Welcome to my Pick 1 Pack 1 list for Ravnica Allegiance! The goal of this article is to rank all cards in the set from high to low for the purpose of the first-pick first-pack decision in Draft. The ranking is also relevant as a rough guideline for the subsequent picks.
Methodology and Data Sources
To construct an aggregate ranking, I started with the same data sources as I used for the previous few sets, along with a new one: the average pick number of each card within a booster on draftsim. This meant that I took the average of the following normalized grades:
- LSV’s set reviews. In this classic article series, LSV provides a Limited grade between 0 and 5 for every card in the set. I’m well aware that what he writes about the card is more relevant than the grade, but the grade still conveys some information. If a range was specified for a card, then I took the middle point as the rating.
- The Draftaholics Anonymous rankings, collected on Sunday, January 20th. Their scores for cards are derived from users who are presented with choices between two cards in a Pick 1 Pack 1 context. I scaled the ratings so that the card with the highest score became a 5.0 and the card with the lowest score became a 0.0, in line with LSV’s ranking scale.
- The LR Community review rankings, also collected on Sunday, January 20th. These rankings are based on a project by cricketHunter where hundreds of users submit Limited grades for every card in the new set. I scaled the grades so that the card with highest grade became a 5.0. Thanks to cricketHunter for providing me with the raw data!
- The average pick number of each card within a booster on draftsim.com. Draftsim is an online Draft simulator and practice tool where you can draft against computer opponents, and the data is based on 50,000 Ravnica Allegiance Drafts done by users in the week before the prerelease. I transformed the average pick numbers so that the card with the lowest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 5.0 and the card with the highest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 0.0. Thanks to Dan Troha for providing me with the data!
After taking the average of the four grades, I made some adjustments for multicolor cards and colorless cards to get closer to a proper first-pick first-pack order. After all, first-picking a multicolored card like Aeromunculus reduces your flexibility because it only goes into one guild, whereas an artifact like Gate Colossus or a hybrid card like Senate Griffin keeps your options open. I subtracted 0.4 points for any CCDD card, subtracted 0.2 points for any other gold non-split card, subtracted 0.1 points for any split card, and added 0.2 points for any hybrid card or artifact.
Two quick notes on that: In a deck with one Guildgate and eight of each basic, you’re only 71% to have the required mana to cast CCDD cards like Sunder Shaman on curve (conditional on having at least four lands, after mulligans.) So they’re like pseudo 5-drops that really strangle your mana base and therefore require a large grade reduction. Meanwhile, I didn’t add points to Glass of the Guildpact or Tome of the Guildpact for being an flexible artifact because you really need to build around them. The average deck might have five multicolored creatures and eight gold spells total, which is not enough to get me excited.
The end result was a number for every card in Ravnica Allegiance—an aggregate of the above four sources that captures people’s first impressions. My raw data, which may double as a searchable text list, is available as a spreadsheet here. After I got a number for every card, all I had to do was to press sort, and the aggregate pick order list arose.
For previous sets, I then presented the resulting list and offered my thoughts on which cards were overrated or underrated in people’s first impressions. For Ravnica Allegiance, I am changing that up by starting with a write-up of my hot takes on overrated or underrated cards in this aggregate list. I then adjusted their grades up or down, and I will present the adjusted list that takes into account my changes. If you just want to see the original aggregate rating, then it’s available in the spreadsheet linked above.
Top 10 Overrated Cards
I adjusted the original aggregate grade of all of these cards by minus 0.6 points. The place where they show up in the final pick order list below corresponds more closely to my evaluation.
- Wilderness Reclamation: I understand that it synergizes with adapt and instants, but you need a lot of those to make up for spending a card on this effect. I would want at least 10 or 11 such mana sinks to even consider Wilderness Reclamation, which is not realistic. And even then, in such a deck it will still be hard to make use of the extra mana.
- Smothering Tithe: Even if your opponent wouldn’t have a choice, a Treasure per turn is not worth a 4 mana investment, even for ramp decks.
- Plaza of Harmony: This land does not fix your mana because it doesn’t provide a color you don’t already have. So it’s like a Radiant Fountain, and it’s hard to justify a colorless land in multicolor Gate decks. There may be exceptions involving CCDD spells and tons of Gates, but I would avoid Plaza of Harmony in most decks.
