View Full Version : Let's talk strategy: RED

Unhinged Manchild
January 1st, 2023, 11:50 PM
The midway point of my AotP color discussion series - red! IMO red often has the absolutely swingiest (my device is discriminating against me and telling me that's not a word) games. They can completely dominate by rolling well on 2 or 3 key attack rolls, but if they repeatedly roll less than average or if they are denied the chance to roll against big threats at all, they can be steamrolled due to general low range, low life, and low toughness. Red's creatures are all range 1, quite similar to black and white, although red has higher mobility and more movement options. Also, red's Planeswalkers all have the option of ranged attacks, and I think each of red's Planeswalkers are powerful enough in their own way.

I worked very hard on yet another tremendous success of a YouTube video which reviews pretty much everything you could ever ask for about AotP's red. Watch the first 7 minutes for my general consensus on red's strategy:


Tier list for red's spell cards:

Best spell

Twinflame (15, AoP) – No red card makes me hotter than this one. This card is potentially game-ending if you can force your opponent’s Planeswalker to be on the receiving end of the attack. This is a strong contender for best spell in AotP. TF with 4 (or more) attack dice is fear-inducing, especially due to how swingy it is. Just thinking about it is causing my PTSD to flare. TF, Seize the Day, Firebreathing, and Power of Fire are basically red’s fantastic four spells. This scores above Seize the Day because it does not have the requirement to target a red squad – TF is absolutely devastating when used in an Arlinn build with a double-attacking Kessig Ranger as the beneficiary, or even on a Pummelroot if engagement can be established.

High (7 spells)

Seize the Day (10, AoP) – Such a good card, taking another move and attack with a creature can mount so much pressure in one turn, especially combined with red’s other fantastic four spells. This and TF 100% belong in every red build that has even a single red squad card in it. If you can start your normal turn with a red squad, play TF on one of them, and then play StD on that same figure to get a second TF-boosted attack, you will likely inflict some serious damage. As noted above, if this card didn’t have the red color requirement for the target squaddie, it would probably be my choice for red’s best card.

Firebreathing (30, AoP) – Getting +2 power against adjacent figures works for all of red’s squads because they are all range 1 anyway. In the case of Arlinn, it works well for Pummelroots, Wardens, and Kessig-Wolves. Nahiri’s white melee squads are also savage with FB. Firecats especially appreciate this enchantment because it sincerely helps them consistently meet the requirement for Intense Strike’s roll 2 get 1 free.

Power of Fire (20, AoP) – +1 power is universally appreciated by all squads regardless of their range. In a strict red build, PoF is a poor man’s FB, but still very usable. For Arlinn builds, the Kessigs and Elf Rangers can certainly make good use of PoF.

Stoke the Flames (15, AoP) – A 4-space aura of +1 attack makes it dangerous for enemies to end turn near your red PW while you still have creatures in play or haste creatures in reserve. This card can buff your creatures’ haste attacks if those creatures are summoned within 4 of your PW, which makes this card much stronger if you are using Firecats and Mad Prophet, due to how hard it can be to buff haste attacks otherwise. Arlinn with rangers can make great use of this aura due to the flexibility offered by their high range which should enable them to remain in the aura pretty consistently.

Senseless Rage (20, SOI) – This is one extremely flexible card; not only can you play it on one of your squads or heroes, but you could instead choose to enchant one of your allies or even an enemy squad/hero with it! Yes, you can use it defensively if you had enchanted an opponent squad with it and you feel that you will have better luck rolling less crossed weapons than whatever your opponent just rolled for their SR-enchanted creature. Offensively, this card is passable enough to replace one of red’s fantastic four spells if you want/need to attempt a game-closing play, because SR will help guarantee that your dice roll at least 50% crossed swords, and your TF-buffed squaddie getting more crossed swords means lots of extra hit output. Burny kitties like SR to help them with IS' roll 2 get 1 free requirement. Basically, offensive use of SR helps you get consistently more hits for your creatures, while defensive use of SR helps ensure that your opponent gets consistently less hits; this is an annoying handicap on an opponent hero especially if that hero is one of the opponent’s core wincons.

