Feature Article from Conley Woods

New Phyrexia Set Review: Red

Conley Woods

4/27/2011 8:42:00 AM

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Welcome back to yet another set review here on TCGPlayer.com. This time of the year is always a fun one to be a part of with new changes to limited and constructed right around the corner. While no one can be for sure as to the impacts that will be had, it is our goal to at least predict them in a somewhat realistic fashion. Today we will be focusing on the Red cards from New Phyrexia and talking about their constructed and limited impact. To aid me in the process, we have a few scales designed to help rank the cards in comparison to one another.

Constructed

5: These cards are all-stars and their greatness spans multiple formats usually. Generally the chase cards of a set such as Tarmogoyf or Jace the Mind Sculptor. 5s should not be given out lightly as the really have to have a big impact across formats.

4: These cards are going to be seen in decks of their color more often than not but may be less universal than 5s. These will usually be dominant in certain formats but not so much in others much like Bloodbraid Elf or Baneslayer Angel. Note that with a shift to how Extended is, 4's tend to see both Extended and Standard play, but have not made the jump to eternal.

3: These are the backbone of Standard and usually serve some utility but are more restrictive in archetype, like a Makeshift Mannequin or Mind Spring.

2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application. Occasional sideboard appearances or cameos in some combo deck are the most frequent uses here such as Splinter Twin or Acidic Slime

1: These are basically unplayable and only see use in the most rare of occasions such as bad card poster boy One with Nothing

Limited

5.0: I will always play this card. Period.

4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.

4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.

3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card's color.

3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)

2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)

2.0: If I'm playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)

1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)

1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)

0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll never start it. (10%)

0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)

And onto the cards!

Mid
Low
 Act of Aggression
$0.25
$0.05
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GamesXP 19 $0.08
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Constructed: 2.5

Threaten effects are always fringe playable depending on the format. Currently, with Titans running around, Mark of Mutiny, Act of Treason, and Traitorous Instinct are seeing quite a bit of play. That said, there are two distinctions here that make the card somewhat of an unknown quantity. For one, this is actually a Ray of Command, meaning it occurs at instant speed and can therefore be a 2 for 1 at times. The second quality is that this has a colorless option attached. I am unsure how many non-red decks would want this effect, but it has to be a non-zero number. If there are decks revolving around big dudes in the future, expect this to see plenty of sideboard play.

Limited: 3.0

I actually don't know how to handle these “colorless” cards very well. On the one hand, 4 life is not insignificant, but on the other hand, it allows colors that normally do not have access to this effect to abuse it. On top of that, Infect being a viable deck makes this have a shot at being pure upside due to the life loss not being relevant in that match up. Being an instant is key here though, as you can throw this out mid-combat and often walk away with an easy 2 for 1. The additional bonus of there being a significant amount of sacrifice effects in the block means this is probably underrated at a 3.0 and will only go up from there.

Mid
Low
 Artillerize
$0.16
$0.02
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Constructed: 1

Shrapnel Blast was a notoriously powerful card and continues to be so in certain decks. That said, Shrapnel Blast cost half of the mana that this does and just tacking on the ability to sacrifice a creature in addition to an artifact does not make up for that 2 mana.

Limited: 3.5-4.0

The text on this alone only grants the card about a 3.0, but the ability to be easily splashed moves this up in value a little bit. Keep in mind that naturally this is still a 2 for 1 in your opponents favor. Some of the time you can shift that to a 2 for 2 in response to removal or by sacrificing a Spellbomb or Perilous Myr. Unfortunately though, when you draft this, you will not know how many Spellbombs or beneficial sacrifices you will end up with. Still a solid removal spell though and one to take highly.

Mid
Low
 Bludgeon Brawl
$0.42
$0.08
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Serenity Games 3 $0.10
Jodah 1 $0.10
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Tier Zero Gaming 4 $0.10
Spencer Singles 1 $0.10
Roland CCGs 2 $0.11
Heights Card Shop 4 $0.11
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Constructed: 1

This is not March of the Machines and even that only saw very fringe play. I cannot imagine a deck really wanting to abuse this. There may be some combo out there that I am missing, most likely with something like Puresteel Paladin, but on the whole, this is just a casual card for constructed.