- End-Raze Forerunners: 8 mana is really a lot, and there is not a lot of mana ramp in the format. Don’t get me wrong—the card is powerful. I would just take several top commons and uncommons over it.
- Cry of the Carnarium: Creatures in this format are big—the average as-fan power/toughness is 2.6/2.8, compared to 2.4/2.6 in Guilds of Ravnica. And that’s not even counting riot or adapt. (The term “as-fan” weighs by rarity to account for how often certain cards appear when each booster is fanned out. This means that I weighed each common by a factor 10/101, each uncommon by a factor 3/80, each rare by a factor 0.875/53, and each mythic by a factor 0.125/15.) Meanwhile, the smallest creatures are found in the black guilds, so I’m not a fan of Cry of the Carnarium.
I adjusted the original aggregate grade of all of these cards by minus 0.4 points. The place where they show up in the final pick order list below corresponds more closely to my evaluation.
- Mass Manipulation: As I showed in my Magic Math – Ravnica Allegiance article, Mass Manipulation is very difficult to cast. Even with a 10-7 mana base, you’re only 62% to have quadruple blue when you have six lands on turn 6, which means that it will often be an 8-drop. It’s still super powerful, but you won’t get to 8 mana every single game. I had to drop the mana base hammer to place the card just below the top uncommons.
- Scorchmark, Summary Judgment, and Titanic Brawl: They are all good to great playables, but they are situational, and I anticipate I will regularly board them out, especially when I’m on the play. Summary Judgment doesn’t do anything when your opponent stumbles and you’re the one attacking, while Scorchmark and Titanic Brawl can be useless when your opponent’s creatures are too big. As a wise man once said, “there are no wrong threats, but there are wrong answers.” Given that these spells were originally ranked close to Enraged Ceratok or Windstorm Drake, I reduced their grade a little bit. I prefer to start my Draft with premier creatures instead.
- Arrester’s Admonition: Similar argument as for the other common spells, except that I would be more inclined to board it out on the draw, where tempo cards and card draw are less valuable.
Top 10 Underrated Cards
I adjusted the original aggregate grade of all of these cards by plus 0.6 points. The place where they show up in the list below corresponds more closely to my evaluation.
- Eyes Everywhere: Sigiled Starfish was great, so a 3-mana enchantment with scry 1 every turn is close to playable by itself. In a proactive blue deck, Eyes Everywhere can smooth your draws in the midgame, and then exchange for your opponent’s best permanent. As long as we’re not some slow, durdly control deck, the exchange means that the game shouldn’t take much longer, in which case our opponent won’t get many scry 1 triggers. If it seems like they are not committing their best card to the board because they see the exchange coming, then Eyes Everywhere acts as a Thoughtseize that still lets you scry 1 every turn. I might board it out against other blue decks when I’m on the draw, and/or when they don’t have any bombs worth taking. But I would start it in the main deck of most proactive blue decks, and my evaluation is more favorable than the one from the original aggregate ranking.
- Gateway Plaza: Compared to Guilds of Ravnica, there are more “Gates-matter” cards, and they are more powerful to boot. Given that the land type can really matter, Gateway Plaza has to move up.
- Slimebind: Is it the blue Doom Blade? Well, no, but it’s a solid pseudo-removal spell in a flyer-heavy deck. You can use it as a combat trick to deal with green fatties, or to stop spectacle. I don’t think it should be far below Arrester’s Admonition.
- High Alert: This card can range from unplayable to amazing, depending on your deck. The average as-fan Azorius creature has power/toughness 2.4/3.0, so High Alert comes close to giving +0.6 power to all of your creatures. That’s not great by itself, but it’s not hard to build around it. Concordia Pegasus, Senate Courier, and Azorius Knight-Arbiter are already perfectly serviceable commons, and if you prioritize them, then you can end up with a deck where High Alert gives +2/+0 to your creatures on average. That’s worth building around. My grade for such build-around cards needs to reflect where I would pick them first-pick first-pack, and I would put it higher than just mediocre filler.
- Chillbringer: This does everything I want from a 5-drop. Relevant body, easy mana cost, and an excellent ability that comes down at the perfect time to swing the race. As a single-color card, it deserves a spot among the top 5 commons.
