Is red dead?
Why i feel red has been weakened by recent editions
-By Graeme Taylor / Dead
As Urza's block prepares to disappear from Type II, and Invasion comes in, many people have been writing articles on how the loss of such greats as yawgmoth's bargain, Opalescence, Masticore, Morphling, Gaea's Cradle, Multani and so on will revolutionise the format and play philosophy in general- new decks will have to be found to fill the power vacuum. However, this is not really the place for tournament analysis- their are authors far better qualified than me to write about the end of Urza's and most of them already have. Instead, I thought I'd use the promise of a new edition to examine what several of our group have identified as a growing trend- the demise of red in comparison with other colours.
I remember a few years back a time when every other report was about how R&D obviously hated green. Few people would take that stance now Urza's and Masques have provided serious fat and the awesome mana acceleration to back it up. Apart from a few bloopers such as Mungha Wurm, green has found its place in the order of things- stompy. Red, however, has not faired so well.
I'm not suggesting that red has got no good cards in recent editions- that would be madness. I just feel that it is suffering a bit of an identity crisis- it's mechanics and characteristic playing styles don't have enough support or impact compared with other colours.
Red has always been the enemy of white, and they used to be able to hose each other in roughly equal amounts. But these days white has silver bullets for every situation- targetted removal of creatures, artifacts, enchantments, damage prevention, life gain, mass permanent removal. The rebel chain is evil. Red on the other hand still can't kill enchantments, lacks artifact control compared to white and simply can't generate more burn than white can life gain if you depend on recent sets.
In some ways black and red are meant to be similar- cheap, quick spells and creature removal, but limited control of enchantments or artifacts. Yet despite red damage being less redundant than black's removal as it can also be used on an opponent, with increasing amounts of green fat, seal of fire isn't enough whilst a seal of doom nuts anything. Red damage can be prevented, or regenerated from whilst black removal goes straight for the jugular. When you look at anti-player cards, black still has the advantage- whilst red deals damage that can be stopped by a COP or story circle, black causes straight life loss- and then gains that amount too. Comparing Lava Axe to Soul Feast is depressing- rhystic syphon more so. And now black has started to muscle in on land destruction too.
Red has always had problems with burn, as if you look at 6th edition the only X spells you find are Blaze, which is a sorcery, or Volcanic Geyser which is instant but costs R more. With so many targets to dispose of now, fireball would have been nice- but it's not there. Nor is there any way to deal with graveyard recursion or regeneration- both of which could be solved by bringing back disintegrate. But as Latulla shows, R&D isn't thinking like this- it's happy with blaze.
Other setbacks are the introduction of new mechanics of inferior quality to old. Firebreathing was never as good as shade +1/+1 pumping, but even that was preferable to flowstone, which we've been putting up with since rath cycle. Laccolith is reasonable, but evasion would be better- red used to have plenty of ways to make things unblockable- now you get the occasional over-costed flyer or low-toughness trampler. The increasing amounts of haste is encouraging- but in multiplayer you need more than a weenie-rush.
Red also has the weakest mana acceleration, presumably because it should be able to disrupt the opponent's mana development instead to even things out, rather than speed up its own. Yet the most dominant form of mana denial recently has been blue with rising waters, and new red land destruction is either expensive or self hurting as well.
However, all hope is not lost. The Invasion preview has already given us Skizzik, which as a 5/3 trample haste for 3R that buries at end of turn unless you pay a kicker cost of just R, shows much improvement- cheap evasion damage. It may not be ball lightning, but it's certainly better than gerrard's irregulars. I just hope the commons are of sufficient quality to stand up to the other colours and back great cards like this up. Hopefully the prerelease in a fortnight will prove this article wrong and elevate red to an equal standing with the other colours.