APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION: ONE GAMER’S GUIDE TO MULTIPLAYER RED
Hostility. Impatience. Gamble. These card titles aptly describe the Red aspects of Magic the Gathering. Even the major Red tribes display these traits, both in legend and in game play. Looking at the tribes Red brings to the table, we find Dragons, Giants, Elementals, and Goblins, backed up with a variety of lesser tribes like Phoenixes, Wizards, Knights, Trolls, Orcs, Minotaurs, Kavu, Dwarfs, and Barbarians. Mechanically speaking, Red is the color of choice for direct damage, creatures with haste, land and artifact destruction, and purely random effects. While cards can be found in other colors that do all of the above, Red does these best. Red also occasionally dips into areas best explored in other colors – except for enchantment removal.
In the vein of Tich’s, Cervid’s, gtsynthvoice’s, and Capitan_Estaban’s Guides to Black, Green, Blue, and White, this Guide’s goal is to present Red cards and strategies all in one place, from the view of a multiplayer game. As such, I will be using an outline similar to that seen in the above guides. Note that I am counting most hybrid cards as Red in this Guide, with gold cards falling under the heading of other colors.
Before I start on the meat of the guide, there are some cards that every multiplaying Red mage should strive to own some combination of, if not entire playsets.
Seething Song - faster mana.
Aether Membrane - an excellent defense until you can afford to play the big guns.
Crack the Earth - cheap, random, effective.
Seal of Fire - cheap, obvious Rattlesnake.
Fire Servant – only a guy, but what a guy!
Krark's Thumb – but only if you take the coin-flipping route.
The celebrated author Anthony Alongi came up with the novel idea of assigning cards to one of five different animal groups. While he no longer writes about Magic, his ideas persist and are used herein.
Much like their namesakes, Cockroaches stick around. Persistent, reusable, and constant effects are the hallmarks of Cockroach cards. Here you will find many enchantments, cards with rebound, retrace, unearth, buyback, flashback, or persist and cards that return from the graveyard.
Pyroclast Consul – a well-built deck ensures this guy deals his damage regularly.
Vexing Shusher – I’m sorry, you can’t counter that.
Zo-zu the Punisher - Everybody plays lands. Everybody.
Aether Flash – clearing space for big creatures.
Bedlam, Battle Strain, Caverns of Despair, Chaosphere, Close Quarters, Fervor, Goblin War Drums, Grand Melee, Hand to Hand, Heat Stroke, Heat of Battle, Impulsive Maneuvers, Invasion Plans, Mass Hysteria, No Quarter, Rage Reflection, Raging River, Raid Bombardment, Rise of the Hobgoblins, Sneak Attack, Stand or Fall, Tide of War, Total War, War Cadence, Fumiko the Lowblood – combat tricks.
War's Toll – combat and land-related tricks, so it gets its own slot.
Demigod of Revenge – I’m back, and I brought my brothers.
Blood Moon – is hit or miss, but certain decks die to this card.
Dragon Roost – reliable Dragon generator = game over.
Pyrohemia – reusable damage is too much fun.
Subterranean Spirit – a point here and a point there add up.
Obsidian Fireheart – the longer it remains, the better it gets, especially due to the comments in parentheses on the card.
Kulrath Knight - while this guy won't return on his own, the wither counters remain.
Hissing Iguanar - his small, yet regular, damage adds up. Quickly, if run alongside tokens and devouring creatures.
Bogardan Phoenix, Firestorm Phoenix, Molten Firebird, Shivan Phoenix, Skarrgan Firebird – these all come back in some way. The other Phoenixes do more than just return, so can be found under Rattlesnakes.
Bash to Bits, Conflagrate, Earth Rift, Firecat Blitz, Flaming Gambit, Flash of Defiance, Lightning Surge, Reckless Charge, Volcanic Spray – there are other cards with flashback, but they are nigh unplayable (or in other categories).
Recoup – arguably the most versatile flashback card of them all. Note that IT has flashback, as well!
Homura, Human Ascendant – returns himself to play, but better.