I adjusted the original aggregate grade of all of these cards by plus 0.3 points. The place where they show up in the list below corresponds more closely to my evaluation.
- Flames of the Raze-Boar: The few times I’ve seen this card in action, it was utterly insane. It might just be variance, but I checked and around one-third of the red creatures in this format either have or can get to 4 power. If the kicker can indeed be turned on reliably enough, then this is a one-sided Wrath.
- Sharktocrab: Like Flames of the Raze-Boar, this was originally rated below the top commons. In my opinion, it’s one of the best uncommons. The idea of combining the traits of a shark, an octopus, and a crab into a single mutant could have easily produced an abomination, but the Simic biomancers really hit the jackpot with this one.
- Gutterbones: Black decks can be pretty aggressive in this format, and if you curve out with Gutterbones into a 2-drop and a 3-drop, you’re really far ahead. Pair it with Fireblade Artist, Pitiless Pontiff, or Undercity Scavenger to fuel your sacrifice engine.
- Clamor Shaman: Red decks can also be pretty aggressive, and this is a mix between Goblin Heelcutter and Territorial Hammerskull. Both cards were excellent in their respective Limited formats, and I expect the same for Clamor Shaman.
- Frenzied Arynx: The rate on this card is just absurd—it simply outclasses most other 4-drops. I think it deserves a spot among the top 5 commons.
In addition to the above adjustments, I made smaller +0.2 adjustments to 12 other cards. These are informed by my first impressions playing with the set. If you’re interested, you can look them up in the spreadsheet. Finally, I increased the spread between the best uncommon, Mortify, and the best common, Skewer the Critics, to get more sensible categories.
Tier 1: All Bomb Rares/Mythics
The typical card from this tier would be around a 4.5 on a scale from 0 to 5. If you prefer letter grades, then I could peg most of them as an A.
These are the best cards in the set according to this aggregate list, and I would first-pick them over any common or uncommon.
Tier 2: Includes the Best Uncommons
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade of 4, or B.
Remember that this is all one continuous list, to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. The cutoff for my category grouping is completely arbitrary. The way to read it is that Mortify should be first-picked over Bedevil, which should in turn be first-picked over Flames of the Raze-Boar if they’re all in the same booster together. Ministrant of Obligation is on par with the best card from the next tier.
Tier 3: Includes the Top 5 Commons
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade of 3.7, or B minus.
Tier 4: Great Playables
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade of 3.3, or C plus.
Tier 5: Good Playables
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade slightly below 3, or C.
Tier 6: Dual Lands
In the original aggregate list, shocklands were ranked more highly than Guildgates. That might be correct for most decks, but the Gate deck is actually real in this set.
If you want to support the likes of Gatebreaker Ram, Gates Ablaze, or Gate Colossus, then you really need a lot of Gates. The probability to draw at least two Gates by turn 5 is approximately 67% in a deck with seven Gates and 75% in a deck with eight Gates. (Open the Gates and Gateway Plaza also count. Silhana Wayfinder counts as half a Gate.) With 24 Guildgates in every Draft, getting at least 7 Gates is doable, but it’s not trivial. Since these decks rely so heavily on a critical mass, I would rate Guildgates on par with shock duals for my first couple of picks, and adjust later based on what I’m drafting.
In the end, I set the grade of all dual lands equal to the average grade of the shocklands in the original aggregate list. They’re still probably too low—lands are always underrated. Even 2-color decks can use a Guildgate or two to improve their mana base. To add to that, the 3-color archetypes in this set actually make thematic sense—there is Jund Ferocious, Temur Counters, Mardu Aristocrats, Bant Defenders, and Esper Skies, so the lands play an important role.
Tier 7: Fine Playables
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade slightly above 2, or C-.
Tier 8: Mediocre Filler
Cards from this tier have an approximate grade slightly below 2, or D+.
Tier 9: Bad Cards and Unplayables
What is the Best Guild?
Taking the adjusted aggregate grades for granted, the average as-fan grade for each guild is given below. A guild consists of all its single-color cards in its colors, in addition to all of its gold cards.
- Orzhov – 2.32
- Azorius – 2.29
- Simic – 2.25
- Rakdos – 2.24
- Gruul – 2.23
These as-fan numbers might indicate that Orzhov is the best guild and that Gruul is the worst guild, but they are close enough that drawing such clear conclusions would be iffy. I believe it is more reasonable to conclude that the guilds are pretty well balanced, actually.
