EDH Staples: Red
In a format where your commander will decide almost every detail of your deck, it is a bit strange to talk about staples. In fact there are examples of cards that could be considered “strictly weaker” than others that gain power with the right build (ie: Diabolic Intent vs Demonic Tutor in an Aristocrats style deck).
So in order to alleviate all your worrying, this article will only cover spells that can go into any Red deck, and only the cards that will increase the relative power of those decks. I am purposely avoiding overly expensive cards that do not vastly empower your deck here. I want to showcase affordable and effective additions to the majority of your decks. Even if you don’t put all of these cards into one deck, they are all fantastic additions to your collection. They will see play one way or another.
The colour of chaos and passion has a weird reputation in EDH: It’s either all in, or just support. You'll find yourself with full chaos decks, but not many decks that just dabble in chaos. The same is true for punisher effects and burn. But I think every game could a touch of chaos and pain (maybe that’s just the Rakdos in me), so here are some Red staples to keep your opponents on their toes.
Reaction and adaptation is essential in Commander, and sometimes the best way to react and adapt is to borrow other people’s work.
Dualcaster Mage functions as a Reverberate with a 2/2 body for one extra mana, which means they can be resurrected or flickered for additional triggers. You can steal extra turns, draw spells, removal, counterspells, even ramp! The wide range of effects you can steal makes this card essential.
If permanents are more your kind of thing Zealous Conscripts gives you a free use of that Birthing Pod or Gaea’s Cradle. There's also Treasure Nabber, which is new and criminally underused as a constant method of borrowing other player’s ramp. Coupling these effects with a sacrifice outlet adds a degree of finality to this “borrowing” concept.
I’m going to double down on this theme of theft in Red, which we'll use here as pseudo-card advantage. Etali, Primal Storm functions as a kind of “draw four” on attack and demands to be answered immediately for the same reason. On the other hand, Grenzo prefers a wide board of creatures to steal spells, or even goad throngs of creatures for your own benefit. Since those goaded creatures probably can’t block the next turn, it also means more free attacks and more free triggers.
Most of the time burn and direct damage isn’t exactly the most effective thing as the number of your opponents goes up. The goal here is to play cards that get better with more players around. Price of Progress is absolutely vicious and can easily do ten or more damage per player if everyone is heavy into multicolour, and is a fantastic target for Dualcaster Mage. Blasphemous Act also becomes much easier to cast with more players around, and 13 damage almost guarantees a full board clear.
Spicy and Powerful:
Sadly this last part is going to seem a little small, especially for Red, but the fact is I can’t in good faith drop some of the crazier red spells down here. While they might all be “spicy”, few of them are powerful. So instead I put in two of my favourites plus a bonus.
This is a great card. The flavour text alone is worth the inclusion. But once you realize that for four mana you can do upwards of six damage to each player a turn, in addition to having access to cards like Price of Progress, you’ve got a recipe for success and violence. If you have any players around that abuse extra turns or repeatedly tapping and untapping lands, Manabarbs is there for you. Just make sure you have mana generation from other sources to mitigate the damage you take.
On the other hand, War’s Toll works to limit your opponent’s choices and force them to play badly. Every action is now a commitment, and you are now limiting efficiency and creating weaknesses to exploit. I really recommend playing with this card once to really understand the power it delivers.
I mean, come on. Why is it that people forget how powerful this card is? There are so many imitators, so many competitors, but outshining them all is the beautiful, the wonderful, the irreplaceable bolt. What a dream. Hit those early mana dorks, kill smaller commanders, kill players, even counter spells with it! (provided that the owner of the spell has three or less health.) Never hesitate in delivering that raw shock of power and emotion to someone’s face in response to a divisive play, or just because. Goodness I love this card.
Top Ten Red Cards for Any EDH Deck:
- Lightning Bolt
- War’s Toll
- Zealous Conscripts
- Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- Price of Progress
- Treasure Nabber
- Dualcaster Mage
- Etali, Primal Storm
- Blasphemous Act