M13 2013 Core Set Review – Red by Grant Hislop

M13 2013 Core Set Review – Red by Grant Hislop


This is generally the point in the series where I start running out of interesting things to say. You’ve presumably read the previous 3 colours by this point, so what’s coming really shouldn’t hold any surprises.

We’re going to look at red. Red’s the colour of fire. Fire burns stuff, and so do the red cards. And it’s that level of insight that keeps you coming back, amiright?

Arms Dealer

While this is obviously nowhere near Siege Gang Commander’s power level, it’s still not actually that bad. Goblins is an underrepresented archetype in constructed, but it’s just about there. I’m not sure if this is the missing piece, but it’s definitely worth consideration. There’s very little outside of control finishers that could live through this, and 4 is the magic number to deal with Restoration Angel, assuming she’s not carrying a Sword, so it’s definitely worth considering.

In limited, worst case scenario, it’s a 5 mana removal spell, but it obviously scales really well based on how many goblins you’ve got in the deck. I’d imagine that a Krenko’s Command or two pushes this over the limit. It’s a card I’m always going to play if I’m red, but it’s bonkers if you’ve got the support.

Bladetusk Boar

Yet another Zendikar port, but as discussed before, the format is likely to be slow enough to allow this more play than it did in the format of two drops. Intimidate is a really good core set mechanic, and the 3-power is certainly a realistic clock.

I was trying to find any constructed applications, but I got boar’ed looking, and gave up. Maybe you’ll have more luck.

Canyon Minotaur

Perhaps I’m going to have to start calling 3/3’s for 4 Canyon Minotaurs rather than Hill Giants. Don’t think I can see that happening, to be honest. This is a fine card, and one that I see people cutting far more often than they should. If you’re red, you’d better have a really good reason not to be playing these.

Chandra, the Firebrand

When this first appeared, last year, people were really excited by it. I wasn’t overly impressed, as it’s just not doing enough to justify a slot in a 60-card deck. I’ll admit, I’ve tried it in a Grixis deck, with the goal of copying a Sorin’s Vengeance, but it was just too unreliable, and both parts of the ‘combo’ were really underwhelming individually.

I feel like it’s possibly got more applications in the Modern format, where we get silly stuff like Cruel Ultimatum and Mystical Teachings to play with, but I can’t see Chandra leaving her brand on standard this time through either.

For limited though, it’s a Planeswalker, and it kind of protects itself. Planeswalkers are nutty in limited, and this one is no exception. Play it, splash it, win with it.

Chandra’s Fury

Seems a bit on the expensive side for constructed, and decks that can play this will also have access to Whipflare and Slagstorm in the short term, which have far broader applications, so I can’t see this getting played, however furious it might make Chandra.

It’s probably going to be quite good in the sideboard against black and/or white decks, but as I’ve said previously, I’ve cast my fair share of Lava Axes in the past, and since there’s no Lava Axe, or indeed a Fireball, this is pretty much the best direct damage option that we’ve got access to. I probably maindeck one, and bring in any duplicates as appropriate in the majority of decks, unless I’m really scrambling for cards.

Cleaver Riot

I don’t want to cause a riot when I say this, but Cleaver Riot certainly won’t see any play in constructed.

In limited, it’ll be crazy good about 50% of the time, and stone cold awful the other 50%. Those aren’t numbers that I’m thrilled about. Again, I might play this if I’m scrambling for playables, but it’s just so expensive for what’s likely to be underwhelming, or stuck in my hand for most of the game, while I try and engineer a worthwhile turn.


Has limited applications in shutting off peoples splash colours, but it’s probably going to be coming out of the sideboard, rather than being a maindeckable card.

Any deck that wants this type of effect will presumably just play Acidic Slime, or if they’re really desperate; Demolish, so I can’t see this ever finding a home. I’m not the biggest fan of land death strategies, and it seems that Wizards isn’t either. I don’t think we’ll ever be getting Stone Rain again. It’s clearly more fun to be getting killed by Hexproof, unblockable creatures holding Swords than it is to be mana screwed, so them’s the breaks.

