From the earliest sets with stuff like Power Surge through modern day, Red often has a janky, rare game shifting enchantment. They aren’t these amazing cards like Propaganda or Grave Pact that just dominate the kitchen table. But they have a lot of Gorilla Smashery to offer. Many of them are pills to sooth major pains at some kitchen tables around the world, especially Commander.
Red has a lot of janky enchantments out there. Many of them follow a set’s theme. For example, Red often has an uncommon enchantment to draft around for an in-set keyword or theme for limited. Sometimes those cards make it to tournaments, such as Lightning Rift. But they usually end up being a forgotten Rage Extractor or Rumbling Aftershocks. (Sometimes it’s a rare instead, like Clash of Realities, Ion Storm, or Heretic's Punishment)
Red loves the Jank!
Compare Awaken the Sky Tyrant to Ghostly Prison if you want to see the Red way of doing things. And don’t forget we have quality cards like Confusion in the Ranks or Blood Moon that I won’t consider “janky.”
Do you play spells? Creatures? Sorceries? Instants? Planeswalkers? Artifacts? Maybe even an enchantment or two? Then boy, do I have the card for you! See, any time you go to play a spell, you are going to be able to trade the junk in your hand for the stuff on top of your library, sort of like a permanent Scroll Rack. Play that Lighting Bolt — Sizzle, Pop, Crack! Then take the four cards you have wasting away in your grip, toss them on the bottom of your library, and draw four fresh new options. New chances! Maybe you’ll draw an answer to that dopey enchantment that is keeping you down. Maybe you will draw a serious winner! Whatever it is you draw, you can play the best card you just drew for right now, and then do it again and again and again! The more options you have, the better a chance you have for winning the game and dealing with the unparalleled jank that gets tossed your way at the kitchen table. So draw more cards, and handle it! And if you are a Johnny, then Mindmoil is a kill-spell with cards like Psychosis Crawler.
Oh, and by the by, isn’t Mindmoil a really fun name for a card?
You shall not block! That whole blocking part of combat? Gone! Three simple words that change the game long term — creatures can’t block. It does a bunch of things. First, it plays very well into the space of Red’s “Your opponent can’t block this turn” effects. Most of those are limited, so you get a card like Falter that prevents a subset of creatures from blocking. You can use Bedlam pre-combat to end the game, like you would with a Falter effect, and not worry about anything else. Another place to use it is with smaller creatures, which were more likely to be blocked. A bigger creature that would kill a couple of medium sized creatures and survive wasn’t getting blocked anyway. But that horde of 1/1 Goblin tokens? Some of those were going to bite it. But no longer! I also love Bedlam with cards like Bident of Thassa or creatures such as Stromkirk Occultist that have “I smashed your face!” triggers for when they . . . um . . . smash your face. Dropping a Bedlam, swinging with 5 1/1 tokens, and drawing five cards off a Bident is a huge game changing play. At that point, not being able to block isn’t the most important thing on the radar. Bedlam for the win!(Check out in color Five-Alarm Fire for more Bedlam synergies).
A lot of decks benefit from this awesome janky rare. Are you running a lot of artifacts in your deck? Maybe you have a Breya, Etherium Shaper build you are working on. Or perhaps there is an artifact-based deck out there with a Red component. Well check this card out! That Spine of Ish Sah will equip any of your creatures and give it an amazing +7/+0 smash facing pump. You can slide this into equipment shells; your equipment enablers work on these cards too. Puresteel Paladin is a Puresteel Winner. Sorry about that. (Not really). There is a lot of synergy here to unlock. Plus, it works on everyone, so you can see your opponents equip a Sol Ring on their Birds of Paradise to swing for one in the air. It’s a fun card, but like many symmetrical effects, you planned your deck around it, and they didn’t. Brawl On!
I feel like we all sort of forgot about how awesome this card is. There is this general genre of Red rare abilities that make tokens of your own creatures, swing with it, and then exile it at the end of your turn. And this is not Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Feldon of the Third Path. It’s jankier. That makes it safer for your foes. All you have to do is spend an extra Red mana when a nontoken arrives on your battlefield, and you get the free copy. But it’s only an ETB effect, which weakens it, and it requires mana to use. But there is still a massive amount of value there. Do you have a Red legendary creature as your Commander who has an ETB ability? Then use this for more. Even a simple Wort, the Raidmother will get you four 1/1 tokens instead of two with a Conjuring. Plus it works on a beater to get one free hit, or on a Flametongue Kavu or Zealous Conscripts to net a second trigger. There are a lot of shells that can use a Conjuring!
I love this card, especially in Commander where it is a good answer to ramp decks. Did a land come into play? Great! Now tap all of your lands. Sure, you can just tap them in response to do something and have that mana float around. But you cannot save your mana for later if you want to play a land, and this is a basic brake of crazy land playing frolick-ery. Note that the Instability reads, “all lands” not “all other lands.” That land is tapped too. And it really plays havoc on lands that you want to keep open for abilities, like Maze of Ith. Even if all you do is force someone to use their Volrath's Stronghold or Academy Ruins on their turn, rather than waiting until they have more information at the end of your turn, that’s a win in my book.
