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Valakut Exploration - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Valakut Exploration | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Red has the worst card draw of any color. The other four have creatures that enter and draw a card, or have card draw as a passive effect, or have an activated card drawing ability. But red? No dice.

Something like Reckless Impulse works like a draw spell, but you only benefit if you can play the exiled cards on the same turn. To put it another way, red doesn’t have a single card draw spell as efficient as Opt.

Still, red has some good puzzle pieces looking for the right match. Maybe that’s your deck?

Ranking Red Card Draw?

Tormenting Voice - Illustration by Dan Scott

Tormenting Voice | Illustration by Dan Scott

Red card draw tends to be impulse draw, rummaging, and attack or damage triggers. All of those can overperform in the right deck, but you can always end up in a spot where it doesn’t serve your needs. Even the right build and synergies might not be enough to maximize red’s draw potential.

Sorting this list is complex. All red card draw is stapled to other effects, some of which are really powerful. But I’m ranking the actual card advantage efficiency of these cards aside from that. For example, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer gets you an opponent’s card. That’s good, but it’s hardly the real reason people play it, so it won’t be #1.

This ranking is based on how useful the card is for its card draw/card advantage components in the kinds of decks that can use them. There’s some difficulty in deciding between repeatable high-cost card draw and cheaper one-time card draw. You also feel this tension during deckbuilding: it depends on the deck’s plan and how you’re going to use card draw at different points in the game.

If you’re running a big red mana ramp deck or a cantrippy Izzet () deck, you specialize in one or the other. For most EDH decks, think about card draw across your mana curve. You need a mix of all types of card advantage along your curve if you need it at all points in the game.

What Is Red Card Draw in MTG?

There are four basic kinds of red card draw: what I’m going to call “tacked-on draw,” rummaging/looting, exile (or impulse) draw, and exile draw of opponents’ cards. Red also has some spells with graveyard recursion, which is kind of card advantage but not actual card draw.

Before we get into it, cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer all the way up the curve to Caves of Chaos Adventurer didn’t make the list, so don’t go lookin’. Cards that nab one card aren’t really what you’re looking for in terms of card draw.

A turn 1 Ragavan is a beast, but no one is adding the monkey to their deck for raw card draw power. There are better and more reliable rates out there, especially in an EDH metagame that sees more tribal and tokens decks flooding the table with creatures that can block.

Things that draw one card per turn for four or more mana don’t make this list, with one exception. That just doesn’t feel like a good enough rate, especially in Commander. How does your Chandra, Fire Artisan or Urabrask, Heretic Praetor stack up the Rhystic Study on the other side of the table?

Tacked-On Draw

Suit Up

Lots of spells have “draw a card” tacked onto them, which can help something like Suit Up in Neon Dynasty Draft be playable. The card draw is the upside. But blue has cards made for drawing! Red’s only direct card draw is tacked on.

Crash Through

The most played example is probably Crash Through. Sometimes the card cost is so low that it’s treated as a cheap cantrip with a bonus effect. The cards have to be cheap enough to cast that you can ignore the card’s main effect as flavor text if you’re a red mage using them for card advantage.

Rummaging/Looting

Looting, named after Merfolk Looter, is when you draw a card and then discard one. Rummaging, named after Rummaging Goblin, is when you discard first and then draw. Blue tends toward looting while red tends toward rummaging.

Faithless Looting

Looting is clearly better since you have more information when deciding what to discard. Red tends to get the fuzzy end of yet another Izzet lollipop except for standouts like Faithless Looting.

Although these are card draw spells and effects, they aren’t card advantage. In fact, looting and rummaging effects tend to be card disadvantage since you spend a card and discard a card to get one. The only way this works is if your deck is speedy enough that raw card draw is worth more than what you pitch, or if you can use the spells in your graveyard as a resource. Both are possible in Arclight Phoenix decks.

I’d also put wheeling in here as a form of large scale rummaging that everyone has to do.

Exile Draw

These spells pull cards off the top of your library, exile them, and give you a time limit for when they need to be played or else be locked in exile. The pure card velocity and selection can be nice, but the time limit means wasting spells you might be able to save and use if they went to hand instead.

It also means opponents have information on the cards you exile this way, which can give them an advantage.