Limited: 2.5

This ability is one that has no precedence set for it so I really cant be confidant in my rating. That said, this should have an impact on most games that reach the middle turns or late game. Being able to turn your dead Tumble Magnets or Contagion Clasps into board impacting equipment is a nice bonus to have. This also goes nicely with the Trainee cycle, any fliers, or Sunspear Shikari, so it is certainly a welcomed effect.

Mid
Low
 Chancellor of the Forge
$1.38
$0.35
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Toymo 3 $0.50
Card Princess 2 $0.70
Dandy Moon Gallery 1 $0.70
Dandy Moon Gallery 1 $0.70
Cardboard Cantrips 1 $0.70
Bitterblossom 1 $0.75
The Spellbinder 2 $0.75
CollectiblesbyChance 1 $0.89
Snapcasters Gaming 2 $0.89
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Magic MTG Card Chancellor of the Forge Magic MTG Card
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Constructed: 1.5

This card is not very good and is outclassed by the Titans among other big dudes. That said, there is a small chance that this sees some play thanks to the new Red Ritual we will discuss later on. Beyond that, something that abuses creature tokens is the only home for this and that type of deck just does not exist right now.

Limited: 3.5

This card is not a bomb in the traditional sense, as it will not automatically win you the game. There are situations where it will be outstanding, but typically those situations mean you are already ahead on the board. This guy will typically be worse than something like Hellkite Igniter which only really deserves about a 4.0 due to its casting cost. The bonus at the start of the game is not insignificant, but it is only that, a bonus. A solid card, but not unbeatable.

Mid
Low
 Fallen Ferromancer
$0.25
$0.05
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Constructed: 1

Pingers only really make waves in Constructed when they have haste and are cheap. This guy is far from both of those things.

Limited: 3.0

This pinger is most comparable to the level up one from Rise of the Eldrazi. You will always play with it if you are Red, but I do not see it being as dominating as other Pingers. To start, 4 mana is a lot more than 3, especially for a 1/1. Furthermore, Red does not have much Infect in this set and none outside of it, so really this guy is just going to be controlling creatures and not be a threat to ones life total too often unless paired with Infect. The 2 mana on the activation is also a big drawback. Compare this to Vedalken Anatomist for example and you can see how it doesn't stack up. A solid card, but not a windmill slam or anything.

Mid
Low
 Flameborn Viron
$0.17
$0.01
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DarkConfidant 4 $0.03
Get Some Game 40 $0.03
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Constructed: 1

Craw Wurm has seen exactly 0 play throughout its existence in constructed Magic and it is found in a color that supports big dorks much better than Red.

Limited: 2.0

This guy will be a solid anchor at the top end of the Red creature spectrum. He is not necessarily any better than the other 6 drop options in Flameborn Hellion or Gnathasaur, but there are times where he will be. In general, he just offers more options which is a good thing for the late game Red mage.

Mid
Low
 Furnace Scamp
$0.16
$0.01
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Midwest Jedi 2 $0.03
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Constructed: 2

I am no burn slinger, but I could see this guy having a role at some point in a red deck. Basically you are looking at a Lava Spike that gets in for 4 instead of 3 but there is more upside than that. Against a creature light control opponent, this can instead easily get in 5 or 6 damage, making it a nice bang for the buck. Certainly no Mogg Fanatic, but still a potential player in the future.

Limited: 1.0

You aren't really wanting a 1/1 dude in any deck unless it has infect or a board impacting ability. This has neither and its upside is much smaller in limited. I would steer clear of this almost always,.

Mid
Low
 Geosurge
$0.32
$0.08
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Constructed: 2

While this is much more restrictive than other versions of the Red Ritual cycle, it is also more explosive. Only Cabal Ritual with threshold has net a player 3 mana after resolving before, so this is certainly powerful. That said, 4 Red is a lot of mana and creatures and artifacts are not typically what you want to be comboing off with. Still, this could play a role like Seething Song did back in the day with Arc Slogger etc.

Limited: 0.5

You typically do not want to be wasting a slot in your deck for a card that has a one time mana boost and is so difficult to cast. Myr are nice in that they accelerate you for multiple turns and then turn into a blocker or offensive chip in later. This is an entire card just to accelerate you for a turn which is a big investment, and one that only goes into Mono Red decks. Unless you have multiple 7 drops that are just backbreaking and are mono Red, this should probably be on the sidelines.