Everything is a Jackal Pup! I think a lot of people out there play this card poorly. By that I mean that they play this in elements where you break it. Take a deck built around Pyrohemia and cards like protection from red creatures or Mark of Asylum. Your creatures aren’t taking any damage anyway, so Repercussion can be used there to kill people quickly. It’s the kill card for an Earthquake or a Hurricane or a modern force such as Mizzium Mortars or something like that. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with using it that way! But it has a whole lot more to offer. It’s basically a fancy version of #9 above, Bedlam. Why am I blocking your 3/3 with my 0/4 and risking my 0/4 dying to some trick you have? Why not just let it through? It’s also a great friend of Lightning Bolt effects, Reverse Damage, and more.
This is sort of the anti-Bedlam or anti-Repercussion. Everything blocks! And, as the attacker, you choose who blocks what. Play this pre-attack, swing with the team, can set up blocks that kill multiple creatures, and then you have hurt their ability to swing back and hit you. You grabbed the momentum. Plus, you can do things like have all of their creatures block one attacker, so the other attackers all get through. Oh look, you blocked my 1/1 Saproling token with everything you have. Well it’s dead! But you just took 14 damage from my other critters! Note that this works especially well with another janky, Red rare enchantment — No Quarter. You can use it to set up blocks that automatically kill stuff. For example, if you make them block your 5/5 beater with a bunch of 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 powered stuff, then they would all die, and the 5/5 beater isn’t touched at all. Invade that defense and Plan for that win.
3. War's Toll
I love this card for a bunch of reasons. As an asymmetrical card that smashes the whole group of players other than yourself, it’s a great powerhouse. It attacks two types of decks. Any deck that wants to keep mana up for later turns is hurt. Did you tap a land for mana on your turn? Then it all gets tapped! Sure, you can tap the lands instead, draw mana, and play your creatures, sorceries, artifacts, and such. But forcing someone to choose between keeping Counterspell mana open (or other responses) or playing a creature on their turn, it a hard decision to make. And don’t forget that when someone swings with one creature, they have to bring the heat right along for the ride. This stops someone from flying for 4 over your awesome ground forces if they don’t want to lose their midrange outclassed ground pounders. Now this card resembles #6 Tectonic Instability above a bit, but does a weaker version of the land-tap theme, but adds layers of value in, having an ability for creatures, just working on opponents, and giving them less of a feel-bad moment.
It’s time. I need to bring Task Mage Assembly out of retirement. It’s a Red card that feels group hug-ish, so you can toss it into your Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis EDH deck. Other than Mana Flare, sometimes it feels like there aren’t a lot of Red enchantments that help the group. But not any longer! Task Mage Assembly is here to answer the call. What do you need? What us disturbing your mind and battlefield state? Well don’t worry! Just spend some colorless mana and shoot it down! Gang up with others to shoot down annoying legendary creatures like Kaalia of the Vast. It will take your table a lot less mana to kill off any legendary creature than their Commander tax will allow. What invariably happens is that everybody kills everything, and then the Task Mage Assembly is no more. In practice, it’s more like a slow Red Wrath of God. But you can build around that. Toss a Stuffy Doll into your deck and laugh! Cards like Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, Gigapede, or Azorius First-Wing suddenly look very different when they are keeping your Assembly on the table as everyone else is shooting their stuff dead. It’s a great card that deserves to get a closer look in Commander, multiplayer, and in decks everywhere!
1. Grand Melee
I have always has a certain passion for Grand Melee. I have put it in decks that were the nicest of all time, and then gotten pounded. I once ran a Wall deck with Rolling Stones, and then Grand Melee, and I would get concentrated on. It didn’t matter if my deck was nice and tame.
Me: “I play Wall of Swords”
Them: “Did you just play Wall of Swords? What are you going to do now? Some combo I’ve never heard of that will kill us all?”
Me: ”Ummm, yes? I run Rolling Stones so that my Walls can attack.”
Them: “So you are going to play super cheap and dangerous Walls and win with them quickly. That’s horrible!”
Me: “Does a 3/5 flying Wall with a disadvantage for 4 mana sound like a beater you should fear?”
Them: “Fine, but we are watching you!”
And then I drop Grand Melee and basically proved their point I suppose. It was a lot of fun. All creatures attack. All creatures block. It’s so elegant and simple. And yet it changes the game considerably. First of all, it speeds things up. Grand Melee forces people to attack and block, and thus removes creatures from the blocking. It’ll give you more games each casual gaming night. It plays fair and forces you to attack and block as well. No favorites here! I still have Grand Melee in Commander decks to this day. It does what it wants to do perfectly and elegantly.
Grand Melee is the Jankiest Red Rare Enchantment of them all! And I love it!
So what did you think of my list? See anything here that inspired you? Are you ready to unleash the Jank-en at your next Magic fun time?