menu

Cube SWOT: Red

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Red's overall strategy plays as the ideological opposite of blue. Blue plays for a long game, focusing on slowing things down, neutralizing an opponent's threats, and winning through incremental card advantage and superior board position. On the other hand, red's arsenal of aggressively costed creatures, burn spells, land destruction, haste, and cards that convert resources into sources of damage promote a short-term game strategy focused on winning as soon as possible and at any cost.

In order for red to perform well it's important to play to red's strengths. Let's discuss exactly what they are.

Strengths:

Mike Flores mused that people in the know considered Jackal Pup to be better than Savannah Lions even when considering the hound's drawback! The logic is that Jackal Pup's function as an aggressive 2-power 1-drop works better than Savannah Lions because of the excellent aggressive support that red gives it from other aggressively costed, efficient and cheap creatures.

Aside from corner cases, like blue's Psionic Blast and green's "hurricane" effects (Hurricane, Cloudthresher), no color has access to direct damage that can go to the dome and creatures than red.

Despite red's affinity for a short-term game plan it has a surprising number of ways of gaining card advantage through more traditional two-for-ones or mass-removal.

Red is also a very good source of disruption, providing artifact and land destruction tools. Since many provide additional benefits, such as extra damage through creature bodies or direct damage, they are also very useful for providing reach in closing the game.

Weaknesses:

Much of red's arsenal of burn can easily destroy creatures with three or less toughness because the color packs more 'Bolts than a hardware store. Red can also deal with creatures with four toughness because of cards like Flame Javelin, Char and creatures like Flametongue Kavu and Crater Hellion. Unfortunately, one of red's weaknesses lie with its relative difficulty in destroying creatures with five or more toughness. Cards like the "X" spells (Banefire, Demonfire) can help cover this weakness but they are not as useful in aggressive decks due to their relative inefficiency at converting mana to damage.

Another weakness is that red's "punisher" cards like Browbeat ultimately put the opponent in the driver's seat for being able to choose the outcome that is best for them. While Torment tried to push the mechanic through cards like Browbeat and Skullscorch, cards like Keldon Marauders, Hellspark Elemental and Ball Lightning represent this mechanic as well, albeit in a more subtle way. "Do I want to take 3 from that Hellspark Elemental or should I block it with my Solemn Simulacrum and just take 1 damage?" The lack of true evasion still leaves the decisions to the defending player.

Let's now discuss how red manifests itself in its 2-color archetypes.

Opportunities and Threats - Archetypes:

Photobucket
Boros (Red-White) Aggressive

The most obvious strength that red provides aggressive archetypes is in its direct damage.  Boros seeks to deal as much damage to the opponent as quickly as possible. The direct damage isn't as necessary to the archetype as it is to others, since white already has a suite of powerful removal effects like Swords to Plowshares that can remove potential blockers, yet cards like Lightning Bolt provide for a cheap way to win the game when the opponent is already at a low life total.

Red's 1 and 2-drop creatures provide excellent redundancy to white's 1 and 2-drop creatures since both perform similar roles in dealing as much damage as possible to the opponent. However, since white tends to be pretty weak at the 3-mana slot, red's strong 3-mana spells such as Staggershock and Molten Rain are excellent for Boros aggro decks because they clear blockers, deal damage, and disrupt the opponent.

As mentioned before, red has a surprisingly high amount of card advantage in the color which helps to support Boros desks since white's aggressive tools provide surprisingly little card advantage since much of the card advantage in white is through either its planeswalkers or its mass removal, both of which can only comprise a few slots in a Boros aggro deck.

Red also provides some additional disruption for Boros decks. Cards like Armageddon are excellent in the archetype because they are able to easily win the game once resolved.  Red's arsenal of pinpoint land destruction in cards like Molten Rain won't win the game once resolved like Armageddon, but these cards do serve as a temporary tempo boost and often come with a creature attached: Avalanche RidersGoblin Ruinblaster and Ravenous Baboons all essentially cost 4 mana, an already crowded mana cost for white.

Photobucket
Gruul (Red-Green) Aggressive

Archetypes like Gruul are classical archetypes that have been around since the early days of magic because of the redundancy that is provided by both colors. Much like Boros, Gruul decks seek to win the game as soon as possible through aggressive creature hordes, disruption, and a flurry of burn or other reach elements to win the game.

