Last week I talked about my picks for the best cards from Ravnica Allegiance in Standard. There are also a few cards that were initially underrated, or that I’m keeping on my radar. Ravnica Allegiance is one of the strongest sets we’ve seen since Kaladesh. Because of that, some of the cards on my list may have slipped through the cracks, are ones you wouldn’t consider Standard power level, or just aren’t getting as much attention because of how powerful other cards in the set are.
10) Sunder Shaman
My first reading of Sunder Shaman left me unimpressed. Juzaam Djinn lost its luster over the years, and Sunder Shaman’s abilities didn’t seem particularly relevant to me at first. Gruul decks can play cards like Rekindling Phoenix and Nullhide Ferox at 4 mana, and Sunder Shaman is more difficult to cast than both, and at first look seems much less powerful. After thinking about the format a bit more, and how common cards like Rhythm of the Wild, Hadana’s Climb, and Wilderness Reclamation might be, a Juzaam Djinn that can eat your opponent’s most important cards for free may actually have some potential as Gruul’s 4-drop du jour. If you’re able to follow up Rhythm of the Wild with an unexpected Sunder Shaman with riot, choose haste, and devour one of those precious enchantments, the tempo swing can be game winning. This card has the least chance to impact the format on my list, but it’s a card I’m keeping on my radar as an option out of a Gruul deck if we see a ton of enchantments moving forward.
9) Consecrate // Consume
Consecrate // Consume is a bit narrow, but it plays a huge role in providing a deck like Esper Control with a clean answer to Carnage Tyrant or other hexproof threats. The same control deck might have a problem with recurring threats, like Gutterbones and Rekindling Phoenix, and in this spot Consecrate could play a role, or just help you hit land drops. The life gain tacked onto Consume makes it a perfect 1- or 2-of for control decks, mitigating the effect of creatures with haste like Gruul Spellbreaker or Skaargan Hellkite. While this card isn’t going to be an all-star in the format, it’s a nice role player we’ll see played time to time when green creature decks are looking to go big. This will be especially true if we start seeing a lot of hexproof threats in the format played.
8) Benthic Biomancer
One of the first decks I played in Standard was a Merfolk deck designed by my podcast cohost Sam Black. He was really big on the combination of Deeproot Elite and Benthic Biomancer, and after playing the deck I definitely saw what he was talking about. The two cards together allow you to play a Merfolk deck that can delve deep and find exactly what you’re looking for by adding counter after counter to Benthic Biomancer and looting through your deck. Deeproot Elite isn’t the only way to dig through your deck with Benthic Biomancer. You also have Hadana’s Climb and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca to put counters onto Benthic Biomancer at no mana cost, and help you dig to find exactly what you need to close the game out while also growing your battlefield presence. If Merfolk does see play, Benthic Biomancer and Breeding Pool are the reasons the deck would finally be competitive.
7) Revival // Revenge
I’m mostly here for the Revival half of this card, but Revenge is a powerful spell to have access to. Revenge is attached to a card that appears to work incredibly well with Judith, the Scourge Diva and Priest of Forgotten Gods, and it adds a fair bit of stability to these “Aristocrats” decks, allowing you to have both of these cards in play far more often to keep the deck firing on all cylinders. This combination of cards is where I see Revival // Revenge having an impact, and likely not outside of Aristocrats decks. It’s the type of card that might sit in your hand for a while, waiting for an opportunity to put a high value 3-mana creature in play, and in those cases, you have Revenge to fall back on, which can change games dramatically. I’m keeping my eye on the shell of Revival, Judith, and Priest of Forgotten Gods and I think you should too.
6) Fireblade Artist
I played some Standard with Andrea Mengucci, who was piloting an aggressive Rakdos Spectacle deck. The card that beat my expectations the most was Fireblade Artist. That Rakdos deck puts a ton of pressure on the opponent early with an extremely low curve, and even if you are able to stabilize at a lower life total, Fireblade Artist is always threatening to deal damage for turns to come unless the opponent turns the corner to close out the game. Fireblade Artist played a more important role in this deck than I thought it would, allowing Gutterbones to deal 2 damage a turn on a gummed up battlefield. Fireblade Artist wouldn’t have been on my list a few days ago, but after playing against it I’m much more of a believer in both Rakdos Aggro and Fireblade Artist.
