A few months ago, I looked at a few cards from Magic's past that you may not have heard of but would want to add to your Commander decks. I thought I'd try it again focusing on the red cards this time around. There were plenty of options but I settled on these. I hope you find something new and exciting that fits perfectly into one of your decks!
Black Vise was a great card in my decks for a long time, but it had two problems: If you didn't get the card early on, it really didn't do much; and it targeted only one player. Once players have five or six mana available per turn, getting four or fewer cards in hand was easy, so Black Vise was pretty ineffective. Add to that the fact that you are picking one player – before the game really has a chance to shake itself out – as the best target, and you were likely costing one player 10 life right at the start of the game. Players hate that and remember it.
The Rack was the inverse of Black Vise and was great since it forced players to hold cards in their hands. Sure, it rarely meant players took damage since it was pretty easy to get four or more cards in your hand, but it did mean that many players wouldn't play cards, just to avoid taking a point or two of damage. It did still have the downside of hitting only a single player, but it subtly altered how someone would play, and that was a great thing.
Storm World is The Rack, but for everyone! And Storm World will stay on the battlefield longer than you might think. The only opponent who is really going to want it gone is the one looking to have a smaller hand size and is unwilling to take damage to allow that to happen. As someone who has seen The Rack do its work, players really hate to take damage when all they have to do is not play a card in their hand. It is amazing how many players will stunt their own board state just to save a point of two of damage to a card like this! Storm World is a great option!
Did you know that Avatar of Woe was just one of a series of five avatars? Avatar of Fury is the red representative of the cycle. While I won't pretend it is as good as its woe-causing cousin, getting a 6/6 flying creature for only two mana is impressive.
Avatar of Fury isn't a wow-inducing card. It is a 6/6 flying creature with Firebreathing. Compared to the other cards on this list, it really doesn't do anything all that impressive. Red has plenty of large flying creatures. The joy with Avatar of Fury is just how quickly you'll be able to cast it. "If an opponent controls seven or more lands…" is hardly a barrier in any Commander game. Most green decks can get to seven lands right away. When you consider all the ways to ramp cards, seven mana just isn't a limitation at all. In fact, with seven mana you could cast Avatar of Fury and still have five mana to spare to cast another gamebreaking spell. Your ability to cast more high-quality spells than your opponent is one way that will get you to more wins.
When doing these articles, I regularly find a card and say, "I'm not telling anyone about this card! This is just going to cause misery!" So, for those of you who love a good griefer card, consider this my gift to you.
For most metas, Burning Sands is simply going to bring games to a full stop. Most players will have a handful of creatures on the battlefield and will lose a ton of land to the mass removal spell you are going to be playing. Assuming players still have any land left, they are not going to play more creatures just to lose the rest of their land, so they'll sit there until they have a way to remove Burning Sands.
Of course, if you are playing Burning Sands, you have a controlling build that runs very few or no creatures, in red. This can be a challenge, but the payoff with Burning Sands lies with giving you plenty of power in the long game against your opponents' creature-laden decks.
Red likes to mess with combat in all sorts of ways, and I particularly like this one. It is as thought a dragon-lover in R&D said, "I'm tired to losing to Goblins, Zombies, and Elves! I want a way to swing with my big creatures and not get punished for it!"
Caverns of Despair (beyond being a great name for a card!) is red's answering to Ghostly Prison. Both cards limit how many creatures can attack you each turn. This allows you to determine how many creatures you'll need to keep back to block. You'll also be able to work out combat better, since you won't be worried about getting gang-blocked. Caverns of Despair makes your trample creatures just that much better! Rather than get chump blocked repeatedly, your creatures roll right over the tiny guys, making short work of them.
Caverns of Despair is even better than Ghostly Prison in that there is no way around the restriction. You can't just pay the two mana to ignore the limitation. You can only attack with two creatures. Period. Dictating how the game is going to get played to others is a great way to win games!
I know, discarding cards is a heavy price to pay to do damage. Five damage to five creatures and/or players involves playing Firestorm and discarding five other cards! That is a heavy cost.
However, consider what the card offers. The card costs only one red mana. Your opponents will be expecting a Lightning Bolt at worst. Firestorm is an instant, so you can use it any time. An opponent attacking with three creatures is suddenly blown out. Your opponents all take a handful of damage. Firestorm is mass direct damage, delivered with scalpel-like precision.
It will be a special deck that can effectively use a card like Firestorm, so don't treat this as though I'm recommending this card for every red deck out there. This is probably best in a deck running several wheel effects, or a deck that can use the cards in the graveyard in some effective way.
I have talked about this card in the past, twice, so I probably shouldn't include it here, but any card that says, "Play the rest of the game as a Dragon," is a card that I want to hype. If you read my attempts to make this card work, you'll see that I haven't been all that successful, but that's just all the more reason to share it with you.
I really want this card to work. It is just such a cool, interesting card that I really want it to work. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter for making Form of the Dragon into a contender. The card creates such a great Vorthos image for me, but my Johnny just can't make it come to life. Help!
Impatience goes well with Burning Sands, forcing players to take damage because they have no lands to play spells, or to play spells that force them to walk right into your nefarious scheming!
I prefer Impatience in red decks that exist just to make people do something. Red has an underlying theme with many of its cards that amounts to making games move quickly. So many games seem to devolve into a board state where doing something is the bad play. These games involve players filling their hands and staring at each other, waiting for someone else to make the first move, so you can react. These red decks grab hold of their opponents by the collar and, with icy determined resolve in their eyes say, "you're going to do something, or you'll just sit there and die."
Impatience only deals two damage, but when Impatience is one of many cards that encourage you to do something, the damage starts adding up. My friend Jesse runs a Jaya Ballard deck that demands opponents do something.
Jesse described the deck this way:
"This is a hate-filled mono-red Commander deck. It's focused on messing with colors, hating white and blue off the table and punishing pillow forts. The deck doesn't always win, but it often ends games quickly."
As someone who has played against this deck many times, the description is apt. I'm sure there are cards that could come out of the deck and be replaced with cards that would up the win percentage for the deck, but then the deck wouldn't discourage players from doing nothing as much as it does. Every game with Jaya Ballard tends to be a game where crazy things happen!
I hope you enjoyed our jaunt through some of the cards from red's forgotten past. Many of red's great cards turn Commander games on their heads, creating board states and battles that bring all sorts of interesting and bizarre plays into your games. Enjoy!