Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review – Red by Grant Hislop

Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review – White by Grant Hislop

Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review -Red by Grant Hislop

I was a busy boy yesterday. I managed to make my way through White, Blue and Black, and really did nothing else on my day off. Sadly, duty calls, and I’m back to work today, so the pace should slow down a bit, and I’ll get back to one of these a day.

It’s seven o’clock in the morning, but I don’t have to be at work until noon, so I’m hopeful I can get this knocked out before I have to head in, leaving the evening to myself, which is unheard of during set review weeks, where generally the only things I have time to do are work and writing, which is somewhat draining, as it would be with anything that consumes your existence entirely for any duration of time.

So far, M14’s been full of solid, Core Set level cards, which is to say that they’re pretty simple, and obvious in their applications. We’ve yet to see the format staples, or any cards on par with last year’s Thundermaw Hellkite, Sublime Archangel and Thragtusk yet, but hopefully we can find some solid cards in amongst the Red cards.

Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review – Red

Academy Raider

Academy RaiderOh dear, this is such a shame. Were it to cost two, there’s a pedigree for cards like this in Looter il-Kor, which saw moderate play, but as it stands, at three mana, it’s unlikely that this will be worthwhile. I’m not sure about limited play either, as I’m inclined to think that it’s just too expensive for what it does, as the body is just too small.

Act of Treason

This is another known quantity, and sees play in Standard already, as Threaten effects almost always do. In Limited, the more aggressive the deck you’re playing it in, the better, as it’ll help you keep swinging with your guys when your opponent thinks he’s stabilised. There was a point when treasonous Titans and Baneslayer Angels were an unfortunately common sight in Standard. There’s also plenty of ways in the format at present to hopefully not have to give the creature back, in the various sac outlets.

Solid card, but we already knew that.

Awaken the Ancient

This seems fine at the top end of a mono-Red deck, and pretty much nowhere else. It’s colour intensive enough that you can’t really afford to play it in any other strategy, nor would they want it. It’s unfortunate that this doesn’t have Trample, and I find it somewhat off from a flavour perspective that a living Mountain could be blocked by a Plant or a Ghost and not cause any damage to the person cowering behind it.

Granting haste seems somewhat like training wheels, so the newer players don’t accidentally Enchant the Mountain they played that turn. This card just gives me a bad feeling all over, flavour and design wise, which isn’t nice.

Barrage of Expendables

Barrage of ExpendablesI suppose this is a decent enough way to end the game, and there’s a pedigree of tournament success in a similar card : Goblin Bombardment. It’s a shame that Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger won’t get too much of a chance to play with the Expendables, as that seems like the natural home.

Again, sac a creature, do a thing is one of the least explored design spaces, and it’s nice to see Wizards conditioning people to get used to the ability, so when they decide to open it up a bit more, we’re already prepared. Look at decks like the Aristocrats, both Act 2 and Junk, and look at the amount of its own creatures one of those decks will kill over the course of a typical match, and you’ll see just why it’s considered one of the hardest decks to pilot appropriately in recent memory.

Battle Sliver

A 5/3 for five mana is definitely fine to play, as Wizards desire to put Mass of Ghouls into every set in some capacity, and it’s almost always fine, yet unexciting. This is fine on its own, but the ability to make the rest of your Hive into legitimate monsters is pretty huge.

I expect this will be one of the cornerstones of the Sliver archetype, but as it’s an uncommon, it’s unlikely that there’ll be too many of them floating around a draft table for long.

Blur Sliver

Another core piece of the Sliver decks, this will make combat a Nightmare for the opponent, as they’ll have no idea whether or not a flurry of hasty idiots are going to come charging at them in riposte.

A 2/2 haste for three is fine on its own, and like most of the Naya coloured Slivers, you’d be fine playing them independent of their brothers and sisters (Do Slivers have genders? What pronoun should I use?)

Burning Earth

Burning EarthThis is probably one of those cards that gets people all worked up. There’s a certain type of player that Mana Barbs appeals to, and there are those that just hate the Mono-Red deck with a passion.

I’m a fan of it, and this was always one of the best ways to fight against control decks. How good this is is entirely meta dependent, and while I’d expect it’ll be at worst decent, and might even encourage people to build slightly less ambitious mana-bases, I expect that it’ll be dismissed by many people, who’ll complain loudly every time someone casts it against them, and they have to pay three or four life every time they cast a spell.

