Today, I am going to sit down to take a look at some Ravnica Allegiance spoilers for the first time. While only about half of the set has been spoiled at the time of my writing this, a number of key cards look to have popped up already that I would like to take a peek at.
Let’s start with card type that is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind: Planeswalkers!
Before I dive into the specifics of the three Planeswalkers, I would just like to make a general comment that I love the direction Wizards of the Coast have taken with the Planeswalkers in this set. In recent sets I feel like we have seen a few too many “stock” five-mana Planeswalkers that all look something like:
+1-2: Draw a card
-3: Remove something from the board
-A lot: Win the game
In Ravnica Allegiance, none of the Planeswalkers they have spoiled so far fit this template. In my opinion, this makes them both far more interesting and a lot more difficult to evaluate.
Let’s start by talking about the most recent Planeswalker spoiler:
This card is powerful because it serves to fix the “wrong half” problem ramp style decks tend to have. His plus one allows him to serve as an additional piece of ramp, helping us not only get to our payoffs ahead of curve, but also put those payoffs into play bigger and faster than they normally would be.
His minus three ability serves to refill our hand with gas should we make it into the mid-late game and no longer have things in hand that we need to be ramping into play, helping ensure that we do not run out of action as the game goes long.
While his ultimate does not read “win the game” in the way most five-mana Planeswalker ultimates do, it will likely provide enough power over the course of a game to put things firmly in our favor. The important detail to note about the ultimate is that it happens at the beginning of *each* end step, which means you get a token on your end of turn and your opponent’s end of turn.
Three-mana Planeswalkers are cards that I am often hesitant to write off without playing games with first. While they are obviously far less powerful than more expensive Planeswalkers, they also hit the battlefield much sooner. I really love the design space on Dovin, Grand Arbiter. Previously, Planeswalkers that add additional counters to themselves often felt very conservative in terms of the abilities they offered, while Dovin feels fairly strong at a glance.
To start, his minus one ability will not only serve to protect himself by chumping in combat, but it will also start to enable stacking counters back onto himself by providing an evasive threat. Provided that you are not in too defensive of a position. While Dovin’s ultimate is a far cry from “win the game on the spot”, it will certainly put you far ahead in any game you might be close to parity.
Most important to a card like Dovin will likely be the support that will surround him. It is very possible that a White splash Blue aggressive deck could leverage Dovin as a source of card advantage. Alternatively, because Dovin is making artifact creatures, there is a very good chance that he will fit nicely into a shell with Karn, Scion of Urza and Tezzeret, Artifice Master.
The last Planeswalker to talk about in this set is probably the weakest of the bunch in my opinion:
While she only costs three-mana, her abilities overall leave a bit to be desired. You could make the argument her minus one can protect her, but in reality, it will not a lot of the time. While her plus one can have a meaningful impact in some games, there are going to be many others where it does nothing.
If anything, I could see this Kaya slotting in nicely as a sideboard card. Her plus one serves not only to be useful as graveyard hate, but also can buffer our health total against aggressive decks. Low to the ground aggro decks will also likely be the ones that will turn her minus one removal on as well.
Her ultimate is nothing impressive either, but left unchecked Kaya could basically read:
+1: Gain 2
+1: Gain 2
-5: Deal 4, Gain 4
Which is something you might be in the market for a non-zero amount of the time.
Next up, I would like to go over the selection of Instants and Sorceries in the new set that caught my eye for various reasons.
It has been a long time since we had an unconditional four-mana sweeper in Standard, much less one like this that technically has an upside. While this card will obviously be great is any control deck that can cast it, I think many people will likely overestimate how easy it is to cast this card consistently by the fourth turn of the game. Especially if they are also warping their mana base to try and cast double Blue spells early.
Speaking of casting double Blue spells early, while it is a not a new Magic card, we did get a new counter spell for Standard and Modern in Allegiance:
The biggest question on people’s minds with regards to Absorb is how it stacks up against the other three-mana counterspells in the format. In all other decks, the easiest comparison to Absorb is Sinister Sabotage. Assuming both are equally castable, I would expect Absorb to be the card control decks are more interested in on average.
The reason for this is because the games where you need more life tend to be a lot less forgiving than the games where simply surveilling one turns out to be useful. Against an aggressive deck, Absorb is effectively a two-for-one, stopping the spell it targets while also negating a Lightning Strike to your dome later on. Against midrange decks, having three more points of health can often shift the turn a lethal attack is coming across the board, giving you extra time to get setup and find what you are looking for in a similar way to surveil.
This one will be an easy format staple in any deck that can cast it consistently. This essentially reads “fix target problem” for a very reasonable mana cast.
This is a card that I am honestly a bit afraid of in Standard. The Bant Nexus deck is one that has been on the fringes of the existing format for a while now and putting up results. With an upgrade like this paired with better mana, it could likely become a true force in the format. The floor on a cheap card that includes the text “draw a card” is fairly low, especially when it is an Instant. The Nexus deck is looking to get ahead on mana for a low cost to setup sooner and that’s exactly what this card provides. Not to mention costing exactly 2 mana makes this a perfect play after you cast your Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on 5 mana.
This is a kind of wild card that explores a really interesting design space. The first thing worth noting about this card is that it breaks timing restrictions, allowing us to deploy whatever we want at instant speed. The second is that this card can deal damage to anything, even players and Planeswalkers. This means as the game goes long, this starts to scale into a lethal blow.
I really love the split cards in these sets. They have been a fantastic mix of interesting, flexible, and moderately powerful. This is a card that in the right configuration, will likely be casting both halves equally as often. Past that, there is a non-zero chance that, if a Simic deck exists somewhere in the format, just the Incongruity half of this card could be enough for the purpose of downgrading opposing threats like Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
Now this is a sweet control card. While Warrant does not permanently get rid of the creature, it is important to remember that making your opponent redraw their threat does mean it is still one-for-one’ing them. This gives you time to find a more permanent answer and keep the board stabilized.
In the late game if you have already stabilized, Warden gives you a method of closing the game out in a fairly quick manner. I really love the push R&D has given to control in recent sets to be able to actually close games out. There are few things more tedious than just sitting in a game waiting to die.
Whew! There are gearing up to be so many awesome cards in this set that I only made it through the non-creature spells I like so far by the time this article was full! Be sure to check back in next week when we should have a full spoiler a better picture of the format for my thoughts on some creatures as well as some decklists.