Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Set Review - Red
(Inferno of the Star Mounts | Art by Jesper Ejsing)
Red Rushes In
Well, here we are again! It's always such a pleasure. Red can sometimes be a weird color in the slow format of EDH, given that its goal is usually to kill quickly, but of course that hasn't stopped people from trying to burn out their opponents before the inevitable archenemy dogpile. The popularity of the format has pushed the boundaries of red card design in recent years, which makes it rather ironic that the two most powerful cards we'll find in this article are the ones that just deal a bunch of damage! That's not to say I'm disappointed, there's some very cool weird stuff in here. Let's get started!
If you've got one of them there sacrifice decks that generates value through pieces like Ashnod's Altar and Mayhem Devil, you'll probably be happy to see this. Juri, Master of the Revue players (all 200 of you), rejoice! This card is slightly worse than Reassembling Skeleton in terms of efficiency, but it's worth noting that it's much safer if you can't afford to bring it back out immediately, given that it sits in exile instead of the 'yard on your opponent's turns. That means the only thing putting it permanently out of commission is instant-speed graveyard hate (probably visible from a mile off, given that Relic of Progenitus and Tormod's Crypt need to be played at sorcery speed first), or you, yourself, if Flameskull's ability exiles something you just can't bear to lose.
So yes, the bottom line is that in most cases, this is a slightly worse Squee, the Immortal, but a little redundancy never hurt anybody.
Inferno of the Star Mounts
That burning sound you hear is the sound of a thousand Neheb, the Eternal players setting their neighbors' houses on fire in excitement. Assuming you get that ability all the way up (you will), it's far more efficient than any single-target X burn spell, and is only really outclassed in mana-in-damage-out terms by multi-target hitters like Comet Storm or Jaya's Immolating Inferno. That's a pretty high bar considering that this is repeatable (more on that below)! Dragon tribal decks running Mana Geyser to pay for Dragonstorm will be happy to have another tribally consistent payoff for all that mana, and, honestly, that probably goes for most decks running Mana Geyser.
So, we've established that if you're already dumping all your red mana in a hole, this is fairly solid bang for buck, but what if we wanted even more bang for even less buck? Running this with Xenagos, God of Revels (or any other power-doubler) lets you pop it off at a heavily reduced cost. Activate the ability three times, wait for combat (or play Unleash Fury/whatever you're using), then activate twice more to apply your Discount Dragon Deal. For a simpler path with Inferno himself in the command zone, I recommend an Equipment build for cheap activations on everyone else's turns.
Finally, if we feel like straying into the 'X-treme Johnny Christmasland' territory that this card frankly feels VERY designed for, this goes absolutely nuts once you get a stack of +1/+1 counters on it (it's EDH, life finds a way) and then toss down a Hex Parasite or Ion Storm. Now you can pay 3 mana to deal 20 damage to any target as many times as you please, which is what we in the biz call "Magic as Richard Garfield intended".
Zariel, Archduke of Avernus
For a long time, mono-red planeswalkers were basically all just "we know how to make mana, do impulse draw, discard cards, deal hot damage, and die", so I'm glad to see the boundaries pushed here. Four mana for a haste-enabler with upside is pretty standard (see Ogre Battledriver), and the upside on this is... fine? I can see sacrifice decks getting a kick out of the Devil token, and I guess it's not bad if you need more board in a pinch. As far as the ult goes, surviving two rotations around the table isn't too bad, and that emblem could definitely put in some work if you throw this in a Boros build with Brave the Sands or what have you. Outside of that, a Voltron deck running some incidental Proliferate cards could maybe find a home for this; Krenko, Tin-Street Kingpin does run Seize the Day. Overall, kind of a weird toolbox, but it's good enough at most of the stuff it's doing to maybe be worth taking a look at.
Delina, Wild Mage
This card could probably fit nicely into lists that run Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker to abuse enters-the-battlefield cards like Mindclaw Shaman and Solemn Simulacrum, as long as you've got a way to protect her when she swings. The new Rionya, Fire Dancer has tons of great cards to copy. Existing cards that make nonlegendary clones (Spark Double, Helm of the Host, etc.) can't make more than one at a time, but those copies also don't cease to exist after the combat step. With that in mind, try targeting Gishath, Sun's Avatar with her ability, or Medomai the Ageless in a Jeskai list if you want your opponents to really hate you! I can't even fathom how much extra damage this could pile on when it makes an additional copy or two of Saskia, the Unyielding, and commanders that buff up other creatures, like Hofri Ghostforge, or even ones that buff themselves, like Greven, Predator Captain, are really keen on this ability to help add in tons more damage.
If you need some ideas for protecting her in combat, might I recommend Archetype of Imagination or some similar form of evasion? With Port Razer, you'll win the game on the spot.
The fact that this card only targets creatures or planeswalkers puts it in that less-than-exciting camp where most similar burn spells fall in EDH. It's efficient enough that Toralf, God of Fury could probably use it, and commanders like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Zo-Zu the Punisher (i.e., any deck running a high density of cards like Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods) might get some decent value out of it in a pinch. Mogis, God of Slaughter and Kaervek the Merciless already have black and will probably pass here, unless they're already running Hex and really need more multi-target removal (Kaervek doesn't).
