Return to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Artifacts and Lands with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

Return to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Artifacts and Lands with Grant Hislop


Afternoon all. This article marks the conclusion of my Return to Ravnica set review, and I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, will be the shortest of the bunch. This time, we’ll be covering the Artifacts and the lands that we’re going to have to play with over the next two years in Standard.

Hopefully you’ve managed to get something from these reviews, and will be able to leverage your advanced knowledge of the set into victory at a Pre-release, or a draft, or something. I’m going to play in the first pre-release I’ve played in over a year at Black Lion Games in Edinburgh this weekend, so feel free to say ‘Hi’ if you’re there. Anything more, and I’ll charge you for my time though, so be warned…


Artifacts and Lands

Azorius Keyrune

The Keyrune cycle is part Signet, part Man-Land and part Totem. These are all Constructed calibre cards, and should be treated as such. While it’s no Celestial Colonnade, the Azorius one doesn’t cost the world to activate, and is a solid option for UW decks that want to keep the board clear with Terminus and Supreme Verdict and still be able to apply pressure. I see this as filling an important role in UW mirrors as a Planeswalker killer, surviving all of the removal they’re likely to play, and flying over the top to nudge away at a Planeswalker’s loyalty.

These are playable off-colour in limited, as jumping from three to five is a lot more relevant in limited than it is in constructed. They’re crazy good in limited if you’re both colours, however, and should be picked up as a priority.

Chromatic Lantern

This is basically an Artifact Prismatic Omen, which isn’t bad. This will be the glue that holds a potential five-colour mana base together. Whether that’s necessary remains to be seen, but I’d recommend picking these up as soon as possible. If nothing else, Commander players will love these, as their mana bases are frequently uglier than sin.

Civic Saber

Hmm, the fact that this is the only piece of equipment available kind of invalidates many of my previous statements, which is somewhat embarrassing. I gave the spoiler a once-over before I started writing, and for some reason, I thought there was more. Oh well.

While this is cheap, it’s not particularly powerful. The most it’s going to grant is +2/+0, and that’s fine, but not exciting. I prefer my Bonesplitters to be consistent, and this isn’t. For the most part, it’s only going to be +1/+0, which isn’t worth a card, even for an equipment. What a shame that this is the card I’ve made myself look foolish over.

Codex Shredder

I don’t have even a shred of hope that this sees play anywhere.

Golgari Keyrune

This rune holds the ground better than the Azorius one, as Deathtouch means it always trades up. These are 100% going to have an impact on standard, so be aware that just because Swords and the like have rotated, that doesn’t mean you can skimp on your Ancient Grudges in the Sideboard.

Izzet Keyrune

I’m a sucker for a Looter, even if I have to pay up front for it. Casting a couple of these, Overloading your Mizzium Mortars and using them to keep the gas flowing is a very real use, and I’d expect a pretty common sight over the next couple of years. Mizzium Mortars is the real deal, for sure, so anything that helps get to that tricky third Red mana for the Overload cost has to be welcome.

Pithing Needle

ANTI KEYRUNE TECH, OMG! Seriously though, Pithing Needle has seen play each of the times it’s been in standard before, and this will be no different. There’s always targets for it, in almost every deck, and while it spends the majority of the time shutting down Planeswalkers, it has been known to name other, obnoxious cards as well.

I can’t wait someone somewhere to cast one of these and name Codex Shredder, and have me look even more foolish than I already do, given the Civic Saber situation. :-S

Rakdos Keyrune

This is my favourite Keyrune. While it’s in a colour combination that one doesn’t typically associate with wanting mana acceleration, I’m primarily interested in this in a Grixis deck, where, as above it helps provide the third red mana for our Overloaded Mizzium Mortars, and the third point of power compared to the others is a pretty huge boon.

Gut Shot has rotated, and until people start playing Geistflame widely, I expect the 1 toughness to be largely irrelevant. The fact that it’s got first strike means that it’s ideal as a post sweeper way to hold the ground, as it’ll be able to block the majority of follow up creatures with impunity. This is one of the better ways of containing Thragtusk that I’ve seen in the set.