Exile Draw from Opponents

I never said you had to draw your cards! This has all the pros and cons of exile draw with the added uncertainty of using an opponent’s cards instead of your own. This can be good for you if the cards fit your strategy, but the psychological effect helps.

Robber of the Rich

Plenty of Shocks have been played on Robber of the Rich out of fear that it might nab something vital.

#40. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker / Reflection of Kiki-Jiki

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is bonkers, but rummaging two cards for three mana is a terrible rate. What makes this card so good is all the other saga stuff going on. The fact that it also has some card selection just helps push this over the top.

#39. Cathartic Pyre

Cathartic Pyre

There are better versions of rummage two on this list, but the ability to double as removal makes Cathartic Pyre a useful inclusion. Choices are always good.

#38. Faithless Salvaging

Faithless Salvaging MH2

Faithless Salvaging can be useful in decks that want spells triggers because the rebound lets you have one for free on the second turn. It’s at its best in madness decks. This and Fiery Temper are happiness-inducing.

#37. Honor the God-Pharaoh + Electric Revelation + Seize the Spoils

Adding one mana to the cost of these spells isn’t great. Is the token (Honor the God-Pharaoh), the flashback (Electric Revelation), or the Treasure (Seize the Spoils) worth it? I’d say not, in general. These are the kinds of cards that make Limited work.

These feel terrible to cast. They’re like a Divination where you rummage first, and that isn’t really good enough these days, is it? These can have their place if you need actual cards instead of impulse draws because you’re going for a kind of red draw-go build.

#36. Tormenting Voice + Thrill of Possibility

Twinsies in mediocrity! These are cheap enough to run in decks that don’t care about the graveyard but are desperate for spells to stoop to. They don’t put enough in the ‘yard to be useful for reanimator decks. It’s like these are really bad Goldilocks.

Either Tormenting Voice or Thrill of Possibility seems to always be in Standard these days, so you probably know the pain of deciding if you need them for your janky plan or not. Thrill being an instant could tip the scales.

#35. Big Score + Unexpected Windfall

Adding two mana to the cost of Tormenting/Thrill sounds like a bad deal. It kind of is, but making two Treasures is big game. These tend to show up in Standard builds that run copiers like Galvanic Iteration. The discard is a cost of the spell, so you don’t have to discard when you copy it. For example, if you Dual Strike one of these, you discard one, draw four and make four Treasures.

Big Score is a lot easier to cast than Unexpected Windfall, but you’ll often want both in a red EDH deck.

#34. Cathartic Reunion

Cathartic Reunion

This is a lot of rummage for a cheap cost. You know how important this card is if you’re running red reanimator. But it’s hard to imagine running Cathartic Reunion outside of those decks.

#33. Sunbird’s Invocation

Sunbird's Invocation

It’s a lot to ask a 6-drop to have card draw, but this is very good in a deck with otherwise cheap card draw spells. I tend to think of card draw mattering lower on the curve, but Sunbird’s Invocation is a lot of fun to try if you haven’t had the privilege.

#32. Fire Prophecy

Fire Prophecy

Fire Prophecy is good and one of few damage spells that draw a card (it’s too loud in here to hear a Needle Drop pining to be let in). It’s also a premium card in a deck running Transmogrify effects since it lets you stow a finisher back into your deck to be tutored up when needed.

#31. Dragon Mantle

Dragon Mantle

Dragon Mantle is less useful than the upcoming 1-mana spells, but it’s a premium card draw in a deck like Ghen, Arcanum Weaver. The firebreathing is also nice.

#30. 1-Mana Cantrips

Overmaster

You can run these for their main effects, but they’re generally slightly sadder versions of Opt and Consider for spellslinger and storm decks.

These ten 1-mana cantrips are in order of their typical utility for EDH, where you often just want a 1-mana cantrip to fuel some storm or Izzet shenanigans. Haste and trample are generally the most useful effects for Commander. Overmaster is the best followed by some haste enablers, then a bunch of effects that you might not care about other than the draw effect (glances significantly over at Warlord’s Fury).

These shift order in 60-card formats. Rile is good in Stuffy Doll decks, but also works in Feather, the Redeemed decks as a cantrip that can target Feather. Ancestral Anger is great when you can run all four. Telim’Tor’s Edict is nice in a steal and sac deck, etc.

