Return to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Blue and Izzet with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

ArtiReturn to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Blue and Izzet with Grant Hislop


Welcome back!

Previously, we covered the White and Azorius cards, and there were some excellent ones. Today, we’ll be looking at the Blue and Izzet ones. Izzet seems to be an incredibly popular colour combination among players, and certainly one of the more prevalent ones at pre-releases, if the sign up sheets in my local store are anything to go by.

Blue and Izzet

Here we go!

Aquus Steed

While playing it in constructed will not let you ride it to victory, it doesn’t seem half bad in limited. Sure, it’s a huge mana investment, but the effect is really powerful (EDIT) I read this as -2/-2, not -2/-0, so it’s not really all that great. It’s a pretty flimsy body with a marginal effect, so won’t see much play at all.


How good is the Overload mechanic? Crazy good. While this isn’t really constructed viable, where we have better alternatives, this is going to be insane for the limited Blue tempo decks that are inevitable, where it does a really solid way at clearing the path for your beaters. Four mana is a reasonable amount to expect to pay for this type of effect, and while it’s not as powerful as a Sleep, for example, it’s additional versatility in being an Instant is relevant, especially in a format likely to feature the man-a-rocks as much as it will.

I hope it’s not idle bluster when I say this is one of the better Blue cards for limited.


Scars block gave us the strictly better Stoic Rebuttal, which saw no play. Admittedly, at the time, we had Mana Leak, and we no longer have that luxury, but it’s difficult to envisage decks that want a three mana counter, especially when considering Cavern of Souls and the ‘Can’t be countered’ cycle of Gold spells in the set.

It’s a decent card in limited, assuming the format is slow enough, though, as a way to handle the big, dumb guys that people play after fixing their mana for the first few turns, but it’s never particularly exciting to be running it in multiples.

Chronic Flooding

I see this as a plant for the House Dimir mechanic when the time comes to draft the block as a whole. I suppose it’s not the worst enabler for a Burning Vengeance deck, if such a thing exists post rotation. Paul McLachlan, who used to both write here and play constructed formats used to have a massive bro-ner for Burning Vengeance, so he’d be better placed to discuss the archetype than me.

Conjured Currency

I can’t conjur up any uses for this six mana do-nothing enchantment in constructed, future or current, so if we could just move on…

Crosstown Courier

Same as Chronic Flooding, I see this as another plant for House Dimir when we’re drafting with the entirety of the block. It’s well on curve for aggressive limited decks, and the fact that you’re incidentally milling is quite powerful. Bad players seem to find getting cards milled extremely frustrating, especially if you hit a good one, so it should certainly get you some chuckles when you connect with it. Bonus points if you start humming the Jimi Hendrix classic Crosstown Traffic while you’re doing so. ’90 miles an hour girl, is the speed I drive’! Indeed.

Cyclonic Rift

The test for the Overload mechanic has to be how well the ability scales. Cyclonic Rift is an excellent answer to a troublesome permanent in the early game, and when cast for its Overload cost, it’s easy to picture yourself winning the game shortly after. This obviously scales up a lot better than say a Blustersquall, but as a rare, it really should. This is definitely one of my favourite cards in the set, and one of the better uses of the mechanic.


Dispel traditionally saw more play in older formats than the standard it was in, although it did see play in Splinter Twin near the end of its life. It’s almost entirely used as a combo protector, so if that sort of deck ends up emerging, Dispel will likely be a part of the protection suite. As the format becomes more about creatures, it’s tough to envisage such a specifically conditional counterspell being important.


This is a really solid control card. It’ll hold the ground, where its reasonably sized body will have guys bouncing off him all day, and gives you something to do with your mana late in the game. If you draft the wall deck as well, this will clearly be one of your win conditions. It’s always good to have an alternative angle of attack in limited, and this isn’t embarrassing to play in a non-focused deck, ala Vedalken Entrancer from old Ravnica (and M13).


I don’t want to cast this for either the normal or the overload cost. Boke.

Faerie Imposter

I don’t see him imposing on the constructed tables any time soon, especially with Memnite and co rotating away, but he’s an excellent way to reuse your ETB triggers in limited, and the evasion is very nice. I’ll need to play with this card a bit to accurately gauge how good it is, but it looks quite impressive at first blush.

