Ixalan Review – Red Cards

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Hi everyone.  Welcome to the fourth article in my series of reviews of the cards in the upcoming Ixalan expansion.  Today we’ll be taking a look at all of the Red cards.  In this article, I will discuss these cards as they relate to Standard play.  My system uses number ratings ranging from 0 – 5 to gauge how well I think the cards will perform Standard play.  I will offer some pros and cons for these cards and give my thoughts and rating on the card for Standard play.  Please keep in mind that these ratings are based on my opinion only and may differ from your opinion.  (If you have a different opinion, please sound off in the Comments section below and let me know your thoughts.)

How My Rating System Works

5.0:  Format All-Star.  This card is a total Bomb card.  For those that aren’t familiar with this term, it basically means this card will win you the game if left unchecked for a turn or two.  These cards tend to be hard to defend against and can turn a game around in a hurry.  Some cards that are bombs in limited may only be a mediocre card in constructed play.  This card will see a lot of play in top tier tournament decks or will be the lynchpin of a top tier deck.

4.0:  Above Average Card.  This card is great.  It can be played in multiple decks and will have an impact on the game every time.  These cards can change a game quickly, get you back in the game, or shift the tempo of the game.  These cards are usually vulnerable to some type of removal (or are a removal spell themselves), but they make up the majority of cards found in major tournament decks.  This card will be a good support card in a top tier tournament deck.

3.0:  Average Card.  These are generally good cards, and many of them will be the majority of cards found in a tribal deck.  Cards in this category are usually similar to other (higher-ranked) cards but cost 1 mana more or have a drawback in some manner.  In Limited play, these are the majority of your deck.  This card will likely be in a fair number of top tier tournament decks and will generally be interchangeable with other similarly-rated cards.

2.0:  Niche Card.  These cards serve are very narrow function and are usually meant for your sideboard.  They could be removal spells that only remove 1 type of card, or cards with mediocre stats that have an ability that helps against opponents playing a certain color or strategy.  In Limited play, these cards are put in your deck if you have no other options and need the card to reach your 40-card minimum deck size.  For Constructed play, you will rarely play this card unless it’s from your sideboard or you want to be “cute”.  This card will only be seen in select decks that are usually trying to play around with a specific ability or in tribal decks.

1.0:  Will Rarely See Play.  The worst of the worst.  These cards are rarely played (if they’re played at all).  These cards generally have bad stats, cost too much mana, or have basically no impact on the game when they’re played.  Overall stay away from this card if possible.  This card will likely not see any tournament play.

And now, on to the cards…

 

Angrath’s Marauders

Angrath’s Marauders

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I really like this ability, and on a 4/4 body it’s good, but this seems too expensive to see play in Standard.  If there’s a ramp deck, then maybe it’ll see play, but for now everyone has seemed more interested in ramping into big dinosaurs instead.

 

Bonded Horncrest

Bonded Horncrest

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Hopefully by turn 4 when you have enough mana to cast this, you’ve got at least 1 other creature in play.  If not, maybe this could allow Fling to see some Standard play?

 

Brazen Buccaneers

Brazen Buccaneers

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  For a 4 drop with haste, I’m hoping for the possibility of more than 3 points of power to be attacking.  Maybe a tribal pirate deck will want this, but I don’t see it slotting into the current red deck in Standard.

 

Burning Sun’s Avatar

Burning Sun’s Avatar

Rating:  4.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  For 6 mana, this is exactly the kind of card I’m looking for.  Dealing 3 points of damage directly to my opponent and possibly getting rid of a blocker of theirs or triggering one of my own dinosaur’s enrage abilities in addition to getting a 6/6 on board sounds like a lot of fun to me.

 

Captain Lannery Storm

Captain Lannery Storm

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  A 2/2 with haste for 3 mana is okay, but what I really like is that she can make Treasure tokens each time she attacks.  If there’s a way to get multiple attack steps each turn, she can quickly speed your deck along by either giving you the possibility of more mana to use to cast more or bigger creatures, or to use towards a victory condition requiring Treasure tokens.  And she is capable on her own (with a little help from Treasure tokens that you’re already using to cast spells with) of taking out a much larger blocking creature.

 

Captivating Crew

Captivating Crew

Rating:  4.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Have you ever wanted to attack with the best creature on the battlefield each turn?  Well, now you can.  The thing I like best about this card is that you can cast it and then sit back with it and still use the activated ability each turn to take control of any of your opponent’s creatures.  Repeatable effects can often find themselves to be broken.  Also, keep in mind that this ability only costs you mana, so provided you have enough mana, you can take control of multiple creatures on each of your turns.

 

Charging Monstrosaur

Charging Monstrosaur

Rating:  4.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  There’s nothing fancy here, just an efficient beater that can attack out of the blue.  This card screams aggression, and it delivers on that.

 

Demolish

Demolish

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This is a card that I expect will see a bit of sideboard play due to the fact that it can destroy many of the transform cards on either of their sides.