Special shoutout to the undiscovered gem of the list, Spark of Creativity. It should be in more decks that want these spells because it can double as removal if you need it to. I think it’s hard to search for based on its templating, which may be why it’s underused.

#29. Experimental Synthesizer

Experimental Synthesizer

Ethan from The Lords of Limited occasionally called this Mulldrifter, which is too hot a take. Experimental Synthesizer is a 1-drop that gets you a card at its floor, and gets you another if you have a way of sacrificing it.

Of course, you can sacrifice it as part of its activated ability to impulse draw two cards while gaining a creature. There are so many sac-oriented decks that should want this, but it still seems criminally underplayed.

#28. Act on Impulse

Act on Impulse

Act on Impulse is a bunch of cards for three. It’s like a sorcery-speed Divination that nabs an extra card but throws them all into exile. That’s unplayable in 60-card formats, but isn’t most red card draw unplayable in 60 card formats?

I run this in mono-red in EDH.

#27. Ogre-Head Helm

Ogre-Head Helm

Drawing three for two mana is pretty cool, but you need the right build for Ogre-Head Helm to work, like lots of tokens and unblockable things. But this is okay as a post-board wipe rebuilder.

If the board is ‘sploded after you’ve equipped this, it pops off as a creature that can opportunistically attack next turn.

#26. Bedlam Reveler

Bedlam Reveler 2X2

Assuming you’re tossing out spells this is a draw three for two, which also drops a decent prowess creature. Bedlam Reveler is here to party if you’re doing burn or control.

#25. Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

This is likely the best Chandra, and a key part of most Pioneer/Explorer/Historic red or Rakdos () midrange decks. There are cheaper pure card draw options out there than Chandra, Torch of Defiance. That’s why the other 4-drop Chandras that loot for cards and popular options like Outpost Siege and Ignite the Future didn’t hit the list.

Four is a lot of mana for card draw, a burden that gets heavier the faster EDH gets.

#24. Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Chandra, Dressed to Kill

Repeated impulse draw is really good. Chandra, Dressed to Kill also pings for spectacle costs and is great at killing Lolth, Spider Queen in Standard right now.

#23. Plargg, Dean of Chaos / Augusta, Dean of Order

Repeated rummaging is also really good. Plargg, Dean of Chaos is worth a look at this casting cost given the second ability. I wanted Rummaging Goblin and Sarkhan, Fireblood on this list but slowly convinced myself that a rummager for three wasn’t a good enough rate (#lifelonglearner).

For two, though? Sure. And keep in mind that you need at least Boros () colors in EDH because Augusta, Dean of Order is on the backside.

#22. Chandra’s Regulator

Chandra's Regulator

This is an auto-include if you’re running a bunch of Chandras, but the repeated rummaging is good on its own. I’m surprised Chandra’s Regulator doesn’t see more EDH play given that it operates like you’re sacking a Blood token every turn.

#21. Nassari, Dean of Expression / Uvilda, Dean of Perfection

Nassari, Dean of Expression is a lot of cards for five mana, not to mention that it’s repeatable and that Nassari can grow with +1/+1 counters. It’s more fragile as a creature but can also be a wincon.

You need at least Izzet colors for EDH since you’ve got Uvilda, Dean of Perfection on this card’s back.

#20. Stolen Strategy

Stolen Strategy

This is a lot of cards, repeatedly, for five mana. Compare Stolen Strategy to overpriced and hard-to-use nonsense like Etali, Primal Storm. Sure you pay for the cards you yoink with this, but there are some land drops or cheap cards among them.

#19. Mezzio Mugger

Mezzio Mugger

Mezzio Mugger is an attack trigger, Isshin, Two Heavens as One players. And it’s repeatable if you can keep it alive for other decks.

Three cards per turn is great, even if they’re from your opponents’ janky decks. But blitzing this can get you a card from your own deck and an impulse draw from each opponent. That’s not bad for three mana.

#18. Ox of Agonas

Ox of Agonas

Ox of Agonas is a repeatable draw three for two (assuming you keep finding ways for it to die). This also assumes that you’re rummaging for cards, tossing out spells, or saccing creatures to fill the ‘yard.

