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The Throne of Eldraine Red Review

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With the release of Throne of Eldraine, we are in that spectacularly important time where not only is a new set adding to the possibilities of Standard, but the exit of four sets - Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019 mark a moment where the greatest potential percent of Standard legal cards will be relevant. It is an ironic truth that the larger that a pool of Magic cards are to choose from, the smaller percent of them are usable simply because so many get bullied out of being playable by the very best cards.

And so, here with Throne of Eldraine, we are in a moment absolutely brimming with possibility. Join me in my review of what this set means for building base-Red decks in Standard!

The Philosophy

What does it mean to review a set from a base-Red perspective?

Goblin Chainwhirler

A card like Goblin Chainwhirler might be rotating out, but a base-Red deck is absolutely the kind of deck that could run not only Goblin Chainwhirler but expect that the Chainwhirler wouldn't be a strain to cast. If they are running another color at all, it is only barely.

Take this recent Red deck, from before the upcoming rotation:


A deck like this might be built to include a splash of a color to support a sideboard card. This is unlike a deck like Izzet Drakes that would require a great deal of Blue and is a true ur deck.

This review is entirely from the perspective of Red cards for Red decks. With that in mind, let's begin The Throne of Eldraine Red Review!

The Card to Watch

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

One of the most impressive things about this card is that it can immediately cause an incredible increase in damage. If one has played a creature in each of the first three turns, that would mean an immediate damage jump of six that turn, and that is supposing that there aren't cards actively taking advantage of the increase in damage, like Scorch Spitter.

This is especially exciting if there are a lot of damage sources that are coming into play. This matches up well with a huge amount of the Red cards that will be in Standard with Torbran. Creating tokens is a valuable aspect of Red, whether it is Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, Legion Warboss, or Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin.

Heaven forbid you happen to untap with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell! Effectively playing the role of a 4/4 for four mana, it also turns Shock into a hell of a burn card and let's Lava Coil kill some of the biggest creatures. The damage potential from Torbran is so huge that life gain almost feels like it would be a joke.

This card is going to be huge for base-Red decks.

The Excellent

Bonecrusher Giant

If this were just either side of the card, in both cases this would be just fine, but putting the two together is pretty great. As a creature, the base stats of Bonecrusher Giant are solid and aggressive, and the tagged on ability is definitely relevant to any deck planning on pushing damage. Being able to add on a removal spell if you have time to use it before the giant comes to the party pushes this into really excellent territory, and the "Damage can't be prevented clause" even means that besides being a good main deck card, it could also be a very potent sideboard card if certain cards start finding themselves seeing play. This is an exciting card!

Embercleave

Last week I mentioned this card as one of the notable cards from Red for Modern, and it is also excellent to look at for Standard.

Consider this: if you are attacking with only three creatures, you can suddenly pump up a creature to being a massive danger for only three mana, using it as a powerful semi-removal spell or as a source for a ton of damage, depending on the situation. As an instant, this wouldn't make the cut, but as an equipment, it is positively mind-boggling.

Irencrag Feat

This card almost was in my "Cards to Watch" section; this card is clearly very powerful. The only question is whether there will be enough payoffs to make it worth it. If a Big Red deck exists, this will almost certainly be a big part of the mix. Seven mana is the level where things can be so game-changing that it has to be respected when a card can achieve that amount on turn four.

Slaying Fire

Simply put, this is the second coming of Flame Javelin. Despite demanding more mana than most burn spells we are typically comfortable playing, four damage is so much, you won't mind doing so in this spell's case.

Castle Embereth

Lands that can be leveraged for more damage are an incredibly important part of a Red deck's strategic arsenal, in large part because Red's already ready access to damage makes these extra sources more valuable. Balancing the card-counts on this and the correct Mountain count will generally be a question dependent on your specific spell mix, but Castle Embereth seems like it will fit very well in a world where Torbran, Thane of Red Fell has reasons to be in your deck.

