Now that we’ve discussed all the other colors in Magic: the Gathering in relation to specific sets, it’s time to get to our final intriguing color: red.
Like white, red has experienced some pitfalls in the game…especially in recent years. Playing mono-red has oftentimes been unviable, although it improves when you splash it with other colors.
But recently, we’ve seen an uptick in the interest people have for this underestimated color. To celebrate that change, we’ll be looking at the best MTG sets for red in this post.
We’ll also cover a bunch of individual red cards that are important to the history of the game.
The Red Mana Dossier
In Magic, the color red can be described in a couple words: fast-paced and damaging. Given that this is the color that represents chaos, passion, and fire, that makes sense.
In terms of playstyle, this means red cards tend to be creature-heavy or just cause straight damage to other players and their permanents. These are fairly easy strategies to grasp, so it may be a good color for you to build around if you’re new to the game.
One particularly simple theme to build around is called “red deck wins.” Players will pack these decks full of hard-hitting creatures and spells that can be played quickly in order to race to the finish.
There are a handful of tribes that are also heavily associated with this color. Goblins, dragons, and dwarves are represented strongly in red. You may also find subthemes that include warriors, berserkers, and barbarians.
When it comes to overall strength when compared against the other mana colors, we’d probably rank red in fourth out of five places. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean red is weak – it’s a perfectly fine color that’s thoroughly in the middle of the pack. It lacks the extensive flaws that white has, but it also simply doesn’t have the vast advantages of blue.
More Information: Best MTG Sets for Blue
Best MTG Sets for Red
Strixhaven: School of Mages is one of the more recent MTG sets. (In fact, at the time of writing this article, it was still a week from its release date.) That means only time will tell how it holds its value and whether particular red cards might end up being banned in various formats.
But if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter franchise, the mage-themed cards will likely strike a nostalgic chord in you. It also looks like there are many promising red cards, such as Dragon’s Approach, that will see decks built around them.
- It has an intriguing magical theme that many players will find appealing.
- There are quite a few unique double-sided cards that will make games interesting.
- Some cards, like Dragon’s Approach, will likely see a lot of play.
- Its guild theme will add lots of multi-colored cards to the game.
- Introduces five new elder dragon cards, which are consistently popular.
- This criticism applies to purchasing boxes for any brand-new set: you can’t be entirely certain how it will hold its value, due to cards potentially being banned.
Most Notable Red Card: Dragon’s Approach
Every time we hear the word Zendikar, we assume that any set involved with it is going to be heavily green. That’s why it’s surprising that Zendikar Rising is such a good set for red.
Plus, another benefit to buying a Zendikar Rising booster box is a box topper card that’s an expedition land. These box toppers portray alternate art with a beautiful frame that you may just want to put on display rather than using in a deck.
Interesting, 1 in 4 set boosters also offers you the chance to draw a card from a list of reprints with the original artwork. This makes opening set booster packs much more exciting.
- Each booster box includes a box topper expedition land.
- One out of every four set boosters offers the opportunity to pull a land from a list of reprints.
- Has double-faced land cards that are excellent and versatile.
- It features the Landfall mechanic, which is always good.
- The party mechanic is kind of useless.
Most Notable Red Card: Moraug, Fury of Akoum
If you’re into fairytales and all things fantasy, Throne of Eldraine is the set for you. It’s a top-down set, which means that it was designed with flavor in mind before more technical aspects were considered.
Sometimes, top-down sets can flop. But Throne of Eldraine was fairly innovative, introducing things like the adventure mechanic.
Some of the more powerful red cards to come out in the past several years include cards from Throne of Eldraine. Embercleave, for instance, is an amazing equipment card.
- It has a rich, enjoyable fairytale theme, and beautiful artwork to match it.
- Introduced the Adventure mechanic, which is fun to play.
- Had three-color knight cards that were neat.
- As a guild-themed set, you had a little less flexibility color-wise in certain formats.
Most Notable Red Card: Embercleave
Zendikar is one of our personal favorite sets. When we saw the abundance of good red cards it had, we couldn’t help adding it to our list.