 

Dinosaur Stampede

Dinosaur Stampede

Rating:  3.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  So, you’ve built up a dinosaur army but your opponent has a bunch of token creatures that they can chump block with?  Then this is the card you need!  Attack with your creatures, then cast this and destroy your opponent with trample damage.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Dual Shot

Dual Shot

Rating:  3.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Versatility is what this card’s all about.  You can use it to ping off a couple of small creatures your opponent controls, or use it to hit your own creatures instead.  Dinosaurs just love it when you trigger their enrage abilities with this card.

 

Fathom Fleet Firebrand

Fathom Fleet Firebrand

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This is a very suitable card to use in a tribal pirate deck, but I don’t think it’ll see play elsewhere.

 

Fiery Cannonade

Fiery Cannonade

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I think in many cases this card will do well against vampires, okay against merfolk, and poorly against dinosaurs.  Be careful not to cast this if your opponent has any dinos with enrage abilities you don’t want to happen.

 

Fire Shrine Keeper

Fire Shrine Keeper

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  The only good thing about this card is that it has menace.  That means it might get to attack once or twice without being blocked and killed.  If I’m playing a red deck and I have 8 mana available, I’d rather have something that can deal damage to my opponent rather than their creatures.  I suppose I could use the ability to trigger enrage on my own dinosaurs if I needed to, but that’s a best case scenario.

 

Firecannon Blast

Firecannon Blast

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I could see this card getting some amount of sideboard play, especially against tribal dinosaur decks.  I don’t think it’s particularly good in the main deck though.

 

Frenzied Raptor

Frenzied Raptor

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  2 toughness is pretty fragile in an environment with Shock, Lightning Strike, and Abrade in it, so I don’t think this will see any Standard play.

 

Headstrong Brute

Headstrong Brute

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Not being able to block is a real drawback on creatures when determining if they are playable in Standard.  A 3/3 for 3 with menace isn’t bad, so this might get a little play in a tribal pirate deck, but I don’t see it showing up anywhere else.

 

Hijack

Hijack

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This is a card that’s already Standard legal yet hasn’t seen much play at all.  I predict that will remain the case, although you could find a copy or two sneaking into sideboards occasionally.

 

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  It feels kind of sad to rejoice that Lightning Strike has returned to Standard.  Ramunap Red decks (or Hazored decks, if you will) get a little better because of this card.  This will certainly see play in Standard.

 

Lightning-Rig Crew

Lightning-Rig Crew

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Thermo-Alchemist saw some play, but it was a lot less narrow than this card is.  In an aggressive tribal pirate deck, this card might be okay, but everywhere else it’s nearly unplayable.  Sure, it can block for days, but I want my 3-drop to at least have the possibility of attacking (or destroying an attacking creature when I block with it).

 

Makeshift Munitions

Makeshift Munitions

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While I’m not thrilled with this card, I can envision a scenario where I use it to deal the final 2-3 points of damage to my opponent after they’ve gummed up the board.  It’s such a limited scenario that I think this card will see very little play.

 

Nest Robber

Nest Robber

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Tribal dinosaur decks are going to need creatures like this, and a 2/1 with haste for 2 mana isn’t bad.  I don’t think this will make its way out of dinosaur decks, though.

 

Otepec Huntmaster

Otepec Huntmaster

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Here’s another creature that reduces the cost of dinosaurs for you.  In conjunction with Oketra’s Monument (or Hazoret’s Monument, or Rhonas’s Monument), you can quickly power out a sizeable force.  This could definitely see play in a tribal dinosaur deck.

 

Rampaging Ferocidon

Rampaging Ferocidon

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  For a while, I’ve been able to control Ramunap Red decks by using Authority of the Consuls.  The incidental lifegain I would get from that card made it difficult for the red decks to kill me quickly enough before I stabilized and was able to get out a sufficient amount of blockers.  This card makes that plan much more difficult.  Also, keep in mind that the damage that is caused when a creature enters the battlefield isn’t limited to your opponent.  It affects you too, so if you play creatures after this is on the battlefield or blink your creatures, you’ll be taking damage from this card.

 

Raptor Hatchling

Raptor Hatchling

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Without some way to pump his stats up, you’ll get a 1/1 and a 3/3 for your 2 mana investment, but not at the same time.  For that reason alone, I don’t expect to see this outside of a tribal dinosaur deck.  It actually becomes quite good if you can bump up this creature’s toughness and ping it a few times to build up an army of 3/3’s.  But getting your 1/1 big enough to withstand the damage will be the difficult part.

 

Repeating Barrage

Repeating Barrage

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I want to like this card because the thought of sending a lightning bolt at my opponent each turn sounds fun to me.  However, the mana needed to make that happen is just too steep of a price to pay.

 

Rigging Runner

Rigging Runner

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  As an aggressive red deck player, I really like this card.  While it’s not necessarily the best turn 1 play, this is still a good creature even if I can’t trigger the Raid ability on it.  I expect to see this played quite a bit in Standard.

