Getting +1/+1 for each attacking ally is cool. As a curve topper in Limited, this is fine with minimal Ally support. In combination with the red Allies that give haste and menace, this Angel can do work. Tajuru Warcaller in Green pumps your team, and may be a better five-drop overall, but this is fine on its own.
This is easily one of the best Ally creatures in the set. Each opponent gets drained for 1 during each of your upkeeps - meaning you gain 1 life for each opponent that loses 1 life. It's a sweet little clock you get to put your opposition on, and clocks are great in what’s looking to be a very "durdly" Limited format with BFZ. And there are other drain effects in the set, too, that you can play alongside the Emissary. Put them all together and you have a winning draft strategy. It may not make the grade in Constructed, but there are Commander players happy to find the Emissary a home. I love cards that scale up in multiplayer. That being said, a white/black Ally drain deck isn’t impossible in Standard, probably just not anywhere in the top tier.
The Druids were underwhelming to me when the card was first spoiled. Now seeing the whole set, paying the extra 1 for the rally trigger to make a 1/1 Plant token seems slightly better than it did knowing we have allies like Tajuru Warcaller around that can pump those tokens - since Rally triggers affect all your creatures, not only the Allies. I feel like this has a few things conspiring against it, though. It has to be in a very dedicated Ally strategy to be worth playing, plus you need something as good a payoff as Warcaller's +2/+2 or Resolute Blademaster's double strike for the tokens to be of much relevance. It's going to be fine in Limited for Ally strategies, as Green and White is a solid way to go with the deck (although Black/White Allies is looking better), but it's more of a complementary creature rather than a linchpin.
There's varied opinions on how good this actually is. If you're just playing the white and black Allies exclusively, this is probably well worth the 5 mana as you get back up to CMC 8 worth of Allies that can drain for a bunch. It's probably good if you play Allies at all. Reanimation spells are always fun. There's no drawback, either, other than being limited to solely Allies, so I think it's better than it's being credited for. Still it is narrow, but as Ally support, it's solid. You just have to set it up well. It’s going to do work in the right Limited decks and there’s possibility for some Standard play, too. Do remember that Rally the Ancestors is still around.
Munda is a 3 / 4 with Haste and with the White and Red Allies around to give him some extra abilities, the Kor Ally is a decent Limited creature, and not a terrible rare to draft. He also has the ability to help you keep drawing Allies, which isn’t nothing. As I said in my spoiler review of Munda, he’s a bit worse Goblin Ringleader, as you don’t directly get card advantage from him. Were he a Ringleader, he’d be a mythic rare and probably loses a point of power and/or toughness. He’s a bit too balanced for most players liking and a bit weak for Constructed purposes, although there may be a corner case where Naya (white/red/green) Allies are good enough that this guy helps you set up a strong Collected Company play, but that seems a bit awkward.
It’s too bad he doesn’t actually add Allies to your hand directly like Ringleader does for Goblins. There are enough Red and White Allies in the game now, plus relevant Changelings, that you could make a pretty sweet Commander deck with him. As of right now, he’s a candidate for General Insanity - a series where we take Legendaries that get no love and try to form a deck around them.
I like this Merfolk Legend too much for my own good. Awaken is a cool mechanic and animating a land for pretty much free is pretty cool. In Commander, he’s pretty sweet to build around. CMDTower has a pretty awesome start on a good Noyan Dar Commander list, actually. In limited, it's pretty easy to get value especially if you drafted a creature land and have Tidecaller around. I like this way too much.
As an Ally though, it's just a Rally trigger You want this in a blue/white Control build, not in Ally. If it made Elemental Ally lands I'd like the flavor more, although I’m not sure how lands would be Allies. Anyway, he’s good, just not as an Ally per se.
Double strike is very good. 2/2 for 3RW doesn't seem too good but gaining double strike on a regular basis can diminish that downside. I probably wouldn't play this outside of Limited, but the double strike can just kill someone out of nowhere. There are enough Ally synergies, especially with the Red Allies that grant haste and menace, to simply overwhelm your opponent with a team of double strikers that can attack right away and need more than one blocker to stop. Probably doesn’t make the cut in Constructed, though.
At worst, this Elf is a 2 / 2 flyer for two. Being a 2-drop flyer is already worth playing this in Limited. At best, it's a 5 / 5 flyer for 5, which seems decent if you’re playing 5 colors. Having a flyer that rewards you for playing more colors seems sweet. It’s definitely worth playing in Limited, and it scales well, so the X in the casting cost plus Converge is more of a bonus in most cases. It does very badly in Constructed, though, if you want to cheat it in with Collected Company, because it’s just a 0/0 and dies. You have to cast it, essentially, unless you can throw counters on it at instant speed. Really, it’s Limited only, but it doesn’t need a critical mass of Allies to be good and it does have the synergies, so it’s playable.
