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Re-Analyzing Mono-Color in Commander: The Rest of Red


Hello everyone! Today continues my deep dive into some forgotten Red staples in Commander, my fourth color in the series. Here is my Mono-White one! Then there is the Blue article two weeks ago that has multiple mono-Blue loving things. Black was the heaviest of these since 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.

Red Mana Effects

Crimson Hellkite
Leyline Tyrant

Red has a few "Red-mana matters" cards we'll look at. Let's start with the Hellkite. This 9-mana 6/6 flyer is a bit behind the curve by a few mana. Then you can tap him with X and shoot any target for X damage, but you can only use Red mana for that purpose. That's better in two colors with a bunch of lands that tap for Red and mana rocks like Commander's Sphere that will do so similarly. You can kill players, dorks, and planeswalkers with aplomb. Nasty. The Tyrant is a much better on curve option as a 4/4 for four with flying. Your Red mana doesn't leave your mana pool after each phase. Then when it dies you can spend a mana to shoot one target. That's removal on a stick. Just the saving mana is valuable, tap your Red sources at the end of your foe's turn before you untap, and now you could have a bunch more mana for your Rolling Thunder effects or the Hellkite. It's very strong in many decks with the same mana infrastructure.

Check out Sundering Stroke next. It deals 7 damage divided as you choose among up to three targets, so it's a super Pyrotechnics for smaller numbers of targets. Then when this is cast for seven Red mana, you can shoot all three targets for 7 damage each, and in a four-player game, that's always a default 7 damage to each of them, but also can kill Sun Titan and Consecrated Sphinx and similar big toughness things that are commonly played. Cool!

Defiler of Instinct

Each color has a recently printed "Defiler" cycle, in this case a 4 mana 4/4 with first strike. Nice! It's also a Kavu as a shout out to you lovers of the Invasion Block. It cares about Red two ways. First, when you want to go to cast a Red permanent, then you can replace the Red in its cost with two life, so that's basically gives all of your Red things Phyrexian Mana. Just the permanents, not instants like Lightning Bolt or sorceries like Faithless Looting. Paying life for Reduced costs is great in a format with 40 life. Also it has a Red permanent cast trigger like your Commander. You will shoot anything for a damage. Nice combo!

Slaying Fire
Searing Barrage

We had an ability recently printed called "adamant" where you got a normal option for your color, but if you play three of that color, you get an enhanced ability. Red has three adamants. The Fire is a three-cost instant that deals 3 mana to any target. Did you spend three Red? Deal four instead! The Barrage is a five-cost instant that shoots a dork for 5 damage. Did you pay at least three Red? Their controller takes 3 too. That's pretty nasty, but they aren't as strong in Commander as last week's Foreboding Fruit.

Damage Increasers

Embermaw Hellion
Jaya, Venerated Firemage

Red is all about dealing damage to things. Well, enter this section that increases damage dealt. The Hellion is an on curve 4/5 with trample for 5. Then when another Red source deals damage to a permanent or player, add one to it. Lightning Bolt? It now deals 4! The horsemanship unblockable Lu Bu, Master-at-Arms? It's now dealing 5 instead of 4. Nice! Then your Jaya arrives with a 5 cost and 5 loyalty. Again, she'll increase Red damage by one, but this time she includes herself. And then she can -2 to shoot anything for 2...er...3 with her ability. Nasty ways to increase damage.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is one of the most iconic ways of suggesting a mono-Red Commander deck with his 4,503 decks registered over at EDHREC.com. He's a four-mana 2/4 that adds 2 damage to when your Red stuff deals damage not 1. And it works for him as well. I love this trio with damage splitting cards like Arc Lightning where you can deal 1 damage to three targets and then with Torbran you are now dealing 3. Another drop, check out the power of X-spell Rolling Thunder. You can split its X damage with any number of targets, so with 4 in the X, you are dealing up to 3 to four targets. Nasty duo! And yet that's not on his EDHREC.com page at all.

Red Triggers

Foundry Street Denizen

We have a card with an ETB trigger when Red creatures arrives to your party. This is an on-curve 1/1 for 1 and gets +1/+0 when the aforementioned Red things arrive. I like this with mass token makers like Krenko, Mob Boss and it's also a Goblin for that synergy. It's also valuable in other Goblin Token decks like Pashalik Mons. It's actually pretty heavily played at the Commander table with 3,745 decks, which make sense since it's a win con on a one drop that has tribal synergy with both Goblins and Warriors. And since Najeela, the Blade-Blossom is mono-Red, you could see that there too. It's also a Warrior for mono-Red Lovisa Coldeyes. Nice!

Horde Ambusher be cast either as an on-curve 2/2 for two or as a morph for three colorless. Then when it blocks, take a damage, not really that important in 40 life Commander. When you morph it up, target dork cannot block. Its morph trigger is revealing a Red card in your hand, so you don't need to spend mana to flip - nice. I like after casting a dork with haste, tapping out, flipping and forcing no blocks, and then attacking with both through a one dork defense. Since it's a Berserker, see Lovisa Coldeyes again.

