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Not your typical red decks

Reddy, Aim, Fire

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The letter A!nd finally it comes to red. I can't say I'm a big fan of the color since, if you were to classify me as a Magic color, I'd be blue. Well, blue-black. Black-blue. OK, I'd be black. You will all bow before me!

Naw, I'm kidding. But in keeping with Mark R.'s classification of imaginary characters as one color or another, I figured I'd classify myself. Why not? I'm twice as imaginary as anyone he's ever profiled. I'm an analytically-minded, chaotic-deck-making, instinct-driven rules manager (for the Duel Masters, Neopets, and GI Joe TCGs). So that would be blue, red, green, and white. The only part of my personality that's truly black would be the pure evil at the depths of my soul. No biggie.

So back to red. I'm torn about red decks: On the one hand, red is the color of chaos. On the other hand, red is not the color of subtlety. I've never made peace with red because single-minded burn decks and lightning-fast Goblin decks are just about the worst possible matchups—after dedicated counterspell decks—for my weird combo decks to face. Still, this is the color of such goodies as Grip of Chaos and Confusion in the Ranks, so I just can't stay mad at it.

Taking the Bull by the Horns

In response to last week's character-based decks, Cabalist sent in a mono-red Tahngarth deck. Just in time! In total, I could find 32 cards with Tahngarth in the name, flavor text, or art. A good case could be made for a blue-red deck: Fog Elemental goes well with Brawl, while Phantom Warrior and Avizoa go well with Maniacal Rage and Tahngarth's Rage. But that didn't feel right for red week. So instead, I decided to plow straight ahead and smash things. Yeah, that seems red.

My Tahngarth deck wound up very similar to Cabalist's version. I have more weird one-ofs, like a Squee and a Smash for no particularly compelling reason, while Cabalist's deck went with fours across the board. The main difference in card choice was that I don't include any Tahngarth's Rages (why? WHY? WHY?!?), opting for Brawls instead. Brawl is very Tahngarthy in terms of ability, and it interacts well with size-boosting enchantments and creatures with attack restrictions—both of which are included in the deck. Who cares if a Maniacally Raged creature can't block or Mogg Conscripts can't attack if they've already picked off your opponent's creatures in a chair-throwin', nose-punchin', barn-burnin' scrum?

Because WarStorm Is a Really Cool Name for a Deck


War Elemental, art by Anthony S. Waters

War Elemental is a very red creature. Just look at its mana cost! Red, red, red. And it thrives on damage. Heck, it dies without damage! But I already devoted a deck to it once, so I was reluctant to revisit it. Then, like a bolt from the blue—er, red—the War Elemental + Ion Storm combo hit me. Pay 1 ManaRed Mana and remove one +1/+1 counter from War Elemental, and Ion Storm deals 2 damage to your opponent… which puts two +1/+1 counters on War Elemental. Hmmm, that seems repeatable. Special bonus backup artifact that works much the same way: Talon of Pain.

Where to go from here? The next card I added was Blood Hound. A Masques rare that never lived up to its potential, it has a home here. With Ion Storm on the table, Blood Hound dares your opponent—why, it may go so far as to double dog dare your opponent—to damage you. Any damage dealt to you gets converted into +1/+1 counters, which in turn get converted back into damage: Ion Storm damage directed at your opponent and his creatures. Special bonus backup artifact that works much the same way: Sun Droplet.

Now the deck needs some damage sources. If you'll indulge me, I'm going to quote something here from my favorite Internet writer (me).

War Elemental has a neat little loophole. Play it without having done anything else that turn and its "sacrifice me!" ability triggers. While that's on the stack, do some instant-speed damage to your opponent. The damage will satisfy the first ability so it sticks around, and it will trigger the second ability so it gets some +1/+1 counters. It's even better if that damage costs no mana that turn, so you can get Warren out—and beef it up—on turn 3. That's why War Elemental's best friend in the whole world is Seal of Fire.

