Modern Horizons 2 is one of the more exciting Magic: The Gathering sets to be released in recent memory, especially for those who are interested in playing Modern. Within Modern Horizons 2 there are many cards that will make an immediate impact in Modern, but there is one that intrigues me more than any other.

I will jump into Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in a minute, but before I do, keep in mind this is a card designed specifically for Modern, and we should think about it in that context. There are multiple cards in Modern Horizons 2 that would be too good if released in a Standard-legal set, and Ragavan is one of them. This creates a unique opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to design more powerful Magic cards than we typically see.

Taking a Closer Look

At one mana for a 2 power creature, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer sits alongside a number of other great aggressive red cards. For one mana, being able to attack for 2 damage on turn two is almost as good as you can ask for. The 1 toughness here is a small hit, but the rest of Ragavan more than makes up for that. However, it does mean Ragavan is very vulnerable to opposing removal, especially Lava Dart. Ragavan also can be blocked quite easily, including by opposing creature tokens.

Whenever Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deals combat damage to a player, create a Treasure token and exile the top card of that player's library. Until end of turn, you may cast that card.

The bonus of getting a treasure token when Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deals the opponent damage, alongside being able to exile the opponent's top card and cast it, is an effect that has never been seen on a one-mana creature. We've never seen a Magic card close to this. This is the effect that makes Ragavan truly unique, and puts it in its own category when trying to compare it to any other creature for this casting cost.

Connecting and dealing the opponent damage on turn two isn't an unreasonable expectation, as in many games the opponent won't have a one-mana play. If they do, it still might not be a spot removal spell that can kill Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and even if it is, your opponent is still trading a card for a card. If your opponent plays a blocker, you could cast a removal spell to allow the Ragavan to get through for damage in some scenarios.

The treasure Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer creates is incredibly important because it either allows you to ramp or cast something off-color that you have exiled from the opponent's deck. Ragavan does not say you may use mana of any color to cast the opponent's spells, like similar cards have in the past.

Dash {1}{R} (You may cast this spell for its dash cost. If you do, it gains haste, and it's returned from the battlefield to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step.)

The last part about Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is its ability to dash. This effect will be useful when you draw Ragavan later in the game, and are looking for a quick source of damage. Personally, I'm not sure Ragavan needed the ability to dash, as there is a lot going on with this card already. However, now we can compare it to a card like Zurgo Bellstriker, and I believe it matches up favorably. Many of the best red creatures have haste, and Ragavan has this ability as well when cast with dash.

Not (Strictly) an Aggro Card

This is the most common misconception when looking at Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Players are comparing it to Goblin Guide, but I see Ragavan as very different from Goblin Guide. Goblin Guide needs to be in a hyper aggressive deck, otherwise the card is not good because you are giving the opponent additional cards each time they reveal a land off of its trigger.

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer doesn't deal damage on turn one, like some other one-drops in the format. Its value comes from the additional mana it can provide through Treasure, and sometimes actual card advantage by casting something from the opponent's deck. Ragavan is going to be a better card over a longer game, assuming you can hit the opponent with it.

The Obvious Homes for Ragavan May Not Be the Right Ones

Simply looking at the top red decks in Modern and slotting four Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer into them is not a recipe for success. Take a look at Burn for example—I don't think Burn will be a good home for Ragavan. There certainly are some different ways to approach that archetype, and you could likely find a way to build around Ragavan, but the most common way to build Burn is to be a very low-curve deck. If you don't play spells that cost more than two mana it becomes less likely you can take advantage of the treasure Ragavan can create.

Additionally, Burn is less likely to care about casting the opponent's spells, unless it's a Burn mirror. Most of the time Burn cares almost exclusively about casting burn spells every turn. Rather than a straightforward aggro deck, I think Ragavan may end up fitting better in an Izzet deck that has more play later in the game.

Izzet Prowess

Izzet Prowess, aka Blitz, is an excellent fit for Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Keep in mind this is already one of the best decks in the format, so if Ragavan improves it, that may be scary for the rest of the format.

The Izzet decks care more about generating the extra mana off Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, while also being aggressively slanted. Here for instance, you can actually play Ragavan on turn one, cast Expressive Iteration on turn two by cracking your Treasure, and make a land drop. This is going to be a popular sequence.

Here is a version of the deck:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Blitz by Seth Manfield

'Blitz' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Seth Manfield

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $695.94

Cards

Abrade

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.12

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/253063_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Abrade deals 3 damage to target creature.
• Destroy target artifact.

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Dispel

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/105594_200w.jpg

Counter target instant spell.

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Serum Visions

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.84

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/243835_200w.jpg

Draw a card. Scry 2.