Pitchstone Wall – more of an enabler for those crazy Red random discard spells. Nice body, though.
Squee, Goblin Nabob – enables so much foolishness that it ceases to be funny.
Zodiac Dragon – good luck getting these!
Staggershock – on the rebound.
Arc Blade – something gets hit, every three turns; the suspense lies in wondering exactly what.
Gorilla cards smash face – the faces of one opponent, a few opponents, all opponents, or all players including the caster! Gorillas are all about gaining large card advantage. Red does this by sweeping away lands, artifacts, massive damage, or a combination of these.
Warp World - changes everyone's game.
Vulshok Battlemaster - very meta and timing dependent; yet when it works, it changes games.
Flowstone Slide – depending on your deck, this can be a one-sided sweep.
Crater Hellion, Pyroclasm, Caldera Hellion, Magma Giant, Thunder Dragon, Hammerfist Giant, Fire Ants, Rough // Tumble – clears room for bigger creatures; Light of Sanction keeps your guys alive to swing.
Flame Rift – cheap, dirty, and efficient.
Breath of Darigaaz – good both late and early in the game.
Rupture – depending on the sacrificed creature, this can end games.
Obliterate – not being counterable makes it king in my book.
Wake of Destruction – can utterly wreck whichever color bothers you the most.
Omen of Fire – punishes both White and Blue at once.
The problem with running strong specific-color hate (aside from the rudeness of it) is that these cards are dead draws against decks not featuring these colors. Spellshapers and the assorted Red ‘random discard as an additional cost’ can help mitigate this fact.
Pigeon cards are those of the ‘more the merrier’ mindset. In this case, more players make these cards more fun or more powerful.
Chain Lightning - most powerful when everyone is running Red decks, this venerable burn spell is worth the asking price, for entertainment value alone.
Heartless Hidetsugu - best with lifelink and haste.
Mana Geyser - with the right timing, this could net scores of mana; Citadel of Pain encourages them to tap out; Mana Web and War's Toll almosts forces them too. Pallimud would like a deck like this. So would Stoneshaker Shaman.
Pandemonium – well-named, this card loves creature heavy metas, especially in decks with Pangosaur, Scoria Wurm, Wild Wurm (with the thumb to lose the toss) and Glacial Chasm to avoid others’s damage!
Goblin Festival - just don't pass it to the guy who hates coin-flipping.
Detritivore - this one's usefulness depends on your metagame. Thankfully, Zendikar block is full of easily-acquired nonbasic lands.
Rattlesnake are visible threats the ideally convince opponents to focus on other players.
Ashling the Pilgrim - eventually, he kills everyone.
Hurloon Shaman - keeps the mana-poor players away.
Ashen Firebeast, Scourge of Kher Ridges - also Cockroach-Gorillas, I would guess.
Magmasaur – a delayed, inevitable Rattler, but one nonetheless.
Breath of Fury – remember us?
So named due to the ambush-hunting practiced by so many Spiders, Spider cards trap opponents into regretting their choices. The recent trap cards from Zendikar, as well as a variety of alternate casting cost cards can be found herein.
Cave-in - here for the alternate casting cost.
Incendiary Command, assorted charms - choices and versatility keep people on their toes.
Inferno Trap, Lavaball Trap, Ricochet Trap, Runeflare Trap, Stone Idol Trap – the reduced casting costs are what make these ideal; arranging games so that you can take advantage of the reduced casting costs is up to you.
Sudden Impact – another method to kill people after their hands fill from your land destruction.
Reversal of Fortune - because casting opponent's spells is unexpected, at best.
Seize the Day – depending on the creature, this can win a game.
World at War – still swinging, this turn AND the next!
Waves of Aggression – retracing for another attack.
Furystoke Giant – he returns with persist, and his friends celebrate by hitting for many.
Chance Encounter – because if this works, everyone is surprised!
Plankton cards are good for everyone, and not in the ‘damaging people builds character’ sense of the phrase. Either as an additional cost of a card or the main point of the card, Plankton cards exist to help out everyone. Red is not known for this, so expect this list to be short.
