Ravnica Allegiance enters the Modern card pool during a uniquely favorable time, immediately after the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks. Its exit leaves a large void in the metagame that creates space for other decks to play. The metagame is in the process of re-discovering itself, so it's a ripe opportunity for new cards to prove their worth as they elevate existing decks or even create new ones. This week Ravnica Allegiance cards could be found all over Modern tournaments, and today I'll point out everywhere I've seen them and the roles they are playing in the format.
A couple weeks ago I argued that Lighting Bolt was the best card in Modern, which is how I justified the appearance of Wizard's Lightning in the format. Skewer the Critics is the newest Lightning Bolt analogue, and it's the best yet. A deck based around dealing damage can count on spectacle always being turned on when necessary, so in practice Skewer the Critics will feel just like Lightning Bolt the majority of the time. That makes it an obvious staple for the Modern deck, and a four-of in the Modern Challenge winning decklist from last weekend.
Another Ravnica Allegiance addition to Burn is Light Up the Stage, which like Skewer the Critics takes advantage of Burn's ability to turn on spectacle. This sort of two-for-one card drawing effect is brand-new territory for Burn as far as I can remember, and honestly it's quite scary. My strategy against Burn is always to interact the best I can manage and cross my fingers and hope they run out of relevant action. Light Up the Stage gives them a high-quality piece of card advantage that's closer to Ancestral Recall than Divination, and it's not restricted. This decklist does take some special considerations to ensure it always hits spectacle, including a full set of Shard Volley, which is less painful than normal because Light Up the Stage provides land. The deck also splashes into black for Bump in the Night, which at one mana is more effective with spectacle than the two-mana plays white provides like Lightning Helix and Boros Charm. These two-drops are also liabilities with Light Up the Stage, which is most effective with one-mana plays at low risk of being stranded in exile.
Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage have also found a home in the Mono-Red Arclight Phoenix Burn deck, where they perform much of the same role that they do in Burn.
Light Up the Stage has added synergy with Arclight Phoenix because it helps add to the required three-spell count, even potentially helping two turns in a row. Light Up the Stage might be so good with Arclight Phoenix that it becomes a staple of the Izzet version too. Tariq Patel has proven himself an expert of the deck with a series of top finishes recently, and his list from last weekend featured a pair of Light Up the Stage.
Light Up the Stage has replaced Pyromancer Ascension from Tariq's last version of the deck, where it offers a more immediate return on investment compared, and is also completely immune to graveyard hosers and removal.
The "Bridgevine" deck, based around Bridge from Below and Vengevine, first appeared as a variation of a Hollow One deck but really came into its own with the printing of Stitcher's Supplier as a graveyard enabler. The deck fell from popularity, but Ravnica Allegiance's Rix Maadi Reveler might be what the deck needs to reach the next level.
As a creature with a looting effect, it performs two critical roles in the deck, helping to trigger Vengevine and enabling the graveyard. It's a great turn two play, but it also gives the deck a significant upgrade in late-game power with its potential to be cast with spectacle and draw three cards. With a league 5-0 trophy in hand, the strategy is off to a good start, so we will see if if it catches on with more players.
Ravnica Allegiance may have added a new staple to one of Modern's classic decks, Merfolk. Benthic Biomancer has shown up as a playset in multiple MTGO Merfolk decks already. What's surprising is that it has ousted Cursecatcher, a card I presumed to be a necessary piece of disruption in the deck. Benthic Biomancer does come with its advantages. Adapt means it is essentially a 2/2, so it hits hard, but its real draw is the ability to loot away a card. Quality card advantage and selection is always welcome in any deck, and it's especially valuable in a synergy-based deck like Merfolk that is hungry to dig into more Merfolk and has little use for excess lands. Focusing on maximizing the deck's own synergy and proactive plan may be better than relying on a relatively weak piece of disruption that won't always impact the game.
Benthic Biomancer is a Wizard, which this decklist takes advantage of with Wizard's Retort.
This decklist goes deep on Benthic Biomancer's looting ability by including Deprive, which can return a land to hand to be discarded.
One upgrade of note is Growth Spiral over Explore in Temur Scapeshift.
