Burn, baby, burn! It's time to check out how red did in the rares department with M11. The color of fire, passion, and Tom LaPille's hair got an interesting take on an old concept, a giant dragon to please the Timmys of the world, and a re-imagining of a former archetype-definer.
As part of our opening week of articles, I'll be filling out the core set reviews for the next few days! You can expect our normal rotation of writers beginning with Jonathan's article on Monday and following the posted schedule from now on, but while M11 is still hot, it's important that we cover our bases!
First against the wall is Ancient Hellkite, an over-costed and underwhelming fattie that has, in all likelihood, already won someone a game or three of Sealed Deck. He's a classic Timmy Dragon; unbeatable if left unchecked in Limited and totally Irrelevant for constructed. Obviously trade these for whatever you possibly can.
Chandra Nalaar is nothing to write home about. Had Chandra been reprinted in the form of Chandra Ablaze, there might have been something interesting to talk about, but she's been around long enough without more than some sideboard inclusion that her reprinting is barely relevant to the format. Sell, since crappy Planeswalkers always command a higher price tag at prereleases than anywhere else.
Cyclops Gladiator must be the most frustrating card to play against, but its "fair" mechanics will prevent it from seeing much tier 1 play. The ability to snipe a weenie and mess up blocking is fantastic, but a 4/4 for 1RRR just won't cut it in current Standard. There's no hype around this card, so it's basically constructed Irrelevant. I can't see this having an effect on constructed play.
Destructive Force is Wildfire, Plus One. Wildfire cost 6, Force costs 7. Wildfire did 4, Force does 5. Wildfire was insane in decks abusing Grim Monolith and Voltaic Key, since it was very easy to keep an opponent's board clear while maintaining a mana advantage. We don't have Grim Monolith anymore, but Voltaic Key is back. That can't be a coincidence. Without a mana artifact to abuse Voltaic Key, Wildfire might not be too scary anymore. Regardless, the potential for abuse is there, so it will get a Hold rating. Look for the signs of a breakout and start buying when they crop up, but be prepared for the fact that the catalyst may never arrive.
Goblin Chieftain is also old news, a hold-over from M10. The tribe lacks the cards to abuse this very high quality Lord, but the potential is always there. He's not exciting or sexy, but merits a Hold rating based solely on how easy it is to cross over from "fair" to "absurd" with a haste-granting tribal Lord.
Hoarding Dragon is a far cry from tier 1 playability, but will surely have its fans in EDH and other big-deck formats. Red is woefully under-staffed in the Tutor department, and any help is sure to have an impact. Still, EDH is barely a factor when determining a card's price, so this dragon will be cluttering the dollar box for a while. Irrelevant.
Leyline of Punishment is a format-changing card. much the same way that its Shadowmoor counterpart Everlasting Torment was crucial in beating Burrenton Forge-Tender, Leyline of Punishment gives red decks a legitimate shot at beating Kor Firewalker. Since it's very specific in its role, and likely only a sideboard card when needed, its price won't go nuts. Regardless, mono red decks have a lot of tools available right now and Leyline of Punishment should be a sideboard stable. It's barely above a dollar right now, and because if this, it gets a Buy rating. Expect it to see $5 if mono red becomes a player in the format. Given its suite of tools right now, the odds seem very good.
I rated Magma Phoenix very highly last year during my Magic 2010 set review, and looked very stupid in the process. Unlike the phoenix, I'm not going to resurrect my buy rating from the grave to cause more cheeky shenanigans and instead I'm going to do what I should've done last time; declare this card Irrelevant. It's just entirely too slow for competitive play and is best relegated to the casual tables.
Reverberate is a simple re-templating of Fork, which hasn't seen the light of day in years. Giving red the ability to copy a spell instead of blue changes the game a great deal. Instead of winning counter wars, drawing cards, and doing other blue things, Reverberate is your best burn spell all over again! It feels like a dream to 4-for-2 someone off Searing Blaze with Reverberate, but the card's usage is so narrow that it is properly priced at $3 or thereabouts. Hold, on the off chance that someone finds a broken interaction on-color. In most cases, it will be a utility card, a role player, and a low dollar rare (but not bulk).
Wild Evocation is a card with too many possibilities to list in a set review article, but it seems at first glance to be geared more towards casual and multiplayer play. The main issue is the timing of the effect. Your opponent gets first crack at abusing it, which could lead to some tears. It only takes one poorly-timed free spell from an opponent to ruin your "fun", and the opportunity to break this card is offset as a result. It most likely belongs in the bulk rare pile, but do not forget about Wild Evocation. Despite the fact that it's tough to break, someone, somewhere will try. If the right "someone" does the right "something" with the card, it could have some potential. Irrelevant for now, but if you get a whiff of something spicy, snag a few sets on the cheap.
Red's rares were nothing too exciting beyond the Leyline, which is clearly a game-changer. There are a few opportunities for role-players to emerge as viable options, but there are no truly under-valued steals beyond the Leyline. Even in that case, there is not a lot of room for growth. Check back in tomorrow for the Green review, where we discuss horticulture, trees, and the art of killing people with Grizzly Bears!