Circle of Flame (5, AoP) – Cards that deal true damage to figures (Planeswalkers!) are tough to find, especially at the insane value of 5 points. The conditions required to fire this one off are a drag, but they should be relatively easy to meet for most red decks because of red’s sheer reliance on range 1 creatures (outside of Arlinn builds with rangers.) When used in combo with Pyroclasm, you can potentially surprise an opponent’s PW with 2 quick points of damage! It might be hard to consistently get this to work against an opposing PW, and excluding the potential to hit a PW with it, CoF is not very special, but definitely very splashable.

Chandra’s Fury (10, AoP) – Definitely belongs in every Chandra deck. Usable by Nahiri and Arlinn, but Arlinn-wolf can’t benefit at all. 10 points for this buff on your core unit is hard to pass up.

Mid (15 spells)

Pyroclasm (10, AoP) – Pyroclasm has the drawbacks of both damaging your own red creature AND dealing damage to any figures you control without flying that are next to that creature, but red’s Firecats are quite mobile and the phoenixes have flying, so further friendly collateral damage seems avoidable. Similar to black’s Bone Splinters, this can be red’s going away gift after you have already moved and attacked with the red creature you intend to target with Pyroclasm. Notably, Ob Nixilis is the only Planeswalker that is immune to the damage of this spell.

Chandra’s Outrage (5, AoP) – Similar to CoF but with two primary differences; CO cannot hit Planeswalkers (which IMO drops it below CoF,) and it does not require your figure to be damaged. Easy 5 point slip-in for most red decks, though.

Stubborn Resilience (30, BfZ) – This might be a hot take, but I think this spell is this good mostly for 3 army cards, from most powerful to least powerful: Kessigs, Firecats, Phoenixes. Kessigs still get their savage double attack even if only one of them is left, and Phoenixes can slowly rebirth back to full power, although I wouldn’t make that the core wincon of your army build out of the gate. If this card was priced at 20 points, I probably would have placed it in high tier, but it is still very decent even at 30, if only for how great it is with a Kessig or Firecat especially in late game.

Dual Casting (45, AoP) – A disgusting price of 45. The concept of casting a spell two times in one turn is great, but with the way DC works, this uses up all 3 of your spell plays for the turn: Twinflame > Dual Casting > Twinflame, and you cannot play anymore spells for the turn. IMO TF and StD are best played on the same turn, but DC can be a sort of Frankenstein attempt to make that same powerful combo by DC’ing either TF or StD if the situation requires (perhaps if one of the two were sent to the graveyard by one of blue or black’s spell destruction effects earlier in the game.) I think the best targets for DC are: Twinflame, Seize the Day, Incinerate, Dual Shot, and Malevolent Whispers. However, there are definitely times where a double-play of Pyroclasm or CoF are warranted, especially in drilling more damage into the enemy PW. Just remember that you are basically playing 2 copies of 1 spell for the price of 3.

Incinerate (25, AoP) – An instakill on most squaddies or a massive chunk of damage against heroes makes this a decent card for it’s cost. Incinerate + Dual Casting will make your opponent regret sending their creatures after your PW. I’m not a massive fan of this card due to the adjacency to PW requirement, but I recognize that there are times where it is clutch.

Dual Shot (20, SOI) – Not too shabby, at least this can hit a hero creature if you really want it to. It is very odd that this works ONLY on the window of things between 7-9 spaces away, because often the only figures that are often that far away from your Planeswalker are OTHER Planeswalkers (who cannot be affected by dual shot,) and a few ranged creatures like the Elf Rangers and the Illusionary Projections. 2 damage is enough to destroy the small number of squaddies who have max 2 life such as the ever-threatening Malakir Bloodchasers, the Illusionary Projections, or the Eldrazi Scions, though. Dual shot is a decent bang for buck.

Burn at the Stake (10, SOI) – While only having theorized the uses of this card, I do strongly believe it is better than most people think at first glance. BatS buffs all figures you control, including things like your Planeswalker and your creatures’ haste attacks (which are hard to modify) as long as you are attacking the named creature type. BatS takes a hit in viability because an enemy Planeswalker cannot be declared as a creature type, but BatS is one more power boosting option that can be used to assist us in bursting down an annoying squad or hero.