This is my pick for best card in the set, given the huge number of non-basics people are running. This spell should individually be good for at least seven to eight damage a game, as people just aren’t running enough ways to deal with it. Could we see Ray of Revelation finally getting play? Seems solid against Hexproof too, so it’s not out of the realms of possibility…

Canyon Minotaur

Is Minotaur tribal going to be enough of a thing that Canyon Minotaur is Constructed playable? I’d say ‘no’.

Fine in limited at what it does, which is fill a decks curve with warm bodies. Nothing exciting to see here, unfortunately.

Chandra, Pyromaster

Chandra, PyromasterIt meets some of the criteria for playable Planeswalkers, by costing four, and sort of protecting itself. Other than that, I’m struggling for nice things to say. This just seems so underwhelming to me. I can’t see myself ever playing this over Ral Zarek, given how easy mana is at the moment, and he’s seeing almost zero play. Seriously, ctrl+F a daily event on the Mothership and see how many hits you get. Now, make that worse, and see what we get.

I’m really unimpressed by Chandra outside of Limited, where she can do a decent enough job of breaking a stall, and ticking up to ultimate.

There’s a facebook group called MODOphotos, and it’s gotten absolutely dire recently. The premise is that people upload funny, interesting game state photos, so people can share in their enjoyment. In practice, what we’re getting recently is a bunch of terrible, terrible photos terrible looking games that are only interesting to the people that played in them.

Anyway, one of the favourite MODOphotos subjects were Rite of Replication photos, and I expect this Chandra’s ultimate will generate a new wave of terrible photos. ‘Fantastic, you got an Act of Treason, and stole your opponents board. Well done, champ’, and the like. Don’t be that guy.

Chandra’s Outrage

This is premium Red removal, and should be treated as such. Sadly though, with Warleader’s Helix in Standard already, it seems unlikely that this will make the move over, which is unfortunate, as I definitely remember seeing it in small numbers in some decks during its last trip through Standard.

There are definitely some cards that you take over this, like Pacifism and Doom Blade, but most of them would be Uncommons and up, but I do think this is probably the third best common in the set, for those who’re into evaluations like that.

Chandra’s Phoenix

Chandra’s Phoenix m14This card is certainly annoying against control decks, who can never keep the stupid thing off the board for any length of time, but it’s pretty underpowered against the other aggro and midrange decks, as the stats are just so underwhelming. It’s fine, but it’s entirely contextually dependent. It saw a decent amount of play last time it was Standard legal, and I doubt that’ll be any different this time around.

Cyclops Tyrant

My goodness, this is very expensive. It’s fine as a curve topper if your deck needs one, as at least it’s evasive, but this really isn’t very good. It doesn’t play defence overly well either, which is a pretty big strike against it. I’d imagine that in at least 90% of decks that could run this, you wouldn’t want to, to pull a number out of my arse.


This seems the standard Land Death spell now, which is fine. At four mana, it’s just way too expensive to see play. Really very few people actually like Land Death strategies being viable, and even then, we don’t want them to be the dominant strategy. With cards like Demolish, it’s unlikely that that will happen…

Dragon Egg

Dragon EggBaby Rukh Egg! This is fine, I think we had a similar white card a couple of years ago, and it was fine in Limited, from what I can remember. The problem is that this wants to be in a more controlling Red deck, and that the payoff is quite small. I’ll need to play with it a bit before I can gauge it properly, but I’m not overly optimistic.

Dragon Hatchling

As a mana sink, it’s always going to be fine, at worst. It’s at the very low end of playable though, as the one on the back end is just a little too fragile for my liking. We’ll never see this in Constructed, obviously, as it’s never made the jump before, and trading with ¼ of a Lingering Souls doesn’t strike me as a favourable return on investment.

Flames of the Firebrand

This card is already in Standard, and already sees fringe play. I’m fine with it staying in the format, as it’s fine, and is an excellent way to machine gun through mana dorks and Lingering Souls ghosts. I expect this type of effect to remain fairly constant in Core Sets, as it’s fairly evocative, and between this and Arc Trail, we’ve got enough variants for the next few years.

Fleshpulper Giant

These were in one of the Steam packs that gave DotP players their Scavenging Oozes. I was quite excited to actually see an M14 card, but then I read it. This costs almost twice what it should, and is just terrible. It’s quite hard to think of the deck that’s that starved for bodies that it considers a seven cost 4/4. No thank you.

Goblin Diplomats

Goblin DiplomatsThe body is fine, and the ability can force an opponent into an unpleasant (for them) attack. This leads me to believe that we’re looking at a limited only rare though. It’s sad to see Krenko, Mob Boss rotate so soon after this comes in, as we’re probably not a million miles away from having enough Goblins to do some serious tribal damage.

