Last week , I took a look at some of the early previews from Guilds of Ravnica. This week, we have the whole thing, so I'm rolling up my sleeves and diving in. Even though it seems like we're getting new cards at a breakneck pace, it's always exciting to see them coming. Guilds of Ravnica is no exception.
As is my usual, I'll point out that this is a review for Commander only. There are some Limited and other Constructed format superstars in the set which won't get a mention because of they're less than appealing for the 100-card decks. In fact, my first look over this set tells me that it's going to be extremely good for Limited, so take any less-than-enthusiastic grades with a grain of salt. I'll go through each color, pointing out what I see as the significant cards, rate the color as a whole, and pick a Top 3.
There's some level of flexibility built in here for at a low mana and activation cost. We know for a fact that there will almost always be at least a creature target for you. Be careful if you're playing Bounty Agent with Martyr's Bond-the opponent can always sacrifice to the trigger whatever you've targeted. Bounty Agent will make its bones either in a deck with recursion, such as Karador, Ghost Chieftain, or one which can keep bringing it back with Sun Titan.
Often, Citywide Bust will get all or most of the creatures on the battlefield. This is a Commander game, after all, in which even toughness is large. When you're ready for it, like in your token-production decks, you'll end up with asymmetrical value tilted in your direction.
Maybe since it has convoke there's a little value to playing it over Banishing Light, since you can effectively cast it for next to nothing.
At the same converted mana cost as Return to Dust, you get a more splashable card which will always get two targets, not just during your main phase, but the limitation is that you can't get two of either, you need one of each. There are enough juicy targets in Commander that it's not much of an issue, and there's no reason you can't play both.
This might be comparable to Well of Lost Dreams. It's two mana cheaper, plus it makes tokens (albeit somewhat expensively). The trigger costs one more and you can only get a single card off it. My experience with the Well is that it's not too often that I pay more than two or three, which is still better than Dawn of Hope, so the reason to play the newer one is combining the card's two abilities.
One of last week's favorites, and there's no reason to come off that stance. This card is destined to have a huge impact on the format. Get your Containment Priest ready. This card is truth.
There are plenty of "+1/+1 counters matter" decks with white in them (here's to you, Ghave, Guru of Spores and even moreso, Rhys the Redeemed), so Light of the Legion will find a home. It's already beefy enough at 5/5 to make it worthwhile just having mentor; the dies trigger is just spicy gravy.
Now we're talking. We all like convoke because it lets us cast bigger spells, but we dislike having our creatures tapped. Venerated Loxodon lets us reward them a little for their service. Extremely well-designed card.
Grade: C . It has one of the absolute best cards in the set but falls off after that and the density of playable cards is a little low. Still, that Divine Visitation.
Making Sphinx tribal possible is okay by me. I'd like a few of them to be cheaper, but you don't get big, fat flyers for four mana.
Regular readers will know that I've long been a proponent of counterspells needing to do something else for them to be worthwhile in Commander. Devious Cover-Up fits that bill. The exile part is significant on a creature because this format tends to recur them. The shuffling bit is nice because it lets you put good stuff back into your library, but note that you can't shuffle back in Devious Cover-Up since it's not in the graveyard yet.
The thing that pushes Dream Eater over the top is that it has flash. Instead of using it preemptively, you can thwart a combat, especially one in which an opponent has invested significant resources into a single creature. Surveil 4 is a large number, so you can also sculpt your graveyard and future hand to do the neat stuff you want to later.
Looking at more cards is more better. The tiny mana cost makes it worthwhile.
I dunno. You probably have to be playing it in your Maze's End five-color deck to even think about it being worthwhile. Very, very narrow, but kind of cool nonetheless.
Another one of last week's picks, I'm still intrigued by the possibilities of playing Mission Briefing in Snapcaster Mage-like fashion.
Seven days has only raised my estimation of Omnispell Adept. The mana cost might keep it reigned in, but it also might be a non-factor.
There must be decks that like to cast lots of sorceries and instants, like Talrand, Sky Summoner or Mizzix of the Igmagnus, which would like to copy some of their creatures. There are also just lots of creatures you have that are worth copying.
Grade: C- . Top stuff nice, but not so much after that.
Not just something for your Vampire decks, but a little graveyard control for any black deck. You don't need to remove entire graveyards to neuter a strategy; you can often do it selectively. There might be more efficient ways of casting it multiple times but paying life doesn't always have to be bad-like with Repay in Kind.
One of the issues I have with my Halloween with Karador deck is that it sometimes isn't great at dealing damage. Doom Whisperer will help in that regard while letting me fill up the graveyard with goodies. The deck gains enough life that I shouldn't have to worry about paying the cost. Love this card.
