I hope you are having an awesome day today! I wanted to take a look at some of the best Black and Red cards out there in the game for casual play. This article follows the previous ones where I looked at the best cards from , and .
Of the five “base” color combinations combining adjacent colors, this is, by far, my favorite combination for drafting a generic unknown environment such as a random Cube, as well as Abedraft, a draft with every card ever printed. I really like this stuff, because the combination of burn and removal, along with solid creatures give a powerful base to win the game with. Almost every bomb in limited is a creature, and this color combination gives you the most tools to answer them, as well as discard for other bombs.
However, this color combination is my least favorite for Constructed casual gaming, of the core five.
What are the best cards out there? What experience do I have with them? And why am I using language like instead of Rakdos? Great questions!
There are around 170 Black and Red cards, include split, hybrid, aftermath, and gold cards, but not cards with a Black and Red color identity, such as Soul Burn. Not every Black and Red is a Rakdos card. Rakdos is a guild with a specific affiliation on Ravnica. Rakdos as a nickname may work in quick parlance, but it is very confusing, much like countering target spell or putting a counter on target creature. Both use counter language.
Here let me show you a few examples of how we have messed up the language a bit.
This is a Rakdos Ragemutt. It is both a card within the Rakdos guild, as well as with the Rakdos color combination. It a Rakdos card in both meanings.
This Rakdos Pit Dragon is a part of the Rakdos guild. But it’s just Mono-Red and doesn’t have the Rakdos color affinity. If I were to tell you that, “This is a Rakdos card,” thinking of the guild, and you were to argue with me that “No, it’s not,” thinking of the nickname for the color combination, we would both be right.
This is a Ghostflame Sliver. In no way does it have a mechanical or flavor tie to the Rakdos Guild. But what it does have is the Black and Red color combination. It’s both a Rakdos card and not a Rakdos card at the same time. That’s why I prefer to steer clear of the guild language where I can, because it’s confusing.
I have played almost every one of these cards! 1
Don’t forget that cards like Fulminator Mage and Blightning might be great at tournaments, but their power drops at the casual table like multiplayer or Commander. They don’t suck. They aren’t powerhouses. Now there are going to be some powerhouses from tournaments that keep their power listed below. But just because a card has a big name in one format doesn’t necessarily translate to casual town.
Honorable Mention — Singe-Mind Ogre and Hellhole Rats
I really enjoy this duo. They may not really be at #11 and that’s fine. Where they do excel is in any deck with these colors that is looking to add some card advantage and some life loss to your foes. They are Black and Red’s version of Elvish Visionary and Phyrexian Rager and Man-o'-War and other bodies with valuable enters-the-battlefield effects tethered to an early drop. The damage the card deals is pretty useful in any 20 life format, although less so elsewhere. If I can only play one, I prefer the Ogre as it’s a random discard and 3/2 can trade with bigger creatures than Hellhole Rats which nets a land often so you don’t get any damage in there. They are both really strong creature’s with really strong effects. Don’t sleep on them.
Now it’s time for the top ten proper!
10. Vampiric Dragon
Ah yes, Vampiric Dragon. Today it’d likely cost one fewer generic mana, but the creature is still very good at doing what you need. As a Dragon, you can spend two mana to shoot a creature. It doesn’t have to be attacking or anything, you can just invest some mana to kill off stuff. It’s a great mana-sink and a useful option to kill off opposing creatures. The repeatable space it plays into perfectly suits a grindy midrange metagame of a lot of casual games. You can shoot Stuffy Doll as well, if you want to hit a player instead of a creature. Now the Vampire side of it is very nasty. Did you shoot and kill a creature? Great! Get a +1/+1 counter! Did you eat a creature in combat? Great! Get a +1/+1 counter. It also has a cool trick. If a creature is about to die to something unrelated to Vampiric Dragon, then go ahead and spend two mana to put your mark on the creature, and then when it dies, you’ll get a +1/+1 counter. Also, you can deal damage to your own creatures before it dies as well. I’ve used it as someone cast a Doom Blade, Murder, or Terminate effect just before it would have died to get a counter on my Vampiric Dragon. The result is a powerful flying creature that has a lot of dials to increases its power. Enjoy the era of your new Dragon Vampire friend!
