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Crashing Gates & Rating Names: The Gatecrash Flavor Review
by John Dale Beety

If you played in the Gatecrash Prerelease, I hope you enjoyed it. I only played in one 4-0 flight with Gruul because after the triple plasterPit Fight, double Rubblebelt Raiders, double Rubblehulk deck with Borborygmos Enraged and a light splash of white for Aurelia's Fury, there's nowhere to go but downhill.

"Aurelioopsiwin."

Now we're on the verge of Gatecrash being legal for Constructed play, but that's not why you're here. No, you want flavorful Vorthos goodness, and I'm here to deliver. I'll be looking at individual cards in Gatecrash by print order number and giving brief notes when I have something interesting to say. There are a number of Vorthos role-players in Gatecrash, but there are also plenty of cards that shine...as well as a few Brian Scalabrine wannabes. Let's get to it.

Mono-Colored

White

Angelic Edict - The "don't call it an anti-Diabolic Edict" uses a clever perspective in the art and the flavor text is chilling. I can almost imagine the prisoner shouting to be let go and the angels saying, "Done."

Assault Griffin - New artist Eric Velhagen slipped under my radar last time with Horncaller's Chant. He's back with a single illustration in Gatecrash with Assault Griffin. His loose and suggestive art style isn't necessarily to my taste, but now that I have a pattern to recognize, I'll know his future works far more easily than a number of current Magic artists.

Basilica Guards and Blind Obedience - Top marks for these pieces of Orzhov flavor text. The one-liner is hard to pull off, but Basilica Guards succeeds.

Boros Elite - Nice flavor text in a vacuum, but what does fighting "among the rank and file" have to do with a Boros Elite?

Debtor's Pulpit - The name doesn't fit the function. A pulpit is a place of power, not weakness. "Debtor's Pew" would've been a better fit.

Frontline Medic - I know this one's been criticized for the second ability feeling "tacked-on," but I don't object to it. The Medic protects his own on offense as part of a team, and when he has to save his people alone, he has to sacrifice himself to do it. Makes sense to me!

Knight of Obligation - Mental math while dueling? Impressive. There's something slightly off about the flavor text, though. I want to use "damages" instead of "interest" while the Knight is fighting a vandal, for instance.

Knight Watch - Ok, I laughed at the name. There's something screwy about the way the name and art and flavor text come together, though. "Knight Watch" goes for a belly laugh, the picture has drier humor, and the flavor text is drier still.

Murder Investigation - The flavor text is a bit labored, but points on the art for sanely dressed female Boros soldiers.

Righteous Charge - Thumbs-up from me for the quote. Humor done right in my book.

Smite - See above.

Syndic of Tithes - The flavor text is a little too close to Solemn Offering's line for comfort. If they weren't both posted notices, I'd be more forgiving.

Blue

Aetherize - I'll give points for the flavor text...right before taking them away for the far-too-fanservice art.

Agoraphobia - I don't know who injected this much humor into the set, but I like it.

Diluvian Primordial - I love spelling bee words as much as the next language geek, but I will never, ever say this card's name out loud if I can help it. It's more complicated than an Avril Lavigne marathon.

Enter the Infinite - Terese Nielsen's abstraction is perfect for a jaw-dropping card like this.

Gridlock - Perhaps the most "modern" word ever used to title a Magic card—it dates to the 1970s. It has a great urban feel, but is it too modern for Magic? The jury's out.

Leyline Phantom - While Magic's cards don't tell a sequential story, this card does a wonderful job of setting up Dragon's Maze.

Mindeye Drake - This card is notable only for how generic it is. The X-Y-Z name, the washed-out art, the trifling flavor text...unfortunate.

Rapid Hybridization - A virtual Pongify clone, but Simic-ed up to make a Frog Lizard into an ape. The "You're welcome." at the end suggests the past Simic arrogance isn't all in the past.

Scatter Arc - I think I was supposed to chuckle at the techno-babble flavor text. I laughed instead.

Simic Manipulator - I wasn't too impressed with the art at first glance. Then I realized it had tentacles, which is a whole other level of creepy. Maciej Kuciara is making his Magic debut with Gatecrash, and Simic Manipulator is the best of a group of three that includes Holy Mantle and Fortress Cyclops.

Totally Lost - I don't think I've ever wanted to cuddle a homunculus and say, "There, there" before. David Palumbo pulled this one off well.

Black

Corpse Blockade - Excellent creepy harmony of art and flavor text.

Devour Flesh - The flavor text would've been better in first-person. "If I am what I eat, and I want to stay human..."

Grisly Spectacle - There's far more truth in this flavor text than I care to think about.

Smog Elemental - Like Gridlock, "smog" is a post-industrial coinage, this one from the turn of the 20th century. Every Magic setting bends the rules in some way, and words such as gridlock and smog point to the nature of Ravnica's quirks.

Thrull Parasite - I don't usually associate tax collectors with subtlety and am not sure whether that's the point. That's a bad place for flavor text to leave me.

Red

Act of Treason - Where's the treason? All I see is a plus-size male model who's just switched from posing for a Buddha to a body modification photo shoot. Excuse me while I find some brain bleach... That's better.

Firefist Striker - Martial tip from the School of Reality: lead with your large metallic weapon, not your unarmored fist. Thanks!

Five-Alarm Fire - Another evocative name from the post-industrial past, this one from the second half of the 19th century.

Hellraiser Goblin - The Goblin making his own arch is funny enough, but the human looking to the side is what really sells the art.

Homing Lightning - Ral Zarek sighting! If he's not a planeswalker card in Dragon's Maze, I'll be disappointed. The whole block's been set up for him to be one.

