Hello again all readers and lovers of Magic the Gathering, Corlando here once again to begin another set review. In a little more than a few weeks, we as a Magic community will be returning to the cityscape world of Ravnica, a world that is more city than anything else ruled by ten guilds each with a knife, spear, axe, or fireball pointed at another guild’s neck. The original Ravnica can be argued as one of Magic’s most fondly remembered sets. With great cards, powerful guilds, the flavor and power of the original Ravnica trio set has often been the subject of discussion and the ruler by which many later sets were judged. Will this return to Ravnica be just a successful as the last, or instead of ending up in the Azorios Senate or atop a spire of power will we instead experience the slums of the city as some Dimir assassin uses us as target practice?
With only a small portion of the cards spoiled so far, Return to Ravnica is at least starting with a good foot forward. One great example of this is the return of Niv-Mizzet, the dragon leader of the Izzet Guild, a guild devoted to science and the quantitative study of magic… needless to say there tends to be a rather lot of explosions coming from the guild hall. The original card for the dragon guild leader, Niv-Mizzet the Firemind, was a powerful card allowing you to ping your opponent for damage every time you drew a card making even something like Divination, a sorcery that allows the caster to draw two cards, into burn spell. He is also a powerful general in EDH if you attach Curiosity to him as whenever he would deal damage to a player, you can draw a card, which leads to more damage from him creating an infinite loop. Niv-Mizzet returns to players once again in Return to Ravnica as Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. For the same mana cost as before; two colorless, two red, and two blue, players get a 5/5 flying dragon with the same clause of dealing damage with every card you draw and the added ability to ping for just two mana. Niz-Mizzet in some ways could be an example of power creep as the once 4/4 Flying Dragon has become a 5/5 Flying Dragon with a versatile extra ability. It is definitely interesting to see how our game has changed through the years, but enough about that. Looking at the Dracogenious I would have to say expect to see him in some sort of competive deck. With the Titans gone, there is no Inferno or Frost Titan clogging up the six mana slot which will allow other decks and archetypes to rise. Niz-Mizzet will see play not just because he is a 5/5 flyer, but because he gives any sort of draw spell, which is already an advantage to begin with, even more power by allowing players to snipe down annoying blockers or just outright kill the opposing player. Expect to see this guy in the future.
Another powerful guild on Ravnica is the Selesnya Conclave, a collection of Dyrads and other creatures bound together by their connection to nature and their desire to see nature’s beauty bloom even in the darkest slums of Ravnica. They preach a message of peace and community, but when the lighting and daggers start flying the Selesnya Conclave is not above summoning one of their living buildings to trundle over and stomp you dead. As a testament to their strength of community we have gained a powerful new enchantment that will turn any community of creatures into a force that could trample down anything. Collective Blessing is a six mana enchantment that gives all creatures you control +3/+3. This is amazing!!! For just six mana, you can turn even a lowly 1/1 saporling token into a 4/4 beast of a creature. This enchantment makes even Bird of Paradise a credible, damage dealing threat. This card combined with any sort of multiple token producing spell gives you so much value. For example, let us say we have a Borderland Ranger, a 2/2 land searcher, on the battlefield and last turn we played Collective Blessing. First off our 2/2 Borderland Ranger is now a 5/5, which is quite a nice body on a creature. Second, if we follow the Collective Blessing with Fungal Sprouting, a M13 sorcery that puts X 1/1 Saporling creature tokens onto the battlefield where X is the greatest power among the creatures you control, we get a grand total of 20 power on the board for four mana. There are very few decks these days that can deal with that kind of force switch. However, though Collective Blessing may be a great card, I believe it may not see standard play. There are far too many enchantment removal spells that currently exist in the format so players could easily risk wasting mana on an enchantment that gets destroyed before its power con be brought to bear. Combine this with the general stigma for enchantments that competitive players have for enchantments and I unfortunately believe this amazing anthem will only be relegated to the casual table.
Though most of the power of Ravnica is focused in the guilds and their squabbles for power there are other forces that work within the city. One of those great power sources are the Planeswalkers that often visit the plane. One famous walker has made Ravnica his home for the time, Jace Beleren. Jace has been both the subject of much hate and love in the magic community. His card, Jace the Mind Sculptor, is arguably the most powerful walker ever printed and easily the most expensive. During his time in standard, the mind sculptor was in every deck to the point some players ended up playing Jace Beleren, Jace’s first planeswalker card, in hopes of killing their opponent’s Mindsculptor so they could play their own mind sculptor next turn. Since that time, Jace has gone through another face lift thanks to his Memory Adept card and now we have obtained his fourth version: Jace, Architect of Thought. Costing only four mana and starting at 4 loyalty the fourth Jace has an interesting set of abilities. His +1 makes it so that if your opponent attacks with creatures during his turn, the attacking creatures get -1/-0 until the end of the turn. This ability does protect him somewhat and will help stall out games nicely. The Architect of Thought’s second ability is a -2 that forces the user to reveal the top three cards o their library. An opponent then separates the cards into two piles. The player then puts one of the piles in his hand and the rest on the bottom of his library. This is an interesting ability that might give you two decent cards or one really good one. This ability centers a lot on chance so it could easily backfire if you draw nothing but lands or nothing but spells you will not be able to play till much later in the game. The fourth Jace’s final ability is a -8 that allows the user to search every player’s library for one card and exile it. The user may then cast those cards without paying their mana cost. This ability is rather powerful as you could activate and either get another Architect of Thought onto the field for free or turn your opponents’ biggest threat against them. Although Jace, Architect of Thought’s abilities are quite unique and powerful, I do not believe he will see much play. The major factor in any planeswalker is whether or not the walker can protect itself. This is best exemplified in Sorin, Lord of Innistrad’s 1/1 Vampire token and Elspeth, Knight-Errant’s 1/1 Soldier token abilities. Jace’s first ability does protect him, but if your opponent has even a 2/2 on the field then Jace’s ability is kind of nullified. Plus, as your opponent plays bigger and bigger creatures, this +1 will not protect you or him for very long. He might see some play due to his -2 ability, but I do not believe he will be a great force in the new standard.