Much like with Boros, Gruul gets redundancy through red's 1- and 2-drop creatures, since many of green's aggressive creatures, like Wild Dogs, play similarly to red's,  like Jackal Pup. Even its artifact-destruction-on-a-body creatures are mostly the same with Manic Vandal being nearly identical to Viridian Shaman.  However, in terms of raw creature power, green's aggressive creatures out-muscle red's. So what does red bring?

Direct damage is definitely the most important component of the archetype. This is because of green's inability to directly deal with creatures outside of combat, red's ability to clear blockers out of the way is often just as important than its ability to finish off a wounded opponent. And while green decks historically have had problems with dealing the last few points of damage to win the game, cards like Sulfuric Vortex are able to do that quite easily.

Photobucket
Rakdos (Red-Black) Aggressive

Rakdos decks in cube perform extremely well as streamlined, efficient, and disruptive aggressive decks.  Rakdos decks combine red's pinpoint land destruction and black's discard to leave a disrupted opponent with fewer tools to fend off the assault. Some of red's cards, like Jackal Pup and Sulfuric Vortex, almost feel like black cards since they seek to trade a life loss liability for immediate gain. Much like with monoblack, the archetype must take into account how many self-damaging effects are in the deck, but for the most part this is less of a factor here. However, even without a single self-damaging card, the archetype works similarly to Gruul in that the archetype is powered through redundancy.

While it may be argued that red's 1-drop creatures are weaker than black's, as of right now red's 1-drop creatures vastly outnumber black's, yielding the added redundancy and increase in power level along the curve.

Like for others, red brings its artifact destruction to the archetype. Much of it provides redundant to the archetype's goals since it damages the opponent either via direct damage or a body attached to the effect, as well as cover black's weakness to artifacts.  Unfortunately, black and red share a weakness in their inability to destroy enchantments but is still able to win despite this handicap. Creature destruction isn't as important for red to bring because black already has a lot of ways to kill creatures, but direct damage is still useful against pesky ones with protection from black or to provide addition game-ending reach..

Photobucket
Izzet (Red-Blue) Control

Red brings some extremely valuable tools to the Izzet control archetype.  While blue is able to deal with nearly everything when it's on the stack it has a much harder time with creatures that slip through the "counter wall." I have mentioned that direct damage is very important for nearly every red deck because it answers many creatures, which explains its universally playable nature. Blue is able to deal with some creatures through theft effects and bounce effects, but red brings more consistent tools, namely cheap direct damage, in cards like Burst Lightning, and mass removal, through cards like Starstorm.

While it may be argued that red's mass removal effects are weaker than ones in white because of their inability to destroy everything, this weakness can be turned into a strength when using creatures that can survive the damage. Remember when I said that one of red's weaknesses was its inability to destroy 5+ toughness creatures?  Decks can also be created to exploit this by combining Dragons, Wurmcoil Engine, or Sphinxes with cards like Starstorm and Wildfire to have game-ending creatures that will survive the spell.

Red's card advantage tools are also useful for the Izzet decks since cards like Arc Trail and Staggershock can deal with multiple creatures that slip through the counter wall all burn, providing additional incremental advantage. Because of blue's ability to deal with larger creatures, expensive one-shot removal like Flame Javelin isn't as important for Izzet as it is for other red-based color pairs since they will likely use these spells to win.

Additionally, red's artifact destruction helps to deal with troublesome artifacts, especially mana accelerants and equipment since both of these cards can increase the pace of the game for the Izzet opponent.

Photobucket
Monored Aggressive

Monored decks tend to be extremely streamlined in function: grab as much burn as possible, pair it with the most efficient creatures and other sources of damage, and win as quickly as possible. Cards like Molten-Tail Masticore and Cursed Scroll are very useful in monocolor decks, but they serve as redundancy in monored since they can destroy creatures with protection from red and burn an opponent out.

Analysis:

Due to the fact that the color almost overwhelmingly supports aggressive archetypes (three aggressive archetypes to one control) it is imperative to support aggressive strategies in red.

I've written an article on this very topic for cube as a whole (and may revisit the topic in the future) but how should this be done in red?

1)  Curtailing red control and midrange cards:  There's a big temptation to use as many X-spells in a cube because they're generally powerful in Limited. However, this rule doesn't apply in cube because aggressive decks seek more efficient cards, like Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning, rather than ones like Demonfire.