This isn’t a bad card to have in your 99 if someone is trying to make mill happen in EDH.

#17. Abbot of Keral Keep

Abbot of Keral Keep 2X2

This card only nets you one, but the prowess is just what you are looking for. Abbot of Keral Keep isn’t awesome on turn 2, but you could do a lot worse if you’re topdecking. If anyone besides me ever tries to build a durdly Boros blink deck, first, let me know if there’s a successful build I’ve missed (!), and second, this card will be the star.

#16. Seasoned Pyromancer

Seasoned Pyromancer 2X2

This is best used in an empty hand to net two cards that go to hand and a body that can make tokens from the graveyard. That’s pretty good. Seasoned Pyromancer does some looting for fun and tokens profit as well, but it can’t pitch your lands and still make dorks. Still, this is good.

#15. Galvanic Relay

Galvanic Relay

Galvanic Relay isn’t overpowering in normal use cases. Used in dedicated storm builds? That’s how cards get banned in Pauper.

Cheap cantrips and artifacts fuel this to draw a ton of cards. You probably want this if you build your red storm EDH deck. Otherwise, maybe not?

#14. Grenzo, Havoc Raiser

Grenzo, Havoc Raiser

This could be the red Toski, Bearer of Secrets, but not quite as good. It’s nice that Grenzo, Havoc Raiser allows you to pivot to goading since you only get until the end of the current turn to play the cards.

Grenzo may be for you if your plan is to swing with lots of goblins or something, or if you need fuel to burn in your Isshin, Two Heavens as One trigger-happy deck.

#13. Nahiri’s Lithoforming

Nahiri's Lithoforming

Nahiri’s Lithoforming can really net a lot of cards in a landfall deck. Or any deck with the proper number of lands, really. Even better if you have a Crucible of Worlds lying around.

It’s important to note that sacrificing the lands isn’t part of the cost of the spell, so you aren’t uselessly tossing all your lands in the bin if this gets countered.

#12. March of Reckless Joy

March of Reckless Joy

March of Reckless Joy is your card if you want to pitch your hand and drop some flooded mana to impulse draw a pile of cards. It’s just a shame that you can only play two of them by the end of your next turn.

This is good at acting like a tutor when you need to break open stalled games. If you can’t afford to exile a card, it isn’t too bad as a pay three to impulse draw two.

#11. Anje’s Ravager

Anje's Ravager

Anje’s Ravager nets you a lot of cards if you can keep swinging with it. It’s more reliable than Grenzo since it doesn’t rely on another creature, and it’s more useful for decks that like instant speed plays and since it straight-up draws the cards.

#10. Magmatic Insight

Magmatic Insight

Isn’t this what you want to do with looting effects like Blood tokens? Pitch a land for value? Magmatic Insight does this very well.

The downside is that it does nothing if you’ve missed land drops, which can happen in an aggro deck when you shave lands. It’s a skill testing card that gets easier to play in Commander where you kind of always want it in hand.

#9. Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting

The emperor of looters, the ruler of the graveyard, Faithless Looting is banned in Modern for a reason. But do you run this in your monored EDH deck if you don’t care about the graveyard? Is drawing two worth the cost of losing two cards? If you’re low enough to the ground, yes.

You won’t need lands at a certain point with an aggro deck, and this can help you accelerate through the floods. But is this really what you want if you’re a high-cost red deck? Probably, but you might have to think twice.

#8. Jeska’s Will

Jeska's Will

Jeska’s Will gives you three cards and three mana to spend if your commander is out. It’s a slightly better version of the worst case of our #1 if your commander is in the zone. A very good card.

#7. Dangerous Wager

Dangerous Wager

Dangerous Wager is the best looter, and the instant speed on it is awesome. It’s hard to beat this drawing two for two provided your hand is empty. And it’s hard to get a more efficient way to use your looting to stock your graveyard than this.

#6. Rob the Archives

Rob the Archives

Most impulse draws give you until the end of your next turn, but this one compresses your time. Rob the Archives also lets you sac a creature to do it twice, but it’s even more of a pinch given that time crunch to use the cards.

This isn’t really played at all in 60-card formats, and its inclusion here is likely raising some eyebrows. But won’t you always want this in a mono-red deck, or a Rakdos sac deck built for EDH?

