Blessed Alliance is a perfect example of a card with the Escalate mechanic which was new and unique to the Eldritch Moon set, the second of two sets in the Shadows Over Innistrad block. Right away, players saw this card as a strictly better version of Celestial Flare with its ability to force an opponent to sacrifice an attacking creature. Celestial Flare is a card that already saw play in Standard sideboards at the time, and that card costs double White (WW) instead of 1W.
But, Blessed Alliance can do a lot more than that, and is far more than a Celestial Flare with upside. It can also gain a player 4 life or untap up to two target creatures. Best of all, with Escalate, you can pay an additional 2 mana to get each additional effect. For just 5W, you can get all three effects out of one card. As we’ve seen in many past Standard environments, gaining 4 life can actually be pretty relevant, and untapping creatures can be a great combat trick.
Blessed Alliance was especially good in Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon Limited, as there were some huge creatures in both Shadows and Eldritch Moon that often were attacking alone. In Standard, the obvious use for Blessed Alliance right away was as a counter to Eldrazi strategies. It would punish players attacking with their big Eldrazi Titans like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. But it was a card that could do a lot more than that. The versatility of a card with three abilities was well known with cards like Dromoka’s Command in recent sets. Blessed Alliance looked to be a winner straight away.
As a card that saw a good amount of Standard play, and has even worked its way into Modern and Legacy, just how good is Blessed Alliance?
How Does Blessed Alliance Work?
Escalate is an interesting ability that allows you to activate additional modes of a card for a relatively small cost. Just choosing a single ability on Blessed Alliance for two mana is good enough, but being able to choose two for 3W or three for 5W makes this card good at all stages of the game.
Blessed Alliance and other cards with Escalate always have the same converted mana cost (CMC), no matter if you choose to pay for other options. Also, cards that would cast cards without paying their mana costs still require you to pay additional costs for Escalate. For example, if you can cast Blessed Alliance without paying the 1W, you still have to pay 2 more colorless mana for each ability you want to activate. However, if you have a way to reduce a card’s casting costs, those reductions can include paying for Escalate costs. So if you had a way to reduce the casting cost by 5 colorless mana, you’d only pay W and get all three abilities.
Really, though, most of the time you’re playing Blessed Alliance to force your opponent to sacrifice a creature. The cool thing is that if your opponent is attacking with multiple creatures, you can actually wait until after damage with the end of combat step to actually cast Blessed Alliance. Say your opponent is attacking with a 5/5 and a 3/3, but you only have a 4/4 able to block. You can block and destroy the attacking 3/3, let the 5/5 do the damage, but after damage, cast Blessed Alliance at the end of the combat step and take care of the 5/5. While this hurts, you get to remove both attacking creatures. Likely, you’re also paying an extra 2 mana to gain 4 life, taking a lot of the sting out of the hit you did take.
Unfortunately, you can’t choose to untap creatures, then force your opponent to sacrifice after damage is dealt, because all of the Escalate abilities must resolve at the same time. Still, cast correctly, Blessed Alliance can often swing a game in your favor.
Why is Blessed Alliance good? There are a lot of cool tricks you can do with Blessed Alliance. As a card that can play multiple roles in any given game, even if your opponent may be expecting you to cast Blessed Alliance, they won’t know when or how you may decide to use it. It can be a combat trick, a way to destroy an attacking creature, a bit of incidental lifegain, or some combination of the three. Let’s see some ways that Blessed Alliance can be good.
Blessed Alliance in Standard
During its time in Standard, Blessed Alliance first saw a lot of competitive play in Orzhov Control, a deck that featured the powerful Brisela combo of Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade. Ironically, Blessed Alliance wasn’t very good in the mirror match between Orzhov Control decks, because the 9/10 Brisela would prevent you from casting spells with a converted mana cost of 3 or less. But, the Orzhov Control deck played other strong creatures, and Blessed Alliance was a lot better than the Celestial Flare control decks used to play, often in the sideboard.
