Red: Sparksmith, Burn, And The Morph Dilemma
Red is one of the deepest colors in the OnslaughtTM
set, which is good as it usually has to support four drafters. It contains a number of goblins, with the leader being Sparksmith
, a good smattering of burn led by Shock
and Solar Blast
, and the infamous morph dilemma: "Skirk Commando
or Battering Craghorn
?" By now it's fairly obvious that Skirk Commando is the better card, as there are more than enough morphing creatures that punish players for blocking so early attacks will often get through. Still, there's a large advantage to having both in your deck.
When To Draft Red
One unfortunate quality of red is that players will generally be going after the same cards, since goblins are the only full tribal element and most of the other cards are removal or morphing creatures. The main thing you want from your red is burn, unless you draft a Sparksmith
or two, in which case you want to pick up some goblins.
Sparksmith is the ultimate red signal, although Shock works almost as well. Both cards rarely go later than second, for good reason. Remember that you most likely have to choose between black and red, so a lack of black cards is as good a signal as any to go into red.
And then there are the bomb rares: Butcher Orgg, Dragon Roost, Goblin Sharpshooter, Gratuitous Violence, Insurrection, Menacing Ogre, Rorix Bladewing, Starstorm, Tephraderm, and Words of War.
Underrated Red Cards
There are very few undervalued cards in red, perhaps because most of them are straightforward and either do something well or do almost nothing at all.
- Grand Melee--I have never played this card, but it's one of those game-altering cards that seems like it should be powerful in certain situations. Unfortunately it doesn't help terribly much against cards like Wellwisher or Sparksmith, as they can be tapped for effects before the attack phase, but it certainly seems viable as a sideboard card against things like cleric decks.
- Skittish Valesk--The purpose of the Valesk is to give a large beast to a deck that normally wouldn't have one. For this reason, it fits best in red-blue or red-black but is at its worst in red-green. No one expects a red-blue deck to flip over a 5/5, so you'll often steal wins or two-for-ones by turning it over unexpectedly. The coin flip thing, while annoying, is more manageable than you might think. Remember that once you've turned it over once you'll always have the mana to do so again, so your opponent must still treat it as a 5/5 threat.
- Threaten--While this card is perhaps overrated by many, it is actually quite flexible as a sideboard card. It outright destroys Nantuko Husk and Sparksmith, the two best common creatures in black and red, respectively. Occasionally it can destroy a creature with Lavamancer's Skill if it's been put on a low toughness wizard like Imagecrafter or Riptide Biologist. It can steal wins when your opponent leaves back just enough blockers to stay in the game. Lastly, it's obviously strong when you control your own Nantuko Husk because you can destroy any creature your opponent controls, right after you attack them with it. Talk about adding insult to injury.
Green: The Control Color?
One of the more intriguing things said recently about Onslaught
was Ken Krouner's statement, "News flash: Green is the control color in this set.
" While I don't think that's true in the traditional sense of control--which involves bounce, counter magic, and card drawing--it is correct in many ways. Green is the slowest color to go on the offensive and the most attached to lifegain and even card drawing. Green decks will often win the late game through the sheer size of their creatures, while the lack of trample makes it difficult to win any earlier.
The problem is that none of green's offensive creatures have a morph cost of less than five mana, with the one exception of Snarling Undorak. The difficulty with morphing Snarling Undorak, however, is that if your opponent doesn't block you probably won't have a four-drop left in your hand. Instead of ending turn 4 with a tapped facedown creature and a freshly cast Snarling Undorak, you now have two facedown creatures, which is obviously much worse. On the other hand, if your opponent does block your first facedown creature, you're happy as you can now turn over your Undorak and clear the other side of the board.
When To Draft Green
The main things to look for when thinking about drafting green are beasts. Every good green deck needs to fill the top of its curve with large creatures, so early Barkhide Mauler
s or Snarling Undorak
s are a good start. Wirewood Savage
is also a fine signal for going into green. Lack of these cards means the color is probably not open, unless you want to draft the elf deck. However, that deck needs specific cards, like Voice of the Woods
, in order to win consistently. Personally, I tend to stick to beasts, backed up by elves for mana acceleration and occasionally lifegain.
The bomb Onslaught green rares are: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa; Mythic Proportions; Ravenous Baloth; Silklash Spider; Silvos, Rogue Elemental; and Stag Beetle. Gigapede can be strong in certain situations, especially against black-red decks and decks without insect-creating capabilities. Krosan Colossus and Symbiotic Wurm are both playable cards that can dominate long games.
Underrated Green Cards
Most of the green cards in the set are also fairly straightforward, but there are a few that seem to be underappreciated as either maindeck or sideboard material.
- Chain of Acid--Rarely playable, but keep it in mind as an (unfortunately expensive) answer to problem artifacts and enchantments when Naturalize isn't available. It also doubles as land destruction against mana-screwed opponents who can't afford to chain it back.
