Ravnica Allegiance is now out and the Magic community is playing draft and sealed with all the new goodies the Simic, Rakdos, Orzhov, Azorius and Gruul guilds have to offer. The first task at hand for an eager limited player is to try and discern just how good these cards are going to be in the new format. To that end, the limited playing community has contributed over 110,000 grades to the Ravnica Allegiance Community Set Review. If you haven't had a chance to submit your grades, follow the survey links and add them now.
With hundreds of Magic players chiming in on each card, it should come as no surprise that there's some level of disagreement. Sometimes that disagreement is pretty minor, like on the following card:
The community agrees Spawn of Mayhem is awesome — it's a big undercosted fatty with flying. However, some players think that Spawn of Mayhem is the best card in the set - an "A+", others think it's more run of the mill awesome - and "A" or "A-". Either way, there's not a lot of disagreement here. How would we measure "disagreement" anyways? Here's what I propose: let's suppose I asked two random participants how good Spawn of Mayhem was and then took the average distance between their answers? This is the "controversy" metric, and according to that, Spawn of Mayhem is one of the least controversial card in the set.
On the other end of the scale are cards the community just can't agree on. Last week we looked at the most controversial common and uncommons in Ravnica Allegiance. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial rares and mythics - as voted on by you, the limited playing community. For each card I'll start by summarizing the controversy, looking at the average community grade and then offering my take...
...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.
The controversy: Amplifire is one of those cards that definitely fails the vanilla test. For at least for one turn, Amplifire is really just a 4 mana 1/1. After that, it's up to the shuffler—a surefire way to amplify a card's controversy.
The average power in Ravnica Allegiance is 2.6, the average toughness 2.9. That means on your next upkeep Amplifire is going to be, on average, an undercosted 5/6. And notice the timing - Amplifire retains that base power and toughness not "until end of turn" but instead "until your next turn" - a huge difference. That means you aren't just locked into attacking with your new huge threat.
Some players are clearly turned off by Amplifire's humble base stats, and not comfortable with the completely random nature of it's ability. The naysayers are almost perfectly counterbalanced by players enthusiastic about Amplifire and the card gets a perfectly average grade.
Community grade: C
What I think: This card feels like a huge, undercosted beatstick. I'm sold!
Because it's "just" a huge creature there is a ceiling to how high I'm willing to rate Amplifire - but I think it's a solid, premium card and a good reason to be red.
My grade: B
7. Simic Ascendancy
The controversy: Simic Ascendancy's main draw is its activated ability - the ability to grow any creature on the board at instant speed. This ability is going to make combat a nightmare for opponents. The mere threat of activating Simic Ascendancy is going to make many blocking decisions no-win scenarios.
In the late game, Simic Ascendancy grants you a place to dump otherwise useless mana, and should break games out of stalemates or just provide you with inevitability.
Simic Ascendancy also has an alternate win condition—you can check "you win the game" off your controversial rares bingo car! However, if you find a way to trigger this ability in limited I'll be very interested to see the boardstate where adding 20 power and toughness wasn't enough to win the game on its own.
The controversy comes from the high price of the activated ability. Five mana gets you only a single +1/+1 counter for you effort. The question is whether that heavy cost is enough to make Simic Ascendancy too much of a liability.
Overall the community likes the package that Simic Ascendancy offers and has rated it above average.
Community grade: C+
What I think: I like this card. It feels like it slips on to the board cheaply and can absolutely take over a game. Even when they are on-board, repeatable combat tricks are very powerful, and getting a permanent boost for your mana investment is even better.
I tend to think the "win the game" clause here is a bit "win more," but it will come up. In complex board stalls, having inevitability that doesn't require an alpha strike can be a big advantage. It's very possible that an opponent could hold back your potentially-huge team with a combination of removal and deathtouchers. In that case, the ticking up of counters on Simic Ascendency at least provide another thing they have to worry about.
Mostly, though, it's creature counters I'm here for, so I'll be drafting this card.
My grade: B-
6. Smothering Tithe
The controversy: Smothering Tithe asks you to play 4 mana to slowly accelerate your mana—but only if your opponent cooperates. And if you opponent doesn't stop you, you are getting that mana at the unexciting rate of one extra pip a turn.
While a small minority of players think that there might be something to Smothering Tithe the plurality of players disagreed. Overall the community has decided that Smothering Tithe is a below average card that will mostly be relegated to the sideboard.
Community grade: D+
What I think: While I like the Orzhov flavor, I should note that if you just want an extra mana each turn with less fuss and muss you could just play the following:
And that card isn't exactly the highest pick in the pack. Neither was this strictly better treasure maker, in a set with much more significant treasure synergies:
I agree with community, this card is not good. It's too slow and too low impact in a single player game. The most common grade for Smothering Tithe was an 'F' and I think that's exactly the grade it deserves.
However, if you had more than one opponent...or made your opponent draw seven cards at a time...
Never mind that's a different review. In regular old limited, don't play Smothering Tithe.
My grade: F
5. Mirror March
The controversy: Mirror March is a six mana enchantment that does nothing the turn you play it. However, if you do play creatures afterwards... it might still do nothing. Or it may make 5 hasty, temporary copies of your creature. Coin flipping is another box to check off on your controversial rare bingo card!
On average you should get a twin with each creature you play, but sometimes you aren't going to survive tapping out on turn 6 to set that up, and even if you do variance might not be on your side.
Mirror March is a card that only plays offense, doesn't affect the board immediately, and might not affect the board ever. It's no wonder it made it on to the most controversial card list.
Overall, the community doesn't think Mirror March is good enough, and have rated it below average.