Stonecoil Serpent

This is a hell of a lot of abilities for a colorless X spell. While it is obviously at its most impressive when a ton of mana has been dumped into it (hello, Irencrag Feat), getting a clock going at all is so important that you'll be very grateful to cast it in the first two turns if it means the difference between having a clock or not. Flooding out can be a problem for Red decks, whether they are aggressive, midrange or full-on Big Red, and this card is a great way to make that flood into something meaningful. All of that is true without even addressing the three keyword abilities that Stonecoil Serpent has, all of which are meaningful. Another awesome card for a base-Red deck.

The Good

Embereth Paladin

This card is usually going to be a 5/2 haste creature for four mana. That is a lot of damage to suck up when it comes out of nowhere.

Irencrag Pyromancer

"Drawing a card" doesn't need to mean card advantage. The Red "rummage" ability (discard a card, draw a card) can mean that this hardy 0/4 can start shooting off Lightning Bolts quite quickly. While it takes some fuel to fire off, this card is still good.

Opportunistic Dragon

If this card didn't have the temporary removal element, it would still be a notable card to think about simply as a big Red flier. With that on top of it, it seems like a very solid creature, and all of that without taking advantage of the stolen permanent, which you could plan to make use of with other deck-building choices.

Rimrock Knight

Since the Adventure on Rimrock Knight, Boulder Rush, comes equipped with a solid creature on the other side of it, this card represents a potential cheap two extra damage for any creature without the fear that you're losing out by investing it. The body on the other side of that is damaging enough to be meaningful, but it is the two together that make this card "good".

Robber of the Rich

Getting use of the cards from Robber of the Rich might at times be a challenge, but even without the potential to get the payoff of extra cards, a hasty 2/2 for two is a meaningful card. The moment you've even gotten a single card, you've reached into the realm of truly meaningful. In addition, the fact that a late-game Robber of the Rich or other rogue could take advantage of the previously exiled cards makes this a real gem.

Sundering Stroke

If you're running full-on mono-Red, this card can be a very powerful part of the top end of a burn-heavy Big Red deck, and might often very well either put an opponent to death, or put them nearly to death while mopping up the table.

Syr Carah, the Bold

I didn't like this card at first until I tried it out as a proxy and revealed a burn spell with Syr Carah, the Bold. By itself, this card can be a solid card advantage engine, especially in any deck that is either playing for a long game or is running a great deal of burn. While Experimental Frenzy doesn't really need much in the way of help, the fact that it could help to make Experimental Frenzy go a bit crazier is another small note of extra praise for the card.

Thrill of Possibility

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Heraldic Banner

Whether you are attacking with a swarm or building up your mana for Big Red, the two-aspect nature of this card makes it quite powerful. Again, this is another card that seems all the more powerful in a world where you are already encouraged to go wide by Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.

Dwarven Mine

Requiring this to be your fourth land to get a free 1/1 Red Dwarf holds this card back a bit, but it is still good enough that it seems very likely to be included in all manner of heavy-Mountain Red decks - which, in the upcoming Standard, seems like another way of saying "Red decks".

The Sideboard Cards

Claim the Firstborn

If we're in a world of racing with cheap creatures, this is a hell of a card. Threaten effects can either be wildly powerful, or underwhelming; at this cost, it is completely reasonable to take a small creature and make otherwise important plays as well. This card also plays well with Dreadhorde Arcanist, which will survive the rotation.

Embereth Shieldbreaker

If you're in the market for artifact destruction, this is a solid potential sideboard card along the lines of an Uktabi Orangutan.

Searing Barrage

I've loved Chandra's Outrage in the past as a means of taking down a big creature with another upside. Searing Barrage does the same thing, but just a little larger. That fifth damage seems like it could well be relevant, but also the extra point of player damage is meaningful as well. This will be a solid option for Red decks that are packing a lot of burn.

