Fury | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
Red is easily one of my favorite colors in Magic. Some of Magic’s most impactful creatures have been red, and that’s today’s focus.
I’m going to take you through the best red creatures that the game has to offer, focusing on only mono-red creatures and ignoring digital cards created for MTG Arena’s Alchemy format. This leaves only 2,102 creatures at time of writing, so only a few to go through and whittle down. Let’s get to it!
What Are Red Creatures in MTG?
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer | Illustration by Simon Dominic
There are lots of different kinds of good red creatures, from cheap creatures that kill your opponent quickly to big and expensive dragons that win the game in just a couple hits.
You’ll see cards from all over this spectrum on this particular list. A lot of these creatures are cards that have performed well in competitive formats, though I’ve also inserted some Commander staples for good measure.
#50. Kird Ape
Kird Ape might not be great anymore, but believe it or not it was once banned in Extended. To this day it’s one of the most embarrassing cards to have ever been hit with the banhammer, but it was in use even when I started playing in 2009.
Efficiency is a big deal in aggro decks, and Kird Ape was once the best you could get.
There are a considerable number of “pingers” in Magic, and they’ve always been very powerful Limited cards. But none more so than Sparksmith. A pinger that scales up the amount of damage it deals is absurd, especially one that does it so easily.
#48. Flametongue Kavu
Historically, Flametongue Kavu is one of the best nonrare cards in the history of Limited. It was so powerful that it was the best card in the Invasion block, including the rares.
Even now, when cards like Basalt Ravager or Urabrask's Anointer are printed, the comparison to FTK is undeniable.
#47. Hellkite Charger
The first of the Commander cards, Hellkite Charger is capable of some very easy combos. For example, attack alongside Savage Ventmaw and you can take an extra combat phase for just one mana.
Other cards like Sword of Feast and Famine and Bear Umbra make it trivially easy to take infinite combat phases. That’s the sort of potential that makes a card stand out in such a saturated format.
#46. Stormbreath Dragon
Stormbreath Dragon was one card that stood out from an otherwise underwhelming Theros. The raw stats were good enough that you never even cared about the monstrosity ability. 5-mana dragons with haste are pretty good in Standard, and this paved the way for some other entries on this list.
It may not look like much, but Hellrider was completely dominant in Standard back in its day. Red decks were tier 1 thanks entirely to this card. Whether it bolstered go-wide aggressive decks or slotted into good stuff decks as a big haste threat, it did a lot of work.
#44. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Throne of Eldraine is one of the most broken sets in history, resulting in several bans in multiple formats. Red aggro decks were dominant thanks to the existence of Embercleave, and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell was very commonly the top of their curves.
#43. Hazoret the Fervent
Red decks were the strongest they’ve ever been when Amonkhet was legal in Standard. Hazoret the Fervent was a very common finisher in those decks since not a lot of them could deal with a 5/4 haste, indestructible creature.
It was also responsible for one of the most famous misplays in Pro Tour history, so definitely a card for the history books.
#42. Balefire Dragon
Balefire Dragon was certainly a powerful Limited card, but Commander is the main reason. Kaalia of the Vast is especially good with it. Clearing out an entire board is no joke, and it’s hard for anyone to avoid if it comes in swinging straight away.
#41. Fervent Champion
Featuring the face of world champion Javier Dominguez, Fervent Champion was a great 1-drop for a long time. While knight tribal didn’t pan out, it was good enough on its own to go in every red deck, and it even branched out into other formats a little.
#40. Bogardan Hellkite
I’d guess that very few Bogardan Hellkites have actually been cast. The main use of it has typically been alongside Dragonstorm, where four copies entering make for an instant win, creating a combo deck that was powerful in Standard and Extended back in the mid-late 2000s.
Glorybringer is one of the most powerful Limited cards ever printed. It was also a pretty big player in Standard, where the infamous Temur () energy deck topped its curve with them.
Many believed it would find a home in Pioneer, but sadly not. Still, that doesn’t quite dull the impact the card had in the past.