Rush of Adrenaline (5, SOI) – The self-damage aspect sucks, but I’ll be honest in saying I mostly put RoA here because of the great synergy it has with Eldrazi Ruiner. If you play RoA between action 1 & 2 on ER, this gives you a chance to move him potentially adjacent to a bunch of enemy creatures, so that when you do select him at action 2, his Lash of Tentacles ability will deal optimal damage. Also, finding additional movement points is quite tough, and I think there is reasonable surprise factor in moving 4 spaces more than usual. When used with Nahiri and white’s fantastic four healers, RoA is more tolerable IMO.

Malevolent Whispers (20, SOI) – You already know why MW is this low; useless against all-hero armies. Otherwise, it’s really similar to blue’s Mind Control, with the caveat that the opposing creature keeps it’s +1 power until the end of our turn. This gives MW some slight anti-synergy with things like green’s Rapid Withdrawal or Rabid Bite, if we are using Arlinn.

Goblin War Paint (10, BfZ) – This might be a sleeper card, I haven’t used it much. The requirement of a destroyed creature this turn is annoying. However, keep in mind that this includes your own creatures destroyed by things like Pyroclasm or Infernal Plunge, so there is some synergy there and some potential to fire GWP off even before our normal action 3 move. Red also has stuff like haste attacks which can kill creatures before our action 3, too. Even if we need to use our action 4 attacks to finally destroy a creature, the ability to move your squad 4 spaces seems nice to get the jump on whatever your next turn’s target will be, or to just occupy a glyph after you remove an opponent's figure from his post.

Flames of the Firebrand (10, AoP) – I’m somewhat on the fence with FotF. It can hit hero creatures if needed, but if you have 2 or even more enemy creatures within 2 spaces of your PW, I feel that the game might not be going so well for you. For 10 points, even settling for doing only a single point of damage to a single creature isn’t completely atrocious (although for Chandra you’d probably be better off discarding FotF to use Super Heated from a longer distance in that situation.)

Nahiri’s Machinations (10, SOI) – What is up with these “kill a creature in combat first” conditions?!? Seriously, +1 power only while hitting adjacent figures feels like such a poor reward, but two things remain as positives: this card is only 10 points, and you do have the option to enchant an ally Planeswalker if you are playing a 2v2 game and your teammate is playing someone like Sorin or Gideon. This is probably a decent enchantment for Nahiri and Arlinn-wolf if you typically play in wolf form.

Burn from Within (20, SOI) – More squad hatred that is useless against hero builds. This one actually combos pretty nicely with MW because you can trigger BfW via your MW movement. Heroes removed from the equation, this is a reasonable card.

Dissension in the Ranks (15, SOI) – Oof, even tougher to successfully use because we can’t move with the target squad creature. DitR works much more easily with Nahiri or Arlinn-wolf if/when we are charging toward ranged squaddies such as Illusionary Projections or Elf Rangers, since they are much more likely to have a wider target selection than a range 1 melee unit.

Sure Strike (25, BfZ) – Ugh, expensive and requires a creature to be destroyed in combat in order to play SS. This means destroying stuff with spells doesn’t fulfill this requirement, unlike GWP where we are allowed to cheese a creature with a spell or even an ability. Special note: you can destroy your own creature in combat to satisfy the requirement for SS. Perhaps early-mid game we kill our own 1 life/1 toughness Phoenix and later that turn play SS…. But that feels inefficient. Frankly, I’d rather just use Power of Fire and/or Firebreathing before I ever put SS in my deck because I can play FB and PoF on demand without having to kill something in combat first. Perhaps one day I will get itchy and play a deck with FB, PoF, and SS in it just to see how things go.

Low (3 spells)

Ugh, red has some really great high tier cards, but these bottom few I just SMH my head...

