Magic the Gathering just finished it latest block, “Return to Ravnica” with its third and last installment release, “Dragon’s Maze” two week ago. The entire three-set block features multicolored cards that each have unique abilities with filled appeal. Each of the guilds of a distinct name represents one of the 10 color combinations available. Each guild has a new gate card: a land that produces either color mana of that specific guild. Though the Izzet and Simic guilds are personal favorites each one has the potential to do massive damage quickly especially in a sealed tournament. Needless to say many spells do pull their weight in other formats. Here is a review and some observations about MTG’s latest successful block.
The first set features the Selensya, Izzet, Azorious, Rakdos, and Golgari guilds. An emphasis on these guilds alone also gave way to five new keyword abilities. The “shock” lands have also returned as reprints from the original 2005 Ravnica block. These rare lands count as two basic land types and, if needed, the player can pay two life to use it right away, unlike the gates that must enter the battlefield tapped. The five available shock lands in this set correspond with the featured guilds color combinations.
The Return to Ravnica set jump-started the block with a lot of great commons and uncommon like: Soul Tithe, Guttersnipe, Oak Street Innkeeper, Steal of Secrets, and Stab Wound, which pack a serious punch even if they are mono-colored. The multicolored spells in MTG usually offer versatile and appealing abilities at a cheaper mana cost, provided the player uses two or more colors to pay. Cards like Dreg Mauler, a 3/3 haste for three in green and black with scavenge is a prime example of this raw potential. Another is the Armada Wurm, that gives the player two 5/5 trample creatures for two white, two green, and two colorless. You can expect a lot of cards of this magnanimity in this set whether they are single or mono-colored cards, the power level is now increased to help players do more, for less.
The five keyword abilities, at a glance:
Populate: Creates a copy of chosen creature token in play you control. Once the Armada Wurm hits the table its scoop city. (Selensya)
Overload: Paying a separate overload cost allows one to change the text “target” to “each” for that spell, which causes more dramatic effects. (Izzet)
Unleash: Unleashed creatures enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it but cannot block. An excellent trade of when you know you can finish the game quickly. Or put a more assertive impression of your undead armies (Rakdos)
Detain: A very useful one. Azorious clan members can halt any permanent from using activated abilities until the detainer’s next turn. If that permanent is a creature, it cannot attack or block as well.(Azorious)
Scavenge: Paying the separate cost allows creatures in the graveyard to be “scavenged” for a number +1/+1 counters equal to that creatures power. Those counters are directly put on creature in play you control. Each creature’s scavenge cost is different, if it has any at all.(Golgari)
This set released two new Plainswalkers: Jace Architect of Thoughts, and Vrask the Unseen. Jace is a solo blue card that gives the player a mini ”Fact or Fiction” of three cards. He can lower the power of attacking creatures to gain loyalty counters. His last ability, allows the caster to search his/her opponents libraries and cherry-pick their favorite spells and use them as their own.
With the first five guilds started the set had a very positive start. Return to Ravnica was well received and player where quickly prompted to lookout for Gatecrash in the upcoming months.
This set finishes with the other 5 remaining guilds unseen in Return to Ravnica: Simic, Boros, Gruul, Dimir, and Orzhov. Again gate cards, and shock lands are available in this set featuring the unique combinations of the chosen guilds. After seeing what the new block was all about with Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash keeps up the pace with many more powerful spell and another two Plainswalkers.
This set offer just as much promise with new, color combo-ed themes and flexible spells that will extend the life of the block after this release takes effect. The intensity is just as strong as Wizards reveals the remaining 5 guilds to the mix.
Personal favorites of this set include Urban Evolution and the Spark Trooper. Clan defiance can also turn the tides of a battle quickly. The Simic guild admittedly seems bit too locked in on +1/+1 counters that makes their spells less versatile outside of standard. Unlike the Boros Charm, which is absolutely indispensable in casual play. I also noticed the Cinder Elemental reprint from Mercadian Masques. And a rare “Primordial” Avatar creature in the 5 mono-colors respectively.
Dormi Rade the new multicolored Plainswalker can help get creature cards into your hand or fight opponents creatures before a combat phase. His last ability grants gamers an emblem that gives their creatures many sweet perks. Gideon, Champion of Justice is the white, mono-colored Plainswalker whose accelerated production of loyalty counters is only matched with a second ability that is played for free. Gideon’s last move keeps him as the sole player on the field if it’s pulled off. It exiles all other permanents.
Here is a sum up of the remaining five keywords;
Extort: Whenever you play a spell you may pay the extort cost for each creature that has the ability. If you do you gain 1 life and each opponent loses 1 life.(Orzhov)
Battalion: Activated when three or more creatures attack, these special creatures will gain you life, enhance combative skills and overall beef up your units sent to attack each turn.(Boros)
Evolve: Creatures with evolve will gain +1/+1 counters on them when new creatures enter the battlefield with a higher power or toughness. The Simic guild has many way of moving these counters to the proper monster for greatest effect. (Simic)
Cipher: Mostly found on Sorcery spells, just before a spell with Cipher resolves, it may be encoded on a creature you control. When that creature deals damage to a player, copy that encoded spell.(Dimir)
Bloodrush: Discard a card with bloodrush and pay the mana cost, to give target attacking creature +X/+Y where X is the discarded creature’s power and Y its toughness. (Gruul)
With all the guild formally introduced its time to see them all in action for one last showdown.
The last set features cards from all ten guilds and hands down some very forgettable mono-colored cards. All 10 shock lands and gates are printed in this set and each guild has a unique “clue stone” artifact that helps produce two colors of mana. All of the 10 keyword abilities are included on cards of their respected guilds. Each guild also receives a legendary another guild leader that helps develop that particular strategy. This set ultimately expands on the last two sets without adding much new content.
One very exciting feature about this set however is the return of two spell split-cards. This time around all the cards have the “Fuse” ability to cast both halves of the card in whatever order he or she prefers. Far/Away is my favorite because it is the only instant besides Turn/Burn, and gets rid of up to two creatures instead of one.
The fifth Plainswalker in this block, Ral Zerek, is a red and blue Plainswalker with a lot of utility. He can tap and un-tap permanents as one ability, or deal 3 damage to a target by sacrificing three counters. His final ability allows players to take up to five extra turns, if they are so lucky.