Mid
Low
 Gut Shot
$2.73
$0.95
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Gnome Games 1 $1.43
Minks Collectibles 1 $1.48
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AllFunAndGamesPA 2 $1.50
MTGLyfe 3 $1.50
Markorama Games 11 $1.50
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Constructed: 2

Another one of those cards that is difficult to really put a finger on. On the one hand, this is very limited in scope. On the other hand, cards like Hornet Sting have been used before to combat little dorks like Lotus Cobra or Llanowar Elves. If this sees any play, it will be in the same role out of Blue or Green decks going forward.

Limited: 2.0-2.5

This is a removal spell, sure, but the upside of it is much smaller than something like Virulent Wound or Instill Infection. I would still run these most of the time and be happy with it, but it would not be a high pick. It is nice to give a deck like Blue Green more options for removal though.

Mid
Low
 Invader Parasite
$0.46
$0.05
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Constructed: 2.0

I think that if this had cost 4 mana and been a little smaller, like a 2/2, it would be a significant player in Standard. As it stands though, this is usually going to be worse than something like Acidic Slime at the same role and same mana cost. This is a nice option for mana denial strategies but it fits better into a ponza style of deck, of which there are none currently. Still, curving out with Goblin Ruinblaster into this is a legitimate line that we may see over the next few months.

Limited: 2.5

While mana denial may not be as big in limited, the second ability is probably more relevant. Because most decks run 9 or so basics of every color, I could see this guy dealing 6 damage if he comes down early enough in most games. That combined with the Time Walk effect makes this guy a solid addition to a deck, but he will never steal the show.

Mid
Low
 Moltensteel Dragon
$0.83
$0.25
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GlobalMTG 4 $0.45
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Raven's Nest Games 17 $0.47
Graham Collectables 1 $0.48
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Constructed: 3.0

If you compare this guy to something like Kargan Dragonlord, his role begins to show up a little more clearly. The fact that he is good in a Red deck is hardly is shining asset though. Think about this guy in Tempered Steel decks. At 4 mana you are getting more than your mana out of him as just a 4/4 flier with fire breathing, but then he happens to be an artifact which is more of a bonus than not. In Big Red decks, aggro Red decks, Tempered Steel decks, or the occasional other deck, like Grand Architect, this guy is going to be a lot more impressive than he appears at first glance.

Limited: 3.5-4.0

I actually am torn on the rating of this guy. If he were not an artifact, he would easily be a 4.0, but as an artifact, I think he has to be a 3.5 due to his fragility. He is still an inexpensive Air Elemental that can end games quickly, but he also requires a significant life sacrifice and then is the most fragile permanent type in the block. If you compare him to something like Lumengrid Gargoyle I don't think you will see him being dramatically better or anything, although he is notedly improved over it.

Mid
Low
 Ogre Menial
$0.18
$0.02
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Constructed: 1

Obviously not a card that was intended to be thrown into 60 card decks. While it has some cute applications with infinite mana etc, most of the time there are just going to be better options.

Limited: 2.5

Another card that enjoys a ton of Red mana behind it. This card by itself would be fairly absurd if it got +2/+0 for a single R, which is basically what Infect does. However, as I noted earlier, Red only got 3 creatures with Infect out of New Phyrexia and it has not historically been a good pair with normal Infect decks. This could be a sleeper hit, but I expect it to be a solid defensive and surprise second option on offense.

Mid
Low
 Priest of Urabrask
$0.26
$0.05
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White Lion Games 4 $0.10
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Panzer Games 9 $0.13
GamesXP 4 $0.14
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Constructed: 2

This guy is obviously a Priest of Gix remake, but I do not know how good he will be going long. Priest of Gix had Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare to support it where as this Priest is more of just a value spell mid combo or something. A nice addition to older Storm decks that could potentially use it, but I am not seeing it make waves in Standard.

Limited: 1.5-2.0

The 2/1 body is not that impressive and the mana making isn't so degenerate like it is in constructed. This is still effectively a free creature that has some nifty stuff it can do. Even if that nifty stuff is just playing this and then using the mana to equip it with something, it does provide some subtle value. As a mana fixer, he can also supply some nice value, so keep that in mind.

Mid
Low
 Rage Extractor
$0.25
$0.03
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DarkConfidant 4 $0.04
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adventuresON 17 $0.05
onemillioncardman 1 $0.05
GamesXP 11 $0.05
Cards On TapLLC 1 $0.05
Drumming Dragon 2 $0.05
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Constructed: 1

This narrow Red “build around me” slot never makes it to the big leagues whether it involves multikicker to Phyrexian mana, so that should not change here.

