Another pretty good pack today which contained, amongst other things, a foil showcase version of Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop! It also contained today’s pick which I received in foil earlier in the week; I think the booster gods are trying to tell me something…
Ayara, First of Locthwain is a rare legendary elf noble creature with 2/3 stats. Whenever it or another black creature enters the battlefield under your control, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life. It can also be tapped along with sacrificing a black creature in order to draw a card.
To start with, Ayara is an interesting character in Magic lore being one of the few people to feature fairly prominently in the Eldraine ebook, The Wildered Quest. She is the ruler of the court of Lochthwain1, the only bastion of the elves within the realm (the rest having fled to the wilds). She controls The Cauldron of Eternity and as such looks far more youthful than she is; she’s also a bit of a floosey by all accounts, always on the lookout for the next young man2 to take as a companion…
Aside from the flavour text, the card itself doesn’t mechanically bear a huge resemblance to the character. That doesn’t really matter though as it is still very good, especially and obviously in mono-black decks. My first thought upon revisiting this card today was that it is probably disgusting when played alongside the popular Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven combo3 but it’s obviously going to be good in any number of sacrificial decks.
Card draw in black nearly always requires a sacrifice of some kind be it your life total, food, or one of your creatures. The draw here is particularly good as sacrificial decks are already relatively popular but they usually need Priest of Forgotten Gods in order to do the actual sacrificing. With Ayara, First of Locthwain, you get a way to perform a single creature sacrifice and you gain a card in doing so. The drawback is that it has to be a black creature although it’s nice that this works for both token and non-token creatures4.
The thing I find most interesting about this card, and those of other court leaders, is the three mana cost. This strongly hints that we’re going to see a return to the “devotion” mechanic when Theros, Beyond Death launches in January. For those that aren’t familiar with it, devotion was a keyword that rewarded you for the number of instances of a coloured mana symbol in the casting costs of your permanents. For example, a card might enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it where X is your devotion to black; Ayara, First of Locthwain gives you 3 to that total whereas a card like The Cauldron of Eternity, despite having a higher overall cost, would only give you 2. There are a lot of cards in Throne of Eldraine that focus more on a single colour so I would not be at all surprised to see devotion return.
For now, though, this card seems more than good enough for the current standard. Whilst her fighting stats are relatively low for the mana cost, the value you’ll get in a sacrificial deck means you’re unlikely to want to risk attacking or blocking with her anyway. I’m definitely going to be trying this out in a sacrifice deck later on and will hopefully get around to updating my woefully outdated deck lists in the near future.
Each of the five courts has a legendary leader with a casting cost containing at least three mana in their respective colours: Linden, the Steadfast Queen, Gadwick, the Wizened, Ayara, First of Locthwain, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig. Gadwick and Torbran are the only two absent from The Wildered Quest. ↩︎
When you play your Cauldron Familiar then you do 1 damage and gain 1 life. You then sacrifice it to Witch’s Oven to create a food token which you then sacrifice to bring back Cauldron Familiar to do the damage again. Rinse and repeat. With Ayara, First of Locthwain in play, that 1 damage and gain 1 life becomes 2 damage and gain 2 life. The cat is also an easy sacrificial target if you really need to draw a card. ↩︎
I was going to say that this works beautifully with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame as you can sacrifice one of the tokens that is getting sacrificed anyway but that isn’t the case as those are red tokens. However, there are plenty of black token creatures that can be used such as those from Field of the Dead, Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, and Mad Ratter. ↩︎
This post is part of a weekday series where I open up a booster pack and pick a card to discuss. Whilst these are often the best cards from the set, I'll often pick one that is a bit niche or one that has cool artwork or flavour text. If there's a particular card you want me to take a look at, get in touch or join my Discord community.