#38. Runaway Steam-Kin
Runaway Steam-Kin is likely a 4/4 for just two mana in mono-red decks. From there it can net you mana that lets you cast all the cards in your hand. The best decks tend to have cards that let them explode, and this is exactly what red decks were able to do with this card.
#37. Goblin Chainwhirler
Red decks were very strong in 2018/2019, and Goblin Chainwhirler was an easy four-of in all of them. This priced out nearly every 1-toughness creature from the format, including Llanowar Elves.
Applying instant pressure, finishing off creatures that survived combat; it really did everything.
#36. Krark-Clan Shaman
Krark-Clan Shaman is one of the most influential cards in Pauper. One of Pauper’s weaknesses is the lack of mass removal because most of those cards tend to be printed at higher rarities.
This is one of Pauper’s best ways to deal with go-wide strategies, making it integral to the format.
#35. Zealous Conscripts
Zealous Conscripts goes one step beyond your typical Threaten effect, allowing you to steal absolutely anything. Most often this is a creature, but stealing planeswalkers, problematic artifacts, or anything else is really handy.
Conscripts primarily sees play as a staple in Cube Drafts where it’s a great card on its own, but also a combo card with Splinter Twin.
#34. Kiln Fiend
Izzet () blitz is a Pauper deck that uses Kiln Fiend along with a pile of cheap spells to get an instant kill. Turn 2 Kiln Fiend into two spells and an Assault Strobe is 20 damage out of nowhere.
It’s a really fun card that got some fresh tools recently to bring it back into form.
A common theme of some of the cards in this list is that they are or have been banned. Atog was recently banned in Pauper because sacrificing several artifacts with Disciple of the Vault in play is a quick way to win a game, working much like a Pauper version of Arcbound Ravager.
#32. Inferno Titan
Inferno Titan topped the curves of a lot of Standard decks, including my personal favorite, Valakut ramp. It may not be as good as Primeval Titan, but it’s still one of the best 6-drops the game has ever seen.
#31. Grim Lavamancer
Grim Lavamancer was once one of the best 1-drops in Magic. It saw a lot of play when it was reprinted in M12 since red decks often don’t have other ways to use their graveyard. But it’s fallen out of favor in recent years thanks to more graveyard-centric cards being printed.
#30. Goblin Rabblemaster
Goblin Rabblemaster was everywhere in Standard and was so annoying to play against. Without a way to immediately kill it, you just died. By itself it hits for one damage, then six, and then eight over three turns, not to mention how stupid a second copy makes it.
It’s even good in Legacy prison decks.
#29. Bedlam Reveler
Bedlam Reveler has found its way into quite a few decks over the years. It’s often a 2-mana threat that draws you some cards in the right deck, a very desirable effect indeed.
It hasn’t seen play recently thanks to certain delve cards contradicting that plan, but it might come back in the future.
#28. Goldspan Dragon
Goldspan Dragon is the king of hasty dragons. It was one of Standard’s best cards throughout its run in the format, got nerfed for Alchemy, and even inspired a combo deck based around repeatedly targeting it with spells.
It’ll take some beating in the future for sure.
#27. Imperial Recruiter
Imperial Recruiter was once one of the most expensive cards in Magic. It’s relatively cheap now, and is most commonly used in combo decks where it can find you a lot of specific pieces that you might need.
#26. Bonecrusher Giant
For the second time I need to remind you just how broken Throne of Eldraine was as a set. Bonecrusher Giant managed to remain dominant in a Standard format overwhelmed by powerful cards.
To this day it’s still a powerhouse in Pioneer and thanks to tutor cards like Traverse the Ulvenwald, it has even seen a little play in Modern.
#25. Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Mob Boss has been one of the Commander’s most popular build-arounds. Goblins have been popular since the beginning of the game, and Krenko is usually the best choice for them.
Making an exponentially large number of tokens is one thing, but it’s very easy to give them haste and get opponents dead very quickly.
