So you’re thinking about attending a Theros Pre-Release? Good Stuff!
You like to play red, but you’re not sure if its got what it takes to go all the way? No worries!
Below you’ll find all the information you’re looking for pertaining to the red cards in Theros just in time to use that knowledge to your advantage.
Before we get to the cards though I should tell you a little about the grading system that I used:
F: This is basically unplayable in limited, you don’t want to have this card in your deck
D: There’s some edge cases for this card, but you’re not very happy to have to play it.
C: A solid card, a creature with a good P/T for its cost, a useful/efficient spell effect.
B: This are the bread and butter of your deck, efficient power creatures, flashy spell effects. You’ll almost always include these cards in your deck.
A: This card can turn the tide of battle in your favor, when it hits the board it has a profound immediate effect. Its your bomb!
And onto the good stuff!
These are the cards your going to see the most of in your pool of cards, they are the staples that make up your deck. A colour with a strong assortment of commons means that you’re more likely to have a higher playable count. If we look at just the common creatures available in red we will find that the have a combined Power / Toughness of 23/21. That tells us that reds common creatures are more aggressive then defensive
Akroan Crusader D-
Limited games as a whole tend to go longer than constructed games, meaning that your one-drop creatures tend to get outclassed fairly quickly. And while I don’t consider this card completely unplayable, its just not what I’m looking for in my creatures, and it won’t pull me into red.
Boarderland Minotuar C
A 4/3 for 2RR is a reasonable body for its mana cost. Its large enough that it will outclass most of the early drops, and the 4 power can allow it to “trade up” in value. A solid card, and one I’m happy to include in my deck.
Removal is important, and reach (being able to finish off your opponent through a locked board state) is as well, but I don’t want to wait until I have 8 mana to remove their threat. Its just too expensive for me to want to include in my deck.
Deathbellow Raider C
Another solid creature. Ahead of the curve on P/T for mana cost, though he comes with a drawback of having to attack each turn. Here the 3 toughness is important as it will allow him to survive attacking into your opponents early drops. And if you’re in black, the built in regeneration is just a sweet bonus. Also, this is the type of creature with some survivability that I’d like to Bestow some enchantments on.
Not very exciting, a situational sideboard card, and nothing that you would considering running main.
Dragon Mantle C
One mana, enchant creature, when combined with an evasive creature can turn it into a real threat. The reason that this seems like such a good enchant to me though and ranks a solid C is the fact that it replaces itself when you play it. If they kill your creature after a turn or two you’re not down a card, and there are enough heroic effects that you may get additional incremental value when you cast it.
Ill-Tempered Cyclops C+
A 3/3 for 4 is right on the cusp between a card I want to play, and one I don’t mind playing (in other words it doesn’t always make the deck). But this guy has innate trample, which is nice since his second ability is Monstrosity 3. A late game 6/6 for trample is going to put the pressure on. That makes the cyclops a card I want to play. Also, the trample makes this creature a great target for a bestow aura!
Lightning Strike B-
Removal is King in limited, and 3 damage for 2 mana, that can either clear a blocker or problem creature from the board or go straight to your opponents face is exactly the kind of card I want to have. Its also instant speed which is nice.
Messenger’s Speed D-
One mana for trample and haste. That sounds like a pretty good effect, but honestly are you going to hold a creature back until you have an extra mana to play it out with haste? You’re more likely to play this on a creature in play already, giving it trample. Which I wouldn’t want to use a card slot on from my deck most times. There may be times when I would grudgingly have to play it which is why it only got a D- instead of an F. But I’m not very happy if I have to play it.
Minotaur Skullcleaver C+
A three mana 2/2 in limited is not very exciting as a whole, but this guy can either come down early for a fast 4 points of damage, or come down later as a surprise when your opponent has no blockers left. A solid inclusion in our aggressive red deck.
Portent of Betrayal D
Now before you jump all over my rating, lets remember that we are no longer playing M14. The multitude of sac effects are gone. This card is not longer a tempo play advantage + removal. This version of Act of Treason is also an extra mana to play. There is a spot for this card in some decks, but it will be your 23rd card. That’s why it only gets a D this time around.
