Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is the truth. It is one of the coolest and most pushed cards out of Modern Horizons 2. It jumped off the page and dazzled me.
This card does so much at one mana that it was controversial when spoiled. Some people said “It dies to Lava Dart!” while others talked about how busted it was and how they’re surprised it got out the door. I don’t think the card is broken, but it is quite pushed. It represents the scarier reality that WotC isn’t afraid to push things to the limit and make sure they have an impact.
At first, I couldn’t believe a one-mana card did this much with no downside. It looked and felt busted, and at the very least, extremely pushed. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is the most surprising card I’ve read because it’s the most obvious power creep I’ve seen. Whatever you want to say about Oko or Uro, those were at least newer design spaces. Ragavan jumped out at me because it’s charted territory.
We are certainly in a new era. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer would have never seen the light of day in a Standard set and that should sound some alarms. It’s too efficient and does too much in that context. The amount of games you’d win if you cast this turn one in Standard is astronomical. It would be necessary to include in every red deck, even just as a sideboard threat in a creatureless control deck. I believe in Standard you couldn’t do anything but register this card. Obviously it’s not in Standard, but it being too good for Standard is going to make some waves.
I kept seeing arguments underplaying how strong the card is and comparing it to cards like Goblin Guide or Monastery Swiftspear, both one-mana cards that have exceptionally high win rates when played on turn one and connect on turn two. These cards are best suited in linear aggressive decks that only care about one thing — and, yeah, it’s kind of disgusting.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Lava Spike should never be in the same deck together. It’s where you want cards like Goblin Guide and Swiftspear, but it’s not the best way to utilize a one-mana creature that generates card and mana advantage. I concede that it’s likely worse in linear decks where additional cards generated are off plan and not useful.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer will work best in decks that function in low-resource, interactive games. Legacy will be Ragavan’s strongest home because of Wasteland, Force of Will, and Lightning Bolt. Comparatively, Modern has worse interaction and more linear decks with bad hits.
In a deck like Delver you can play a game of “protect the queen” with Ragavan, use Lightning Bolt to clear a path, and access cheaper, more efficient cards from the top of your deck that are more on plan. Wasteland keeps your opponent playing a turn behind while you generate another mana and card off Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.
Here are example Legacy Delver decks with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.
LEGACY RAGAVAN DELVER DECKS
Decks like these can leverage cards like Lightning Bolt, Force of Will, and Wasteland to push Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer through on small battlefields. You probably want more removal to push Ragavan through or a return to Stifle in some capacity to lean on the low-resource game plan. Stifle is reactive and forces you to hold up mana, which is easier when you’ve connected with Ragavan but awkward on the draw.
What impresses me about Ragavan isn’t how it would play out in a burn deck, but how it would function in a “good stuff” deck as a one-mana must-answer threat that can single handedly run away with a game.
Against linear creatureless combos like Storm or control decks, Ragavan can provide treasure to produce mana to interact while you tap out to play more threats. It will also occasionally hit a relevant card like Brainstorm. It will be weakest in match-ups where your opponent is playing cheap creatures, but even then it doesn’t take much to push it through a single time and gain an additional mana. It’s a huge advantage if you can connect once and hit a cheap discard spell or cantrip. At worst, it will usually trade with an opponent’s one-mana spell, and at best, it starts rolling the snowball on turn one.
Ragavan isn’t a typical mana creature like Birds of Paradise. If you play Birds of Paradise on turn one, then you have four mana by turn three. Ragavan gives you access to five mana. These treasures are resources that stay in play allowing you to build toward a more explosive turn or use for artifact synergies.
Ragavan opens many doors for deck building and has such a high ceiling that it will find a home somewhere even if it’s not obvious where right now.
Regardless of how good you think Ragavan is, and it’s possible a one-mana 2/1 isn’t good enough, you have to admit that the card is pushed. It was designed to have an impact. Either way, we’ll continue to see high-powered designs in future sets, and maybe they’ll put the future Oko’s in straight-to-eternal format sets, while keeping Standard at a flatter power level. That may be the best of both worlds — keeping Standard churning and balanced, while we still get to pick up sweet new cards for Modern, Legacy, Pioneer, and Historic.