(Terror of the Peaks | Art by Andrey Kuzenskiy)
Heavy Light Floods the Landscape…
Welcome to the red portion of the Core 2021 EDHREC set review! Core 2021 the card quality in this set is simply amazing, from the new cards to the reprints. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get moving.
Chandra, Heart of Fire
Chandra, Heart of Fire starts off with an amazing plus ability, which makes her a more powerful version of Outpost Siege. The obvious downside is that planeswalkers are a much riskier permanent type. Not only that, but her other plus ability doesn’t help protect her, and is extremely lackluster. Her ultimate, however, is powerful and quite thematic. There are plenty of game-winning piles we can build, ranging from a combo-centric approach to a . Given her all-in nature, though, I doubt she’ll ever get to ultimate.
To sum it up, Chandra, Heart of Fire is an powerful draw engine for aggressive decks that are looking to dump their hands.
Here are some piles you could potentially try out with Chandra’s ultimate:
“Fair” big burn pile
Stuffy Doll Pile
Zada, Hedron Grinder‘s Daydream
- Fists of Flame
- Expedite/Crimson Wisps
- Temur Battle Rage/Unleash Fury
- Hordeling Outburst/Thatcher Revolt
- Krenko’s Command/Dragon Fodder
- Brightstone Ritual/Battle Hymn
Fiery Emancipation is an impressive card, especially when compared to other effects of this type, which are usually symmetrical, such as Dictate of the Twin Gods. Like previous damage multipliers, Fiery Emancipation suffers a bit from being board-dependent, which isn’t a good place to be with your six-mana “hey table, look at me” enchantment, but once we get past the investment, it proves to be an incredible accelerator.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is a commander that already accelerates, but with Fiery Emancipation out turns our cards become a pile of pure fire. Note that these effects won’t compound (the affected object chooses the order they’re applied) but it’s still a mind-numbing amount of damage.
Maelstrom Wanderer can Cascade into this card and deal lethal damage with just one swing. Neheb, the Eternal gets a whole lot more mana now. Mogis, God of Slaughter goes from being a pesky nuisance to a very short clock. Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer is an underappreciated Boros gem, and Fiery Emancipation allows him to have a powerful all in potential with just a few creatures. He can even one-hit K.O. someone with Voltron damage. If you like Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, she’s another great Boros option. Or just make your Purphoros, God of the Forge even more deadly!
Terror of the Peaks
Terror of the Peaks is a Warstorm Surge on a stick. On the one hand, it’s much more vulnerable to removal, but on the other hand, Terror of the Peaks can be targeted by Rite of Replication, can be Reanimated, or even be used as another finisher for Dragonstorm or Sarkhan Unbroken‘s ultimate. In the end, the added support that the creature typing provides proves to be well worth its risks.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar is a commander that enjoys cheating big dudes into play, so why not get even more value from our commander’s trigger? Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded loves doing the same, and Chainer, Nightmare Adept loves reanimation too.
Omnath, Locus of Rage already enjoys Warstorm Surge, its ability to pop out 5/5s gets pretty out of hand, especially when they deal damage both on their way in and out. Adding a tutorable copy of this effect might make the deck more consistent.
Oh, and of course: Dragon tribal decks love this til the end of time.
Brash Taunter is an improved version of Stuffy Doll, which was already seeing marginal improvements as new splashy damage-dealing cards came out over time. Being indestructible and not limited to only targeting one player makes Brash Taunter better than most of its competition. On top of that, it also has a good activated ability, which is a neat way to remove lower-toughness creatures, or to “tax” other players for playing high power creatures.
Archangel Avacyn is an example of a commander that can capitalize on the Stuffy Doll effect, and with a board wipe ability to boot. While she doesn’t provide support directly to Brash Taunter, she does add a lot of consistency by providing indestructible to the other creatures that have this type of ability.
Zo-Zu, the Punisher can utilize Brash Taunter‘s kit in a different way. Not only will we have a good blocker that punishes our opponents for attacking us, but it also helps lower life totals across multiple turns by fighting the biggest creature out there. Plus there’s always the upside of doing the damage-based board wipe, like Chain Reaction or Blasphemous Act, as a finisher. These tend to feature prominently in decks like Firesong and Sunspeaker or Queen Marchesa, so give them a look too!
Chandra’s Incinerator is a powerful control tool for decks that don’t want to slow down with their noncombat damage sources. This is an impressive ability, which ‘doubles’ our damage output by aiming it at creatures we don’t want coming our way. There are lots of commanders out there like Nekusar, the Mindrazer that can deal a ton of noncombat damage and could use the extra control element.
Vial Smasher, the Fierce simply loves Chandra’s Incinerator. While the cost reduction won’t really benefit us with her trigger it’s still a cheap card that turns our face burn into removal. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell can also make great use here.
Mogis, God of Slaughter is also all about the damage to enemies, and probably wants a way to keep them from attacking him after all that pain he’s brought.
Syr Carah, the Bold is a fun build-around commander that wants to do a lot of damage through noncombat sources to get more impulse draws. Chandra’s Incinerator allows the deck to be a lot more defensive while maintaining the same speed and, more importantly, it saves on cards.
Conspicuous Snoop is a Goblin tribal Future Sight effect that also works as a combo piece. This is impressive, so impressive that even if we ignore the combo aspect of the card it’s still a good deal for only two mana. The added combo is just the cherry on top; if you get a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker on top of your library, you can make infinite snoops! Use cards like Goblin Recruiter or Boggart Harbinger to make this a reality, and it can all be done on turn three!
