Welcome back to day three of our M15 set review here on TCGplayer.com! On Monday we were kicking things off, yesterday I passed the baton off to Mike Flores, and today I have it back. We have gone over everything black and blue thus far and today we move over to the mountains of M15 and explore the red cards.
I must note that I missed that two of the blue cards I reviewed are not going to be in the limited environment as they are only in intro decks, making them legal in Standard but not seen in Draft or Sealed. Cancel and Mahamoti Djinn were the two cards in blue, so simply ignore their limited ratings. For red, we will tackle this preemptively and only constructed ratings are found.
Speaking of ratings, we will be using a scale for Limited and a scale for Constructed to rate every card in the set. We have a couple of relatively new scales below so if you are not familiar with them, give them a skim and then let's explore the cards of M15!Constructed
5: Fives are ever-present cards that heavily warp a format or see heavy play across multiple formats. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman, and Tarmogoyf are good examples of fives.
4: These cards tend to have support roles across multiple formats or be tier one cards in at least one. Spell Pierce is an example of the former while Thragtusk is an example of the latter. I expect to rate a lot of things as fours that are actually fives and vice versa while I feel out this new system but in both cases, these are going to be highly desired cards.
3: These are the bread and butter cards of a set, usually doing all of the essential things needed for a format, but doing them at a good rate. Cards like Oblivion Ring, Izzet Charm, or Diregraf Ghoul would be found here.
2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application than a three, but they serve a similar purpose. You will see more sideboard or niche cards, like Skullcrack, Heartless Summoning, or Gladecover Scout.
1: These are not going to see much play, but they have an outside chance. These tend to be weak or narrow sideboard options or extremely narrow main deck cards. Most ones will not ever make it into a winning list, but they have potential to do so.
0: These are unplayable in constructed regardless of context. These tend to be the cards designed to balance limited, like Grizzly Bears or Siege Mastodon or are narrow with a poor output, like Artificer's Hex.
*Any card that gets an X.5 rating just means I can see it falling to either side of the equation given the right metagame or environment.Limited
The limited scale used language such as "I draft this over..." but it applies to Sealed in a very similar manner. Essentially, for sealed you would read it as "I play this over..." instead. So for a five in sealed, you would play that card in your deck 100% of the time.
5: I will take and play this card over everything. Always. Examples: Umezawa's Jitte, Library of Alexandria.
4: I will take and play this over everything in its same colors and will heavily consider splashing it or switching colors as a result of drafting this or having it in my pool. Incredibly powerful cards that are more difficult to cast will generally get a four or 4.5. Examples: Fireball, Gideon Jura.
3: I will first pick this and take it over most commons/uncommons in its color. These are generally the baseline best commons in a set for each color, like removal, looters, and efficient creatures. Examples: Lightning Strike, Merfolk Looter.
2: I will draft and play these but do not value them highly. These are the typical 5th-8th picks that generally are the backbone of decks but do not do anything fancy. Inefficient removal and combat tricks tend to hover in the 2.5 area as well. Examples: Hill Giant, Divine Verdict.
1: I generally do not want to pick these highly or play them in my main deck. These cards are either bad or very niche and only go in specific strategies. In either case, there is a good chance these cards wheel when seen anywhere near the front end of a pack and very little value should be placed on these cards early. Reasonable sideboard cards can be found here, so you should not discount these entirely Examples: Demolish, Merfolk Spy.
0: These are cards that have no value and should not be played in 99.9% of situations. If you take one of these, you had better know what you are getting yourself into. Examples: Progenitus, Sway of the Stars.
Act on Impulse
This is quite the interesting form of draw in red and it seems at home in combo decks specifically. The closest comparison to this is Ideas Unbound, which is a really cool card that doesn't see as much play as it should. Look for this to see fringe play across Modern potentially.
Draft: 1Sealed: 1
This is very difficult to manage effectively as spending three mana up front limits what you can end up casting off of this. Of course, the dream is to play a land and then a cheap removal spell or something, but without proper set up, that is difficult to pull off.
