Hello awesome folks! I hope that you are having a most majestic day today! Today I have my 4th article in my Re-Analyzing Mono-Color in Commander series where I do a deep dive into the various mono-color mechanics that push you to playing just that color that we often just assume goes there, but in today's era of heavy use of multicolor dorks and dual and even triple lands, this should be reassessed, enter this series.
Here is my Mono-White one! Then there is the Blue article two weeks ago that has multiple mono-Blue loving things. Last week was Black that was the heaviest of these since it's even in the first set alone, Black gave us Bad Moon, Frozen Shade, Nightmare and Drain Life that all got better the more Black you played. This is the most parasitic color ever.
Today we look at a color that debuted with a few parasitic mechanics we'll see below but in tons of dorks and an Aura. Part 1 runs today, and part 2 next week!
Let's get this thing started!
Lands and Graveyards
Let's kick things off with a card that has debuted in 2023 with the new Koth. The first of three cool abilities is to gain two loyalty and tutor up a basic Mountain and put it into your hands, so that's a powerful way to ensure that you will not miss a land drop and increase your Mountain count. It also works with his -3 loyalty ability to shoot a target creature for damage equal to your Mountain count. Then you can -7 him to give you an emblem and then get a Lightning Blast at any target when a Mountain ETBS, which again synergies with his +2. See how strong that is here? This friend is saying "put me in an all-Red deck with as many Mountains as you can!" Sure, that works, but what about in Gruul ramp with Green? What about in Boros with Land Tax? What about in Rakdos and combine this with its mana ramping? You got it.
We have landfall in every color of the wheel, but we have Akoum Hellkite that was printed with landfall normally and then an enhanced landfall when a Mountain hits the battlefield. That's this Dragon. It's a smaller 4/4 flying for six. Its landfall deals 1 to any target, 2 if a Mountain, so it's a repeatable removal effect or a win con in your decks. You can easily just get one damage from decks that play into landfall, and then the occasional Mountain for 2 to Shock something is valuable. You can also gang up with ramp to get multiple triggers in one turn to kill a larger dork or loyalty countered planeswalker.
Every color in this set has an uncommon that costs four, has an evergreen keyword and then when it's in your graveyard and you control a Mountain, your team gets it. In this case, that's haste. You need graveyard removal to answer this which can be tricky to pull off. Therefore, this gives your team haste. Many believe this is the best of the Incarnations for Commander since it gives your team haste. Haste is better in multiplayer formats than in duals since you can be the first to attack after a mass removal spell, including our own that sweeps the board killing Anger, and then dropping something afterwards. You can also be sure you'll get in one hit before sorcery speed removal like Vindicate comes online. People will never block and kill it, so it's basically a 2/2 unblockable, and they often won't attack on the ground, so it's like it has deathtouch too. If you can find ways to discard it from your hand like the many discard to draw cards in your color like Unexpected Windfall or Wheel of Fortune, you can get it down safely.
We have a few effects in Red that animate just a Mountain. The enchantment has a cost that can be rough and then only animates a Mountain. It's now a 7/7 with haste. That's doable on turn four with a Mountain or turn 5 and swing out of nowhere with your untapped land. Both of those options are very strong and ahead of curve.
The planeswalker is the first version of Koth, four drop but just three loyalty this time. He also only has a +1 so he's less likely to hang out, but he untaps a Mountain and it's now a 4/4 dork for the turn, so you can drop him turn 4 and swing with the untapped Mountain. Or you can just untap a Mountain to make another mana without swinging so he can be ramp. Speaking of that, you can -2 him to make mana equal to your Mountain count. You can see how the two Koths work together.
Chartooth Cougar debuted as a common in the set these were printed in, and Green and White got better options in addition to their common like Eternal Dragon. The Cougar will get played since it fetched any Mountain, and you ramped it for no Red mana, so you didn't need to spend it. Green cannot ramp for Green with spending Green. This was crazy! And the Cougar is a win con if drawn late.
