We have finally seen every card Ravnica Allegiance has to offer us and it is one of the strongest sets we’ve seen in a while. While that’s the case, it also seems powerful in a healthy way, not in an Aetherworks Marvel/Smuggler’s Copter type way. Sorry Kaladesh, I’m still not over it.
What’s the most powerful card in the set, though? Today, I’m going to pick my top 10 cards for Standard out of Ravnica Allegiance.
Honorable Mention: Warrant // Warden
I really wanted to get this on the list because it’s such a flexible card. It plays well with the best card in Azorius, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. We got very little in the way of tools for Azorius Control outside of Absorb, and Warrant // Warden is one of the few. Warden means you’ll never have a dead card (thanks best-of-one!). I can even see this card in a deck like Mono-Blue Tempo, splashed off of a couple of Hallowed Fountains in case you get to 5 mana and want the Warden side. It’ll cost you a point off your Tempest Djinns, but it might be worth it. Its flexibility both in casting cost and modes makes this a card I’m sure we’ll see a decent amount of.
#10 Gruul Spellbreaker
Gruul Spellbreaker’s only downside is its inflexibility. You’re going to include it in a Gruul aggro deck, and it won’t really see play unless that specific deck is good. Its ability to shut off opponent’s Settle the Wreckages and eat an opponent’s mana when they leave up instant speed removal makes it a huge tempo boost. I think Gruul is the best guild in Ravnica Allegiance, and will likely occupy a top spot in the metagame early. This may mean I’m a bit biased in including Gruul Spellbreaker on my list, but I think we’ll be seeing a bunch of Gruul Spellbreakers, especially in week 1 because the Gruul deck is fairly easy to build and looks so strong.
#9: Judith, the Scourge Diva
Judith is a build-around that may lead us to a tier 1 Aristocrats-style deck again. This archetype plays small-ball with sacrifice outlets and a payoff. Judith allows you to get value out of the creatures you sacrifice, and with afterlife as the new Orzhov mechanic, I can totally see a shell revolving around Judith and Priest of Forgotten Gods with afterlife creatures as fodder. Sacrifice the afterlife creatures to the Priest, use Judith’s ability to pick off any small creatures laying around, make them sacrifice their Carnage Tyrant, and create mana and draw a card. You’re left with tokens that don’t “work” with Judith, but Judith will still pump them for combat and leverage your new position nicely. While Judith is on the list, it may have been just fine to include Priest of Forgotten Gods on the list instead since I think we’ll see them together so often. I do think Judith has further, more degenerate applications with Skirk Prospector, so I have Judith on my list over the Priest. Judith and the Priest of Forgotten Gods are a nice combination of cards I plan to test early.
#8: Incubation Druid
I wasn’t a believer in this card initially. I read the card and remembered all the times 2-mana mana dorks had let me down in the past. (Channeler Initiate, Deathcap Cultivator, even Rattleclaw Mystic outside of devotion decks.) That said, Incubation Druid has some serious upside these other cards didn’t. Sure, you can adapt it to turn it into a threat or get a late game mana boost, but if you can put counters on it in other ways, like Hadana’s Climb, Rhythm of the Wild, or Domri, Chaos Bringer, you can get a huge mana advantage early enough that it can snowball out of control. There’s so much room to innovate with Incubation Druid and I’m excited to see if it’s played more in an “unfair” way by cheating counters onto it, or just slides into midrange decks. I’m not excited about the latter, but if we find some broken things to do with it, it’s certainly going to be one of the most important cards in Ravnica Allegiance.
#7: Theater of Horrors
Theater of Horrors at first looked too much like a weakened Experimental Frenzy for me to think it would see play. Then I realized that you don’t need to play the card exiled in the same turn—you can let them pile up. After thinking about it, Theater of Horrors is actually better than Experimental Frenzy. In a deck like Rakdos Burn, Theater of Horrors can just accumulate cards, and then you can trigger spectacle and unload in a single turn. Experimental Frenzy gets worse in multiples, whereas Theater of Horrors actually gets better. Your hand isn’t shut off and you see which cards are exiled, so you can actually plan out turns instead of relying on the top of your deck to give you what you need to come back from behind. The biggest hoop you need to jump through with Theater of Horrors is that you need ways to turn on spectacle to get the exiled cards out from under it, but you don’t even need a huge amount of spectacle enablers because you can wait a couple of turns and use your Shock to get two or three cards. I’m excited to see what this card can do, and even though it’s seventh on my list, it’s higher on my priority list for testing. This card gets much better the slower the format is, so if week 1 is all aggressive decks it may underperform, but if the format slows down don’t sleep on it.
#6: Kaya’s Wrath
There’s not too much to say about this one. It’s a Day of Judgment with a very underwhelming upside. That said, it’s still a 4-mana sweeper that hits everything in play. We haven’t had that since, what, Supreme Verdict? Kaya’s Wrath is extremely limiting at a WWBB mana cost. We have good enough mana now to see it in an Esper build, as well as straight Orzhov, so it will certainly see a lot of play. It would be higher on my list if its supporting cards were better in Orzhov. I’m also worried that sorcery speed sweepers won’t even be enough if riot creature after riot creature hits the battlefield. That said, Kaya’s Wrath is going to be a format staple and will play a role in keeping creature decks in check as long as it’s legal in Standard.
