The Enormous Impact Of Renegade Rallier On Modern

Fatal Push isn’t the important card from Aether Revolt to hit Modern? Is Renegade Rallier that insane? Michael Majors thinks so! And he’s putting his money where his SCG Baltimore mouth is with tons of decks and combos you can use this breakout card with!

Aether Revolt is one of the most impactful sets on Modern since the Eldrazi. The first-ever Team Constructed event this weekend on the SCG Tour in Baltimore critically places every Modern player in the “B” seat. Not only will players be tested in being able to properly utilize some powerful new cards, but whether they can help navigate their teams to victory in their own respective formats.

There are a lot of powerful new cards and interactions waiting to be shown off this Saturday, but if I had to bet on what the history books will ultimately show as “best Modern card in Aether Revolt,” it wouldn’t be on Fatal Push or even the inherently busted interactions of the Expertise cycle, but Renegade Rallier.

On Floors and Ceilings

One of the ways in which to evaluate cards with variable effects is the concept of how high or low its floor and ceiling are. In other words, how bad can this card possibly be and how brightly can it shine? In terms of Standard, Renegade Rallier isn’t exceptionally exciting due to the actual amount of effort it takes to trigger revolt. There are legitimate deck building costs to incorporating cards that leave the battlefield in high numbers, and as a result you may often end up with a creature that is simply its printed stats.

Of course, Eternal formats don’t have this problem because of fetchlands. Unsurprisingly, as Magic ages, there are inevitably more powerful interactions with the best lands ever printed. As it stands, it is essentially “free” to include ten to twelve fetchlands in the vast majority of Modern archetypes, which dramatically raises the floor on Renegade Rallier. The three-drop will nearly always represent a three-powered ramp spell that generates a mana the turn it enters the battlefield. That is an utterly outrageous worst-case scenario, especially when decks that are interested in playing the Rallier are typically incorporating additional mana acceleration like Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch to turbo-charge their decks.

Beyond that, Renegade Rallier also has limitless potential. It is one of the most powerful grinding creatures of all time due to its ability to backdoor into various combos, return any type of permanent, and enable various types of synergistic recursion engines. A Jund or Grixis player may have no shot at legitimately fighting through a properly built Renegade Rallier deck in the mid-game with Lightning Bolts and Fatal Pushes, as each iteration of the three-drop can potentially return far more than “simply” the four power of a Tarmogoyf once cards like Saffi Eriskdotter or Voice of Resurgence start to be factored in.

But We Already Had Eternal Witness!

You might ask, “Why are you so high on Renegade Rallier when Eternal Witness already exists?” This is a legitimate question, as it appears on the surface that Eternal Witness is a more flexible card. It can return actual anything and only costs a single color of mana. It’s also difficult to argue against how powerful it is for enabling Collected Company chains.

In some respects, Renegade Rallier doesn’t completely make Eternal Witness obsolete, but there is such a dramatic difference in creating additional battlefield presence. Generating upwards of “two mana” might not seem that significant on the surface, but in a format as brutally fast as Modern, the tempo you gain through the effect of Renegade Rallier truly snowballs over the course of a few turns, especially if you start to factor in multiple copies or combo elements.

The fact that the Rallier itself is so impactful on the battlefield even after its trigger is another huge testament to its superiority over the Witness. Any kind of “blink” effect like Flickerwisp, Restoration Angel, or the aforementioned Saffi Eriksdotter makes Renegade Rallier a must-kill threat even after it has already generated a card! While Eternal Witness may be able to provide a ton of raw card advantage through similar interactions, it is entirely possible that one may not have time to deploy all of those additional resources. Renegade Rallier provides a consistent advantage in both card economy and battlefield presence.

On a semi-related note, I do think that Renegade Rallier largely invalidates one card: Kitchen Finks.

While it is true that Kitchen Finks has additional applications against Burn, I strongly believe that Renegade Rallier is a more powerful and flexible combo piece that builds a more significant and immediate advantage. I suspect that properly built decks will eventually get to the point where the first Finks is never added before the fourth Rallier.

Keeping It “Fair”

Renegade Rallier can simply be an excellent supporting-cast card advantage creature that generates two or three bodies and six or seven power. Clearly, it’s a great “fair” card, so let’s take a look at some applications before we even touch any of the various Abzan Company combo decks.

I wanted to show off this specific list for two reasons. One, Todd Stevens (“The_Gunslingers” is his MTGO name) has been killing it on stream with this fair G/W deck. Two, I feel obliged to shame him for only playing three Collected Company. What the hell?

While I clearly don’t agree with all of Todd’s choices, he has had a significant amount of success with resilient green decks that transform hyper-focused hate packages post-sideboard. I think this is a pretty interesting and likely effective way to approach Modern.

Even though Todd clearly isn’t going out of his way to fully support Renegade Rallier in his deck, it’s still awesome for not only generating additional threats but also acting as a powerful disruptive tool with Ghost Quarter. By far my favorite interaction is returning a fetchland and generating two Clues with Tireless Tracker.

