Last updated on September 22, 2023
Rhythm of the Wild | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
The Gruul Clans are known for opposing the oppressive rules of Ravnica’s civilization. Where the Rakdos, the Dimir, or even the Golgari work outside of the law, bending the rules and laws of their civilization, the Gruul reject them wholesale.
This violent resistance against the city and the other nine guilds is represented in the three keyword abilities that the Clans have had. Bloodthirst was the first of the three, and it very easily set the basis for the clan. Violence made them grow stronger, the same way any violent action that weakened society would benefit their goals. Then there was bloodrush, which reinforced the previous idea while making them more proactive. And finally we have riot.
From a flavor point of view, riot perfectly encapsulates the Gruul Clans. They embrace nature, with all its ups and downs. They also actively act against urbanized society, causing unrest and sparking violence to quicken its downfall. And riot lets you choose how you approach that action by overwhelming your opponents with swift attacks that come as a surprise or coming at them slowly but with all your might.
But I’m not here to waste your time going on about flavor (not right now, anyway); let’s look at all the riot cards we’ve gotten so far and see which are the best!
Ravager Wurm | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Riot is a keyword ability that allows you to choose between two options when the creature enters the battlefield: You can choose to put a +1/+1 counter on it, but if you don’t, it permanently gains haste.
If a creature has more than one instance of riot for whatever reason, you can choose a different option for each instance. So if a creature has two instances of riot, you can have it enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter and haste, two +1/+1 counters, or two instances of haste (which would be redundant and useless but definitely feels on par with what the Gruul believe).
The mechanic was introduced in Ravnica Allegiance as the guild-specific ability for the Gruul Clans. It has since only appeared again in two other cards: one from Modern Horizons 2 and one from March of the Machine Commander.
Rampaging Rendhorn is by far the weakest card with riot. Whether you choose the +1/+1 counter or haste, it’s still an overcosted card. If you’re gonna play this card, you might as well replace it with Magic’s most overpowered card: Colossal Dreadmaw.
This card could do with being 1 mana cheaper. The combination of menace and riot could make this a really nice card in aggro decks, and it definitely had a place in Limited formats. But at a mana value of 4, Ghor-Clan Wrecker ends up falling a bit short nowadays.
My opinion of the previous card pretty much applies the same way here. I feel like this card would be a million times better if its cost was just a little bit lower.
If I’m being honest, I’ll admit Wrecking Beast and Gruul Beastmaster could easily swap rankings if you have the right build around one or the other. But I ultimately think this card has a more fun design (even if a lot less complex) and makes for a wonderful starter-level card for newer players building their first stompy decks.
Frenzied Arynx’s second ability, even if pretty overcosted, does boost it a bit in my view. Gruul decks tend to have some solid ramp so you shouldn’t find it too hard to gather enough mana to use it. And if you combine that with the +1/+1 counter from riot and trample, you can get some pretty strong attacks in.
Clamor Shaman suffers the same issues a few of the previously mentioned cards: Its mana value is just too high. Its ability is good and can definitely fit right in with an aggro strategy, but it ends up feeling a bit too costly.
Having rummaging (or red looting) on a stick is always a good thing. In this case riot also works really well because you get two choices: Either you use Burning-Tree Vandal to attack that same turn, which may mean its immediate demise but you prioritize drawing cards for the turn, or you give it a +1/+1 counter which can increase its chances of survival, allowing you to repeat the rummaging ability at least a few times.
Back when Return to Ravnica was the newest block (what do you mean that was 11 years ago?) I made myself a Rakdos aggro deck. I had one creature in that deck that I always found ridiculously fun to play: Spike Jester.
I can’t help but see Zhur-Taa Goblin and be reminded of Spike Jester. Very appropriately, the Gruul are a bit less maniacal than the Rakdos, so this card lets you choose whether you want a sturdier or more aggressive creature. But the spirit behind both of them really feels like it’s the same.
I really like the design of Skarrgan Hellkite. I think its ability works perfectly as a sort of implicit guide: If you can finish your opponent off this turn, play this card with haste. Otherwise, it’d be smarter to place a +1/+1 counter on it and make it pay off in the long run.
It’s a neat design that has some playing lessons hidden in its very mechanics.
This card plays great and can protect you against a bunch of different things, while also being extremely flavorful within its setting.
Combining modular and riot is such a simple and fun way to mix keyword abilities in a way that works very neatly. Arcbound Slasher fits perfectly in decks that care about +1/+1 counters, especially something like Marchesa, the Black Rose.
I really like cards like Ravager Wurm for the very same reason I like riot: They let you adapt your strategy depending on what you really need. Riot works really well with this card’s first option because you could either need the +1/+1 counter to take out a large target or you can fight an opponent’s only blocker and then use riot’s haste to finish that player off.
Alright. I think I need to admit something here: I’ve technically already mentioned every single creature with the riot ability. The thing is, riot itself is an incredible ability, and there are three cards that essentially let you give riot to most (if not all) of the creatures you play.
Riot is an ability without any drawbacks or previous setup. There’s virtually no creature that wouldn’t benefit from this ability except for some very specific cases.
Basically my previous argument simply repeats itself here. Being able to give riot to all your creatures is just straight up absurd.
Uncivil Unrest only has one very minor drawback, which is that its second ability can somewhat coerce you into opting for the +1/+1 counter every time, but can that even be considered a drawback?
Domri, Chaos Bringer can be a bit underwhelming in that it can technically only give riot to one creature per turn unless you have ways to copy its ability. Uncivil Unrest’s riot can feel like it comes into play a bit late since it costs 5 mana to play, so you probably already have quite a few creatures on the field that didn’t benefit from it.
But don’t worry! Rhythm of the Wild gives riot to all your nontoken creatures for a meager mana value of 3. That alone would already make it one of the best cards on this list. But just in case you weren’t convinced, it also makes it so that creature spells you play can’t be countered. There are exactly zero reasons to not play this card in any and all creature-based decks you have. It’s pure upside.
I guess the three cards that ended up taking the top spot in my list are the ones that would’ve fit here the best, especially considering riot effects stack. But worry not!
There are plenty of good cards to go along with your riot creatures. Or more specifically, there are a lot of cards and strategies for which riot goes along perfectly.
Samut, Vizier of Naktamun can greatly benefit from creatures with riot. If you already have ways to grant haste to all your creatures (which you should in a deck that runs this card), the +1/+1 counter ensures your creatures hit harder and have a higher survival rate.
Chishiro, the Shattered Blade can also benefit greatly from your creatures having riot as they enter the battlefield already modified. Ognis, the Dragon's Lash has you choosing haste over the +1/+1 counter which also makes for a compelling argument in favor of riot giving you the power of choice. It makes your creatures versatile.
Uncivil Unrest | Illustration by Lorenzo Mastroianni
I personally really like riot. I think the two enchantments that grant riot to all your nontoken creatures are absurdly fun and can power up plenty of strategies and decks. My only complaint about the ability is that it was given to the Gruul, when the Rakdos leader is so clearly called Rakdos, Lord of Riots. But all jokes aside, I think this is a super fun and flavorful ability.
But enough about what I think! What’s your opinion on riot? Do you like it? Do you agree with my ranking? What’s your favorite riot card? Leave a comment letting me know! And while you’re at it, make sure to pay our Discord a visit. You can join an amazing community of MTG fans there to share your hobby with!
That’s all from me for now! Have a good one and I’ll see you next time.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: