Staples of Modern 2018: Top 5 Red Spells

We come to color week’s penultimate stop with red. This color is generally associated raw aggression but if you take a look through this Top 5 you will see that this color is far from one-dimensional. Before you dive in though, make sure to enter yourself in this week’s giveaway.

The following cards have been ranked by dominance rating using data from This is calculated by multiplying the percent of decks they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said decks. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of decks as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For a hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room. These cards have had their mainboard and sideboard dominance ratings summed when applicable. Cards with a mixed color identity have been excluded from the results.

#5 Goblin Guide: 0.25
One of the things red is known best for is aggressive one drops and Goblin Guide is one of the all time greats. It actually just barely beat out Taylor Swiftspear by 0.01; likely cause by 8 Whack’s fringe results. Regardless, they are similar in function. Both creatures come into play on the first turn and hit the opponent often before they have made any plays. Goblin Guide has a drawback but the information may actually be an upside in some cases and it has higher starting power than Swiftspear so it manages to win out.

#4 Anger of the Gods: 0.31
Offering a peek at red’s more controlling side, Anger basically says “Bolt all the things” with the upside of exiling anything that would die. That additional line of text is crucial in the Modern format due to the myriad recursive threats, particularly those in the Dredge deck. Typically if a deck plays enough early creatures that you want a three mana board wipe those creatures will also have three or fewer toughness so Anger puts in serious work against aggressive, creature-based strategies.

#3 Blood Moon: 0.32
I have to start by saying that people really hate this card. I do understand that to a degree as for a significant number of decks it reads “you can no longer play Magic”. There are far more non-basic than basic lands in the Modern format and Moon is here to punish people for doing so. By playing fewer colors or fetching out your basic lands you can mitigate the effect of it. But this is not always possible and dedicated Moon decks often have mana acceleration to play it early. You really should consider this card when you craft your manabase.

#2 Faithless Looting: 0.52
Modern’s ultimate graveyard deck enabler, Faithless Looting, is starting to generate ban discussion. At face value the user is drawing two cards by using a card and discarding two so unlike typical cantrips it is card disadvantage. However, it is common for the discarded cards to net the user a very undercosted creature immediately or in the following turns. Furthermore, Looting itself is active in the graveyard via Flashback so it can get a second use. Many times a different effect, such as Dredge, bins the Looting and the player gets to use the Flashback without ever drawing it. Looting is just extremely synergistic and is often the best card in Modern’s many graveyard decks.

#1 Lightning Bolt: 1.41
Here we come to the cream of the crop. Lightning Bolt is the most played spell in the format and has been in every year of the format’s existence. With sideboards factored in, the dominance has swelled to a ridiculous 1.41 rating. This means that for every three players at the average tournament there will be more than a playset of Bolt. Bolt is more dominant than every other card on today’s list combined. It is extremely efficient and therefore ubiquitous to the point that I am surprised that nobody has ever called for a ban. It is possible that we just accept it as a condition of the game because we have been dealing with it for more than two decades but simply put, the card is absurd.

This concludes our look at the best red cards in Modern for 2018; also known as the cards you play alongside your playset of Bolt. I thought that the white list was somewhat lopsided toward Path but today’s data was just bizarre. I may have to take a closer look at this dominance in the future. We will be back tomorrow to close out color week with green. In the meantime make sure to participate in our giveaway.

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