Prepare for the Theros: Beyond Death Limited Sealed and Booster Draft in the Magic: The Gathering color, Red.
A first look at Limited Draft competitive play took place at MagicFest Austin, with some of the best MTG players from around the world playing Theros: Beyond Death (THB) Booster Draft for the first time. Based on first impressions, Red is a solid color to pick from when crafting Aggro (White and Red) or Sacrifice (Black and Red).
Unlike cards in the other colors, Red doesn’t favor the Devotion mechanic. It does have a handful of creatures with Escape, a mechanic that proved itself worthy in a Limited format over the weekend during the Team Series Final at MagicFest Austin.
The following list of best and worst Red cards to play in the MTG Limited format has been broken down according to rarity, from Common to Mythic Rare. The ratings for these cards are subjective and based on first impressions.
Best and worst Common Red
There are a total of 19 Common Red cards in the THB set, with a majority of them favoring either an Aggro or Sacrifice type build. Several of these are worthy of honorable mentions, like Incendiary Oracle, a solid 2/2 two-drop with an instant combat trick upside.
In a Sacrifice build, Final Flare is decently priced removal that can take out those pesky big creatures. But in any other type of build, losing a creature isn’t worth the cost. There’s also Flummoxed Cyclops, who has the downside of not being able to block when two or more creatures are attacking you. It’s worth picking because he’s a 4/4 that’s a four-drop.
Some players should consider picking up Oread of Mountain’s Blaze and Thrill of Possibility. Most often, these cards aren’t good in a Limited format, but with the Escape mechanic proving effective, discarding to draw just raised its game.
Omen of the Forge (best)
At the low cost of two mana for an enchantment that triggers Constellation and deals two damage, Omen of the Forge is a solid pick. It’s not a bomb, but Omen of the Forge is packed with value that shouldn’t be passed by.
Underworld Rage-Hound (best)
Underworld Rage-Hound doesn’t seem like anything other than an average pick on its surface, but he fits solidly in both an Aggro and Sacrifice build. Underworld Rage-Hound has a moderately priced Escape cost, returning with a +1/+1 counter. He can take out an imposing threat or attack for early Aggro damage, and then return with a counter later in the match to do the same.
Iroas’s Blessing (best)
Some Auras, like Iroas’s Blessing, are worth taking a risk. It’s a four-drop that can deal four damage and pump a creature, as long as the creature remains on the battlefield. In a Red-Aggro type build, finding a creature for Iroas’s Blessing shouldn’t be much of a problem,
Common Red THB cards to avoid playing, despite potentially being enticed, include a large beast with horrible stats, Nyxborn Brute. Also avoid Satyrs Cunning, even in a Sacrifice build. Stay away from Portent of Betrayal, unless you’re specifically crafting a BR Sacrifice deck.
Best and worst Uncommon Red
The 13 Uncommon cards in Red are a hodgepodge of situational good cards. Anax, Hardened in the Forge and Blood Aspirant, for example, work great in a Sacrifice build but are filler otherwise. The same goes for The Triumph of Anax, a saga that’s too slow and doesn’t work with Heroic, but can win a game during a board stall.
Dreamstalker Manticore (best)
It may not appear like a top pick but Dreamstalker Manticore triggers Constellation and has solid stats. Its upside is somewhat lackluster, but it can take out a power four creature and then be used as fuel for Escape creatures later in the match.
Careless Celebrant is simply a solid all-around pick. It’s a two-drop that’s a 2/1 who deals two damage upon death. It has a good amount of value while on the battlefield and when departing the board, and it’s fuel for Escape beyond death.
Good removal cards are always worth grabbing and Fateful End is a solid three for three at Instant speed. As an added bonus, you also get to Scry one.
The worst Ucommons in Red are like the honorable mentions, with the exception of Escape Velocity, which is useful at times or utterly worthless. Underworld Fires is optimal in a sideboard against another Aggro build, but a waste of space otherwise. Impending Doom is a great Aura to slap on a creature with evasion, but on any other creature, it’s totally pointless. Escape Velocity is simply a bad card, however, no matter how you look at it.
Best and worst Rare and Mythic Rare Red
Of the 11 Rare and Mythic Rare Red cards, some are great while others are above average—and several are downright awful. There are a couple of honorable mentions, though, like Ox of Aganos and Purphoros Intervention. The latter is mostly situational and the Ox of Aganos is great once it uses Escape.
Tectonic Giant is a bomb that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s everything a Red creature should be with solid stats and valuable upside. Tectonic Giant is a first pick that’s worth playing in Red.
Phoenix of Ash
While this card isn’t a bomb like Tectonic Giant, Phoenix of Ash is a solid top-pick that’s also exactly what a Red creature should be. It has evasion with a built-in combat trick, is a solid three-drop with haste, and has Escape.
Unlike the other best Rare cards, Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded isn’t as useful in Limited as he’ll likely be in Standard. But because he gives all creatures haste with his static ability and drops them from your hand to the battlefield for a low-cost mana ability, Purphoros is still a top-pick in Red.
The main problem with this powerful God is Devotion to Red is weak, especially in a Limited format. Purphoros won’t remain a creature for long—if he even becomes one. But his other abilities are too good to pass up.
There are several Rare Red cards that may have an enticing aspect to them but are worth avoiding in a Limited format. The Akroan War, for example, has little value. Its first chapter doesn’t provide the stolen creature with haste and doesn’t untap it. The other chapters require too many variables.
Underworld Breach is one of the most talked-about cards in THB but likely won’t have any type of impact within Limited. In a format that has 40 cards in a deck, as opposed to 60, there are only so many cards that can Escape the graveyard.
Storm’s Wrath is another THB card many players will top-pick but shouldn’t. It’s nothing more than sideboard removal and will bog down a four-drop spot if it’s put in the main deck.