[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.)
Act of Treason
Every now and then this is a niche sideboard card, as stealing giant things and then sacrificing them can be quite profitable. It’s also always legal, so it’s not all that exciting seeing it here.
This could see some play in Standard, as it lets you play things at instant speed when your opponent doesn’t expect them, but where it really seems promising is Modern. This is another way to cheat out the 0-mana suspend spells like Living End, Ancestral Vision, and Restore Balance, so it could help bolster decks using As Foretold. I really like those style of decks, so Electrodominance is an exciting addition.
I love the whole Gate engine that’s in Standard right now. Getting four sick Gates cards (Gatebreaker Ram, Archway Angel, Gates Ablaze, and Gate Colossus) plus Guild Summit means that the deck really has legs. Here’s a recent list for reference:
Gates on Fire
Gates Ablaze is a critical piece, as it gives the deck a sweeper that kills basically everything for 3 mana. That’s really powerful, and despite the full commitment it asks, is worth it.
And we are back to memes. This isn’t actually good, but could be funny.
This is a little too slow to be worth it unless the opponent is just popping off with activated abilities.
Light Up the Stage
Welp, looks like Thoughtcast is back. Light Up the Stage is incredibly powerful, and adds a ton to mono-red decks across many formats, but that’s just the beginning. Two cards for 1 mana is so good that it won’t just be mono-red interested in this. All you need to do is have consistent damage sources, which in Standard does mostly mean mono-red, though Rakdos and Gruul have some potential too. In formats with better mana, a.k.a. Modern and Legacy, I can see this being a staple in tons of decks. It’s awkward with Force of Will or other counterspells, but in decks with all proactive cards and early attackers, it’s busted. Expect to see a lot of this in many decks.
Rix Maadi Reveler
Rix Maadi Reveler is a slightly below-rate 2-drop and a wildly above-rate 4-drop. That’s a good combination, and this is one of the stronger reasons to dip into black when you’re looking to get aggressive. Emptying your hand and curving into this not only puts a lot of damage on the table, but it gets you a free refill, and not of Diet Coke either.
Skarrgan Hellkite is almost a split card, thanks to riot + its text box. It’s either a 4/4 haste flyer for 5, which is a solid aggressive curve-topper, or a 5/5 that breathes fire, which helps when you are playing more of the control role. That makes it play differently against control or aggro, based on the game situation, and both modes are powerful enough to be worthy of inclusion. I like this card, and think it’s going to make into a lot of midrange red decks.
Skewer the Critics
Skewer is now a mainstay in burn across every format, and gives mono-red in Standard a very powerful tool. It turns out that Lightning Bolt is great, even if you have to work for it, and dealing damage to the opponent isn’t the hardest thing in the world. This changes up play patterns a little, and will lead to things like Spear Spewer seeing play, but for the most part it’s a solid burn spell that goes into any aggressive deck.
Light Up the Stage and Skewer make this a very interesting option, and it’s a reliable source of damage even if you aren’t enabling spectacle every turn. Mono-red has a lot of good 1-drop options, and sometimes this will end up being better than Fanatical Firebrand (though it won’t beat out Ghitu Lavarunner).
There’s a lot of action packed into one little card here. Cindervines is a bit more expensive than Destructive Revelry at killing something, but the static ability is so powerful that it’s definitely worth it. I like the trend of Modern hosers that hit multiple decks, and this does a great job as Storm hate, KCI hate (wait, R.I.P. KCI), and a backstop against any deck with problematic artifacts and enchantments. It even has utility in less broken formats, like Standard, as it can ping TurboFog decks a bunch of times, then blow up a Wilderness Reclamation or Gift of Paradise. This is not even just a sideboard card, as there are some really aggressive decks that may want it main, if the format gets to that point. Cindervines is powerful, and worth keeping in mind.
Domri, Chaos Bringer
Domri is powerful, though you need to be at parity or ahead to really make use of him. That does limit how much he can do for you, even if he is a beating if the opponent isn’t able to pressure him. He finds a steady stream of creatures while also helping you cast them, and makes them bigger or gives them haste while he’s at it. In an R/G Monsters style deck, he could pound control, but won’t be what you want against aggro.
Settle the what? This card is (inelegantly) aimed at Settle the Wreckage, though it’s a fine card in pretty much any matchup. A 3-mana 4/4 or 3/3 haste with half-hexproof is a beater, and if you want a low to the ground red-green deck to work, Gruul Spellbreaker is likely part of it.
Nikya of the Old Ways
This looks like it’s supposed to be the big Gruul mythic payoff, but I’m not sold. It’s 1 mana more than I want to pay for this effect, and even the ability to kill special lands doesn’t get me there. Ravager Wurm is powerful and a good option for midrange mirrors, but it’s not a 4-of windmill slam.
Rhythm of the Wild
Rhythm is very powerful, and has some sweet combos. This plus Growth-Chamber Guardian (a good card on its own) lets you place a counter and tutor up more Guardians immediately, and even just Rhythm plus a good curve of creatures is a beating. The anti-counter clause is a nice bonus, and I bet plenty of people will still try and counter your stuff (you are allowed to do that, even if it fails).
Rhythm into this is cute, but massive Trygon Predator doesn’t quite get there for me. It needed evasion, not the Limited-only anti-double block clause.
Watchwolf is back, though sometimes it’s disguised as Rip-Clan Crasher. That’s one really powerful mode and one solid mode, which is a lot of action for a 2 mana card. Gruul Aggro decks will be goblin this up, and are happy to get a good 2-drop payoff.
Collision // Colossus
I’m a fan of this. Colossal Might was already a borderline playable, and adding Plummet makes it a good amount better. This snipes Lyra, most Hydroid Krasis, and Tempest Djinn, which is a nice bonus on an already-good aggressive combat trick. Trample and +4 power just delivers, and Gruul decks have such big creatures to begin with.
Thrash // Threat
This may be designed for a best-of-one world, but even that flexibility doesn’t guarantee that it’s a lock to see play. Either side is fine, just not exciting, so you would need a deck that reliably wants both and values that flexibility to make this good enough. Midrange Gruul may be that deck, but it’s unlikely to go much further than that.
Top 3 Red/Gruul Cards
The first two are locks—they are just among the top 5 cards in the entire set. The third card could have been one of many plausible choices, and I went with Gates Ablaze because it spawns an entire archetype. Red and Gruul are unsurprisingly aggressive, though there are some cards here that fit into midrange and even control, making this a good crop of deckbuilding options.