Hover Barrier

I guess it makes your Doorkeepers better…

Inaction Injunction

Worst case scenario, it cycles, assuming there’s a target for it, so your inaction shouldn’t be too damaging. Best case scenario, you ignore a brick wall and swing through without losing too much tempo. Must be one of the better blue commons in the set.


In the last Ravnica block, we got Compulsive Research. That’s probably a little too good, given the previous block’s Graveyard theme, but really, Inspiration is a bit of a joke. Divination is in standard, and that sees very little play (unjustly), and Amass the Components goes even deeper. I can’t see myself wanting to pay four mana for two cards particularly often in draft either, as the format would have to be incredibly slow for that to be a worthwhile deal. I’m clearly not particularly inspired by this card.

Isperia’s Skywatch

So expensive… Probably ok at the absolute top of the curve in an Azorius deck, where your creatures have been outclassed, and you’re looking for any card with detain to open up the path a bit. Solid enough, but I’d expect to get these somewhere around the 8-12th pick range.

Jace, Architect of Thought

I saw this when it was first spoiled, and thought it was crazy good. Nothing has happened since then that has made me think that it won’t be top notch. I love cards that give my opponents choices, as they’re then given the opportunity to make the wrong one, and this has that. It passes the standard Planeswalker test in that it somewhat protects itself, and costs four or less. Dropping this onto an empty board after a Wrath is going to feel pretty good, and following it up with a Tamiyo, or really anything else is going to be more than most aggressive decks can handle. Definitely the card I’m most looking forward to playing with in constructed.

Mizzium Skin

Well, I guess something needs to be a fourteenth pick. (EDIT) Hexproof shuts off removal, obviously, so might have some slim sideboard applications against decks chock full of it. Limited only, obviously, but it’s not toilet porcelain, like I initially thought.

Paralyzing Grasp

There are better, similar options than this for constructed, but it’s seldom awful in limited. Sadly, you need to get hit by the creature at least once before this shuts it down, but Dragons have to be dealt with somehow, I suppose.

Psychic Spiral

Obviously scales based on the number of mill effects you have. I’m not really a fan of this type of thing, as it doesn’t impact the board at all, and really, nothing matters except the last card in their library. I can definitely see the Doorkeeper and co being a popular fringe archetype, but I don’t see the support being there for the deck, at least in triple-Return to Ravnica anyway. Incidental milling is usually far better than dedicated milling, and I see no reason to think that won’t be the case here too.


It’s evasive, with not a completely embarrassing body, and replaces itself when it dies. These all seem relevant for limited. And it’s even a common, so getting them in multiples won’t be too unlikely. It’s not a brilliant card, nor will it be a first-pick level common, but it’s solid, and I wouldn’t be too unhappy to run as many of them as I can.

Search the City

It certainly makes you jump through a lot of hoops to get any use out of it, and even then, all you get is the turn back where you cast this drivel in the first place. Will see no play in any format, ever.

Skyline Predator

No matter how much I love flash, I will never play this in constructed. And I’m a man who played Spire Monitor as a Mystical Teachings bullet. I guess it’s fine as an expensive removal spell in limited, and isn’t embarrassing to just EOT Flash in either. It’s a big enough body that most of the non-rare fliers can’t stand in front of it profitably, which is a plus.

Soulsworn Spirit

It’s on the high end of cost, but I suppose the unblockability is relevant for limited. Also fits the Azorius curve very nicely, to keep the Arresters and co swinging for slightly longer, before he starts swinging himself. Clearly very fragile, and dies to everything, but certainly a decent role-player in a tempo UW deck.

Sphinx of the Chimes

This is interesting, as you can keep your dead cards in the late game, and cash them in for hopefully live ones. Has very few applications outside of the body in limited, but I think this is a closer replacement to Consecrated Sphinx than the new Isperia, but obviously neither of them are as good. At least this one lives through a Mizzium Mortars, unlike Isperia. I’m not particularly excited by either of them, and I think the bell’s tolling for the end of constructed playable Sphinxes.