Ruin Grinder was just printed and is a similar cost bigger 7/4 size with menace, so it's also a win con in the battlefield with evasion and a big power. It's also an artifact for those synergies. When it dies, everyone discards and draws 7 so it's a Wheel of Fortune on the battlefield. It doesn't play as well as the Cougar because people will kill it just to get the Wheel of Fortune effect. It's like Veteran Explorer that always gets killed, but he was just a 1/1 for one that was killed by a Murder effect, that was fine, here you are taking a turn off to cast. Your mileage metagames may vary.
Now let's turn to a key artifact printed in the first Mirrodin Block that also is better if you are running Mountains: Goblin Charbelcher. Reveal the top cards from your library until a land is revealed and then you can deal that much damage to any target. Did you reveal a Mountain? Double it! You can deal no damage if it's the top, so it plays well with top of deck manipulation effects like Sensei's Divining Top. It was a combo with Mana Severance that removed all of your lands and then dealt damage equal to your library count. They are a nasty combo which you could run, but it's just a fun card to run without it.
Now let's turn to some damage that encourages you to play Red. The Goblin is a 1/1 legendary with a tap ability. He deals damage to an attacker equal to your untapped Mountain count. Obviously, that wants a lot of Mountains, and I like him as a Commander with a deck that runs cards that force your foes to attack with things like goad. He's also nice support in the 99 of those as well, I run him in my Fumiko the Lowblood deck. The Dragon is a bit pricey at 9 mana but gives you a 6/6 flyer that shoots a creature for damage equal to your Mountain count on arrival to the battlefield. Neither of those are going to win any matches for best removal ever, but they are cool to run.
Also check out Jaws of Stone and Spawn of Thraxes. The uncommon is a sorcery that costs six. It deals damage to any number of targets damage equal to your Mountain count that you control as you cast this. Since it's so powerful and flexible and can be great card advantage. I'm sure you can see why. The rare is a seven drop 5/5 with flying an on ETB you shoot one target including a player equal to your Mountain count. Nice removal on a stick that can also fly and attack and block with the best of them in the most popular Tribe in the format. Nice!
The final card in our section is Spitting Earth. This sorcery is a two-cost spell that deals damage only to a dork equal to your Mountain count, again encouraging multiple Mountains in your brew. On the second turn when you can cast it you have a two damage potential with two Mountains, and it'll ramp up from there into a more reliable force of nature. It was reprinted as an uncommon in Portal: Three Kingdoms but obviously with a different name in case you want another.
Now let's turn one of the biggest reasons people play Red in any format, not just Commander. Blood Moon is good in mono-Red since you wouldn't hurt yourself. It also helps the next category. It was reprinted as a fragile 2/2 for the same cost years later. Both have strong value and dominate formats. But's it's not that bad in multi-color decks. You can shut down things like Cabal Coffers, Academy Ruins, and other abusive things in land form just like you would in mono-Red.
Debuting in the first set was Burrowing and Goblin King that gave one dork Mountainwalk and all of the Goblins (not just yours). Walking your own lands is a keyway to hose, only Green reliable walks every land. And you can turn them into Mountains with the above cards. Most of these are just French vanilla like this Cat or Mountain Goat that's a 1/1 for one. Two mana for an already on curve 2/1 that walks Mountains. How many players are going to be playing this in a 4-player multiplayer game where most are running at least two colors? Pretty high that someone can be attacked. And this is better than shadow, horsemanship or flying since it cannot be blocked at all. The Beast is a three-drop 1/1 that has Mountainwalking and a win-con in one card. Love it loads.
We have two abilities printed that have the same name with a discard ability. The Regulator is a two-drop legendary artifact, so you can only have one, not an issue in Commander but has value for things like legendary-matters things. When you activate a Chandra loyalty ability, you can spend a mana to get a copy of that ability with new targets if you like. Since she has so many planeswalkers out there that could be a few free copies each turn. Then you tap it with a mana and discard a Red card or Mountain to draw, so it's card flow in a discard theme. It works with Anger or with gold creatures to reanimate in a recursion deck.