 

Rile

Rile

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  In a tribal dinosaur deck, this card helps trigger a creature’s enrage ability and also provides trample.  That alone would be good enough to play it in my book.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It also draws you a card.  And that’s all for just 1 mana.  I also see this having a possible home alongside Electrostatic Pummeler, even though it is a sorcery.

 

Rowdy Crew

Rowdy Crew

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While I don’t think this card is amazing, I do think it has a lot of potential.  If you’re lucky enough to get a 5/5 with trample for 4 mana, you’re living the dream.  If not, well only getting a 3/3 instead still isn’t that bad.  Plus, this is a pirate, so it could be the recipient of that sweet pirate synergy.

 

Rummaging Goblin

Rummaging Goblin

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Here’s a reprint I didn’t expect.  I also don’t expect to see much out of it in Standard.  While it can be good to be able to rummage for a card you need, the 1 toughness on this creature is a real hindrance.  At least it will be a good target for any removal your opponent has.

 

Star of Extinction

Star of Extinction

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  As much as I absolutely love the flavor of this card, the fact that it costs 7 mana to wipe the board for both players (allowing your opponent to rebuild first) means that I don’t think this will see any play in Standard.

 

Storm Fleet Arsonist

Storm Fleet Arsonist

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  The ability to force your opponent to sacrifice a permanent is nice, but it would be better if you could choose that permanent instead of them.  By turn 5 your opponent probably has a creature that’s weaker than the rest that they don’t mind losing.  Also, even though this card is a pirate, I’m doubtful it’ll see play in any tribal pirate decks.

 

Storm Fleet Pyromancer

Storm Fleet Pyromancer

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While I like the thought of dealing 2 points of damage to target creature or player, getting that and a 3/2 pirate for 5 mana just isn’t quite enough.  I’m doubtful that this will see any Standard play.

 

Sun-Crowned Hunters

Sun-Crowned Hunters

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While a 5/4 for 6 mana is a little on the small side, the enrage ability this dinosaur has makes up for that deficiency.  I love the thought of this alongside Walking Ballista, potentially dropping your opponent from 12 points of life all the way down to 0 in one turn by surprise.

 

Sunbird’s Invocation

Sunbird’s Invocation

Rating:  4.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  People have already begun brewing decks with this card alongside Approach of the Second Sun.  For that reason alone, I’m certain this will see Standard play.  The real question is, just how good is this in other decks.  I have a feeling that it’s going to be really good, as getting something for free invites players to come up with the most busted combos.

 

Sure Strike

Sure Strike

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While this is a nice way to protect your creature for a small mana investment, I don’t think it’s good enough to see play in Standard.

 

Swashbuckling

Swashbuckling

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This has a bit of late game playability, as you can cast a small creature and give it a bonus plus haste and attack out of the blue.  It’s probably not good enough to see much Standard play, but there’s a small chance it could in the right deck.

 

Thrash of Raptors

Thrash of Raptors

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Having trample is key when the battlefield gets cluttered.  For that reason only, this might see some play in tribal dinosaur decks.

 

Tilonalli’s Knight

Tilonalli’s Knight

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Here’s another card perfectly suited for an aggressive tribal dinosaur deck.  While it’s not a dinosaur itself, by turn 3 you should be able to cast a decent dinosaur to allow this creature to attack with its bonus.

 

Tilonalli’s Skinshifter

Tilonalli’s Skinshifter

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  There’s a lot of potential with this creature.  Since it has haste, it can come down at any point in the game and make an impact.  It’ll also become a copy of your best nonlegendary creature that’s also attacking.  The drawback is that you need to have another creature that’s attacking for this to be anything other than a 0/1.  So, while it has potential, it’s not always reliable.

 

Trove of Temptation

Trove of Temptation

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This card requires a lot of setup to use properly, and I’m not sure the Treasure token you get from it will be worth it.  I expect it will be tried out, but will likely come up a little short for Standard play.  I’d love to see this be played in Modern alongside Harmless Offering and creatures with Exalted.

 

Unfriendly Fire

Unfriendly Fire

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  That’s a lot of mana for 4 damage, even if it can target creatures and players.  That’s why this won’t be played in Standard.

 

Wily Goblin

Wily Goblin

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  In a tribal pirate deck looking to make a lot of Treasure tokens, this card may find a home.  Otherwise, I don’t see a home for it in Standard.

 

Vance’s Blasting Cannons / Spitfire Bastion

Vance’s Blasting Cannons

Spitfire Bastion

Rating:  4.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  My rating for this card is likely a little high due to my love for Outpost Siege, a card that I played a lot of when it was in Standard.  Red decks are always looking for ways to draw extra cards to play once their hand is depleted, and this card will certainly help out with that.  And, if you ever happen to transform it, being able to deal 3 damage to any creature or player each turn will certainly bring the game to a close quickly.

 

Wrap-Up

And with that, we’ve come to the end of my review of the red cards in Ixalan.  What are your thoughts of these red cards?  Let me know by leaving a comment, or by contacting me on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg) or by emailing me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.

Tomorrow bring us to my penultimate Ixalan review article where we’ll look at the Green cards.  So, be sure to come back for that.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes

 

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Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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