A new set means brand new EDH goodies for us all to enjoy. Today, I’m checking out the much anticipated new Ravnica installment: Ravnica Allegiance. Guilds of Ravnica offered a variety of tools to 60-card formats, but us 100-card format lovers weren’t left in the dust. We got Assassin’s Trophy, Niv-Mizzet, Parun, and Beast Whisperer, to name a few. Will Ravnica Allegiance also be a riot?
Quick disclaimer! For the most part, I will discuss cards for multiplayer, but I may touch on 1v1 in a few instances. Keep in mind that I approach EDH from a Spike’s perspective, so just because a card may not be alluring to me, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you. But you can be rest assured—I won’t hold any punches.
Let’s check out the spectacle.
Angel of Grace
Angel of Grace is a serviceable new Angel. This is a great inclusion if you chase great stories and epic comebacks. While she combos with Ad Nauseam, she doesn’t slot into any typical Ad Nauseam shells. Also, 10 mana is a bit steep. Most of her function and power comes from her solid stats, which, sadly, aren’t much of a selling point in Commander due to the breadth of creatures you can play.
Forbidding Spirit lacks the permanence of cards like Sphere of Safety and the complete shutdown of cards like Stonehorn Dignitary. It does affect all opponents and protects planeswalkers, but the nature of the protection is dodgy at best. I remain unconvinced that you can abuse this even with blink effects.
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
Well, well, what do we have here? Smothering Tithe is a card I expect to see often at the EDH tables going forward. Prime Speaker Vannifar and friends may steal the stage now (spoiler alert), but my personal prediction is that this little ole enchantment becomes the most played card of the set in Commander. (Can someone remind me of this in 6 months?)
Though it doesn’t create card advantage, most decks are able to utilize the artifacts or the mana produced from it, making it an auto-include. Typically, white is the color that can use these Lotus Petals the least so this will find the most suitable home in muliticolor decks. When paired with other colors for advantage, it can be explosive. Wheel of Fortune, anyone? Or Stasis! Gross. 2 mana is a tough tax to pay for each player whenever they draw so this might even see play at cEDH tables.
A pseudo, baby Grand Abolisher, Tithe Taker’s ability isn’t even worth the card it’s printed on. This is a card that may work in a 60-card format, but this weak Goblin Piker body simply won’t cut it with the big EDH baddies.
No, it’s no Teferi’s Protection, but in a deck that makes use out of +1/+1 counters, this can be a sweet semi-split card. Token decks can choose between this and Rootborn Defenses, but I wouldn’t play both since overloading on this type of affect can illicit awkward draws. Decks that have access to green or a general that is often targeted should stick to Heroic Intervention or Teferi’s Protection.
This card comes down on the cheap and works in both Wizard and Merfolk tribal decks. It isn’t an auto-include by any means but there are cool things to be done with this, with things like Experiment Kraj or Graft if you’re into that sort of thing.
This is an interesting political card that will probably be left on the sidelines simply because of the off-putting steep activation cost. Zedruu decks being the notable exception that can slot this in with ease!
This is type 4 stack food. Mass Manipulation is a fun and wacky effect that will most likely force a sweeper from the table but hey, at least you’re playing blue. Maybe you can Pact of Negation that and get to work in this thing called the red zone? It doesn’t hurt as much to lose creatures and planeswalkers that aren’t really yours.
Thrumming Stone, anyone? Pick these up off the tables at your LGS and GPs, and thank me in two years when they are $3 a pop. You heard it here folks. This is prime MTG finance advice hidden in an EDH article.
It’s kind of like Mana Leak but 100% worse. Why am I still thirsty for a good counterspell?
Circle of Protection Mana Elves. You can use this to punish creature-based ramp if your group loves to play copious amounts of it. Other than that, I’m sure this is just another card to abuse Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. And that’s always nice!
Awaken the Erstwhile
Technically symmetrical, and obviously evil. 5 mana is steep for a spell like this, but any cheaper and it may be broken. Awaken the Erstwhile is like Sire of Insanity, trading an easier to achieve initial discard with less ability to repeat the effect. I can see this one being a real groaner.
Bankrupt in Blood
Meren decks have a new toy! While in the late game these decks have no issue generating card advantage, this is a great enabler that can get those wheels rolling. But try not to get this countered. Ouch!
Can we take a second to appreciate the actual factual insanity that is Seb Mckinnon art in this set? Bankrupt in Blood is no exception.