Featured in the Zendikar vs Eldrazi Duel Deck, we now see that the Warleader could be OK, at least in Limited. He really only needs one other Ally you control to be good. Tap one with summoning sickness and get first strike, vigilance or trample. This seems fine. With 3 or 4 creatures on board he's decent. Probably not super constructed playable, though. Even if you could cheat him in with Collected Company, there are better creatures to play instead in that 3-drop slot in Constructed.
We have a pretty sweet Commander in Noyan Dar, who is more of a Merfolk Tribal/Blue-White Control card than an Ally, though. He looks Constructed playable in a vacuum, too. Munda is a decent Legendary, although his Commander and Constructed prospects are both murky. The rest all seem worth splashing for, including March from the Tomb, which could bring back 4 or 5 guys. That’s a lot of triggers, especially if you give all those creatures haste with something like Chasm Guide. Drana’s Emissary is particularly sweet. Pretty good group of cards here, if not the most exciting.
Before we get to the final verdict on BFZ’s Allies, though, we have one more card to look at: the Ally tribal land!
Oh, yay, another tribal land. There is something interesting I noticed about it, though. It lets you cast an Ally spell of any color. It doesn't specifically say creatures. Does this mean we will get Tribal enchantments instants and sorceries for allies? Perhaps that's wishful thinking, but that possibility is there. Sacrificing the encampment to bounce an ally you control seems fine under the right circumstances. Again though it doesn't have to be a creature.
I bring this up because way back in Lorwyn and Morningtide, there were introduced Tribal cards. They were cards that benefitted a specific tribe and could be tutored up by tribal cards and benefitted Tribal strategies. You also had Shapeshifter or Changeling Tribal cards that counted as being every tribe at once. Mutavault was part of these changeling cards, and that creature land is a staple in Modern and Legacy Tribal decks.
So is Ally Encampment going to be the land that makes Allies more Constructed-playable than ever? Whether we get Ally Tribal Enchantments, Instants, and Sorceries or not, this is a rainbow land for Allies. The sacrifice effect to bounce an Ally can be relevant in the later game when you really need to save a key creature. In many ways, it's a lot like Sliver Hive, in that you need a crazy amount of dedication to your tribe to make this work. But when it’s good, it’s really good.
Grade A - one of the better tribal lands we’ve seen, and if non-creature Tribal spells get printed, this could get even better!
So rather than just taking individual grades and doing the math, it felt right to just give the entire Battle for Zendikar Ally tribe a solid B. Grading the cards on an individual basis, I feel like the set’s offerings provide us with a B-minus or C-plus, but with the amount of synergies among the Allies, I had to bump them up a few points. Also, having the Rally mechanic benefit all creatures you control and not simply Allies is a minor but non-negligible upgrade for these newer Allies. Many of the new Allies are slightly more functional counterparts of those from Zendikar and Worldwake. A few are slightly worse perhaps, but make up for being slightly worse with benefitting all of your creatures.
The Ally Encampment is probably the best thing that Allies got in the entire set. The Black allies and Drana’s Emissary form a pretty sweet draft/sealed deck archetype. There are also enough decent two and three mana Allies (as well as the 2/1 one-mana Envoy) that playing a Collected Company Allies deck seems legitimate. There is hope in Standard for Allies.
We also got a couple cool Commanders in Noyan Dar and Zada, and the latter could actually work his way into a decent Standard deck, too.
Beyond Standard, though, the only real thing that I feel Allies picked up is the Encampment. Collected Company Allies have won here and there in Modern, especially having Aether Vial to cheat in creatures. The Encampment makes the mana base more consistent. Also, Zulaport Cutthroat is essentially another Blood Artist, and there are sweet things some Modern decks could do with Blood Artists #5-8, as those combos revolve around creatures you control anyway, so the functional downgrade doesn’t matter in those cases.
As seems to be the case with Battle for Zendikar in general, it feels like the power level of Battle for Zendikar was scaled back a bit too much. A lot of these cards are functional reprints of older cards, and as I said, some of them are actually better and some are only slightly worse. Casual players will jam plenty of these into their existing Ally decks. Only time will tell, but it seems Wizards developed the Allies into more of a Limited archetype than a Standard-playable upper-tier strategy.
However, although many people seem disappointed with what the set has offered, there are plenty of optimists, too. Battle for Zendikar went to the extreme with the tribal flavor of Allies vs Eldrazi. I think they succeeded from a design standpoint, but did development perhaps scale back these guys to be balanced for Limited play and cost them Constructed playability? We shall see.