Evergreen changes for beginners – Why it’s good to be Red by Edward Marsh
With the recent changes in evergreen keywords, there are some potential changes for each colour going into the future of Standard. Specifically, I want to talk about Red, as it possibly stands to benefit the most from these changes.
If you haven’t read this article, the changes are simple: Landwalk and Intimidate are gone, with Protection being used sparingly (and certainly not evergreen, or in every set). Instead, we get three new evergreen keywords:
- Menace – primarily in Black but used secondly in Red
- Prowess – yes, the Jeskai mechanic from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. This will appear primarily in Blue, secondly in Red and a few splash appearances in White
- Scry – after numerous appearances, Scry has joined the permanent line-up of keywords. Scry has appeared in every colour, with an arguably effective use in Blue, but Red has always benefited. Just look at [card]Magma Jet[/card], reprinted in Theros.
As you can see, most colours get some new toys to play around with (except perhaps poor Green, which makes do with just Scry) but it’s Red that seems to gain the most, being the second-best choice for both Menace and Prowess.
I want to look at these changes in a rough order of importance. Specifically, both Prowess and Scry offer great potential to Red decks, while Menace offers a different, arguably less effective approach. While these abilities are incredibly versatile, able to suit any number of strategies and play-styles, there are a few archetypes that possible benefit the most from these changes. Aggressive, beat-down decks need everything they can get in the early game – whether its damage or good draw steps – and these new options all help to achieve that.
One of the surprise stand-out mechanics from Khans of Tarkir block was Prowess. It’s simple, but very effective and while White’s [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] took the most attention, the humble [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] put more than enough work in. Both Limited and Standard demonstrated how effective Prowess could be. As long as you had untapped lands, you could boost your creatures whenever you needed it. This made it hard to remove creatures through damage, as well as giving your opponent a sense of doubt when it came to make safe blocks.
Going forward, can we expect similar results? That will depend on each block and set, as the mana cost and effectiveness of any Prowess creature will vary. If possible, however, then a deck full of cheap creatures and cheap burn spells has plenty of potential. Sure, it’s not a [card]Kiln Fiend[/card] – and I doubt I’m going to get a reprint of my beloved [card]Charmbreaker Devils[/card] any time soon – but sometimes you have to make do with what’s available.
If there’s one weakness the Red burn deck has, it’s keeping enough cards. There’s nothing worse than getting your opponent down to 3 life and then drawing 4 lands in a row. While Scry doesn’t draw you any extra cards, being able to filter through the stuff you don’t want can allow you to keep applying pressure.
Theros has already shown how powerful Scry can be, although the cost of damage may put some people off. How many players chose [card]Magma Jet[/card] for the Scry 2, or just went with [card]Lightning Strike[/card] for 3 damage? Of course, if you’re greedy, what’s wrong with both? Similarly, spells such as [card]Titan’s Strength[/card] only fit a handful of decks, but players find ways to fit them in because the Scry makes them that much better.
Throw in some other ways to Scry – such as the Scry lands currently seeing play all over Standard – and it’s a little easier to manage your draws. Time will only tell what’s available, but it gives Red a means to adjust its deck without completely relying on another colour.
Menace stands out apart from the other abilities, in that it’s a combat focused Keyword. We’ve always played with similar creatures, so the only real difference here is that its getting recognised with its own word.
Of course, menace is a useful ability so who wouldn’t play it? Still, these creatures haven’t always seen competitive play in the past, despite being worthwhile picks in a draft. Against token match-ups, for instance, it’s not hard for your opponent to double-block.
With both Intimidate gone and Protection being bumped down to deciduous, this might be a more preferably form of evasion as we head into the future. Unless it has flying, Red creatures seldom have the means to get through on their own.
Cheap Burn, Easy Synergy
With that out of the way, it’s clear both Scry and Prowess offer a lot of potential for anyone willing to sling numerous spells out. For that to work, these spells need to be cheap enough to cast when you need to – as well as to stack multiple spells – and efficient enough to keep the flow of cards into your hand.
As I already mentioned, both [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] and [card]Magma Spray[/card] are cheap enough, at one and two mana respectively. The synergy is obvious: a cheap spell with Scry triggers your Prowess creatures, while helping to set up future turns to do similar effects. When your X damage spell turns into “X damage, and creatures you control gain +1/+1 until end of turn”, it’s not hard to see the sheer value.
The one obvious downside is that Red doesn’t have the best answers when it comes to card drawing. [card]Tormenting Voice[/card] is a potential way around this, but there’s nothing wrong with playing Blue-Red. Both colours use Scry and they both gain Prowess going forward, so the combination offers a powerful spell-heavy strategy. We’ve already seen this in older sets, and formats such as Modern occasionally feature the likes of [card]Blistercoil Weird[/card] to do similar things.
At the same time, Blue-Red often suggests a little more tempo and less aggressive behaviour. Still, holding mana up for a counter spell during combat isn’t a bad thing, as it will still trigger Prowess if/when you use it.
Let’s not forget that Blue also has ways to draw cards. While this is often seen via Sorcery speed over Instant, the ability to restock your hand is an easy price to pay. Even when it is at Instant speed, a high cost doesn’t stop players either. Just look at the likes of [card]Dragonlord’s Prerogative[/card] from Dragons of Tarkir. It’s 6 mana, but it gets you 4 new cards. Sometimes its worth taking a turn off to reload and prepare your Prowess creatures.
Finally, it’s also important to be aware of the potential power level. When Scry and Prowess were just part of a given set, the power level was arguably raised to highlight the mechanics. This is purely an assumption, of course, but sets won’t be built around these abilities going forward. Evergreen keywords are always there, but they’re not the focus.
Just like Deathtouch, Reach, Trample and friends, these will make regular appearances whenever they’re needed, which could easily change from block to block or set to set. Still, all Red players should more or less be excited by these changes. The ability to Scry, filtering your deck, and a relevant combat ability that rewards you for playing spells? If it ever needed it, this might be the little push to make Red aggressive or beat-down decks that little more viable.
Right now we’re all waiting for Magic Origins to release itself – or simply unveil new cards – so its too early to plan for a new Standard (we’re not losing any cards when this set hits the format, either). Still, these new developments breath some new life and variety. As a frequent Red player, this makes me very happy.
Remember, you can find the latest Magic Origins leaks here.
Community Question: What are your personal feelings towards the new evergreen keyword changes? Like or Dislike, and why?
Thanks for reading,