Priest of Iroas F
Another 1/1 for one. As we have discussed, these are not the kinds of creatures that I want to have in my limited decks. Oh but it has another ability? It should be a sideboard card? Well I did consider that, but in this case its an off colour activation, in white, and if you jump over to the Limited Magic white preview you’ll be able to see that white already has a better sideboard card to get rid of enchantments at instant speed.
Rage of Purphoros C+
Solid 4 damage removal, there are a couple regeneration effects in Theros so you may also get a little additional value from that, but even better, this has scry 1. Since you’re already casting this with 5 mana to remove a threat, this is digging you deeper into your deck to find the next thing you need.
Satyr Rambler C-
2/1 for two, a solid aggressive creature to start, it dies to any form of removal in the format, but it does have the side benifit of trample. Trample? on a 2/1? Whys that still good? One word… Bestow. I’ll gladly play these guys in my red deck.
Spark Jolt D-
Well it wants to be removal, but a one damage kill spell is not the type of thing that I want to be playing main deck. Maybe if i see a lot of X/1’s on my opponents side I’d bring it in, but its effect is less than impressive compared to the other commons we have seen thus far.
Spearpoint Oread C+
This is the kind of creature that I want to have. Its a three mana 2/2 with first strike, giving it a combat edge in the early game against your opponents creatures, but where it really shines is the late game, when you can spend six mana and bestow its abilities onto one of your existing threats! And its common, so you’re going to see some of these value creatures!
Titan’s Strength C+
Excellent combat trick. 3 power for one mana is a great bonus by itself, but with scry 1 tacked on you’re also getting additional value. My favorite part about this trick? You can play as normal and your opponent may assume you have it, but it’s not telegraphed. At one mana it’s nearly impossible to play around. It passes my cheap & efficient check.
Two-Headed Cerberus D+
Double-Strike is a powerful ability, and this creature will have a place in some decks, but it’s not strong enough on its own that it will pull me into red, a three mana 1/2 (With the heavy red commitment of 1RR) just doesn’t beat out the other common creatures here.
Wild Celebrants C
When it enters play, destroy target artifact. A good ability, but it won’t be applicable most of the time. What keeps this creature at a C for me though is it passes the efficiency test for me, a five mana 5/3 is a strong body, it will trade with almost any non-monstrous creature, and is an effective threat all on its own.
These are the cards in red where we are hoping to see some flashy effects and some impressive creatures. A good colour for limited is going to have a wide assortment of C to B+ cards coming out of its uncommon slot. In draft these are often going to be your first picks, in sealed after you’ve looked at your rares, this is where you’ll be turning to next.
Arena Athlete C
A 2/1 for two, I give this creature a slight edge over the common 2/1 as the additional “Target creature cannot block” that’s tied to its heroic ability is probably more game changing. I’m not sure exactly how good heroic is yet, but I don’t feel its necessarily “build around”. A C rating still means I’m not unhappy to have him in the deck though, and any potential upside I get from him is just a sweet bonus.
Coordinated Assault C+
I’m a fan of one mana combat tricks, and this one boosts two creatures! Surprise first strike can be a devastating play, and I’ll gladly include this in my pile.
Fanatic of Mogis B+
Now this is an interesting Uncommon! It’s a 4/2 for four so it passes my aggressive red creature test, and when he comes down he smacks your opponent for at least one damage. If you play him on curve with a 2 drop and 3 drop, its not unreasonable to expect him to hit your opponent for 3-4 damage when he comes in. Now that’s additional value!
Flamespeaker Adept C+
Another good uncommon, very happy with what I’m seeing out of the red uncommons. A 2/3 for 3 is limited playable, the 3 defense can be significant in shutting down your opponents early threats. But the important thing? This creature plays both aggressively and defensively well. You have mana and him untapped? Does your opponent dare to attack into a potential 4/3 first striker? There’s enough cheap scry that this can be a tricky ability to judge on the other side of the board. My rating may even go up to a B- included in the right blue deck!
Magma Jet C+
Speaking of tricks with scry…. This couples well with the previous uncommon but is still strong removal on its own. Instant speed and both digs you not 1 card, but 2 cards deeper into your deck to get to what you need. Don’t have any lands? Kill that early threat and and slide away what was going to be a couple dead draws to get back into this game!
Ordeal of Purphoros C-
An important point to note here is that the counters go on the creature itself and not the enchantment. We have already seen that red is aggressively situated. We want to be attacking in red, and there have been a couple early drops that we can turn into sizable threats with this enchant. And the best part is that if it goes unanswered we get to do 3 damage to a target of our choice. Which at that point we have probably won as our creature is now +3/+3 on where it started and its still unanswered.
