Dominaria: Playing To your Weakness – 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.
The fires of Bogardan rage once more, the dragons of Shiv rule the skies, and might of Keld rolls over those that would challenge it. Red is back.
The more I look at the red cards in Dominaria, the more I’m impressed. Removal, creatures, abilties . . . everything seems to be firing on all cylinders. I thought black was going to be great, but now I wouldn’t be disappointed if I ended up playing red either. Take a look at my choices and at the end let me know if you agree.
Where do I even start in this color? Well, how about with the iconic Lightning Bolt. We don’t have a one mana 3 damage instant in this spell, but we have something similar to it in Wizard’s Lighting. It’s going to be really impressive and overpowered in UR Wizard decks when it only costs 1 mana, but it should be alright in a Red/x deck in other limited decks as well. I’d take it highly in draft, and of course I’d play it in my sealed deck, but I wouldn’t put as much importance on it if my pool didn’t have that many wizards.
Radiating Lighting on the other hand, is a bolt and mini pyroclasm in one. Hit you in the face then ping all your tokens away for 4 mana? Sign me up. Both are great cards at instant speed and should show up in a good number of red limited decks. Radiating Lightning might be a little more situational, but I’d still be happy to play it.
Wizard’s Lightning: RATING – 3.5 Stars
Radiating Lightning: RATING – 3 Stars
Kicker is also back in Dominaria, which means you can really supercharge your attacks or creatures if you have the extra mana laying around. Shivan Fire is alright as a Shock effect, killing quite a few white and read creatures, but if you’re looking to take out a bigger creature you can pay the extra 4 for more damage. Not the best of burn spells in red, but versatile and useful.
Fight With Fire is so much cooler. The base damage of 5 will kill about 70% of the creatures in the format, but being able to kick it and target multiple creatures AND/OR players makes it infinitely better than Shivan Fire. Kill your opponent’s two 3 toughness creatures AND deal 4 damage to their face? That’s quite a good ability. I want this card and will probably take it first pick in draft. I wouldn’t be wrong if I called this the best limited burn spell in the set. Nine mana is totally worth it for a potential 3 or 4 for one.
Goblin Barrage also has a nice kicker effect, hitting both a creature and player for 4 damage if you have an extra goblin or artifact laying around, but I think both of those alternate costs would probably leave you weaker for paying them. If you’re playing a goblin or artifact in your deck, it’s probably good enough that you don’t want to sacrifice it. I guess if you have an extra token laying around from a Siege Gang Commander it’s fine, but I think you’ll mostly be using it for the 4 damage to a creature unless you’re trying to push through those final points of damage. I’m rating it slightly better than Shivan Fire because of the value you get out of it for 4 mana instead of 6. Better in draft if you can get enough cards to fuel it.
Shivan Fire: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Goblin Barrage: RATING – 3 Stars
Fight With Fire: RATING – 4 Stars
We got spoiled with Abrade in Hour of Devastation. Two mana for a 2 mode card that destroys an artifact OR does 3 damage at instant speed? Fiery Intervention is a poor substitute, but I can still appreciate the effect in limited. Five damage for 5 mana is a bit much, but being able to also destroy an artifact and kill a majority of the creatures in this format makes this card worth playing in your deck. If only it were instant speed and 1 mana cheaper, it might have been really good.
RATING: 3 Stars
With all of this burn it might be worth playing something that doubles it. You don’t want to be playing the Flame of Keld on turn 2, but if you’re flooding hard or have exhausted the cards in hand, I think it’s worth taking a turn off to set this up so you can get some cards and pseudo double the power of all your creatures. Since it says red source, you can attack with creatures and get the same benefit. Not an anthem per se, but still a good card to put pressure on your opponent with.
RATING: 3 Stars
There aren’t too many playable wizards in red, but the ones you do get are pretty good. Ghitu Journeymage pushes through extra damage to an opponent’s face when you have another wizard, and Firefist Adept can kill a weaker creature with his etb. He’ll do at least one damage when you play him off of himself. I don’t think you can count on their abilities too much in sealed, but I think the Journey mage will be a nice filler card on your curve in draft, and the Adept could end up being decent in a UR Wizards draft deck. I don’t expect them to make the cut most of the time, but their typing does help them out.
Ghitu Journeymage: 2.5 Stars
Firefist Adept: 3 Stars
Red might not have too many good enchantments to cast on their creatures, but there are a few pieces of equipment that both Valduk, Keeper of the Flame and Champion of the Flame would be more than happy to take off your hands. If there was ever a reason to play a lot of auras and artifacts its Valduk’s ability. He makes a mini army each turn the more things you have attached to him, and can single handedly win the game for you. With only 1-2 auras in each color, I think you’ll want to focus mainly on equipment for him, which you can realistically get 2-3 of in your pool. I’d go aggro so the other creatures would benefit from the equipment. RW seems good because the creatures are low to the ground and they have some great effects like Dauntless Bodyguard. Very high draft pick.