- Invigorating Boon--Although it's been lost in the shadow of its more appreciated cousins Lightning Rift and Astral Slide, the Boon has a place in any green deck with a fair amount of cycling. Remember Aggressive Urge from the InvasionTM set? I don't know about you, but I thought that was a pretty nice effect. Now all your cycling cards do this, and it's even better because the +1/+1 sticks around for the duration of the creature's life. I've had numerous opponents become entirely frustrated when they start losing multiple creature combats without me even expending cards, while my creatures grow ever larger. In addition, your opponent can't cycle any cards unless your half of the board is clear or your opponent can somehow afford to let you have yet another counter.
- Leery Fogbeast--I mention this creature only because it can be good to side in against other green decks or other decks that plan to hit hard on the ground, especially if you have more evasion in your deck than your opponent does. The Fogbeast's value increases with the number of Wirewood Savages you have and decreases with the number that your opponent has. In fact, it's probably not worth the risk if you've seen even one Wirewood Savage, as casting it in that instance is usually terrible. However, Leery Fogbeast is also good with Wave of Indifference or as a target for cycling Dirge of Dread.
- Stag Beetle--This creature is outright huge. I don't think I've ever seen Stag Beetle cast as less than a 6/6, and I don't think I will ever agree with picking Snarling Undorak over it. It is simply a massive creature that comes out as early as turn five and has to be dealt with immediately. People pass this card way too often, in my opinion.
- Tempting Wurm--A very interesting card that scares people because of all the horror stories. Never, ever drop this on turn two unless your opponent has mulliganed something like four times. One of my favorite Tempting Wurm events involved an opponent of Rachel Reynolds playing it on turn two and immediately being confronted by Towering Baloth, a couple other creatures, and Gratuitous Violence. Tempting Wurm had to chump block that turn.
But seriously, this card is one of the better green creatures. The cheap cost allows it to be dropped in the midgame when your opponent is low on threats in hand without tying up all your mana for the turn, allowing you to still use effects like pumping with Snarling Undorak.
No more Reckless Charge
and no more Wild Mongrel
. Far from the aggressive deck it was in OdysseyTM
block, red-green is now a much slower, late-game deck. This doesn't mean it's any less potent, just different. Trading early damage isn't always the right play with this deck, as sometimes you want to stay back until the beasts arrive.
Key cards for this archetype include:
- Wirewood Savage--This elf ensures that an endless stream of beasts will pour onto your side of the battlefield. Eventually, an opponent who draws a removal spell is presented with the impossible dilemma of either destroying the Savage and getting thumped by the beasts or destroying one of the beasts and facing its replacements. In addition, other green decks are often forced to play beasts face down, giving you a huge tempo advantage, or else let you draw cards.
- Wirewood Elf--The red-green archetype is always hungry for mana, so Wirewood Elf is a welcome two-drop and even a fine card to drop on a later turn when you have the spare mana. More mana means more beasts.
- Elvish Warrior--The largest two-drop in the format is at its best when holding off two or more facedown creatures while the red-green deck deploys its beasts. Occasionally Elvish Warrior will swing for a few points, but it isn't as valuable for its aggressive potential as say, Glory Seeker, due to green's inability to follow up with more immediate pressure.
- Shock--This deck generally uses all of its mana from turns three onward, so more expensive removal like Solar Blast or Pinpoint Avalanche means taking a turn off from casting beasts. Shock, on the other hand, can be used on turn two to destroy an opponent's first facedown creature, or can remove a creature later in the game while casting a creature in the same turn.
- Snarling Undorak/Barkhide Mauler--These are the beasts that you want to be attacking with as early as possible. Snarling Undorak makes combat a nightmare for your opponent. Barkhide Mauler hits hard and can't be effectively double blocked by two facedown creatures unless mana is available for paying both morph costs.
- Spitting Gourna/Wellwisher--I lump these together not because they are similar in form, but because both serve to keep you alive against evasion until you can overwhelm with numerous large creatures. Wellwisher is more fragile, but helps against fear as well. The Gourna is a beast for your Wirewood Savage and has morph, but costs a lot more.
- Vitality Charm--This is a card that has gone up in value as time has passed in this block. Like Shock, it's only one mana, so it can be used without disrupting your mana curve too much. With a beast on the table, this charm will almost always trade with at least one of your opponent's creatures, and occasionally it can be used to trample over unexpectedly for a win.
- Wave of Indifference--Green decks have trouble winning quickly due to the lack of evasion, so this can be used to decisively end many games. I'll generally include one in most red-green decks, but I won't pick them highly. Against blue, remember to target at least two creatures (perhaps one of your own) so that they can't Meddle with your Wave.
- Sparksmith, Goblin Sledder, and Goblin Taskmaster are all strong cards that get better if you manage to pick up a goblin component. Sparksmith is a game-breaking card if it manages to become active, especially with another goblin present. As for the Sledder and the Taskmaster, they both pass the test for one-drops in this format, which is being able to trade with a 2/2. Goblin Taskmaster can do that on its own with a couple mana, while the Sledder can pump a facedown creature so that it can survive combat. Festering Goblin, though not a red or green card, also passes this requirement.
My next article will probably talk about how the archetypes have changed due to the arrival of the all creature set, LegionsTM.
If you have a different suggestion for an article, or there's something that you think I skimmed over in these articles, drop me an email and I'll see what I can do.
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