Peak Eruption F
Well I guess not every uncommon can be what we want to see. This isn’t a limited card, this is part of a cycle of constructed sideboard cards. In my opinion its also one of the stranger sideboard cards as its not a direct colour hoser (instead it attacks your land base).
Purphoros’s Emissary B+
Another excellent Creature in red!! Four mana 3/3 with an ability, a late game bestow which can make blocking very difficult for your opponent. This card is a drafters first pick in red, and a good reason to be in red.
Stoneshock Giant B+
Five mana for a 5/4 is an excellent threat. I want to play this guy in all my decks. What he can do more? Oh for 6RR he has – Monstrosity 3: Win the game. I guess I’ll play him.
Rares & Mythics:
I’m going to evaluate these together, and though specific ones are less likely to appear in your draft or sealed pool, this is where we are looking for our A rank cards: our glorious bombs. Cards able to swing us from a loss into a game win just by hitting the battlefield.
Anger of the Gods B-
One of the few board sweepers in Theros, yes it does only kill the early stuff, but you can adapt your play to get some value out of this unexpected card. Because its rare, your opponent is unlikely to be playing around it as well. Until game 2 anyways, but now you’ve forced them to play Magic on your terms, and that’s still a good thing!
Ember Swallower B
The way I look at these monstrous creatures is like this. Do I want to play this creature even if i never activate his ability. If the answer is yes, then perfect It makes the deck. Extra value? Bonus. This guy is a four mana 4/5. That’s an excellent body for investment. Am I going to want to activate his monstrosity? Maybe not every game, but sometimes I’ll be swinging with a 7/8 and that just requires an answer immediately.
Firedrinker Satyr D+
Now lets get this outta the way, I don’t think this is a bad card. But I think it’s a constructed card. With that said it will still make some limited decks, but I wouldn’t look at this and think “I’ve got to play red”. I think the disadvantage in taking the extra damage is at its worst in limited when you don’t have a tuned deck to take advantage of his aggressiveness.
Labyrinth Champion D+
A 2/2 is not what I want to be playing on turn 4. I think if this guy was three mana he would be an automatic inclusion, but at four I don’t feel that it comes down soon enough. I’m not over sold on his heroic ability, but the main thing is that I don’t want to use good spells on a marginal creature, for a marginal effect. Id rather have a solid creature in this slot instead.
Rageblood Shaman B+
A three mana 2/3 lord, for Minotaurs. Go ahead, take a peak back at the beginning and you’ll see that the minotaurs in red were actually some of the best common creatures. That makes this lord a high value card, as he is making creatures that are already good in their own rights even better! An additional +1/+1 and trample across the board for your creatures is nothing to sneeze at.
Stormbreath Dragon B+
4/4 flying and haste? For 5 mana? Sign me up! Protection from white? That’s just icing on the cake. The additional damage from activating his monstrosity may or may not be negligible, but there’s nothing negligible about him becoming 7/7.
Titan of Eternal Fire B-
The titan is a big creature for 6 mana in its own right. Nothing to sneeze at even with no humans in your deck. His ranking is based just on his own worth, but if you are gaining some additional value by turning all your humans into pinggers, but I wouldn’t play bad humans just to get additional value out of him, he’s good on his own as it stands.
Honorable Mention: Its Mostly a red card!
Kragma Warcaller B-
This creature looks like a five mana 2/3 at first but if we look closer we can see that its actually a 4/3 haste creature for five mana which is pretty respectable in its own rights. But if you have some of the other red minotaurs this guy because a veritable powerhouse. The Warcaller is only uncommon so its not unlikely to open him as a build around creature, and then every other minotaur you have has haste and an additional +2/+0 when attacking. And minotaurs are a red planeswalkers best friend in Theros!
Well there you have it, those are the red cards in Theros. After reviewing the set we can see that red is a strong colour, there are a lot of playable, solid commons, almost all the uncommons were cards that we wanted to include in our limited decks, and its got some big flashy bomby rares to help seal the deal. All in all I’ll be happy to both draft red, or to be in red in my sealed pools!
Hope you enjoyed the article and may you turn your minotaurs sideways this weekend!