Ravnica Allegiance is now fully previewed and that means it's time to evaluate the full set in the context of competitive Constructed Magic. As with almost every set, the impact on the older formats will be limited to a handful of cards, but the impact on Standard will be immediate and dramatic. With the already-known shocklands included, Ravnica Allegiance could have held no other cards whatsoever and still made waves on the Standard format. The massive support for the five guilds in the set (Simic, Rakdos, Orzhov, Azorius, and Gruul) means that Standard is about to see a massive influx of new two- and three-color decks.
We've got a potential Birthing Pod-level engine card in Prime Speaker Vannifar, a new Fires of Yavimaya in Rhythm of the Wild, and several potent threats and answers that will change the dynamic of the format from the equilibrium it has found at the end of Guilds of Ravnica Standard.
It's time to figure out what's going to matter in this new format.
Honorable Mention: Shocklands
Of course, we all know that Hallowed Fountain, Godless Shrine, Breeding Pool, Blood Crypt, and Stomping Ground are a large part of the reason that these new cards will even be able to see play, as without proper mana-fixing there's little reason to try to play a Temur Vannifar deck or Esper Control deck with Kaya's Wrath. They may not be particularly flashy or obviously gamebreaking, but shocklands matter. It should go without saying that they'll form the bedrock of the new format.
This is the first of several cards on this list that has the potential to create a totally new archetype from scratch. The fact that Dovin is such a build-around-me card with incredible potential in the proper archetype means that it's only a matter of time before someone finds a way to maximize the inherent power in the planeswalker.
Whether it's shifting the potent Mono-Blue Aggro into a blue-based Azorius deck with Dovin or perhaps Sphinx of Foresight instead Tempest Djinn, or taking the various Boros Aggro flavors from last Pro Tour and turning them into white-based Azorius Aggro decks, Dovin stands to offer a solid sticky threat against control decks and a wonderful synergistic partner for cards like Legion's Landing, Mistcloaked Herald, and Adanto Vanguard.
Judith is the reason Rakdos or Mardu aggressive or go-wide strategies are going to work in the coming Standard. With the combination of Orzhov's afterlife ability and Judith's death trigger for the team, and suddenly sweepers and removal don't look so appealing after all. The +1/+0 ability for the team is going to mean there won't be much time to stabilize, and the trigger on creatures dying means most opponents will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. It's going to be more imperative than ever to pack Lava Coil and Cry of the Carnarium in your deck if you don't want to lose to a rush of Rakdos or Mardu aggression. As if Lava Coil weren't already a critical part of Standard, possibly the most important card for balancing the format, the next creature on this list means the Coil is going to be even more important than ever.
Birthing Pod on a creature. Prime Speaker Vannifar, possibly more than any other card in Ravnica Allegiance, will spawn the most creative archetypes and the most discussion in the context of what is possible with it.
Cards like Mirror Image, Exclusion Mage, Rekindling Phoenix, Siege-Gang Commander, and more will find a ton of new potential now that they can be a part of a potent value chain leading from Llanowar Elves up to Carnage Tyrant or similar. If you allow an opponent to untap with a Prime Speaker Vannifar on the battlefield, you're in for a world of trouble. And with another card on this list, you may not even get the luxury of a turn to try to answer this card at parity.
Flavor reasons aside, I do wish they'd named the card Magus of the Pod, though.
7. Kaya's Wrath
Shaheen Soorani wrote a praiseworthy piece last week talking about the impact of this hard to cast but incredibly powerful effect for Standard. He loves a good, clean, four-mana wrath effect, and if it weren't for the fact that Quench got printed over the Mana Leak he really wanted, I imagine he'd have a lot to love about Ravnica Allegiance. Esper Control with Kaya's Wrath and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria will be a bit tricky on the mana, but the power is undeniable. Despite the increased quantity of threats that discourage this type of sorcery-speed, non-exile sweeper, Kaya's Wrath is going to see quite a bit of play over the course of its legality in Standard, and I'm excited to see what kind of balance it provides to offer reasons to play a different midrange or control shell.
We used to have Stormbreath Dragon. We used to have Thundermaw Hellkite. Skarrgan Hellkite is the next in a long line of 3RR Dragons with haste that stand ready to steal wins from the jaws of defeat with an unexpected burst of damage while offering a powerful effect that can provide extra value when the baseline isn't quite enough. The Forked Bolt ability means that if this creature survives a turn as a 5/5 flyer, it's going to make life very difficult for the type of Orzhov or Mardu tokens deck that should be one of the pillars of Standard in the coming weeks.
