M15 Red Set Review
Ooooooh Boy, a new Magic set! That favorite time of the year that gets everybody’s brewing senses tingling. While a lot of people frown on core sets, Wizards has been doing a lot of work to try and make them feel more like an actual set, and M15 is the continuation of that effort. I also now have a soft spot for the core sets after top 4’ing a PTQ during the M14 Sealed season, so I’m looking forward to what this one will provide.
Overall for Red I’m not wildly excited yet for much of the set, I think there’s a good amount of value overall throughout the pool of cards but Red doesn’t seemed to have gained much specifically for Standard. It’s early though, and cards tend to emerge as contenders only after being put through a lot of hard testing. I’m glad to see a lot of needed reprints, like Lightning Strike, Chandra, and Foundry Street Denizen, as these are all critical to their respective builds.
Enough build up though, lets dive into the cards. I’ll be reviewing most of the ones I think are worth talking about or are not recent reprints, so enjoy!
M15 Red Cards
So, Wizards of the Coast made the Titan Cycle, which was wildly popular but also wildly overpowered. The cards dominated Standard deckbuilding for a long time, generated bans in EDH, and even saw some light Eternal play. Soul of Shandalar is part of the new “fixed” versions, and honestly I’m not really sure what to think. Initial thought (and even mostly today) is that this card seems casual. I’ve seen some scary ramp decks in online playtesting, and if anything that’s where it looks like it could potentially find a home. I tested some builds based off of the old RG Valakut lists, and while the Avatars “worked” they weren’t mind blowing. The biggest reason the Titans were so good was that they had an Enter-The-Battlefield trigger. That doesn’t require the creature to live to get value out of it, and they still provided repeatability like these do. Granted, you can use the exile ability on these cards if they do get removed right away, but at six mana to cast and five mana to use the ability, that’s a lot to ask!
There’s also the other issue of what deck wants this and what ramp cards are available. In the days of Valakut Standard, we had Solemn Simulacrum (aptly nicknamed SpeedBump), Cultivate, Khalni Heart Expedition, Rampant Growth, Explore, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Summoning Trap. That’s a ton of fantastic options, none of which we have today and no comparisons in sight. Nykthos would be the easiest shell to work with, but that restricts you somewhat on which Avatars you can use and also is a six drop for a deck that wasn’t really asking for one nor played one before. Why would I want this card when I could be casting Stormbreath Dragon and then monstrosing it. Soul of Shandalar furthermore doesn’t have evasion, which is a required feature for a six drop in my book most of the time.
I would love to hear more discussion on this card, because like every other Red player I hold out an extended hand of hope that someone smarter than me makes this a thing. It’s just going to be a really uphill battle. . .
Altac Bloodseeker is a sleeper. Think about what enables this card, and think about the deck it’s going to be in. He is a perfect fit for a Mono Red Aggro deck, and typically in that style of deck you are going to be killing their creatures. While he’s just a grizzly bear against Control, he’s an essential race tool against any other creature based deck. His +2/+0 first strike ability will ensure that he goes unblocked or kills something else, and if they only had one creature in the way that could block to begin with he’s 4 damage for 2 mana. While the haste ability seems irrelevant, it’s actually important here in my opinion. There will be many situations where you play this guy alongside of a Shock or a Lightning Strike and then his power truly shines. The only drawbacks for him (besides the Control issue mentioned) is that he isn’t great for devotion and he has a lot of competition. But M15 will be around for a long time, so when rotation hits or potentially even before, this guy should be on your shortlist of playtest consideration. Ash Zealot is also rotating soon, and this guy fits even easier into say a R/G shell with Ghor-Clan Rampager. . .
While I’d love Standard to have a competitive Slivers deck, I think it’s going to be an extreme longshot. That said, M15 brought a lot to the table and there is small buzzing amongst Pros in the game. I absolutely love the effect this particular Sliver has; it’s easily my favorite Red ability. Pyreheart Wolf was by far one of my favorite Red cards of all time, and this guy knocks on that same door. At the very least, the new Slivers should provide EDH decks with a boost and possibly Legacy.
A free card (essentially) is never something I’ll just pass on when considering options, but the playability here is highly questionable. I can’t see a deck in mind that wants this, aside from being a cute combat trick in limited. Even there, this card is a bit narrow. I like that it will exist, but I can’t see myself putting it into anything, even a Tom Ross style Boss Sligh deck.
This is a worthwhile reprint that will add some great flexibility to Red Aggro decks. The “can’t block” clause is one of the most important there is in a world of large monsters, and paying R for it is completely reasonable. It’s also one more effect of this kind in a format with multiple efficient ways of doing the same thing, so I like that it’s here again. It sits appropriately on the curve, since all the other “can’t block” cards at 1CC are non-creatures and it’s a Goblin which gives one more thing to that archetype if it comes to life. I don’t like that it’s only a 1/1 when there are so many great 2 power creatures for one mana in this format, but I strongly believe this will have a few homes.
