While Return to Ravnica’s prerelease weekends have ended, the excitement over the new set has just gotten started. Now that Magic players across the globe have gotten their chances to test-drive the cards of RtR in Sealed, it’s time to evaluate them all individually on both a Limited and Constructed basis, with an eye to picking out the true chase cards of the set. Tonight is part 2 of my analysis of the set’s red cards, beginning with a fatty who does terrible things in combat:
Minotaur Aggressor – Let’s get the tiny toughness out of the way. Surviving only 2 damage is more or less pathetic on something that costs 7 mana. This is a risk because of the amount of mana you’re sinking into something that dies to basically all removal, including Shock. Combat, though? That’s another story. 6 power and first strike means it’ll kill basically any blocker without dying itself, and is incidentally a mean piece of defensive fat itself. And while Ball Lightning serves a lot of the same functions for half the mana cost, the Aggressor has the distinct advantage of sticking around if your opponent is out of kill spells, and then it’s going to be a very painful day for him or her.
Mizzium Mortars – Either mode of this is stupidly good removal. Flame Slash was good at one mana, and when it’s still good at two that’s saying something. What was R&D thinking making so many overload burn spells? Life is hell for aggro decks facing up against Izzet, let me tell you that.
Pursuit of Flight – Okay, I understand that Auras are bad in Constructed about 9 times out of 10, but not only is this one solid Limited fodder, I can see it making its way into a blue/red aggro deck or two in Standard. Don’t laugh – +2/+2 and evasion for two mana is more efficient than many people would admit.
Pyroconvergence – Yes, this is definitely a card that sends a message, and the message is “play your awesome multicolor cards.” Five mana is too slow for many aggro decks to make good use of this but any other archetype with an R/x colorbase will be all over this as repeatable removal/kill clock at no extra cost beyond deckbuilding concerns.
Racecourse Fury – Enchant lands may seem like a really weird thing to play in Limited. In some sense this is a correct assumption. But don’t discount Racecourse Fury; it’s hard to remove, given the relative paucity of enchantment killing and even greater scarcity of land destruction, and throwing haste around makes Red Deck Wins anywhere from 50-100% faster. Consider the difference swinging a turn early with your Bloodfray Giant and then with your Chaos Imps might make.
Splatter Thug – Just think: If you had suggested a custom design that was “2R, 3/3, First strike, Can’t block” about two years ago it’d be called overpowered. Red doesn’t get creatures that efficient, went the logic. But now you can get just that in the form of Splatter Thug. I must reiterate my point that Rakdos is going to be very, very strong this block and black/red aggro might be the Standard Constructed deck to beat this year.
Street Spasm – Again with the insane overload burn. At least the overloaded mode has a rather restrictive cost, but this is the most flexible removal in the set. Stock up on these in Limited if you’re playing red; they’ll get you out of lots of late-game pickles.
Survey the Wreckage – Fans of LD seem to be in a constant state of complaining that R&D is making land destruction bad. Well, it’s certainly now expensive, but I wouldn’t call it “bad” per se. This does two very helpful things for red control: Sets their opponent back a turn and provides an extra chump blocker. In essence, the archetype seems to be less about denying interactivity and more about buying time nowadays, which is perfectly legitimate.
Tenement Crasher – The second hasty fatty of this bunch of cards is less explosive, perhaps, but way more reliable; it helps that it costs 6 rather than 7, which is probably easier to swallow than Minotaur Aggressor’s ridiculous mana cost. Anyhow, this’ll fill Limited curve slots nicely.
Traitorous Instinct – I appreciate the cruel irony of these Threaten-with-a-bonus type cards; it’s demoralizing for your opponents to think that their creatures work better for you than they do for them. Extra fun to take evasive creatures or double strikers or both with.
Utvara Hellkite – YEAAAAAH EVERY SWING WITH A DRAGON GETS YOU A DRAGON TO SWING WITH AND GET A DRAGON AND DRAGONS AND DRAGONS AND SKIES BURNING WITH ANGER AND FIRE AND CLAWS OF PURE RAGE DEVOURING ALL THEY SEE AND THE TRUE MASTERS OF RAVNICAAAAAAAAAA (Seriously, though, this seems about the perfect mythic red design to me. I haven’t gotten to play with it yet but am looking forward to doing so very much. Fun reanimator target too.)
Vandalblast – Shattering Spree is probably usually more efficient than this, but this is that much easier to cast in a multicolor deck. In any event, artifacts are relevant enough in Standard for this to be pretty good sideboard fodder.
Viashino Racketeer – I do like looting as an ability to expand red’s slice of the color pie. Putting it on a creature that doesn’t have to tap, forcing it out of a combat role, only makes it more appealing. This is the perfect way to filter early-game chaff and/or uncastable finishers out of your hand in middle turns.