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Alpine Moon

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $8.40

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/169066_200w.jpg

As Alpine Moon enters the battlefield, choose a nonbasic land card name.
Lands your opponents control with the chosen name lose all land types and abilities, and they gain "{T}: Add one mana of any color."

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Spell Pierce

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145258_200w.jpg

Counter target noncreature spell unless its controller pays {2}.

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Vapor Snag

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98778_200w.jpg

Return target creature to its owner's hand. Its controller loses 1 life.

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Monastery Swiftspear

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145323_200w.jpg

Haste
Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

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Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $74.96

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/239857_200w.jpg

Whenever Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deals combat damage to a player, create a Treasure token and exile the top card of that player's library. Until end of turn, you may cast that card.
Dash {1}{R} (You may cast this spell for its dash cost. If you do, it gains haste, and it's returned from the battlefield to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step.)

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Expressive Iteration

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $5.97

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235845_200w.jpg

Look at the top three cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand, put one of them on the bottom of your library, and exile one of them. You may play the exiled card this turn.

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Threads of Disloyalty

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.37

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/12374_200w.jpg

Enchant creature with mana value 2 or less
You control enchanted creature.

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Wooded Foothills

Market Price: $35.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/92831_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Wooded Foothills: Search your library for a Mountain or Forest card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle.

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Sprite Dragon

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $0.73

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212044_200w.jpg

Flying, haste
Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, put a +1/+1 counter on Sprite Dragon.

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Manamorphose

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $4.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218810_200w.jpg

Add two mana in any combination of colors.
Draw a card.

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Fiery Islet

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $13.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190806_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life: Add {U} or {R}.
{1}, {T}, Sacrifice Fiery Islet: Draw a card.

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Spirebluff Canal

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $13.73

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/122672_200w.jpg

Spirebluff Canal enters the battlefield tapped unless you control two or fewer other lands.
{T}: Add {U} or {R}.

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Mutagenic Growth

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.38

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98842_200w.jpg

({G/P} can be paid with either {G} or 2 life.)
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

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Steam Vents

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $14.38

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/175202_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U} or {R}.)
As Steam Vents enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Stormwing Entity

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.65

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215582_200w.jpg

This spell costs {2}{U} less to cast if you've cast an instant or sorcery spell this turn.
Flying
Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
When Stormwing Entity enters the battlefield, scry 2.

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Soul-Scar Mage

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/129885_200w.jpg

Prowess
If a source you control would deal noncombat damage to a creature an opponent controls, put that many -1/-1 counters on that creature instead.

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Dragon's Claw

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/47542_200w.jpg

Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.

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Lava Dart

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190635_200w.jpg

Lava Dart deals 1 damage to any target.
Flashback—Sacrifice a Mountain. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

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Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196580_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

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Bedlam Reveler

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.77

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/120430_200w.jpg

This spell costs {1} less to cast for each instant and sorcery card in your graveyard.
Prowess
When Bedlam Reveler enters the battlefield, discard your hand, then draw three cards.

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Scalding Tarn

Market Price: $31.55

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/238610_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Scalding Tarn: Search your library for an Island or Mountain card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/238610/magic-modern-horizons-2-scalding-tarn

Prismari Command

Color Identity:R,U

Market Price: $5.78

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/233273_200w.jpg

Choose two —
• Prismari Command deals 2 damage to any target.
• Target player draws two cards, then discards two cards.
• Target player creates a Treasure token.
• Destroy target artifact.

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Lightning Bolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $2.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216484_200w.jpg

Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/216484/magic-jumpstart-lightning-bolt

Tormod's Crypt

Market Price: $0.36

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215346_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Tormod's Crypt: Exile target player's graveyard.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215346/magic-core-set-2021-tormods-crypt

This is a recent list. I simply added in four copies of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, shaving some other creatures, but I think that change is worth it. There may even be other cards in Modern Horizons 2 worth considering here, but for the sake of this article I'm focusing on Ragavan. I think adding four copies to the deck is going to make it even more explosive because of the additional mana generation.

The removal spells help clear any blockers out of the way, and allow Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer to get in for damage. I see this as the easiest home for Ragavan because it is focused on doing a lot with its mana and creating card advantage with cards like Expressive Iteration.

In some ways Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer acts as a blue card, as that's going to be the color it pairs best with. Modern is a format where you can essentially play as many turn one red sources as you want to while still having plenty of blue sources, and that wouldn't be true in Standard or even Historic.

Mono-Red Moon

If you are looking for a mono-red deck that Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer can slot into, then it will likely also run Blood Moon.

Casting Blood Moon on turn two might be the most powerful thing that Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer enables. There are already mono-red [[Blood Moon] decks in the format, and I can't think of a card they would want to add more than Ragavan.

