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Magic: The Gathering – Closing the Book on Ravnica Allegiance

by Ron Duwell | May 11, 2019May 11, 2019 11:30 am EDT

Thanks to the booming popularity of Magic: Arena, I’ve been able to get a solid understanding of Magic: The Gathering’s outgoing expansion, Ravnica Allegiance, without ever having to leave the comfort of my house. Life obligations have kept me away from Friday Night Magic, but I still drafted the set an absurd amount of times through my PC.

And I was happy about it. Magic: Arena has become my preferred way to keep up with Standard and Limited, and when I get together with friends to play, Pauper has overtaken as my preferred format. It’s easier on my wallet, and my cards never rotate out or lose value. How wonderful!

Still, Draft in person is the best way to play Magic, and I’m a bit sad I never got to once do it with Ravnica Allegiance. Hopefully, by the time Magic’s next expansion, War of the Spark, releases on May 3, I’ll be able to wiggle some free time and actually play!

Today, we’re closing the book on Ravnica Allegiance, picking our favorite cards and seeing how our predictions held up.

First, I want to backtrack on declaring Gruul the best of the Guilds. I made the statement after I dominated my pre-release, but I suppose I just had a solid pool of card. Gruul is only great when you get a solid ramp and simply overpower your opponents before they can get set up. This rarely happens though since you’re more likely scraping by on Feral Maakas and Axebane Beasts.

Riot also stumbled out of the gate. Fans of Gruul were excited to strategically choose between a long game plan or a fast game plan… but ultimately, every Riot instance turned out to be “Will you win this turn? No? Take the +1/+1 counter…”

…that’s it.

Boring. I’d long considered Gruul to be my favorite Guild, but looking back over my years of Magic, only in Kaladesh and Aether Revolt did I make a fun Red/Green deck. Otherwise, my favorite decks have been Black/White Orzhov, Blue/Red Izzet, or Black/Green Golgari… maybe it’s time to rethink my allegiances because I’ve learned there is so much more to Magic than playing big creatures and slamming for the win.

And if I wanted to do that, I would just play Mono-Green and cut the Red.

Following my missteps with Gruul, I ended up totally backward in my predictions since the Guild I picked for best turned out to be the worst, and the Guild I thought looked the most boring turned out to be the most exciting. Azorius rocked with three solid ways to win, each easier to build than the last.

First, there was the High Alert deck, which is absurdly easy to draft if you first-pick one. Then, a traditional Blue/White tempo and flyers deck quickly closed games before opponents could get set up. And finally, players learned to combine Clear the Mind, Dovin’s Acuity, and other counterspells, draw spells, lifegain spells, and defensive spells to ultimately make a “do nothing” deck. Gain a bunch of life, draw a bunch of cards, and stay alive until your opponent runs out of cards.

Azorius was absurdly deep in this set, and was ultimately the best. Further powering White’s appeal in the set was Orzhov since the Black/White deck also established itself as one of the most powerful… and my favorite. Awesome commons in Imperious Oligarch, Grasping Thrull, and Final Payment, not to mention the monocolored spells, made it the most consistent set in the series. Afterlife proved to be the most fun of the mechanics, and Ethereal Absolution dominated as the most feared card in a draft.

Rounding out, we had Rakdos and Simic, both of which were a lot of fun to play. I remember one-night drafting Rakdos five times in a row and enjoying as I burned out opponents at lightning speed. Simic was also a lot of fun, especially with Benthic Biomancer and Combine Guildmage to toss around +1/+1 counters with and draw a ton of cards.

And lastly… the Gates deck. Gates Ablaze, Gatebreaker Ram, Gate Colossus, Gateway Sneak, and Archway Angel… just, thank you, Wizards of the Coast, for tucking this away in there. When you had a great Gates deck, not a single Guild could stop you. Excellent!

My Predictions

  1. Gruul
  2. Orzhov
  3. Simic
  4. Rakdos
  5. Azorius

The Outcome

  1. Azorius
  2. Orzhov
  3. Gates
  4. Simic
  5. Rakdos
  6. Gruul

Yeah, wasn’t that bad, I just flipped the best and the worst Guild. Other than that, Ravnica Allegiance was loads of fun and a very deep Draft format with many lanes to follow. I enjoyed it more than Guilds of Ravnica by a long shot, and the only complaint I have is the lack of enchantment hate at common. Otherwise, well done, Wizards! A nice slap on the back for this one.