Consign to the Pit
Removal spells have met a Hideous End. 0/10. I’d rather let you keep the creature.
Font of Agonies
Licia, Vona, and Erebos are like the three stooges with this card, although there will be very little that’s comical about facing down that type of combo. I wish there wasn’t mana tied to this activation ability. But that is a recurring theme with me. Many people may just ditch this card in favor of more ways to assemble the Mike and Trike combo.
Priest of Forgotten Gods
Meren decks have a new toy! While in the late game these decks have no issue generating card advantage, this is a great enabler that can get the wheels rolling.
More mana than Blood Artist but hits all opponents like Zulaport Cutthroat. Only triggers on your own creatures, so arguably even worse than Falkenrath Noble. I’d consider this if you wanted another of those effects after those three. But it’s dead last in the row.
The Haunt of Hightower
This is the Commander card… erm, I mean buy-a-box promo from this set. Mostly an upgrade over Vulturous Zombie, I expect The Haunt of Hightower to see play in Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and Nekusar decks.
The name. I just can’t help being a sucker for things like this. Don’t go playing this in your deck, but I would kill for a tier 1 EDH staple to have a name like this.
This card is being max hyped for Constructed, but I predict it will just be another As Foretold. I’m even less convinced for Commander since it’s difficult to assemble the critical mass of payoffs for it to work any better than the expertise card cycle from Kaladesh. Breaking timing restrictions is sweet though, so if you’re a deck that will always hit land drops and has mana open this can be a surprise factor against some trickery.
I don’t expect much from this lizard since we haven’t seen Harsh Mentor popping his mean little head up anywhere. As I discuss with Cindervines later, having effects like these are great but they need to be attached to useful Magic cards, not 1/3s.
Light up the stage
This is one of the sweeter cards in the set that really got the thinking cap on. In Standard, I am sure there will be aggressive decks that can reliably turn on spectacle. In EDH, you have the benefit of having multiple opponents, one of whom is bound to be open for damage. Assuming you are playing a deck that can reliably turn on spectacle (either through a cheap general or an abundance of low-costed creatures), this should be a nice include especially if you are lacking the card draw of blue (can’t imagine why you’d do that to yourself though).
If you put this into your deck you won’t win much. You Ooze, you lose.
End-Raze or End-Game? We’ll have to wait and see. +2/+2 is a fine buff, but the effect is only temporary. To take out an entire table, you’ll need a significant BOARd presence to make this work (far, far more than Craterhoof Behemoth). Decimator of the Provinces sees little to no play, and while this is far easier to abuse and cheaper than its Eldrazi friend, I am still not quite sending this piggy to my market.
Guardian Project is similar to Soul of the Harvest. Neither will trigger off of tokens, and both stick around to draw cards. The Soul will fit better into decks where its body is relevant (like Animar or Elfball) and our little Project is better for resiliency or at tables with lots of board wipes. You want to be careful of inundating your deck with effects like this so that you still have a good amount to actually trigger them. But now there is a nice slew of spells to build around between this, the Soul, Beast Whisperer, Primordial Sage, and Glimpse of Nature.
At first I wasn’t on board with this card, but upon further incubation I think it could see some play. It starts off producing mana ala Wirewood Elf, then it graduates into “Gilded Lotus” territory. Adding 3 mana on a single mana dork is respectable and it does host the coveted creature type of Elf. If you can find ways to throw counters on it for free (like Immaculate Magistrate) you can circumvent that pricey adapt cost entirely and start going to mana town, population you. I don’t think it’s on the same power level as Bloom Tender, but porque no los dos?
Rampage of the Clans
B-e-a-utiful! I just absolutely love cards like this. Where Subterranean Tremors and Wave of Vitriol have failed, Rampage of the Clans succeeds. Just like Fracturing Gust, Rampage of the Clans is an instant and it even costs 1 mana less! It’s trivial to get your mana and card’s worth and more every single time you cast this. I suspect this card will see play in cEDH and casual EDH for many wonderful years to come so snag a few foils. Make sure to include this in more land/mana dork-based ramp decks, rather than mana rock-based ones, or you will watch your world burn.
I will go out of my way to find literally anything else to play.
I know many people are so stoked for this card, but I am going to say nope (at least for EDH). I don’t think this card is as good as it seems, and it requires significant setup to make it work. You aren’t looping Nexus of Fate every turn with this and though it works well with Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation, you have no guarantee to see those cards along with it. Yeva, Nature’s Herald might appreciate this, but Seedborn Muse this card is not.
