Pauper Cube: Red

Written by Ezra Sassaman on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Pauper Cube: Red

Ezra Sassaman

Ezra Sassaman has been playing Magic since he got a sweet Ravnica theme deck for his 12th birthday. Since then, he has been an avid follower of all aspects of the game. In his free time, he enjoys Cube-drafting with his friends in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Last week, we talked about the versatile color black and its role in the Pauper Cube. This week, we’re continuing with the super-aggressive color red!

What does red want to do in Pauper Cube? As usual, I will divide this question into four sections: The Aggressive Plan, The Defensive Plan, Repeatable Effects and Card Advantage, and Red Color Pairs.

The Aggressive Plan

Aggro is where the color red shines. The most iconic red card is Lightning Bolt and luckily for Pauper Cube, it’s a common! Since this card’s printing in Alpha, there have been common variants of this card in many sets. Lightning Bolt-style cards are at their best in aggressive decks, as they can be used to remove blocker and deal damage directly to your opponent. Some burn spells like Lash Out, Searing Blaze, and Staggershock have the potential to remove a blocker and deal direct damage to your opponent as well. Just like other colors, a red aggro deck seeks to play cheap creatures with a good cost-to-power ratio in the early game. The red Pauper two-drop slot has mana-efficient threats like Gore-House Chainwalker, Aether Chaser, and Thriving Grubs that all represent at least three power for only two mana. If your early creatures can get in for some damage, burn spells like Flame Rift and Brimstone Volley can eliminate your opponent’s life total in big chunks. Unlike in black or white aggro decks, combat damage is not as important. A red aggro deck will often only deal the first half of its damage with creatures and use direct damage spells to deal the second half. That way, opposing blockers in the middle and late game are not as big of an issue for the red aggro player. Some red burn decks do not even play many creatures at all, and the creatures they do play often deal a few damage and sacrifice themselves. If you have all burn spells and cards like Spark Elemental and Zektar Shrine Expedition, sorcery-speed removal cards are “dead cards” against you! This will leave opposing control players frustrated with cards like Chainer’s Edict or Journey to Nowhere stuck in their hands, unable to stop your hasty threats. There are not many good ways to stop a deck that deals direct damage to the opponent’s face!

The Defensive Plan

Although red is the most aggressive color, one advantage of burn spells is that they also function as an efficient way to kill opposing threats. Control decks often struggle to compete in the early game, and that’s where having access to cards like Firebolt and Flame Slash can mean the difference between surviving a quick onslaught of attackers and falling behind. Using only one mana to kill a creature or gaining card advantage in the middle game with Arc Lightning or Pyrotechnics are aspects of the color red that fit well into a control strategy. Although red alone does not necessarily have many cards specifically tailored for control, a slower deck with red as one of its colors can certainly be competitive. Also, direct damage allows control decks to attack from unexpected angles that would not be available without the color red. A control deck might have more cards in hand and more lands on board than the opponent, but have no good way to close out the game. In situations like this, burn spells act as removal that also give control decks a way to win out of nowhere. Drawing lots of removal spells like Doom Blade or Pacifism can’t kill an opponent at ten life, but drawing lots of red direct damage spells can. If you can survive to the late game, having an abundance of mana does allow red to take advantage of powerhouses like Fireball, Rolling Thunder, and Vildin-Pack Outcast, cards that can easily end the game on their own.

Repeatable Effects and Card Advantage

Most of red’s repeatable effects involve doing what the color does best: aggressively going after the opponent’s life total. In creature form, cards like Kiln Fiend, Thermo-Alchemist, and Cinder Pyromancer allow burn spells to pack an extra punch and let you “combo off” by casting lots of cheap instants and sorceries to deal a crazy amount of damage! Another red specialty are “pingers”, creatures you can tap to deal one damage each turn. Cards like Vithian Stinger and Spikeshot Goblin, if left unchecked, can make your opponent unable to stick creatures with low toughness on the battlefield. For aggro decks, cards like Raid Bombardment and Impact Tremors can pair well with cheap creatures or creature tokens to provide a steady source of damage. Speaking of creature tokens, red is the color of goblins, and cards like Mogg War Marshal, Beetleback Chief, and Empty the Warrens can overwhelm the board with these little nuisances! In terms of card advantage and creating two-for-ones, red has creatures like Skirk Marauder and Ghitu Slinger, which can remove an opponent’s creature while leaving behind a body for you to attack and block with.

Red Color Pairs

Red-Green

This is the last color pair. The typical red-green deck is “Stompy”, a deck which tries to stomp all over the opponent using sizable creatures like Kird Ape and Scab-Clan Mauler, green pump spells, and red direct damage spells. This is the perfect strategy for beginning players, as the game plan is very straightforward. Red and green are not known for trickery and deception: you know exactly what they are here to do, and that’s crush your opponent with cards like Rancor, Moldervine Cloak, Keldon Marauders, and Blastoderm! One great interaction between specific red and green cards involves Nightshade Peddler’s ability to use Soulbond and pair with one of your red “pingers”. Playing the Peddler on turn two and a card like Vulshok Sorcerer on turn three allows you to use the pinger to take down your opponent’s creatures one by one, regardless of their size. Also, putting a Presence of Gond on red creatures that get to untap all the time, like Thermo-Alchemist and Cinder Pyromancer, allows you to make many elf tokens a turn! Playing green and red together allow you to create tons of tokens in general, which can make cards like Raid Bombardment and Impact Tremors even better. Imagine what happens if you have an Impact Tremors on the board and you start casting Sprout Swarm over and over again! Finally, Spikeshot Goblin has great synergy with green pump spells, especially permanent ones. If you enchant the Goblin with Rancor or Elephant Guide, that’s when the fun really starts! You can even deal huge amounts of direct damage to your opponent every turn if you assemble this combo.

Thanks for reading! See you next week when we talk about green and splashing extra colors.

As always, feel free to comment and check out my pauper cube list.

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