Here is what this style of deck looks like:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Red Moon by Seth Manfield

'Mono-Red Moon' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Seth Manfield

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $580.93

Cards

Dragon's Claw

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/47542_200w.jpg

Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/47542/magic-magic-2012-m12-dragons-claw

Seasoned Pyromancer

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $34.97

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190992_200w.jpg

When Seasoned Pyromancer enters the battlefield, discard two cards, then draw two cards. For each nonland card discarded this way, create a 1/1 red Elemental creature token.
{3}{R}{R}, Exile Seasoned Pyromancer from your graveyard: Create two 1/1 red Elemental creature tokens.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/190992/magic-modern-horizons-seasoned-pyromancer

Pillage

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190999_200w.jpg

Destroy target artifact or land. It can't be regenerated.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/190999/magic-modern-horizons-pillage

Firebolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190644_200w.jpg

Firebolt deals 2 damage to any target.
Flashback {4}{R} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/190644/magic-modern-horizons-firebolt

Light Up the Stage

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/243900_200w.jpg

Spectacle {R} (You may cast this spell for its spectacle cost rather than its mana cost if an opponent lost life this turn.)
Exile the top two cards of your library. Until the end of your next turn, you may play those cards.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/243900/magic-commander-adventures-in-the-forgotten-realms-light-up-the-stage

Lava Dart

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190635_200w.jpg

Lava Dart deals 1 damage to any target.
Flashback—Sacrifice a Mountain. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

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Relic of Progenitus

Market Price: $5.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118645_200w.jpg

{T}: Target player exiles a card from their graveyard.
{1}, Exile Relic of Progenitus: Exile all graveyards. Draw a card.

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Monastery Swiftspear

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145323_200w.jpg

Haste
Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

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Flame Slash

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/121822_200w.jpg

Flame Slash deals 4 damage to target creature.

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Blast Zone

Market Price: $2.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188636_200w.jpg

Blast Zone enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it.
{T}: Add {C}.
{X}{X}, {T}: Put X charge counters on Blast Zone.
{3}, {T}, Sacrifice Blast Zone: Destroy each nonland permanent with mana value equal to the number of charge counters on Blast Zone.

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Kozilek's Return

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $3.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/110829_200w.jpg

Devoid (This card has no color.)
Kozilek's Return deals 2 damage to each creature.
Whenever you cast an Eldrazi creature spell with mana value 7 or greater, you may exile Kozilek's Return from your graveyard. If you do, Kozilek's Return deals 5 damage to each creature.

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Obosh, the Preypiercer

Color Identity:B,R

Market Price: $0.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212637_200w.jpg

Companion — Your starting deck contains only cards with odd mana values and land cards. (If this card is your chosen companion, you may put it into your hand from outside the game for {3} any time you could cast a sorcery.)
If a source you control with an odd mana value would deal damage to a permanent or player, it deals double that damage to that permanent or player instead.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212637/magic-ikoria-lair-of-behemoths-obosh-the-preypiercer

Shattering Spree

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $5.74

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/13770_200w.jpg

Replicate {R} (When you cast this spell, copy it for each time you paid its replicate cost. You may choose new targets for the copies.)
Destroy target artifact.

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Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $74.96

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/239857_200w.jpg

Whenever Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deals combat damage to a player, create a Treasure token and exile the top card of that player's library. Until end of turn, you may cast that card.
Dash {1}{R} (You may cast this spell for its dash cost. If you do, it gains haste, and it's returned from the battlefield to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/239857/magic-modern-horizons-2-ragavan-nimble-pilferer

Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199035_200w.jpg

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Lightning Bolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $2.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216484_200w.jpg

Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target.

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Blood Moon

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $17.67

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218848_200w.jpg

Nonbasic lands are Mountains.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/218848/magic-double-masters-blood-moon

Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196580_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

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Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer works very well in this sort of red deck that can play a more midrange game.

Seasoned Pyromancer has the ability to refuel your hand with gas, and is another powerful turn two play that can be enabled by Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Being an Obosh, the Preypiercer deck works perfectly with Ragavan, as the treasure Ragavan generates is going to give you three mana on turn two anyway, so there really isn't much need for two-mana cards here.

I expect this deck to pick up a lot of popularity. Being able to cast Blood Moon a turn early can easily be the difference in a game, as the opponent has less time to fetch their basic lands. While this looks like an aggro deck, because of how fast Modern is I see it being a bit slower and reactive compared to some of the other red strategies.

* * *

There are some decks that Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer already cleanly slots into, and then there may be new decks built around Ragavan that weren't previously around. The card is powerful enough that it's okay to change your deck a bit in order to make it good.

The biggest knock against it is (as I mentioned) the existence of Lava Dart and other cheap spot removal. I'm interested to see how the battle between playing a card like Soul-Scar Mage versus Ragavan unfolds in some of these decks.