A little narrow, perhaps, but getting to reanimate three cards with one spell is quite a thing. Note that the spell doesn't have targets, so you can play it even if you just want (or need) to bring back one or two things.
It's a Zombie. There are Zombies in your graveyard. This thing is dealing some damage.
Instant tutors are a little scary. This one has limitations, but you don't really need that many creatures in your graveyard to be able to make get whatever you need with this. The limitation of it being only a black card might keep it from being busted. Might.
You obviously need to keep an eye on things, but you'll have built in enough lifegain to your deck that you won't have to worry about the Midnight Reaper killing you. I will gladly pay one life for a card, so this is another Zombie that might go into non-tribal decks.
I'm telling you, this thing is going to kill people. It's somewhat pricey and conditional, which keeps it from being problematic, but there are plenty of circumstances in which just giving something menace will be enough to make the target lethal.
I was out until the last sentence. I came back in.
A strict upgrade to Fleshbag Marauder, I can see it as an out-and-out replacement in decks that want to use the mechanic a little and a strong addition to the ones who want to use it a lot. Tharaximundar says hello.
While one-for-ones aren't often great in Commander, destroying someone's best creature while gaining some life is fine. It's the setting up of other things you want to do which make the card worth considering. There are creatures that do their business and then you want them in the yard. Instead of just sacrificing them to an outlet like Phyrexian Altar, you can get more upside. Unfortunately, it's a sorcery, so you can do tricks like sacrificing your Karmic Guide with the echo trigger on the stack. Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile common.
Grade: B- . Slightly more playable cards than white, with the top stuff about the same.
Three spells seems like a lot; two seems too easy, so I can see the design problem here.
Plus Psychosis Crawler? Seems okayish. Plus Chasm Skulker? Getting better. Plus Niv-Mizzet, Parun or Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind? Ouch.
Worst playability to cool name ratio ever.
Seems like we're leaning toward some sort of combo deck here to get any real usefulness out of it. Saving grace is that it damages each opponent.
Wonderfully wacky and seemingly not all that useful unless you're playing a hellbent deck. Combine with Possessed Portal? Play with Words of Wind as both an offensive weapon and safety outlet? This is one I think the mad scientists will have some fun with.
Even with the exile part, I don't think the card will see much play. It's just an opportunity to mention the awesome Lacuna Coil .
Creating Goblins that are going to get bigger can only lead to bad things for your opponents. The problem will be in keeping the Warboss alive long enough to mentor repeatedly.
Yeah, because there aren't enough Browbeats in the world. I actually think it will make a splash in Standard, but the amount of damage just isn't enough in Commander until we start adding Furnace of Rath and the like.
It looks like there could be some combo potential here, but there are too many hoops to jump through to make it work with any regularity.
Grade: F . Red, at least mono red, once again gets the short end. There aren't even enough for a Top 3.
Cast creatures, draw cards. Now you're talking my language.
The most useful circumstance with this card seems to be giving a commander +9/+9. Or maybe killing three creatures if you're playing Dismiss Into Dream.
Haste is what pushed me over the top here. Clearly, you're playing Doubling Season since you're in green already, so it won't take much to be pretty large. It doesn't have all the dredge goodness of Golgari Grave-Troll, but this thing has some game.
Smart design move making the undergrowth ability a cast trigger instead of enters-the-battlefield, because it could otherwise get pretty broken even at seven mana.
This is the kind of card I expect to see as the buy-a-box promo. Huge. Splashy. Designed for the casual crowd. I'm definitely playing it in a deck with Xenagos, God of Revels.
Reasonable enough when you're gaining double digit life.
For one mana, it's worth going for that big kill when the opponent can block all but your smallest creature.
Funny story: Nullhide Ferox is a Beast and I have a Ruric Thar, the Unbowed deck that's Beast tribal and has maybe six spells in it. For anyone not in the same situation, the card is probably of middling value. Sure, it's a 6/6 for 2GG, but the ability for people to take away hexproof makes it sketchy even then. The card will, however, is poised to become a bomb in Standard.
No mana? No worries. Tap some creatures and Fog.
The simple flexibility might make it worth considering.
If you play in an environment in which there isn't much land destruction, Urban Utopia becomes worthwhile ramp since it replaces itself. It's not likely to get disenchanted, save for mass effects (or the odd Aura Shards), since there are almost always way more dangerous targets for enchantment removal.
More and more, I see undergrowth as a commander damage enhancer. The back half of Vigorspore Wurm isn't all that exciting but the triggered ability could be a game-ender.
Obviously, if you're playing Vivid Revival, you're putting it into a deck that will use it. Otherwise, it's probably not worth the cost.