But that's not enough. And this is where things can get weird. One of red's strengths through the years has been enchantments that deal damage when strange little conditions are met. These are great in this deck. You want to damage your opponent to stock your War Elemental and Talon of Pain with counters. (And, y'know, to win the game.) You want to damage yourself to stock your Blood Hound and Sun Droplet with counters. And there are so many options. Some of the most interesting:

And there are more. These pile up in such interesting ways. Manabarbs + Citadel of Pain is, um, painful. As is Manabarbs + Impatience. Or Impatience + Spellshock. They're all painful, and that's very much the point. For my deck, I cut right to the chase with Sulfuric Vortex (damage when a player takes a turn) and—gasp!—the green-tinged Overabundance. It was just more efficient than cramming in both Manabarbs and Mana Flare. It will double my Ion Storming capabilities each turn while happily feeding Blood Hound my own blood. Plus, the need to get green mana gives me a great excuse to hurt myself with painlands and fetch lands. I can only hope I'm still at 1 when I drop my opponent to 0. Red is reckless—but it sure isn't wreckless.

WarStorm

Main Deck

60 cards

City of Brass
Forest
Karplusan Forest
11  Mountain
Wooded Foothills

24 lands

Blood Hound
Molten Hydra
War Elemental

10 creatures

Gamble
Ion Storm
Magma Jet
Overabundance
Seal of Fire
Sulfuric Vortex
Sun Droplet
Talon of Pain

26 other spells


Note: Sulfuric Vortex + Sun Droplet is not a combo. Make sure that when you put the Vortex on the table that you really want it there!

Remember How Perseus Turned the Kraken to Stone So It Would Crumble into the Ocean?

Red is good at burn. It can roast just about any creature in play… as long as you pay for it. The number of Shocks you need to burn out an Enormous Baloth adds up. Or you need an 8-mana Fireball. Oh, red can get rid of that thing. It just might have to take everything else out with it (Jokulhaups, Obliterate). Or it'll try to swing blindly at it with a blunt instrument (Puppet's Verdict, Breaking Point). Or it'll sadly pay through the nose (Cinder Cloud, Fissure, Aftershock, Lava Flow). No, Terror has never been red's strong suit and it's been completely stripped of “destroy target creature” cards in recent years… unless the creature red wants to take out is an artifact creature. It can polish those off no problem.

Rich Wernham wrote in with the solution to all of red's giant-creature problems: the combo of Ashnod's Transmogrant + Hearth Charm. Neat! But… Hearth Charm? Why stop at a one-shot Golem-smasher when there are lovely repeatable effects out there attached to the likes of Viashino Heretic and Shattering Pulse? Even Goblin Archaeologist can… um… it… OK, I couldn't let Red Week pass without including a coin-flip card. So sue me.

“Wait, Mark!” you're shouting. “What's the point of repeatable artifact smushing? A pair of one-shot effects seems fine, since Ashnod's Transmogrant isn't repeatable.” Oh, but Ashnod's Transmogrant is repeatable… now. It's a cog. Get out an Auriok Salvagers and you can Transmogrify all day. Salvaging Station fits in perfectly as well: It taps to get back your Transmogrant, and it untaps when you bash the artifactized creature to smithereens. “Wait, Mark!” you're shouting. “That seems like a crazy combofied hassle when you can accomplish the same thing with a simple Neurok Transmuter!” Buddy, you have an awful lot to learn about Red Week.

So you've blown up all your opponent's creatures. What now? Start in on his lands! That's what Lifespark Spellbomb is for. Turn one of your opponent's lands into a creature. Then turn that creature into an artifact. Then blow it up. It's so simple! OK, it's not. But it's fun. More likely, the Spellbomb will be cycled into more cards then regrown with your cog-regrowers.

So how does this deck… y'know… win? It's always something with you people, isn't it? On top of everything else, the deck has to win, too? It has a four-pronged plan of attack. The best thing to do is blow up your opponent's Transmogranted creatures with Viashino Heretic. That should deal a good chunk of damage. Eventually (hopefully) you'll have a lock and your opponent won't be able to play any new creatures until she deals with your combo. At that point, you can attack with your massive fighting force of Archaeologists and Salvagers and Shamans. Woot! This is also when you can turn your own lands into attackers with Lifespark Spellbomb. Hey, I know Pyrite Spellbomb is better. And redder. But did you see the thing I wrote earlier with the lands -> creatures -> artifacts -> graveyard? What's cooler than that? The fourth prong is to plink away with Searing Touch (more like Searing Quick Little Tap on the Shoulder) with buyback since the deck already includes a bunch of cost-reducers to make Shattering Pulse and other parts of the dumb combo more efficient.

Yeah, that seemed random. My Red Week duties have been met. Until next week, have fun with red!

Mark

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