Blessed Alliance was a decent card against the swarming Collected Company decks that dominated Standard for awhile. Not only could it take care of an attacking creature, but you could simultaneously untap your own creatures to allow them to block and even gain an additional 4 life, which could buy you a turn.
Later, with the release of Kaladesh, Blessed Alliance would become a staple in various other Control decks, especially U/W Control and Jeskai Control. Torrential Gearhulk was really popular in these decks, and it was pretty good with Blessed Alliance. While Gearhulk’s ability couldn’t pay the Escalate costs for free, you could still choose to pay the additional 2 mana for each ability if you wanted to. Getting an additional use out of Blessed Alliance was pretty sweet, even if you were just to gain 4 life or untap up to two creatures. But, since Torrential Gearhulk has flash, you could even Blessed Alliance for the Celestial Flare effect, too.
Blessed Alliance saw play all the way until the end of its Standard playability is Approach of the Second Sun combo decks. Being a slower deck that required you to cast two copies of Approach of the Second Sun in a turn to win the game, Blessed Alliance bought you valuable time.
Blessed Alliance VS Emrakul
There are two versions of Emrakul that we could be talking about here. One is the original Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and the other is Emrakul, the Promised End, which was so strong in Standard that it was actually banned in the format! Of course, Blessed Alliance saw the most play against Emrakul, the Promised End.
Despite Emrakul, the Promised End having protection from instants, Blessed Alliance gets around this by not targeting a creature to sacrifice, but instead the player. So, even though your opponent still gets the cast trigger of the Promised End to take your next turn, if they attack into a Blessed Alliance, they’re still losing their 13/13 flying trampler, and that’s a major hit.
Likewise, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can be sacrificed using Blessed Alliance, although your opponent is likely still taking an extra turn (if it was cast) and you’re still going to be hit with the Annihilator trigger on attack (forcing you to sacrifice 6 permanents). So, while Blessed Alliance certainly isn’t going to turn things around, it will deal with the offending 15/15, even if Emrakul then returns to the deck after being sacrificed.
While it’s not the perfect answer to either incarnation of Emrakul, Blessed Alliance will prevent you from taking a whole ton of damage to the face.
Blessed Alliance in Modern
Blessed Alliance has become a handy main deck instant in a variety of Modern decks such as Boros Nahiri, U/W Control, R/W Prison, and Esper Midrange. It’s usually seen at one or two copies per deck. Like with Torrential Gearhulk in Modern, Blessed Alliance is pretty good in decks with Snapcaster Mage. Although Snapcaster can’t cast Blessed Alliance for free, you can still pay the Escalate costs for additional effects, even when using flashback. Also, since Snapcaster has flash, you can reuse Blessed Alliance at instant speed.
Decks that continue to use Blessed Alliance in the sideboard include Green/White Collected Company, Bant Knightfall, Blue/White Control, Bant Eldrazi, Blue/White Spirits, and more.
Blessed Alliance VS Death’s Shadow
One deck that people like to play Blessed Alliance against is Death’s Shadow. Since the “gain 4 life” option can target any player, you can actually give your opponent 4 life. The reason this is relevant is that the deck’s namesake creature Death’s Shadow becomes more powerful the lower its controller’s life total is. It’s a 13/13 for one mana, but it gets -X/-X where X is its controller’s life total. So, if you can increase your opponent’s life total enough to make its power and toughness 0/0 or less, you can essentially destroy it.
However, if you choose the option to force your opponent to sacrifice a creature while your opponent controls two or more creatures, your opponent still can choose the Shadow as the creature to sacrifice (even as a 0/0 or less) as it still exists as a legal target as Blessed Alliance resolves. Of course, you could also use the lifegain option to make it small enough for you to kill with burn, or make it small enough where one of your creatures can block and destroy it; the untap option of Blessed Alliance comes into play here.
So, yes, Blessed Alliance is a useful card against Death’s Shadow..
