Birds of Paradise – Ravnica Remastered
Date Reviewed: January 15, 2024
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I’m going to open with a disclaimer: this is not going to be a neutral or dispassionate review. Birds of Paradise is my favorite Magic card. I opened one in my very first Fourth Edition starter deck and I was hooked – on the mana birds (as their typeline read back then), on green, on Magic in general. And while you wouldn’t see most of Alpha’s cards – or even, nowadays, Ravnica: City of Guilds‘ – in modern tournament play, Birds of Paradise is a card no grinder would be ashamed to cast. It’s getting to be two decades ago at this point, but take a look at this archived article from Frank Karsten, which he made the odd, saddening decision to call “The Island of Lost Toys“. The first deck he showcases is built around mana birds (including the ones who are technically elves) accelerating creatures that will end your opponent if they don’t answer. You might recognize that play pattern: the creatures in question have changed, but it’s been a staple of Standard and other tournaments for many of the intervening years. Even longer when you consider strategies like Fires of Yavimaya.
But even that pales in comparison with Birds of Paradise’s impact on casual formats. When you add up all the fun decks that don’t work without them, the ones that they make a little smoother, and the ones where they save a budget player’s multicolor blushes (now that they’re comparatively cheap), the number is almost too many to count in a practical way. Birds of Paradise is a classic card and a legendary card and lives up to its reputation in every way; I love that Bill picked the retro frame Ravnica Remastered printing for this post, because it is truly timeless.
Commander [EDH]: 4
B I R D
While some of the earliest creatures of Magic have fallen off and fallen off pretty hard, too), Birds of Paradise has very resolutely not fallen off like those have, and it’s been playable for pretty much its entire lifespan. In general, mana acceleration is most impactful at lower points on the curve, and going from one mana to three mana on turn 2 is a massive jump. Birds of Paradise offers one mana of any color, easing some color issues in green-centered decks, and its mana acceleration and fixing have been backbones to many decks over the past three decades. It being a flying creature, while not wildly impactful, does give it a bit of marginal utility as a blocker against things green sometimes struggles to block.
Birds of Paradise does suffer a bit from the increased overall hostility to one-mana creatures. While “Bolt the Bird” has long been an iconic part of Magic, having a single point of toughness has gotten more exploitable than ever, and many decks won’t even need to commit a Lightning Bolt to blast our favorite avian perversion out of the sky. It’s still a phenomenal mana creature, arguably the best at its price point (unless you’re really enamored with Elf synergies), but it’s sometimes a hard sell unless your deck’s mana curve is extremely tight and benefits disproportionately from jumping to those specific breakpoints.
Constructed: 5 (it’d be a very powerful part of Standard, and while it’s not ubiquitous in Legacy or Modern, it shows up plenty there; it feels wrong to not give this a 5)
Casual: 3.75 (this benefits tightly tuned decks the most, and casual play rarely has that; still, an early Birds of Paradise can only help)
Limited: 3 (rarely great in Limited, thanks to a lack of real pressure sources)
Commander [EDH]: 4 (the best one-mana mana dork for any non-Elf deck)
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