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Commander Review: Ravnica Allegiance Part 1 (White, Blue, Black)


Ravnica Allegiance has been fully spoiled, which means it's time again for a Commander Review! Here is Part 1 covering all my favorite White, Blue, and Black cards from the set for the Commander format.

 

WHITE

Angel of Grace

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Angel of Grace boasts a ton of value for its mana cost. A 5/4 flying flash creature is a sweet trick that can ambush an unsuspecting smaller creature and hitting for 5 a turn in the air is respectable in Commander. Its ETB trigger is basically a worse Angel's Grace that protects you from less things and doesn't have split-second, but it still performs a similar function, like setting up a win with Near-Death Experience. The final ability, being able to set your life total to 10 at instant speed from the graveyard, is a nice cherry on top. I'm not quite sure how useful it is, but its most basic application is just to gain a bit of life back in case you're about to get dropped to 0. That's a lot of value for a 5 mana creature.

The biggest problem with Angel of Grace is despite the sheer amount of value for its mana cost, and how many neat things it does, it doesn't really excel at anything. The ETB trigger is way worse than Angel's Grace, the flashback ability is alright but still costs a whopping 6 mana, and being a 5/4 flyer with flash is good, but we have bigger and better threats in Commander. Unless your deck can really take advantage of every aspect of this card, or you really need some (lesser) redundancy in your deck that either the ETB or flashback effect provide, I don't see Angel of Grace being played much.

There are some potential homes for Angel of Grace. The first and most obvious inclusion is Lyra Dawnbringer, since it's an Angel and one of the better ones. The second home I can think of is potentially a second Angel's Grace for Near-Death Experience decks like Selenia, Dark Angel. It's not great anywhere, but it's not bad either.

 

Angelic Exaltation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Angelic Exaltation is basically an Uncommon enchantment version of Sublime Archangel. It's a bit worse since being an enchantment means it doesn't contribute to its own trigger like Archangel does. Still, it's a good effect for decks that make run lots of small utility creatures and/or tokens but focus on attacking with their commander: Rafiq of the Many is the classic commander for this strategy, but also Tana, the Bloodsower decks that run a White partner may also want to run Exaltation as well.

 

Hero of Precinct One

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While definitely a niche card in Commander, Hero of Precinct One is an easy include in exactly one deck, the Multicolor Deck, typically led by Ramos, Dragon Engine. I love Ramos decks so I'm excited to add this neat token generator to my list, where it will efficiently pump out a steady stream of chump blockers that buy you time to cast your giant haymaker spells.

 

Lumbering Battlement

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Lumbering Battlement is a fun new addition to the Blink archetype, acting as a repeatable Eerie Interlude type effect to re-use all the sweet ETB triggers of your other creatures, be it drawing more cards off Mulldrifter, reanimating another creature with Karmic Guide, or killing another creature with Shriekmaw. The great thing about Battlement over similar cards Eerie Interlude and Ghostway is that although you can't cast Battlement at instant speed to save your other creatures -- at least not without the help of cards like Vedalken Orrery -- being itself a creature with an ETB trigger means it has inherently more synergies with the decks that want to run it. Blinking Lumbering Battlement with cards like Conjurer's Closet, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and Aminatou, the Fateshifter means you get to blink your entire team in the process, over and over again! I would recommend adding this Beast to any White Blink deck: Brago, King Eternal, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and Aminatou, the Fateshifter being the most popular ones.

A less common but also fun use of Lumbering Battlement could be in a Fling deck like Brion Stoutarm: exile whatever other creatures you've got and then Fling the oversized Beast at someone's face!

 

Ministrant of Obligation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ministrant of Obligation is super efficient sacrifice fodder, offering three bodies to sacrifice for just 3 mana. It's basically a far superior Mausoleum Guard — even the lower toughness is an upgrade in a weird way because Skullclamp is a staple for the Sacrifice archetype. Like all afterlife cards, it will shine brightest in Teysa Karlov and Teysa, Orzhov Scion lists, and works with the usual Nim Deathmantle + Ashnod's Altar combos. This is one of the best afterlife cards.

 

Smothering Tithe

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!

