One of the first things you must ask yourself before constructing a deck is what color to play. With many combinations and possible strategies, it’s hard to know where to start. This article is one of a five-part series that will take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of each color. Today we will be focusing on the various mechanics Red brings to the table. If you are looking for more about the philosophy and lore of each color, you can read our lore overview here.
Without further ado, let’s get into what Red brings to the table:
Creatures: Red creatures are typically smaller than other colors, but make up for their lack of size with their aggressiveness. Additionally, many Red creatures have powerful abilities to account for their low stats. Some of the most prominent abilities include Haste, which allows them to attack very efficiently, and First Strike, which allows them to come out on top in most combat situations. Other features Red creatures have is the ability to ping and disrupt your opponents’ strategy in an aggressive, reckless manner. For example, Pia and Kiran Nalaar enters the battlefield with two thopters, which can be sacrificed to deal a substantial amount of damage to an opponent. Some other great examples of typical Red creatures are: Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, and Magus of the Moon.
Tribes: Although Red has many types of creatures, from dragons to soldiers, the most supported tribe by far is goblins. A typical goblin strategy consists of filling the field with cheap but valuable creatures, such as Goblin Lackey, Goblin Piledriver, and Goblin Warchief. Additionally, utilizing Legion Loyalist, Goblin Chieftain, and Goblin Wardriver can make a force that much scarier. There are also powerful goblin tribal cards, such as Krenko, Mob Boss, Goblin Ringleader, Goblin Piledriver, and Goblin Matron. Goblins is such a solid strategy; in fact, that multiple iterations of the deck have seen play in almost all formats, including Modern, Standard, EDH, and even Legacy.
Burn Spells: Red has access to the best direct damage dealing spells in the game. These spells are incredibly versatile and can be used to either deal damage to an opponent, a creature, or sometimes even both at the same time! Great options for burn spells include Lightning Bolt, Starstorm, Fireblast (One of Magic’s premier removal spells), and Vexing Devil.
Land Destruction: Red is one of, if not the, best colors at destroying lands. While spells that do so are not always cheap, they can really throw off your opponent. Against many three-color decks, which utilize fairly weak mana bases, Red land destruction can shut them down completely. The land disruption can come in a variety of forms, including direct spells which target lands, to creatures that have entered the battlefield effects. In a way, even cards such as Blood Moon, which have blanketing effects, can also be considered in this category.
Artifact Removal: Some of the most powerful artifact destruction spells belong to Red, allowing a player to construct a sideboard that completely decimates artifact-based strategies. Cards like Shattering Spree, Smash to Smithereens, and Shatterstorm are just a few of the many artifact destruction spells in this color.
Artifact Synergy: Not only is Red good at destroying artifacts, it can also have strong artifact synergies, as well.
However, the drawbacks to playing Red include:
Limited Creature Removal: If you want to remove a creature with high toughness, it’s going to cost a lot of mana. While Red does have efficient low to the ground removal, larger creatures can be very difficult to deal with. The color also lacks a way to completely remove a threat from the game, and has almost no direct destroying effects.
Limited Card Draw: While Red does have some access to decent card draw, it usually comes at the cost of having to discard cards in your hand. While some decks can take advantage of this (such as Dredge), Red is typically not the color to be in if you’re looking for powerful library filtering and draw. Splashing with colors such as Blue and Black can make up for this, however.
No Enchantment Removal: Red doesn’t have access to any enchantment removal, and will need help from colorless spells or another color if enchantments become an issue.
Lack of Interaction: While it is up to personal taste whether this is a downside or not, aside from destroying creatures with burn spells, Red decks typically don’t interact with their opponent at all. Swinging face and being aggressive is the name of the game, and Red just doesn’t have the time or resources for long-winded, interactive games. A Red deck would rather finish a game quickly and efficiently, and just plow straight through any opposition to win a game.