What single card springs to mind when you think of the colour Red in Magic…
Like Derren Brown I am a mind reader, is this the card you were thinking of?
Lightning Bolt is the epitome of Red in Magic and Cube tries to capture the “ehem” Magic of each colour from across the ages in the most powerful way it can, so you can bet your bottom dollar there is a Lightning Bolt in any greatest hit Cube you play from Pauper to Powered.
It represents Red’s space on the colour wheel as a spell that does the following:
• Kills small creatures efficiently with damage based removal
• Does damage to opponents directly
These are better known as “Burn” spells
Other things Red does well historically:
• Haste creatures, both small and large
• Kills Lands
• Kills Artifacts
What I will do this week is go through each of these categories, how they are represented in Cube, while trying to dispel the myth that only one Red deck exists and it is easy to draft.
Burn Baby Burn
The first area we will look at it Red’s removal spells which conveniently normally also have the ability to also “dome” (directly damage) your opponent.
Lightning Bolt is so iconic and powerful it has spawned a lot of cards that produce the same effect (three damage to player or creature) which cost a little more or have a drawback. Three damage for two mana, to either player or creature, is now the acceptable rate. In fact there are three cards that all do this as shown above, depending on how much a purist you are to the only one of each card rule you might only include one of these but as they are different Magic cards I am comfortable including them all.
After these straight forward re-costings there are a multitude of spells that do damage to creatures and players, enough that are good enough to pretty much fill the whole of your Red section with them should you desire (this leads to the pick the Red card in each pack and hey presto you have a deck issue). The approach I use to burn spells is to include the ones that multiple drafters can use and that encourage the best game play. Pointing the first 7 spells you draw at your opponent and hoping they don’t gain life along the way is not a recipe for fun times (you may disagree if you play Red in Legacy or Modern).
To show you what I mean some of the Red burn I do not include are:
• Lava Spike – you only have one option and only the most aggressive Red deck would want it
• Searing Blaze – This takes away the choice of aiming your burn spell at a creature to clear the way for your own (more in the creatures section) or at them directly to finish them off. Double Red also restricts it as a splash.
Red burn is very valuable to control archetypes as a way to efficiently remove early threats, one of the reasons I see mono Red decks do so well is if the Cube balance of good aggressive creature strategies and/or too many sweeper effects is off which disincentives control wanting pinpoint removal in the early stages.
Don’t be so hasty
Red is home to two of Magic’s most iconic creature types, Goblins and Dragons and is the home of the evergreen Haste keyword. Haste is great for getting in quick damage, surprise combat math and fighting Planeswalkers. The problem with haste damage is that it acts a little bit like a burn spell to the opponent, further pushing that particular play pattern. To alleviate this I have completely removed the Red one shot creatures such as Ball Lightning so that at least the haste creatures remain and offer a board state, also making them more attractive to other archetypes.
To help diversify Red aggressive decks and to encourage the use of creature combat I have slowly been building a Goblin subtheme into Red, the great thing about this is that I have only really had to compromise on two slot’s for a creature that is not really good enough to be in on its own Goblin King and Goblin Chieftain. Take a look at your Cube and you might realise you have some interesting number of creature types you didn’t expect and that adding one or two creatures to support might open up some great drafting opportunities.
More recently Red creatures have been printed that offer great gameplay in something other than a get them dead quick strategy and I am always on the lookout for something that adds a different dimension to Red strategies. Young Pyromancer, Ashcloud Phoenix and Shaman of the Great Hunt all give interesting deck building decisions to a Red deck while also being good in its traditional aggressive strengths.
Some people just want to watch the world burn
Wizards of the Coast have for some time been cutting down the power level of what they consider “unfun” in constructed Magic, look at this list in progression and think about how each feels from a gameplay perspective:
• Can not cast your spells
• Have your spells countered
• Have your permanents destroyed
• Creatures dying in combat
Now look at this list of things that have been “nerfed” through to “powered up” over time.
• Land Destruction
• Creatures with enter the battlefield effects
• Creatures stats
It has been decided with pretty much universal vindication (growth figures) that being able to play your spells and creatures is the most fun way to play Magic. Poor land destruction didn’t stand a chance! Compare:
Cube builders take note from Wotc who contrary to the louder minority actually know what they are doing. Land destruction in my view should be a form of disruption, slowing your opponent’s progression towards their bigger spells that may trump your early aggression and punishing the overly greedy manabases, not locking your opponent out from doing anything.
Yes Armageddon is a thing but it’s part of an iconic archetype and the threat of it from an aggressive white deck forces early interaction from control decks. Also important is the play pattern, when an Armageddon is resolved it usually is followed by a quick conclusion. Stone rain every turn doesn’t progress the game quickly and doesn’t require as much deck construction planning.
In addition to a handful of pinpoint land destruction spells are two cards that represent a whole archetype, Wildfire and Burning of Xinye. The best way to use these cards is to prioritise Artifact mana, creatures with more than four toughness and Planeswalkers so that you can push your advantage/recover more quickly after casting these haymakers. Also realize that these are the things good against you so take removal to handle them.
Red is the primary colour for Artifact destruction, how powerful and plentiful your Artifact segment is will dictate how much and how good your Red Artifact destruction is. This is why Red is my go to colour in powered Cubes as many of the spells become Stone Rain and people shouldn’t complain about having a Sol Ring destroyed. Try and get the Artifact hate on bodies, Torch Fiend and Manic Vandal for example so you are progressing your board or cards that have more than one mode Pillage.
It is pretty safe in the average Cube deck to include at least one main deck spell that kills Artifacts.
• Life gain
• Large toughness creatures
• Card advantage/draw
A smattering of life gain on already good cards Sphinx’s Revelation and Kitchen Finks for example is good and can give decks tools that help against the all burn red decks. This is a healthy metagame balance so don’t do things like add Scullcrack to compensate.
For Red to deal with the larger creatures it will normally need to pair up with other colours such as Black or White but I am a great fan of the Artifact segment in Cube providing tools for decks colours that don’t normally have access to them, Icy Manipulator can be a great card in Red to get creatures through or as defence in a Wildfire deck.
Recently Red has been given “play this turn or exile” card draw which is a great boon. Cards like Outpost Siege give Red an option it never had before and a nice new dimension.
For Enchantments you are going to need to call in your Naya friends (Green and White to help out). Luckily in Cube there are much fewer Enchantments than Artifacts.
So if you put all this into practice what do you end up that Red can do in Cube?
• Aggro – despite suggesting you cut back on the effects, Haste plus burn still make Red best at being aggressive, don’t fight what the colour wants. However the aggression can take many forms, tokens with support from Black and White, Goblin tribal, more midrange with Green and counter burn with Blue.
• Wildfire – using Artifact ramp to destroy the world but leave you in command
• Artifact reanimation – Red has Goblin Welder and Daretti, Scrap Sevant which allow you to get expensive Artifacts back on the cheap
• Storm – usually paired in Grixis (Blue Black) colours
Red can be made to look one dimensional but with a bit of work you can ensure you have some different brands of fiery vengeance and make Red a colour any type of player with any other colour would want to team up with.
I recently ran my first ever powered Cube draft and next week want to discuss how these differ from unpowered, its a lot more nuanced than adding nine cards.
Community Question: What is your favourite Red card of all time?
Thank you for reading,
You can find me on:
Facebook: Benjamin William Cottee
My Cube on Cubetutor: http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/24587