Crimson Muckwader

It’s not even got the decency to be a relevant creature type, be that Vampire, Zombie or Goblin, and it’s got no business near a 60-card deck.

He’s also probably the biggest difference in terms of playability in limited too. He’s fine as a Goblin Piker, obviously, but a 3/2 regenerator for 2 mana is the real deal in BR decks, so value them highly if you happen to be in those two colours. The regeneration cost is pretty steep, so you’ll clearly not always be able to attack with it if you’re still trying to develop your board, but this is one of the better cards in this cycle, for limited at least.

Dragon Hatchling

I was hatching a plan where this might be good, but look at how much play Shades are getting currently, and while this is evasive, it’s just not what we’re looking to sink our mana into in modern Magic. It’s interesting, at least, but I don’t think this is the missing link that makes RDW a deck again.

In limited, this is probably the closest thing to a Blaze we’ve got. It’s fine, but it obviously dies to everything, and trades with everything. Not bad, and can be insane vs the right decks, presumably green ones, so I’ll be happy to try this out in the maindeck. It’ll close games insanely quickly in a mono-red deck, and given that it’s a common, it’ll be quite simple to pick a copy or two up during the draft.


We’ve got Fervor, yes we do, we’ve got Fervor, how ‘bout you? It’s been printed a bunch of times, and it’s presumably not going to see more play than any of the previous attempts. Urabrask, the Hidden offers the same effect, plus tapping opponent’s creatures and bringing a body himself, and he’s seen no play, aside from a short stint in the Wolf Run sideboard for the mirror. Sadly, this effect is just not worth an entire card.

In limited, it’s tough to imagine a deck that actually wants this. Again, it comes down to card economy, and this doesn’t look good. I’d almost always rather have another Grey Ogre than spend an entire card to give haste.

Fire Elemental

What the standard red deck has been missing is definitely a 5/4 with no abilities for 5. Tournament powerhouse.

In limited, you’re looking a curve topper, and nothing more. He’s never going to set the world on fire, but he’s solid enough that he’ll see a fair amount of play in 40 card decks.

Firewing Phoenix

This is definitely a card I can get behind. The built in recursion is so sweet. I see this in a UR counter-burn type of deck, as well as RDW variants, as a late game form of card advantage. This can only really be stopped by Dissipate, and the format is pretty hostile to 3-mana counters at present. This is definitely one that I’m keeping my eye on. I’ll be getting my set of Phoenixes asap, and you should as well.

What I’ve said above rings true for limited as well, just replace ‘Dissipate’ with ‘Oblivion Ring and Pacifism’. Solid card, and definitely of a first pick calibre.

Flames of the Firebrand

Arc Trail was quietly one of the best cards in Scars block draft, and this is similar. A functional reprint of Arc Lightining is certainly welcome, but probably slightly less powerful than before. The ability to wipe out ¾ of a Lingering Souls is pretty nice, as is its ability to plow through mana bugs and weenies. Sadly, in the short term, there are better options available in Slagstorm and Whipflare, meaning that this is going to struggle to see play.

In limited, you want as many of these as you can get your grubby little hands on. The versatility is key here. Being able to kill medium creatures as well as cutting a swathe through the weenies is awesome, and it really shouldn’t be too difficult to engineer a 2-for-1 scenario with Flames of the Firebrand.

Furnace Whelp

Repeat everything I said about Dragon Hatchling in constructed here.

This is slightly better in limited, as the additional point of toughness means it’s not as fragile as Randy Orton, and doesn’t just die to everything. Again, having a mana-sink is pretty good in limited, and this is definitely one of the better ones.

Goblin Arsonist

Mogg Fanatic, my arse.

