The Magic community is alive and buzzing with excitement at a brand-new spoiler from Ravnica Allegiance. In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t got a cluestone, let’s take a good hard look at Lavinia.
Let’s talk general first and then we’ll move to looking at specifics.
What I Like
The first thing that stands out to me about Lavinia is the low casting cost. Coming down on turn 2 means that she’ll be able to maximize her impact on the game right out of the gates. A larger body and higher mana cost would have taken away from her potency.
Next, her abilities aren’t symmetrical—they only hurt the opponent. This means that you don’t need to make deckbuilding concessions (like with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) in order to take advantage of her.
Lastly, I love the wide range of cards she shuts off. Though her two abilities are unrelated, they work in tandem to shut off more than is immediately apparent, similar to a card like Gaddock Teeg.
What I Dislike
Lavinia’s biggest downfall lies right alongside her greatest strength. She’s cheap to cast but they sure don’t make it easy on us. Costing only 2 mana is great, but having that mana be U/W is not great. This color requirement will severely limit her usage across the board. To maximize Lavinia, you need to play her on turn 2 (or as early as possible) and having both white and blue mana is by no means a guarantee. This is compounded by the fact that later in the game, her effect is significantly diminished, rendering her unsplashable. Despite being in the two best colors in the game (Azorius for life, baby) don’t expect her to pop up everywhere.
Another smaller nitpick I have with Lavinia is her stats. Lavinia fits the cookie cutter hatebear model (a 2/2 for 2 with a taxing effect). But without any extra evasion like Aven Mindcensor or Thalia, she will have a hard time attacking through most board opposition. Because of this, you’ll really need to bank on her taxing abilities to do double time and provide extra value since her body often may not. For hatebears without any evasion, to make the cut it’s important that their taxing abilities are incredibly strong, such as Gaddock Teeg and Containment Priest. I believe Lavinia fits this bill.
So, where might Lavinia see play?
It’s far too early to tell if Lavinia will make any waves in Standard, but I doubt it. Traditionally, cards like this are made for older formats because the number of cards affected by their abilities is much larger. Again, Lavinia doesn’t provide much in the stats department, so her ability’s impact needs to be significantly pushed for her to find a home.
Verdict: Wait and see, but don’t expect much here.
Let’s just talk about the big baddie in the room straight away since we’re all thinking about it. It’s not really a new set until it has some bona fide Tron hate. Lavinia makes it so that Karn Liberated, All is Dust, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon are pipe dreams to cast against any U/W aggressive strategy. It’s not all sunshine and daisies though—she doesn’t shut off one of the key cards Tron uses against aggressive decks: Walking Ballista. Additionally, Oblivion Stone still does its thing, so she is fragile insurance here at best.
Lavinia can reasonably slot into three existing decks: Humans, Spirits, and Blue-White/Jeskai.
It just so happens that Lavinia is a Human! That means she fits right into the Modern Humans deck, as she can be cast off Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory, and triggers Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant. Lavinia helps the game plan of Humans by reducing the stress on Meddling Mage versus Tron, Lantern, and Infect. She turns off Ugin and Karn, so your Meddling Mage can name Walking Ballista or Oblivion Stone. Versus Infect you won’t have to worry about Become Immense and versus Lantern you can name Ensnaring Bridge without needing to also name Whir for a long time.
Lavinia is also easily cast in Spirits. She has a crazy synergy with Spell Queller. Once your Spell Queller dies, because the opponent gets to freely recast their spell, Lavinia says “nope,” like a true Azorius mage. Lavinia shores up similar Tron weaknesses for Spirits as it does in Humans.
U/W and Jeskai
Lastly, there is U/W and Jeskai Control. Lavinia isn’t a great fit in these decks since they can’t take advantage of the 2/2 for 2-mana aspect. Additionally, she gets swept away with Terminus or Verdict and is far more vulnerable than something like Damping Sphere. There will inevitably come a point where the Tron deck simply shrugs at her abilities and casts a Karn with 7 lands in play because the game is likely to go that long.
Modern cards that Lavinia usually shuts off include:
Verdict: Lavinia should pop up occasionally in Humans and Spirits sideboards, but keep in mind that those decks already have many great options. Only time will tell if these applications promote Lavinia to main deck status, but I assume she will be relegated to sideboard use only. I don’t suspect her to reshape Modern in any meaningful way, but she is a solid role player that will show up.
Legacy is a format where Lavinia’s second ability will come up far more often than in Modern. Legacy is also very spell-centric, so there will be fewer creatures that slip through the cracks of her first ability. The toughest sell for me, though, is what home will she find?
