Ral, Izzet Viceroy
– Guilds of Ravnica
Date Reviewed: November 5, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Comparably to Vraska who we’ll be reviewing tomorrow, Ral here is basically the most Izzet-ish card it’s possible to make. Not only does his game text include the phrase “instant or sorcery” about seven times, his +1 mimics powerful selection tools like Preordain and Anticipate. If you were just going to use him for that, it would already be a decent deal, with the caveat that he tends to come into play quite late and also takes a long time to add up to an insurmountable advantage. I do like how all of his abilities work together as a sort of one-card gameplan (assuming a significant number of instants and sorceries in your deck, of course), and get even better in combination with other cards. Consider that even in Standard, it’s not that hard to make Jeskai manabases and use him alongside Teferi . . .
Looks like fealty to the most Evil of all dragons has been rewarded, and Ral comes into Guilds of Ravnica as nominal leader of the Izzet and with a shiny new card for his troubles. It’s definitely a card that plays well with the Izzet theme overall: cast all of the things and bathe your opponents in lightning.
While 5 mana is the dead zone for planeswalkers, Ral, Izzet Viceroy comes in with a solid starting loyalty (5) and has the ability to increment up immediately to a nice safe number…by effectively drawing you a card and putting the other in your graveyard. This is better than it seems, thanks to Guilds of Ravnica having a lot more graveyard action than average; jump-start, Narcomoeba, and undergrowth all encourage graveyard use, and getting 2 cards deeper every turn is a good way to get ahead. His -3 is creature removal, but it’s potent removal that scales well through the entire game (it is rare that it will hit for zero, and graveyard removal won’t wipe out the damage from it). Paying 5 mana to eviscerate a large creature is an okay use of mana; it’s not ideal, but, again, options are good, and having the ability to fry something is nice.
Of course, Ral’s ultimate is potent. If you resolve it, you should win the game in short order. It’ll take a bit to get there, though.
Ral likely has a place in Izzet decks as a late-game card draw engine and as potent spot removal if needed. He’s not necessary, and 5 mana is quite a tall ask, but I think he’ll acquit himself nicely in the current Standard.
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