Hammerhand actually seems pretty awesome for a Heroic deck, and while it has competition from Blinding Flare, I think it’s the better of the two most of the time. Blinding Flare is often only needed without Strive, although there are occasions where that option becomes a blowout, but Hammerhand’s pump and haste enabler clause give it a lot more mileage. I’m thinking this is one of those cards you want to play as a “miser” but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was jammed more heavily in the right deck. I think this is one that benefits greatly from playtesting to see how powerful it is, with the main drawback being that like any enchantment it can lead to removal 2-for-1s. Still, sweet card is sweet.
HOLY BUSTIDO BATMAN! This card is ripe for some crazytown, that is for sure. I think he might be very quiet in Standard, but boy howdy does this look saucy for EDH and Eternal. Lets look at some possible combinations here: Trading Post, AEther Vial, Mimic Vat, Brittle Eiffigy, Contagion Engine, Burnished Hart, Planar Portal, etc. That’s not even that good yet nor scratching the surface, this guy is begging to be abused. He’s also just a really cool build around General. I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of infinite combos lurking, or even valuetown stuff like Basalt Monolith‘s untap ability. This is certainly a card I can get behind.
This card should see play, if even only as a 1 or 2-of. Wizards has been pushing this effect, and as we’ve seen from Chandra and Prophetic Flamespeaker it’s a useable one across multiple formats. I don’t think Act on Impulse is a huge contender for Standard, although Burn was playing Wild Guess for a while and this seems like a strict upgrade. Needing to find a high-impact burn spell to finish someone off in combination with this card is perfectly reasonable. Granted, Burn doesn’t get to five mana terribly often, but situations will come up, and this allows you to play a land to help out its cause.
What’s more interesting is the way to look at the card and also its Eternal applications. Essentially, this card in a lot of situations is saying 2R: Draw Three Cards. Red doesn’t really have a comparison, and there’s a lot of interesting situations I could see being created as a result. Lets look simply at Legacy Burn even though I don’t think it’s the best example. Legacy Burn plays Sulfuric Vortex (admittedly one of the best cards and a reason to play a 3CC spell when you otherwise wouldn’t), but for the sake of example lets just say you were playing Act on Impulse alongside of it. You cast Act on Impulse. You play a land with it. You Fireblast your opponent by sacking two mountains, and you cast a Lightning Bolt. That’s pretty nuts, and actually looks like a competitive closer in “some” amount of games. What’s one of the ways Burn tends to lose in Legacy outside of strict hosers? It runs out of cards. I want to try this as a 1 or 2 of, and I’m curious to hear others thoughts on it. There’s something intangible about this card that asks us as a community to try and push it and see what happens. With that concept in mind, I think there’s some combo deck applications here as well, as this card seems like it could go bananas in Storm or something similar. And I can already imagine that the foil version is going to be insane, at least if they make the goggles part foil.
M15 appears to be the set for “abuse” and Generator Servant is no exception. A lot of people will do the terrible, casual dismissal of “well, it dies to removal” or “yeah but it’s a one-time use spell” but this guy has some serious implications. Imagine playing a Stormbreath Dragon on turn 3. How about even the new Soul of Shandalar on turn 3 or 4 with haste (with Elvish Mystic in combination). Or my Standard sleeper pick Scuttling Doom Engine which would just be unreal if they don’t have an exile spell to deal with it. Get your foil playset now. . .
I’m only including Borderland Marauder in this article because it’s somewhat comparable to Gore-House Chainwalker, and as a result I think it’s worth a mention. While the current Standard format is not asking for this card, there may be a point where a cheap Red deck needs this sort of thing. Post rotation, if we’re left with limited options in Aggro, she’s not the worst. She’s also a Human Warrior, two sub-types that are relevant to a lot of cards.
Brood Keeper isn’t anything to write home about, but she looks really fun for EDH decks built around an enchantress theme and also appears to be a possible Limited bomb. Free creatures that have flying and firebreathing is nothing to sneeze at in Limited, and this set includes many solid auras in Red alone. Very cool mechanic, and not one traditionally put in Red.
While I personally didn’t play much when “Convoke” was in Standard, this card looks powerful to me. I’ve already seen some Pros writing about it positively, and this is a replacement for Mizzium Mortars in a lot of decks not to mention just being better than it a lot of the time. The fact that it can go to the face is huge, and while you don’t want to be tapping your creatures for other purposes in an Aggro deck, this is a card that answers some of the bigger problems they have. It’s also solid redundancy with Mizzium Mortars if you need more of this type of effect, and it potentially gives Standard Burn another weapon. There’s the situations where you play it alongside of some creatures as well, and the the drawback doesn’t feel nearly as bad. And lastly, it can at times be played completely for free, which just feels bonkers. Can you imagine being stalled on board and tapping 4 mana for a Warleader’s Helix and also tapping 4 of your creatures to cast Stoke the Flames? Sign me up.