Bedevil has many uses to beseen and so beexpect many permanents to behave or bedestroyed. Anguished Unmaking is one of bemost played multicolored cards in beformat, so it’d behoove you to brepare yourself to see this card beplenty.
I took that one way too far. I apologize in advance.
And another S. BeMcKinnon masterpiece.
The adapt wording is mostly just flavor text, but if you are in the market for another activated ability cost reducer, this effect may be alluring. Training Grounds sees play in decks like Thrasios, Tasigur, and Sliver Overlord. Biomancer’s Familiar can be a shoe… er, tentacle in. Also, the Familiar is cute in a really twisted HP Lovecraft type of way.
Wowza, talk about making one big enemy. This card will annihilate one player entirely… a few turns down the road. You better not hope they can do anything in rebuttal. I’m not one for spiteful play, but if someone “enchants” me with Captive Audience you bet that once I’ve run out of time to destroy it, I’m making life a living hell for whoever did this to me. 7 mana is a huge investment, but if you’re down to just one opponent left, you can surely finish them off in style. Imagine if this was in Zedruu colors so you could copy it with Copy Enchantment and give it away to multiple opponents. It would also be nice if this was a curse so I could snag it with Bitterheart Witch. A girl can dream.
Both halves of Cindervines are a bit subpar on their own. But once combined, you have a veritable showstopper for just 2 mana. It’s costed low enough to impact even early-game broken artifacts and leaving just 1 mana up is reasonable. It only hurts opponents so feel free to cast your spells wildly. I love the design on cards like these because they serve multiple functions where neither side is embarrassing. You’ve got to love that value. Good luck to a Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain or Jeleva player who wants to go off in the face of Cindervines.
Domri, Chaos Bringer
Let’s not parse the facts here. Domri costs the same mana as Sarkhan Vol and Xenagos, the Reveler. His +1 is worse than the haste granted by Sarkhan and his mana is worse than that provided by Xenagos. -3 is far too steep of a cost to maybe find two creatures. The -8 doesn’t do nearly enough to end any games so I am going to call this one like I see it: bad. I wouldn’t even play it with Doubling Season. Now that’s a burn.
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
I’m just not about this card. He does come down early, which is nice, but nothing about this card screams impactful. He can hardly stave off even utility creatures and ticking him up takes forever in the event you have no way to protect him. All this for what? Dig Through Time with a booster shot? Again, an easy pass.
Timetwister may be legal in the format, but it might as well not be to the majority of us. Luckily, Emergency Powers is yet another riff on the “draw-seven card” troupe. There are times where casting this as an instant is insane, and perhaps even worth the struggle of the high casting cost. Being the first player to untap with a fresh new grip is obviously a great way to get a leg-up on the competition and the surprise factor can be back-breaking. But in case of emergency, you can always hit the panic button and play this main phase. This becomes akin to an expertise type card from Kaladesh in this mode, and with your brand-new seven cards, the chances are good you have something spicy to plop on down.
I know, people—breathe with me. It’s going to be okay. This is Commander we’re talking about here, not Ravnica Allegiance Limited. You will be fine. Ethereal Absolution is a solid anthem effect that tacks on a Curse of Death’s Hold for each opponent. The activated ability is a fine mana sink/graveyard interaction. I think token strategies will enjoy this effect since over the course of an entire game, if not removed, Ethereal Absolution will absolutely give you your mana’s worth.
Mystic Snake? Anyone? Mystic Elf Lizard Wizard? Okay, fine. A bit harder to cast than the Snake, this creature has an extra power, as well as Elf and Wizard tribal synergies. Mean with Riptide Laboratory, fun with Wirewood Symbiote, and works better than its predecessor with Ophiomancer.
It’s a good thing this is such an amazing card because that artwork sitting by itself in a bulk bin would be such a waste. Growth Spiral is similar to Coiling Oracle, trading the abuseable creature body for the ability to cast it at instant speed. Both could see play reasonably in most Simic+ decks, so feel free to slot this beauty right on in.
Arcades, the Strategist has a new goodie to play with. Sadly, this can’t go into Doran decks, but Arcades will have to do.
Though an excellent mana sink, Hydroid Krasis just misses the cut for me. The juicy part of this creature being a cast trigger is really awesome, but it lacks the ability for abuse with blinks. Expecting it to live long enough to buyback for recast just sounds like a long and uphill journey I don’t want to undertake with this Jellyfish.