Grade: B- . The density is better but the best cards are merely very good, not great. Finishing the mono-color cards, I'm hoping that the multi-colored ones are better (and to some extent expect them to be in a set featuring guilds).
Likely a high value card in other formats, its ability to destroy any permanent at a very low cost will also make it one of the few one-for-ones that Commander players like.
Maybe red just needs another color added to it to get some love. The vigilance part is nice, but trample is the operative. Trample kills players.
If you control a huge swarm of creatures, Camaraderie is just a win-more card. Its value is going to be in the middle range, where you're drawing five or six cards. It's still worth the mana and the little buff to your creatures won't hurt.
Folks have already pointed out if you manage to skip the extra turn's end step, you don't lose the game. What I think gets lost in the chatter is that if you do that, your creatures that were around when Chance for Glory resolved are indestructible for good. Nice upside.
My local environment is a little Wrath-happy, so when creatures replace themselves or when they do something on the way out that helps me recover, I like them.
Getting larger as the game progresses is good enough to want to play with Crackling Drake already. The card draw just makes it better.
It's no Dimir Cutpurse.
The option to choose both seems neat, especially if your creatures have bigger backsides than everyone else's or if you're playing Mark of Asylum-or this set's Tajic, Legion's Edge. Or Purity. Definitely Purity. We can keep going down the road with Firesong and Sunspeaker and Soulfire Grand Master.
I'm not often a fan of discard in Commander because it always seems like there are things people want in their graveyards, but I'm willing to make an exception for Disinformation Campaign. Drawing one while everyone else discards is strong and the fact that you can bring it creates a great deal of value.
Glare of Subdual is the first card that came to mind when I saw Emmara. I think we'll see it leading all kinds of token-creation decks.
Do not be alarmed! Etrata will not break the format, even if you can put it back into the command zone instead of shuffling it into your library. It will, however, make a huge splash. The fact that it can't be blocked already starts us down a powerful path. Even if you don't kill players with the triggered ability, you're exiling their creatures, which is way better than destroying them. It's a card that you should respect when it shows up on the battlefield, but nothing that's going to change the nature of the format.
So, you're basically drawing a card for every two instants or sorceries that you cast? Forget the red ability, the blue half is all we need.
The card has some early game value, especially if you cracked a fetchland in order to cast it. In the later game, it's a nice rescue outlet for an important land that, like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which someone has destroyed. You can also get back your Wasteland to take out something else of theirs that might cause you trouble.
Not quite Eternal Witness, but still a fine card.
Last week's number one, I'm still very high on this card. @CMDTower on Twitter asked why I think the cost of the card is so high. I think it's reasonably costed at six mana and the double colors reflect its deep Golgari-ness. The upside is high enough that while it might be okay at five mana, that might be too good for when Izoni is a commander. Plus, there's the card draw. The card is awesome and shouldn't be cheap. It will be a little painful to pay eight then ten to cast it again, but it will be worth it.
Fine flexibility in a cheap package.
Multifarious indeed. Lazav's ability to shift around at will means you can change forms during combat to become something huge, then if need be, shift to something else to protect it; obviously, those are mana-hungry choices. It'd be pretty amusing to turn him into Abyssal Persecutor for a while, deal enough commander damage, then change him to something else.
There's the obvious end of turn trick to do with March of the Multitudes but consider that you might engage in some blocks which will keep you alive but kill the creatures you're blocking with. After blocks, use them to convoke more of the multitudes onto your side. The presence of convoke means you must pay attention even when it looks like someone is tapped out-and you can use the fact that others might not be paying the same kind of attention.
This is one that seems better than it is. You still need to cast the spells and you can't play any of the lands. It's a sorcery, so you can't use it for combat tricks to shrink someone's Lord of Extinction. The top-of-my-head use for Mnemonic Betrayal is to create a temporary empty graveyard situation for everyone but you to cast Living Death. Useful, but a little narrow.
No one is every paying nine mana for this, but the dredge players will like it. I'd like it a little better if it had trample or deathtouch, but I don't want to be greedy.
Niv-Mizzet is one of those characters that you must make strong in any incarnation it's printed in and this one is no exception. The all-colored mana thing is a little awkward, but you should be able to manage it. Not sure why it can't be countered (like what part of the lore is that invoking), but I'm not going to argue. Play alongside the other two Niv-Mizzets and start the damage-dealing tomfoolery.
I've already mentioned being happy to pay a life per card, so I'm okay with Notion Rain also letting me put something into the graveyard if I want.
Lure creatures don't tend to do well historically in Commander, but Ochran Assassin might be an exception because of deathtouch. You'll want to find a way to regenerate it or make it indestructible so that you can do it again next turn.