Smothering Tithe is my favorite commander card printed this entire year. I don't think I've fallen so hard for a card since Teferi's Protection! This is AMAZING ramp -- in White! This is a White ramp card! And it's brilliant! Look at it! WE JUST GOT A WHITE RAMP STAPLE! YOU DID IT, WIZARDS, YOU WONDERFUL BASTARDS!

In a typical 4 player FFA game, Smothering Tithe is making at least three treasure tokens each turn cycle. That's three mana of any color on each of your turns, minimum. That's like a 4 cmc Gilded Lotus, MINIMUM! People won't be paying 2 mana for each card they draw. That's crazy. Too many people don't even pay a measely 1 mana for Rhystic Study, but 2 minimum off the card they draw each turn? Highly unlikely, unless they have way more mana than they know what to do with. But you can, and will, be making more than the minimum amount of treasure tokens, because drawing cards is the greatest thing in Magic and everyone should and will be doing lots of it throughout the game. So you're going to be making oodles of treasure tokens. Piles. This is amazing.

It gets better, of course. The ramp is in the form of treasure tokens, which has so much potential for further synergies. They're artifacts, so they can turn on metalcraft cards (Dispatch), they count towards affinity (Mycosynth Golem), and you can activate artifact sac outlets for extra value (Goblin Welder). They're tokens, so you can use staple token enchantments like Anointed Procession to double the output. They're also treasure tokens, so wins with Revel in Riches just got way easier! The more cards your opponents draw the more tokens you make, so wheel effects like Windfall become absolutely disgusting value! You'll soon be laughing on top of a pile of treasure, able to cast whatever you want! THIS CARD IS SO GOOD AAAAAAAAH!

I would recommend putting Smothering Tithe in, well, basically any White deck. It's that good. It's probably the most absurd in Breya, Etherium Shaper, but really ... any White deck.

By the way, the design of the card is AMAZING too! Wizards has long struggled to find ways for White to ramp and draw cards that fits the color pie, and taxing opponents is a color philosophy and flavor home run! Seriously, whoever designed this card is such a baller. I want to find that person and give them a hug.

 

Tithe Taker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tithe Taker is basically Grand Abolisher-lite, but with afterlife. Abolisher is the superior card, but Taker is very respectable as well, and works especially well in a Sacrifice deck. Like all afterlife cards, it will shine brightest in Teysa Karlov and Teysa, Orzhov Scion lists, and works with the usual Nim Deathmantle + Ashnod's Altar combos. This is one of, if not the best afterlife card in Commander, because it has a nice effect even without the afterlife mechanic. Perfect at just 2 cmc.

 

Unbreakable Formation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unbreakable Formation is primarily a way to protect your board, but has that great flexibility to also be a strong offensive tool, making it an excellent inclusion in Go Wide / Token decks. Being able to turn an oppnent's Wrath of God into your advantage always feels great. I like it better than similar cards Make a Stand and almost always prefer it over Rootborn Defenses except in decks all about big tokens aka Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. It's not as good protection as the best White card, Teferi's Protection, and Boros Charm also wins if you're in Red, but this is a strong contender for third best protection spell in White, and again that extra offensive flexibility makes it a strong candidate in any Go Wide deck.

 

BLUE

Benthic Biomancer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Benthic Biomancer has serious potential in a +1/+1 Counter deck. Looters are great, especially 1 cmc looters that can loot more than once per turn without too much setup. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is the most obvious home for the Biomancer. Kumena decks often go for a strong +1/+1 Counter theme and powerhouse cards like Deeproot Elite will allow you to loot to your heart's content. Benthic Biomancer can show up in other +1/+1 Counter decks as well, like the ever-popular Atraxa, Praetors' Voice.

 

Essence Capture

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In a format where Mana Drain and Counterspell are legal, the bar for countermagic is high. Essence Capture, being a harder to cast Essence Scatter with a small upside, is highly unlikely to get my recommendation for most decks. However, in +1/+1 Counter decks that can take full advantage of the counter created by the card like Vorel of the Hull Clade, Experiment Kraj, and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, this is a neat card that, while still inferior to Counterspell and a few other busted countermagic cards, is still very good and most importantly budget-friendly. So if you're looking for more countermagic in your +1/+1 Counter deck, already run the cheaper better options like Counterspell and Swan Song but don't want to drop serious bucks on Mana Drain, then Essence Capture is a solid option.