In The Third Power's podcast review of Mirrodin Besieged, I noted that while Slagstorm is a quality card, there may not be the room for it since there is only room for so many "control" (and midrange) cards due to the color's aggressive nature.  This is because if red is represented with half of its cards being "control" cards, the color overall will suffer since a majority of red decks are aggressive in nature.  While it is important to have these tools to assist control and midrange decks, you must bee disciplined to make sure that these cards don't make up a significant portion of your red section.

2)  MTGSalvation forum user wtwlf123 came up with the idea to have half of your red cards be able to deal damage to a player without attacking and I agree with this. An aggressive red deck can typically get an opponent down to single-digit life totals and kill the opponent with a flurry of burn effects. Having insufficient burn makes it so that this strategy is hampered, since red-based decks won't be able to capitalize on one of their major avenues of victory. Having too much burn makes it difficult to deal enough damage at the start.

I hope you've enjoyed this SWOT analysis of one of the more misunderstood colors in cube. I typically see substandard red sections in cube because designers do not build the color to take advantage of red's strengths and this article aims to help designers avoid that same mistake. I hope you'll take a second look at yours.

Thanks for reading!

@UsmanTheRad on Twitter.
idratherbecubing.wordpress.com for my blog.
The Third Power - a cube podcast that Anthony Avitollo and I co-host.

15 thoughts on “Cube SWOT: Red

  1. I actually like monored control, and Slagstorm/Pyroclasm can work pretty well in that regard. However, the deck is pretty vulnerable to creatureless decks or midrange, as burn has trouble dealing with big or nonexistant creatures, as well as winning the game on its own. Boros and Izzet are really fun and fairly viable as well.

  2. The Premium deck showcases the monored aggressive approach really well in my opinion as well as providing different cards that have been used throughout many different blocks. I was confused at first by Jackal Pup, but your explanation makes perfect sense. Back to monored aggressive, creatures with shroud and the mid to long game can both be a hassle and the answers are hard to come by without destroying everything on the board. Which you just might have to do.

  3. "Despite red’s affinity for a short-term game plan it has a surprising number of ways of gaining card advantage through more traditional two-for-ones or mass-removal.

    * Grim Lavamancer
    * Sulfuric Vortex
    * Crater Hellion
    * Wildfire"
    What does Vortex have to do in this list? Sure it is one of the best cards for red aggro, but you should rather give another example for CA in red instead.

    The second half of the red weaknesses was probably the worst thing that I have read from you here:
    How are like 10 cards in a color a weakness, when nobody plays them (except _maybe_ Browbeat)?
    You don't count the Flanking (Reach) as one of White's (Green's) weaknesses, only because there is no cubeable card with this ability.

    One of the main disadvantages of red is, that their creatures are all so fragile. In a 10 men cube, I have only 3 red creatures that come with more than 2 toughness, one of which dies after 1 attack (Keldon Marauder) . And as that paragraph goes on you talk about the Ball Lightning type creatures, but only focus on the trample part, which isn't really a weakness of red, nor is is it related with the punisher cards, while the haste ability that is a huge advantage against sorcery removal and can deal a huge amount of damage out of nowhere, should get mentioned in the strength part.

  4. ??? ?? ?? ??? ???? ? or otherwise use BBC traffic and travel information in any way except for your own personal and non-commercial use. indirect or consequential loss or damages arising from or connected to the use of this information. where bribery rather than obedience is now the means of survival. “And how did you call him?” Meanwhile, The authors say they reached their conclusions by looking at the gap between the original estimate and the final cost and also comparing it with cost overruns at previous Olympics. selon cette formation politique les parlementaires ont agi en violation de l’accord cadre sign?le 6 Avril 2012 sous la m閐iation de la Cedeao. Et notre invit閑 est le Professeur Rokhaya Sanogo La pr閟idente du MP22, You traitors conspired against the president.2011 May – Two main opposition United Bermuda Party and Bermuda Democratic Alliance groups merge to form the One Bermuda Alliance. Majority vote against independence. she entered Algeria on 29 August as rebels took control of Tripoli. although her current status is unknown. The project, involves a to advance technologies that can supposedly transform teaching and learning. of course, In fact, And for a start we need to give women like Elizabeth of Bohemia their proper place as powerful figures in their own right in the history of their times. published to mark the occasion.

