Guilds of Ravnica: Cards I’m Exited About

The soon te be released Guilds of Ravnica bring us back to a popular plane: The ecumenopolis of Ravnica, that is ran by ten guilds, supposedly working together in a magically binding contract, but where these factions still are at each others throat. Making things worse, the elder dragon Nicol Bolas has set his sights on the plane and is appearantly infiltrating these guilds and replacing their respective leaders with his pawns.

Part what makes this plane so beloved are the cards from previous sets. It had the signits and the bounce lands which are all pretty good, and staple mana-fixing in Commander. It also had a slew of interesting legendary cards to head decks. Now that the all the cards have been revealed of the new Ravnica set, do I think it lives up to expectations?

Well, the cycle of Lockets certainly are no Signets. The idea appearantly is that Signets where too good, at the very least for draft. And while, once on the table, the lockets are better, the bump up of the cost from to is significant. Then again, seems to be the current going rate for mana rocks, and the ability to cycle them for two (!) cards does make up for it a little. It’s actually card advantage late game. Taking off the third turn instead of the second turn to ramp still stings though.

Lands-wise the Gates make a return. The first Ravnica set had lands like Boros Garrison at common. These lands where great, because they where basically two lands in one. They come into play tapped, but they produce two mana, and made sure you had another land drop the next turn. The Gates are uncommons, also come into play tapped, and while being two colour, they don’t offer much of an advantage. Sure, there are some gate-sensative cards, like Maze’s End, but so far these haven’t been great enough to make a gate-tribal deck.

All in all, on the side of mana, things aren’t really pushed. How that’ll have an effect on draft remains to be seen, but the signal is to pick a guild and stick with it, as going outside it will cost you dearly in your mana base. For Commander it means we don’t get anything really new in addition to the good old Ravnica rocks and lands, and Guilds of Ravnica isn’t a way to stock up on these staples of deckbuilding. Meh. At least there is the return of shocklands, which are good, and they have beautiful new art.

So, are there things I actually like? Hell yes! I’ve always liked the Ravnican Cyclopses that look a bit like the Big Daddies of Bioschock. You know, like Nivix Cyclops. Guilds has the biggest of daddies with Erratic Cyclops. A thing that you can do with it is cast Invert (or Twisted Image) on it. It sees the spell being cast, turns into a 1/8, then flips into a 8/1 trample as the spell resolves. I think I’ll include these cards in my Shu Yun deck, adding a little double strike for good measure.

Invert / Invent is also great in that deck, because of the Eye of the Storm combo. For just playing the Invert side, you can get the Invent side. And search the deck to proceed with the combo. At least it’s a budget-friendly, uncommon tutor for that combo. Also, since the CMC of the casted side is 6, you pay 1 mana but boost the cyclops for 6. Awesome.

I guess her staff looking like Nicol Bolas horns isn’t suspicious at all…

In Commander, Burglar Rat is an upgrade over Ravenous Rats, a card I use in my Ninjutsu deck. It hits multiple players and doesn’t target. It makes me excited for discard-based decks. As does Vicious Rumors. Maybe these also make for a cool Modern discard budget deck? Something cool with Waste Not?

Etrata is an alternate wincondition, which is always worth a look. She also is removal and… well I talked about her already. She is high on my wanted list. And there is Vraska. An earlier version, Vraska the Unseen, dabbled with creating creatures that eliminate players when they hit. The new Vraska does that in Emblem form, making it even more difficult to avoid or permanently remove the threat when it hits. The advise is not to judge Planeswalkers by their ultimate though. What we see here is the basic Ob Nixilis Reignited template: A plus ability that draws cards, a minus ability that destroys things, and an ultimate that helps winning the game. There are a lot of planeswalkers that follow this pattern. What rarely happens nowadays is that the plus ability isn’t +1, but it’s +2. I think she’s good for and even if she isn’t, the ultimate is the way I want to try and win a game, just because it’s cool.