Goblin Shortcutter

We know exactly how good this card is. It’s limited only, and it’s fine. More filler than killer though.

Lava Axe

I can’t wait to see the MODOphoto of Chandra’s ultimate into triple Lava Axe. Sigh. This is fine, as it’s always been. A solid finisher for the aggressive red decks, and nothing much more. It’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for these cards in the midst of this run of sub-Standard reprints, but we’ll press on.

Lightning Talons

This is a pretty big gamble. I like the auras that offer a boost at both ends better than the ones that just pump one end, but this is quite a considerable increase. This is probably better in the decks with the cheap evasive creatures, as these types of auras usually are, but I’ll need to play with it to see if it’s more Oakenform than Holy Strength.

Marauding Maulhorn

How bad is it if this attacks every turn? Well, realistically, there’s not much that can stand in its way for long. Obviously it’s better in Gruul decks, where you can regulate it a bit better, but not having them both on the battlefield isn’t exactly the worst either, as it’s still a big, dumb guy to turn sideways, which is seldom bad. It’s so, so cheap for the stats too, and is well above the curve. Really solid creature, and goes to excellent if the Advocate’s around to keep it leashed.


MindsparkerThe red anti-enemy contribution is a very good one. Even just as a 3/2 first striker for three, it’s an efficient return on investment, but the ability to get some additional damage against Azorius decks is pretty clutch. I can see this being the most expensive of the cycle, once the hype on the ugly green wolf dies down, and we see that it’s just a creature. This one actually does what it does very well, rather than just being a body.

Molten Birth

The return on this is just too small for such a colour intensive investment. I’m not overly hopeful that this card actually gets played, but I’m sure some people will get incredibly lucky, win ten flips in a row and upload it to MODOphotos. Again, don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.

Ogre Battledriver

The artist of this card is Judge Dredd in an independent movie spin-off of the franchise. It’s called Judge Minty, and you can find it here:-

Seriously, Judge Dredd was in my top 5 movies of 2012, but I don’t think I’m entirely objective, having grown up on the comics, and can even boast a soft spot for the Stallone version of the movie…

This is a Limited mostly rare, and it’s a very good one. It’ll make combat a Nightmare, and the fact that it pumps as well is huge. If, for whatever reason, token decks end up moving into Red, I’d expect Ogre Battledriver to play a large part in that deck, as the thought of curving this into both ends of a Lingering Souls is pretty scary…

Pitchburn Devils

This is a known quantity, and it’s just a curve filler. I’d imagine this is a little better in Rakdos decks, who’re more likely to have the ability to control when the Devils die, and manage the trigger a little more responsibly. It’s fine everywhere else too, but that’s where it’ll do the most work.

Regathan Firecat

Too fragile by far, and vanilla creatures really have to be something special to see much play now, and this just isn’t up to scratch.

Scourge of Valkas

Scourge of ValkasBye bye, Thundermaw Hellkite, we hardly knew ye. Obviously, this takes the place of Thundermaw Hellkite in the giant Mythic Dragon slot, and the comparison isn’t a favourable one for the Scourge.

I’m not really a fan of printing huge mythics like Thundermaw and Sublime Archangel in the Core Set for one year only, as they inevitably end up costing an arm and a leg for only a year’s worth of play. Look at Thragtusk, which has been north of £20 at various points in its lifecycle, and that’s only been around for a year, which is a hell of a investment to the average Magic player.

Now sure, they could see Modern play, but it’s not really enough to justify the huge price tags they’ve at one point carried. I’m fortunate enough that card availability isn’t an issue for me, but for some players, they’d feel really burn having spent £80 or more on a set of cards that they only got to use for a year.

I’d propose a rotating cycle of Mythics, half new, half rotating blocks, ensuring at least a two year cycle for these cards, allowing people to buy them with confidence, and actually use the cards they’d bought. Revolutionary, eh?

Anyway, this card is fine, and makes Dragon Hatchling a bit better, I suppose, but it’s never going to see any Constructed play outside of the most dedicated Dragon fanboys or EDH players, but that’s almost always the case. Getting a tournament playable Dragon is quite rare, and it’s a shame that we only saw it for a year.

Seismic Stomp

This is almost never going to be worth a whole card, as it necessitates a specific board state to be any use. I can’t imagine many decks that would actually want this.