#24. Goblin Warchief
Goblin Warchief doesn’t give +1/+1, but it does give haste and make things cost less, which are much more valuable abilities for goblins. It got a recent reprint, making it legal in Modern and Historic, where it has helped goblin decks to exist where they would have otherwise struggled.
#23. Ancient Copper Dragon
Admittedly I’ve never actually seen Ancient Copper Dragon in play. I’ve only heard the stories. It currently has a $50+ price tag thanks to powering out several big plays each turn or auto-winning with Revel in Riches.
It’s just too powerful to ignore.
#22. Goblin Matron
Efficient tutors are always in high demand. Goblin Matron is a goblin that tutors up other goblins, so what’s not to like?
This has been a staple in Legacy for a very long time and is now also legal in Modern and Historic, where it’s a key role player in the goblin decks there.
#21. Conspicuous Snoop
Conspicuous Snoop is a new goblin that breathed new life into classic goblin decks. It’s mainly just a 2-drop that gives a lot of card advantage, but it can also be a key combo piece thanks to Boggart Harbinger setting it up.
#20. Soul-Scar Mage
It may not have haste like a certain other 1-drop on this list, but Soul-Scar Mage is still more than efficient enough to be a relevant threat. Modern prowess decks still play it, and it was a staple in aggro decks throughout its time in Standard.
#19. Young Pyromancer
Young Pyromancer was once considered to be red’s Dark Confidant or Snapcaster Mage. For a long time it was the best red creature for spell-heavy decks.
It may have fallen out of favor lately since it’s quite slow, but it’s still one of the best creatures in the game.
#18. Laelia, the Blade Reforged
Laelia, the Blade Reforged went completely under most player’s radars for a while. It was a random printing in a Commander deck that found its way into the Legacy and Vintage Cubes on Magic Online where players realized Laelia had a lot of potential.
It’s been a mainstay there ever since, and even found its way into competitive Legacy decks.
#17. Etali, Primal Storm
I don’t think that any card in the game is more suitable for Commander than Etali, Primal Storm. It’s budget friendly, has a big and explosive effect, and is chaotic. All that combined makes it a very fun card to play.
It’s no surprise that Etali has been reprinted nearly a dozen times in the last few years and is one of the most impactful red creatures in Commander.
#16. Goblin Lackey
When I first started playing Legacy I learned one very simple rule: bolt the Lackey. If you allow it to hit you even once, that can often be game over. Imagine it dropping in something big like Muxus, Goblin Grandee for free on turn 2.
Goblin Lackey is the most dangerous goblin in the game, and the reason that goblins are still decent in Legacy.
#15. Terror of the Peaks
Terror of the Peaks is one of the most brutal dragons ever printed. It’s a very popular Commander card, was a beast in Standard, and even subbed in as a viable replacement to Bogardan Hellkite when Dragonstorm was added to Historic.
It’s also disgusting in multiples. Nothing else really needs to be said.
#14. Goblin Guide
It didn’t take players long to realize that, when you’re talking about a 2/2 with haste for one mana, Goblin Guide’s downside isn’t a factor. As long as you kill your opponent fast enough, it won’t matter if they get a couple of extra lands. It’s still a four-of in burn decks because of this.
#13. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is a fan favorite. It does a lot of dumb things, most notably the infinite combo it can create with cards like Deceiver Exarch and Zealous Conscripts.
Unlike its counterpart, Splinter Twin, Kiki-Jiki can be tutored with cards like Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling, which sometimes gives it an edge.
#12. Monastery Swiftspear
Monastery Swiftspear has pretty much always been relevant since being printed nearly 10 years ago. Between burn and straight-up prowess decks, there are plenty of uses for a hasty 1-drop with the potential to be hitting for three or four damage.
#11. Dockside Extortionist
Dockside Extortionist’s reprint in Double Masters 2022 is one of the most requested that I’ve ever seen. Artifacts and enchantments are very common in games of Commander, which makes it often jump you from 2 to about 10 mana.
That’s something that would earn it an instant ban in any competitive format, so I can only imagine how insane it is in Commander games.