 

Eyes Everywhere

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Eyes Everywhere's activated ability costs too much mana for me to be excited about adding it in most decks. However, one deck I'm happy to add this to would be Zedruu the Greathearted, which gains additional benefits from swapping control of permanents. While it's still way more mana invested than other staples of the deck like Puca's Mischief, Daring Thief, Juxtapose, Perplexing Chimera, etc., Eyes Everywhere's swap notably doesn't have card type or cmc restrictions, which means you can happily swap your 1/1 Soldier token with an opponent's Zendikar Resurgent. Also like most swap cards, clever use of cards like Venser, the Sojourner and Homeward Path can grab back the permanent/creature you swapped away while keeping whatever you stole. 

 

Gateway Sneak

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Guildgate decks are often too busy trying to cast Scapeshift into an easy win with Maze's End to bother with a low-impact card draw creature like Gateway Sneak. However, there is one deck out there that might play this Rogue, and that's Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. If your Tetsuko deck wants a second Scroll Thief, then here it is!

 

Mass Manipulation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sometimes I write about cards because I don't like them but I see other people talking highly of them. Mass Manipulation is one of those cards. You need to pay a minimum of 6 mana to steal one creature/planeswalker, the same amount as Confiscate, which doesn't see much play either (yes, they're not exactly the same, but they're close in power). Sure, you can steal additional creatures/planeswalkers for just 2 mana, but if you're looking to spend 8+ mana stealing stuff then you're much better off playing Blatant Thievery and Expropriate first, which are both tremendously better cards than Mass Manipulation. The fact that there's flexibility doesn't make up for the fact that the card is a lesser version of other cards available unless you have infinite mana. And if you have infinite mana, just go ahead and win the game with better win conditions.

The only deck I would recommend adding Manipulation to would be the most dedicated Steal Everything Tribal deck out there, where you simply cannot get enough Control Magic type cards and are willing to dig into the lesser options for it.

 

Mesmerizing Benthid

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mesmerizing Benthid is pretty bad in Commander. It may find a home in some jank archetypes though, such as Sea Monster Tribal decks under Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep. Those casual decks are always looking for more decent fish friends to play with, and there's some sweet payoffs for running them like Quest for Ula's Temple and Whelming Wave.

If you go even jankier, Mesmerizing Benthid is one of the better cards in an Illusion Tribal deck (led by Meloku, the Clouded Mirror). There's payoffs for the deck like, um, Lord of the Unreal, and ... I think that's it. This is such an extreme level of jank that only Richard could love it.

 

Persistent Petitioners

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Like Shadowborn Apostle, Rat Colony, and Relentless Rats before them, Persistent Petitioners is another gimmick deck that will probably cause another price spike for Thrumming Stone. To assemble this simple deck, all you need to do is fill your list with Petitioners, cast one with Thrumming Stone and Intruder Alarm and voila, all your opponents get milled out. If you want to get extra fancy then add persistent graveyard removal by splashing White for Rest in Peace or Black for Leyline of the Void so no Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre will foil your mill plan.

Persistent Petitioners, like other Thrumming Stone decks are neat, simple gimmick decks that are good for a laugh every once in a while.

 

Precognitive Perception

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Precognitive Perception is just plain good card draw. You can play it during your main phase as a less variable Ugin's Insight, or you can cast it any other time as Jace's Insight. Both are fine options and the flexibility is great. The card is far from busted and there's plenty of Blue decks where I'd skip over this in favor of crazier card draw options, but you can never go wrong with Precognitive Perception. I'd expect to run it in most Talrand, Sky Summoner and Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper lists, and it's never bad in any deck really.

 

Skatewing Spy

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Skatewing Spy is a fine form of evasion for +1/+1 Counter decks. You're going to play this card primarily to give your creatures flying and not for the size of the creature itself, so being a smaller and cheaper version of Sapphire Drake is great, though if your deck has access to White then Abzan Falconer is better for the same reason. Either way it's not a busted card for the +1/+1 Counter deck and won't always make the cut but it's a fine option, especially on a budget. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice +1/+1 Counter decks seems like the most obvious home for it.

 

Sphinx of Foresight

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sphinx of Foresight is a new auto-include in Sphinx Tribal, aka Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign decks, where it's one of the better - and cheaper! - Sphinxes ever printed. Crazy how much more I like cards when they come with a free Fact or Fiction tacked on to them! Outside of Sphinx Tribal it's playable but not terribly exciting.