Shiv’s Embrace

Shiv’s Embrace M14This seems like a better aura that the previously discussed Lightning Talons, and as an Uncommon, it really should be. This is a combination of Giant Strength and Firebreathing, which is fine. I’d like to slap this on an evasive creature and build my own Shivan Dragon. This will be good, and will probably be undervalued by players who’re programmed to think ‘Aura=Bad’ initially, but I’d be surprised if this didn’t end up as a very high pick by the end of the format’s lifecycle.

Shivan Dragon

Speak of the Devil. Hello again. If you want to scare yourself, take a look at how much Beta copies of this sell for. The original, everyone’s favourite fatty is back. He’s seen Modern Core Sets before, and he’s never been able to make the jump over to Standard. I don’t see that changing, as creatures are just so much more powerful than they were when big Shivs ruled the skies before. It’s always a shame to see previously iconic cards fail to measure up. Look at Serra Angel – That was a powerhouse, and now it sees no play at all. Such a shame.


While Pillar of Flame and consequently Undying are in Standard, it’s unlikely that we’ll be Shocking anyone soon. I just don’t think this is good enough any more – creatures are generally a lot bigger than they were when Shock was previously playable. In preparation though, just in case, I’ve dug out my original Stronghold set of these. I’d love to see Lightning Bolt again, but it’s probably just a pipe dream. Maybe in Theros, as Zeus was known to throw a Bolt or two in his time, but I’d guess not.


It’s nice to have access to this type of cheap Artifact destruction, though with Ancient Grudge still with us, it’s unlikely to see much play initially. There really isn’t much in Ravnica that’s seeing play either, so it depends how much Theros brings to the party.

Striking Sliver

This is one primarily for the Sliver-centric decks, as a 1/1 for one’s impressing no one.

Thorncaster Sliver

Thorncaster SliverHellrider for Slivers! This is actually pretty exciting, and the ability to shoot down potential blockers is pretty attractive. I honestly think that I’d take this over Doom Blade and Pacifism and try and force Slivers in a P1P1 situation, though your mileage may vary.

It’s a little too expensive for Constructed, but I’m interested to see how this plays out. Guaranteed at your pre-release, there’ll be at least one insane Slivers deck, and I’d be surprised if this card wasn’t an MVP over the course of the weekend.

Thunder Strike

Another ‘Cool name, shame about the card’ situation here, frankly. It’s a Limited only combat trick, and while it’s fine, it’s not anything particularly exciting. Sure looks like a Greek God on the card, for those who’re looking for Theros plants.

Volcanic Geyser

This is a hangover from M13, and it’s a welcome return. This was my favourite Uncommon last time around, and it’s unlikely that’ll have changed this time round either. This is exactly what any bent of Red deck wants to do – trade mana for damage. You really shouldn’t need me to tell you just how good this type of effect is in Limited. The scalability alone is enough to ensure it’s a windmill slam first pick over the vast majority of the Rares in the set too. Premium spell.

Wild Guess

I expected this to be a solid card, given Innistrad’s graveryard heavy themes, but it never made the cut. It’s unlikely to change when all the Graveyard cards rotate out. The only argument would be in a Jund deck that made heavy use of the Scavenge mechanic, but even then, it’s not going to be overly likely to be in the market for such a card.

Wild Ricochet

This sees no play outside of EDH, where it’s one of the Red staples. I’d expect one or two in sideboards if Sphinx’s Revelation ends up being everywhere, but I’m not holding my breath. This just seems a little too situational for my money. At least a second printing will bring down the price, as this actually cost a pretty penny beforehand, due to casual appeal.

Young Pyromancer

I’ve seen quite a lot written about Young Pyromancer already, and a lot of people seem quite high on his potential. I’d expect that the Izzet Blitz deck with Nivix Cyclops to want these, but I’m not overly hopeful that this is good enough. It seems to me that the rewards for building your deck to take advantage of him just aren’t there, though I can imagine an FNM deck using this, Goblin Electromancer and Guttersnipe to take some obnoxious turns.

This isn’t my kind of card though, so I’ll leave off judging it fully until I’ve seen it in play a bit more.

Preorder M14

Top 5 Cards I’m interested in for Constructed:-

Burning Earth

1. Burning Earth
2. Mindsparker
3. Flames of the Firebrand
4. Chandra, Pyromaster
5. Chandra’s Phoenix

Top 5 Limited Commons:-

1. Chandra’s Outrage
2. Shock
3. Act of Treason
4. Marauding Maulhorn
5. Pitchburn Devils

Stay classy folks, and tomorrow we’ll see if we can see the wood for the trees when we look at the Green cards.



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