[Author’s Note: I’d like to apologize for the delay on these reviews. I came down with a really nasty cold/flu, and was basically out of commission for almost a week (I even skipped Limited Resources). That pushed these back quite a bit, though I’m back on track now. Sorry for the delay, and thanks for reading.
Previous Ravnica Allegiance Reviews
Before I introduce the grading scale, I offer the usual caveat—the grades don’t tell the whole story, and what I write about each card provides context.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Awaken the Erstwhile
This is reminiscent of Head Games (which almost won me a Pro Tour), but it’s a lot harder to get an edge. The more effective the discard is, the more 2/2s they get, and the more 2/2s you get, the more cards you had to lose. I don’t currently see a great way to abuse this, though any card that bins the opponent’s entire hand is worth looking at.
Bankrupt in Blood
Multiple creatures is a high cost, but this is cheap enough that it could be a potential engine. With enough token-making and afterlife, this is the sort of effect Aristocrats-style decks use well (though Priest of Forgotten Gods is a lot of competition for this slot).
If you can reliably spectacle this, I’m totally in. Phyrexian Rager has a solid Constructed pedigree and getting a 3/2 at that cost is a lot for the opponent to juggle. Unfortunately, when you miss, this is wildly unplayable, which likely prevents it from making it to the big show.
Cry of the Carnarium
I want to say that this is a far cry from Infest, but that doesn’t actually work because this is just Infest with minor upside. Note that this also retroactively exiles creatures that died earlier, which is bizarre, so make sure to not get any game rule violations. As for usage, this is a sweeper you can main deck in black-based control, and is a solid sideboard option in both control and midrange. How good this is heavily depends on how many 3-toughness creatures are running around, but it’s a powerful card that’s worth considering regardless.
This will see a little bit of play, as it’s a passable (if inefficient) card at three, and quite a good one at one. The best places I can see for this are black aggro as a main deck piece of disruption, or midrange/aggro as a sideboard card against control.
Font of Agonies
This is cute with fetchlands in older formats, and I wonder if something like Death’s Shadow might try and take advantage of it. It sounds a little too difficult to pull off, but repeatable kill is powerful in a 1 mana card.
The Bloodghast-type slot generally does well for itself, and this is no exception. Gutterbones is a cheap threat that demands exile-based removal, and will pull its weight in black aggro decks and sacrifice decks alike.
Orzhov Enforcer is just efficient enough to see play. It trades up on mana, holds the ground nicely, and gives you a little bit of value when it dies. If green decks are abundant, this is a solid main deck or sideboard card to keep them at bay.
The rating here is wholly based on there being some inane combo where you give one of your mass damage spells deathtouch. That’s a bit of a stretch, but someone is going to try and do it.
Priest of Forgotten Gods
If the Mardu Aristocrats sacrifice deck has legs, these Gods may not be forgotten for long. Sacrificing two creatures is a big cost, but you get two cards back immediately, as well as 2 life and 2 mana, making this a solid deal.
Spawn of Mayhem
Between this and Gutterbones, RNA may have spawned a couple of good black-based aggro decks. A 3 mana 4/4 flyer that has multiple upsides is a great deal, and the fail case of playing this for 4 mana really isn’t a disaster. This hits your opponent for 5 a turn, and if somehow your life total has been pressured, this starts growing quite quickly.
This has been haunting the Arena best-of-one ladder for a while now, as it’s a fantastic card against mono-red. It’s also fine elsewhere, as a 3/4 that eats a card and gains 3 is well worth 4 mana. The color requirements are clearly the hardest part, but the mana is good enough in Standard that this will easily be an Orzhov mainstay.
Consecrate // Consume
Consume won’t see play in large quantities, as it is a little clunky, but will see play in a lot of different decks. It eats your opponent’s biggest creature and gives you a nice life cushion to boot, with the backup plan of cycling and exiling something. That’s a lot of action for one card, and that makes this one of the better removal spells in the format.
It’s always funny giving Limited mega-bombs such low Constructed ratings, but that is where this is at. It’s a powerful card, and I can imagine matchups where it turns the tide, but I don’t think it will make waves in 60-card decks. If the opponent has all 1-toughness creatures and the matchup is slow and grindy, this will give you a big edge, but at 6 mana it needs to be awesome.
In Constructed, we get to put good removal spells in our deck, so we don’t usually have to play with conditional ones like this (compare this to Mortify, for example). That said, if there’s a deck that actively wants to sacrifice its creatures or enchantments and needs another outlet, this is passable.
A 2/1 vigilance is enough worse than a 1/2 deathtouch that I don’t see this making the cut over Orzhov Enforcer (not to mention the easier mana cost), but it’s not that far from being playable.
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
I kind of like the idea of Kaya in Legacy. She snipes Delver, Death’s Shadow, Exploration, Chalice of the Void, and much more. She does cost 3, which is basically the top of the curve, but 1-2 Kaya’s in a midrange deck sounds kind of sick, actually. She could also nug the opponent for a ton if they are playing delve cards, which is a pretty common occurrence.
In Standard, Kaya is a decent anti-red card, as it eats a lot of your opponent’s permanents and can gain you some much-needed life back, but she falls a bit short against most other decks.
4-mana Wrath is an impactful card, and makes Esper/Orzhov way more appealing than it would be otherwise. Every now and then it will gain you a life or two, but the bulk of the value is just that this costs 4 and blows up the world.
I like Mortify. It’s a solid removal spell that hits everything but planeswalkers, and the color requirements aren’t bad at all. This will see a lot of play.
The difference between a 1-mana activation and a free one is huge, but this still does a lot of what sacrifice decks want to do. It eats your creatures to trigger things, and survives combat and removal very nicely.
Revival // Revenge
Both halves of this are pretty niche, but a cheap reanimation spell plus a powerful finisher is an interesting combo. I don’t exactly know where this fits, but if you can use both halves then it’s a pretty sweet card.
Seraph of the Scales
Seraph is a lot of value packed into just 4 mana. Dying into two 1/1s is huge, making this a beating against anyone without exile-based removal, and vigilance plus deathtouch means that it can’t be ignored. The easy casting cost helps too, making this an option for a ton of different decks.
I don’t know what kind of shenanigans you can get up to with this, but you’ll need a bit more than just afterlife. It’s like a Panharmonicon, and that card was always a lot of fun.
Top 3 Black / Orzhov Cards
1. Kaya’s Wrath
Hm, turns out gold is good. Black has some decent cards too, but the Orzhov cards overshadow them easily. A removal spell, a Wrath, and a good 4-drop is a nice spread, giving Orzhov options in all sorts of decks.