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Damn, she’s a boss. Sacrifice themed decks will find use for Judith despite the fact that she doesn’t work well with tokens. I wouldn’t want her as my general, but I could see her playing nicely in a Lyzolda, the Blood Witch or Tymaret, the Murder King deck. Plus, her outfit. *Please add looking eye emoji*
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
EDH is a format chalk full of 1 mana permanents. Even still, her ability to off Llanowar Elves and Sol Ring here and there isn’t a strong enough draw. Dack Fayden should show you what 3 mana planeswalkers are capable of. Don’t settle for less.
A nice 4 mana wrath to add to the sadly small lineup. Being able to wipe the board for this cheap is always appreciated. Be warned that despite the cheap cost, the colored requirement is quite a hurdle to hit by turn 4, so I suggest including her in strictly Orzhov decks only. Once you add another color, it becomes much harder to reliably cast, even with fetch/dual/shock/Fetid Heath mana bases.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
I wrote an entire article on Lavinia. I predict she will have an impact in Vintage and Commander, and be a great build around card. I love how she slows down or occasionally entirely shuts off some of the most busted things you can do at the EDH table. Of course, I do wish she was mono-colored so she could fit into more decks, but being Azorius means that you could technically run her as your general as well (not recommended). The number of cards she turns off (just for opponents) is staggering and she does crazy things with Knowledge Pool and Omen Machine. I am excited to toy around with some Lavinia builds and I know many others have already begun.
Nikya of the Old Ways
Nikya of the Old Ways is a solid role player that will see play in some decks that make use of mana doublers (like Mana Flare/Heartbeat of Spring). Additionally, you can use her in combo decks that can combo her with Palinchron and friends to do big dumb things. This is the first time we’ve had a cheap mana doubler that can be put in the Command Zone (yeah, sorry Vorinclex, you are the payoff, not the enabler, buddy). Because of this, there may be some new decks that arise due to the constant access to the effect. Don’t forget, Nikya won’t always be in play, so her ability is no excuse to exclude cards like Sol Ring or Mana Crypt from your deck.
Prime Speaker Vannifar
Oh my, Birthing Pod, is that you? Haters will say it’s fake and “no,” but you can’t put Birthing Pod in the Command Zone, sweetie. People have wasted no time in already busting out the combos with her in every format, and I’m sure by the time this is posted, there will already be new ones. Having access to this effect reliably on turn 4 (or earlier—she is green, after all) is something we haven’t seen since Yisan. And we all know how strong he turned out to be. I predict many, many players will pick up this Elf, Ooze, Wizard and get to work sifting through their deck to destroy their enemies. If you want to build a Prime Speaker Vannifar deck, I suggest picking up Lightning Greaves, Thornbite Staff, Intruder Alarm, Scryb Ranger, and Thousand-Year Elixir ASAP.
Rakdos, the Showstopper
Nooooo, why can’t this fit in Zndrplt and Okaun?! Well, at least Rakdos, the Showstopper is an enabler for Chance Encounter himself. Building a deck that revolves around just that sounds like a riot. Time to dust off my Grim Tutor.
Rhythm of the Wild
I am not sold on this card. If you already run Fires of Yavimaya this can be a fine substitute (if you don’t run tokens), or replacement (especially if you have lots of blue in your meta). That being said, in my experience these spells end up looking better than they play out, so I am not sure there actually is a home for this. But hey, if you like haste or +1/+1 counters look no further.
Do you like Helix Pinnacle? Because if you do, I’ve got something to sell you. Proliferate, Undying combo, Kraj—it matters not. Time to ascend!
Grave Pact, Skullclamp, Divine Visitation, you name it. There are lots of cards that combo nicely with this new Orzhov general. Despite liking the character, I was never a big fan of her previous two iterations, but I do like this Teysa as a solid build-around.
Zegana, Utopian Speaker
Though I like Teysa more than before, this version of Zegana isn’t doing it for me. Her solid stats and trample enabling aren’t the kind of things I am looking to spend this kind of mana on in Commander. Prime Speaker Zegana for life, baby.
Top 8 Picks from Ravnica Allegiance
Ravnica Allegiance has a surprising number of diamonds in the rough that I enjoyed considering for Commander. I am excited to see many of the powerful build-arounds, as well as the solid role-players offered here. I don’t think anything will be breaking the format wide open, but I suppose some might see that as a good thing. Were there cards from the set that excited you? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for reading and until next time, “Are you paying 2 for Smothering Tithe?”