Stealer of Secrets

I love me an Ophidian just as much as the next guy, and the fact that this doesn’t have an embarrassingly low power, like his sticky fingered brethren is just a bonus. In a deck with a lot of Detain, this will be first rate, and combos really well with a bunch of the other blue cards in the set. Probably my favourite common so far, though I’m clearly bias.


Well, it’s obviously no Mana Leak, but at least Wizards have thrown control mages a bone with this one. It’s not stellar, as I think the format will be really resilient to countermagic, as I’ve previously stated, but this does have the upshot of exiling the card as well, which is very relevant in a format with as many flashback spells as this one will. I’m not holding my breath for this one though, as I expect the next few months at least to be almost entirely creature battles, and this will struggle to find a home.

Tower Drake

It’s not brilliant for limited, but it’s a mana sink for an Azorius deck, and is quite difficult to kill, while still doing a reasonable job of pecking away at an opponent’s life total. A solid card for the Azorius tempo deck, but definitely worth considering for non-White Blue decks too.



Moving on to Gold and Hybrid cards now:-

Chemister’s Trick

Given that no one ever blocks in constructed, we’re evaluating this for limited only. Again, it’s quite rare to block in limited, but when cast for its Overload cost, you can generate a host of unfavourable attacks for your opponent, which is excellent. You can use it to blunt an opponent’s Alpha strike, hopefully allowing you to kill them on the swing back. It’s a decent card, but obviously not every deck wants it.

I expect this to blow a lot of people out in the early stages of the format, but, as people figure out how to play around it, it’ll be blunted somewhat.


The Izzet portion of the ‘Can’t be countered’ cycle is, itself a counterspell. Again, I can’t see counters being particularly good in the new Standard, although this is obviously a powerful one, and is insane if some sort of permission control mirror becomes a thing as the absolute last word on the matter. As I said previously, I don’t foresee that being the case though, so it’s likely to spend the immediate futute on the shelves while the format is in flux.

Epic Experiment

How good is a Genesis Wave for spells? It’s reasonably close to Mind’s Desire, I suppose, though not quite as powerful. It’s a shame that a decent amount of the better Izzet cards include either X in the cost or have the Overload mechanic on them, which will limit what you’ve actually got to work with here. I’m not too sure what the most powerful thing you could do with this is, as Wizards design focus has moved towards creatures and away from spells, which likely means that this doesn’t have a place in Standard. I can absolutely see this being a house in some Past in Flames / Pyromancer Ascension deck in the Modern format however, which is not the worst place to be. Definitely worth keeping an eye on in older formats too.

Essence Backlash

Four mana is far too much for such a narrow card to see play. You’re far more likely to be able to hold up two mana for an Essence Scatter than you are four for this, and the types of decks that would typically run counters like Essence Scatter really don’t care all that much about the damage that’s tacked on. I can see living the dream, and countering a Thragtusk and doming the opponent for five, but I’d be very surprised if this saw much play.

Firemind’s Foresight

Seven mana is an awful lot to draw three cards, even if you know exactly what you’re getting. On the plus side, it’s an instant, so you don’t need to tap out for it on your own turn. I’m not a big fan of this card in constructed or limited, as any time you see it in your opening hand, you’ve basically mulliganed, and it’s going to be incredibly difficult to actually get it to go off. It’s a shame, but I can’t ever really picture myself casting this.

Goblin Electromancer

Would be excellent in an Epic Experiment deck, but I’m always cautious about turning on an opponent’s otherwise dead removal cards. It’s a relevant body, and the ability is excellent, but I can’t see there being much demand for this.

In limited, it clearly varies in value. It’s always a bear, which is never bad, and the ability might let you cast your spells slightly ahead of the curve. I see Izzet as the control colour, so it’s certainly possible to envisage an Izzet deck with only 8-10 creatures and a bunch of spells that the Electromancer can make cheaper.

Hypersonic Dragon

This sounds like a Yu-Gi-Oh card. It’s the Izzet card for the pre-release, so as with the Azorius Sphinx, everyone’s going to have one in their deck. It’s not constructed calibre, as we’re just doing so many more powerful things, but it’s clearly a limited bomb, even though I don’t think that speeding up Sorceries is actually all that relevant, I’m sure it will come up. Solid card, and does a good job of racing most of the other pre-release bombs.