#10. Goblin Recruiter
Goblin Recruiter is banned in Legacy, which says enough. A 2-mana creature that stacks your deck is a uniquely powerful effect with a number of applications. You could stack your deck so that you never draw another land or in such a way that Goblin Charbelcher gives an instant win.
If it were legal, players would find ways to break it.
#9. Arclight Phoenix
Arclight Phoenix is one of the sweetest cards we’ve seen in the past few years. It’s seen play in nearly every competitive format, was good in Standard and Pioneer, has seen some potential in Legacy alongside Buried Alive, and was a dominant force in Modern.
That is, until the banning of Faithless Looting in 2019, a necessary ban to stop the power of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, which also clipped the wings of the Phoenix decks in the format.
#8. Magus of the Moon
Blood Moon is one of the most frustrating cards in the entire game, so naturally the creature version of it is going to be the same. In some ways, Magus of the Moon is better.
After all, it can’t be targeted by Boseiju, Who Endures, which many decks play specifically to remove a pesky Blood Moon.
#7. Seasoned Pyromancer
Seasoned Pyromancer is my kind of 3-drop. It’s awesome that if you play this and have nothing to discard, you still get to draw the two cards. You get a lot of good value out of a single card even if you discard cards that are useless at the time, especially the pair of tokens you get in the late game.
#6. Eidolon of the Great Revel
I remember getting so annoyed by Pyrostatic Pillar out of Legacy burn’s sideboard, so I wasn’t too impressed by the printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel. This is one of the most integral cards to burn decks in older formats since those formats are centered around cheap spells.
#5. Dreadhorde Arcanist
Dreadhorde Arcanist might not look like much to the average player, but when you consider that older formats are full of incredibly cheap spells, suddenly it comes into focus. This quickly turns into a really broken card if you’re flashing back cards like Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Brainstorm, or Ancestral Recall.
It didn’t last too long in Legacy before getting slapped with a ban.
#4. Simian Spirit Guide
Simian Spirit Guide barely counts as a creature, but it’s technically good enough for me. Mana monkey never did anything fair; it was only ever a card meant to power out the most unfair turns in the game. Its ban in Modern was a long time coming.
It’s still a very powerful card in Legacy, deservedly so.
#3. Dragon’s Rage Channeler
It’s probably not surprising that the last three cards on this list all came from Modern Horizons 2. Such is going to be the case when you print one of the most powerful sets in history.
Dragon's Rage Channeler quickly set about becoming the new Delver of Secrets, completely usurping the once powerful 1-drop from its own deck. A cheeky surveil every time you cast a spell, followed by becoming a 3/3 flier is more than Delver ever was, and this is now a staple across all eternal formats, especially alongside the number one.
Modern Horizons’ pitch elementals have all been incredibly powerful. Fury is one of the better ones. It’s been a major player in a variety of decks, including Modern’s Rakdos () scam, 4- or 5-color Omnath elemental decks, and Legacy’s mono-red prison deck.
Taking an already strong card in Pyrokinesis and attaching it to a 3/3 with double strike is a surefire way to make one of Magic’s best ever creatures.
#1. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
One name came into my head when I set out to write this: Ragavan. Ever since Modern Horizons 2 dropped, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer has taken Magic by storm. Within weeks it was the best creature of any color in multiple formats. Modern and Legacy were both dominated by it, so much that it ended up banned in the latter.
Ragavan is still the best creature in Modern, appearing in several top decks. Extra mana and potentially extra cards add up very quickly, enough that decks try to pack in extra answers to it. It’s also very potent in Commander if you feel like investing in a copy, which I’d highly advise you try out given its upcoming reprint in March of the Machine.
Dragon's Rage Channeler | Illustration by Martina Fackova
Goblins, dragons, and giants. Oh my!
What are your thoughts on red creatures? Have you enjoyed this look at red’s best creatures? Is your favorite not on this list? Let me know in the comments below, or join the discussion in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, take care of yourselves!
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