A Ravnica Allegiance Bucket List
If you need inspiration, then here are several sweet plays, powerful combos, and awesome decks that one could assemble in this format:
- Assemble the combo of Dagger Caster and Bladebrand, reminiscent of Goblin Chainwhirler plus Status // Statue. To make it work, you have to respond to Dagger Caster’s enters-the-battlefield ability by giving it deathtouch when the enters-the-battlefield ability is on the stack. When the ability finally resolves, it sees that Dagger Caster has deathtouch, and you get a Plague Wind effect. On MTG Arena, you need to hold control to respond to your own abilities.
- Use clever damage assignment against an opponent who double-blocks a 4/4 with a 2/2 and a Footlight Fiend. They may expect that you will assign lethal damage to both creatures. But you don’t have to. You can assign all damage to the 2/2 so that Footlight Fiend doesn’t die and your 4/4 will live.
- Speaking of Bladebrand and Footlight Fiend, you can combine both to potentially generate an efficient 2-for-1. First, the deathtoucher will take down the creature it’s blocking or blocked by. Then Footlight Fiend’s death trigger will ping another creature. Since it uses last-known-information, the game will know that the damage comes from a source with deathtouch, so you get to kill that creature as well.
- In a board stall, use Smelt-Ward Ignus to give your own Bloodmist Infiltrator haste and attack for lethal.
- Turn-2 Incubation Druid, turn-3 Stony Strength. That’s all.
- Board in Rampage of the Clans versus Captive Audience. I initially thought Rampage of the Clans was completely and utterly unplayable, but there is a use!
- Choosing not to reveal anything to Silhana Wayfinder. That’s a perfectly legal play, and often a smart one if you are digging for something in particular.
- Assemble the combo of Simic Ascendancy plus Sharktocrab. It’s fin-tastic.
- Cast Tower Defense with High Alert on the battlefield. Or “counter” Sky Tether by casting High Alert. Just watch as your opponent picks up both cards to read them.
- Assemble some absurd deck with four Goblin Gathering and several Burn Bright as payoffs. This is definitely not a strategy you can reliably build around, as there are only 2.4 copies of any common in a Draft on average, and the probability of having four or more copies of Goblin Gathering at your Draft table is only 21%. But if you get several of them as your last few picks in the first pack, then you might be able to go for it.
- Mop up an entire board of Goblin tokens with Deputy of Detention. Partying Goblins hate this Wizard. Even with a sorcery-speed removal spell to get rid of it, the Goblin tokens are not coming back. (But they’ll survive if Deputy of Detention leaves the battlefield before its triggered ability resolves.)
- Cast a pump spell on an opposing afterlife creature, then exile it with Bring to Trial.
- Draft the mill deck. It’s probably terrible, especially when there’s common “hate” in Clear the Mind, but we do have Persistent Petitioners, Thought Collapse, Wall of Lost Thoughts, and Screaming Shield. It may be a way to salvage a trainwreck draft.
- Attack with a 16/16 Amplifire after revealing Gate Colossus. Kaboom! By the way, given the as-fan power/toughness of creatures in Ravnica Allegiance, Amplifire will attack or block as a 5/5 on average the turn cycle after it comes down. That’s a solid size for a vanilla 4-drop. But if you want to exploit Amplifire, you have to de-emphasize poor hits like Footlight Fiend, Spear Spewer, Gravel-Hide Goblin, and Burning-Tree Vandal during the Draft.
- Win with the upkeep trigger of Simic Ascendancy. You may require Galloping Lizrog or Biogenic Upgrade to get there, but no Ravnica Allegiance bucket list would be complete without this.
- Win the game on turn 4 with their End-Raze Forerunners. This does require a pretty absurd sequence of plays: your opponent has to discard the Boar to, say, Burning-Tree Vandal and then you have to curve into Macabre Mockery. But it’s not impossible. By the way, although I wouldn’t start Macabre Mockery in most decks, it can be a decent sideboard card when you’re facing a deck with several powerful enters-the-battlefield triggers.
As always, thanks for reading. Since the prime goal of my list is to spawn debate, let me know which cards you felt were overrated or underrated. And if you have sweet additions to the bucket list, then please share them in the comment section below!