Ahoy, landlubbers and bilgerats! Cap’n Unmistakable here, ready to unleash a keelhauling with another round of Under the Hood! This time, we be looking at the pirate mechanic of Ixalan, Raid!
…excuse me. Just getting into character. But it’s true, this week, we’re looking at raid!
We first saw Raid as a mechanic back in Khans of Tarkir, as the signature mechanic of the nomadic Mardu tribe. The mechanic was made as a keyword trigger for what the nomadic raiders did best; raiding, and pillaging. A lot of the Mardu tribal cards benefited hugely from you having attacked, often going from woefully below curve to heady value threats on the turn of their Raid ability. This ability can be anything, from an extra token to getting a bigger creature, even being used as a pseudo ‘must attack if able’ effect (looking at you, Mardu Hordechief); one deeply satisfying about the raid mechanic is that it emulates the traditional play pattern of attack first, play creatures later – a rule that I am guilty of breaking, but the existence of this keyword presents a mechanical reminder of how it’s done! From a flavourful standpoint, something about Raid feels off to me. While it is infinitely more flexible and interesting to present it as is, there is something decidedly off about a creature only benefiting from a raid trigger after combat has happened; sort of a ‘Hey guys I’m sorry I’m late, but hey cool loot you guys pillaged’ kind of vibe. Perhaps I’m just nitpicking, but an attack trigger/combat damage trigger would have evoked the feeling of the word ‘Raid’ more.
As for the playability of the mechanic, in limited it was excellent. Raid was a very easy trigger in limited/sealed, even going so far as to aiding our own resident aggro player Crazy in taking hold of the first few events of Khans of Tarkir standard. Around the time of standard constructed, mono red aggro and white/x midrange were beginning to take hold, and that meant we saw a decent amount of Raid triggers on a weekly basis. As a UB control player at the time, I still get triggered to this day by the sight of a War-Name Aspirant.
Outside of standard however, Raid is yet unproven. Whether it be that Wizards were conservative with their first foray into Raid, or formats don’t particularly line up with it (Legacy doesn’t particularly care for large beaters costing more than 3 mana, typically), Raid has gone cold in recent times. We shall need to see if pirates are what rekindles that raiding spirit!
Implications in EDH
In EDH, Raid is unfortunately also quite cold here as well. Despite being easier to trigger (three potential targets are far superior to one), a lot of the payoffs just don’t get the EDH players’ attention. Small gains like that seen on War-Name Aspirant don’t really make an impact, and potentially exciting inclusions like Raiders’ Wake or Mardu Skullhunter all only affect one opponent, making them devastatingly fair. While there are some diamonds in the rough (I’ll get on to those in just a second), it really is no surprise that Raid hasn’t made much of an impact in the wide open ocean of EDH.
If a deck happened to want a critical mass of Raid, it would look at one, maybe two things. Primarily, how much can I hit them in the face? Alternatively, how hard can I hit them in the face? Hitting in the face is important to raiders. Getting directly to the life total means minimal risk of losing attackers, and not losing attackers mean that they survive to hit in the face more! Seems simple, no? As such, a raid deck would probably top its curve at 5, anything more would be way too slow (and you get to top out at ultimate Raid enabler, Zurgo Helmsmasher!). It would also look to include as many damage accelerant as possible. Myriad as a mechanic (flagshipped by Blade of Selves) would be excellent, allowing to keep all opponents on a clock while only using one attacker.
The colours on a raid deck would be RB based, as most raid cards are in the Rakdos pairing. However, they could splash white to get Zurgo Helmsmasher in the Command Zone, and opening up a strong support colour in white. While Raid is only a splash In white, one of the EDH raid powerhouses is monowhite (no spoilers!). Alternatively, given the wealth of pirates adding Raid to blue’s repertoire, Grixis seems like a viable route to go down, with the venerable Admiral Beckett Brass at the helm (heh, nautical puns). The blue splash notably opens up a lot of card draw through Bident of Thassa style effects – these are integral to a tempo style of play, which could be leant on over straight up token aggro (most likely the focus for a Mardu build). Blue Raiders are few and fair between, but have some gems in Marauding Looter or Navigator’s Ruin.
Despite how hard on Raid I’ve been throughout this review, it would be wrong to completely can the mechanic – there are still some powerful options in there somewhere:
Howl of the Horde – a backbone of Crazy’s spellslinger brews (turning Banefire into an uncounterable Comet Storm is one hell of a drug), Howl of the Horde makes small spells hilariously powerful for a (relatively) teeny tiny investment. Obviously requires a more spell-based aggro deck, but even if that’s not possible, this could very easily turn up in a near creatureless spellslinger brew (and did recently, in Crazy’s No Cash Jeleva Spellslinger)!
Wingmate Roc – a previous standard powerhouse (RIP Abzan Midrange, you are not missed), Wingmate Roc demonstrates one of the best payoffs for Raid in the format. Even in commander, two 3/4 flying bodies for 3WW is not inconsequential, and that life gain can make all the difference in long, drawn out games (especially if you aren’t leaving up blockers, due to hitting face a lot).
Ruin Raider – Despite being unproven, I HAD to give a mention to this guy. Cards that emulate Dark Confidant are growing increasingly common, but often fall short (Blood Scrivener, Asylum Visitor and Pain Seer all come to mind). I believe he may buck the trend, purely because he has a fairly easy to fulfil condition to draw compared to the others, and he also gives a draw quicker than his competitors after coming down (even bob, though the others do get a benefit of costing 1 less). In an aggressive creature deck, this guy is something to look out for, especially with Dark Confidant steadily rising in price once more.
That just about covers me for Raid, guys! What do you think? Did I hit the nail on the head? Overlook an obvious staple? I’d love to hear what you think, and if you’re hungry for more, be sure to drop us a like on Facebook to be kept up to date with all things salty! For now though, Unmistakable out!