I am rating this higher than probably anyone else will because I think the card has a very good chance at just being busted. Remember that once each turn means you can do this on both your own, as well as your opponent's turn. This means you will be getting four cards back from this almost immediately. Bounce this or destroy it to be able to play lands again, or maybe you are just putting lands into play another way, like with a Primeval Titan. Super exciting card to build around.
Draft: 2Sealed: 1
This is an interesting late game card. Aggressive decks with extremely low curves can run one of these to turn their extra lands into cards once they hit turn eight or so while slower decks can still just look to abuse this in the very late game. The card is actively bad to play before you have at least six lands most of the time, but it will carry a deck that is flooding out too.
I am giving this guy a sliver of hope because he is a relatively new design and if he were to trigger every turn, it would definitely be worth the two mana. The problem, of course, is that the creature has to die before combat ever happens to make this thing reasonable. The hardest time for this to occur is the turn you play this as two mana has already been used up. That said, four damage is a lot, so maybe.
Draft: 2Sealed: 1.5
This is a solid two-drop if for nothing else other than the bluff. When you attack with this into a board, your opponent really has to hesitate blocking with anything that this can first strike down. As a result, this will usually get in more damage than a normal 2/1 for two mana.
Basically every sliver ever gets some constructed love because they are so tribal heavy that any particular card might see play just because it has the sliver creature type. This one is worse than Two-Headed Sliver for the most part as that extra mana is a lot, but this is legal in Standard, so we will have to see.
Draft: 1Sealed: 1
Not a huge fan of slivers in this set due to the low numbers they come in. A single cycle of five uncommon slivers makes it very hard for them to pair up meaningfully. If you have Sliver Hivelord, this is certainly playable, but beyond that he is just going to be a glorified Grey Ogre most of the time.
Six mana removal spells need to be doing a lot more than five damage. Wildfire, Terminus, Akroma's Vengeance. These are constructed quality six mana removal spells. Now go take a second look at Blastfire Bolt. Yea...
Draft: 2Sealed: 2.5-3
This is an expensive removal spell but it does kill most large things at five damage, so you will usually be ok with one of these in your main deck for either format. In Sealed, this is a main deck answer to equipment without sacrificing much card quality, so it is a lot nicer there. In Draft, you are spending a lot of mana, but Sip of Hemlock and Fiery Fall have shown us that is reasonable in the past.
A red 3/2 for two mana is something that do not consistently get and we have seen Gorehouse Chainwalker prove that it is a desired set of stats. This is basically just better than Chainwalker as it can always block and is always a 3/2 on offense.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
A really solid two-drop for any aggressive deck. If this were a 3/2 he would get probably a full point higher, but because of his condition, he is not the best in slower decks looking for a defensive two-drop, which limits how many homes he can have.
While I would not peg this as having any obvious deck or being insane, it has a very interesting output that can scale quite quickly and as a result, I would not be surprised to see some brew built around this thing. Kemba was an interesting concept in Scars of Mirrodin and this gives you immediate output.
Draft: 2-3.5Sealed: 2-3.5
This has a wide range dependent entirely on how many auras you are packing. If you just have two or three, this is probably still playable as a single aura on it pays itself off. If you get two to three tokens out of this though, it basically has rare status. A 2/3 for four mana is not exciting, but it is tough enough to do something while not being aura'd.
While this will certainly not see widespread play, it could easily be a part of a combo to instant win the game akin to the likes of Fling, for example. I know of no such combos at the moment, but Nighthowler is pretty dang close!
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 3.5
This is a tricky removal spell to use as you risk so much when you cast it. Usually, if you can find a window to get it into play, at least you will be earning the card back immediately. Then you are in a weird spot where if the opponent has an answer, you end up with a two-for-two, but if they do not have the answer, you should win the game. The card is worth the gamble most of the time, in my opinion.
Chandra is one of the planeswalkers that did not get a facelift for M15 and that is reasonable as she has proven to be a key role player in the format. She does great things for red devotion and allows slower or midrange red decks a source of card advantage that they sorely need. Not the flashiest walker in the world, but a nice utility one.