Then there is the second mythic on the list: Chance for Glory. It’s a weird card, and basically has multiple modes because, well, the extra turn is also your last. So casting it in response to a Wrath of God or something doesn’t really give you the extra turn. That said, I do run Final Fortune in Sunforger  based decks, with the plan to fetch an Angel’s Grace during the extra turn, and live to fight another day. Stopping most of the Wraths in a pinch is a huge upside. Also having the option to alpha strike with little risk to the attackers, so you can do it again is neat. The card doesn’t feel Mythic, though.

And Fireminds Research? It’s just the kind of card I like in general. A do-nothing enchantment that you can charge up, and gets you tiny, grindy advantages. I run Trail of Evidence in Shu Yun, and maybe this is better? More flexible? At least it’s just to cast. Yeah, Shu Yun does get a lot of extra options with the Izzet spellslinging cards. Fair enough. I haven’t made my ultimate spellslinging Commander deck yet.

I’ll guess I should name Generous Stray as a favorite too. Just because of the art and flavour. I mean, Elvish Visionary is concidered a playable card, and now for an extra you get one extra toughness, and a little less Elfness. So, there is less tribal support. Sure, we have Arahbo, Roar of the World, but I had little success with that deck, to be honest.

There is also Skyscanner which is concidered a good pickup in draft. Sure, that one flies and doesn’t tie you to a colour. But the art is so cute, and so is the text. Cats that bring you dead things as a gift. It’s been suggested however that they do this because cats think you’re a lousy hunter, and they try to teach you the hunt by bringing you prey, meaning “See how easy it is to catch something, now you do it!” Cat tribal might be a fun casual deck, however. And this is how cats on Ravnica work, see how friendly they are to that Indrik. Cute animals are the eleventh guild of Ravnica.

Ok, we’re done with the filler. These are the cards expected to move boxes. The chase cards of the set. First there is Assassin’s  Trophy. It’s a very flexible, catchall removal spell. It’s weird to “assassinate” a land, but this one seems especially aimed at destroying Urzatron lands, and it always has a target. At instant speed. For just . Right, so it’s not spectacular in the sense that it’s a proactive threat, but this is removal at it’s best. The theory goes that if you destroy something cheaper than the removal spell used, it costs you tempo. There are very little things cheaper than 2 mana that really needs to be destroyed (except the Tron lands, maybe) and the flexibility pushes it over the edge. You’ll feel a lot safer in a game where you have this in your hands, because you can deal with almost any situation, for just 2 mana, at any time.

Finally, my most favorite card from this set, and it’s a bit of a weird one. Mission Briefing has been compared to Snapcaster Mage, but this as a different beast altogether. It has it’s own card selection and “draw.” I’m hyped for this card mostly because of Eye of the Storm. With Eye it doesn’t matter who exiles what and I don’t have to hold back instants and sorceries to get a high storm count. I’ll just recycle whatever is in my graveyard to keep it going. Mission Briefing does everything an Eye of the Storm deck wants.

Conclusion: Guilds of Ravnica plays it safe when it comes to mana. Explosive starts can be a problem for drafts, since it makes the game more random. For other formats this means the set is less interesting mana wise. There are also cards with lots of coloured mana in the cost, also meaning things are generally designed to be safe.

The set overall has some cards I’m interested in. I mostly like the Izzet () stuff, followed by either Golgari () or Dimir (). Boros () and Selesnya () hold my interest the least.

Of note are the things not in the set, like the buy-a-box promo and some of the basic lands. The promo is a big indestructable wurm, which is cool but not amazing. The basic lands are part of a promotion where you get one of these lands. And it’s generally advantagous to have all your basics the same, so opponents can’t count them that easilly, plus it looks cooler to have the same one. Good luck collecting these. They should have been in boosters, like the textless Bolas-themed basics  a couple of sets ago, where one in four lands was one of these. Oh well. I like some of the cards, even a couple of commons but it isn’t completely what made the earlier (and particularly the first block of) Ravnica so loved.

Posted under Commander / EDH