I started my very first match of Ravnica Allegiance Limited with a turn-2 Prowling Caracal. My opponent passed the turn with Island and Plains untapped, and I had no idea what to do.

Faerie Duelist

Should you attack into a possible Faerie Duelist on turn 2? There’s risk of ruin, allowing your opponent to eat your creature at no loss of resources. But when you don’t attack with your unanswered 2-drop, you’re giving up a possible early advantage that could easily swing the outcome of the game.

The answer depends on the context of your deck and your opening hand. If your position is strong, and you feel good about winning in a long game, then you should play conservatively and avoid springing your opponent’s trap. If your hand is weaker, or more centered on early aggression, you may be better served by simply hoping they don’t have it. If you think you might just barely get over the 20 damage mark, then you can’t afford to miss an attack on turn 3.

Prowling Caracal

But in reality, I think you’re better served to answer this question before you ever get to the Prowling-Caracal-against-open-mana position. The fact that we’re even asking the question in the first place—the fact that such a simple turn of events can lead to such an inconvenient situation—means that you shouldn’t put Prowling Caracal in your deck.

Ravnica Allegiance is a bad format for beating down. Part of this has to do with the strength of card advantage and removal, and part of it is due to defensive creatures that lend themselves to board stalls. That said, a lot of it is specific to the card Faerie Duelist. The mere threat of this card makes it a bad idea to center your strategy around fragile 2-drop creatures.

Rakdos Trumpeter

At a minimum, if you’re going to be aggressive, you ought to choose creatures that don’t get blown out by Duelist. Rakdos Trumpeter is a bread-and-butter card for its guild because it reliably triggers spectacle and maintains value in the late game. My Gruul decks are much more centered around Frenzied Arynx and other large creatures, rather than chip damage with cheap beaters.

I prefer to run my creatures through what I call “The Faerie Duelist test.” It’s as simple as it sounds: Imagine yourself in the situation outlined above, and replace the Prowling Caracal with the creature in question. How do you feel about attacking?

Prowling Caracal fails the test. It’s no secret that Prowling Caracal is a weak card in Ravnica Allegiance. But what does the Faerie Duelist test reveal about some of the format’s other creatures? Gravel-Hide Goblin, Smelt-Ward Ignus, and Vizkopa Vampire are all cards that look pretty decent at face value, but fail the Faerie Duelist test. I believe that these cards are significantly weaker than they first appear, and even something as vanilla as Feral Maaka can sometimes be better. (Consider swapping your Ignus and your Maaka during sideboarding based on whether or not your opponent is playing blue.)

In Ravnica Allegiance Limited, you should play 2-drops with the goal of trading off with opposing 2-drops, or keeping pace in terms of board presence. It usually shouldn’t be with the goal of curving out and damaging your opponent. Building your deck with resilience to Faerie Duelist will have the side effects of protecting you against Dagger Caster and Cry of the Carnarium, and giving you more staying power in long games.

Faerie Duelist is a very good 2-drop because it defends you, maintains its value later in the game, and can even generate card advantage under the right circumstances. It’s a defining card for the format, and even the threat of Faerie Duelist should change the way you draft and construct your deck.