Draft: 4Sealed: 4
You would happily open and play this in any Limited format as its abilities can do a lot here. Pinging is a nice thing to have around to clean up a cluttered board and preventing blocking brings about its own benefits. If nothing is going on with the board, you can simply flip off the top and cast whatever random thing you had sitting there. Not game ending, but game changing.
Circle of Flame
I enjoy the thought of this in sideboards to beat certain strategies. Imagine how good this could be against monoblue, for example. It shuts down master tokens and Judge's Familiar by itself and once you get multiples then Mutavaults and Tidebinder Mages start having problems. Monoblue might not be the weakest deck to the card either.
Draft: 0.5Sealed: 1
I consider this essentially only a sideboard card, but one that can save your butt in aggressive matchups. You can use the one damage to trade up, even if it does not outright kill the attacker, but you still want to only have this in your deck against one toughness things.
Clear a Path
While I do not think walls will be particularly popular anytime soon and the most common one has hexproof, there could easily be a situation where red needs this to board against Wall of Essence, for example.
Draft: 0.5Sealed: 0.5
Basically a strict sideboard card, but one that can pack a punch in certain matchups. If you are aggressive in particular, you should look to pick one or two of these up during the Draft, just to have the weapons against a grindy control deck.
Cone of Flame
Waiting until you have access to five mana before having a way to clear the board is pretty unreliable, especially when this cares about the toughness of things you are trying to pick off.
Draft: 4Sealed: 3.5
This tends to be a total blowout in Draft where people play out a perfect curve right into this, allowing you to get huge card advantage and tempo out of the play. You are much more likely to only find one or two targets in Sealed as this is not great at answering bombs. An amazing card in either place, though!
Free spells always have a chance at doing something. While this is not Gather Courage or anything that strong, it is interesting with heroic, providing you a trigger the same turn you cast your red heroic guy without even needing a mana up.
Draft: 1.5-2Sealed: 1.5-2
Kindled Fury is one of my all-time favorite combat tricks. People are so quick to ignore a solitary red mana and it causes them trouble. This can be free if you have an untapped red creature, which has to be even harder to track. While the output on this is not going to blow you away, spending zero mana and getting something back at all is impressive.
Crucible of Fire
If dragons are playable as a tribe, then this is probably playable too. Just the other day I saw a dragon tribal deck. It was Commander, but still...
Draft: 0Sealed: 0
Unless you opened up about 10 dragons, do not play this. In fact, if you opened 10 dragons, do not play this. I suppose it works reasonably well with the Brood Keeper, but that is just asking for too much to go right, in my opinion.
I actually think that a cheap pinger is worth considering some amount of the time. Chord of Calling and Yisan could both end up finding room for a copy of this. If Elvish Mystic becomes more popular, the Tom Ross aggro red decks can run this in their board too.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5
I like small value tricks like this although obviously having too many of them will clunk up your draws and not do enough. One of these is usually fine and then the rest can sit in the board where they await a good use.
Foundry Street Denizen
While this guy is obviously quite restricted in terms of where he might go, he is also quite potent in that home. The monored aggressive decks only look to get stronger with M15 and I expect this to be a heavily played part of those strategies.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1
Another card that rewards you for being heavily invested in one color. While there will certainly be some sweet decks that employ this, the vast majority of lists will not want to touch it.
This has been a big player in aggressive decks in the past; it allowed green/red aggro to enable bloodthirst on turn two and then have a relevant card later on. Its creature type should be noted as goblins have a lot to work with these days.
Draft: 2Sealed: 1.5
If you are going to play a one-drop, this is a pretty good one to consider. In aggressive decks this will be a slam dunk that you will absolutely want, as finding good one-drops is rare. In slightly slower decks though, while I would not take this as high, I would definitely look at it twice before deciding anything.
Unplayable in constructed unfortunately as we want more immediate value for our four mana. Remember that this is an intro deck card, so it will not be appearing in limited.
I really want this card to be played and to be good as it is just a sweet design that really makes one think. I want to figure what the best thing I can do with this is and that spark of creativity is awesome to capture with such a simple card. This is a ritual, so expect it to be doing broken things if/when it does see play.
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5
This is another very good two-drop in that it applies a little pressure early but then turns into a six-drop or seven-drop with haste after it has become outclassed. There might be a cool red/green deck that drafts as many of these as it can and then just plops out fatties ASAP. Cool design!