Community grade: C-
What I think: I just can't bring myself to like cards that are so one dimensionally aggressive, but don't do anything by themselves. However, I can see Mirror March coming in against against slow, controlling opponent, so there's that.
In that type of matchup I can see Mirror March giving you an extra tool to let your creatures grind through an entrenched opponent's defenses.
My grade: D
4. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
The controversy: Three mana planeswalkers are always dangerous in limited. Resolving one against an opponent who is slow to develop can end a game before it's even begun.
Kaya rewrites that script by being completely useless against an opponent who is doing nothing early, and uh...not much better if you draw her late in the game.
She can't gain you life unless there are creature cards to exile, and even though she's accruing loyalty, her ultimate doesn't do anything unless you're actually exiling something. In addition she doesn't protect herself against anything but tokens and 1 drops.
That's a recipe to put Kaya in a small club of Planewalkers that might actually kind of suck in limited. It's such a small club that some players thought that Kaya might still be worth taking even though it's unclear how Kaya is going to actually change the direction of your typical limited game. The majority of players think Kaya doesn't do enough, and so the average grade is below average.
Community grade: C-
What I think: I'm struggling to find the matchup I'd like to have Kaya in. She's probably ok against a player relying heavily on tokens, but outside that situation, I just can't see it.
Against most opponents, her -1 is going to do nothing and her ultimate will be too slow and not impactful enough to matter. Leave Kaya to constructed players who need to slow down dredge and pick off Goblin Guides.
My grade: F
3. Mass Manipulation
The controversy: It's a mind control, those are always great in limited, heck this can even be a double mind control. What's not to like...
Great googly moogly is that four blue mana symbols in Mass Manipulation's mana cost?
The question is will even Ravnica's generous mana let you cast this card on curve?
Community grade: B-
What I think: A six mana mind control is a bomb - an 'A' level card. That same card with the flexibility to be a double, or even triple mind control in a stalled out game (not to mention immunity from Disenchant effects)? That's an unreal card.
However, those four blue symbols are a real price to pay.
The good old hypergeometric calculator says you need 11-12 blue sources in your deck to even have an above 50% chance to cast Mass Manipulation on curve. That's achievable with something like 3 gates, 8 islands, 7 other lands. By 13 color sources you should be able to somewhat reliably cast Mass Manipulation on turn 6. However, that means you'll be very reliant on gates to get your second color.
The power here is worth it, but the cost to your mana base is very real and can't be ignored. You'll have to prioritize gates and limit the non blue cards you play — especially any with more than one non blue mana symbol in them. Still, there aren't many (any?) non-rares I'm likely to pass this for pack one, pick one.
My grade: B+
2. Emergency Powers
The controversy: Drawing a whole handful of new cards might be the single most powerful thing you can do in Magic. Well—playing things for free might be up there too. With Emergency Powers you can do both for the low, low price of seven mana.
And your opponent also gets a new full grip of cards.
It's not exactly surprising that handing your opponent a whole grip full of new cards might make Emergency Powers controversial. Emergency Powers is expensive and has the possibility of backfiring horribly, and because of that the community has deemed it below average.
Community grade: C-
What I think: I think it's possible this card will do something in the right deck, in the right matchup. It would have to be in a deck where I feel like I can both get my shields up and get to the reqiured seven mana. The deck would also have inevitability on my side—since me and my opponent are going to get access to a large chunk of our decks, my deck better win when all those spells get played.
And if that deck does exist, does it really need Emergency Powers? I'm leaving the door open to me playing this card in a really niche case, but I'm certainly not recommending it.
My grade: D-
1. Captive Audience
The controversy: BINGO! For those keeping score at home, these eight cards have been a greatest hits list of mechanics guaranteed to be controversial: revealing random cards, "you win the game," flipping coins, bad planeswalkers, symmetrical draw sevens, and now giving your opponent punishing choices.
Captive Audience is powerful, expensive, splashy, and the most controversial card in Ravnica Allegiance. Once Captive Audience resolves your opponent is either going to have to win the game on the spot or they are going to be in serious trouble. Even if they have a way to free themselves from the enchantment, they will probably take at least one of Captive Audience's effects right on the chin.
The most obvious thing that makes Captive Audience controversial is that honking 7 converted mana cost—a hard ask in any limited environment. It's especially hard given the suicide-speed of your traditional Rakdos deck. Will most Rakdos decks even want a 7 drop?
The second problem is that this is a "punisher" card, meaning modal with your opponent getting to choose the modes. Those always give squirrelly opponents an opportunity to mess with your carefully laid plan—because they get to make the plan. There's a very good chance, for instance, that the "Discard your hand" ability could be a complete dud late in the game. The timing is worth noting; your opponent will discard during their upkeep and then get to draw a card for the turn.
On top of all that, if you haven't stabilized the game, Captive Audience is probably not powerful enough to bring you back. The actual board presence the card offers won't show up for two long turns.
So how did the community respond? As is befitting the most controversial card in Ravnica Allegiance, the grades are all over the place, with significant number of players rating this an A+ and an F. Overall the optimists have an edge, and the community says that Captive Audience is above average.
Community grade: C+
What I think: Seven mana is a hard ask in limited, but Captive Audience singlehandedly changes the game. I respect any card that can warp the game so strongly. And this one is quite splashable, particularly for grindy Orzhov.
This feels like a tool for a defensive deck to deploy as its big, hard to interact with threat. If I open this early I'm going to be tempted to build around it, which puts it in the B range for me. However, I'm not taking it over many other B cards, so that kind of limits the grade I can give.
My grade: B-
Those are the 8 most controversial cards in Ravnica Allegiance. What cards am I wrong about? Where is the community misjudging the cards? Do you have a better read on the environment? Let us know: rate the cards yourself.