Let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot to love in the red section of Battle for Zendikar. This set is odd, with half of the mythics being pretty bad and almost all of the rares being pretty bad. Are there bright spots? Yope. There sure are. Am I going to do all the red cards quickly and talk about other stuff I like at the end? Yope. You literally can’t stop me. If that bothers you, I don’t know, stop reading at the end of the red cards, I guess? I don’t know. Why don’t you want value? I blame poor parenting.
Let’s talk about the red cradz.
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It seems like Wizards has to put a garbage phoenix in every set until there are enough for a tribal phoenix deck, probably because someone in R&D lost a bet or got cursed by a gypsy or something. This is quickly outclassed by better flyers and is too mana-intensive to justify late. You have to trigger landfall for the privilege of paying six mana for a 3/3 flier you can’t block with? How about no?
This reprint has already lost 25 percent of its value and the set hasn’t even been released yet. This was $5 before it was reprinted, and while EDH and casual demand helped it climb up the teetering peaks of Valakut, it’s due for a fall to accompany its rise. Uhh… Lightning Bolt.
Stay away. For a while, anyway. But when this craters, this is still a card with upside, and it’s being reprinted at mythic rather than rare, which means it will eat less dust than Felidar Sovereign. This card’s price will recover. It won’t be $20 again, but it won’t be buyable for $3 at FNM forever, either. People will be fearful when this rotates. Be greedy then.
People think I don’t hate this card based on the review I did in the spoiler coverage. I like this card’s ability. Do I like this financially? I do not. This is a bulk rare. Dragons of Tarkir gave us playable dragons. This is just a drag.
“Hai guise we maid a wurse slagstorm your welcome”
–Wizrads of the Cost
I hate this card in its face. So many of the converge cards could have been actually good. Which deck wants this? We don’t have Slagstorm so we need to play substitutes if our decks require the effect, but how much damage are you going to take fixing your mana to ensure you have three different colors of mana on turn three to cast this turd? This is supposed to prevent you from dying, and three-or-more-color manabases aren’t known for being friendly to life totals. I want to call this a bulk rare because I hate it, but we could easily see multicolor decks emerge and use this, potentially with up to three or four copies. This is a $1 preorder, so the risk couldn’t be lower for this point in the set’s lifecycle. You have to decide whether you think risking the loss of 90 percent of your investment is worth the possibility that this hits $2 or $3. Could this be $10? It could. But do you think it will?
Zada, Hedron Grinder
I’m gun-shy here. I called Hangarback Walker a very, very good EDH card that I thought people should pick up when it hit bulk because EDH would push it up long-term. When my playability instincts are good and my finance instincts are bad, like in that case, it makes me gun-shy about calling cards I really, really like as bulk rares. I like Zada so much it makes my face hurt from smiling. This card is bonkers in EDH, so I guess buy Japanese foils?
The real question is whether this will be good in Standard, Modern, Legacy, etc. Legacy goblins really doesn’t necessarily play spells that buff dudes and it certainly doesn’t want a Hill Giant. Modern Goblins is possible, but again, you want to run a critical mass of guys and Piledriver your opponents out, and four-drops are bad in Vial decks. That basically leaves Standard. This can go in allies and goblins, which is pretty schweet. You throw this down, trigger a bunch of ally triggers, then Titan’s Strength and alpha strike. This also works in a pile of goblins and you get that with Hordeling Outburst, Dragon Fodder, et al.
This card is $2. You’re risking like $1.90 of that $2 preordering this. The ceiling for this if it’s as big a hit as Hangarback is like $15, but this can’t possibly be as widely-played as that. What I do think is that this could be a $5 card in the near future with some Standard play or in two years with EDH adoption. That’s my best guess, but I think I’ve shown I’m pretty bad at cards I really like. This is certainly a powerful ability and it has two chances to make an impact on Standard. That may be enough for it to go over $5 with only one of those decks hitting. Time will tell, but I have strong feelings about this card and I might wager $50 just to see how it goes. Am I trying to make amends to myself for Hangarback or investing in a card I believe in? Who knows? But I’m not a fortune teller and all I can do is back my own hunches.
Did you ever wish you could pay seven mana for Cone of Flame? But wait, there’s more! It doesn’t hit players, so you can’t play this if there are fewer than three targets on the board, so you may have to hit your own creatures. But wait, there’s more! It’s rare, so you won’t get it in Limited that often. This is a Limited-caliber card and I think it will be bulk accordingly. But at least they can’t Blue Elemental Blast it.
In some ways, this is a little better than Bosh, Iron Golem. The real problem is that while this is likely going in Bosh EDH decks because it can fling artifact creatures, this is pretty lackluster in Standard. A small butt for five mana and very few devoid creatures to choose from makes this awkward. Three mana to biff them with an Eldrazi Scion isn’t actually terrible, however. I still think this is a bulk rare, but I have been saying that about so many cards I’m starting to worry the money will have to come from somewhere. Will it be $60 planewalkers? Or $15 lands (I refuse to call them tango lands)? Still, durdly rares don’t do the heavy lifting regardless, so I guess this is a safe call at bulk, though I do like this in a narrow number of EDH situations. Doing 12 damage for nine mana with a Wurmcoil which you can Welder back into play is solid.
The rest of the red cards I’m going to discuss are non-rare. I like a few of them.
Crumble to Dust
If this set has as many 10-cent rares as I think it will, it’s going to have some $4 uncommons, or close to it. This could take a while to tick up, but only one red pip on Sowing Salt? Yes, please. The uncommons in this set are as surprisingly good as the rares are surprisingly bad.
Retreat to Valakut
This is no Retreat to Coralhelm, but this card can break games open. Red decks need reach sometimes, and making two creatures ineligible to block with a Bloodstained Mire is game, sometimes.
I was going to cover the cards I like in EDH, but I think I am going to cover those in a completely separate article (value!). Disagree with my assessments? Good. Let’s start a brouhaha in the comments section.