These are fine, and are probably closer to playable than you think. This was definitely the best thing to turn into a Goblin Grenade, but given that that’s on the way out, the Arsonist seems unlikely to see play outside of the kitchen table.

I don’t like filling my draft decks with them, but they’re not as bad as they seem. In the late game, they’re practically unblockable, and can provide your opponent with a rock and hard place scenario, but really, it’s a 1/1 for 1, and those are almost never good enough.

Goblin Battle Jester

If you think that this is a constructed card, you’re the one who’s joking. Falters are nice, but there are so many better options that aren’t seeing play, so I doubt that this one will either.

In limited, it’s nice, but it’ll teach newer players bad habits in playing spells pre-combat. If Innistrad block has taught us nothing, it’s that these Falter creatures are powerful, so I’m not prepared to totally write this one off. It’s a horrible top-deck in a race, but if you hit it on-curve, you’ll be able to stay almost a turn ahead of your opponent for the remainder of the game.

Hamletback Goliath

I have played with this guy a few times in EDH, in my Living Death deck, as a bigger, more fragile version of one-shot, the robot (Blightsteel Colossus), and in limited. I don’t think that’s going to change. If ever there were a card that resoundingly failed the Vapor Snag test, this would fail with flying colours.

An excellent finisher in a deck that can reliably get to 7 mana. Not every deck wants him, but I certainly can’t see myself opening one in sealed and not playing him, whatever colours I’m in.

Kindled Fury

Generic limited pump spell, with no applications outside of kindling elsewhere. Next.

Krenko, Mob Boss

I could see this getting played in legacy Goblins as a Matron target. I don’t think that the support is there for him to see play in standard, outside of the most dedicated of Goblin decks, so you’re looking at a card whose chief use is as a bullet in legacy. If you cast this with an active Goblin Warchief, you’re looking at instantly making a bunch of guys, which can’t be bad. Goblins always straddled the Aggro/Combo line, and given that people are running Reanimator en-masse, it seems that it might actually be quite well positioned at present.

In limited, you’re looking at the definition of a bomb. It’s going to get slightly better for each additional goblin you have, but worst case scenario, he’ll be able to spit out a goblin on the first activation, and double that the following turn and so on. That quickly adds up to a swarm, and I can certainly see a lot of games being decided by Krenko.

Krenko’s Command

I doubt the deck exists for this card in Standard, at present, as there’s not enough support for the tribe.

In limited, it’s a reprint of Dragon Fodder, which was a sweet card in Shards block. Control decks used it to buy time, and aggressive decks made use of 2 power for 2 mana. There are quite a few ‘Goblins matter’ cards in the environment (see above), for this to fluctuate in value somewhat, depending on your deck. A solid card, for sure, and will likely be quite a high pick.


This is one for those rare control decks that don’t have any Planeswalkers. The problem is, Bonfire of the Damned has kind of pushed the envelope on this effect to the max, and while this is obviously nowhere near as powerful, it’s one of the best answers to Planeswalkers AND Lingering Souls tokens. If you’re expecting to play a lot of Esper Planeswalker decks, this is going to be worth its weight in gold.

In limited, it’s basically a Wrath, and as I’ve said before, you always play your Wraths. If you can get some sort of RW or UR skies deck, this gains in value immeasurably, and just having it in your deck means that you’ve got an answer to a Jace, Memory Adept, which very few decks actually have.

Mark of Mutiny

Steal your guy, smack you with him. Threaten’s see play quite a bit in standard, and there are usually a lot of different cards that do so. While Zealous Conscripts is around, it’s tough to see Mark of Mutiny being worthwhile. Practically everything you want to steal costs around the 5-6 mark anyway, so this costing 3 is pretty much irrelevant. Conscripts gets the nod, not just for the body attached, but the additional synergies with Birthing Pod.

In limited, these are always good race breakers. Steal your biggest guy, hit you with it, end the game. The fact that it puts a +1/+1 counter on it is relevant too, so you’ll need to try to either end the game, either actually or effectively, given that you’ll be returning it to your opponent bigger than it left them.