#5. Reckless Impulse

Reckless Impulse

Reckless Impulse costs one more mana than the best version of our #1 and one less than the worst. A bit of an in-between, which makes the name seem a bit off. I guess “Reasonably Alternative Impulse” doesn’t sound very red.

#4. Light Up the Stage

Light Up the Stage

Red deck wins by doing damage. Burn. Hasty creatures. Broken stuff like Embercleave. A card that can grab two cards for one mana in that kind of deck is a really good rate.

Light Up the Stage is peerless in fast decks. You’ve got to play the cards before the end of your next turn, but hey, you’re a red deck. You’re mashing face. No one gets another turn if you get the right cards here.

If this were a list of best cards in Red Deck Wins, this is probably the winner. But repeatable card draw is at an absolute premium in most decks. Those that are especially efficient slide into the lead here.

#3. Breya’s Apprentice

Breya's Apprentice MH2

Breya’s Apprentice can’t go off as hard because it has to tap, but it draws a card every turn if you have loads of Treasure tokens lying around.

This could be even better in an Izzet deck where you run untappers. It’s an artifact creature, so that space is easier to access than you might think. Even in mono red.

#2. Professional Face-Breaker

Professional Face-Breaker

Treasures are easy to make these days, even if you aren’t one of the gathering throng of Prosper, Tome-Bound EDH players. Being able to repeatedly sac a Treasure to draw a card is impressive. It’s even better than Treasure Map. A lot of red card draw is a build-around, but who isn’t building around Treasures in red EDH decks these days?

Professional Face-Breaker is still a bit of a minor player in Standard, but it’s showing up in more decklists. That’s a testament to its power. How good does a red 3-drop need to be in a Standard of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to see any play at all?

#1. Valakut Exploration

Valakut Exploration

Valakut Exploration is a lot of cards in landfall decks. It’s also a wincon. If you’re hitting land drops in another deck, that’s a card a turn with no other expense or effort. This is the closest red gets to Rhystic Study, and it’s pretty far away from that!

Best Red Card Draw Payoffs

Magic is a card game, so drawing cards is always good. Card advantage alone is usually enough to find your way to victory, assuming you have enough power in the deck.

Each style of red card draw has different payoffs in mind.

Spellslinger

Cantrips like Crash Through are best in spellslinger and prowess decks (usually Izzet), often with something like a Thing in the Ice or Arclight Phoenix to finish it up. These are harder to get to work in EDH because the threat density of these kinds of strategies is just harder to optimize when you can run four of your threats like Monastery Swiftspear.

Burn

Spellslinger decks usually also like the impulse draw spells. It often doesn’t matter whose deck they’re coming from if you just need a volume of spells. Impulse draw is almost synonymous with burn for me. You need cards fast if you’re running Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and digging for Embercleave. Your deck’s curve is often so low that you just need the impulse draw to exile a bunch of lands. You can’t win if you can’t find three more points of damage someplace.

It seems like climbing up a sheer cliff face to get burn to work in EDH, but there’s always someone trying (me). I should know better, but sometimes I can’t help look around at the decks on the tables of my local game store and think about casting Lightning Bolts.

Big Red

Mana Geyser

Red has some crazy ramp in the right builds. Mana Geyser, Treasure makers, all of these can power out monstrous dragons, Eldrazi, an Ugin or two… They even get you a classic Fireball to finish your boomer wincon BINGO card.

If you’re ramping, dropping the more expensive but constant card draw effects is pretty good stuff.

Wrap Up

March of Reckless Joy - Illustration by Fiona Hsieh

March of Reckless Joy | Illustration by Fiona Hsieh

Red’s card draw isn’t great compared to the other colors, but you can make it work as a reasonable approximation in the right builds. Red card draw is also the weirdest card draw of any color in Magic, but it sparks creativity through deckbuilding challenges.

The bottom line is that you won’t want all your card draw in only one of the colors in a typical multicolor EDH deck, so finding a few red draw staples helps make your decks more consistent.

Hopefully you found a couple options today. What red card draw do you use? What would you like to use? Let us know on Twitter, in our Discord, or in the comments below.

Happy deck crafting!

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