I fully expect Skarrgan Hellkite to be a part of various Jund, Mardu, or Boros midrange decks, as the body can steal wins from control or other midrange, while the ability can seal away the game against aggro.
Hexproof on the opponent's turn means Settle the Wreckage and Seal Away are going to be huge liabilities, as I've discussed before. Your choice between a 3/3 haste or a 4/4 for three mana is just delightful, and trample is icing on the cake. Gruul Spellbreaker is a highly efficient package for three mana, and it should be one of the most obvious slam dunks for aggressive decks that can cast it. I expect to cast it on turn 2 and win a lot of games before they really even get started. As with several cards on this list, it seems more and more like we'll need to keep those Lava Coils handy!
Owen Turtenwald called this the best card in the set when he first saw it, and I respect his appreciation for a flexible, instant speed removal spell. Though the mana cost is prohibitive, Bedevil will be a potent option for Rakdos or Jund decks to immediately answer a card like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and keep the pressure going.
This is the kind of card built for Magic Arena, as the best-of-one format means that the more flexible the answer spell, the better it gets. Without sideboarding, your artifact destruction must come along for the ride in your maindeck, and Bedevil does that with flying colors. I expect Bedevil and Judith, the Scourge Diva to be excellent friends in the Rakdos shell, and it would not surprise me to see those two making multiple Top 8s in the coming weeks.
This is a scary amount of mana acceleration from an unassuming 0/2. Incubation Druid is the kind of mana acceleration that Golgari Midrange would have always wanted, as a creature that isn't terrible off the top in the midgame but still allows potent turns from 3 to 5. It would be very similar to Druid of the Cowl in a lot of ways, but there's one synergy in this set that pushes the Druid into the realm of potentially too-strong mana acceleration, a la Lotus Cobra. There's one enchantment in Ravnica Allegiance that puts the +1/+1 counter on Incubation Druid right away, and it means that often opponents will be forced to answer the Incubation Druid itself rather than the potent threat it would power out. This kind of upgrade to all the low-end enablers and accelerators means a lot for a value-oriented deck. Thus, if Temur Vannifar becomes a serious tier 1 deck in the coming Standard, Incubation Druid with be a large, underrated part of its success.
Now this is an obvious giant monster with no subtlety at all, just a ton of damage very quickly from an undercosted flying Demon. Curving one-drop, two-drop, Spawn of Mayhem on turn 3 means that if the opponent doesn't have an answer immediately, they will suddenly find their options growing very slim, very fast.
Lava Coil can save you for a time, but this is the first Death's Shadow-esque creature to see print since the Shadow itself and incentivizes taking excess damage from Blood Crypt in order to bring Spawn of Mayhem out of Lava Coil range as quickly as possible. I don't enjoy the prospect of sitting down across from a Spawn of Mayhem anytime soon, but I suspect I will need to keep cards like Beacon Bolt, Kraul Harpooner, and Lava Coil in any serious Standard brew in order to immediately answer the Demon before it wins the game singlehandedly.
I wrote an entire article on this incredible enchantment last week. My opinion on the card has not changed. Rhythm of the Wild will empower Gruul decks revolving around using it to get an extra turn with beefy, hasty Nullhide Ferox, Steel Leaf Champion, or Ghalta, Primal Hunger. The card stacks, so multiple copies synergize with one another, and the uncounterability to go on top of the haste means cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria aren't nearly as potent as they were in previous Standard formats.
Rhythm will go into Gruul Aggro and Temur Vannifar decks, and I'm ready to see how it shapes the format going into the Mythic Championship. It makes Incubation Druid insane, it makes Growth-Chamber Guardian insane, and it makes Skarrgan Hellkite insane. It's just an amazing effect to see print here and now. There's a very good chance I end up playing a Rhythm of the Wild deck, which speaks volumes about the power level of the card.
There are several other potent cards in Ravnica Allegiance that stand to make an impact on the format, but for Standard in the first few weeks of the new set, these will be the cards that lead to the most wins. These are the kinds of threats that shape the format, that sculpt the general play patterns that will define the games of new Standard as much as Wildgrowth Walker into Jadelight Ranger defined the last one.
Be sure you're the one winning with them!