Double Vision is a cheaper alternative to Swarm Intelligence effects, that being said it’s also a bit more wonky since, unlike its counterpart, we only get one spell copied a turn, which means that we need to make it count. Riku of Two Reflections or Kalamax, the Stormsire might like these as ways to double the individual spells they put the most effort into casting each turn.
Double Vision fills a small niche since it’s the only pure red enchantment of its kind, opening the door for some nonblue Spellslinger lists to have a bit more consistency when doubling spells (although I still think spells like Bonus Round and Fury Storm are much more effective for that). Overall I’m not a big fan of these type of effects, since they tend to be a bit ‘win more,’ but the price reduction and its mono-color identity might just be what it takes to make it work.
Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
The first new legendary creature we’re going to discuss is Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge. For three mana, we have an aggressive body with built-in evasion and a way to generate mana. What’s the catch? To get it in the red zone, we need to have at least four Treasure tokens.
That seems like a drawback, but honestly, focusing too heavily on making Gadrak able to attack is a trap. We instead just need to evaluate it as a way to generate Treasure tokens.
As a commander Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, fits into an aristocrat role, probably leaning towards artifacts and their synergy with destroying others to fuel some effect.
This are some example of cards that care about artifacts entering or leaving the field. We can sacrifice utility creatures like Myr Retriever or Scrap Trawler to get more Treasure tokens, and then use those tokens either to accelerate our game, or to pay off effects like Trash for Treasure.
In the 99, Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge is much more flexible and is able to go into many different shells.
Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer lists are probably going to look pretty similar to a Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge artifact list, except that Gadrak might want to carry a few extra artifact creatures just to be sure to have enough bodies to sacrifice. Korvold, Fae-Cursed King is also absolutely bonkers with Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge out, how does drawing two cards for each creature that we sacrifice sounds?
Marchesa, the Black Rose really can appreciate the extra mana and let’s be frank, it’s not like our creatures are staying dead for too long.
Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner
Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner is quite a unique commander. At first, her kit might seem a bit conflicted, since she wants lots of small creatures to trigger her second activated ability, but that makes the first ability a bit irrelevant, since we’re already getting past blockers by simply flooding the board. However, when considering that we can make key creatures unblockable, like Master of Cruelties, is that we can see that her kit start making sense. Her first ability isn’t as effective in mono Red as it’s when paired with others, but even so it’s nice to have the option.
As a commander, Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner will be played very similar to Purphoros, God of the Forge, playing tons of small creatures (probably tokens). The biggest difference will be how the deck feels. Subira will see more a lot more cards, giving some protection against board wipes, where Purphoros, God of the Forge is a lot more explosive.
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden already wants to fill his deck with low power creatures, so having this amazing draw effect is great on grindier games. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner also allow us to consistently swing with some of our creatures, although that mana might be better spent activating Grenzo.
It’s that time in the spoiler season, so grab your bingo card, because we’ve definitely hit the phrase, “This is going into my Alesha deck.” Here we get a bit more mileage out of the first ability, but still we can appreciate the big card draw boost and even the discard cost, to some extent.
Transmogrify is a red color-shifted Polymorph, which is a bit underwhelming considering recent competition. Let’s take a quick look at some similar effects to see how Transmogrify will fare against them.
As you can see, with each new take on Polymorph, we get something unique. Divergent Transformations can fish out two-cards combos, Indomitable Creativity cares about artifacts, and Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast is easier to build around and sticks around after the first activation. Playing Transmogrify feels like playing Naturalize: it’s the baseline, but there’s probably a better option out there.
Uncommons and Commons
Not being a Wizard is a shame, but overall Kinetic Augur is solid in aggressive Spellslinger lists. Its ETB does a good Seasoned Pyromancer impression and allows it to have some guaranteed value even if it were to be removed. Having trample is also a nice bonus, and it makes him a late game threat, but its low toughness will means that it can be traded quite easily.
Unleash Fury is powerful. It’s Berserk without downsides! Its obvious competition is Temur Battle Rage, which functions similarly but also gives trample. Unleash Fury, however, has the added benefit of stacking with double strike effects, which means higher highs but also lower lows. Dedicated lists like Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest and Feather, the Redeemed will naturally fit Unleash Fury, however outside of those dedicated decks, it’s much easier to slot Temur Battle Rage, so I doubt that Unleash Fury will see much more play.
Goblin Wizardry is a deceptively powerful card. If Monastery Mentor has taught us anything, it’s that Prowess tokens grow fast in Spellslinger shells. Being an instant is great since it can be copied with Reverberate effects, is tutorable with Mystical Tutor, and can be replayed with Past in Flames. Will Goblin Wizardry be a new overpowered win con? Not by any mean, but it’s certainly an interesting addition to decks that are packed with this type of effect, like Zada, Hedron Grinder.
Cloaking Everything In Deep Crimson
This concludes the red portion of this set review! We’ve got some real treats this set, right? My favorite card was probably Fiery Emancipation because of its sheer power, but I do love to Blasphemous Act my own creatures sometimes, so Brash Taunter got me covered too.
Now I want to hear from you! What are your impressions of the set, and where would you put these new toys? Which cards are you most excited for? Let me know in the comments below!