What A Spectacle!

After days of speculation, we finally know exactly how the spectacle mechanic works! Abraham Stein contemplates the implications of what the Rakdos are sure to be up to in Ravnica Allegiance Standard!

The holidays always sneak up on us, don’t they? Here I was ready to settle
in by the fire and reflect on the year that was when…

My Twitter feed is full of people talking about brand new previews of cards
from Ravnica Allegiance. Preview season truly is the most
wonderful time of the year (tied with the other three preview seasons) and
can be such an exciting and exhilarating thing, I often find myself glued
to my phone waiting to hear about a new card, a new mechanic, a new anything.

In other words, it’s a spectacle to behold.

For me, when cards start getting shown to the public, one of the most
exciting things is hearing about the new mechanics that will define the
landscape of Standard, and Rakdos’ spectacle cards certainly do not
disappoint. Light Up the Stage made the rounds last week, and I spent quite
a few hours trying to figure out exactly what spectacle would do. After
Treasure Cruise, the promise of paying one mana for a Divination in any
color feels jaded to me so it was clearly the most exciting part of the
card no matter how good it might be.

Then it came – a card I’m happy to see for more than just its rules text
regarding spectacle, we got a card I think could define the direction the
whole Rakdos guild goes in Standard.

Rix Maadi Reveler is innocuous at a glance, but I think most cards that
turn out to be solid role players in Constructed formats tend to be
underappreciated at first. When I looked at this card, I thought of it as
another Dismissive Pyromancer, a rummaging two-drop that would ultimately
go on to be unimpressive despite looking like a full package. Sure, when it
isn’t going to be Dismissive Pyromancer, it’s going to be a bit of an
over-costed Bedlam Reveler, something that pays you off for emptying your
hand and pushing in damage, but then it started to feel deeper than that.

To me, Rix Maadi Reveler actually has three modes of being used, the worst of which is being just another Dismissive Pyromancer. When a
card’s floor is another card’s ceiling, there’s a foundation to build on
that the card might be better than it looks.

The card that Rix Maadi Reveler is starting to remind me of the most is
Abbot of Keral Keep. A card which in its heyday was considered “The Red
Tarmogoyf” by Patrick Chapin, the Abbot was a huge player in Standard for
its legality, helping mono-red decks hit land drops, find extra spells, and
be ultimately more consistent and powerful than they would be without it.

A nice nod to hellbent, the original Rakdos mechanic, Rix Maadi Reveler
draws a card regardless of whether you had one to discard, meaning that not
only can it help you dig to hit early land drops, but even if you don’t
have the resources to enable spectacle, you still come out ahead when you
draw it empty handed. True to its name, it’s a real party animal at every
stage of the game.

  • Trying to get everything together? Yeah he’ll help.
  • Party dying down and need a little boost? Of course, he’s got you
  • Party rocking at full force? He’s ready to turn it up to eleven.

Perhaps the only thing that could hold back a regular Andrew W.K. type like
this would be that red decks already have so many options for generating
card advantage and not running out of steam. It could get hard to convince
me I want this card, Experimental Frenzy, Risk Factor, and any other great
option red has for reach right now in the same deck especially when on its
own it doesn’t further the strategy of putting the opponent at zero.

The other issue I can see for this card is enabling it to be at its best.
You won’t always be able to find a way to have your opponent lose life in
combat, and as of right now there aren’t a lot of sustainable ways to deal
even one point of damage at low cost in Standard.

Cards like these two would be ideal candidates to get sneaky reprints in Ravnica Allegiance for Rakdos. Provided there are more powerful
spectacle cards coming as previews roll onwards, either of these could be
akin to Llanowar Elves in their archetype, singlehandedly making the
difference in the way the game looks when they show up in your opening
hand. Being able to consistently cast your spells for their spectacle costs
on curve could be everything, but what I found though, unfortunately, is
that as far as one-drops go, all we really have are Fanatical Firebrand and
Legion Conquistador, but both of those require a sacrifice to get the job

As far as Rix Maadi Reveler goes, those kinds of cheap creatures really
tend to shine alongside ways to pile them up and snowball them into one
another. It’s a match made in heaven, as all those little points of damage
really have a way of adding up the longer they’re left unchecked, and
Reveler makes assembling that critical mass an attainable goal.

After this disappointing gatherer search through the one-drops in Standard,
I started to think about the other ways you could set up a big spectacle
turn and was reminded that if you were using a permanent on the battlefield
to enable it anyway, it didn’t have to only be cheap creatures I was taking
into consideration. Anything that can reliably connect with the opponent no
matter what the battlefield looks like does the trick.

Angrath, the Flame-Chained saw a little love as a sideboard card in a few
builds of Rakdos Midrange before the release of Guilds of Ravnica
and rotation, but it could be that spectacle is the exact kind of mechanic
that could bring the Minotaur Pirate to the forefront. Especially if you
start looking towards Rix Maadi Reveler as less of a consistency card and
more of a card advantage spell, the image of an aggressively slanted
midrange deck involving these two in tandem can start to get easier to

Rakdos Midrange was a plague on the previous Standard format and while
we’re surely a few Glorybringers, Scrapheap Scroungers, and Chandra, Torch
of Defiances away from that reality, knowing how you’re pulling ahead when
the dust is settling is a big piece of the puzzle that could be solved. In
recent years aggressive midrange decks have been the kings of Standard, and
it’s always something to be on the lookout for when you’re evaluating cards
and strategies. Decks that can play both roles well are extremely dangerous
when they’re around, so I try to look out for ways those decks can manifest
themselves as we get previews.

With the other five guilds that weren’t in Guilds of Ravnica
coming to Standard via Ravnica Allegiance, I can easily see a
world where three-color decks become the norm and that opens a ton of
potential for cards like this with only one colored mana requirement. The
thought of a Gruul beatdown deck having a two-drop that smooths its draws,
puts presence on the battlefield early, and can reload your hand with
threats is quite alluring, but we’ll have to see some Gruul cards first.

I know for certain at least one of the decks I’m going to brew up when we
know every card in the set is going to be Grixis with Rix Maadi Reveler,
Angrath, and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager to attack on the axis of card
quantity. A deck like this would be much more focused on using Rix Maadi
Reveler as a kind of Champion of Wits effect, churning through the deck to
find the right mix of threats and answers while having the potential to
pull ahead on cards given the opportunity. A deck like this would probably
need to pick up another creature or two worth playing, but I’m optimistic
that something will come together; we’ve got a whole set’s worth of
previews ahead of us.

Until then, I’m hoping the rest of the preview season takes a cue from
Rakdos and continues to give us a spectacle to behold.