#5: Incubation // Incongruity
You might be surprised to see this here, but I think this card will be an all-star in almost any Simic deck. It provides Simic with a weak source of removal but tacked onto a strong way to find specific creatures. Between Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, Prime Speaker Vannifar, Frilled Mystic, Growth-Chamber Guardian, Carnage Tyrant, and even parts of the Wildgrowth Walker explore package, there are plenty of creatures you want to find. Every deck with Simic colors I’ve drawn up has started out with three or four copies of this card, which made me realize just how important this card will be in Standard.
#4: Wilderness Reclamation
More than any other card in the set, Wilderness Reclamation has the highest potential to be broken. It essentially doubles your mana every turn, and only asks you to build your deck with enough instants to take advantage of that extra mana. Oh yeah, once you’ve jumped through those hoops, Wilderness Reclamation is also essentially free to cast since it will untap the mana spent on itself.
Nexus of Fate is an obvious inclusion in a Wilderness Reclamation deck, but having access to other expensive instants like Expansion // Explosion and even Emergency Powers makes it possible to build something very combo-like. One problem a deck like this may have is a lack of cards that can give you this same kind of mana advantage, so you could draw too many expensive spells and no Wilderness Reclamations, and then your deck won’t function.
This leads me to believe that these decks could be vulnerable to enchantment removal and a deck full of Negates and other counterspells, which is why this card is this “low” on my list. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can help your deck function in these spots by giving you a few extra mana a turn, but it’s not going to make your deck tick like Wilderness Reclamation. The inclusion of Precognitive Perception in this set to go with Wilderness Reclamation makes the deck even scarier. Having the ability to cast this card during an opponent’s turn, as well as on your own main phase to go six cards deep to find whatever you are looking for, whether it be that Nexus of Fate to chain off or that first copy of Wilderness Reclamation to get going, adds an incredibly powerful tool. My biggest worry is that this card is as good as it looks.
#3: Rhythm of the Wild
This seems to be a more controversial card than I thought. I’ve seen people claim it’s worse than Domri, Chaos Bringer because it’s a worse late-game topdeck and does a lot of the same things. But the decks that want this card aren’t playing for much of a late game, and want this effect earlier than turn 4. Domri is much worse when you fall behind, and Rhythm can help make sure you don’t fall behind by hitting the board earlier. In spots where you do fall behind, it gives your creatures extra counters to play defense with. Llanowar Elves’ presence in the format helps this card tremendously, but having access to so many hexproof threats to give riot, like Nullhide Ferox and Vine Mare, makes me think there’s a hard-to-interact-with Gruul Stompy build that will be viable on Day 1 of Standard. I can’t wait to play with this one, but I can wait for the bad beat stories I’ll be hearing about Llanowar Elves into Rhythm of the Wild.
Like Kaya’s Wrath, there’s not a ton to say about this new take on Hero’s Downfall. Decks that can cast Bedevil will often play four, and it’s a clean answer to most cards in the format. As long as Rakdos mana is something people are playing you’ll be seeing a healthy dose of Bedevil in Standard, and you’ll also be seeing fewer artifacts. Bedevil’s popularity in Standard will potentially account for how many cards like Azor’s Gateway and Treasure Map we’ll see. If Bedevil is popular those cards will rarely be played. The one key weakness to Bedevil is of course what it doesn’t hit: enchantments. Between Theater of Horrors, Wilderness Reclamation, and Rhythm of the Wild, enchantment is a pretty important type to have an answer to.
#1: Growth-Chamber Guardian
At rate, this card is solid. It’s a 2/2 for 2 that can scale into the late game and gives you mana sinks for turns to come. Adapting at instant speed allows you to threaten to activate it, meaning you can attack for 2, then play a different spell if you want, or leave up open mana for removal or a counterspell (Frilled Mystic, maybe?) and activate it in the opponent’s end step. All of these play patterns make the card already great, but with Rhythm of the Wild and Hadana’s Climb, you can put counters on Growth-Chamber Guardian to find more copies of it without having to spend any additional mana. The sickest curve I can think of in Standard right now is turn-1 Llanowar Elves, turn-2 Rhythm of the Wild, and then turn-3 Growth-Chamber Guardian to find an additional copy, which can then find another and so on from the riot granted. One of the biggest holes in the format leading into this set was the lack of quality 2-drops, and Growth-Chamber Guardian filled that nicely.
Ravnica Allegiance Standard looks crazy fun. There are so many different decks, and there’s so much to build around that I’m having a hard time trying to focus on any one deck or idea. I’m really excited to see how the format shakes out and these ten cards are going to be a huge part of where I start. There are also a lot of mythic rares I left off my list that maybe I’m undervaluing, like Skarrgan Hellkite, Angel of Grace, and Spawn of Mayhem. All of these cards are pretty obviously solid and could certainly have made the back half of my list.
What is your favorite card from Ravnica Allegiance? What card did I miss? Let me know in the comments!