 

Verity Circle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Verity Circle is a neat meta card if your playgroup has a lot of tapping going on, like Green decks running heavy on mana dorks (Llanowar Elves), or certain Combo decks like Prime Speaker Vannifer, or even good ol' Phenax, God of Deception. You should be running Cursed Totem first of course, but if you really want to hate on tappers then Verity Circle is a more "friendly" way to take advantage of them.

 

BLACK

Awaken the Erstwhile

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Awaken the Erstwhile is a sweet new toy in Discard decks like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Nicol Bolas, and Nekusar, the Mindrazer. It's a great way to maximize value out of cards like Waste Not, Geth's Grimoire, and Liliana's Caress, making sure you always come out on top. If you add Archfiend of Ifnir to the mix then you add a one-sided board wipe to the spell as well! Also since these are Zombie tokens this might be a fine inclusion in a Varina, Lich Queen deck, giving you a bunch of Zombies to loot with or even draw lots of cards with Graveborn Muse!

 

Bankrupt in Blood

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bankrupt in Blood is a solid inclusion in any Sacrifice deck. I think it's about on par or slightly worse than Costly Plunder, a spell that is more flexible/consistent and can be cast at instant speed. Drawing three cards for just two mana is great though as long as you've got creatures that you want to sacrifice, which is usually the case with most Sacrifice decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Teysa Karlov.

I think the biggest problem with Bankrupt and similar cards is that they aren't themselves creatures, so they don't have the same level of synergy in Sacrifice decks as creatures do. For example, Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Karador, Ghost Chieftain are usually going to prefer running creature-based card draw like Disciple of Bolas, since both commanders can fetch Disciple out of the graveyard when needed while fetching an instant/sorcery like Bankrupt would require you first snagging it with Eternal Witness or similar.

So my overall verdict of Bankrupt in Blood (and Costly Plunder) is that they're solid inclusions in Sacrifice decks, but eventually you'll want to replace them with creature-based card draw or just the handful of busted noncreature options like Greater Good, which are the exceptions.

 

Font of Agonies

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Oh wow, now this is a powerful card in Commander! Black has a ton of powerful/popular cards that require you to pay life. For card draw we've got all flavors of Greed including the almighty Necropotence; one of my favorite Black removal spells is Snuff Out; there's also newcomers like Doom Whisperer! And new Lifegain staple, Aetherflux Reservoir, fits perfectly with the enchantment! In decks with lots of pay life effects, Font of Agonies is insanely cost-effective, able to kill any creature at instant speed for just 2 mana! Absolutely bonkers!

Selenia, Dark Angel, Erebos, God of the Dead, and Vona, Butcher of Magan are just a few of the decks I'd immediately jam Font of Agonies into. It's a new staple in those decks.

 

Gutterbones

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Gutterbones is a sweet new Reassembling Skeleton in Commander, a repeatable body to fuel Sacrifice strategies. Of the popular ones available -- Reassembling Skeleton, Bloodghast, Nether Traitor, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Gravecrawler (in Zombie decks) -- Gutterbones ranks near the bottom, better/worse than Bloodsoaked Champion depending on the deck, since putting it back on to the battlefield is conditional and costs 1BB, whereas Reassembling Skeleton is unconditional, instant speed, and comes back for just 1B. But that doesn't mean Gutterbones is bad! There's a lot of Sacrifice decks out there that would love additional Reassembling Skeletons, even if they're slightly worse: Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Karador, Ghost Chieftain come to mind. It's a solid inclusion in those decks!

 

Orzhov Enforcer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Orzhov Enforcer is basically a Doomed Traveler that costs more mana but can deter opponents from attacking you thanks to that handy deathtouch. Like all afterlife cards, Orzhov Enforcer is a solid inclusion in any Sacrifice deck and will shine brightest in Teysa Karlov and Teysa, Orzhov Scion lists. Comparing it to other afterlife cards for a Sacrifice deck, I think it's weaker than Tithe Taker and Ministrant of Obligation, on par with Seraph of the Scales (half the mana cost is a big plus), and better than the remaining afterlife cards. I'd probably run it in all but the most competitive Teysa lists.

