Deathrite Shaman – Ravnica Remastered
Date Reviewed: January 5, 2024
Commander [EDH]: 3.75
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Some people used to refer to Deathrite Shaman as a one-mana planeswalker, and you can kind of see why. All of its abilities look small and generate way, way more value than you think they do. In the larger tournament formats, the mana ability is very easy to have active on turn 2 or later, and it also randomly hoses opponents that want to recur their own lands. The other two have more obvious and blatant targets, but the incidental effects add up to quite a roadblock and/or threat, especially when they’re so cheap to activate and the targets are all but guaranteed in modern Magic. This card was the first time that Jund or Rock’s mana elves could kill opponents more effectively than by attacking 20 times, and people really loved taking advantage of it.
Commander [EDH]: 3.5
Deathrite Shaman is an interesting case of how a card gets more powerful with a suitable format; while it was potent in Standard, it really took off in formats like Modern and Legacy, coincidentally formats it’s banned in., which happen to be formats with a lot of fetchlands. Deathrite Shaman does two things, and it does those very well: it helps ramp your mana early, reliably going from 1 mana to 3 mana on turn 2 in those formats, and it’s also a card that makes graveyard-based strategies suffer disproportionately by exiling key spells as they show up there. The life swings are nice, but hardly the main attraction…it’s a creature that has a surprisingly low opportunity cost in deck building.
Speaking of Modern and Legacy, Deathrite Shaman got banned there; it’s a deceptively good card at warping formats, thanks to its flexible mana cost, its low deckbuilding ask, and its vicious amalgam of graveyard hate and mana acceleration. It even can block in a pinch late-game, which can’t be understated. It’s the strange case of a card that tends to fit into specific formats very well while still being useful at a base line…but when it fits, it fits.
On last fun note: Deathrite Shaman’s first ability is not a mana ability, despite looking the part, so you can respond to it accordingly. It won’t matter a ton, but it does matter, so keep it in mind.
Constructed: 5 (it’s good enough to get banned out of two formats, and I think it sees some Vintage play)
Casual: 4 (it’s not as strong without tightly-tuned decks, but it can still do plenty of damage)
Limited: 3.5 (it can function as a late-game win condition, or just a bit of inevtability, but its talents are less needed here)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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