As I said in my set review I find Return to Ravnica a solid set for Commander. There are a number of cards that jumped out at me for existing decks as well as a few suggestions for new decks. I'll share the former with you today and we'll get to the latter in the coming weeks. I've taken the opportunity of the new set to put in exciting new cards as well as replace a few underperformers.
There are a few cards that I'm tempted to use in multiple decks. The most bonkers card for Commander in Return to Ravnica is Jarad Golgari Lich Lord whose ability can get out of hand pretty quickly. Being a two-color creature I don't see it becoming a problematic card but it's extremely strong especially when there are cheap arbitrarily large creatures like Lord of Extinction and Malignus running around. Guild Feud is another one that just amuses me to no end.
I'm also happy about the reprinting of the shocklands making them more readily available to a new generation of players to help with mana bases. I'm also not sad that the new printings mean foil versions of the cards are going to be cheaper. I need five or six of them to complete decks in foil representing 10%-ish of the 50 cards (counting the RtR ones) that I need complete my 15 decks. It's interesting that more than half (26 to be exact) of the cards that I need are lands speaking strongly to the value of quality mana management.
ADUN OAKENSHIELD and HIS BEASTS
Despite this being an interesting set it's full of fail as far as Beasts go. Batterhorn is a worse version of Indrik Stomphowler. The rest are simply not getting there. Given that my guys are mostly pretty beefy (or I like their enters-the-battlefield effects) Guild Feud seems sufficiently chaos-embracing to add. Wild Beastmaster is thematic enough. It says Beast right there! I'm slotting Gruesome Encore and Ink-Eyes for a deck that actually cares about reanimation.
Out: Gruesome Encore Ink-Eyes Servant of Oni
While there are still a few Proliferate cards in the deck it's changed a fair amount recently. I felt as though the Proliferate stuff was just a little too cute and found myself staring at cards that didn't do much if I didn't have counters. I also found that I had way too many enters-the-battlefield tapped lands so I worked on the mana some. Someday casting Worldspine Wurm for GGG will be tech.
In: Worldspine Wurm
After some less-than-stellar results Geist is going back to the drawing board. There are some nice cards in the set for it (Sphinx's Revelation Supreme Verdict Detention Sphere) but for now anything is on the table.
My most difficult-to-play brainpower-draining deck is pretty tight so there isn't much room to work with. I'm trying to play more and more tutor-less EDH so Fierce Empath came out for the amazing Cyclonic Rift (it was basically only fetching Primeval Titan anyway maybe sometimes Avenger of Zendikar). I'm also trying to find some room in this deck for Overmaster. In case you're wondering I replaced Primeval Titan in this deck with Riku of Two Reflections—so I basically went from one absurd card to another.
In: Cyclonic Rift
Out: Fierce Empath
The Return to Ravnica card which will likely have the greatest impact on this deck is one it wouldn't play: Rest in Peace. I love this deck quite a bit but with more quality graveyard hate coming every day it's becoming more of a challenge to play or more correctly not get hosed. I've certainly had games where I still did well despite being on the bad end of Bojuka Bog but it's quite a tightrope act. This is the deck that's most likely to get completely blown out by a single thing happening.
Every slot in the deck is carefully selected. I'm not unhappy with any single card and there's nothing jaw-dropping enough to want to put in except of course Jarad. I'd like to avoid simply stuffing him into every Black/Green deck. If I were to put him into this one it'd probably be for Vish Kal Blood Arbiter just to lower the curve a little. I've been pondering replacing Ghostway with M13's Faith's Reward but have yet to pull the trigger so for now…
Knowing that RtR was coming I simply waited to replace the not-nearly-as-good-as-I-thought Exuberant Firestoker and again Fierce Empath is just a nod toward playing fewer tutors. With big nasty Dragons Guild Feud seems like a winner. The obvious include here is Utvara Hellkite who makes EVEN MORE DRAGONS.
I was playing this deck while spellslinging at the Prerelease and finally got to activate Sarkhan the Mad when I had a pile of dragons (including someone's Chameleon Colossus which got snapped up when Karrthus came into play). Raining fire from the sky is awesome.
If there were a contest between Death's Presence and Jarad for “most emails and messages I got wondering if it were going in the Kresh deck” I'm pretty sure it'd be close to a dead heat. They're both ridiculous in the deck. I had only put in Sneak Attack on a lark although it had its moments. Crawlspace is simply too defensive. You don't need defense when you just kill the other guy.
In: Death's Presence Jarad
Rakdos Charm might be my favorite card in Return to Ravnica. It will absolutely punish any deck that creates too many tokens. It will also remove the graveyard of the most dangerous player before casting Living Death or Patriarch's Bidding. There aren't any good Zombies (a least that don't have Green in them) in the set but I'm not complaining because we got a boatload of great ones in Innistrad Block. Grave Betrayal makes the creatures into Zombies so it had to come in. Dread Slaver was underperforming so it got shipped out to the minors. It always seemed like I either didn't have enough mana for Cruel Revival there wasn't a good enough creature to kill or there wasn't a good Regrowth target in the graveyard. Out.