This next deck fully utilizes the ability to blink Renegade Rallier:

Mike Seagull has gone deep a few times with various U/W Emeria decks looking to abuse the inevitability of Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Sun Titan. Renegade Rallier looks to be powerful enough in the strategy to change the splash completely.

While previously, the games were likely to go very long as you slowly grinded the game out and eventually hit your seventh Plains, Rallier is sure to expedite that process. It looks like Jon was trying out a lot of different types of cards and interactions, but even despite his deck being untuned, he was able to put up a result.

As with many of these Rallier decks, it looks incredibly difficult for even other types of fair or midrange deck to effectively fight through this much card advantage.

Seal of Primordium is a fine piece of technology that I’m sure to borrow.

Jesse’s deck is clean, well-built, and sits firmly in the middle of being punishingly aggressive while still having the potential to play a slightly longer game. Renegade Rallier’s revolt can not only function as an additional threat but can represent anywhere from four to eight potential damage with multiple landfall triggers.

This deck is pretty no-nonsense, so obviously I’m interested in exploring a more absurdist version with Zektar Shrine Expedition and maybe even Flagstones of Trokair and Edge of Autumn for the full combo kill.

The Inevitable Combos

The most efficient way to make Renegade Rallier into his own respective combo piece is with Saffi Eriksdotter. Saffi plus Rallier makes a formidable battlefield presence that is difficult to break up and attack through. Once you add Viscera Seer into the mix, you suddenly have arbitrary scrys by sacrificing Saffi targeting the Rallier and then looping the Rallier and returning the Saffi in each iteration.

Once you have arbitrary scrys, then finding a way to kill your opponent or gain arbitrarily large life is theoretically trivial with a card like Essence Warden or Blood Artist.

Of course, Renegade Rallier can also be slotted into various Abzan Company strategies for built-in redundancy of the traditional Melira or Anafenza combo, but I’ll be focusing on my own versions today instead of just adding a few copies of Rallier into pre-existing shells.

I don’t have the incredible wealth of experience through years of building Birthing Pod decks that many others do, but I like the look of this Company deck. It is sleek with a minimal number of bullets, but it also has a ton of potential to out-card an opponent.

Ranger of Eos is my “big card” of choice, as it searches for two combo pieces, Essence Warden and Viscera Seer, both of which can be bought back by Renegade Rallier.

I should note that I’m fairly light on utility lands, as I’m afraid of the high density of “GW” casting costs in my deck.

Additionally, I’m not sure if the Path to Exiles shouldn’t just be Fatal Pushes, even though it is more likely to open you up to taking damage to cast early on.

Finally, Evolutionary Leap is just so sweet in this deck. Saffi and Rallier can build a “G: Spin the wheel,” creating a hopelessly difficult number of cards for an opponent to fight through.

A Versus Video later this week will feature my match against Tom Ross’s Sultai Delver with this piece of work. I was inspired to replicate Steve Rubin’s Return to the Ranks deck from last year due to Rallier’s ability to return every single creature in the deck.

Ultimately, I was impressed, but some changes could certainly be made including the likely inclusion of the last Return to the Ranks in the maindeck. I was concerned about being choked on too many expensive payoff cards, but it is just so absolutely powerful in the strategy.

Other than that, it isn’t clear that it is necessary to have so many Blood Artists. While I don’t want to be forced into trying to find a singular copy by assembling the “scry combo,” it is unlikely that you ever need to draw multiples; the majority of the time you’re just going to fight an attrition battle with giant elementals and various sticky threats.

Yet again, Abzan Ascendancy is another additional combo piece with the scry setup, this time yielding arbitrarily large creatures.

The Sublime

Returning creatures and lands with Renegade Rallier is pretty obvious. What’s the kind of effect that really sets it apart from Eternal Witness?

It can return Black Lotus.

Being able to produce a consistent and massive mana advantage by returning Lotus Bloom is our plan – which is fairly reliable with Whir of Invention or discarding a Lotus Bloom to Thirst for Knowledge. Sram’s Expertise can either directly place Lotus into play or cleanly cast Whir to find it.

At the point that we’ve powered out a Sun Titan and gained a lead on the battlefield, dominating our opponent should be fairly simple, whether through traditional grinding means or by assembling the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo.

There are numerous combinations of cards you can play to synergize with these packages, so the sky is truly the limit on this deck’s potential.

Our sideboard plan is to either build our own Armageddon with Sram’s Expertise and Boom//Bust (which conveniently leaves us a threat) or turn into a hard ramp deck with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

There are many more possibilities with the Expertise cycle as well. Not only can they turn into “mini-Ultimatums,” as we’ve already seen with Breaking//Entering, but they also enable many of the cards that we’d only seen previously in cascade decks like Living End.

I think it’s fair to say that even if Renegade Rallier has the most profound impact on Modern, Aether Revolt is going to make its presence known this weekend in Baltimore.