I cannot imagine someone willing to take the chance on the variance this introduces into your games. The output is useful, but hardly game ending and you are not even sure if you are going to get that output for very long. Fun design, but constructed wants cards that deliver consistently.
Draft: 3Sealed: 3
Meanwhile, in limited this is usually going to be worth the risk. First of all, if you give this an extra point of toughness, it will never kill itself, which is nice. From there, you gain increasing amounts of board control as your mines start to litter the field. At some point, unless your opponent has some fliers, things can stall out as they can no longer attack profitably. Even in a world where you cannot give this an extra toughness, taking a chance at a few mines is worth it.
Goblin Lords are generally some of the more sought after tribal cards as goblins have shown to be so strong even in older formats. This is a very unique take on a lord, presenting you with the creatures you need and loading the stat bonus on to itself, similar to Goblin Piledriver. This might be a Standard player but I would also look to older formats to see if it catches play.
Draft: 3Sealed: 3
This is great in that it provides you with creatures every single turn, but you also have to expect some number of those tokens to just get eaten upon creation as they must attack into an opponent's board. Bluffing or tricks can help this scenario out and I would still rather be on the side of the Rabblemaster, but it is interesting.
Three mana 3/3s don't even make it on to the radar these days and while adding goblin to the type line helps, losing a toughness does not. If this had three lines of text talking about giving goblins haste, then we would be talking!
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
Just an all-around solid curve filler. You will rarely be wowed by this, but it will trade up a reasonable amount of the time. On offense you need to be weary of attacking as most two-drops will be able to take this down.
I really love this card, especially within the context of current standard where devotion and heroic triggers are both desired. This goes great in any aggressive red deck where this can provide a ton of unexpected damage for very little mana.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
There have not been a lot of efficient ways to grant haste like this for quite a while, so this is actually kind of tough to evaluate. This does a lot for one mana, so I would imagine it being worth the include in almost any aggro deck. Slower decks will not get as much out of this though, so unless they have a specific use in mind, I would leave it in the board.
Heat Ray has been around a number of times over the past five or six years and it never gets looked at for constructed. There are generally better X spells that act as removal plus something else, as opposed to being so narrow.
Draft: 3Sealed: 3
Removal that can hit anything is always a good place to be in Limited, although this will cost quite a bit at times, keeping it out of the tier one removal list. Still, I would be pretty happy to have a couple of these in most red decks, so you should still value it highly.
While I thought this would be more popular the first time around, it turns out that replacing itself with a single card is not enough to get an Air Elemental to see play in constructed. If we have a big artifact block on the horizon, this could have a slight hope, but even then I would expect other cards to see play before this.
Draft: 4Sealed: 4
You should probably value this a little higher if you have some spicy artifact to tutor up with it, but in general you should be viewing this as Air Elemental with slight upside in a color that doesn't tend to get them. In Sealed, having an artifact in your deck tends to be a bigger plus as this is going to die a little more often.
For the same reasons that Hammerhand was playable, I think this has a chance at seeing some play. I generally think of it as a worse card due to the activation cost on the Shock ability, but it still provides you with an immediate impact and some future flexibility should you need it.
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5
This is a removal spell that can be countered by other removal spells, which is something to watch out for. That said, this is also a removal spell that does something while the opponent has nothing you wish to Remove. I would consider this less reliable than Shock but more flexible, which is an interesting place to be.
This feels like it is not quite strong enough to see play, even in red/green. Ghor-Clan Rampager does what this does but better for the most part. That said, a 4/4 for four mana with upside is not irrelevant, so perhaps someone will pick it up.
Draft: 2-3Sealed: 2-3
A Hill Giant is a perfectly acceptable creature to run as filler in most decks, so I would not be surprised to see a red (but not green) drafter take this mid to late pack when there are not better alternatives. In those decks, you have a Hill Giant. Congratulations. In a red/green deck though, this is pretty insane as it will take over a board and make combat very taxing on the opponent./ A 4/4 for four is already a thing of beauty in limited and this just comes with upside!
