#6 – Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
– Core Set 2019
December 24, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 4.75
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
This card was 5th on my top 11 list.
A lot of value in this Nicol Bolas starts with his front side: a 4/4 that forces a discard for 4 mana. On its own, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is good at stripping away answers and swooping in for massive damage…with the ability to flip when you get to seven mana. And his flip side is suitably devastating: removal, reanimation, or card advantage are all powerful options, and a massive loyalty score makes it harder for Nicol Bolas, the Arisen to get taken out. He serves as a finisher for control decks and late-game insurance for faster piles of cards, and he’s good even if he never flips; a 4/4 with flying is well worth four mana.
This card was unranked on my Top 11 list.
For a character who was once largely mysterious and enigmatic, Nicol Bolas has gotten quite a few different variations over the years, especially in the decade since the Time Spiral block. They’ve basically all been good cards and they’ve basically all ended up playing a role somewhere. The M19 version is particularly interesting for a few reasons. We’re used to seeing the forced discard ability on smaller creatures like Ravenous Rats, and it initially looks a little underwhelming on a 4/4 dragon. But in practice, it can be quite the opposite: the smaller creatures give the opponent time to deal with them, while presenting a huge flying creature means they can’t afford to discard an answer card or a land they could use to cast an answer card. (Not to mention the fact that unlike some such cards, it scales up in multiplayer games.) The threat of him transforming into the Arisen is huge: it will generally come at a time when graveyards have lots of interesting things in them,and he starts at a high enough loyalty to use his devastating -3 and -4 abilities right away. We may be used to getting new versions of Bolas by now, but that’s no reason to consider this one merely routine: it’s a fitting in-game representation of the Eldest and of Dominaria’s most ancient evil.
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