I’m a big fan of “chip-away” strategies; deal one damage to opponents enough times, they’ll eventually be dead. It’s a slow strategy most of the time, using our pea shooters to keep the battlefield clear and whittle our opponent’s life away. However, Throne of Eldraine gave us Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, and he turns our pea shooters into artillery cannons that will close out the game in no time.
When we first consider playing Torbran, the question arises: why not just play Furnace of Rath? This is a good question. After all, doubling damage sounds way better than just adding two*. The answer is simply that doubling damage is not as useful when we’re only dealing one at a time. We’re aiming to abuse Torbran‘s ability by dealing damage with red sources as many times as possible. So what exactly does this mean?
**Editor’s note: Someone in the comments pointed out the above editor’s note was incorrect. The player receiving the damage controls the order in which the replacement effects occur, so they could choose to apply Furnace of Rath first.
Anything that reads “deal 1 damage” is made impressive by Torbran; dealing three damage instead of one makes a world of difference. Furnace of Rath would only double that damage to two, so in this situation Torbran‘s ability is greatly appreciated. Something as simple as Dragon Fodder, when combined with Torbran and Impact Tremors, will deal six damage to all opponents! I’m tempted to just call it a day here; token creation and Impact Tremors is a classic combination which I love, and Torbran makes it all the more deadly. But I can’t stop now, there’s a whole world of zappers, pingers and chippers to explore!
Electrostatic Field is a pet card of mine. Adding a bonus damage for each spell to each opponent is right up my alley. Guttersnipe falls into this category as well! Torbran transforms Electrostatic Field‘s damage into Lightning Bolts to everyone! Insert Oprah meme here.
If you’ve played Arena recently, you’ll know that most people have figured this one out already, but Cavalcade of Calamity and Torbran work amazingly well together. If we have a bunch of creatures with one power, these two together hit for three damage per creature that attacks. Also, thanks to Torbran those 1/1s will deal 3 combat damage if they connect. It’s deadly, and it works wonders (when Oko, Thief of Crowns isn’t ruining things, of course).
Instead of being proactive, we could instead just punish our opponents for existing. Aether Sting, Burning-Tree Shaman, Cindervines, and many many more turn our opponents’ actions into crimes punishable by Lightning Bolt. No need for Sphere of Resistance; our opponents will be dead before they have a chance to wonder if there was a tax on their spell they needed to pay. They already paid it.
Alternatively, we could just kill everyone and everything! Pyrohemia with Torbran is quite wild. Each activation is its own instance of damage, so Torbran increases the damage from each activation to three damage. Now this is a two card combo we can get behind! Even better, unlike Furnace or Rath he only increases the damage dealt to opponents and their permanents. We get to basically sling Lightning Bolts at everyone’s face, and we can do it up to four times before Torbran dies. Slap some toughness-boosting equipment or indestructibility on him and we can win the game on the spot!
As I Choose?
As I was reading over Torbran‘s ruling clarifications, I stumbled upon this:
If damage dealt by a source you control is being divided or assigned among multiple permanents an opponent controls or among an opponent and one or more permanents they control, divide the original amount before adding 2. For example, if you attack with a 5/5 red creature with trample and your opponent blocks with a 2/2 creature, you can assign 2 damage to the blocker and 3 damage to the defending player. These amounts are then modified to 4 and 5, respectively.
Rubs hands together maniacally
What that ruling means for us is that Inferno Titan can spread its ability’s damage evenly among three creatures, and Torbran will increase all of them to three damage each. This also works for trample damage, as stated in the ruling itself. That might seem underwhelming at first, but there are plenty of “divided as you choose” spells and tramplers that go from mediocre to deadly with Trobran‘s help.
Fireball is probably the most straightforward example of this. If X is one, we just need to pay one mana per creature we want to target and fireball will deal three damage to them. If we have a ton of mana to spare this could turn into an okay board wipe, but if that’s our goal red has a ton of “deal 1 damage to each creature” spells we should be using instead. So what could we do instead of Fireballing ourselves into inefficiency?
Bogardan Hellkite can sling five damage upon entering the battlefield. This can be used to smack an opponent in the face, and Torbran would increase that damage to seven, but there are other options: We could divide the damage among up to five different targets and Torbran would increase each instance of that damage! Our opponents have five different creatures with three or less toughness? Not anymore! However many targets we want to hit, Torbran will increase each hit.
On this week’s edition of Well That’s a Weird Card, we have Butcher Orgg. This… orgg… likes to divide its damage among our opponent and their creatures. With Torbran on the battlefield, we can spread the love to all our opponent’s creatures and get a bunch of value in the process. Basilisk Collar also makes a great addition to the mix; a single damage from the Orgg becomes lethal to anything, plus with the damage boost from Torbran the Lifelink will have us gaining a ton of life.
While Torbran is our best bet when it comes to small instances of damage, effects like Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods make a strong argument for being run as well. The good news is that we can play them all! Join me next time when I turn a bunch of food tokens into creatures and then have Thromok, the Insatiable devour them.