Stensia Masquerade (10, SOI) – Deal 1 guaranteed damage to your squad creature in order for each of your attack dice for that creature to statistically have 1/6 higher chance to roll a hit… Do I have that logic right? SM feels really weak, I feel as if you need to convert 2 blanks into hits for it to get close to positive value… 1 hit to make up for the self-inflicted wound, and 1 hit to make up for having the 10 point card in your deck to begin with. I tried a dice probability calculator, and even with rolling 6 dice, it told me that there was about a 67% chance that at least one blank showed up in a tossing of 6 dice. Maybe my math is wrong, I’m not too wise with probabilities, but that rather generous calculation of 6 dice makes SM look really sad…

Rolling Tremblor (5, SOI) – Total cringe. I feel terrible that there are cards that score even below this one… but RT costs only 5 points, and IMO has legitimate use in a true damage red/green Arlinn deck with a focus on assassinating the enemy PW with spell and ability damage. Without that silly niche, this card sucks. Use RT and the two cards below if you want to intentionally throw a game against your little nephew.

Infernal Plunge (20, SOI) – This card feels like a desperate and poor attempt to bring back a game that is likely already lost. Red’s only squad with more than 2 life is the Goblin Javelineers. I feel that in nearly every scenario, you would be better off taking Dual Shot or even Incinerate instead of this 20 point scam. Keep your squads alive on the field as bodyguards or offensive pillars as you need them to be, instead of trying to be black but worse in every way. Black’s Bone Splinters costs 10, deals flat 4 damage, and they have multiple kinds of regenerating creatures and even a spell that straight up regenerates one of their figures back onto the battlefield, so they don’t typically care about killing their own.

Worst spell in the entire game :evil:

Harness the Storm (20, SOI) – WAY too much ask in return for WAY too much potential of friendly fire. Weighing in at 20 points, you must first destroy a creature in combat, and then discard 2 cards (which is insane, 1/6 of your deck, and it’s draining your precious hand where red does not generate card draw!) to deal 1 damage to all creatures, including friendlies, within 3 spaces of your Planeswalker. The only real use for this card is in an AotP-themed lie detector test; if your opponent doesn’t burst into tears and laugh loudly in your face if/when you play this card with sincerity, that’s how you’ll know they’re full of **** and not being honest with you.

Tier list for red's army cards:

Arlinn (340, SoI) – Rank 5 – Activation Frequency: Low, ascending. The offensively destructive potential of green/red is insane, and that color combination almost entirely puts Arlinn in rank 5. Arlinn is not particularly strong as a standalone army card. She is utterly frail at base 6 life and 3 toughness, and her base move is weak, at 5. This is all slightly mitigated by what is available to her in builds; Bountiful Harvest, Arlinn-wolf form having 4 toughness and 7 move, and access to two haste army cards in Firecats and Mad Prophet which can help clear out nearby threats in a pickle, or apply instant additional offensive pressure in situations where she is aggressing. Speaking of her transform ability, it is very fun & unique; you can play at 7 range with her Archmage Assault power to potentially deal true damage at the end of her turn, or you can play as Arlinn-wolf in melee range with her 5 power and Howl, which grants a +1 power token to one of her unique squads every turn where she dealt combat damage! With her access to creatures like Pummelroots, Firecats, Elf Rangers, and the mighty Kessigs, no opponent (perhaps bar blue) wants Howl triggering multiple times. Titanic Growth + Twinflame + Kessig Ranger double attack = you will hear your opponent’s tears and drink the lamentations of their birthing persons. I think her builds primarily lie in a mix of two playstyles – a “true damage spam” build with things like Archmage Assault, Elvish Blade Finesse, Circle of Flame, Pyroclasm, Rolling Tremblor, Incinerate, Infernal Plunge, etc. Or, a “buckets of attack dice” build with things like Howl, Overrun, Twinflame, Firebreathing, Power of Fire, Senseless Rage, and Titanic Growth, all permitting tons of attack dice to be tossed.