Mindclaw Shaman

Not the worst stop in the Birthing Pod chain, I suppose, but I don’t think it’s got much application outside of that. I like casting my opponents spells as much as the next guy, but I don’t really want to spend 5 mana for a 2/2 and only get a Vapor Snag out of it. It costs far too much to be considered as a combo breaker in older formats. Just play Duress instead.

Mogg Flunkies

This is interesting. In the short term, the red deck looks like it’s gained quite a bit from this set. I think it’s probably still missing another good one drop, as Reckless Waif and Furnance Scamp just aren’t cutting it. I quite enjoy playing the red deck, so it’d be nice if it was actually good again for a while. Mogg Flunkies adds to the 2-drops, and compares quite well to Stormblood Berserker, so we can look at some degree of consistency. I’m interested to try this deck out, and see if it’s actually good again. I’ve think it’s JUST shy of being playable, but it’ll be close.

I’ll need to play with the set a bit to gauge how good it’s going to be in limited. I don’t think it’ll be much of a drawback, but I’ll need to see. I’m very interested to see how this plays out. For someone who plays control decks whenever I can in Constructed, I sure love the most aggressive deck possible in limited. I actually enjoyed Zendikar block draft…

Reckless Brute

Gut Shot is still a card. Moving on.

In limited, this will be really good in the hyper aggro decks, and awful everywhere else. I expect to be picking them highly to start with, alongside my Mogg Flunkies until people realise how good they are. I loves me some mono-red aggro in core set limited. It’s not fancy, in fact, it’s pretty brutish, but it’ll definitely get the job done.


This has been legal for a while, and has seen no play. I see no reason that this will change.

I’ve liked this in limited before, but I’ve also had it rotting in my hand indefinitely once too often. It’s a sideboard card, and not much more. Fireball rotating means this loses out on a lot of value that it might have had previously. One of the best memories I have with this card was in a side event at a GP, casting this on a Fireball targeting me for lethal, and sending a copy at him, also for lethal. My opponent was not amused.

Rummaging Goblin

I like looting as much as the next guy, but this is nowhere near as good as Merfolk Looter for constructed.

3-mana is just about right for looters in limited though, where they’ll see play. I’ve played my fair share of Reckless and Civilized Scholars in the past. This is a fine card, and will be a high pick. He keeps the deck ticking over, and will act as a card that people actually want to kill, and given that the removal’s somewhat sparse, mean that your bombs are longer for this world.

Searing Spear

Wizards have talked about making this card for ages. It’s Incinerate, without the regeneration clause, or instant speed Volcanic Hammer, if you’re so inclined. This and Incinerate both being legal for a short time gives me a small sliver of hope that the red deck might be viable post release date. I know I’ll be experimenting with it.

In limited, we’re looking at solid, damage based removal, which we should all be used to by now. It’s effectively Incinerate, which was a high pick last time around, and this won’t be any different. The faster the format, the better this card gets. I think the main question this card asks is P1P1 – Searing Spear or Murder? I’m leaning toward Spear at the moment, based on these slew of powerful red commons, but you might differ.

Slumbering Dragon

I don’t see what you’re hoping to accomplish if you’re playing this in constructed. Asking your opponent to fall into an on board trap is a pretty big ask, as is expecting it to live long enough to actually be relevant. It’s not even like it can block while it waits to grow, which I initially thought, so this is certainly no sleeper rare. Bulk, if ever I saw one.

It’s actually probably going to be very good in limited though. It demands an answer, and your opponent is unlikely to be able to attack profitably enough into it. I can’t see it attacking all that often, but even if he doesn’t, he’s still going to create a small subgame around himself, which will generally always leave you coming out on top. I really like this, and will be looking forward to trying it out.