Limited: 2.0

This is kind of like the Furnace Celebration of the set for limited. Its scope is very narrow but I think if you manage to pick up 4 to 5 cards with Phyrexian Mana in them, this can be a valuable removal engine. The biggest negative here though is that there is only 1 pack of cards with Phyrexian Mana, so the engine may be a little too unstable.

Mid
Low
 Razor Swine
$0.18
$0.04
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BaT Comics Games 6 $0.05
Gamers Palace 13 $0.05
MTGCCG and More 20 $0.05
Drumming Dragon 1 $0.05
Sarge & Red's 1 $0.06
onemillioncardman 7 $0.07
Stone Corp 14 $0.07
Gama Pro Demo 4 $0.07
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Constructed: 1

Red does not have enough support in the Infect quadrant for this to really make a splash in constructed. First strike on a guy has proven to be good, ala Phyrexian Crusader, but this guy just isn't it.

Limited: 2.5

First Strike is certainly awesome, but putting it on a creature with 1 toughness makes it less so. 1 Toughness is especially easy to exploit in this format as there are so many ways to 2 for 1 the little guys like Instill Infection or Blisterstick Shaman. Still, this guy offers a quick offensive thrust that battles favorable against other Infect staples like Cystbearer or Contagious Nim. I am still not sure how well Red will do with the Infect mechanic, but this guy will be a staple if it succeeds.

Mid
Low
 Ruthless Invasion
$0.17
$0.01
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Heights Card Shop 4 $0.04
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Constructed: 1

While giving a Falter effect to every color is a nice thing to offer White or Green, I do not see this making much of a splash as those colors already have better options like Brave the Elements or Overwhelming Stampede that are not see play.

Limited: 1.5

In a normal block, this would be quite good. However, Falter effects have seen less play in recent years and this one is not even a Falter when you consider the prevalence of artifacts in the set. This will win games on occasion, but I expect it to be more of a sideboard card.

Mid
Low
 Scrapyard Salvo
$0.17
$0.01
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Midwest Jedi 4 $0.03
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DarkConfidant 4 $0.03
Get Some Game 2 $0.03
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Tonys Stars 2 $0.04
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Constructed: 2

This is the type of card that can come out of nowhere and fuel a deck nicely. Whether you are looking at Riddlesmith in Standard as an enabler or a deck like Affinity in Legacy, there are potential slots for this to make its way into. Granted, it has to battle with a lot of other options, like our next card, but it has potential.

Limited: 1.5

This is just another Lava Axe in this format which gives it a role, but it won't be a widely needed one. If this hit creatures, we would be talking about a whole different World, but it doesn't. Still, this can easily deal 5 to 7 damage late for just a 3 mana investment, which is a dangerous thing for opponents to face.

Mid
Low
 Slag Fiend
$0.41
$0.07
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Constructed: 2.5

This card may surprise you in how powerful it is. Obviously we are not talking about a Tarmogoyf as far as a consistently awesome card in a million decks, but we are talking about a cheaper, and more powerful card when placed in the right shell. Goyf has seen play in Affinity in Legacy, and I expect this to fill a similar role there. Outside of that, this seems possible in decks like Kuldotha Red, albeit built slightly differently. This is a very powerful card for the cost so keep it in mind.

Limited: 3.0

I couldn't imagine not playing this guy if you are Red and he probably makes for a fine splash. Is he going to take over a game every time you play him? No, but he is still an inexpensive 4/4 or 5/5 in the late game that is just going to get bigger and badder as time passes.

Mid
Low
 Slash Panther
$0.18
$0.02
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A and A Hobbies 1 $0.05
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Stone Forge Games 4 $0.05
Heights Card Shop 7 $0.05
D6 Games LLC 9 $0.05
Defiant Fox Games 1 $0.05
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Constructed: 1

Definitely the worst of this cycle due to the fragile body and expensive casting cost. While other cards like this will certainly see play, this will not be one of them.

Limited: 1.5

In general this is not going to impress anyone. The easiest comparison for this is Lightning Elemental which had a point less of toughness, but was not an artifact and did not require 2 life. You will play this guy when you are short on creatures or have a very aggressive deck, but most of the time he will be late pick fodder in my opinion.

