come in handy if you plan on attending GP Vegas, GP Chiba, or GP Utrecht next weekend. I went 3-0 at my first MM2 draft with GB Token/Ramp/Eldrazi and 2-1 with a sweet UW Affinity deck at a 9 person sealed event, and feeling pretty good about my evaluation of the cards. Tomorrow is another big Magic day for me, so don’t expect green to hit your computer screen until Monday some time. Thanks for reading and leave any comments down below!