Return to Ravnica: What Each Guilds Offer with Tom Harle

How to Get Better at Magic The Gathering by Tom Harle

Return to Ravnica: What Each Guild Offers with Tom Harle


So it’s spoiler season and that means every half baked Magic writer gets to air their pointless opinions on cards that will soon be played in a completely unknown format! Never one to buck the trend; here are some of my ramblings on what has been spoiled so far:

The Guild of Azorius

First up we have the blue white guild of law and order and the Detain mechanic. Detain seems like its going to be a powerful limited mechanic as the ability to shut down blockers for a turn has historically been very good in aggro/tempo decks, especially when attached as a come into play ability on a creature. Add in the skipped attack step too; and the potential to turn off activated abilities and you’re on to a winner.

It seems to have been very aggressively costed too as cards like Lyev Skyknight, being a 3/1 flyer for 3, would be quite playable without the ability. It probably encourages more aggression when playing against Azorius in limited, since by having your guys tapped when they get detained they’re not being affected by the ‘can’t block this turn’ effect.

The Azorius Charm is pretty good, although generally going to be a cycling point removal spell in most decks, I guess the lifelink option is nice to have. I do think the charms are good but I’m not quite as impressed with them as some people seem to be. Even when all the abilities are useful they’re not usually that powerful and so you might be better off with just narrower spells in your deck. I have seen decklists proposed with 8 or more charms but I think you’re sacrificing too much power for options – Magic cards are generally pretty powerful these days.

Another stand out card is the new Wrath/Day variant Supreme Verdict. Not that much higher in power level that the original two, the can’t be countered is either going to be totally useless (against decks with no counters) or totally vital (against aggro control decks like Delver currently is). I think you can tell from the number of spells that cant be countered and [/card]Cavern of Souls[/card] that counterspells are going to be pretty weak in the new standard format.

Isperia, sadly doesnt seem like it’s going to be a great titan replacement as 4 toughness means it dies to the new [/card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] and its doesnt have a direct effect on the board. The ability is quite powerful but I think if you’re after a big blue white finisher something like Entreat the Angels is just going to be better.

The new Jace is a very interesting one and as always with new planeswalkers; very hard to judge out of context. His +1 ability doesnt seem very strong on its own, in my opinion, as creatures are generally pretty big these days and even token decks, that will have the most creatures to be affected by it, will be playing a number of anthems to counteract it. His second ability isnt that exciting either; one of the main advantages of Fact or Fiction (apart from just being ridiculous) was its versatility as a 5 card impulse, 3 card draw spell and a graveyard filler. 3 cards is no 5 and the cards go on the bottom which makes it a lot weaker.

I think if you think about him as a 4 mana sorcery card draw spell he’s ok, but he’s not the kind of walker who’ll be sticking around for lots of turns. Also sadly I think Tamiyo is just better at defence and card drawing at only 1 mana more.

The Guild of Izzet

Mizzium Mortars seems like a good place to start and a pretty powerful one at that. The ability to scale up from a point removal spell to a sweeper at 2 and 6 is very powerful if you can afford the RRR mana cost. Personally I think if the mana can support it this is better than Bonfire of the Damned since you have much more control over when and how you cast it, sadly the mana in Standard isnt really good enough to support it in 3 colour decks so there’ll still be plenty of miracle Bonfires in standard ruining people’s day.

Guttersnipe and Goblin Electromancer are both interesting cards that may fit into existing Modern storm shells although they would make you more vulnerable to creature removal – usually one of the strengths of the storm deck. Its worth noting however that you can just cast all your spells in response to the removal so you can sort of use electromancer as a semi-ritual if you have 3+ things in hand he reduces.

Izzet Charm is easily the best of the bunch spoiled so far with both the counter and the shock being very powerful and exactly the kind of effects you want on a versatile card like this. It doesnt matter if you’re using Counterspell, Force of Will or this to counter a spell if they’re tapped out and if they are holding up mana late game then you can just use the third super cycling ability. Usually by the time the first two abilities arent much use any more you’ll have a spare land or two so it’s not even really that card disadvantageous.