Some deck has to play Detention Sphere and Merieke raised her hand first. Day of Judgment was in the deck only because I had a foil but no more foils Wrath of God so Supreme Verdict was an easy choice. I had also noticed some wonkiness with the mana base having had cards like Coastal Tower and Salt Marsh in forever (because they were foily). I poked around and found that I had an extra Scrubland Tundra and Underground Sea laying around so the enters-the-battlefield tapped lands came out the awesome original duals came in.
Out: Day of Judgment Peel from Reality
I considered Lotleth Troll for this deck but I've been trying to make it more about other peoples' graveyards instead of my own even recently adding Ulamog the Infinite Gyre (when Primeval Titan left) to help keep from decking myself if I'm in the process of trying to deck other people. I briefly considered Deathrite Shaman and still might try to find some room for it.
In: Psychic Spiral
Out: Liliana Vess
Staying with the idea of CMC less than 6 is easy when cards are as good as Vraska the Unseen. Deathrite Shaman is an inclusion here because I'd like to be the only one with creatures come Living Death time.
Out: Shielding Plax
Another deck that I haven't messed with in a while Oros needs some work with the consistency of the mana. The color combination is nearly as bad as Grixis for getting lands into play with any regularity. Actually it might be worse because you don't have Blue to Clone or copy their mana rampers. Since it has the Sunforger package in it it's a good deal of fun. I just need to get it where it doesn't fall flat on its face so often. I might consider some token-creators in order to make Rootborn Defenses worthwhile.
I know Bennie Smith loves her as a General and I'm certainly eyeing her up for the Green/White deck for the one of each color combo project she screams going into the Rith deck. I took out Mentor of the Meek because this is a Soldier deck and Soldiers cannot be meek.
Out: Mentor of the Meek
Ruhan is the deck that got the most cards from Return to Ravnica some of them seeming like they were printed specifically for him. As much as I will happy “GG” anyone who casts Essence Backlash when I try to get Lord of Extinction in there I'm going to enjoy doing the same to someone else. I never wanted to go down the road of Whispersilk Cloak on Ruhan (boring!) but I think Rogue's Passage is reasonable since it can provide mana and I have to activate it when I want to use it. I also can't wait to have some giant thing (Blightsteel Colossus?) attack someone make it unblockable and then Mirror Strike it—although I suppose I could just tell the person “don't block.” Supreme Verdict goes in because the deck just wants one more Wrath. New Prahv Guildmage and Martial Law are both nice defensive cards and raise the Angel's Trumpet stakes a little.
City of Brass was the right land to take out. I've wanted to get “You Did This to Yourself” away from just getting stuff out of opponents' decks (Bribery will probably eventually be another cut) and once again Enlightened Tutor is a casualty of playing fewer tutors. If you haven't read it in the tabloids Ruhan and Michiko Konda Truth Seeker had a highly-publicized nasty split (“private” videos got released texts got shared it was all really ugly) so it seemed wrong to keep them together in the deck.
I liked playing Prince of Thralls in this deck and although it's a little expensive I might go back to it someday. Grave Betrayal at the same CMC is less vulnerable since it's an enchantment. Sure it only gets creatures but unlike Prince of Thralls they have no options. Okay Prince of Thralls is back in although I'm not quite sure what I'm going to take out. Skeletal Vampire would have been the choice but it came out to put Kokusho in. RtR's version of Fleshbag Marauder Slum Reaper seems like a fit but isn't worth the extra mana since it's probably what's getting sacrificed anyway. I keep thinking about taking Minion Reflector out of this deck and then it comes up in a game where I also cast Puppeteer Clique and that thought dies pretty quickly. I wonder if that Sneak Attack that I just took out of Kresh might make an interesting card to put in here. Certainly seems like it's an even cheaper way to get value out of those Evoke creatures. HolycrapSneakAttackwithPersist. More thought (and likely a little more red mana) required.
Those are my changes (so far) for Return to Ravnica. I'm certainly willing to listen to suggestions for other ideas that I might have missed. I'll probably be working on one of the new two-color decks in the near future and it makes sense to pick one of the RtR guilds. Boros would probably be my first choice but I'm going to wait to see what goodies Gatecrash will bring. Izzet certainly seems like a real challenge because Jhoira of the Ghitu(which I'd certainly never play) and Niv-Mizzet the Firemind bring a fair amount of hate. The new Niv-Mizzet Dracogenius might be even better than the original so I suppose it'd be down to Nin the Pain Artist or Tibor and Lumia. But that's putting the cart before the horse. Let's first see what coverage of this Pro Tour brings. Remember to tune in on Friday!