My Dark Ascension Review for Next Level Cubes, Part 6: Red

(Yes, this is the last part.)

To part 1 of this review.

To part 2 of this review.

To part 3 of this review.

To part 4 of this review.

To part 5 of this review.

Afflicted Deserter: A DFC, and one I don’t like. Either they make transform triggers on werevolves a feature, or they restrict them to the Huntmaster. Just adding one random Shatter (okay, Smash to Smithereens) effect to one other werewolf is lame.

Alpha Brawl: Potentially a one-sided Wrath. Tell you what: For 8 mana, a one-sided Wrath is FINE! However, this execution is unreliable and complicated, and I don’t think Red needs it. It has Insurrection in the 8-mana slot, remember? That’s more like it!

Blood Feud: Once again: Killing two creatures is fine on a 6-mana spell, especially if stuff like damage prevention, regeneration or pump effects can still intervene. And once again, this is a bit too unreliable and complicated, and Red isn’t exactly the right color for this anyway. Do you remember Deadshot? I do, and it’s what I’ll keep using instead.

Burning Oil: Okay, it’s not exactly original, but neither is Rally the Peasants. Both are still excellent choices for a Boros flashback card. I’ll use both.

Curse of Bloodletting: Enchant Player, and a bit powerful, especially since it isn’t as risky as Furnace of Rath or Gratuitous Violence. Also, it encourages you to play some kind of control / combo in limited when you have it, which I don’t like (and which doesn’t feel very red to me). I prefer Rage Reflection, which is at a safer mana cost and pumps your creatures, being both more fitting with limited games in general and the style of Red.

Erdwal Ripper: Another usable red Vampire. I’ll take it.

Faithless Looting: This is a lot like Dream Twist – okay, it is Careful Study with flashback in Red – dedicated self-mill with card disadvantage (in a vacuum), relying on a strategy focussed on graveyard abuse. Decidedly not what I want.

Fires of Undeath: A while ago I realized that nearly all the Rakdos non-creature-spells in my pool killed creatures. Admittedly, that is something Rakdos should excel at, but it made this color combination play quite boringly and overpowered. Since then, I have been consciously trying to diversify and even weaken my spell arsenal of Rakdos, even replacing Strangling Soot with Bump in the Night. Fires of Undeath is – apart from a really uninspired design – a backwards Strangling Soot variant (less good against creatures, but able to finish off opponents). I won’t go back there again. BTW, strange that WotC removed Morbid Hunger from Innistrad after playtesting, but then put this card here in Dark Ascension…

Flayer of the Hatebound: WotC obviously believe that a borderline broken mechanic like undying needs some kind of “lord” to make it completely broken. This would be ridiculously good even if it only triggered from itself!

Fling: A reprint I’m not using since I prefer Reckless Abandon and Fiery Conclusion, but obviously nothing wrong with it.

Forge Devil: Okay, it IS annoying that you can not use it as an unconditional 1-drop if you want. Still, I like this design more than Sparkmage Apprentice, which is too similar to Blister Beetle. I really wouldn’t have minded a wording like “When this enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player and 1 damage to you”, though.

Heckling Fiends: Nettling Imp suffered from being just too inefficient for an already only situationally useful effect. Alluring Siren did that better (and in a more fitting color). Now the Fiends provide a playable (marginally playable, but playable) body with this ability tacked on for a substantial mana cost (and usable on more creatures, if you have the mana), which also means that the Fiends are still available for combat if you use it. This is a nice example of two takes on the same concept which play a lot differently and are both useful!

Hellrider: Ow, that is strong! It has been compared with Hero of Oxid Ridge, and if that comparison was justified, I really shouldn’t consider it. Well, I’m not convinced of that, but I still feel this is too powerful a card. Actually, I don’t like to obsolete Talruum Minotaur, which isn’t really weak itself!

Hinterland Hermit: DFC, but otherwise fine, since it is useful before the transform and not broken after.

Increasing Vengeance: Well, I would be using Fork if I hadn’t decided to move this effect to Blue (Twincast). That card is already complicated enough.

Markov Blademaster: When I saw this card, I REALLY wanted to use it, because it is so elegant, and – how to put this? – has so much synergy with itself! But thinking hard about it, I realized (what I already knew, but had to admit to myself) that it is way too strong, being a reasonable card even before it grows, and getting out of hand incredibly fast. Yes, this kills an opponent with 3 attacks! A 3-drop shouldn’t be able to that. REALLY not. But this is a good example how the “sexyness” of a design can still get to me.