The Chandra is a six drop 5 loyalty ability that loves mono-Red. You can +1 to discard anything. Was it Red? Shoot for four to any target. Then her -2 will let each player discard their hand and draw three. That would be great for you since you planned and lost little, but then your foes discard a hand with 5 or 8 cards with Reliquary Tower. Her 7-loyalty ultimate will cast all Red instants and sorceries from your graveyard for free which is very strong with the discarding +1 and -2 that sets that up nicely.
Check out an aura pair in Granite Grip and Claws of Valakut. The Grip grants a permanent power boost equal to your Mountain count. It's very strong the more Mountains you play and doesn't care about basics vs non-basics. The Claws gives the same power boost bur first strike as well since it's harder to cast and came later. I love these in Commander with Commander Damage since they will kill very quickly. Even just three or four Mountains can be turns early, and even outside of Voltron or Aura brews that seek to kill fast with Commander Damage, this is very strong. Consider it with smaller-powered dorks or things that already have evasion like Auntie Blyte, Bad Influence. Also broken in Boros with Baird, Argivian Recruiter which wants a bigger power on any dork than its printed value to make dorks.
Check out this Warrior pair of uncommons! The former one is a two-drop that gives your Red stuff first strike, which is very powerful here with the combat damage. Gold dorks get the same boosts, and I enjoy it with deathtouch enablers in Green and Black adjacent or equipment like Basilisk Collar. But first strike really doesn't scale up in multiplayer like it does in duals. In a 40-life environment where if your 2/2 Red was given first strike and then attacks a 2/2 non first strike, there's less incentive not to take that damage since it's only 5% of your starting life total rather than 10%.
The latter is a four-drop 2/2 that pumps your other Red things by +1/+1, so it's a Glorious Anthem on legs. It can tap with a mana to give a Red creature haste. As we saw earlier, that's very strong, and it's the best of its cycle as a result. I love it with Red token makers like Goblins.
Debuting in the first set was spending mana to pump for a turn. Every color other than Green got it, from Wall of Water to Holy Armor to Frozen Shade. Red got it all over, from the aura Firebreathing to the pair of Granite Gargoyle and Shivan Dragon.
No color has more pumping for mana like this than Red. This lets people trade up or win with Firebreathing. However, the Gargoyle can spend a mana of the Red persuasion to pump its toughness over and over again rather than power. Toughness only pumping is pretty rare in Red. The Dragon is a six-drop 5/5 flyer with firebreathing. It was a dominant force in the early era and won many a game. It's an iconic and beloved card! But...
...it's been mostly replaced these days by this Dragon and others that are bigger bodies. Inferno is a 6 mana but 6/6, cannot be countered, firebreathes, haste. It's also a legendary for the Command Zone and a weird alternate win card. The Angel is a similarly sized 6/6 but for 8. But you can morph it up turn six and attack. It cannot be countered, rocks a passel of keywords like two evasions in flying and trample, two protections to slip through, and then the Firebreathing. It's nasty here as another winner of games. The Firebreathing works well with trample.
Pitch and Free Spells
Ever since Alliances, every color was given ways to get free spells by doing something else. No color will compare with the power of Blue's Force of Will, Thwart, Foil, Daze, and so on, but Red is probably second best with loads of ways to get free stuff.
Crash is a Shatter effect that destroys any artifact at instant speed for one more mana. Then if you are tapped out, you can sacrifice a Mountain to get it off for free. Pulverize is a six-mana sorcery that destroys all artifacts, so it's a Shatterstorm that costs two more. That effect is better in today's heavy artifact-heavy metagame after recent artifact sets and Treasure tokens. And if you need to sweep now, but you are tapped out or had to use your mana for another set of answers, cast it for free with the sacrifice of two Mountains. That's three cards and no mana for what could wind up being 5-8 cards plus more tokens in a four-player game, and this cost is better the most you sweep. According to EDHREC.com, artifacts are the most common archetype in the format, so you'll always have things to sweep, even if it's just Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots and Esper Sentinel style cards.