Noggle Ransacker – we all draw cards, yay!
Spiteful Visions – yay! We all get cards! Boo! We all take damage!
Hired Giant – land for all but me.
Some cards can arguably fall into two or more of the above categories. The remainder of this thread is a great place to argue those points, as I have assigned cards to one animal type and left it at that.
Despite its potency, Red can be difficult to play alone in a MP environment. Happily, despite Red’s destructive tendencies, it plays nice with all of the other colors, as gold cards, as off-color kicker costs, and side-by-side.
White shores up Red’s defensive weaknesses quite nicely through its Disenchant-like spells and its life gain. White also mirrors Red’s mass land destruction, Red’s dearth of drawing, and Red’s desire for mana for truly ridiculous plays. Mixing the two together results in some truly potent cards and decks.
Orim's Thunder – destruction and damage in one package makes this an autoinclude for RW decks.
Searing Meditation – entire decks can and have been built around this card. Mean, ugly decks.
Lightning Helix – the essence of both colors in one spell. Another autoinclude for RW.
Ajani Vengeant – self-explanatory, really; keeping him around long enough to pop his big power is the issue.
Balefire Liege – almost essential even in creature-lite RW decks. Here because he is maximized in a dual-colored deck.
Brightflame – note that the radiance of this spell can backfire, but can also get LOTS of creatures.
Brion Stoutarm – the key to most Giant decks, fun with reusable creatures.
Captain's Maneuver – redirecting damage is more fun with multiple players.
Duergar Hedge-Mage – here because he works best in decks featuring both colors.
Fight to the Death – best when played during combat between two other players!
Firemane Angel – a golden Cockroach that is equally happy in the graveyard.
Glory of Warfare – despite being an enchantment, it serves admirably as a Rattlin’ Cockroach.
Intimidation Bolt – what a great king-maker card!
Powerstone Minefield – a delightful Rattlesnake that can be capitalized on with the right build.
Razia's Purification – a golden Gorilla of a card.
Razia, Boros Archangel – Rattlesnake, Pigeon, maybe Gorilla – this card does it all.
Soltari Guerrillas – a very sneaky Pigeon.
Squee's Embrace – a cheap way to turn a creature into a Cockroach.
Flash Conscription – an expensive Spider Pigeon that works best with W.
Green is an allied color of Red, and helps Red immensely in providing ample mana to power out Red monsters and spells. Green can also kill enchantments and gain life, providing more options to the Red Wizard.
Doubling Season – too many Red cards involve counters and tokens. Doubling Season is even splashable.
Tinder Wall – horribly useful accelerant.
Verduran Emissary – the kicker is what sells this critter.
Bloodbraid Elf – just as good in MP games as in duels.
Borborgymous – MP games virtually ensures that there is someone this guy can hit.
Burning-Tree Shaman – who knew Pigeons were related to the Rattlin’ Cockroach?
Decimate – MP games provide enough targets
Dragon Broodmother – because everyone loves Dragons!
Firespout – here because the mana used really matters.
Godtracker of Jund – this Pigeon just loves creature-heavy metagames!
Hull Breach – versatile and almost guaranteed to hit two targets in a game.
Jungle Troll – regeneration is good in MP games.
Killer Instinct – best when used with decks based on multiple attack phases per turn.
Livonya Silone – 4/4 landwalking is some good, especially in some metagames.
Monsoon – for that guy who likes playing instants at the end of your turn.
Overabundance – Plankton-Cockroach.
Predatory Advantage – a great Cockroach card that doubles as a Spider, because it may trick opponents into overextending their creatures, allowing you to sweep the board for victory.
Radha, Heir to Keld – there is really no reason to not include Radha in a RG deck.
Rumbling Slum – a Cockroach that flies like a Pigeon!
Sarkhan Vol – a Planeswalker who is comparatively easy to set off.
Savage Twister – lots of targets in an MP game.