2-color hatebears often have trouble finding a home. Gaddock Teeg is a great example, but he’s able to find a home in decks where he compensates for their inability to play counterspells. Similarly, Lavinia shuts down Force of Will, but unlike Teeg, she doesn’t do the same for Jace, the Mind Sculptor or late-game Terminus. I can’t imagine we will see blue added to a hatebears style deck or Death and Taxes just for her.
Okay, so she isn’t good enough to add a second color in DnT, but what about Miracles? Similarly, in Modern, she’ll get swept up by Terminus. She’s a very fragile card that doesn’t really fit into the game plan of a control deck, despite being asymmetrically taxing. While turning off cards like Force of Will and Daze in blue mirrors can be effective, my guess is that Miracles just doesn’t have the room for this type of effect in its sideboard.
Legacy cards that Lavinia shuts off include:
Verdict: It’s easy to see that Lavinia hits a wide array of many of Legacy’s popular and most impactful cards. But the issue here is that she’s homeless, since there aren’t many Tundra decks looking to attack for 2. She’ll show up rarely in sideboards, but when she does she will really hit the opponent hard.
It seems as we move back formats, Lavinia’s abilities shut off more and more cards. Vintage is a format that has Lavinia’s name written all over it… if you can get her into play. Vintage packs less removal and creatures than both Legacy and Modern, so her survivability is slightly higher here. The biggest issue is that Vintage is also the most cutthroat of these formats to reliably cast and resolve a 2-mana spell. In addition to her terrible casting cost, being double colored means that she will rarely hit the board before turn 2 (since you would need one of two specific Moxen to cast her earlier). On the draw this can be especially backbreaking since most of her utility is neutered and Vintage isn’t a format where a 2/2 tends to go the distance and just get there.
With powerful white spells like Monastery Mentor and Swords to Plowshares in the mix, Tundras are already seeing a fair amount of play in Vintage—far more than in the past. Because of this, Lavinia won’t be held back quite as hard by her colored requirements. But she will be held back by the fact that she costs 2 mana that isn’t discounted by all Moxen (see cards like Thalia, Spirit of the Labyrinth, and Containment Priest as examples of ones that often come down on turn 1).
Finding a home for Lavinia in Vintage shouldn’t be too difficult provided you can utilize the taxing effect to your benefit. Will it be worth the trouble of jumping through hoops to cast her? Well, let’s have a little look-see.
Vintage cards that Lavinia shuts off include:
Whew, that is quite a bit of power that Lavinia stops in its tracks. Just the thought of Mental Misstep always costing mana and Force of Will being off for your opponents in such a high-powered format really gets the heart pitter pattering.
Verdict: This verdict is supreme. I think Lavinia will see play in Vintage, potentially even in the main deck. She turns off extremely powerful cards only for your opponents and her only real drawback is that she costs 2 mana of 2 colors. She’s in it to win it here.
Lavinia can shake up EDH tables if stax is popular. She comes down early and her effect is immediate, so she is bound to impact at least some of your opponents, if not all of them. She is particularly potent against mana rocks and a bit weaker against land-based ramping. If someone is running roughshod over you with Maelstrom Wanderer, for example, Lavinia simply says, “No. Not today.”
From competitive tables to casual ones, I suspect Lavinia to pop up all over the place. She can slow the game down a bit, but I think the method she uses to do so is a relatively healthy one. She prevents your opponents from running wild with big expensive plays off the back of their fast mana. Just keep in mind they can still ramp into big dumb creatures, so as is always the case in EDH, be careful!
If you want to build a deck around her, you can feel free to run fewer counterspells and more creature-based removal. Now don’t get too hasty—this doesn’t mean that I advocate cutting your Mana Drains and Cryptic Commands. As the game progresses and players aim to cast their spells the slow way, this should favor a more controlling version of the deck. Maybe a good time to sneak an Approach of the Second Sun onto the stack and wipe everyone out?
Lavinia doesn’t need to be a build-around, either. She makes a fine addition to decks that can support her colors. Do note (as I have 100 times in this article already) that she is quite fragile, so don’t rely on her too hard. She will work best with other stax elements keeping the craziness in check.
Verdict: Why can’t she turn off Cyclonic Rift?! We will certainly see Lavinia in EDH and if people want, I may build a Commander or Brawl deck around her. Let me know!
I hope all this talk on this sweet new Ravnica Allegiance card gets your brain working. Hopefully there are more cards like this yet to be spoiled—ones that may not have an obvious home but are powerful enough to build around and test out. There are bound to be dozens of examples and scenarios I am overlooking with Lavinia, so feel free to let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, and until next time, you’re detained!