The damage dealer is a six-cost instant that deals four to any target, and then you can sacrifice two Mountains again for its cost. It has dominated many formats with tournament play and is the best free spell for this color in those since you are playing against one player and the have 20 life, so once they get to burnable range, shoot them with Lightning Bolt for 3 and then 'Blast them for four and kill them before they recover. It's not great in Commander today, but you can find places where sacrificing lands has value.
The pumper is a three-cost instant that gives one dork a power boost equal to your Mountain count. That can win games out of nowhere with things like your Commander attacking. And then you can cast your hasted Commander with Anger, or equip with a haste equipment, swing, and then still attack for the win with this out of nowhere after attacking and no blocking happens by casting this for free with the sacrificing of a Mountain. You can also cast this on defense to trade with a player's best dork that thought it was going to win.
Our final pitch and free spell is Cave-In, a better Pyroclasm that hits players, but more expensive at 3 more mana than you would likely expect to pay. But you can exile a Red card from your hand to make it free so you can cast it earlier and then cast your spell for the turn. There are tons of 2 toughness dorks commonly played in the format, like the aforementioned Esper Sentinel, Mulldrifter, Goblin Welder, Mother of Runes, Soul Warden, Guttersnipe, most played tokens. And like Pulverize you can get great card advantage at the table with just an investment of two cards and no mana at a multiplayer table which could easily kill 4 or 5 dorks for two cards.
Size and Combat
Now let's turn to things that have size based on things that are better in Red decks. The Servant is a six-drop 4/4, a bit smaller, but with a toughness boost equal to your Mountain count. It's very strong in decks with high Mountain count as a blocker that won't die against the big stuff or with toughness matters where it deals damage equal to its toughness. The Cliffstomper is a much cheaper two mana 0/4 with power on your turn only equal to your Mountains. Power is better with the swinging at your foes, and this is cheaper too, so this is better. But a 0/4 that doesn't have power on your opponent's turn won't play keep away unlike the Servant which has a 4 power. After mass land destruction spell the Servant can still do things, nice.
Let's finish this section with a very different way to get size. Horde of Boggarts has size equal to your Red permanent count. It also has evasion with a pre-keyworded menace. That's big, and note it needs permanents, not creatures. It's great in decks with things like token creatures that are Red, like Goblins, that also have Red permanents from other things like enchantments and non-creatures dorks. Sometimes a go wide deck needs a go tall finisher or cannot get through something, like Propaganda. This will serve well there with its size and evasion.
There was a cycle of cards printed in the first Kamigawa Block called "Genju of" that all enchant a land of that type, cost one, activate for two, make a Spirit dork of that color, and then when the land dies, you can bring it back to your hand as a recursive thing sort of like a Rancor that can be cast multiple times. Genju of the Spires turns the land into a 6/1, so it's a game winner. We don't have any cast triggers in Red for Auras or Enchantments like Selesnya's Enchantress brews but it's pretty strong and crazy and good nonetheless.
We also have a pair of creatures that have abilities when your Red stuff deals damage. Chandra's Phoenix is a 2/2 with flying and haste for three, on curve. When this has died, when any foe is dealt damage from a Red instant, sorcery or planeswalker you control, return it to your hand. Nice mana-free recursion for doing what you were going to do anyway.
The Red Terror costs one more for four as a much bigger 4/3 but without keyword abilities. Did a Red source you control deal damage to a permanent or player? Add a +1/+1 counter to this. This is legendary for Command Zone purposes. It triggers each time damage is dealt, but just once, so if you cast Cave-In from earlier and dealt 2 to every player, you'd get just one counter. Then shoot a dork for two with Shock? Another counter. It's very strong and I love it with pingers like Prodigal Pyromancer. Right?