9. Kolaghan’s Command
The main reason why Kolaghan's Command is #9 is every dial on the switch is card advantage. Shatter. Shock. Raise Dead. Mind Peel. All four have the ability to net card advantage, so the spell gives you card advantage easily. The other Commands (save for Silumgar’s) all have dopey options you never really want much in multiplayer, Commander, or casual gaming, like gaining four life, preventing damage from a spell, or turning off life gain for a moment. Sure, you’ll use them once in a blue moon, but not often. This Command is very different. Every option is valuable. Every option is useful. You will often find yourself wishing you could use more! It’s a well designed card for the kitchen table.
Now, while I am discussing the powerful range of answers that Kolaghan's Command has and the card advantage that ensues, don’t forget Void either. It’s around #14 or 15 on my list and not in the Top 10 proper, but the ability to force someone to discard, and destroy artifacts and critters with one number is a very precise scalpel that destroys what you need, but tends to leave your own stuff alone. Good luck with them both.
8. Rain of Gore and Everlasting Torment
Forget a fun little instant that might turn off life gain for a moment. This is where the action is. These turn off life gain permanently. We all know how common life gain is at the kitchen table. We all know how often you see great cards running around that have life gain attached, like creatures or spells that gain life as a part of what they do. Both of these enchantments shut down an entire metagame of card drawing. Consider Everlasting Torment as a useful tool against Oloro, Ageless Ascetic in Commander. No more life gain every upkeep! Any damage-based removal spells you sling like Earthquake won’t be prevented. And you can wither all day long to shrink with damage. Your Lightning Bolt? Wither and can’t be prevented! For example, in Commander, if your opposing Commander dies, you can get it back and back again, but wither can just neuter it. I once ran Everlasting Torment against Brago, and Lightning Bolted his leader when he attacked me, dropping it to a 0/1 permanently. It couldn’t deal any damage, and his Blink Machine was shut down.
And that’s just one effect. Rain of Gore is a permanent False Cure that you can use to kill people. For example, what about that Oloro now? You are losing two life every upkeep! You can aim large life gain spells at people like Congregate. Beacon of Immortality is a two card kill combo with it! Wouldn’t it be hilarious to give away something like True Conviction to your foe with Harmless Offering or Bazaar Trader? Giving their team lifelink and double strike? Any combat with their stuff is going to drop that life total into a dangerous place! And that’s the value of these two cheap enchantments. Shutting down an entire deck and strategy!
This is the highest rated creature in my countdown that is here solely as an ETB creature. Sure, it’s just a 2/2 for three mana. But it has both the pertinent Zombie and Wizard creature types. When it arrives, someone is taking damage equal to their nonbasic land count, which can get pretty big. At any multiplayer table, someone is rocking almost all non-basics, either intentionally with a light basic land mana base or accidentally, based on what they drew that game. Punish them for it! And you can unearth it a second time for more damage doling capabilities. You can take out a lot of trash with it as people die quickly.
6. Master of Cruelties
I think a lot of players out there underappreciate the sheer power of this Rakdos MC. I think one of the reasons for that is simple. They misevaluate the card on defense, so let’s begin there. Black has lots of one-power creatures with deathtouch. As we all know, little junky creatures like Typhoid Rats and Baleful Strix do a great job at keeping people from attacking you. No one wants to attack down. They don’t want to trade their 3/3 flyer with your Strix, or their 2/4 Reach creature with your Rats. They don’t want to trade down. Of course, you will have a number of creatures that are expendable, like Solemn Simulacrum or token creatures that’ll swing your way. But they play great defense. Now the MC’s first strike is even better. Almost nothing that would normally fear deathtouch is okay with first strike. It adds to the problem, because now you aren’t trading, you are just dying. Nothing swings into an MC unless it’s part of a big team. Because of that, you can slip over and then kill whatever blocks. No one let’s an MC through unless they can’t do anything else. They block and offer up a sacrifice to your first strike + deathtouch combo. And they will keep doing so, like a Diabolic Edict each turn. And if you do manage to slip through by sneaking into a Rogue's Passage or something, you can force their life total to go south like a duck in winter. My favorite equipment for it gives it haste and vigilance, like Sword of Vengeance or Haunted Cloak. This is an awesome Demon, so don’t sleep on it!