Even as a Goblin, I cannot imagine that an unblockable Grey Ogre is very good in constructed. Once you get nit-picky and realize this is not even truly unblockable, its chances do not actually go up.
Draft: 3Sealed: 2.5-3
Evasion is king in limited so even though this guy might look sort of weak at first, two damage coming in every turn without answer adds up pretty quickly. You would want to combine this with auras or equipment to turn it into an even bigger threat.
Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient
Based solely on the fact that I have no idea what this is capable of, I will give it the slight nod for constructed. A 4/3 for four mana is passable but obviously all of the focus here is on the ability. If you can figure out something sweet to do with this other than make people read Strionic Resonator 10 times, then by all means!
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5
You are basically taking this for the body, which is very reasonable in Limited. If you end up with any cool artifacts to abuse with this, then all the better, but so many of the typical ones, like equipment, just do not work with this.
There are much more efficient burn spells in a format, generally that hit either players or creatures, so I cannot see a deck resorting to this.
Draft: 1-1.5Sealed: 1
This is a fine finisher for very aggressive decks but that is essentially the only place it belongs. Sealed tends to be less forgiving to aggressive strategies, so there is a lower chance you play this there. I would generally not want to play more than two copies of this though, and even that is a bit greedy.
This is one of those cards that we all play because we have to, but we know something exists out there that is just better. Lightning Strike is nowhere near as playable as Lightning Bolt as you see most control decks will not go into red looking for it as a removal spell, instead opting into black or even green some of the time. It is the best we have available, so it will continue to see play, but each new set has a chance at releasing something better.
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 3.5
One of the highest quality red removal spells you will get. While it cannot take down every threat on its own, the fact that it comes so cheap and at instant speed just gives you a ton of play. And unlike other removal spells, if this one is hanging around due to a lack of targets, it will eventually just be used to kill your opponent instead!
Might Makes Right
I cannot imagine this being playable at six mana. It clearly wants to go in an aggressive strategy, but six mana makes that not a thing.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2.5
I won't lie, this could easily just be a bomb in the way that Homicidal Seclusion is and I might not be seeing it. I think this is very strong, but the fact that you need to both have creatures, but yours need to be bigger, is a board position you tend to already be winning with. Compare this to the Triumph of X cards which just ask that you have a creature in play to your opponent's none.
Little known fact. This was the original red titan. I swear!
Draft: 1Sealed: 1.5
This is basically just a giant vanilla dork with trample. The upkeep of three mana can certainly be costly, but once you top out at your six-drop, you can probably spare the extra three mana on most turns. That all said, as a 7/3 trampler, this is still not great. It is very fragile and is likely to trade in combat with something smaller than it.
Paragon of Fierce Defiance
Worst case scenario, this can be a poor man's goblin lord if they want extra copies of such a thing. I think most decks will not need to go this deep, but it has a few applications. Unfortunately haste is a tough one to add a mana cost on to.
Draft: 3Sealed: 3
This should be a big pick up for aggressive decks looking to add a little extra oomph to their deck. Haste matters much more in limited where you are top decking threats late and the extra Crusade effect combines nicely with the aggressive goblins in M15.
Three mana looters need haste to really impress and when they are these "discard first" looters, that hurts them even more as you lose one additional card of discard options with each activation.
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5
In limited meanwhile, discarding lands is pretty great after you have plenty of them and this lets you do just that. Or it can help you hit land drops early by cycling away spells. Not Merfolk Looter, but red doesn't mind it.
Once again we see a case where even if this condition were always met, a 5/3 trampler for four mana is not acceptable in constructed. This is in part because the most common red and black removal all tend to take out three toughness creatures for only one or two mana.
Draft: 2-2.5Sealed: 2-2.5
Another Hill Giant which means another reasonable limited card regardless of whether you hit that artifact clause or not. If you have a lot of artifacts though, this guy becomes pretty good in combat and can sneak in a little damage here and there when a Hill Giant otherwise would not be able to.
Another one of those cards that will only be around for constructed and not limited. It's a shame too as this one will also not be around in constructed.