This was a surprisingly impactful set. At the time of its release, it influenced all formats because of how much mana fixing it offered.
Over time, it’s continued to hold its value extremely well. This means that finding booster packs or boxes for it can be next to impossible, and also rather expensive.
- Overall powerful and popular set that has retained its value.
- You might draw fetch lands from each booster.
- Offers a lot of cards for mana fixing and deck thinning.
- Introduced the powerful Landfall mechanic.
- Can be extremely difficult to find.
- Tends to be expensive.
Most Notable Red Card: Hellkite Charger
Core sets like M11 tend to be excellent for beginning Magic players because they usually have reminder text on them, as well as a sampling of current mechanics in the game. The drawback to core sets is that they also tend to be weaker than other ones.
While we wouldn’t go so far as to say M11 is anywhere near the strongest set on this list, it’s still a surprisingly powerful core set. It had amazing Titan cards for each color that ended up getting played a lot in all formats at the time.
All things considered, M11 is a great core set to add to your collection if you’re willing to invest in it. It can be rare and costly these days.
- Surprisingly strong core set.
- Has a solid number of strong red cards.
- Includes lots of other powerful cards, such as Titans and Birds of Paradise.
- It’s simply not as powerful as many other sets available.
- Can be difficult to acquire booster packs or boxes for it, given how old it is.
Most Notable Red Card: Lightning Bolt
If we had to recommend one set for dragon fans, we’d have to go with Dragons of Tarkir. This set is packed to the brim with dragons, and since dragons are largely red in color, it also makes it a good set for red.
Another benefit to this set is that it’s pretty fun to draft. If you’re looking for something that you’ll have a blast drafting from, you may also want to spring for this one.
- Despite its age, it still tends to be relatively affordable and easy to find.
- Fun to draft.
- Has tons of dragon cards, which are consistently popular.
- If you don’t like dragons, it’s not exactly an exciting set.
Most Notable Red Card: Impact Tremors
At the time of writing this article, Kaldheim was one of the more recent sets to come out. As such, it’s much easier to obtain than some of the older sets on this list.
Kaldheim is a top-down set that was designed with a Nordic mythology theme in mind. If you’re a fan of Skyrim, it’s a great set to get into.
It introduced a lot of powerful cards to the game in most of the colors, including red.
- Strong Nordic mythology flavor throughout the set.
- Particularly beautiful artwork.
- Provides more support for the snow mechanic.
- Because it’s more recent, it can be easier to find.
- If you’re a fan of white cards, you’ll be disappointed to find that it’s weak again in Kaldheim.
- At the time of release, it did nothing to shake up the Standard format, which had been stagnant.
- Had so many mechanics in it, that it felt a little unfocused.
Most Notable Red Card: Tibalt’s Trickery
Read Next: Best MTG Sets for White
If ever there was a card that summed up what red tends to be, it’s Fiery Emancipation. Like fire, red likes to burn the ever-loving crap out of people, and this card makes that even more possible.
By tripling the damage you can do to permanents and players, you’ll turn yourself into an enemy no one will want to trifle with. There’s a reason why this card is typically on the pricy side.
Lightning Bolt is another one of those cards that’s simply incredibly red. In terms of mana, it’s cheap, and it’s an instant that does immediate damage to someone…much like a lightning strike.
We usually don’t put the card in our Honorable Mentions section if we picked it for the most notable card in a set earlier, but we just had to bring this one up again. If you’re looking to expand your collection of red cards, you should have a few of these in your library.
This one is a card that has confused many people, especially newer Magic players. The easiest explanation for it is that it essentially gives you one free red mana at the beginning of your upkeep.
Believe it or not, Braid of Fire used to be far trickier to use than it is today due to a concept called mana burn. Mana burn meant that players had to use all open mana, otherwise they would take one point of damage for every unspent mana. Fortunately, mana burn is no longer a rule in the game.
Are you getting irreversibly further and further behind in a game? Is someone absolutely dominating the table?
Then whip out Worldfire. This infamous red card is perfect for completely resetting the game, putting everyone on level ground.