Even as the mighty, or not so mighty depending on your opinion, Jace looks out over the skyscrapers and buildings of Ravnica he knows that there are others like him in the city-wide plane. Planeswalkers flock to Ravnica for its rich markets, variety in culture, and the sheer power that resides in Ravnica. One such planeswalker, after struggling for years to return home, is back and ready to bring revenge down upon those who attacked her guild all those years ago. The second planeswalker of Return to Ravnica is the beautiful, but incredibly deadly Vraska the Unseen a Black/Green Gorgon planeswalker. This girl, ladies and gentlemen, is very powerful and will see play somewhere down the line. Now you are probably all thinking that I am jumping the gun, but trust me she is good and let me show you why. Starting off she is five mana and she comes in at 5 loyalty which can immediately go to 6 the first turn she comes out with her +1 ability. Speaking of which, if you have Vraska gain one loyalty, if any attacking creature deals damage to her, it dies. That is it. No hexproof salvation, no second strike with double strike, no letter home to your loved ones, hurt her and she will murder you. This first ability is kind of an odd one because she does protect herself… sort of. At the very least she can be a nice source of removal as your opponent tries to keep her loyalty low. Vraska’s second ability is a -3 that destroys target nonland permanent. Now that’s an ability. Nice Primeval Titan, dead. Beautiful Honor of the Pure, annihilated. Wonderful, Tamiyo the Moon Sage, turned to stone and crushed with a hammer. This ability alone is why Vraska will see play. If you just put her out and immediately use this to take out your opponent’s big threat then she will be more than worth the cost. Plus, if she does her +1 once, you can destroy another problem card the turn after. Now, many planeswalkers final abilities have been said to just flat out end games putting opponents in situations where they just cannot do anything. Well Vraska’s final ability literally ends games. At -7, Vraska summons 3 1/1 assassin creature tokens that if they deal combat damage to a player, that player automatically loses the game. This is an impressive ability that gives any player three opportunities to end the game even if they are on the losing end of the battle. Add in any sort of unblockable spell or equipment and you win without even having to worry about combat. Personally, what makes this ability so much fun for me is just how quickly this ability comes online. If Vraska comes down turn five, by turn seven you can have the 3 assassins on the field. This is why opponents will attack Vraska with whatever creature they have, in hopes of preventing the end game scenario. I cannot wait to see how this gorgon will work in the new standard, but I promise you even if she only gets a brief moment of fun, the room will be filled with a whole lot of terrified statues.
On the darker, more chaotic side of Ravnica is the guild of Rakdos, a guild dedicated to pain and the demon Rakdos. The Rakdos Guild is a guild many choose to not take lightly, which is a wise thing to do as one never knows what kind of agony they might inflict on their prey. An example of this comes in the card Rakdos’s Return a two and X mana sorcery that deals X damage to target opponent then forces that player to discard the same amount of cards. This is quite a good card as it has strong versatility. If the game is still young and your opponent has pretty much emptied his or her hand say for except two cards, you can cast this card for 4 total mana, deal two damage, and eliminate two cards from your opponent’s hand. If the game is nearly won and you have enough mana, you can easily use this spell as a kill condition. Nice versatility indeed. While we are with Rakdos, another great card from the pain guild is Rakdos Shred-Freak. Sure a 2/1 with haste is not bad but nothing to write home about, but Rakdos Shred-Freak is special. With his hybrid mana symbols, the Shred-Freak can be played for either Red or Black mana meaning you eliminate having to worry about whether or not you will be able to cast him. This makes him great because he becomes a for sure turn two drop instead of a “hope I draw two swamps or two mountains.” He should have a fun time tearing people up all over the place.
Finally tonight, we turn to the rule makers and governors of Ravnica, the Azorius Senate. Believing that their rules and laws are the only things preventing Ravnica from descending into a spiral of confusion and civil war, the members of Azorius take their tasks very seriously and will often call in knights and mages with powerful counter magic to quell any and all those who are deemed dangerous in the eyes of the Senate. One such knight that is called upon to enforce the laws is Lyev Skyknight a 3/1 flyer with a brand new ability called detain. Detain is a new enter the battlefield effect that allows the caster to essentially nullify a creature for turn, preventing it from blocking, attacking, or activating its abilities. This 3/1 creature is quite a nice beat stick, but it is only a small sign of what the Azorius will do to preserve peace. If things begin to turn against the Azorius, the Senate will enact the Supreme Verdict a four mana uncounterable boardsweeper. This card is easily a pretty broken card. An uncounterable destroy all creature spell is definitely not something anyone would want to run into. However, with a cast cost of 1, two white, and a blue, I do not feel we will see too much of it unless blue/white control becomes a thing once again.
Thank you readers once again for pulling up and reading. I hope you will continue to come back and read as Return to Ravnica continues to get spoiled. I cannot wait to see what other goodies wait around the corner. And as you all look over the new cards, I hope you all keep in mind that, “Etherium is limited. Innovation is not.” This is Corlando signing out.