The idea of playing Scapeshift in a controlling blue shell used to be a top strategy in the Extended format but has mostly been overshadowed by red-green versions in the Modern era, likely in large part because of Primeval Titan. Recent additions like Opt and Jace, the Mind Sculptor have added more tools to a blue version, which benefits significantly from Growth Spiral giving it an instant-speed way to ramp.
Deputy of Detention has appeared in Bant Spirits, as a two-of in the list that finished fifth in the Modern Challenge last weekend. It's not a massive addition, but it's significant when a new card makes its way into what is already one of the format's top decks.
Rather than replace Reflector Mage, Deputy of Detention has been added on top. Favoring Reflector Mage in the split does show just how strong the ability to lock out the opponent from playing a creature with the same name is. That said, permanently removing a creature is better over a long game and a valuable tool to have access to, especially with Phantasmal Image to copy the effect.
I've described how Ravnica Allegiance has helped to strengthen some existing top Modern decks and reinvigorated some forgotten ones, but no deck has received a bigger boost than the As Foretold Living deck, which uses the enchantment to cast zero-cost suspend spells like Living End for free. Electrodominance was the most hyped Modern card in the set for Modern, and it's proving to be perfect card to mash into the strategy as an additional way to cast these zero-cost spells. Hall of Famer Gabriel "bobthedog" Nassif has been championing the strategy on his stream since the card was released online, and last week he took a sleek version to the Top 4 of the Modern Challenge.
Beyond casting Living End, Electrodominance also chips in to cast Ancestral Vision. It goes further by acting as a burn spell, which is far from its primary role but a very real way to help close out games or deal with troublesome creatures or planeswalkers. This deck is playing Cryptic Command and Remand, and Living End is something of a Wrath of God, so it is comfortable playing the control role over a long game, and in those games Electrominance hits hard.
I ran into this deck twice in the last MTGO Modern League I played, so it's definitely catching steam. It remains to be seen if the deck is a novelty or a real top-tier contender, but there's some potential for it to break out as Modern's next big thing.
Birthing Pod rose to dominate Modern before being banned, but the creature toolbox strategy has lived on with Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution and Collected Company. Some hope that Prime Speaker Vannifar holds the promise of outshining all of those and will bring about a new era of the Birthing Pod strategy. While its disadvantages compared to the broken artifact are many, its potential power is obvious and its creature status does come with its own unique advantages to be exploited. Players are using Prime Speaker Vannifar and creatures that can untap it, like Scryb Ranger, Bounding Krasis, Breaching Hippocamp, and even Zealous Conscripts, to ramp into a combo kill with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Prime Speaker Vannifar of course also provides access to a toolbox of utility creatures for which Birthing Pod was known, which extends to the sideboard, and helps it win many games in a fair manner without any need for combo.
Wilderness Reclamation was the most hyped card in the set for Standard – where doomsayers have prophesied it breaking the format – but I never considered its potential in Modern. It now has a league 5-0 in a fascinating deck, so consider yourself warned.
The deck is essentially just Sultai Control, based around Snapcaster Mage and a wealth of disruption, similar to how Jeskai Control operates. Where this deck diverges is Wilderness Reclamation, which it uses as a mana engine to power the card advantage and tutoring of Mystical Teachings. It will eventually find Blue Sun's Zenith, which combines with Wilderness Reclamation to draw a ton of cards to bury the opponent, or even deck them outright by targeting it at them. Growth Spiral is a nice addition, helping to ramp into Wilderness Reclamation while also being an instant to help use the mana it generates, and flashing it back with Snapcaster Mage is surely delightful.
There's clearly an infinite amount of tuning that could be done to a deck like this, including completely changing colors or shifting the focus. The takeaway to me is that Wilderness Reclamation is a playable Modern card and could have many different applications. Krark-Clan Ironworks was just banned for being a broken mana engine, and it does have some parallels to Wilderness Reclamation. I wonder if it might excel in a Takin' Turns-style Time Walk deck with Savor the Moment and Nexus of Fate, both which abuse its untap ability.
There's also plenty more potential for Electrodominance, which can be used with Restore Balance and Wheel of Fate, synergies which are just beginning to be explored. Tunining a toolbox deck is also a delicate process, so Prime Speaker Vannifar will only improve with time. Ravnica Allegiance is a powerful set, and there are likely even more cards hiding that will appear in Modern before long - perhaps Hero of Precinct One, which broke out as last weekend in Standard and has a ton of great cards to play with in Modern…