I’m really mad at this guy right now. It’s probably blinding me a little bit, but as many of my readers know I announced on Facebook that Kird Ape was returning, and then we got Chieftain instead. I had read on what I thought was a reliable Twitter feed that a Kird Ape reprint had been confirmed, and had saw someone else mention that there was an official WOTC page talking about it. Turns out all of this was bunk, and instead we get this 4-mana low-life. Hoo Boy was I disappointed (along with the rest of my internet circle).
BUT, I don’t think he’s unplayable. Red needs a little more from a 4-drop, but there’s a sense to me that there will be a build in which he can be the four drop, mainly because his ability is quite powerful. He could even just be a 1-of and still make an impact, since he provides you with an out to stalls and situations where you’re outclassed. I’m not ruling this guy out just yet.
My thoughts regarding Aggressive Mining are almost exactly the same as Adrian Sullivan’s from his article HERE. It’s a card that looks like a very fine addition to Red, but the drawback is one that potentially could make it hard to use in many situations. I think this card will largely be an anti-Control sideboard card or a combo breaker of sorts in decks that don’t need lands after a certain point. It actually reminds me a lot of Burning Earth because it’s functionally filling a similar role, has the same casting cost, and has drawbacks as well. I think it’s worth picking this card up, as I can’t imagine that it will go untouched. If it doesn’t see play in one format, it certainly will in another.
This cycle of cards is quite intriguing. While I’m surprised it doesn’t cost three mana like many of the other “Lord” cards in Magic, it looks like there’s something useful here. These days, many Aggro decks don’t need a Crusade-effect as they’re just looking for active-use cards, but whenever a Crusade-effect is on a stick (creature), it’s worth taking note. This guy is about as lackluster (a little more-so) as Fanatic of Mogis is against Control, but he’s also capable of a similar level of blowouts (despite the lack of reach). I wish I had a list for you readers playtested and ready to go with regards to him, but I don’t just quite yet. The biggest thing I can say at the moment is to actually try this guy in your Aggro deck, because something tells me he deserves to see play immediately. Could be quite the pair with Hall of Triumph too. . .
Of all the cards in M15, this is the one I’ve been playtesting with the most, and he’s very strong. I don’t know what home is the de-facto best one yet and my lists are very rough even at this point but I know he’s going to get play. The easiest comparison card is one that is still a Legacy staple, Goblin Piledriver. Anyone who’s played Legacy Goblins can tell you that Piledriver is an essential piece to the deck, and a large part if not the key part in its early turn wins. Rabblemaster loses Protection from Blue, has less of a power bonus, and costs one more mana, which are all incredibly important in Legacy, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t playable there and those points are far less relevant in Standard/Modern. He also has the ability to create a free creature a turn, and from playtesting I can tell you first hand that this ability is incredible. Combining Goblin Assault with Goblin Piledriver for the essentially the same mana is the Bees Knees, and I’m eagerly waiting to pop this guy into my Purphoros EDH deck. In Standard and Modern, IF there are enough Goblins and supporters to make it work, he could be the defining card that glues it all together. So far in playtesting, if my opponent didn’t kill him with removal or counter him, they typically lost. Easily the card I’m most excited for from M15.
To me this card is looking at EDH and Limited. In both of those areas, we’re talking about a powerful effect that is heightened by the fact that it gives the ability to the creature meaning that you don’t have to wait a turn to use it. Typically in EDH these kind of Red cards have been powerful (at least when my buddies and I play “fun” Multiplayer), and if you put this on a hexproof or indestructible guy. . . GEEZUUUUS. Seems like it could be super busted with cards like Kiora’s Follower too, I can only imagine the impending Rage-Quits. Oh, and don’t forget about Infect. . .
The last card I’m going to talk about today is Inferno Fist. It appeared to get the most buzz during the spoiler season, and ultimately came out a little different once the final version was unleashed on the internet. There are shells where this card can see play, Heroic seeming to be the most likely. Overall it may just be a great card in general since once you get to more than 2 mana you can gain more value than the card is worth most of the time. The biggest problems are that since the final version doesn’t boost toughness this card doesn’t save any creatures or allow them to leapfrog your opponents creatures, and it’s an enchantment so it’s vulnerable to 2-for-1s just like any other. Madcap Skills set the bar for what risky enchantments you’re willing to play with in your competitive deck, and its made playable enchantments a hard nut to crack as a result. I believe Inferno Fist passes the test because the second ability gives it reach and removal, the two all-important holy grails of Red Aggro. Like some of the cards mentioned before, get your foil playsets of this one :).
I’ll now leave you with some playtesting images to whet your appetite:
I’ll be at Mox Mania in Madison, WI for the midnight release, looking forward to an exciting new Sealed format. Hope to see some of you there and good luck wherever you are!
Thank you again for reading, and as always, keep tapping those Mountains,
– Red Deck Winning