Side note: if you have any fun stories of actually casting the D&D version of Meteor Swarm in a real game, with a character you raised from level 1, please put it in the comments! Every playgroup I join falls apart after a month.
Minion of the Mighty
A potential inclusion for Dragon lists, but I think this looks a lot more exciting than it winds up being in practice. The key factor here is that you already need Dragons on the field to cheat more out. The effective haste it grants is nothing to sneeze at, but realistically this will put out one, maaaaybe two Dragons if you're exceptionally lucky before 1) the board wipe comes down, 2) you run out of Dragons in your hand, or, most likely, 3) your opponent blocks it with any two creatures. If none of these happen, you were probably going to win without it. I would love to be proven wrong here, but I think Dragon decks are already stuffed enough that the Minion won't put in the amount of work it initially looks like it could do.
Orb of Dragonkind
Just what the Dragon Doctor ordered! (Yes, Dragon Doctor is a real job.) If you're already running Sarkhan, Fireblood (see? I told you. He's definitely a Dragon Doctor) in your Dragon deck, you should run this. You should probably run this even if you don't run Sarkhan, given that this card almost entirely negates the downsides of Dragon-specific mana. And if you don't have any Dragons in hand to use it on, it can go get one! Playing this and cracking it immediately is totally respectable, if a little disappointing, but cracking it after you've emptied your hand of Dragons is straight fire.
65% of The Ur-Dragon decks play Dragonspeaker Shaman, and most other Dragon Tribal decks play it at an even higher rate. The numbers look almost exactly the same for Dragonlord's Servant. Between this and Dragon's Hoard, there are lots of cool mana acceleration options for these decks to use. It's a Dragon Signet! Eat your hearts out, you terrific scaly beasts.
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
I could talk about weird Goblin builds. I could talk about wild untap synergies, messing around with damage-doublers and Grafted Exoskeleton Infect shenanigans. I could talk about any of these things, but it won't matter, because by the time I finish, Krenko, Mob Boss will have sent this new Hobgoblin muscle to take me out, burninate every last one one of my commander decks, and bribe the Azorius enforcers in six neighboring districts to ensure my remains are never found. Send with priority shipping to Krenko, Mob Boss (or run it in a different Goblin deck, I'm not your dad).
Though the self-evident "run this with stuff that makes Treasure" clause obviously applies, I'll add a due reminder that this is far better with triggered abilities that repeat, like Storm-Kiln Artist and Smothering Tithe, than it is with big payloads, like Dockside Extortionist and Brass's Bounty. I've seen some silly stuff with the new Tavern Scoundrel, I bet he'd get along with this guy. You probably need to be dedicated to a Treasure-specific deck to run this card, or your commander needs to make Treasure, like Magda, Brazen Outlaw, but when you do meet those conditions, this card will be great fun.
Zalto, Fire Giant Duke
In the 99, I'd say this guy is maybe a niche pick for some Enrage decks with Pyrohemia shenanigans. I don't think we'll see much of ol' Zalto. I'm honestly more excited about the players out there who will put this guy in the command zone and base their whole deck around making him indestructible with Darksteel Plate, chaining a bunch of spells to up the Storm count, and using a Grapeshot to speed-run seven dungeons at once, all so they can get less value than they would have gotten if they'd just sent all that damage at someone's face. Man... Commander is so awesome.
Uncommons and Commons
- Barbarian Class is just worse Fervor in any non-silver-bordered deck made before this set, but Farideh, Devil's Chosen and Delina, Wild Mage will be all over it.
- Boots of Speed is a strictly better Crystal Slipper, which is played in over 1,000 decks, so I'm sure you'll see this around.
- Chaos Channeler seems like a respectable source of card draw for mono-red or Boros builds that are really hurting for it. Obviously, toss it in the dice-rolling decks.
- Dragon's Fire does seem like a shoo-in for Dragon builds, but I feel compelled to point out that Dragons themselves are already very good at removing creatures, between Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, Scourge of Valkas, and many others, so it's possible this won't be worth the slot in a lot of cases.
- Earth-Cult Elemental is a little clunky, but I have to imagine there's a Korvold, Fae-Cursed King player or two running Feldon of the Third Path to reanimate their Solemn Simulacrum and whatnot, so they might have some fun with this fella..
- Kick in the Door has quite a lot of text for a one-mana sorcery, and could potentially make the cut in Feather, the Redeemed.
- Plundering Barbarian is just flexible enough to maybe see some play in Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker- or Delina, Wild Mage-style "flicker" decks.
- Tiger-Tribe Hunter is pretty much just worse Surtland Flinger (though it does have trample), but if your deck really, really, really likes to Fling, maybe think about using this one.
Ministry of Silly Cards
That's our show, thank you so much for watching! Any fun uses for these cards that I missed? Do you disagree with any of my assessments here? Is my Dragonology degree in dispute, should I be disgracefully disbarred? Let me know!
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