M19 – 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. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. 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. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact.
- 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. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback.
- 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. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo.
- 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. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage.
Well my work schedule finally seems to be calming down, so I expect I’ll be able to work on my blog a lot more in the coming weeks. I’m still nowhere near close to being finished with my limited articles though, so you can expect them to come out slowly over the next week or so. Today I’ll be covering red. It seems like there are quite a bit of goblins in this set, but will they have enough synergy to warrant playing them together? And what other archetypes could be viable? I’ll be looking into that with today’s article.
Since I talked about them in my opening, I might as well lead off with them. There are a number of playable goblins in M19, and each of them has their own unique use. You’ll get the most value from Goblin Instigator as he gives you two bodies for 2 mana, but Boggart Brute gives you a little bit more power and some pseudo-evasion. Goblin Motivator could also be worth playing in a deck with some big “beaters” to give them haste, or just in a deck with some evasion. Volley Veteran relies on you having multiple goblins to really take advantage of it, but a 4/2 beater that deals 1 damage minimal to a creature isn’t bad. If you can play him with 2 other goblins in play, say from Goblin Instigator, his ability becomes great. Each of these cards would also be made better by the new goblin lord, Goblin Trashmaster. They’re still playable without the lord, but if you can draft him it would be pretty sweet.
Goblin Instigator – RATING: 3 Stars
Boggart Brute – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Goblin Motivator – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Volley Veteran – RATING: 3 Stars
Some other creature cards worth mentioning are the dragons. While you would be much happier opening up one of the mythic rare dragons like Nicol Bolas, the red uncommons and commons aren’t that bad. Dragon Egg takes the most set up since it has to die before you can get the firebreathing flyer, but in a format full or creatures you should have no problem hatching it. It doesn’t match up that well against UW Flyer decks, but it should be a fine card on your curve if you’re not focusing on an aggressive strategy.
Sparktongue Dragon has a decent body but late game it also adds a lightning bolt for an extra 3 mana. Great in a midrange deck, but I fear that sometimes it won’t be as good as the other 5 drops you open and might get the cut. For once though, it won’t have a big problem against Angels. I believe all of them are 3 toughness, and aside from blue there aren’t going to be many good flyers that can stop it easily. It will trade well with other flyers, but it can be blocked. Volcanic Dragon, on the other hand, has a good body AND speed. I would take this over Sparktongue Dragon any day. You’re going to be taking out two flyers when it’s blocked, and if you have some good removal you can clear the path for it to take over the game easily.
Dragon Egg – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Sparktongue Dragon – RATING: 3 Stars
Volcanic Dragon – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Speaking of removal, red has some decent choices at common/uncommon this time around. Thud is an easier to cast Fling, but the trade off is that its at sorcery speed. Still, being able to attack with a beater to deal damage, then to sacrifice it to deal the same amount again to either the player or creature is a big deal. Great card for aggressive decks and incredibly easy to cast. It can also hit any target which makes me want to draft this highly. Great to play with glass cannons that have high power and low toughness as well, such as Inferno Hellion.
Lighting Strike is a limited role player, so you can expect it always to be drafted highly, but Lava Axe and Electrify are a little bit harder to use. Five damage to the face is a lot, but being able to only throw it at a player or planeswalker is a big draw back for Lava Axe. If you’re playing an aggressive deck then you’ll definitely want it, but if your opponent is playing any kind of life gain deck then you’re going to wish you didn’t have it. Electrify is in the opposite kind of situation. It only deals damage to creatures but it IS at instant speed. In a creature heavy limited format I’d take it over Lava Axe any day of the week. There are going to be very few situations where you don’t want a spell that can deal 4 damage to a creature. It kills just about every non-rare out there.
Thud – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Lighting Strike – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Electrify – RATING: 3 Stars
Lava Axe – RATING: 2 stars
Red has really upped their game on glass cannons this time around. While they don’t have the level of scariness that Ball Lightning does with haste, you still can’t beat Inferno Hellion, a 7/3 with trample that will take out a decent sized creature on your opponent’s side as well as push some damage through if they block it. If you play it fast enough it will force your opponent to double block instead of taking 7 damage. Nobody would be crazy enough to let 7 damage through on turn 5. It would also work really well with Goblin Motivator, especially if you could give it haste on turn 4.
Siegebreaker Giant is actually better late game though. Being able to open your opponent to a beating or forcing them to block unfavorably is a great ability. This card is going to be a big target for removal though, so I wouldn’t play it until you’ve baited out most of your opponent’s removal. I expect it to be drafted highly as well.
Inferno Hellion – RATING: 3 Stars
Siegebreaker Giant – RATING: 4 Stars
The final two cards I’d like to comment on are Lightning Mare and Catalyst Elemental. Lightning Mare is part of the horse cycle in M19, and is a great card against blue decks. I don’t think the top ability will be that important in limited, but it’s pump ability will make it great in aggressive red decks. Yes it dies to any chump blocker since it has 1 toughness, but if you can give it some evasion with Pegasus Courser then it can deal a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
Catalyst Elemental hearkens back to M15’s Generator Servant, which gave you 2 mana and if used to cast a creature it also gave it haste. The elemental isn’t as good as the Servant of course, but jumping from 3 mana on turn 3 to a possible 6 mana on turn 4 allows you to play your beaters early and start to bring the pain against your opponent, especially if you’re playing a turn 4 Volcanic Dragon. I don’t think it will show up in a lot of red limited decks, but if you’re looking for big mana to play creatures in a GR deck then I think you should consider it.
Lightning Mare – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Catalyst Elemental – RATING: 2 Stars
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Fire Elemental – Good old school beater for 5 mana if you don’t get anything better on the curve.
- Fiery Finish – 7 Damage, but only to a creature. Good to have if you’re playing red and have no other way to kill an Elder dragon.
- Havoc Devils – great filler if your 4 drops aren’t doing much. Really aggressive.
- Hostile Minoatur – Haste is good in an aggressive deck, otherwise its kind of vanilla 3/3 for 4 mana.
- Shock – There are a good amount of 2 toughness creatures in this set, so it’s not that bad. Especially effective against other red decks and their glass cannons.
- Sure Strike – I actually kind of like this in red with all of the trample creatures that have low toughness. Great combat trick.
- Viashino Pyromancer – Great for aggressive decks, otherwise a decent filler if you need more 2 drops in your deck.
Coming Up Next
Yay, another one done. I still haven’t played any M19 of any sorts due to time constraints, but I do plan on joining my local game store’s league from the start of August next week, so I should have all of my articles completed by then and I’ll be ready to go. Green is on the docket for either Wednesday or Thursday, and by Friday I hope to finish up with Lands, Artifacts, and Multicolor cards. I’m not too excited about M19 just yet, and I don’t think that many people else are. The cards really wont get a chance to shine until rotation in 2 months. There are cards I’m interested in of course, but not at the current prices.
So to wrap up red, it has some decent removal and lots of great glass cannon creatures with high power and low toughness. I could see a RW aggro deck with plenty of combat tricks developing, as well as GR ramp deck of sorts that are able to help get out your finishers quickly. I’m not 100% sure it will be viable, but I’ll have a better idea after doing green’s article later this week. Thanks for reading and post any comments down below.