A nicely balanced planeswalker, Ral's +1 ability is strong. You'll only use the -3 in a desperate situation. If you get to the emblem, great; it'll be more about drawing the cards and the four damage will be incidental (unless someone else has planeswalkers that need to go).
I like this move toward more fair tutoring. They've added two mana and an additional color requirement to Elvish Visionary (and one more power for all that matters), but you get your pick of the top four, so long as it's a creature or enchantment. If you've put this into your deck, you run a decent chance of getting a hit.
Getting a bunch of chumps out of the way before blocks are declared is a nice way of getting your damage through. Move into Mardu and combine with Death Pits of Rath, and the road will always be clear.
Playing Tajic leaves you safe to play Powerstone Minefield or Lightmine Field while your opponents are still struggling with those effects. They probably didn't need to tack on the first strike bit.
Richard Garfield would approve of casting other peoples' spells, so he would like Thief of Sanity. The worst-case scenario is that you just exile something really good and keep the other player from getting their hands on it.
You'll need to get creative to cast enough spells to make it work, but especially if you're running through spells that draw cards, you'll be quite happy to copy them.
This version of Trostani suggests a much different deck than Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. For those who don't like other people touching their stuff, she's also valuable as 1 of 99 to take the place (if you're playing white) of or add to Brooding Saurian.
Cousin to Boros Reckoner (which can damage any target), Truefire Captain might be used politically, running him in front of a huge creature in order to deal with a third player. Sure, it's a rattlesnake as well, but I like the idea of taking out the uninvolved party who might be otherwise untouchable.
Clearly, the card doesn't need the indestructible part to be good. Any kind of self-mill, graveyard recursion, or dredge deck will be very excited to have Underrealm Lich on their team. The card gets you around draw triggers, like Nekusar, the Mind Razer, since you're replacing the draw. Speaking of replacing the draw, try out Sylvan Library with Underrealm Lich. Since you haven't drawn any cards, you get to keep them all.
Other players should rightly be concerned when this Vraska hits the battlefield. It's in colors that like to sacrifice permanents, so the +1 ability is quite valuable. Like with many planeswalkers in Commander, we don't focus so much on the middle ability, because we want to get to that juicy ultimate and its deadly emblem.
I imagine Assure will be what you use most, and often in response to some kind of sweeper.
Find seems useful if you're not doing too much reanimation but going the Regrowth route. Finality is going to hit some percentage of the creatures on the battlefield, so it's situationally either very good or somewhat useless.
Response is an emergency punch out. Resurgence is a deadly battle plan.
Flexibility is the real reason to play this card. It's still a one-for-one, so less valuable in Commander.
Grade: A+ . Strong cards and lots of other good middle-of-the-pack stuff. They brought it around in the multicolored section, and this is indeed the strength of the set. I'm not high on Guildmages that tap, but otherwise, the set's focus is a winner.
Nice upgrade to Cluestones. You'll see plenty of these running around, especially in the non-green colors.
The remainder of the artifacts aren't all that interesting, and there are too few of them to provide a real grade. I'm mostly happy that they stayed away from powerful artifacts in the set and focused on the colors.
A Gate that's a Rupture Spire is fine.
Grade: A. Simply for reprinting the shocklands. Making the Gates available again and worthwhile is a thematically decent choice.
While I was clearly pretty cool on the mono-colored sections, the multi-colored one makes the whole set worth the price of admission. Based on that section alone, Guilds of Ravnica gets a solid B. There are a few new commanders to explore and some individual cards that you'll want to rush out and get as soon as possible, both for building around and stuffing into existing decks.
Question of the Week will return after release season.
Lavinia Blinks ; Obzedat, Ghost Killer ; Aurelia Goes to War ; Trostani and Her Angels ; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind ; Zegana and a Dice Bag ; Rakdos Reimagined ; Glissa, Glissa ; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club ; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever .
Shards and Wedges
Adun's Toolbox ; Angry, Angry Dinos ; Animar's Swarm ; Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point ; Ikra and Kydele ; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky ; Demons of Kaalia ; Merieke's Esper Dragons ; Nath of the Value Leaf ; Queen Marchesa, Long May She Reign ; Rith's Tokens ; The Mill-Meoplasm ; The Altar of Thraximundar ; The Threat of Yasova ; Zombies of Tresserhorn .
Adun Oakenshield Do-Over ; Animar Do-Over ; Glissa Do-Over ; Karador Do-Over ; Karador Version 3 ; Karrthus Do-Over ; Kresh Do-Over ; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over ; Mimeoplasm Do-Over ; Phelddagrif Do-Over ; Rith Do-Over ; Ruhan Do-Over .
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."