Blessed Alliance VS Hexproof
Blessed Alliance is actually very good against Hexproof. In Modern, there are a couple of decks that play hexproof creatures. Spirits have Geist of Saint Traft and there’s Bogles with Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout.
While Geist of Saint Traft brings a 4/4 Angel with him when he attacks, Blessed Alliance can still work. You have to cast Blessed Alliance in response to the token trigger, which forces the attacking player to sacrifice the Geist before they can create the Angel. The same is true for creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Hero of Bladehold that bring tokens with them. It’s a timing thing. In the case of Slippery Bogle or Gladecover Scout, though, as long as they’re attacking alone, Blessed Alliance deals with them instantly.
Blessed Alliance vs Infect
Like with Bogles decks that rely on pumping up a single creature in order to do a bunch of damage, Infect does something similar. As their creatures can often gain hexproof through the use of cards like Vines of Vastwood, Blessed Alliance is a very useful way to cost your opponent a bunch of resources if your opponent attacks with a lone creature. While the lifegain option won’t ever be that relevant against infect decks, you may find yourself in situations where you’ll be using the untap creature option, too. But if the Infect player attacks after using a few pump spells with only one creature on their board, you can really blow them out with casting a Blessed Alliance.
Blessed Alliance vs Timely Reinforcements
When building a sideboard for Modern, some players wonder if Timely Reinforcements is a better card to sideboard than Blessed Alliance. Honestly, both cards are worth sideboarding as they play somewhat different roles. Timely Reinforcements can gain you six life, create three 1/1 tokens, or both. That’s a lot of value for 3 mana. But, Timely Reinforcements is a slower card at Sorcery speed. Still, it creates card advantage. Blessed Alliance is more of a combat trick that can create card advantage.
Both are solid sideboard cards, but Blessed Alliance is better against decks that often have creatures attacking alone. Timely Reinforcements is better against decks that like to swarm the board. They actually work well together in the same deck, so it really just comes down to the specific match-up.
Blessed Alliance and Isochron Scepter
Any time there’s a useful one-mana or two-mana instant printed, players will ask if it’s good with Isochron Scepter. The Scepter has the ability to imprint an instant with converted mana cost 2 or less onto it. You do this by removing the card from the game. Then, by paying 2 colorless mana and tapping the Scepter, you may copy the imprinted instant card and play the copy without paying its mana cost.
The cool thing about cards with Escalate is that you can still pay the additional costs even when the card is being copied like with Isochron Scepter. You don’t have to pay the 1W in this case, either. So, yes, Blessed Alliance and other cards with Escalate – like the extremely powerful Collective Brutality – do work well with the Scepter.
In fact, here’s a Boros Isochron Scepter deck that includes four copies of Blessed Alliance in the sideboard.
Blessed Alliance in Legacy
While it hasn’t become a staple in Legacy, Blessed Alliance has made some appearances in top Legacy decks such as Esper Mentor, U/W and U/W/R Stoneblade, Maverick, Deadguy Ale, and Eldrazi and Taxes. These decks would often play two copies in the main deck. It hasn’t seen much play in the format since 2017, though.
Blessed Alliance in Cube
Building and drafting cubes has become one of the most fun ways to play Magic. As a card that can serve a variety of roles in a draft deck, Blessed Alliance is a good card to put into a Cube. While it isn’t quite as strong in Limited as it is against particular archetypes in Constructed, it’s still a card that people will draft. It’s good against holding out against burn and aggro strategies, as it can essentially negate almost any burn card thrown at your face and buy you a turn or two against creature-heavy decks.
Blessed Alliance may not have become the Eternal staple that its Black cousin in Collective Brutality has become, but it’s a useful card that’s definitely playable in Modern and even Legacy. It even sees play in the occasional 1v1 Commander deck. While Blessed Alliance is basically a bulk uncommon in 2022, it’s a card that will probably see play in one format or another forever.