Time to dive into the new world of Ravnica Allegiance. This set is not a continuation of Guilds of Ravnica. Guilds was a set where the spells were better than the creatures and only Boros was an aggro deck. Card advantage was king and long games and stalemates were plentiful. Allegiance is a set where only Orzhov feels grindy/controlling to me. All of the other four guilds feel aggressive or tempo-oriented. The creatures are better than the spells and board presence—not card advantage—is what matters the most. This doesn’t mean that card advantage isn’t good. Extra cards can still win you games. It’s just important to remember that you can’t afford to fall too far behind on board in this format and adjust all values appropriately. With that in mind, let’s crack our first five packs.
I love this card. It has the quality I most desire in a 2-drop—it is usually going to be effective at any stage of the game. If you trade this off with an opposing early drop you get a 1/1 flyer early in the game that has the potential to deal 10. Later in the game the 1/1 flyer might be a little less useful, but no worries, because Enforcer can trade with their biggest creature. Value! This card is only bad against opposing flyers since it can’t block them.
Honorable Mention: Tome of the Guildpact
This is a powerful card that can win a game all by itself. It can also lose a close game by not impacting the board the turn you play it. It’s very easy in this format to fill your deck with gold cards and have the Tome draw a lot of extra cards, but I’m not ready to take it over good removal or a great efficient creature like Enforcer because of how bad it will be some percentage of the time.
Good, efficient removal. I like instant-speed removal a lot more than sorcery-speed removal in this format because of adapt. Additionally, there are two common 5-mana 3-power flyers that this card kills very nicely in Chillbringer and Grasping Thrull. I don’t think having removal matters as much in this format as it does in some others, but cheap, instant removal is the best kind in a format that revolves around combat and board presence.
Honorable Mention: Aeromunculus
I think this card is better than Grotesque Demise, but it’s a gold card and definitely not enough better to take over a 1-color card pick 1 pack 1. But once you are in Simic this card is fantastic. 3/4 is the right size to rule the sky in a format where the biggest common flyers are 3/3s, and Simic definitely needs to be able to attack over the plentiful ground deathtouch creatures that Orzov has, as well as interact with Azorius flyers in order to win the race against them.
This card is so much better than it looks. If you play a 1-mana 1/1 flyer turn 1, that’s a totally reasonable Magic card—just not good enough to offset how ineffective it is when you draw a 1/1 flyer later on in the game. Pteramander is not only a 5/5 flyer in the late game, it’s more like a 5/5 flyer with haste since it can attack the turn you spend the mana to make it into a 5/5.
Honorable Mention: Grotesque Demise
I think it’s a close pick between Frilled Mystic and Demise. Mystic is better than Aeromunculus, which I took Demise over in the pack above. Ultimately, Mystic isn’t good enough to take over something good that goes into so many more decks pick 1 pack 1. While you should still play Mystic if you draft a 3-color deck with both blue and green as non-splashes, Mystic goes down in value substantially if you can’t play it exactly when you want to. I wouldn’t blame someone for taking Mystic because it is the better card, but I would take Demise over it first pick.
Unlike a lot of the other powerful gold cards, we have seen that this card is super splashable. Don’t have the mana for your splash card? That’s okay, you can still cycle this card by playing the front half. Additionally, I have found this to be a format where life gain matters. Edict effects generally suffer in Limited because there often isn’t a lot of value in killing their worst creature. There is almost always a lot to gain from killing their biggest.
Honorable Mention: Spirit of the Spires
A nice-sized flyer for the price but let’s not get crazy. A lot of people seem to think this card gives your flyers +1/+1. Turning a 1/1 flying Spirit token into a 1/2 flyer isn’t usually going to make a big difference. Generally, you want flyers to be top heavy for attacking in the air, not high toughness for good blocking. This is a good card. It’s an early pick, but I prefer the good, splashable removal over it.
This card is way more like an uncommon than a rare when it comes to power level. What I like a lot about the hybrid mana cards is that this card isn’t black and red. It’s black or red. That means you can play it in three of the five guilds. This is neither a bad first pick nor some kind of slam. It’s just good, efficient removal and about average quality for a first pick card.
Honorable Mention: Grasping Thrull
I don’t love first picking gold cards but this one is very splashable. It’s a good late game card that only costs a single mana of each of its colors. I really like this card in Orzhov or as a splash into a Rakdos or Azorius deck. I’ve found this format to be pretty tempo-oriented and R&D did a really nice job of making 3/3 flyers playable by giving good (but not too good for a common) abilities to Thrull and Chillbringer. This card would be a weak first pick, but it is a good card and after Bedeck this pack doesn’t have anything great. The next best cards in the pack are Sphinx and Carnival // Carnage, which makes Thrull a clear second pick out of this pack.
As we move from Guilds to Allegiance it’s going to be very important to clear your mind and reevaluate the cards for the new format. Guilds was filled with powerful spells and weak creatures. Card advantage mattered way more and board presence mattered way less in Guilds than it does in Allegiance. This is a whole new format that doesn’t share much in common with Guilds except for the presence of five draftable color combinations.