This sees no standard play while Ancient Grudge is around, and will only ever be a sideboard card in limited, which you bring in when your opponent kills you with some massive artifact bomb like Akroma’s Memorial, or something, and hope to get lucky. Outside of that, this isn’t Scars block, and the artifacts we do have aren’t all that impressive, so this should be nowhere near a maindeck.

Thundermaw Hellkite

This is my pick for best card in the set. It’s close to Baneslayer Angel in terms of power level, and we should all remember the days when Baneslayer was a £40 card. This laughs at Lingering Souls tokens, and emphatically passes the Vapor Snag test. A realistic curve topper in the red deck, and one that deals with one of the more common answers – Timely Reinforcements. I’d recommend getting these now, while the prices are pretty much at the lowest they’re going to be.

Its tough to imagine not winning a draft game where you resolve this. It’s crazy powerful, and dragons are always good. I think this might be the best dragon we’ve ever seen, from a tournament player’s perspective, outside of Bogardan Hellkite’s combo uses.

Torch Fiend

This is definitely a cube staple, with some constructed possibilities. I recommend picking these up in foil wherever possible, as they’re really quite easy to shift. I’ve seen a few decks playing these in the board, as a proactive answer to Swords, and that seems to be their main constructed use. I like these, possibly more than I should.

Trumpet Blast

Playing this card is seldom a blast. It’s fine I guess, and it can win you the game out of nowhere, but usually, you’ll be struggling to get value out of it. Fine, but most decks don’t want this in any number greater than 1.

Turn to Slag

Well, it’s removal, of sorts, so that can’t be bad. There isn’t much in the way of equipment that’s likely to be prevalent – the rings are uncommon, but it’s still usually going to be a kill spell. You’ll be opening yourself up to some slagging if you try and cast this in constructed however, as it’s really far behind the curve in terms of efficiency.

Volcanic Geyser

Bye bye Fireball, you will not be missed. Geyser is still a fine alternative, and should be picked highly. The double coloured mana symbols means this won’t be taken by everyone who opens one, so your red deck actually has a realistic chance of getting one.

There’s nothing particularly fancy here, we’ve seen the effect before, and while Bonfire of the Damned is legal, this will see no constructed play outside of the kitchen table.

Volcanic Strength

Stick it on a Bladetusk Boar, and build your own dragon. These are fine auras, and are generally undervalued. I’ve used Volcanic Strength plenty times in the past, and I expect I’ll do so again in the future.

Wall of Fire

This is not a constructed card. Sorry to stone wall you, but it’s nowhere near. It’s fine in more controlling red decks in 40-card land, however, as it’s pretty tough to break through, and acts as a mana sink in the mid-late game. I prefer Furnace Whelp, when given the choice, but we make do with what we’re given, I suppose.

Wild Guess

Cards like this serve a valuable role in moving reanimator decks away from green, if they so desire. The shell exists for an Oros coloured reanimator deck, and this certainly fits in there. It’s also got some possible uses in aggressive decks, though I’d probably just rather use Faithless Looting if I were looking for this type of effect.

It’s pretty sweet in smaller formats though, and I think I’ll always play it, if I’m in red. It’s probably going to be undervalued at first, because people really seem to hate discarding cards. One of the better limited commons, for sure.


Outside of a return to Time Spiral block’s suspend mechanic, it’s tough to see a deck that can break the symmetry with anything approaching reliability. When you cast it, you’ve basically invalidated everything that’s happened in the game up until that point, which is, if nothing else, interesting. I’m interested to see how people can use this. Definitely the Warp World of the set.

Top 5 cards I want to play in constructed:-

1. Thundermaw Hellkite
2. Thundermaw Hellkite
3. Thundermaw Hellkite
4. Thundermaw Hellkite
5. Thundermaw Hellkite

Top 5 commons:-

1. Searing Spear
2. Mogg Flunkies
3. Krenko’s Command
4. Rummaging Goblin
5. Turn to Slag



Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.




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