Izzet Charm

My favourite of the Cycle, by no small margin. Shock, Spell Pierce and Careful Study all in one card means that you’re seldom going to be stuck with open mana and no use for this. I’m really looking forward to trying this out in control decks, and updating Delver decks to include this. A very impressive card, and one that I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see popping up in older formats as well, particularly Modern’s RUG Delver deck.

In limited, as with all the Charms, if you can get the mana to work, they’re worth splashing for. I’d play this in pretty much every Blue or Red deck, as the sheer versatility of the card is worth reducing consistency for.

Izzet Staticaster

Possibly worthy of constructed play, if the format breaks right. We’ve seen cards like Cunning Sparkmage see play before, and this is better than that in decks that can cast him. Machine Guns token decks, assuming there’s no Anthems going, and doesn’t do the worst job against Zombies either, as it shuts down one Gravecrawler or Blood Artist while blocking a Diregraf Ghoul without dying.

As above, I’d splash this if I thought that there was any chance I could get the mana to work. It seems as though there’s a decent amount of X/1 creatures in the set, and potentially sniping them in multiples is tremendous news.

Mercurial Chemister

It’s obviously a limited only card, but what a house. Divination on a stick, plus turning your jank into removal spells. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage was a house in limited, and this will be no different. Definitely a card that you don’t want to let an opponent untap with. It’s hard to picture activating this more than once and still losing a typical draft game.

Nivix Guildmage

This is basically the Merfolk Looter of the set, and easily my favourite of the Guildmages. His looting isn’t card disadvantage, where something like a Faithless Looting or Careful Study is, and the ability to double up on your removal spells, or even (shudder) your Inspirations is crazily good. I’m really excited to experiment with this card in the coming months.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Latin translation: Smart Dragon. I can’t ever imagine untapping with this in play and losing a game of limited, and I’d probably have to work quite hard to do so in constructed too. I like that he’s a repeatable way to draw cards on an opponent’s turn, presumably to enable Miracles and the like, so I envisage him most at home in some sort of UWR Miracles port from block constructed into standard.

All of the mana symbols in the cost are a pretty big drawback, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t a tap-out control deck that made use of him, be it Grixis, UWR or even straight Izzet.

Obvious limited bomb.


Izzet overrun for limited, I suppose. It’s pretty poor for retail, but it’s very good for Overload. Probably one that’s better splashed for in a Rakdos or Gruul deck, as those are more likely to have a significant board presence, but I suppose I could see a straight Izzet deck wanting this.


The only thing saving this from being unplayable is that it’s instant speed. It’s excellent card selection, but the cost is really prohibitive. There are formats where Careful Consideration was playable, but at this stage, the creatures we have are so much better than the answers, so this will likely be unplayable in Standard.

Fine in limited, just make sure to hold onto a land or two to hopefully change into business.

Blistercoil Weird

Comes with a sort of pseudo-vigilance tacked on, though it’s otherwise pretty fragile. I can’t imagine any existing constructed decks that will be able to make use of this. Might have been best buddies with Gitaxian Probe, Gut Shot and all the rest of our Phyrexian Mana friends, but it’s unlikely that the fragile body would have been worth jumping through hoops for.

Frostburn Weird

I’m a fan of the Flowstone pump mechanic, and this is a really aggressively costed example of that. It plays both control and aggro reasonably well, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps I’m too high on this, but I think this is one of the better commons from today.

Nivmagus Elemental

While you can exile your spells that are about to be countered, or flashback spells that aren’t necessary, I’m not particularly enthused by this card. He seems to me to demand almost Delver numbers of instants and sorceries to optimise, and really, the evasion of Delver was very relevant in addition to the size, which obviously the Elemental doesn’t have. I think this is one better left alone, or at least to those with a more combo-centric outlook on Magic than I.

Top 5 Cards I want to play with it Constructed:-

1. Jace, Architect of Thought
2. Izzet Charm
3. Cyclonic Rift
4. Epic Experiment (I so want this to work)
5. Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Top 5 Limited Commons:-

1. Stealer of Secrets
2. Inaction Injunction
3. Runewing
4. Doorkeeper
5. Frostburn Weird

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.

Grant Hislop





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