Sadly the guildmage is far too expensive for constructed but Niv-Mizzet might be an interesting finisher. He’s a massive upgrade on his previous incarnation and he was nearly constructed worthy before. Being both a masticore style removal engine and a card advantage machine more than makes up for his lack of come into play ability. In all honesty we’ve been spoiled by titans for too long and the bar for big finishers is likely to drop to the point where we’re happy with just powerful or difficult to deal with creatures.

I also quite like the newly spoiled Nivmagus Elemental – potentially as a sideboard card in storm so you can transition into just making a big guy and hitting them, but also as a powerful card in counter heavy mirrors – removing the spell in response to a Remand is pretty tasty. Definitely an interesting one, although that might just be because it’s breaking new design space.

The Guild of Rakdos

Next up we have Rakdos and the unleash mechanic which again seems very powerful, both for constructed and limited. Blocking isnt a huge priority in constructed anyway so having bigger guys for you mana is defeinitly powerful. Nothing spoiled yet seems constructed worthy, except maybe the ¾ zombie, but its an interesting mechanic to watch out for. Note that you can give a +1/+1 counter to your opponents creatures to make them not be able to block so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays vs the Golgari mechanic of scavenge. Again this is a mechanic that rewards aggression so I think the limited format will probably be quite fast. Even the Golgari and Izzet mechanics encourage the opponent to end the game quickly before the Overload or Scavenge mechanics kick in.

Slaughter Games is a very powerful spell and one I’m kind of surprised they let see print. Cards like Cranial Extraction have always been very good against linear combo decks so having an uncounterable one is really going to makes people think about their sideboarding and alternate win conditions in Modern and Legacy. Sadly they dont really print enough good combo enablers in standard anymore so I doubt it’ll see much play there.

Rakdos’s Return is another interesting one that people have been comparing to Blightning which I think is a little unfair. Blightning was a cheaply costed small incremental card that sometimes lived the dream of killing a Planeswalker. Rakdos’s Return is a massive haymaker that either destroys their hand and does them, or a walker, a bunch of damage or straight up kills them.

It’s pretty unlikely you’re going to just run it out there for 2 or 3 for value unless you’re hitting their whole hand or killing a walker. It is pretty expensive but very powerful so might be good as a top end to a ramp style deck if it ends up in these colours. Sadly it’s probably too expensive for aggro and control doesnt really care about the damage, although if Planeswalkers become popular again in aggro then it might be ok.

Dreadbore is another very powerful spell and I like that wizards are printing more ways to interact directly with Planeswalkers. I think the days of control decks making a walker and just protecting it to victory are behind us for the moment.

Underworld Connections is an interesting one that is most easily compared to Phrexian Arena. It’s almost certainly worse since although you have the option of not using it and not losing the life you also give up a mana every turn you want to draw a card. Coupled with the fact that you’ve opened yourself up for a 2-1 if they destroy the land its definitely a lot weaker.

Does that really matter though as Arena is a very powerful spell and a weaker one is still pretty good. I think it could well be enough to push some sort of mono or heavy black control deck into tier 1 as the problem that style of deck always has is long term card advantage. I shall await the two black charms before I make any promises but something to look out for.

Lastly in black Desecration Demon seems like a very powerful card – yes giving your opponent the option isnt ideal but when their choice is sac a guy or dont attack/take a bunch every turn its probably fine. Coupled with the fact that you can probably mutilate their team and have him survive I think he’s definitely one to watch. Some decks just dont play many creatures and even as a 4 mana “you must sacrifice a creature to attack” he’s interesting.

