Magic: The Gathering’s newest set, Ravnica Allegiance, has been successful at revitalizing the Standard environment and creating a fun limited setting in which players get to really experience each of their favorite guilds. Beyond that, however, the set has also made quite the splash in Modern.
Light Up the Stage and Skewer the Critics are two cards from Ravnica Allegiance that have shed some new light on the Modern format. While these spells seem kind of bad with their normal mana costs, they each cost only one mana as long as an opponent has lost life on the turn you play them thanks to the new Ravnica Allegiance keyword Spectacle.
So, to make sure those costs are always one mana, people have tried putting them into Burn. Burn has been a deck in Modern for a very long time and tends to find itself viable in most formats. Burn has variants in Legacy, Modern, and Pauper because they all have access to cheap spells that deal damage to the opponent’s face.
Recently, Burn has fallen off in popularity in Modern due to the rise of the Izzet Phoenix decks. These decks can kill an opponent just as fast as Burn can, except that they’re more resilient due to the recursive nature of Arclight Phoenix. Burn typically had an issue where, once it spent the cards in its hand, it ran out of steam and relied on top-decking burn spells to close out a game. The Phoenix decks generally avoid this pitfall due to how the deck is built around drawing through its cards to bring Phoenixes back from the graveyard.
This isn’t to say that Burn is bad or that it’s worse than Izzet Phoenix. But lately, it hasn’t been as prominent as it used to be. However, Light Up the Stage addresses the issue that Burn had regarding “running out of steam.” Being able to cast it after damaging your opponent (all too easy in a Burn deck) essentially draws two cards since the majority of the cards in the deck are one mana and you have basically two turns to cast them.
In addition, Skewer the Critics is a bad burn spell unless you can trigger Spectacle in which case it is a Sorcery speed Lightning Bolt which is the best one-mana burn spell ever printed. Due to this, it is also seeing play in Burn.
Just a few days ago, this list running both Skewer the Critics and Lightup the Stage got top 8 at the Star City Games Indianapolis 2019 Modern Classic. This is just one list, and Burn making top 8 isn’t exactly rare, but it is interesting and worth keeping an eye on to see if other players follow this example.
Years ago, the card Birthing Pod was banned in Modern. It came down early thanks to the Phyrexian Mana cost and ramp like Birds of Paradise and/or Noble Hierarch. From there, it enabled value-centric decks to tutor up silver bullet cards and even pull out game-winning combos. In the January 2015 Banned and Restricted Announcement from Wizards of the Coast, it is explained that Birthing Pod had a ludicrous tournament win rate. They also banned it because as Magic: The Gathering adds new sets and content, the number of creatures that Birthing Pod could summon from a deck increased.
Birthing Pod decks, much like Splinter Twin decks, had a rabid fanbase who were (and still are) quite upset about the ban. To their joy, however, WotC decided to print what has been dubbed the “new” Birthing Pod in Ravnica Allegiance: Prime Speaker Vannifar.
Where Birthing Pod could be cast for 3 mana and 2 life, Prime Speaker Vannifar must be paid for with 4 mana. Being a creature means that she can be targeted by many types of removal spells as well that Birthing Pod dodged. Indeed, it seems on the surface that WotC made a ‘fixed’ Birthing Pod. However, Prime Speaker Vannifar’s ability costs no mana. This opens her up to a variety of combos that can win games on the spot barring interaction from the opponent.
For example, you can sacrifice a Birds of Paradise to go get a Scryb Ranger. Use Scryb Ranger’s ability to untap Vannifar, then tap Vannifar to sacrifice Scryb Ranger and grab Renegade Rallier whose enter the battlefield effect will resurrect Scryb Ranger. You can then use Scryb Ranger’s effect once more to untap Vannifar, sacrifice Scrib Ranger to get Deceiver Exarch. Exarch untaps Vannifar again so you can sacrifice Renegade Rallier to get Restoration Angel which blinks Deceiever Exarch allowing you to untap Vannifar. Then you can sacrifice Resoration Angel to go fetch Kiki-Jikki Mirror Breaker which allows you to create an infinite amount of hasty Deceiver Exarchs using the Kiki-Jikki-Exarch combo.
It’s pretty convoluted and requires your opponent to not have instant speed removals such as Path to Exile or Fatal Push, but it has very little chance of failing as long as you can start your turn with Vannifar on the field.
If you want to see the Vannifar Pod deck in action, check out this article and video from MTGGoldfish.com. The deck is surprisingly consistent in the video and makes it seem like maybe Pod is alive and well in Modern once again.
These are the major players as far as Ravnica Allegiance cards seeing Modern play. Keep in mind that Ravnica Allegiance only just released, so these are by no means “proven” decks that will be meta staples for years to come. However, the potential is there. It will be very interesting watching the format evolve with these additions. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Ravnica Allegiance and Magic: The Gathering news and content!
I’m Avinan, working in association with Daily Esports to cover Heroes of the Storm and Magic the Gathering news.