Mid
Low
 Tormentor Exarch
$0.24
$0.01
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DarkConfidant 3 $0.03
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Green Tower Games 4 $0.04
Get Some Game 1 $0.04
Franks Cave 2 $0.04
tradesfourdays 1 $0.04
Auggie's Games 6 $0.04
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Constructed: 1

This guy is no Flametongue Kavu despite having a similar ability and casting cost. While he will be quite the card in limited, his place is not in 60 card land.

Limited: 4.0

While the body on this guy is not overly scary, he is still a very nice 2 for 1 to come in a string of them out of Red. Oxidda Scrapmelter is still the best of the bunch, but Into the Core and this guy have some nice uses as well. Boosting your man will not happen often, but it is a nice freebie to have alongside a Bloodshot Trainee or Spikeshot Elder in addition to the occasional alpha swing with him.

Mid
Low
 Urabrask the Hidden
$6.41
$3.44
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Crit Hit Cleveland 1 $4.50
videogameman 1 $4.78
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Magic MTG Card Urabrask the Hidden Magic MTG Card
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Constructed: 3

While I do not know of an immediate home for this guy, he does remind me a lot of Arc Slogger from back in the day. The fact that he grants himself Haste and makes it difficult for the opponents to recover is certainly powerful. He has the impact of something like Demigod of Revenge after you Cancel out the flying with the bonus to your other guys, which means he may be a sleeper card in the set.

Limited: 3.5

While certainly a strong card and a reason to move into Red, this is not at the bomb level that you will force yourself to play it at all times like a Hoard Smelter Dragon etc. Still, this messes with combat and with what your opponent's can and can't do, which is powerful. A 4/4 body is significant enough as well that he won't just auto-die to removal.

Mid
Low
 Victorious Destruction
$0.16
$0.01
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Constructed: 1

Five mana spells that blow up lands are not very good and the upside to this is barely that. Pass.

Limited: 2.0-2.5

Yes, this is certainly a slow and sorcery speed Shatter 90% of the time, but it is still removal and you are still going to need it at times. This type of effect was playable in Shards block where there were not nearly as many artifacts so keep that in mind. You are not going to be excited to have this, but it is more maindeckable than something like Crush which is perfectly reasonable.

Mid
Low
 Volt Charge
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Constructed: 2

While this is certainly no Lightning Bolt, there still may be some use for this. Currently, various big Red decks that abuse things like Everflowing Chalice, Tumble Magnet, and Contagion Clasps are beginning to surface and while this card is not the most efficient burn spell, proliferating certainly is not just a tack on in this case. The ability to generate mana and or more board control is certainly an appealing one, so this could see some fringe play.

Limited: 4.0

This card is just about as good as Burn the Impure is in most cases and at its best it is certainly better. Adding counters to things in this format can be a back breaker and the ability to go to the face when need be is also nice. This as a common will be a huge incentive to move into Red and I expect this to have much of the same impact that Spread the Sickness had.

Mid
Low
 Vulshok Refugee
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Constructed: 2

This guy is obviously not very flashy but he does serve some purpose out of the occasionally sideboard. Whether you are in a mirror match of red guys or are looking to dodge Pyroclasms this guy is pretty nice. That said, he is still just a 3/2 for 3 mana, so don't expect too much out of him. He may not even be good enough to make any waves.

Limited: 2.0

As just as Moriok Reaver this guy is playable and he will occasionally be quite awesome in various match ups. Again, do not expect too much from him, but I would rather have this in my deck than the pair of Couriers that Besieged offered us.

Mid
Low
 Whipflare
$0.33
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Constructed: 2

I only see this seeing play if Pyroclasm rotates. Yes you can use this in your artifact deck as an aggro breaker that lets your guys live, but I do not think there is enough incentive to be Red if that is the case. A sideboard card at best.

Limited: 3.5

In limited you can build your deck with this in mind, either as a defensive or offensive tool. It is not as good as other Clasm effects, as it does not do everything you want it to do, but I still expect this to be a high pick and to fight Infect or RW aggro pretty well.

Wrap up

We will wait until the end of the review before doing our normal best of the best as each color is a little too shallow to warrant it on its own. That said, Red especially looks weak when it comes to constructed viable cards. Urabrask is the most exciting card and even he will not be a household name like Stoneforge Mystic or Jace. Hopefully the rest of the set delivers better when it comes to constructed because Red is disappointing at best. Thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--