Nahiri (345, SoI) - Rank 4 – Activation Frequency: Medium-low, ascending. Nahiri is a Planeswalker that seemingly wins or loses based on her ability to maintain height advantage. Bulwark, 7 life, 4 toughness, and Near Death Experience all ensure that she is often one of the toughest Planeswalkers to destroy. Her low-ish range of 4 and poor power of 3 aren’t doing her many favors if she can’t maintain high ground. On a hilly map with tons of elevation changes, I feel that she may struggle to maneuver with her Pass Through Stone. Lithomancy can help reduce the chances that Nahiri experiences too much of either of those issues, though. I find red/white a very odd combination to use; red is about high-octane destruction, while white seems more content with slow rolling, buffing, and healing. Luckily, the slow and low range white creatures can appreciate the extra move provided by red spells like Adrenaline Rush, Sure Strike, and Goblin War Paint, while red ought to be excited for access to even higher destruction potential via spells like Inspired Charge, Divine Favor, and Skillful Lunge. I personally prefer to play Nahiri by being aggressive and leaning toward red’s strengths in murdering EVERYTHING with sheer power, with those destruction-enabling white spells tossed into the deck. If you think white supremacists are scary IRL, wait until you see my firebreathing, pro-human, white inquisitors. They’d probably cause a tear to fall from Donald Trump’s eye.

Chandra Nalaar (365, AoP) - Rank 3 – Activation Frequency: Medium, ascending. Chandra, while somewhat unique, feels pretty average when it comes to the capacity to build winning armies with her. Dual-color Planeswalkers are cheaper than she is, and they effectively have twice as many ways to build their decks and armies. Her range of 5 is unfortunate if only because of how easily it is for an enemy Planeswalker to instantly place her in engagement with summoned creatures if Chandra decides to move in and attack the enemy Planeswalker directly. Chandra’s Fury and high ground = lots of destruction with her double attack, although red creatures generally lack the ability to hold ground, and red’s spells certainly aren’t helping in that category – nearly everything red wants to just be killing stuff, but we can’t move them all at once! Her ability to attack twice and also deal 1 more point of creature damage via Super Heated is all quite potent, however I’d imagine a player would want to actually use red spells for their effect instead of discarding them to deal 1 damage to a creature. When Chandra has the Firecats and/or the Mad Prophet in her summoning reserves, it’s quite dangerous for enemy Planeswalkers to end their turn near her. This is magnified if she is enchanted by Stoke the Flames, which buffs haste attacks if the hasting figures are within 4 sight spaces of her! Seize the Day + Twinflame are approximately as game-warping as Titanic Growth + Kessig double attack.

Blazing Firecats (100, AoP) - Rank 4 – Activation Frequency: High, descending. Burny Kitties are hard for me to pass up when it comes to making any red builds. Haste and Intense Strike are nearly always threatening, if a bit swingy due to the reliance on attack dice for both of these skills. 7 move is damn good, 2 life and 4 toughness feels slightly fragile, but tends to hold up well enough for them to get their work done, in my experience. When the kitties get high ground and/or any kind of boost in power, everything they touch will likely spontaneously combust especially because Intense Strike’s roll two get one free is more likely to kick in as the kitties roll more attack dice. Being double-spaced is a double-edged sword; a burny kitty can be summoned to engage/attack a figure that is up to 7 spaces away from your red Planeswalker (where a single-spaced figure would only engage a figure up to 6 spaces away,) but the kitties can also be denied position/engagement/high ground by an opponent that positions carefully, because the cats need to be on 2 same-level hexes in order to launch an attack.

Goblin Javelineers (100, BfZ) - Rank 3 – Activation Frequency: Medium-high, descending. For being red creatures and size “small 3,” these guys are astonishingly slow, 5 move. I think they are nearly completely outclassed by the Firecats as a primary fighting force, although the Goblins are certainly passable. At the same 100-point cost, goblins bring 1 more base power, 1 more base life, and the creature-poking Volatile Hedron Javelin (capability to hit creatures but not Planeswalkers knocks it down a bit IMO,) but they lack haste, Intense strike, 2 extra toughness, and 2 move which the kitties have. One final point – the goblins’ size 3 can be an unforeseen detriment on Heroscape maps because they cannot climb elevation that is more than 2 spaces higher than their current elevation; this occasionally does bite them in the ass.