 

Pestilent Spirit

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Pestilent Spirit is a weird and fun card that might be an inclusion in a Rakdos Control deck led by Mogis, God of Slaughter. It's essentially a worse Death Pits of Rath: the Spirit only works with instants / sorceries so no giving deathtouch to staples Pyrohemia / Pestilence or creatures, and being a creature itself means it's much more fragile to removal and dies to most of the cards it works best with like Pyroclasm. You need an additional card to protect it like Darksteel Plate just to start getting value. Still, if you're going for such a strategy, redundant effects are very important, and Pestilent Spirit can fit that role if you have the protection for it.

 

Priest of Forgotten Gods

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While I like Bankrupt in Blood, I love Priest of Forgotten Gods way more! In comparison to Bankrupt, Priest requires more setup since you must wait a whole turn or have haste before you can first activate it. However, Priest is a repeatable effect and while you do draw 2 less cards per activation, you do gain some ramp and removal, which is a fine tradeoff! Priest is also itself a creature which opens more synergies in Sacrifice decks, notably Black has an easier time reanimating creatures (Phyrexian Reclamation).

I really, really like Priest of Forgotten Gods for basically any Sacrifice deck. It's cheap at 2cmc, repeatable, doesn't cost mana to activate, and has a nice mix of ramp + draw + removal that just feels good to activate each time. Two thumbs up! It's also a Human so huzzah for Xathrid Necromancer and a Cleric so double huzzah for Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim Cleric Tribal decks!

 

Spawn of Mayhem

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I can see Spawn of Mayhem fitting into two decks, both led by Rakdos: the first is as a fancypants pinger for a Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck, where it's honestly a worse but still playable Lobber Crew / Nettle Drone; Spawn has a beefier body but is a far less consistent turn 3 play and doesn't have the potential to ping more than once per turn.

The second deck would be a Demon / Devil / Imp Tribal deck under Rakdos, the Showstopper, where it passes the low bar of being a Demon that isn't garbage.

 

Vindictive Vampire

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In Commander, Vindictive Vampire is often an overcosted Zulaport Cutthroat, much like Falkenrath Noble is an overcosted Blood Artist. However, since Vindictive Vampire deals damage instead of causing lifeloss, it comes with unique strengths and weaknesses compared to the other drain creatures. It's easier to protect against damage, so opponents running stuff like Glacial Chasm or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight can defang the Vampire. On the other hand, if you have any effects that increase its damage (Furnace of Rath), grant lifelink (Whip of Erebos), or if you're awesome/mean you give it infect (Grafted Exoskeleton), then Vindictive Vampire suddenly becomes the best of the bunch. Assuming you're not buffing its damage, I would put Vindictive Vampire as a worse option to Zulaport Cutthroat and Blood Artist but an upgrade to Falkenrath Noble in Sacrifice decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Teysa Karlov. It's a great option for those decks.

The Haunt of Hightower

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It's great seeing the Moroii make a return to Ravnica! The Haunt is like a legendary mono black version of Vulturous Zombie, except for one extra mana you get lifelink and a sweet added discard effect (that pumps it up!). Definitely a fair trade! I was always impressed with Vulturous Zombie in Commander as it often got HUGE super quickly, and there was a time when I'd see it played a fair amount years ago, but lately you never see it. I think The Haunt has a better chance of seeing play mostly because you don't need to be in Green, and the best way to grow this type of creature is in Wheel decks like Nekusar, the Mindrazer, which can't run Green cards.You can also use The Haunt as your commander, likely following a Voltron strategy, which I don't think is the best way to use it but could still be quite fun!

I think the best use of The Haunt of Hightower is in Wheel decks like Nekusar, the Mindrazer, and also Discard decks like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. It's not a busted card but I'm excited to play with it and see my opponent's eyes widen when a single Dark Dealings turns it into a 20/20 flying lifelink!

 

Next Up: Part 2!

That ends Part 1 of the Ravnica Allegiance review! We're going to wrap up the review in Part 2 with Red, Green, Multicolored, Colorless, and Lands. So far it seems like White and Black got a ton of great new cards, with my favorite being Smothering Tithe. Blue definitely doesn't feel as interesting for Commander this time around. I'm excited to review the rest of the cards!


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