Simoon – cheap damage to all opposing creatures. Sign me up.
Spellbreaker Behemoth – quick, how many Red creatures can you think of that have power greater than 5?
Tattermunge Witch – notice that this affects any blocked creatures, not just those you control.
Vengeful Rebirth – makes almost anything a one-shot Cockroach… with teeth!
Wilderness Elemental – depending on your metagame, this can become quite a Gorilla.
Yavimaya Kavu – great in creature-heavy metas… especially if provided some form of evasion.
Black is another traditional ally of Red, providing Red with evasion, card draw, life loss, and a dragon or two. Black’s assorted reanimation tricks help keep Red decks resilient, as well.
Bituminous Blast – cascade makes up for this card only hitting one creature.
Bladewing the Risen – a reanimating Dragon.
Breath of Malfegor – simply stupendous Gorilla.
Deathbringer Thoctar – many players means many creatures and many counters.
Deepfire Elemental – nice body, better ability.
Defiler of Souls – a demon with a drawback you can build around.
Fumarole – two cards for one; the life cost is negligible in some team games.
[c]Kaervek the Merciless[/c ] – a Gorilla-sized Cockroach, Kaervek is in the color of reanimation. Outstanding!
Keldon Twilight - a Cockroach that punishes passive players.
Lightning Reaver – in most metas, this guy always gets through. Again, and again, and again.
Malfegor – timed right, this guy can set you up for victory. Bad timing, and he can bring defeat.
Pyre Zombie – he burns to live again.
Razing Snidd – if you need to eat everyone’s land.
Sarkhan the Mad – interesting.
Spiteflame Witch – here because both colors needed to use its ability.
Spontaneous Combustion – just another means to clear space for the bigger ones.
Suicidal Charge – nice Rattlesnake, especially in a Defender deck.
Terminate – the best critter removal around.
[c]Torrent of Souls – here because it works best with both colors.
Vampiric Dragon – another Dragon. Excellent!
Void – too good not to run.
Burnt Offering – an alternative means to generate mana.
Crypt Champion – gets better with a Red deck.
Nettling Curse – needs Red to fully utilize it.
Rakdos Guildmage – here because he needs both colors for best use.
Trench Wurm – an interesting weapon to add to a Land Destruction deck.
Vein Drinker – needs Red to be fully utilized.
Although technically opposed to Red, Blue brings much needed card draw and library manipulation to Red’s table. Blue can also protect Red’s innumerable Cockroaches through countermagic. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Blue cards look aesthetically pleasing next to Red cards – especially with the new borders.
Double Negative – MP games are most likely to see multiple spells out at once needing to be countered.
Goblin Flectomancer – more rearranging of targets.
Izzet Guildmage – here because his abilities require both colors.
Jhoira of the Ghitu – another fine card that decks can be built around.
Spellbound Dragon – a fitting component of a RUB reanimator, perhaps.
Illuminate – an expensive, if useful, kicker.
Jilt – some bounce with a kick.
Artifacts are intended to shore up defenses and to further strategies. Destroying enchantments and gaining life are Red’s largest weaknesses. Inflicting damage via spells and hasty creatures, while blowing up lands, are Red’s best strategies. A running theme throughout Red is the need for lots of mana.
You probably don’t even need to read this list to guess its contents.
Mind’s Eye – drawing cards is a key to success in Magic.
Sun Droplet – very useful considering how many of the Red cards damage all players and not just opponents.
Dragon’s Tooth – here to make certain reader’s twitch; it can be useful if you’ve nothing else, though.
Zuran Orb – great for when you are about to blow up all lands, anyhow.
Krark's Thumb – a necessity if playing coin-flipping cards
Dingus Egg – to make land destruction more destructive
Ankh of Mishra – makes recovering from land destruction painful
Iron Maiden – heavy land destruction means full hands, this ends that pain quickly
Razor Pendulum – when you just cannot damage your opponents enough
Thran Lens – ideal for getting around those pesky COPs, ROPs, and Protection from Red critters.
Mirari – almost all spells are better in multiples!