Mad Prophet (70, SoI) - Rank 3 – Activation Frequency: Low, ascending somewhat in ratio with the number of enemy heroes and Planeswalkers on the battlefield. The prophet is a hero/Planeswalker fighter in a decent 70-point package. Honestly, from a development perspective, I think he is very well designed, even if his niche can feel weak in squad-heavy games. Haste + Insistent Ravings makes this surprise beast from the east ready to put some hurt on bulky enemy figures that attempt to approach your Planeswalker, while 6 life and 4 toughness nearly guarantees that he will hold his position for a reasonable amount of time. He is usually just an afterthought in most of my red builds, but he earns much more value if you happen upon one of those morally devoid heroes-only armies.

Flamewing Phoenixes (35, AoP) - Rank 2 – Activation Frequency: Medium-low. Flamewing Phoenixes have always been a sort of “fan favorite” of mine, although my love for them wanes over time. They are pretty similar to the Restless Zombies in that they have 1 life and 1 toughness, and they can return to the battlefield from the graveyard. However, I’m more inclined to enchant the Phoenixes due to their higher movement and their ability to (mostly passively) respawn WHILE they are still on the battlefield, thus maintaining their enchantments. But, that line of play feels very in conflict with their ****ty life and toughness values; if I want to make use of power buffing enchantments with the phoenixes’ range 1, they are going to often be in situations where they will have a high probability of dying on the opponent’s turn if I ever want to actually make use of the phoenixes’ newfound power. Their toughness can be upgraded via Stubborn Resilience when only one of them remains (and so you rebirth the others back in some turns,) and also in a Nahiri build, where white provides tons of toughness enchantments. However, this again feels somewhat in conflict with the Rebirth power itself – they only respawn on a turn where a red sorcery was played. By stuffing red and white enchants in your deck, you have less space for red sorceries, which means less rebirths over the course of the game. Anyway, all this to say that at 35 points, IMO their best use seems to lie in either holding a glyph in a far-off location (using their 6 move and flying,) or to summon them directly into engagement with threatening enemy figures in a moment of dire need. A particular thing you should consider: Rebirth wants you to place a phoenix adjacent to your Planeswalker; this is detrimental when there are threats with TRAMPLE in the game, which IIRC boils down to green’s Overrun spell, green’s Pummelroot Elementals, and white’s Rhox Veterans. Still, this causes red armies’ (containing the phoenixes) matchups to be trickier to manage.

Bloodline Nobles (70, SoI) - Rank 1 – Activation Frequency: Medium, descending. The arrogant silver spoon vampires are below average in my opinion, I just don’t find anything compelling about these guys. 2 life and 2 toughness is pretty frail, they will likely be removed from the board after facing somewhere between 1-2 attacks. Their Arrogant Strike is an... ability. It certainly feels red-ish in that you buff their power and they have a chance to get some more immediate power, but the nature of heroes and Planeswalkers having higher base power than squads make it such that the Nobles will need to be buffed with an additional 3-4 power before Arrogant Strike can work against many of those big figures (and this is one squad that legitimately hates Gideon’s Avatar of Justice due to how it helps Gideon to turn off Arrogant Strike, lol.) The Nobles’ very questionable survivability IMO does not make them very good candidates for enchantments, although I’ll freely admit that sometimes enchantments (especially red’s) get all the value they need from just one turn of launching attacks against key figures. In general, I would tend to buy the Eldrazi Scions over these guys – the Scions are cheaper at 55 points, have 1 greater base move, and 1 greater base toughness over the Nobles.

I personally think that red (and black to an extent, since the colors' ambitions are quite parallel) is one of the friendlier colors for a new player to pick up and learn AotP with. Red is all about rolling more attack dice and dealing true damage - a simple approach to the primary goal of removing your opponent's figures from the board. On that note, I think mono-red is probably the least interesting build to play once you are familiarized with AotP, because it utterly lacks interesting mechanics; it doesn't have the trickery + denial of blue, the staying power of white, nor the general range + flexibility of green. What do you think about my rankings for red?