Magic 2014 M14 Casual and Commander Review: Red

I am a red mage a heart, even after playing Magic for nearly two decades. Sure, I enjoy a cold, calculating control deck but that the end of the day, no play is more satisfying then tapping a Mountain and saying, “Bolt.” M14 follows the trend of new cards for Red, but also introduces some new and refined mechanics for my favorite color. As always, this review only covers new cards printed in M14, not reprints.

Magic 2014 (M14) Casual & Commander Review
White Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands

Academy Raider

The Red Ophidian, Academy Raider is a fascinating little common. While the power level isn’t quite good enough for the kitchen table (three mana for a 1/1? That isn’t happening.), I love the combat ability on this card. Red’s reverse looting is slowly building up and I really like the idea of being able to pitch a dead card in hopes of drawing something better. It’s just too bad that Academy Raider isn’t quite there.

Awaken the Ancient

Giving haste is a nice touch, but makes the card feel overpriced. A 7/7 for 4 and a land drop is decent, but this card really opens you up to too much 2-for-1 disadvantage. Against one player in limited formats, it’s a bomb, but when three or four turns may pass before you get your next untap step, it isn’t worth the risk.

Barrage of Expendables

I get it, Goblin Bombardment was way too powerful, but unless your deck needs a morbid trigger, Barrage of Expendables falls victim to the biggest challenge of the casual format: each card is competing against every other card ever.

Battle Sliver

A slightly bigger Bonesplitter Sliver, Battle Sliver is a decent creature in its own right by being a 5/3 for 5. For sliver decks, Bonesplitter will probably still be preferred but the one-sided nature makes it worth considering depending on your playgroup. For commander, it is an automatic consideration.

Blur Sliver

I don’t know what happened to the red slivers, but they’ve slowed way down! Heart Sliver is one of the originals and I love getting haste one turn earlier. Blur Sliver by itself isn’t awful, but it’s got some serious competition in the haste slot for sliver decks against Reflex and Firewake as well.

Burning Earth

Manabarbs for nonbasics is an exciting prospect, especially for me. At my table, nonbasic lands are running rampant and unchecked allowing for 4 or 5 color monstrousities to be battling it out. When I’m mono red, I’m usually running just mountains – and maybe a Hammerheim for good measure, so the idea of punishing the other players is very interesting. It’s super meta game dependent, but I’m glad Wizards is giving red mages a few more tools to keep multicolor in check.

Chandra, Pyromaster

I’ve tried to make each version of Chandra work at the kitchen table. Nalaar is hilariously bad, Ablaze makes Tibalt look a little better and Firebrand ended up being a subpar experience that worked better in non-red decks. Pyromaster though may finally be the four-drop red walker I want.

In multiplayer, the first ability isn’t as powerful as I would like since it doesn’t allow you to play any political games. Burning for one and one and no blocking is only okay. The zero ability really interests me as the one-shot, one-sided Howling Mine is a fascinating way to look at red card draw (way better than Ignorant Bliss). In my Jaya commander deck, I see the drawing being very valuable. Her final ability is an interesting ultimate but needs some building to make work. In red, too many of the big spells are either global or cost X, so getting it for free – and in multiples, isn’t always a benefit.

Cyclops Tyrant

Unless your Cyclops tribal deck is seriously missing a six-drop, don’t bother. But I love the literary allusion to The Odyssey here, it’s a flavor home run.

Dragon Egg

Clearly Wizards has given up on Rukh as a creature. Dragon Egg is a nice flavorful spell that really benefits from all of red’s board sweeping abilities. Getting a Furnace Whelp for 1 less mana though isn’t exactly a deal. And the fact that it doesn’t turn into a Dragon Hatchling is a flavor miss.

Fleshpulper Giant

There are better ways to spend 7 mana, even if you have a way to “abuse” this.

Goblin Diplomats

This is a multiplayer card! Being able to force any player try an alpha strike is insanely powerful. In multiplayer, it not only forces a player into an awkward position but can be used to weaken another player in a single move. This is what multiplayer cards are made for.

Marauding Maulhorn

A card referencing another card is neat, especially at common. A 5/3 that needs another card to keep it in check isn’t neat.

Mindsparker

I hate blue mages. I hate white mages. I especially hate blue-white mages. With all their thinking and deciding, they slow the game down way too much and Mindsparker might be the color hosing tool I have been looking for. It’s relatively cheap and keeps the pressure on in a way that just feels right.

Molten Birth

It’s almost like Wizards is trying to make coin flipping not automatically terrible. Making 1/1s and making getting a free buyback is a neat concept, but 1RR is a clunky cost for a deck that is almost definitely going to be UR.

Ogre Battledriver

This is one hell of a lord! I love Fires of Yavimaya to this day and this card scratches the same itch. Haste is a beautiful ability in multiplayer and the free power just makes it even better. Is it weird my first thought is “Red Infect?”

Regathan Firecat

This is still a bad vanilla.

Scourge of Valkas

Auto-include in Kaalia decks? Quite possibly if you take the dragon path. By itself, Scourge of Valkas isn’t anything special. But turning each dragon into a mini Bogardan Hellkite can be devastating. Add in fire breathing too and you’ve got a creature that needs to be dealt with… as long as you can cast it and have enough dragons to make it a real threat.

Seismic Stomp

Another Falter variant that isn’t terribly exciting and needs to be an instant for multiplayer to be fun.

Striking Sliver

Finally a sliver worth looking at! For such a common ability, first strike can really change the dynamic of battle. At one mana, Striking Sliver is a dangerous turn-1 drop that is made even better by the fact that there are now multiple pumping slivers to follow it up.

Thorncaster Sliver

The last sliver is incredible for multiplayer because it allows you to kill things not involved in your combat. Swinging with lethal against one player to then throw some thorns at the next allows the momentum to keep up in a big way. Even without haste, the fact that it happens each combat makes me think this will be a staple in Sliver decks from here on out.

Young Pyromancer

Whoa. This is good. Getting free tokens for doing what red decks do is a very nice cherry on top of each spell (or if you stack them, maybe four cherries). Young Pyromancer encourages red burn decks to keep burning while offering some decent defense on the ground. I love it.

Top 5 Red M14 Cards for Casual & Commander
5. Goblin Diplomats
4. Burning Earth
3. Chandra, Pyromaster
2. Ogre Battledriver
1. Young Pyromancer

The big change in M14 is the lack of big red spells in this set. There’s no Worldfire, Blasphemous Act or Chain Reaction this time around. Instead, there are just some really, really good creatures.

Magic 2014 (M14) Casual & Commander Review
White Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands