Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marvelous Modern – Getting into it – Red Staples

By: Dale Pon

After the excitement of the PTQ has died down and the Modern season starts to come to an end, it’s time to continue with the staples of Modern.  The next colour I will talk about is Red. 

When one thinks of Red in Magic one almost immediately thinks “Burn”, i.e. direct damage.  Thus, it is no surprise that the first ‘category’ of Red staples is burn.  Nearly every one-mana red spell which does three damage is a red staple, e.g. Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Shard Volley, and Rift Bolt (even though it’s actual mana cost is three, most of the time you are suspending it for one red mana).  Other one-cost burn spells (that are in some situations better than a Lightning Bolt) include Galvanic Blast (in Robots/Affinity), Burst Lightning (the Kicker is sometimes relevant), and Forked Bolt (can two-for-one the opponent). There are also other useful one-cost burn spells such as Magma Spray and Pillar of Flame for those pesky Undying/Persist creatures such as Geralf’s Messenger or Kitchen Finks, while Flame Jab is seen in Aggro Loam decks.

There are several useful burn spells which cost two mana, such as Searing Blaze, Magma Jet, Tribal Flames (in the right deck this is five damage for two mana); Shrapnel Blast (five damage for the cost of two mana and an artifact), as well as Skullcrack (which essentially replaces Flames of the Blood Hand in Modern) which is useful against decks utilising a lot of life gain (e.g. Soul Sisters). 

What can be better than a single burn spell, except burn on legs.  There are numerous cheap, efficient Red creatures which are essentially that, and sometimes more.  Examples of these include Goblin Guide (your opponent gets a land, and a face-beating), Vexing Devil (most of the time this bad boy is one-mana for four damage), Plated Geopede (can become a 5/5 first striker in conjunction with fetchlands), Keldon Marauder (basically two guaranteed damage and a swing with a 3/3) , Hellspark Elemental and Spark Elemental (basically Lightning Bolt on legs).  Grim Lavamancer also fits into this category, but although he doesn’t actually bash face he still deals his fair share of damage to the opponent’s face.

There is a third category of Red staples known as ‘sweepers’, i.e. spells that clear the board of creatures.  These include the oldie-but-goodie Pyroclasm, the versatile Slagstorm, the artifact-friendly Whipflare, and the uncounterable sweeper/burn Volcanic Fallout.  These are all useful for removing those Hexproof guys, especially everyone’s favourite Geist of Saint Win (i.e. Geist of Saint Traft).

Besides burning face Red is also notorious for land destruction.  Land destruction is a less common approach, with the idea that if the opponent has no lands they can’t cast any spells.  Examples of land destruction spells include Boom/Bust, Stone Rain, Molten Rain, Sowing Salt, and even Avalanche Riders.

Miscellaneous Red staples include cards used in Storm, with win conditions such as Storm Entity, Grapeshot, and Empty the Warrens; and mana accelerators such as Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, and Simian Spirit Guide.  There are some Red cards used in more novel combos such as Conflagrate, Lightning Storm, and Banefire.  There are also several Red cards with uses in more specific decks, for example, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (in Splinter Twin and Pod decks) and Atog (in Red Robots); while cards such a Kiln Fiend, Fling, Brute Force, Assault Strobe, Faithless Looting, and Desperate Ravings see fringe play from time to time in some novel deck of sorts.
Red staples I won’t really talk about are those pesky creatures known as Goblins.  Goblin Bushwhacker, Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Wardriver, Siege-Gang Commander, as well as Warren Instigator all make appearances in Goblin decks, although currently Goblins aren’t very popular in Modern.

Whether it’s by burn, aggressive creatures or land destruction, Red is definitely a good colour if you love causing chaos and destruction!

Until next time!

Thanks for reading.