Hour of Devastation – 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, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
Red ended up being incredibly aggressive in Amonkhet and combo’d wonderfully with white (RW Exert), black (BR Cycling), and even GR (Exert/Counter). It’s only weak point was removal. There were a few okay cards like Electrify or Deem Worthy, but I felt the rest was underwhelming at times. At first glance Hour of Devastation seems to have shored up red’s previous shortcomings, but will it be enough to allow players to rely on the color for all their removal needs? Well, Hour of Devastation and Sweltering Suns are a good start, but let’s see if red can branch out from white and black in this set. By the way, feel free to check out my previous red article about Amonkhet if you’re interested.
This is a really, really good start for red. Not only for limited but in standard as well. There haven’t been any powerful burn spells for ages. I feel like the last time there was a RDW (Red Deck Wins), it was Atarka Red back during Dragons of Tarkir. While it’s probably not enough to change standard, it will put things in motion.
In limited, Abrade will be amazing. This card will keep all of those UW Flyer, RW Exert, and other aggro decks in check, and on the rare occasion it will also stop an opponent from taking over a game with Rhonas’ Monument or get rid of that pesky Edifice of Authority card. I expect it to be a high pick in draft.
We finally get a true BURN spell again in Open Fire, and while it’s disappointing that it’s 3 mana, I’m excited that we can finally direct it at players again. Grabbing multiples of these in draft to slide into an aggressive RW exert of BR Cycling deck for the last few points of damage is just what the doctor ordered. I’d expect it to go fast in draft, but probably not as high as Abrade. Also, thank god it’s instant speed and not sorcery.
Now Puncturing Blow is sorcery speed, but it’s not too overly costed at 4 mana. It also deals 5 damage and exiles the creature it hits, so even the new gods can’t get around its effect. I’m satisfied with its power level and versatility, and I think it will see a lot of play in HOU limited.
Abrade – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Open Fire – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Puncturing Blow – RATING: 3 Stars
There is actually one more piece of burn in red, but I thought I’d include it with its other cycling friends so it didn’t get lonely. Inferno Jet deals a massive 6 points of damage, but it’s only to an opponent (or in Chandra’s case it’s probably a planeswalker like Bolas). This is good if you’re playing an aggressive deck and looking to push damage through as quickly as possible, but it would also work good late game with a card like Insult/Injury. If you’re being overwhelmed by creatures and need removal just cycle it, but late game I think it will be a welcome blast of hot, hot air.
The other 2 cards work well in Cycling themed decks as well. Granitic Titan it’s a decent beater for 6 mana that has menace, while Burning-Fist Minotaur is both dangerous on offense and defense. That first strike + pump effect is pretty good. It’s also nice to have a discard outlet on top of your cycling cards to pump up other creatures like Flameblade Adept at a moment’s notice. I think the Minotaur wizard will end up being rather popular in HOU limited.
Inferno Jet – RATING: 3 Stars
Granitic Titan – RATING: 3 Stars
Burning-Fist Minotaur – RATING: 3.5 Stars
I’m actually rather surprised by the Desert synergy cards in red. Sand Strangler is basically a Flametongue Kavu if you have a desert, whereas Gilded Cerodon ends up being a powerful beater that can’t be blocked by your opponent’s biggest creature. If there were any cards that would force you to play deserts in your deck, it would be these two. They are pretty vanilla otherwise and possibly not even main deckable, so make sure you’re playing 2-3 of those good desert cards along with them, or a way to tutor up deserts like Shefnet Monitor in a GR stompy deck.
Sand Strangler – RATING: 3 Stars
Gilded Cerodon – RATING: 3 Stars
I’m sad that Exert didn’t get that much more to add to it’s archetype. Both Khenra Scrapper and Fervent Paincaster are solid cards for the strategy, but the best ones are probably in Amonkhet. Ahn-Crop Crasher and Emberhorn Minotaur were two of my favorite red creatures in AKH limited, and these cards both pale in comparison. They fit on your curve well though, and are still aggressive, so you would be wise to play them in your RW or GR Exert build. Both will end up being key roleplayers in exert decks, but also function well outside of that type of deck.
Khenra Scrapper – RATING: 3 Stars
Fervent Paincaster – RATING: 3 Stars
If memory serves me right, there were a few Embalm creatures in Amonkhet red, but no straight up zombies. It makes playing them in any kind of synergistic deck rather hard, but both are still playable in any red deck you end up making. Manticore Eternal is going to eat up 2 creatures that block it pretty quickly after you play it, while still dealing 3 damage through its afflict ability. It it survives more than one turn, you got yourself an impressive finisher on your hands.
Frontline Devastator has a pretty good body for 4 mana, and even without one of its abilities it would be playable. Fire breathing is good in limited, and giving it fire breathing PLUS Afflict makes me think that somebody let a sadist design this card. I mean geez, it is able to bring the pain no matter what. Both are decent draft picks, but probably not something I’d pick first out of a pack.
Manticore Eternal – RATING: 3 Stars
Frontline Devastator – RATING: 3 Stars
These last three cards are kind of by themselves but should fit easily into just about every red deck in HOU limited, be it RW Exert, BR Cycling, or GR beatdown. Magmaroth fits well into both black and green decks because it can absorb the -1/-1 counter from cards like Crocodile of the Crossing and then return to being a 5/5 when you cast a removal spell or combat trick. It might not be a 5/5 consistently, but you can probably count on it being at least a 4/4 or 3/3 most of the time.
Taking advantage of Thorned Moloch is going to be a little harder since you won’t be able to trigger prowess that often, but a 2/2 first striker when attacking is nothing to scoff at. Good card to have in decks with combat tricks, so I’m leaning toward either GR or WR Exert strategies. Firebrand Archer is kind of in the same boat. It’s nice to have on your curve early on and gets in some incremental damage when you use removal or a combat trick, but overall it’s not going to punish your opponent.
Magmaroth – RATING: 3 Stars
Thorned Moloch – RATING: 3 Stars
Firebrand Archer – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Chandra’s Defeat – This will be really good against Exert decks. One mana for 5 damage to a red creature at instant speed? Nice!
- Crash Through – Exert can do a lot of damage if the creature is unblocked, but chump blockers like tokens weaken it considerably. I might consider Crash Through if I’m heavy into Exert and have some anthem effects.
Coming Up Next
So to wrap up, it seems like BR cycling gets a boost from HOU, but Exert decks are going to be relying mostly on Amonkhet packs to fill their ranks. I’m also impressed by red’s desert based cards. If you are able to play 2-3 deserts in your deck, do it I’d say. The removal is looking pretty good for red too, and for the most part the color keeps with the previous theme or fast, aggressive creatures. If you’re building any aggro deck, red will be in it.
Well that will do it for articles before the pre-release. Hopefully you read this before your midnight release and get some good ideas for deck building. I’ll be doing two pre-releases tomorrow in Nagoya, then I’ll be working on my green article afterwards. It will probably be a while before I can comment on the decks I end up building, but feel free to check out my Twitter feed for the deck I end up going with @yoschwenky!