Selesnya Keyrune

This turns into a Watchwolf, and while the body is nice, the absence of any keywords, and the colour combination not typically looking for this kind of card has made it my pick for the worst of the bunch. For those of you who like lists, this is my order of preference for the Keyrunes:-

1. Rakdos Keyrune
2. Azorius Keyrune
3. Izzet Keyrune
4. Golgari Keyrune
5. Selesnya Keyrune.

There, wasn’t that exciting? I love lists.

Street Sweeper

Too expensive for an unimpressive body, and the ability is unlikely to come up too often. I suppose if someone’s got multiple Underworld Connections, it might be worth siding in, but I’d be surprised to see that happening with any regularity.

Tablet of the Guilds

This is pretty ugly wording, and it’s a pretty bad card. It’s not high enough impact, and doesn’t offer anything in addition to the life gain, which means it’s unlikely to see much play. I suppose it’s ok against the hyper aggressive Rakdos decks in draft, but even then, it’s such a small upside that it seems barely worth the card.

Volatile Rig

I hate coin flipping in Magic. This is no different.

Guildgate cycle:-

Azorius Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Selesnya Guildgate

Including these all together, as they’re functionally the same. How good they are depends on the colour combination. Green has a way to pull theirs out earlier thanks to Gatekeeper Vine, so those are probably the ones that are most likely to see play.

Azorius and Izzet are traditionally control colours, where tap lands are usually better, as you’re not typically fighting to hit everything on curve.

What this means is that while the Rakdos one is unlikely to see much constructed play, the other four are in with a shout. I’d expect the Blue ones rather than the Green ones to start with, but as people start experimenting with getting greedier with their mana bases, that might shift.

I’m not sure how good these are in limited. While they’re not as good as the bouncelands, they will enable splashes very nicely, assuming you’re in one of the colours to start with. Bouncelands were played entirely off colour, these aren’t that good. I’d expect these to still end up being high picks as the format matures though.

Shockland Cycle

Blood Crypt
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Steam Vents
Temple Garden

Again, grouping these functionally identical cards together seems prudent.

These are the best mana producing lands available in Standard, and they work incredibly well in unison with the previous block and the Core Set’s lands. These see play in Modern, and are presumably here as reprints for the Modern format, where a large number of players didn’t have access to the expensive mana-bases before.

These will all, without question see widespread play for the next few years.

The costs on them are a little off at the moment. I don’t think people realise exactly how many of them are going to be opened in the next few months, and given that they’ve already been printed, it’s likely that a fair number of tournament players, who would be desperate for them will already have their playsets ready to go. Consequently, I’m expecting these to about half in price following the sets release, with the original printings, with vastly superior art continuing to hold a small premium, of probably £2-3 each over their newer counterparts.

Grove of the Guardian

The Selesnya pre-release card. As before, everyone will have one etc. Of all the pre-release cards, this is the most constructed playable. The body is just huge, and is pretty much the best possible thing to populate, save a Marit Lage token when you’ve got a Mirror Gallery out.

It’s a significant investment, both in time and mana, but any decks with a couple of populate cards will be falling over themselves to run this. Again, as with Gavony Township, there’s some anti-synergy with Trostani, Voice of the Selesnya, but it’s powerful enough that it’s worth having inconsistent mana for.

Rogue’s Passage

Decent in limited, I suppose, to sneak through a stalled board with a large creature. Too expensive for 60-card land though.

Transguild Promenade

A functional reprint of Rupture Spire is one that’s most likely to excite only the most budget of Commander players. In general, there are better options for the less budget conscious of us, so I don’t expect this to see much play.

This was always good in limited however, and I don’t expect it to be any different here, where it fixes and enables splashes for a small tempo loss. It’s at its best on turn two, but not the worst at any time later, though it is primarily one for controlling decks.

Final Thoughts

That is, as far as I can tell, every card in Return to Ravnica reviewed. I hope you’ve got something from reading this. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some speculative deck lists for the format, as that seems like the thing to do at the moment.

Stay classy mtgUK, it’s been a treat.

Grant Hislop

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