5) Orzhov Enforcer
Gruul has some strong creatures, and with Rhythm of the Wild, all of Gruul’s creatures will essentially have haste. Adding hexproof creatures into the equation makes removal spells much worse. Enter Orzhov Enforcer. Orzhov Enforcer can trade up for a Carnage Tyrant or Nullhide Ferox, and provide a little value in the form of a 1/1 Spirit token. Orzhov Enforcer also enables spectacle either from the leftover token from afterlife, or because the opponent doesn’t want to block and trade with it. On top of those interesting uses for the card, it’s still just a creature that provides a token when it dies for sacrifice outlets like Priest of Forgotten Gods. Big, green ground creatures will play a role in this format, and Orzhov Enforcer is an interesting option in slowing those green decks down. If you need more deathtouch creatures to fill this role, Dire Fleet Poisoner is another strong option.
4) Carnival // Carnage
Carnival // Carnage isn’t super under the radar but it still doesn’t get as much respect as it should. When I looked through the Magic Online Standard deck lists that went 5-0, I saw a large amount of Llanowar Elves. Carnival can slow down green decks early, or punish them late for emptying their hand. Allowing you to trigger spectacle for 1 mana for cards like Rix Maadi Reveler, Theater of Horrors, or even returning a Gutterbones is additional upside that pushes this card further into the “playable” category.
Carnival // Carnage has an important role early against aggro decks or Llanowar Elves, but is also not a horrible topdeck in the middle of the game because Blightning is a solid card to draw in grindy matchups. I really like the design of this card and I think it will see a decent amount of play as long as 1-toughness creatures are around.
This one is a bit self-explanatory but it all comes down to how good some of the enchantments in this format are. Between Wilderness Reclamation, Rhythm of the Wild, Theater of Horrors,and Hadana’s Climb, you’re likely going to want some way to interact with enchantments in your deck, and Mortify is an excellent choice. While Murder isn’t the best Standard card, it’s seen play before, and Mortify is a huge upgrade to that. I expect any deck that can cast Mortify will want to play a couple of copies of it, and potentially even more to make sure it can deal with enchantments that end up being the focal point of some decks. While I first imagined this wouldn’t see much play, I now think it may even see more play than Bedevil given the right metagame.
2) Biogenic Ooze
While this isn’t exactly a secret to some, this card was definitely far off my radar for Standard. Looking through the latest deck dump, Biogenic Ooze is coming up a lot. It provides a little bit of value in the form of a 2/2 even when it’s killed before you end your turn, and if it’s not killed shortly after it comes into play, it will potentially take over the game on its own. The funny thing is that the more we see Ooze being played in Standard, the better it is, because it’s so good when it sits in play and green decks tend to have a difficult time interacting with it.
I do think that Biogenic Ooze will see less and less play as removal like Shivan Fire, Shock, and Cast Down pick up in popularity and increase in numbers in Standard. While I thought Biogenic Ooze was a bit of a meme before, it only took the first time losing to it with my own green deck to realize it’s the real deal if players skimp on removal.
1) Light Up the Stage
This was the card I underrated the most after looking through the full Ravnica Allegiance set. Light up the Stage is much better than I anticipated in aggressive red decks that are often pressuring the opponent’s life total with cheap creatures and burn spells. One of the issues with those types of decks, especially in Standard, is that they can run out of gas quickly. Light up the Stage provides a little extra gas in the tank at an efficient rate. Burn decks can mulligan poorly as they need access to a critical amount of burn spells to finish off the opponent, and there are few ways to recover those resources that are efficient enough for a burn deck to play. Light up the Stage is exactly that at 1 mana. Worst-case scenario you cast it for 3 mana, but you’ll still get to untap once and get access to the cards you exiled with untapped lands the next turn. Between Theater of Horrors, Flame of Keld, and Light up the Stage, red burn decks have a lot of velocity to help close out the game and not flood out. It also helps that all of these cards happen to work quite well together.
While I initially didn’t think Light up the Stage would see a ton of play, I actually regret not putting it in my top 10 best cards list as it’s one of the most efficient card draw spells we’ve seen in Standard in a long time. It’s worth noting that Light up the Stage isn’t for every red deck, but it could potentially go into a lot of decks outside of burn or red aggro as well, as long as those decks steadily deal the opponent damage. I’m excited to play more with this card in the coming weeks and find the best home for it. It may not be Ancestral Recall, but it’s as close as we’re going to get in Standard.
Are there any cards from Ravnica Allegiance you think are being underplayed or not getting the respect you think they deserve?