Expel from Orazca | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Magic is full of mechanics. Some are evergreen due to their popularity, and some are cool but aren’t supported thoroughly, like ascend.
Let’s review this practical mechanic, exploring its intricacies, strategies, and the unique experience it brings to deckbuilding, along with a bonus deck featuring some signature cards.
Let’s get to it!
Deadeye Brawler | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing
Magic is all about building resources: life points, board presence in the form of permanents, or simply having more cards than your opponents.
The first card that got ascend based on its collector number was Pride of Conquerors, a 2-mana instant spell that gives +1+1 to creatures you control and an additional +1+1 if you have the city’s blessing.
The mechanic itself was first introduced in Rivals of Ixalan, released on January 19th, 2018, and it’s dominant in Esper colors, with most of the cards being blue.
This signature mechanic exclusive to Rivals of Ixalan was reintroduced in 2021 in the Aventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander set on the card Orazca Relic. This was the only time the mechanic was put onto a card after its original set release in Rivals of Ixalan, and so ascend isn’t considered evergreen.
Yes! This is the most common question regarding ascend. You keep the City’s Blessing emblem even if your permanent count is reduced to 0. If the criteria were met at some point in the game and a card with ascend gave you the City’s Blessing emblem, you can’t lose it.
On the other hand, if you control ten permanents but don’t control a permanent or resolving spell with ascend, you don’t get the city’s blessing.
No, you keep the City’s Blessing even if you lose permanents or your count is below the ten threshold. You can sacrifice or lose permanents after you get your emblem and still keep it for the rest of the game.
These are all the cards that have ascend in MTG.
- Arch of Orazca
- Deadeye Brawler
- Dusk Charger
- Expel from Orazca
- Golden Demise
- Kumena's Awakening
- Mausoleum Harpy
- Orazca Relic
- Pride of Conquerors
- Radiant Destiny
- Resplendent Griffin
- Secrets of the Golden City
- Skymarcher Aspirant
- Slippery Scoundrel
- Snubhorn Sentry
- Spire Winder
- Storm Fleet Swashbuckler
- Tendershoot Dryad
- Tilonalli's Summoner
- Timestream Navigator
- Twilight Prophet
- Vona's Hunger
- Wayward Swordtooth
Since the pool isn’t wide enough, it’s easy to pinpoint which ascend cards are the best.
Skymarcher Aspirant is one of the cheapest cards that have ascend. Its stats are already solid for creatures that find their home in aggressive decks, and with the ascend ability, it turns into a cheap evasive creature in the later portions of the game.
Expel from Orazca is a cheap bounce spell that upgrades into a pseudo removal when you get the City’s Blessing. In some cases, it can even act as a time walk by unmaking your opponent’s plays.
One of the most hated card types has to be time walk effects, and Timestream Navigator is one of those hidden gems that are somewhat difficult to set up. When you pair it with Imperial Recruit and bounce effects, this niche strategy suddenly becomes the most hated on the table.
Last but not least, Arch of Orazca is very good in the Constructed environment, especially in Commander.
Servo Exhibition | Illustration by Sara Winters
There aren’t many good decks that support this mechanic as a theme because it’s very narrow to the set where it was printed. Still, you can theoretically build an aggressive ascend deck in Historic.
The idea is to use cards like Servo Exhibition and Thraben Inspector to put multiple permanents on the battlefield at once and then benefit from the payoff given by cards like Skymarcher Aspirant and Snubhorn Sentry to push tons of damage to your opponents faces.
Convoke cards like Venerated Loxodon give this deck another attack angle, and it can have devastating starts against the slower decks from the meta.
Pride of Conquerors | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
While simple, ascend is without a doubt a very excellent mechanic to build around because you’ll value your resources a bit higher, more often than not leading to taking more damage by not trading or putting cards into your deck that reward you for adding multiple permanents to the battlefield like tokens.
What do you think? Would you like to have more cards with Ascend in the near future? Do you think it’s a mechanic worth being evergreen? Let us know in the comments or over on Discord!
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