My Five Favorite Limited Cards

I had pegged this one as a sleeper hit when the set was first spoiled, and for once, I was right! Orzhov and Rakdos players sought out multiple copies of Ill-Gotten Inheritance to fill the many roles it can perform. It helps offset aggressive decks by gaining life back. Likewise, it helps an aggressive deck finish off an opponent by draining them every turn and requiring only 16 points of damage to finish a game.

Ill-Gotten Inheritance helped break stalemates, it allowed players to take an extra turn to stabilize if they fell below 20 life. A true superstar of the Ravnica Allegiance Limited field. Glad to see this one got to shine.

And while we are on the subject of Orzhov commons, I loved these two cards. Both fit in their slots perfectly, and both assured you that Orzhov was open if they were passed your way later in the draft. A 2/1 vigilance and a 1/1 flying body for two mana is an excellent amount of stats and text for just two mana, and a 3/3 flyer attached to a 4 point life swing at the end of the game could really swing the game in your favor.

Over the last two sets, each Guild has had a Guildmage, and Azorius’ easily stands at the top of the pile. One mana… gain a life, one mana… loot. Hard to beat and always requires an answer the turn it comes into play. Sifting through your deck against control decks and offsetting aggressive damage, this card shifts the entire game in your favor no matter who you are playing against.

Usually a removal spell turns up being the best common in a set, but not in Ravnica Allegiance. Blade Juggler does a lot, especially when you cast it for just three mana. Nice stats and card draw offset any negatives this card might have, and I predict we might see it again later when we talk about Constructed cards…

And as for the best uncommon, it took the Gates deck to allow Green to avoid being totally shut out. Gatebreaker Ram… nothing like 7/7 or 8/8 worth of stats on a vigilance and trample equipped creature. I’ll always love Green’s efficient creatures, and whoa… you don’t get much more efficient than that.

My Five Favorite Constructed Cards

Pteramander elevated not one but two decks to superstardom. Mono-Blue Tempo found a much-needed 1-drop to slam Curious Obsession on, but it also doubled as a late-game threat to back up Tempest Djinn. In Izzet Drakes, it proved just as effective of a closer as Crackling Drake or Enigma Drake, easily turning into a 5/5 for a single mana once you cleared the roads.

And if you think the potential of this card has been tapped, you’re incorrect. Players are already pushing and prodding it into Modern and Legacy, where it is challenging Gurmag Angler‘s reigning hold on the most efficient closer in the game. a 5/5 flyer for two mana?

This isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and we’ll be seeing Pteramander pop up long after Curious Obsession is but a distant memory.

Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good Burn deck, and while the current Mono-Red isn’t as much fun as Ramunap Red or Mono-Red Hazoret, I liked these two additions to the deck. Skewer the Critics is a lovely twist on Lava Spike, and naturally, it’s also turning up in Modern, Legacy, Pauper, and everywhere that needs a 1-mana 3 damage spell.

Light Up the Stage is also getting some much needed play time in eternal formats, especially Modern, where it has opened up the possibility of a Rakdos Burn deck that operates with more explosive finishes.

I’m always on the lookout for a fun “Enter the Battlefield” deck, and this one over at MTGGoldfish caught my eye. I had a blast putting it together one Magic: Arena, and when it works, the deck feels so satisfying. Without Lumbering Battlement, the deck doesn’t work, and I love piling up Ravenous Chupacabras on its back and forcing an opponent to choose whether they want to tackle a 10/11 monster or a triple dose of death!

As for the Basilica Bell-Haunt, nice stats, nice lifegain, nice card advantage, this is easily the most under-utilized card in Standard, and I’m surprised it hasn’t popped up in more winning decks. Hopefully, War of the Spark has some solid Orzhov support, allowing it to find a more popular home.

Honorable Mention:

I couldn’t put Blade Juggler above anything else on this list, but I still wanted to talk about it in Pauper. It’s not strictly better than Phyrexian Rager, but in a world where 3-mana gets you an additional point of power and the chance to draw a card, this card might find life in a Mono-Black deck out there.

Turning on spectacle might be hard unless you’re playing some Dauthi Slayers in a devotion deck, but once the puzzle is solved, expect Blade Juggler to stick around and find a home in the booming eternal format.


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