This article may be the most pointless article I'll ever write.
Wait! Don't stop reading!
Everyone's a critic.
Everyone seems to be a critic these days for some unknown reason and perhaps we'll be able to track part of that reason down in this article. When I say everyone I mean absolutely everyone with no exceptions. Magic is a game of such open variance that it goes deeper than the mechanics or even the mind games we watch on camera every weekend.
From the way people slam their cards onto the battlefield to the pace at which they interact and even the way they shuffle there's always something to criticize and this holds true outside the realm of Magic as well. The difference is that in Magic we see and hear it via live anonymous chat rooms and social media outlets. Someone's always calling someone else out for whatever reason be it pumping up self-confidence (aka bullying) simply being clever and funny or just embracing being rude.
Nothing's going to change.
So what's the point of this article? I already told you it's pointless! Well sort of. Maybe if I'm lucky someone will think twice about being a critic the next time the opportunity arises. Perhaps they'll think to themselves "If that were me what mistakes would I be making in this situation?" Unlikely but it's in the realm of possibility.
The idea to bring this subject up actually came from my own criticizing and as much as I'd like to justify it because occasionally there's good reason to it's fairly hypocritical. There are a lot of great people in the Magic community who are actually adults that occasionally pick times when they feel like they have to be "that guy." But what really boils my blood is that criticism is rarely made in person. Maybe that's because there are less people in the flesh at events but it's most likely because we don't normally call people out in person for fear of consequences. This has been discussed before so I won't elaborate.
My one comment and this isn't a "white knight" attempt by any means is that if you are one of the chat trolls or regular critics of others it will come to back to bite you. It's not karma; it's the law of attraction.
All right so everyone's a critic. So what? This article is pointless even the title! Well maybe not completely—every letter written offers something for others to take away.
But let's move on to similarly pointless yet more fun stuff: decklists.
As of this article about 30 percent of Return to Ravnica has been spoiled (including the basic lands) and there are more powerhouse cards in it than I've seen since I began playing Magic. I want to brew so I'm going to. I only have general ideas and guesses of metagame context but we are only a month out. It's fun to get pumped up because I'm sure as heck ready for a change.
The topic on most players' minds is the various Golgari cards and what decks they'd fit in. This is because G/B has been the most spoiled thus far and a lot of the cards just slide right into existing Zombies builds. However I've seen people brainstorming various Jund and BUG lists as well. I can see Zombies working in both B/R and G/B but for the midrange or control strategies to work we'll need advantages that go beyond one-for-ones. And with Zombies' popularity and obviousness out of the gate we must also be prepared for the fast onslaught. I'd even venture to say we need to be ready for Delver still as well; it just won't be what it was luckily.
Entering a new format I want to be playing with cards I know are powerful and that require answers. Vapor Snag is no longer a card we need to worry about. Sure Unsummon is around but without Ponder it's not going to work in quite the same way where I see it as a long-term dominate strategy. The additional one damage from Vapor Snag was perhaps the most subtle blowout ever. Don't sleep on tokens either. Remember Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue were banned in Innistrad Block Constructed.
Speaking of Lingering Souls:
A sideboard would be fairly pointless at this time. If I had to guess Duress would be a catchall sideboard option but we will see where the metagame ends up. Also Thragtusk and Tormod's Crypt may be necessary for Zombies if it ends up as dominant as expected.
While there are plenty of kill spells that deal with one-toughness creatures the primary (almost resourceless) kill spell that we've dealt with for too long is Gut Shot and it will finally be gone! At worst your creature will get dealt with but at least it will be at the expense of your opponent's mana often on their turns. There will also be no more two for ones with Snapcaster Mage flashing back Gut Shot. Scorned Villager has already seen Innistrad Block Constructed play and I foresee it being one of the primary ramp spells in months to come barring any setbacks.
This deck has value in every corner and has multiple win conditions. But the main point is that we are doing something powerful and that we have cards that deal with things our opponent will likely be doing. Pack Rat is a strong card in the right build and something along these lines might be just the right fit.
Another option I haven't seen people discuss as much or at all is a green-based aggro deck. With Return to Ravnica we'll have a slightly better mana base for a disruption package as well as no Whipflare Arc Trail or Gut Shot to deal with as mentioned earlier.
This deck opts out of Geralf's Messenger in favor of a lower curve and the option of running multiple haste creatures alongside additional evasion. Korozda Guildmage and Rancor both offer very strong evasive options to get through damage and at the expense of having less direct damage we have the option of haste as a pseudo replacement. Perhaps the sideboard would consist of Blood Artists if your opponent lacks removal spells. I think a go-to Zombie counter will be Tormod's Crypt out of the sideboard.
Having Slitherhead as a 1/1 won't normally be relevant but having the ability to Rancor him up turn 2 make a trade and then get value from him later makes him an appealing option here. He's also going to be very castable turn 1. Lotleth Troll as a four-of may be wrong but even a 2/1 with regenerate seems fine. This deck isn't really doing much different from Zombies other than having a simpler mana base for more options without getting color screwed as much as G/B Zombies would running Geralf's Messenger since we can run actual Forests.
If you haven't noticed one of my favorite cards so far is Abrupt Decay. It's an answer for almost anything in the early game which is exactly right for a deck like this.
There's a whole lot more cards to be spoiled and most of them will be in the other four guilds since we've primarily seen Golgari. But as far as the guilds go that are in Return to Ravnica Golgari is the one that excites me the most. Regardless there are plenty of single-colored cards and cards that will improve existing Block and Standard decks. While I was finishing up this article a new card was spoiled: Desecration Demon.
Abyssal Persecutor was mostly a flop. Since Desecration Demon is similar it's hard not to draw comparisons. And if I'm going to compare them I'm going to say Desecration Demon is quite a bit better. He pairs well with Blood Artist because despite giving your opponent a choice it's generally going to be a tough one or simply a bad one no matter which way you spin it. Perhaps he's a finisher in Zombies similar to what we saw Phyrexian Obliterator do off and on. Another advantage is the fact he dodges Abrupt Decay which will see loads of play. Vapor Snag as mentioned earlier is no longer a "thing" either.
Desecration Demon may also be a fairly strong control finisher at only four mana because control decks are often playing a game to keep the opponent's board clear making it so the opponent doesn't have a way to handle the Demon in terms of tapping him. That said I still think tokens will be around so perhaps the Demon will end up being a sideboard option.
Return to Ravnica is almost here and I couldn't be more ready. But how awesome was it that not a single Delver deck made Top 16 this past weekend in Portland?!