Madcap Skills - Perhaps I'd appreciate this card and its name's 1337speak pun more if the dude in the art didn't look like he was made of cheddar sausages. Just saying.

Mugging - From the folks who brought you Touched by an Angel, it's Mugged by a Minotaur. "I'm a minotaur...sent by Gruul...to relieve you of your money."

Skinbrand Goblin - Niv-Mizzet doesn't want much, does he?

Skullcrack - A cute little card with just the right dose of snark in the flavor text.

Tin Street Market - I love the quote and the name, but I'm not sure they fit on a red card...and if the Azorius-rooted character Lavinia loves the people of Tin Street, where are they?

Green

Crocanura - Someone had way too much fun coming up with these wacky creature combinations. The art on this one—a Frog-tongued toothy Crocodile!—is creepy in a good way.

Forced Adaptation - Well, that's one way to rationalize biological experimentation...

Miming Slime - Say it out loud a few times, and it'll grow on you like the ooze it makes.

Predator's Rapport - The first part of Domri Rade's storyunfolds here on Uncharted Realms, and I can't wait to see the rest.

Multicolored

Traditional

Alms Beast - I love this quote and its echoes of "company scrip." Who wants to bet the prices are inflated at Orzhov stores?

Boros Charm - The quote is a quality summation of Boros at its best.

Dimir Charm - Shown not on a figure or an object but an entire ceiling, the Dimir Charm looms large on this piece. Again, the quote is a strong summation of Dimir.

Domri Rade - On a creature card I wouldn't notice Domri Rade's height, but in the context of planeswalkers that routinely fill and even overlap their text boxes, Domri Rade is well contained. He's not a child, but he's short... He looks sort of like a Magic-ified version of an MMA bantamweight.

Gruul Charm - The placement of the symbol is appropriate, but after so much time spent building up the Gruul as "not just savages," the Borborygmos quote feels weird. I wouldn't have minded seeing one of the old standbys here: "Crush them!" or "We eat!"

Kingpin's Pet - Inevitable and always in favor of the Orzhov, right?

Merciless Eviction - After reading this, I do not want to mess with the Ghost Council.

Mortus Strider - Wow, this is some creepy artwork. I'd love to see this wallpaper-size.

One Thousand Lashes - That thrull is having way too much fun.

Ordruun Veteran - Apparently simple flavor text is a reminder that inter-guild romance does happen; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord previously was married to a woman from Selesnya and has a majority-elf, one-quarter-human child according to the original Ravnica novels.

Orzhov Charm - A fitting location for the Charm on a gaudy mask-like idol. It's too bad the text is so verbose that there's no room for a quote.

Ruination Wurm - It's funny that Ravnica's architects get so few mentions when they're so indispensable to the plane. The quote is clever, and I enjoy it.

Shambleshark - There's this Fish Crab, and it attacked my Vorthos weak point for massive damage.

Simic Charm - This art grew on me after a while. The Art Nouveau swirls of the Simic symbol complement the natural curves of the ooze.

Skyknight Legionnaire - Was Anthony Palumbo trying to objectify the Legionnaire, or did he merely succeed with the weird lean-back pose and suggestive armor? This one creeps me out, and not in a good way.

Zhur-Taa Swine - It's surprisingly rare that family is mentioned in Magic. The Swine's flavor text is one of the few such on-card references I can remember.

Hybrid

Arrows of Justice - ... And if a trainee misses, a lifted coin-purse is the least of your worries.

Beckon Apparition - The quote receives my "wish I'd written that" seal of approval.

Gift of Orzhova - Those stained glass-colored wings are delightfully tacky and all Orzhov.

Merfolk of the Depths - As far as retcons go, this "how merfolk came to be on Ravnica" quote is pleasantly smooth.

Colorless

Artifact

Dimir Keyrune - Someday, a player is going to activate two Dimir Keyrunes and tap them to use Cryptic Gateway's ability to put a Mindleech Mass onto the battlefield. Two keys that slip through every lock meeting a lock that changes to fit each key...that would lead to madness, yes?

Glaring Spotlight - There's something off about the flavor here, like that major scale reworking of "Losing My Religion." I think it's the asymmetry of the abilities; if the Glaring Spotlight can make your creatures unblockable, then why can't it make the opponent's creatures blockable?

Razortip Whip - Left unsaid by the captain: the Razortip Whip is one of the few implements found in a Rakdos revue that can be depicted in a game for people as young as 13.

Riot Gear - I love the ambiguity of the name...is it equipment to stop a riot or start one?

Land

Breeding Pool - A great use of the "rule of three" in the flavor text to build up the effect. Note how the writer's first two sentences have the exact same rhythm when spoken.

Godless Shrine - Unlike the Simic, the Orzhov only get one line for their rare dual land, but it's a doozy.

Orzhov Guildgate - Easily the funniest of the Guildgates in this set and among the most true to its guild.

Thespian's Stage - I love me some John Avon, and he delivered with the art here. The callback to the events of the original Ravnica block, further elaborated in an Uncharted Realms column, adds a pleasant nostalgia factor to a set that doesn't always acknowledge its roots.

***

I hope you've enjoyed these brief takes on the flavorful cards of Gatecrash. As I look ahead to Dragon's Maze, I'm counting on Wizards to finish the work Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash started with a flavorful small set. While not every card in Gatecrash is a winner (Mindeye Drake, I'm looking at you), I like the set as a whole, and I'll have fun playing with its cards in the eighteen or so months ahead.

As always, thanks for reading.

-- JDB

@jdbeety on Twitter

I am Gruul. It's the least popularguildin the standings and picked on by the rest of Ravnica...reminds me of my high school years.