5. Dragonlord Kolaghan
Ah yes. Our Elder Dragon offers a few interesting options. Of them, giving your entire team haste is clearly the best. Nothing else has the drama and added value that we are going for. Haste? Absolutely! Hitting someone before they can hit you is a key to winning any fight. Haste enabling is something Red does all day, but you don’t see much of it here in world. Everything has added value with haste. For example, take Flametongue Kavu as a good example. Clear out the path by killing a blocker on arrival, and then swing for 4 damage that turn on an open defense before they can put their shields up. Kolaghan exploits an open defense. Now she’s also a 6/5 flyer, so get all of the value of a Fires of Yavimaya on a six mana spell with a 6/5 flyer as well. That’s a lot of value! And if you aren’t playing Commander, people are likely to run up against the ten life issue. I’ve seen people just decide not to cast their second Swords to Plowshares because they had one in the graveyard already. She also has great synergy in a deck with a lot of milling your foes as they are increasingly likely to be faced with the dreaded question of 10 life or casting the spell in their hand. Overall, Dragonlord Kolaghan is a big win for Elder Dragon Kind.
3. Mogis, God of Slaughter
Do you like killing a lot of things? Great! Then the God of Slaughter is up your aisle. It’s 7/5 presence is very threatening, and folks often play against it when your devotion gets close. Meanwhile, the ability to force someone to lose two life or a creature every single upkeep is the sort of slow, powerful, hard to answer threat that flourishes at the kitchen table. The card also has a powerful board altering decision when people start with 20 life. 40 life formats see most folks just taking 2 each of their upkeeps, but that can drop people more quickly than you realize. Mogis slaughters players and creatures with reliable grit.
2. The Scorpion God
I want you to me a favor, thanks. Compare our #2 card here with our #10 card above, Vampiric Dragon. Now the V. Dragon can spend two mana to deal a damage to a creature. It swells with counters, and can combine to shoot stuff, and it has flying as well. But for eight mana? This has a lot more to offer. Now yes, the initial activation cost is worse, but a -1/-1 counter is so much better. You can tap, put a few counters on a key creature you have to kill. Untap and take your turn, and then tap and finish it off. Your trigger isn’t a little +1/+1 counter of your key creature, but instead drawing a card. And that’s something this color combination doesn’t do much of — draw raw cards. Over the course of the game, you can draw a lot of cards. Like Vampiric Dragon, you can toss a counter onto something about to die, and like it, the death trigger is for any creature, including your own. Unlike the VD, this has external synergy with other cards. Any card that puts -1/-1 counters on something, or itself, can be a potential source of card drawing. Contagion Clasp? Grasping Dunes? Archfiend of Ifnir? Etched Monstrosity? Incremental Blight? You get the idea. It plays well with others in a panoply of card drawing.
1. Kaervek the Merciless
Only Kaervek has dominated a table at the level of an Akroma or Darksteel Colossus. Kaervek’s strongest format is multiplayer where everyone started at 20 life. Kaervek is the single most feared Black and Red card ever printed. No one wants to cast spells once Kaervek arrives and shuts them down. Big K will either die quickly, or stay around to beat people for not doing so. He shuts down larger spells, hurts ramp, storm, buyback, my own Equinaut deck (which likes to play and replay creatures), and countless other decks that either want to cast something big or net multiple spells. Kaervek is one of the most annoying creatures to play against and one of the most powerful ones to have in your Repertoire. The only thing that keeps him from being one of the most powerful creatures of all time is that most multiplayer games these days start with enough life to essentially half his power and usefulness. But it’s still a lot!
And there we go!
Whew, that’s a lot of power in ! So what are your favorite cards that sport both colors? Anything I missed or was out of place? Thanks!
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