Even when I’m playing the most chaotic color in Magic, I want to make sure my deck is as consistent as possible. When I’m looking to increase my consistency, tutors are always a great addition. Red tutors might not be the best in the game, but there are plenty of strong options that can take your deck to the next level.
Tutor effects are anything that let you search your library for a card and put it into your hand, graveyard, or even the battlefield! Red has plenty of tutors to choose between, but it’s important to pick the right one for your strategy. Most of red’s tutors are very narrow, sometimes only getting a certain subtype of card. Others have an element of randomness, so you’ll need to make sure your deck can work around that. As long as they fit your deck, though, red tutors still give you access to one of the most powerful effects in Magic.
Of course, not all of these cards work in the same strategies. To pick the right ones for your deck, we need to go over the strengths, weaknesses, and strategies of red tutors.
Pros and Cons
|Some are random|
Which Card Types Can They Find?
Red tutors might be narrow individually, but they give you quite a few options overall.
First, red has lots of tutors that find creatures. None of them, however, let you search for any creature. They often limit you to a certain subtype, such as dragons, or to certain mana values. These restrictions prevent red creature tutors from working in any deck, but they can still pull their weight. Even when I’m not playing goblin tribal, for example, Goblin Matron can still get some of my most important cards like Guttersnipe or Dockside Extortionist.
Red also has a few options for finding artifacts. These are far fewer in number than red’s creature tutors, but they’re also some of the color’s most powerful options. These cards often put what you search for directly onto the battlefield instead of into your hand. Cheating a card’s mana cost is one of the strongest things you can do in Magic, so you should definitely consider running these.
Lastly, some red tutors can find anything, but there’s a catch: you’ll have to discard one or more cards at random. This happens after you put the card you search for into your hand, so there’s a chance you won’t get to keep what you wanted. If your deck has graveyard synergies, though, this might not be a big downside. Still, I only run these tutors when I’m feeling lucky.
What Are the Advantages of Red Tutors?
The biggest advantage that red tutors have is their efficiency. Sure, there are some expensive options like Dragonstorm, but there are plenty of options that cost three or less mana. Cheap mana costs are very important for tutors because you’ll often be able to cast what you search for right away.
What Are the Disadvantages of Red Tutors?
Although this isn’t true for every red tutor, most of them are very narrow. You can’t expect every color to get Demonic Tutor, but some of these cards have big restrictions. Imperial Recruiter, for example, can only get creatures with certain mana values. That still gives you lots of strong cards to find, but it will only work if you build with it in mind.
Another downside some red tutors have is their reliance on chance. If you search your library for a card only to discard it, you might’ve just spent a card for nothing. Sometimes you’ll get what you want, and other times you’ll have to come up with a backup plan. There are ways to work around this, but it’s just another hoop you have to jump through.
Which Red Tutors Are Banned?
As of now, there’s only one red tutor that has been banned in any format: Goblin Recruiter in Legacy. WOTC banned it in 2003, back when Legacy was called Extended. Here’s their official statement on why they banned Goblin Recruiter:
“Goblin Recruiter‘s ability to stack an arbitrarily large portion of your deck allows goblin-based combo decks to kill as early as turn 2. That’s too fast for a healthy environment and the Recruiter is one of several casualties of our effort to eliminate realistic turn 2 kills from the environment.”Wizards Of The Coast
Read their official statement here!
Essentially, a goblin deck could use this to set up their draws for the rest of the game, ensuring that their combo goes off. That’s a ridiculously powerful effect, and WOTC doesn’t want it in the format.
What Are the Best Red Tutors?
Naturally, some tutors are better than others. If you’re looking to run only the best of the best, I’ve got you covered. Below are the strongest red tutors divided into categories based on what they let you find.
Goblin Engineer might seem like a narrow tutor, but it can have lots of utility in the right decks. Not only does it put an artifact into your bin, but you can also sacrifice it later to get a cheap artifact back from the graveyard. Notably, Goblin Engineer doesn’t have to return the card it searched for.
As an example, I can put Bolas’s Citadel into my graveyard, but sacrifice the Engineer to get Sol Ring back on the battlefield. I might have other cards that let me grab Bolas’s Citadel, so I’m still getting value from both of the Engineer’s abilities. As we can see, Goblin Engineer is pretty flexible, and it pairs really well with commanders like Daretti, Scrap Savant and Osgir, the Reconstructor.