The Role Players

Crystal Slipper
Crashing Drawbridge

Does your deck get a boost from a hasty creature? Both of these cards seem like a great potential option. Of the two, I prefer Crashing Drawbridge, but if you're in the need to pump up the damage just a bit, the equipment can be meaningful, though that extra mana matters, too.

Ferocity of the Wilds

If you're going wide or if you have bigger creatures that don't already have trample, this is a meaningful enchantment for adding to your damage count.

Fervent Champion

This card feels like it really needs to have enough Knights and equipment to be relevant. But if you do, I think it is completely solid.

Fires of Invention

When you cast Fires of Invention, it will immediately be as though you didn't spend the mana on this card. Thereafter, assuming you have two worthwhile cards to cast, you're getting a massive mana injection. This card will work best with card draw and activated abilities to really make it worth it.

Fling

If you're jam-packed with big creatures, this is an incredibly potent way to get in a lot of damage for cheap, especially if you're casting it as a final spell.

Joust

Dinosaurs have shown us that spells like this can be meaningful. If Knights are good, this could be as well.

Merchant of the Vale

Speaking of rummaging, this card is a totally solid choice for any deck that might catch itself with excesses of some resources; Big Red is a great example of such a deck. Still, while from a card economy standpoint this card doesn't "pay for itself" until you actually cast the Merchant of the Vale, it is limited in that the 2/3 for three isn't excellent, making this card solidly serviceable.

Scorching Dragonfire

If you're a more controlling deck, this is a very versatile form of removal that can make up for the fact that it can't hit players.

Weaselback Redcap

On its own, Weaselback Redcap would feel playable but not good enough; as a Goblin and a Knight there are enough other cards out there to increase this card's value that it might be worthwhile.

Spinning Wheel

The "Icy Manipulator" side of this card effectively costs six mana because of the lost access to the mana it provides, but it is also still a way to control what might otherwise be an uncontrollable creature while also being a ramp spell. For Big Red, this is a reasonable option.

The Marginal

Barge In

This isn't much of a payoff for the mana, but if it gives your team trample, it might be good enough for some deck out there to consider.

Mad Ratter

If this were cheaper, it would definitely be great; at this cost, you need to be aggressively making this card work with card draw.

Redcap Melee

The drawback is pretty rough versus a non-Red deck, and the effect pretty narrow as a sideboard card. Still, since it could be used in the main deck, a deck with low mana needs might find use for this if it finds that the card solves a problem it otherwise needs solving.

Seven Dwarves

I want this card to be good, but it just seems too likely to usually just be a 2/2 for two with a fragile upside.

The Splashes

Grumgully, the Generous
Stormfist Crusader

Both of these multicolored Red cards benefit in still being valuable if not cast on curve, and being solidly sized if they show up immediately. Neither is fantastic enough to justify the choice to extend colors all on their own, but they are good enough to try out with enough incentives for the extra color. Notably, I don't think any of the other splash-Red cards can say that.

The Unimportant

These are cards I don't expect will impact Standard at all, as they are simply outclassed by other card

The Conclusion

I absolutely love Throne of Eldraine and think that it is going to be a significant player in Red decks for the new Standard. One common through-line that I feel seemed to be the case throughout the set was the value of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell - this Dwarf is just very good at making some of the best cards in this set seem better: I expect to see token strategies, fast aggressive strategies, and burn-based strategies all get a bump from the cards in this set. In many cases, there is a great deal of overlap in all of these!

Burn is particularly interesting here, with so many new tools for Red. Burn strategies can be much more controlling or simply aggressive, and this also means that there will be more opportunities to straddle this line based on sideboarding. Historically, these have been my favorite Red decks, so I'm excited for the potential to sleeve up Red at a larger event.

Before that, though, we have the Throne of Eldraine Pre-Release to think about! For my part, I'll be at Misty Mountain over Pre-Release Weekend. If you're around, I hope to see you there!

Let's set this fairy tale on fire!

- Adrian Sullivan

Follow me on Twitter! @AdrianLSullivan

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