Markov Walord: There’s a nice potential finisher! I just read how high LSV rated Sudden Disapperance BECAUSE it is mainly a 6-mana Falter – I said the same thing, but drew diametrically opposed conclusions from it. (BTW, in case you don’t know this: Whenever LSV and I said opposite things about a limited environment just after a set came out – and we always did that for several sets in a row! – a few weeks later, it turned out I was right, and LSV started saying the same things as I did, although he probbaly never heard of me. Just FYI.) How high must he then rate this creature? 4/4 haste with a built-in Nightbird’s Clutches – I believe this is a MUCH better way to spend 6 mana! It’s not too strong, though. I removed Thundermare from my pool, since in limited, it was too often a 6-mana Lava Axe which allowed your opponent to kill you on his next turn. I believe this card is fine for 6 mana, and I will remove the clumsy Iron-Barb Hellion from my pool for it, although this means of course removing a mediocre common for a strong rare, but they’re quite similar, and the Hellion was always somehow disappointing.

Mondronen Shaman: A DFC, and really too strong once flipped. (BTW, in contrast to what MaRo said, it does NOT punish you for transforming it back, but for NOT transforming it back – it’s just painful anyway!)

Moonveil Dragon: What an unbelievably powerful upgrade to the already (in limited) extremely powerful Shivan Dragon! And unbelievable how many casual players greeted this card with “meh”! Something has really gone wrong with the power creep on creatures… Of course, I do NOT want an upgrade to Shivan Dragon!

Nearheath Stalker: It’s a good thing that I got to play with Scuzzback Marauders a lot, so I can evaluate this card a bit better. I think the Marauders were actually stronger, BTW! (But this card will have more synergies in Innistrad limited.) Undying is so strong that it is hard to find designs fit for common. This is one. It isn’t weak at all, but in the end, it is just worth 5 mana. Oh, and another red vampire I can use as a common!

Pyreheart Wolf: On the other hand, I might underestimate this card here. How much better is it than Goblin War Drums? Is it better at all? Then again, I might sidestep the difficulty to correctly evaluate this card, because it plays a little weirdly for my taste, and I want to use undying sparingly anyway. I’ll just go with the simpler design of Nearheath Stalker and leave this wolf out, since I don’t want another red undying common, but I also really can’t see this as a rare on par with Relentless Skaabs or Strangleroot Geist.

Russet Wolves: Although they obsoleted them roughly a million times, WotC still prints vanilla Hill Giants. I don’t care for those.

Scorch the Fields: Land Destruction for 5 mana is just a bad joke. This is mainly a (weak) sideboard card against humans. Which is an awful concept. And two reasons wrapped into one why I won’t touch this card, in addition to its low power level.

Shattered Perception: Faithless Looting on steroids, amplifying the issues of that card.

Talons of Falkenrath: Even flash and relaxed requirements on colored mana don’t make Firebreathing a useful card.

Torch Fiend: Yes, I like it more than Hearth Kami, for obvious reasons, but I NEED that kami as a red 2-drop in the spirit tribe, and this is too close to deserve an additional spot in my pool. It’s not as if I couldn’t use Manic Vandal, BTW.

Wrack with Madness: This effect feels white to me. WotC once agreed, calling it Repentance. It was even correctly costed then. Red has enough burn variants. I’ll keep Repentance and skip this.

It’s always the same story with Red: WotC tries to balance out its strong cards by giving it an overaverage amount of weak cards and several bland, underwhelming creatures. They really need to find a better solution!

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2 Comments on “My Dark Ascension Review for Next Level Cubes, Part 6: Red”

  1. jashinc Says:

    Increasing Vengeance ist NOT Fork – it targets only your spells!

    Couldn’t Faithless Looting be useful in a non-graveyard environment? It lets red aggro draw some more burn in the lategame and discard extra lands it has no use for…


    • Yes, I realized that; I didn’t say it was a superior Fork. That’s one of the reasons I’d prefer Fork (if I didn’t prefer Twincast).

      About Faithless Looting: The cleanest and most elegant card to achieve what you describe is probably Winds of Change. I kept that around for a while, but didn’t like it. You see, a card like this only has value if games routinely reach a stage where both players are in a standoff, drawing lots of land they can’t use and waiting for something to break the game open. Games in my cube normally don’t play that way, because

      a) There is always some tempo element, making sure only some games reach that latest stage

      b) Building my cubes around curves does not just mean that there are plenty of early drops making sure games have tempo, but also some late drops making sure you are being rewarded for getting access to more mana

      c) Even though I consciously reduce the power level of rares, there are still always a good number of strong lategame cards able to break up a standoff.

      In general, I found that it is preferrable to include cards in your cube which allow you to make good use of excess lands instead of including cards filtering your hand with card disadvantage. I also found that games flow better if players are incited to use most of the cards in your hand (although keeping a land or two for bluffing purposes still makes sense) instead of collecting them. That’s why I consciously avoid stuff like Maro, Scent of Nightshades or Spiraling Embers. If a cube is constructed correctly, things like useless excess lands won’t be an issue very often, and it won’t be worth spending a card to exchange them for more cards.


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