Impelled Giant

There was a card printed that requires you to tap a Red dork for its ability. This Giant is it. It's just a 3/3 with trample for six, but check out that tap. You can tap a Red dork to give it power equal to tapped dork's power. Cast a simple 4 power Flametongue Kavu, and then tap and swing with this 7/3 trampler. I love this in power-based brews like Boros's Brion Stoutarm that can tap to sac and Fling a creature and deal damage equal to its power. It's also just a simple win con on its own, but with a small toughness, it can be killed in just one smash, so make sure that doesn't happen with Rogue's Passage.

Devotion to Red and Chroma

Fanatic of Mogis
Outrage Shaman

Now let's turn to devotion to Red and its inspiration chroma. This is very strong and deep in Black with things like Gray Merchant of Asphodel but we have one here that's also very heavily played. The Fanatic is a four-drop 4/2 like Flametongue Kavu that's also uncommon and then it shoots an opponent for damage equal to your devotion count. So at least one, and with your commander that's Red, at least 2. It can be a player kill on the right board. The Shaman is a five-drop with two Red, just a 2/2, but it shoots a dork for Red symbols, so it can be a 2:1 just like the Kavu. But it can deal more damage to take out bigger threats, but has less of a board presence after.

Check out this pair of early drops: Heartlash Cinder and Anax, Hardened in the Forge. The two-drop is a 1/1 with haste. When it ETBs it gets a boosted power equal to your Red symbol count. On a naked board that's a 2/1 on the first turn, and 1/1 later, but it scales up over time. The three drop is legendary for Commander purposes. It has power equal to your devotion count, better than the two drop, since it'll always count itself on a naked board. When it or another non-token you control dies, make a 1/1 Red Satyr token that cannot block, unless it had a 4 power, then you make two. Nasty! Both of these are game winners later as you have more and more Red mana symbols.

Purphoros, God of the Forge
Thunderous Might

Let's finish this section off right with the obvious one. The God of the Forge, who leads 2,330 decks. This is a 6/5 indestructible legendary for just 4 mana but won't be a creature unless you have at least a devotion of 5, including him. When any creature enters your battlefield, each opponent takes two, and after Gray Merchant, he's probably the most played devotion card in the game. He's in 56,152 decks over at EDHREC.com and the Merchant is in 120,078. You can also spend 3 to make your stuff have one more power a nice mana sink.

Then the Might is a 2-drop aura that enchants a dork. Did you swing with it? Great, now give it power equal to your devotion to Red count. Nasty, and with things like Rogue's Passage to ensure it'll hit, you can win pretty quickly just with normal damage. With your Commander for Commander Damage this is even faster. Nasty, right?

Ball Lightning
Goblin Chainwhirler

Another key way to suggest mono-color is to run three-mana spells that cost three Red mana. The debut set had Lich for Black, but nothing in the other colors. The Lightning from The Dark is a 6/1 with haste, trample, and then gets sacrificed afterwards. This was really the first heavily played deep Red costing thing and it really made an impact in tournament and has been reprinted many times and reconceived in many ways. It's an iconic spell.

The Chainwhirler was printed decades later. Your mana investment nets you a powerful 3/3 with first strike. Then when it ETBs, you shoot all foes and their things for a damage each. Nasty! This thing also dominated formats like Standard and many 1-toughness dorks didn't get played until it rotated. It also scales up in power in multiplayer formats with more things being targeted. If you can get this thing deathtouch from something like Archetype of Finality, this is a one-sided Wrath. Nasty duo that both dominated formats.

Mijae Djinn
Ydwen Efreet

Now let's see where that got started. This pair! Each is a Djinn or Efreet that costs three Red mana in Arabian Nights. Both are ahead of curve power and toughness. The Djinn is a 6/3, and the Efreet 3/6. When you want to attack with the 6/3, flip a coin and then you need to win to attack. When you want to block with the 3/6, you have to do the same to resolve it. Note that you don't have to flip when you do the opposite of the 6. When the 3/6 attacks or the 6/3 blocks? No coin flipping, so they are pretty reliable then. The Djinn was reprinted and is very cheap. The Efreet hasn't been and it is on the Reserve List and cannot be reprinted. These do get play in coin flip brews.

Seismic Assault

Let us finish this category and article with this pair. The Assault is a three-drop enchantment that can discard a land to Shock something. Therefore, it's harder to cast. Do note that this doesn't cost anything like tapping or mana, you just discard. It's very strong with discard matters, and lands played from graveyard stuff. Crucible of Worlds?

There are just two four-Red cost cards printed, let's look at one. Elemental Appeal makes you a Ball Lightning token that's 7/1 instead of 6/1. But if you kick it's a 14/1. Nasty. Again, it has haste, trample, and dies. Pretty strong though!

And there we are, so what did you think? Anything in there that you like in today's Commander metagame with all of the dual Mountains or multicolor cards that have been printed down through the years? Anything didn't realize existed or that you forgot about? I got cha!

I'll see you next week as we finish this thing off with Green!

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