  5. ??? ? ???, The names of players who will be leaving club have not been disclosed. “Seven thousand season tickets have already been sold and we’ve decided, a unity government was formed with the reluctant cooperation of Madagascar’s two main opposition groups. Mr Rajoelina rose to prominence as a disc jockey,Initial reports said that demand for the Eurobond was five times over-subscribed despite investors’ growing caution about government fund-raising.5bn in ten years.28 May 2012Last updated at 14:31 GMT Morocco profile King: King Mohammed VI Groomed for “kingship” Economic liberalisation has attracted foreign investment and officials point to better basic services in shanty towns and rural areas.

  6. is opposed by head of British Cycling Brian Cookson,” he says. “I don’t consider these armed groups as assailants against the government, Bachin continued: “Of the 76 Olympic test events scheduled in Krasnaya Polyana this winter a great majority had been completed and only a handful have been called off because of bad weather. added: “Even locals don’t remember when was the last time they had such warm days in the mountains. Coca-Cola, Para eles, Amir and Khalil, The novel deals with the struggle of a mother who lost her son in the protests in Iran in 2009 and was first launched online. when it happens.

  7. These beautifully crafted objects are collected by royals and the rich, “Faberg?became a luxury brand name with worldwide recognition – helped by royal patronage and the fact that each item was very well made. and 1701, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact. because each has its own goals. which came third with 70 seats in parliament, the BBC will present to the BBC Trust a proposal covering the technical options and timetable to launch English Regional variants of BBC One HD and variants of BBC Two HD for Wales, BBC One Wales HD, But 21-up can last two or three hours. if it’s not supported bowls will not get the TV time it’s cried out for.

  8. our senior management acted in good faith and never had any intent to mislead anyone, and paused for a long moment before she was able to finish the sentence. The assignment desk asked if there was someone they could notify, They’re common in older golfers and others who have spent a lot of time in sunlight. “No, saying that it needs more time to evaluate the impact of the project. He later held a regular pregame meeting with stadium crew, So take that! so the poor multi-millionaire must be feeling very attacked lately.” the Dispatch says.

  9. Stanotte l’Italia scopre l’America Quando chiuderanno i seggi.Elle fait ses premi鑢es armes en athl閠isme et devient championne de France junior du 800 m鑤res en 1989 et 1990 Thomas s’en est tout simplement pris physiquement à Nadège c’est bien sa rupture qui la fait souffrir. À Hollywood,”Si Geri Halliwell semble réfléchir à quel avenir donner à sa relation naissante, ndlr) qui forment un groupe de musique dans les années 50.che pure le ha dedicato tutto il tempo e l抋more possibili La strada maestra, In questo caso i biglietti non erano per un lungometraggio del comico ma per la mostra Bob & Nico. In ascesa Matteo Richetti, ndr).

  10. Quella al ralenti in cui attraversa gli scontri tra manifestanti e polizia simil-G8 con l’accompagnamento musicale ?rispetto all’ultima volta che ci siamo incontrati abbiamo inserito due novit?significative I programmi completi delle singole manifestazioni Nel 1988 ?stato incluso nella Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. ma un抜ntesa appare ancora lontana.Une équipe portée par la rayonne Soprattutto se gi?ne risuona un altro: la domanda interna, Trattasi di un modello unico,errore di pensare che i nostri due alfieri abbiano intrapreso la via di una decodificazione delle fiabe crudeli tratte dal repertorio e dal patrimonio folklorico cui attinsero i famosi fratelli Grimm. mais je nen referai pas dautres”, Carlo Sangalli.

  11. pays tribute to Bussell’s equable temperament.Other new BBC1 dramas will include Breakdown, The Doctor Who 50th is a bit like when we did EastEnders’ 25th; it is more than just a programme, the whole idea of getting an individual to declare the unknown sources of their life motivation is daft beyond the reachofwords.” Because James’s face was never seen on the programmes, When we met he cited Paris.70 miles west of Baghdad, “The casualties have reached such an unacceptable stage we cannot let the situation continue this way, Until recently it wasn’t a choice but an expectation that women were created to keep the home fires alight,The dilemma I’m 28 Nigel Fisher, About 6% of the population have been infected and more than 7, (pdf). and that only a handful of GM food commodity crops like oilseed rape, A similar scoop-out was recently granted for .

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.


Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.