Godo, Bandit Warlord is another incredibly strong tutor. It can only find equipment, but it puts that card directly into play. As I’ve already mentioned, cheating mana costs is one of the best things you can do in Magic.
In this case, I could either grab a powerful but expensive card, like Argentum Armor, or I could even go infinite. If I tutor for Helm of the Host and equip it to Godo, I’ll get new copies of Godo on each additional combat step. Each one will give me another combat step, giving me infinite attacks.
Lastly, Magda, Brazen Outlaw is very strong in the right decks. You don’t necessarily need to be playing dwarf tribal to run her, but you’ll need lots of ways to make treasure. If you can, she’ll reward you by getting any artifact from your library into play, and she can search for dragons as well! If you’re hoping to use her tutor effect consistently, it’s probably in your best interest to run her as your commander and build around her.
I’ve already mentioned just how niche Imperial Recruiter is, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still powerful. There are lots of great creatures with 2 or less power, even if you’re just looking at red. There’s Dockside Extortionist, Cemetary Gatekeeper, and Dreadhorde Arcanist, just to name a few. You’ll definitely have to build around this card to make sure you have enough viable targets, but in the right deck it could find your key creatures.
Goblin Matron can only search for goblins, but that doesn’t mean you should only play it in goblin tribal decks. Goblins are one of red’s most iconic creature types, so there are plenty of powerful goblins that work in a variety of strategies.
I’ve already mentioned that this card can find Dockside Extortionist and Guttersnipe, but it can also get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Brash Taunter. With so many great goblins throughout Magic’s history, this is the strongest tribal tutor that red has.
When it comes to universal red tutors, Gamble is the simplest option. For just one mana, you can get any card in your deck, but you’ll have to discard a random card. If you’re a player who likes taking risks, you could run this in just about any red deck.
If you don’t like the risk of discarding a random card, though, you’ll need to be mindful of how your deck synergizes with its graveyard. Gamble works best when you also have recursion cards, or if you want to fill up your bin anyways. Putting Squee, the Immortal or Increasing Vengeance into your graveyard might be even better than putting them into your hand.
The Top 3 Red Tutors
You might still be wondering which of these is the best red tutor? Although they work in different decks, some still have higher ceilings than others.
#3: Imperial Recruiter
At #3, we have Imperial Recruiter. Even though this card can get lots of strong creatures, its restrictions prevent it from being any higher on the list. Still, don’t underestimate this card. I’ve found that I only need three or four key targets for this to be playable in EDH, and it’s amazing when I have more.
It’s nice whenever my tutors can act as ‘toolbox’ cards to go get whatever I need, but I’m usually looking for the same key cards no matter what situation I’m in. If your deck has important, small creatures, Imperial Recruiter can make a big difference in your deck.
#2: Goblin Engineer
Goblin Engineer just barely edged out the Recruiter for #2. The biggest reason is that the right strategy can leverage its ability. If you have ways to manipulate your graveyard, you can use this to get access to any artifact in your deck. It can still get you cheap artifacts on its own, but cards like Daretti, Scrap Savant can really take advantage of it.
I’ve really been enjoying the card advantage tools WOTC has given red in recent years. Whether its impulsive draw or graveyard shenanigans, it feels like red is able to access more cards without having to draw them. Goblin Engineer fits very well into the latter theme, and it will only get better as WOTC continues to expand upon it.
#1: Godo, Bandit Warrior
In my opinion, the strongest red tutor in MTG is Godo, Bandit Warlord. What pushes it over the edge is just how consistent it is. It’s part of a two-card infinite combo, and it can even find the other piece!
All you have to do is search for Helm of the Host and equip it to Godo. When you move to combat, Helm of the Host will trigger, giving you a copy of Godo with haste. If you attack with that copy, its triggered ability will give you another combat step. Once you move to your next combat step, the Helm will give you another hasty Godo, and you can repeat this process indefinitely.
If you’re not a fan of infinite combos, though, this can still get your best equipment. Sword of Feast and Famine, Skullclamp, and more are all worth searching for. No matter how you want to play, Godo lets you make game-winning plays.
Red may be the weakest color when it comes to tutors, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them entirely. Hopefully, you’ve found some new tools for your favorite deck, or at least changed your perspective on this suite of cards. Take a chance on these cards: you might find that they’re worth the gamble.