Champion of the Flame isn’t that good in a vacuum without any auras or equipment to back it up, but I feel you need to talk about both Valduk and him together since they have synergy. You could also say that Danitha would belong to this type of deck. But if you have even ONE aura or equipment on him be becomes an absolute beast. Dub would make him a 5/5 first strike, trample, and Arcane Flight would turn him into a 4/4 flying, trample. Anything that gets put on him makes Champion of the Flame rather scary, so consider playing him even if you only have 1-2 pieces of equipment. I think the payoff is worth it.
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame: RATING – 4 Stars
Champion of the Flame: RATING – 2.5 Stars
I was never really keen on playing “gain control of target creature” cards in limited, and never really understood why it was good in some limited formats but not in others. However, if you were to put this on a creature like Eldrazi Obligator or Zealous Conscripts then I’d definitely want to play that card. Keldon Overseer is not an exception in that regard. You get a 3 mana 3/1 haste creature, which isn’t bad, or you pay 7 for the added gain control trigger. Good early game, good late game. This is the definition of a limited roleplayer. Good card to have as part of your 23.
Skizzik has some history with MTG, last being played back in Invasion. It felt like an homage to Ball Lightning then, which was one of the most powerful and iconic red creatures ever in the early days of Magic, so it’s only natural that they’d bring it back. The power level of MTG has grown considerably since Invasion, which allowed Wizards to make it uncommon, but don’t let that fool you. It’s still a powerful card in limited. Great for aggressive decks.
Keldon Overseer: RATING – 3 Stars
Skizzik: RATING – 3.5 Stars
I don’t think anybody would agree that any of these cards don’t belong in this set. Phoenix, Orcs, and elementals have always been around Dominaria. Fire Elemental hasn’t been seen in Magic for years (M13 was the last set). It’s a good beater for red and is just outside of glass cannon range with 4 toughness. It’s rather hard to kill with burn spells or with one creature, and can hit pretty hard.
Orcish Vandal might only be good in a few builds with a lot of artifacts as extra points of damage, but his ability to hit ANY target will make him indispensable. If you’re not playing any artifacts don’t bother playing him, but if you’re able to draft an artifact heavy historic based deck with Jhoira, then you’ll definitely want to play him. A unique roleplayer, but not worthless.
There have been various types of Phoenix over the years, each with their own way of returning to the battlefield, but I don’t think I’ve EVER seen one at uncommon. It has the traditional abilities of a Phoenix, flying and haste, but Warcry Phoenix has a very interesting recursion ability. Attacking with 3 creatures might be hard to do every turn, but if you’re playing an aggressive deck, cards with evasion, or just creatures with a big back side you shouldn’t have a problem activating the phoenix’s ability. I imagine some kind of RW combat trick, or UR Tempo deck would welcome its addition.
Fire Elemental: RATING – 3 Stars
Orcish Vandal: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Warcry Phoenix: RATING – 3 Stars
The last creature on my list that I’d recommend in limited is Keldon Raider. It’s got a slightly aggressive edge to it with 4 power, but what I like is its ability to help you filter out cards. You’ll be drawing lots of land in limited and want to pitch your extras away. There are very few ways to do this outside of blue so any kind of filtering would be welcome. I’d expect the raider to not always be able to find a spot in your 23 if your 4 spot is crowded, but I think 50% of the time it will make a good addition to your red deck.
Keldon Raider: 2.5 Stars
Other Cards That Might See Play
- Bloodstone Goblin – good if you’re playing both with Siege Gang Commander and lots of kicker spells.
- Frenzied Rage – good aura to have for those “aura matters” cards like Champion of the Flame. Also works in aggressive decks.
- Goblin Warchief – probably better in draft when you’re able to get a critical mass of goblins. Otherwise not sure it’s worth it.
- Run Amok – Good combat trick. A +3/+3 and trample effect is huge in battle.
- Seismic Shift – You know, I could probably see this showing up from time to time in aggro leaning decks. It blows up a land, then takes two blockers away from your opponent.
- Warlord’s Fury – another card that would work well in an aggro deck. Even if you’re playing low to the ground with a lot of 3 power creatures, giving them all first strike will make for some unfavorable blocks on your opponent’s side.
Coming up Next
I might have over evaluated some of these cards, but that’s because I haven’t seen the full picture yet and things are still coming into focus. I think you’ll agree with me that the creatures are very aggressive and have some amazing effects. Some of these cards can take over a game of limited if you’re not careful. The burn is also great in this format, in fact it’s probably the best removal red has had in years. We can probably thank Jaya Ballard for that.
Well damn. I couldn’t get through all of the colors again before the pre-release. If I didn’t have work from 7am – 8pm every day last week I might have made more progress. It seems like my work schedule always picks up right before a pre-release. I’ll be heading out for 2 events today, but I’ll be back in the evening to work on green and to hopefully get it out before many of you over in North America or other parts of the western hemisphere head off to your events. If you have any comments or suggestions you can leave them down below as always. Be sure to check back in the next 24 hours!