This is the last of the intro cards for red and yet another card that we will not be seeing in Standard. One of these saw play in sideboards about five years ago and was probably wrong then as well.
Shrapnel Blast is basically the least amount of mana you can spend to get five damage and it is able to go to creature or player, which is a big game. Burn decks and Affinity decks have used this to big effect, even if it does not make a big impression in Standard. With Darksteel Citadel around though, maybe this will find a Standard home.
Draft: 0-3.5Sealed: 0-3.5
Shrapnel Blast is a card I can tell you about, but ultimately you have to decide if you can support. If all 40 cards in your deck were artifacts, Shrapnel Blast would be a windmill slam. Of course, that is not the case so you need to justify including this by surrounding it with strong and plentiful artifacts. If you can do that, great card, but with less than five artifacts in your deck, I would probably not even consider this.
Unless there is some weird Wall deck that pops up to which this can be a counter, I do not think anyone is interested in a seven mana 5/5 flier with little impact on the game until it attacks.
Draft: 4-4.5Sealed: 4.5
Walls are relatively common in this set and they tend to stick around so it would not be surprising to take out a card or two when this hits play. Once this starts attacking, things escalate quickly, but it is still a seven mana card, so keep that in mind before slamming it.
Soul of Shandalar
I am not a huge fan of this Soul due to it having a relatively weak activated ability. Searing Blaze is a fine card, but spending five mana on it makes it much less appealing, even if it doesn't cost you a card. First Strike does make this nearly unkillable in combat, which says something at least.
Draft: 4.5Sealed: 4.5
A six mana card worth every single mana you spend on it. This has a big impact from the yard and if you untap with it, it will be tough to lose that game. While the activation on the blue one costs seven, this is only five, making it much more reasonable in a game of limited.
Stoke the Flames
This seems like it has some potential in constructed. Four damage for four mana is acceptable, as Warleader's Helix has shown us, although this one has a different kind of upside. If nothing else, this card seems custom made for Young Pyromancer decks.
Draft: 3.5-4Sealed: 3.5-4
While four mana would generally be quite a decent amount, this has cost reduction built into it, solving the one downside to the card. This can be a nasty trick as it can occasionally come out for one mana or less and catch someone completely off guard.
Five mana cards have it rough these days as there is so much competition in that slot. A 4/3 haste does not offer much to any deck that wants to get to that much mana. Compare this to Gray Merchant which gives the caster a bunch of life back to survive further and fuel more Underworld Connections.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5
I have never been hugely impressed with Thundering Giant as he always feels like he has no good attacks thanks to that three toughness. If you can find a window to slide him in, he's probably worth it. I like topping aggressive curves with this though.
Always a sideboard option for aggressive decks like Boros who don't want to commit to a full on artifact removal spell that does nothing until the artifact has been cast. Torch Fiend beats down for a bit on the way to his ultimate purpose.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5
A two-drop with some potential added value. I love having one or more of these around but usually prefer if they are in my sideboard as they are very fragile main. That said, a two-drop is a two-drop and sometimes and this will do.
Wall of Fire
Three mana walls need to do a lot to see play, like have Hexproof and eight toughness, or draw you a card. Wall of Fire does nothing without you investing some precious red mana into it, which is not where you want to be.
Draft: 1.5-2.5Sealed: 1.5-2.5
This is a pretty strong defensive option that is generally going to go later due to half of the decks in the format not being interested in such a thing. Slower decks, especially red ones, will enjoy the defensive option.Wrap Up
Red has a large number of cards with some interesting abilities on them. I don't think most of them will make anything of themselves, but there are a few that are going to fall through the cracks and I will be interested to see them do so. Cards like Act on Impulse and Aggressive Mining really make me think as a deck builder and I hope someone finds something awesome to do with them.
And red got plenty of solid filler as it normally does with multiple burn spells and aggressive creatures to possibly bring aggro back into a consistent tier one spot.
Tomorrow, Mike will be back to bring you all of the sweet green cards and lands from M15 before I return on Friday to wrap things up. We will be discussing all of the white cards as well as the artifacts and the pair of multicolor cards from M15. Be sure to come back and until then, enjoy Mike's review tomorrow! Thanks for reading!