There are so many combos with this one. You can play Kiki-Jiki, then instantly make a copy of a nonlegendary creature you control.
He’s not necessarily a popular Commander himself, but for obvious reason, he’s fairly popular in Commander decks. If you want to do a goblin tribal deck, he’s a must-have.
More Like This: Best MTG Sets for Goblins
Manabarbs is classic card for those who want to build extremely punishing decks. It’s perfect for control decks, in which the objective is to totally dominate the battlefield.
Yes, it hurts you, too, whenever you tap a land for mana, but there are easy ways to mitigate the damage.
Read Next: Tips for Playing Control in MTG
This is basically a red version of Yawgmoth’s Will. For a single turn, you can cast any instant or sorcery that’s in your graveyard for a devastating round two.
What’s worse, because Past in Flames has Flashback, you can cast it again from your own graveyard for its flashback cost. That means you can raid your graveyard for instants and sorceries a second time.
Imagine what a red-colored moon would do in real life: it would cast a red light onto the lands beneath it. That is essentially what Blood Moon does.
Opponents with powerful decks are probably running a few nonbasic lands for their abilities or to produce mana of multiple colors. With Blood Moon, you reduce those lands to Mountains, removing any abilities they have and making it so they produce only red mana.
Wheel of Fortune
If you don’t like your hand (and you’re worried about what other people have in their hands), Wheel of Fortune is the perfect card for you. In some ways, this is like Worldfire – except it doesn’t start everyone over.
One thing to remember is that, in Magic, card draw is pretty much always a good thing. Getting seven new cards means you may just draw into the solution for a problem.
Being able to use your opponents’ boards against them is never a bad strategy. With Dockside Extortionist, you don’t need to feel intimidated by your opponents’ artifacts or enchantments.
In fact, the more they have the merrier because that will give you more treasures to sacrifice for mana.
This card does exactly what its name implies it does: slip a creature out to swing with for a quick sneak attack. There are a lot of possibilities with this one.
Because it doesn’t require you to pay that creature’s casting cost, you can put your more horrifying creature out on the battlefield for a round. This is perfect for extremely costly monsters like eldrazi or dragons.
Any knowledgeable Magic player will tell you that you shouldn’t rely on a single win condition. The more you have built into your deck, the higher the chances you have for winning.
Hellkite Tyrant gives you a win condition wrapped up in a scaly bow if you’re playing with or against a lot of artifacts. If you happen to control 20 artifacts or more at the beginning of your upkeep, you win.
How do you get that many artifacts? Simple: steal them from your opponents with Hellkite Tyrant by doing combat damage to them.
Tutoring (getting to search for a card in your library) is also an extremely effective strategy. It allows you to search for whichever card in your deck will best help you deal with a threat.
Imperial Recruiter is essentially a tutor card. You can use him to search for any creature with a power of 2 or under in your library and put it into your hand.
Are you in the midst of a game and you’ve just realized a glaring flaw in your deck? Is there a card in your home that would be perfect for the game you’re in, if only you’d had the foresight to include it?
Well, worry no more with Burning Wish. You can use it to find a sorcery card you own from outside the game and put it in your hand. It is literally like getting a wish from a genie.
There are Mox rocks for every single color, and Mox Ruby is the one for red. All the Mox cards are pretty much only legal on a restricted basis in the Vintage format, and it’s easy to see why.
In short, this card gives you free mana. There are literally no drawbacks to using Mox Ruby, other than the fact your opponents will try to destroy it as quickly as they can.
Simply put, Mana Echoes is one of the best red cards in the game. If you’re playing a red deck with any kind of tribal theme, you should absolutely try to squeeze this one in, because it’s perfect for ramping into insane mana.
Like all the other colors in MTG, red has plenty of interesting cards and flavor. While it may not be the leader of the pack, it’s a solid middle-ranking choice that’s suitable for beginners and advanced players at the same time.
If you asked us to recommend one set over all the others in this post, we’d go with Dragons of Tarkir. While not the strongest set on this list by far, it’s a blast to draft and we love the prevalent draconic theme in it.