The Guild of Golgari

Next up is Golgari and a whole host of powerful things. Scavenge seems like a pretty powerful ability as getting two uses out of a card has always been good (flashback etc.) Dreg Mangler is very aggressively costed and the right creature type to be useful in standard. In fact BG zombies seems like a bit of a no brainer (get it? 🙂 in the new standard with [/card]Lotleth Troll[/card] also being very good for his mana cost and regerate actually being more relvant now that sweepers let you regenerate. He’s a good discard enabler for a reanimator type deck too so dont just think of him as an aggressive 2 drop.

Grisly Salvage is another powerful enabler for a reanimator or self mill style deck and with that, Mulch and Trackers Instincts I think there’s definitely potental for a powerful graveyard based strategy, especially once the second set of dual lands hits and makes Unburial rites easier on the mana. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is another potentially powerful card that fits into this style of self mill shell.

Abrupt Decay is another very efficient little spell that should hopefully put an end to the reign of Swords in Modern and is again, I think, another nod to Wizards wanting the next stardard format to be much less Snapcaster and Delver driven.

In Golgari we have the other planeswalker spoiled so far which is Vraska the Unseen – she seems very powerful and in my opinion much better than the new Jace. Her +1 ability will singlehandedly shut down some decks (think tokens or similar with lots of little men and no direct way of removing Planeswalkers) plus her -3 ability is one of very few ways Planeswalkers can interact with each other. Her ultimate is powerful too and will almost certainly be enough to win the game when you use it. If there’s a chance of 3 1/1 phage’s not getting the job done then just keep killing nonland permanents!

The Guild of Selesnya

The final guild is Selesnya with the populate mechanic. Sadly I think this is going to be mainly a limited ability as there are a lot of sweepers in the upcoming standard format (Supreme Verdict, Terminus, Mutilate, Bonfire, Mortars etc.) and if you dont have any tokens to populate your ability is just doing nothing. That said it does seem to be a very good limited ability as making guys at instant speed and removing their guys in response to a populate effect will be pretty common and add a layer of decision making – do I populate now to guarentee the token or wait and try and surprise block but risk not getting anything etc.

Collective Blessing is potentially a very powerful spell that could serve as a finisher in a GW elves style deck, similar to what has been played in standard recently. Upgrading your Lingering Souls into angels is no small game but it does still suffer from the lots of sweepers effect again.

Loxodon Smiter is a very powerful card and I would expect to see a lot of him in the new standard, maybe even making an impact in Modern if counters remain popular. He’s an obvious foil to liliana but just being a 4/4 uncounterable for 3 makes him very aggressively costed. T2 off of a t1 accelerator is pretty scary stuff.

The Selesnya Charm seems ok, all three of the abilities have their uses. None of them are that powerful, as you would expect with a charm, but I could see a GW aggro deck wanting the combination of a threat, combat trick or situational removal spell, if the format has enough 5+ power guys to target.

Sadly I dont think Trostani, Wayfaring Temple or Growing Ranks will make too much of an impact on constructed due to the sweeper effect again but Dryad Militant is interesting. 2 power for 1 mana is always a good deal and his ability to shut down flashback and Snapcaster is obviously powerful.

The Artifacts

The only artifact spoiled so far (Chromatic Lantern) is a pretty powerful effect but we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a deck that wants it. 5 colour control is the most obvious home but do we really want to be tapping out on t3 to be accelerating/fixing our mana. Is it good enough when we dont draw the Lantern to run without it? Historically this kind of effect isnt really that great since its so difficult to build a deck to take advantage of the mana without making it too reliant on drawing the effect.

Limited Picks

I mentioned last week that I think the lands will be high picks in limited and that still stands. We’ve only seen a couple of cards that interact with gates so far so we’ll have to wait and see if that will be a big thing in limited or just a niche effect. Obviously the returning dual lands are great but you didnt need me to tell you that!

Final thoughts

So far so good with the new set in my opinion – there’s some very interesting limited abilities, some powerful impactful constructed cards and great flavour so all in all i’m very excited about the new set, and cant wait for the next hundred spoilers!

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

Tom Harle

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