Smokestack – fits right in to Red’s ‘blow everything up’ strategy.
Sculpting Steel – for additional copies of your favorite artifacts.
Lands do more than power spells, they double as spells that cannot be countered.
Glacial Chasm – hilarious when coupled with any number of Red ‘damage everyone’ spells.
Shivan Gorge – reliable, reusable damage.
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle – best in a monoRed deck, multiplayer games provide no end of targets.
Spinerock Knoll – while not for every Red deck, it makes the decks that can use it that much better.
Mountain – a necessity.
Common Red Strategies
Much like its duelling strategies, the multiplayer monoRed deck focuses on big burn or big landkill, with a side helping of tribes - most often Dragons. Here are some pointers for these common strategies.
Burning out all your opponents in a chaos game is exponentially more difficult than in duel. This is because each extra player brings at least 20 more life to the table. While it can be done, Big Burn needs to be rethought. The hyperefficient burn of duelling fame - Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, Fireblast and company - cannot pull their weight against so many opponents, so alternate cards must be chosen.
Sizzle is one of the few Red burn cards that hit all opponents; more commonly found burn hits everyone - to include the caster! Flame Rift nails everyone, but most other big burn hits players and creatures as well. This latter fact works nicely, as you are likely to be taking as much damage from your own spells as your opponents are. Earthquake and Fault Line are great X-spells, while Breath of Darigaaz, Steam Blast, and Volcanic Fallout deal limited damage to creatures and players. At least this hampers retaliatory attacks!
With all the mutual burning, a deck needs some way to mitigate its self-damage. Glacial Chasm, Sun Droplet, Elixir of Immortality, or even the much-maligned Dragon's Claw all help to varying degrees. A better method, however, involves adding white for some of its beastly life gain and protection options.
Like the duelling version of burn, it is incredibly easy to hit topdeck mode in a deck like this, so use traditional means to keep your hand full.
In short, it is still possible to be a burninating fool. It just takes a little more effort.
Red kills lands dead. By ones or twos, by entire colors, or all land at once. It is a defining trait of the color.
While packing a few Pillages or Demolishes to take care of particularly ugly lands or artifacts is acceptable (and an all-around good idea), heavy use of Obliterate, Jokulhaups, and even Wildfire is often found to be socially repugnant in most gaming circles because of the expected reason: people cannot play the game without lands to power out spells. In multiplayer games, this is even worse, as the delay of game caused by killing all lands can ruin entire game sessions.
Not too mention that decks of this nature make you the THREAT. Even if not threatening, many players hold grudges, and killing all the land is a good way to earn a grudge.
If you insist on playing massive landkill, do all you can to ensure that the resulting full hands and fuller graveyards is taken advantage of. Sudden Impact, Iron Maiden, Dingus Egg, Ankh of Mishra, and Zo-zu the Punisher all like full hands, killing lands, and playing lands.
Indeed, those massive kill cards should take advantage of Red's inability to kill enchantments by running the more ugly ones. Pyromancer Ascension can double the fun and effectiveness of Sudden Impact and targeted landkill. Adding Blue makes casting Icy Prison a simple task, and exiling a Magnivore or Viseling can speed the game up immensely after a successful Jokulhaups or Obliterate. Antagonism and Impatience allow for fast endings after blowing up the world, as well.
In short, avoid the massive landkill. If you must, ensure you can capitalize on it; at least the expensive casting costs of the big spells provide time to set up for the post-landsweep.
My experience is limited to the Schemes that came with the Dragon deck running alongside a modified Dragon deck and also alongside a well-tuned Zombie deck. This variant is a hoot, and I cannot wait to get the rest of the Schemes.
Another variant I long to play, I’ve browsed the assorted planes enough to realize that some would love Red decks and strategies while others make Red cry. Eventually, this place will hold a listing of the planes that best accentuate the variety of primary Red strategies.
Feel free to contribute links to monored decks in this forum!
NOTE: It should be obvious that this is a draft. All comments are welcome, and are likely to be incorporated.