Mercadian Masques Booster Draft Part Two
Continuing my series detailing the ins and outs of booster draft, the following is my order of preference and a few thoughts on the set's red commons.
A few thoughts...
While Magic's storyline has always looked at red as the color of chaos, in draft it's often been the color of equality, as anyone could burn their opponent out given 20 points of direct damage. Recently though, the amount of burn has decreased, first with the elimination of X spells in standalone formats and second with the elimination of efficient player-targeting burn in Masques.
Most pro players feel that red is this set's weakest color. Not only does it have a number of common slots that are filled by cards that have no use in booster draft, but also, while in past sets there have been powerful anti-red sideboard cards, this set's red hosers are 1st pick caliber commons, in the form of Thermal Glider.
As a result of this, red finds its niche as a support color, best used as a kill color to support white or green creature based decks. While the odd overly powerful uncommon or rare might make it worth one's while to invest more heavily, a splash of red in an aggressive creature deck can be extremely efficient.
Shock Troops - Is this the best common card in this color? It depends on what colors you're playing, but the fact that this somewhat overcosted 2/2 (It arguably should have cost 1RR) can even be considered for #1 is testament to how weak red is. That said, once you've gotten the Troops in play, they're a great piece of elimination, either for annoying control creatures like Waterfront Bouncer or for your opponent's 3rd turn play, clearing a path for your attackers. It combines really well with Undertaker too.
Lunge - Mike Turian places Lunge number one, which is hardly surprising considering to his aggressive bent. Lunge, doing 4 points of damage for 3 mana, is efficient when it comes to small creature kill, but can't deal with larger creatures the way the Troops or Thunderclap can.
Thunderclap - The only reason it isn't at the top of this list is its inability to affect players. That said, the 'clap is an excellent card with it's ability coming in really handy when you optimize your mana through a mana curve, which would leave no opportunity to cast Lunge.
Kris Mage - More than any other red common, this little guy, the best one drop in the set, can singlehandedly ruin a deck. In a set of small creatures, Kris Mage takes out almost a third of them, and a lot of decks can't cope with it quickly enough.
Wild Jhovall - When 2/2 is the norm, 3/3 is really good. The latest incarnation of Hill Giant, the Jhovall edges out Lightning Hounds for two reasons: a) With only one red mana in the casting cost, it's easier to find the mana to play it turn four, and...
Lightning Hounds - b) Strange as this sounds, I've found that the Hound's first strike ability actually can be a detriment when playing against white. The white alternate casting cost spells throw off the math on their own, but in tandem with first strike, the results can be devastating, especially if casting Ramosian Rally to make their blocking Pious Warrior 3/4. Losing a creature while giving your opponent 3 life isn't a good thing. Obviously, this doesn't make the Hounds bad, but it does justify their being ranked below the Jhovall.
Gerrard's Irregulars - In a deck where these guys are protected by Invigorate, Flaming Sword or Orim's Cure, or where their path is cleared by abnormal amounts of kill, these guys are amazing. In a deck where they simply trade with an opposing Grey Ogre, they just aren't very good. Draft them accordingly.
Blaster Mage - An above-average card in that while it's at worst a Grey Ogre, at best, there are five commons, most importantly Stinging Barrier, that it kills in exchange for a card of your choice. If the blue player is smart, this is red's only way to deal with the Barrier, the set's defining common.
Flaming Sword - Sometimes this is the best trick in the set, others it sits in your hand and you eventually consider casting it merely hoping to do an extra point of damage per turn. A force vs. non-white decks in the early game, how high you draft this card should depend on how aggressive your deck is looking, the more aggressive the better.
Kyren Sniper - I never played this card until Turian came and visited me in Toronto for a couple of weeks. Time and again, I watched as Mike's RG or RW beatdown decks did 10 points of beatdown and 10 points of Sniper damage. It's not too good against aggressive decks, but blue-white players cringe when he hits the table if their decks are defensive in nature.
Battle Rampart - Is this the best third turn play in the environment? That may be going a bit far (Actually, it's probably tap 3, activate Sergeant, get Lieutenant), but third turn Rampart means almost any creature in your hand could attack turn 4, and gives you a little more time to make decisions. Unfortunately, anytime after turn three, this card is at best mediocre.
Tremor - the last of the main deck playable cards, Tremor is limited in its usage and doesn't combine well with cards like Sniper or Kris Mage, but does take out some really annoying Spellshapers like Bouncer or Undertaker with what is usually a 10th-11th pick.
Crash - A decent sideboard card, becomes a much lower pick if you're drafting white, whose Disenchant and Devout Witness make this card obsolete.
Cave Sense - The problem with this card is that red can usually kill whatever you're putting it on. Decent in RG, it usually isn't worth the card disadvantage it sets you up for.
Cavern Crawler - At first glimpse, this guy is a good sideboard card vs. red, but the sad truth is that he just isn't worth it. Red kills him if he ever pumps and he just doesn't do enough for three mana.
Kyren Glider - Even if you have an Arms dealer, this guy just isn't worth playing. He lacks versatility, doesn't produce enough offence and his being this high on the list is testament to how many bad red commons there really are.
Ceremonial Guard - Maybe this should be ahead of the Glider, but it's just about as bad. Lacking again in versatility, at least the Glider is aggressive as opposed to the guard, which is passive.
Stone Rain - Without any lands worth killing in the environment, the only function here is mana denial. May be ok in bunches, but definitely not optimal.
Flailing Soldier - Not a lot here...could be ok with Battle Rampart for a one shot deal, but generally an excuse for card disadvantage without enough of a dividend to do so
Furious Assault - Only reason it beats out Sizzle is the Darting Merfolk. Despite this, do NOT draft that deck if you want to win
Sizzle - Not worth the paper it was printed on.