Way back in the early days Red was pretty defensive in nature. Its Walls were bigger (Wall of Stone), it could pump toughness with Granite Gargoyle, it could force a small number to attack you with Caverns of Despair, and you had this card. Three to drop, sacrifice a Snow-Covered Mountain to prevent all combat this turn! That's repeatable Fogging each turn and you can keep yourself alive for another round of fun in the sun. It's pretty good at keeping you alive for another turn or two until you win, or draw an answer like Blasphemous Act. Just replace your Mountains with this and then in this. Check on the similarly themed but colorless Sunstone. Run this with Crucible of Worlds to reload your Snow-Covered Mountain.
Red has ways of getting ahead of curve dorks but with a key disadvantage that's less nasty if you are running a lot of that color. The Insect is a 7/7, that's very not the style being gone for outside of Green, so you pay by sacrificing a Mountain each upkeep. Or you can sacrifice this if your foe drops a Maze of Ith. As you can see, this is pretty powerful at the kitchen table with size, but no keywords or evasion. Just like the above card, I also like this with Crucible of Worlds letting your Mountains get replayed every turn instead of going away, but that won't keep your mana growing over time, although with Green effects like Exploration that's probably better. The Dragon is a powerful four drop with a size 5/5 and flying, nasty. But it requires a double sacrifice of Mountains when it enters the battlefield. I played this as a two of in a Block Constructed Sligh deck.
Check out Oni of Wild Places! This powerful six-drop 6/5 with haste is pretty good, you can attack, swing, and then a massive 6 power out of nowhere. We talked about the value of haste. Where this thing is rough in your upkeep when you have to bounce a Red creature back to your hand. Ideally it'll be a cheaper one or two drop that you can recast and keep the beats up. The worse thing here is to bounce itself so it wants a Red deck. Bouncing itself is a big old recommitment of Red to recast it. But there are two places you could turn this into an advantage. The first is in midrange where you can bounce ETB stuff and then recast. Then the other is with the alliance trigger where you cast and recast for alliance things like Devilish Valet or Witty Roastmaster. Nice, right?
Now let's turn to some card flow. The Dressed to Kill version of Chandra is an on-curve planeswalker with three loyalty for three mana. She can +1 to make a Red mana and shoot a person or planeswalker for a damage. Mana is nice, but her second +1 is what makes this list. You can exile the top card of your library. Was it Red? Cast it this turn! Otherwise, swing and a miss. The ultimate also lets you cast Red spells from your library with additional aspects. Dragonfire is a five-cost sorcery that shoots any target for 3 damage. Dig five. Did you get a Red card? Great, reveal it and draw the one you want. If you kill a dork or planeswalker that's two for one.
Cast Triggers and Reveal Effects
We have a few Red cast triggers that have been printed on permanents. These will happen when you cast Red stuff, even when your stuff is countered. Let's start with the classic Pyromancer. This 0/1 for three will tap for pinging any player for a damage. When you cast a Red spell, untap and keep up the pinging. That's a win con. Or you could tap to ping, untap, grab a piece of equipment and swing on a naked board. The Jester is a 4 drop 2/2 with a cast trigger to stop an opposing dork from blocking. Good stuff!
Runaway Steam-Kin is a classic at tables since your casts turn into +1/+1 counter for it as long as you have fewer than three. On a two-drop 1/1? And then you can pull off three counters to add triple R to your mana pool. That's very strong here with your adding and pulling off counters without any other resources over time, for mana and bigger stuff. It's very strong in Storm builds. And Staff of the Flame Magus gains you a life when you cast a Red spell or when a Mountain arrives to party as well!
Rounding out our list today is this pair. We have a few ways to reveal cards from for hand for various effects. The first one printed is the Seer, a four-drop 1/1 that taps with three, which is pricey. But then you can reveal cards from your hand to shoot any target for that amount of revealed Red cards for damage. It's repeatable removal over time.
Martyr is an on-curve one-drop 1/1. You can sacrifice it any time for two to reveal any amount of Red cards and then shoot all non-flyers for damage equal to that count. At a multiplayer table that could easily be 4 or 7 ground pounders including most grounded tokens. That's pretty strong and you can drop and sweep on the turn you cast it. Nice pair of removal on legs!
That does it for today's list - check back next week for the rest of the Red cards to reconsider in Commander!