Attention to Detail #9 – Ravnica: Episode 2
by Jordan Kronick
January 20, 2006
It's an exciting time
for Magic. Something that happens only three times a year
(or four times, this year). There's a new set on the
horizon. As I write this, I'm a mere 34 hours away from my
local Guildpact prerelease. I'm sure that Guildpact
information is going to be impossible to avoid, just about
everywhere that there's words about Magic for the next
couple months, but that's no reason not to get in on the
action. We've got 165 new cards (yes, yes.. there's some
reprints so they're not all new) and each one of them is
going to have some impact on the game – even if that impact
is to cause you to curse loudly every time you open one in a
Spoilers and rumors and little tidbits of info about
Guildpact have been leaking in for the past month or so, all
over the internet. As happens with just about every set,
it's taken until the 11th hour for the information to truly
form a cohesive mass that can be called a set. Usually when
a new set is released, we've got a whole new theme to
examine. This is not the case with Guildpact. Or at least,
it's not quite that black and white. Guildpact uses the same
general theme as Ravnica, but due to the structure of the
block, you won't be seeing your favorite mechanics from the
last set, which is a first for a Magic block. What I'm going
to do this week is talk about the three new guild mechanics
that arrive with the second set of the block. They're all
very different and will define the environment just as much
as their Ravnican counterparts.
Haunt – When this card is put into a graveyard from play (or
from the stack if it's an instant or sorcery), remove it
from the game haunting target creature.
The Orzhov present us with a curious new mechanic. It's
easily the most subtle guild mechanic that we've seen so
far. It takes time to do it's stuff and the power of each
card depends greatly on the ability to control when your
haunt triggers happen. Also, Haunt doesn't just appear on
creatures. It also appears on spells. And every haunt
trigger is slightly different. With the mechanics of
Ravnica, you could generally assume that they would work
together in a relatively concerted fashion. Your dredge
cards would play off one another, dredging more into the
graveyard with each use. Your convoke cards all depend on
the same factor – large numbers of creatures. Your transmute
spells, while having a wide range of casting costs, all do
basically the same thing when you activate the ability –
they search your deck. But Haunt is different. There are
haunt triggers that improve your position by making your
creatures larger, gaining you life or other effects. There
are haunt triggers that work against your opponent by
draining their life, causing them to discard or destroying
their permanents. The secret to analysis of the mechnic is
to look at what all haunt cards have in common and finding a
way to make them all better at once.
So here's some quick facts about Haunt as a whole. They may
seem obvious, but it's important to look at the lowest
common denominator in times like these.
– All Haunt creatures generate an effect when they come into
– All Haunt cards require a creature to be in play when they
go to the graveyard for their haunting ability to work.
– That creature doesn't have to belong to you or your
opponent – any creature will work.
So, starting at the top, let's go through this. There are a
number of ways of taking advantage of comes into play
effects. For instance, Ravnica gave us a curious little Aura
called Flickerform. With this one card you can reuse your
haunt creature over and over. And if that doesn't do it for
you, well the Orzhov have their own trick in store. I
present, for your edification;
Remove each creature you control from the game. Return those
creatures to play under their owner's control at end of
That's a big tricky card right there. First of all, it
allows you to dodge mass removal with all of your creatures.
Second of all, it allows your team to survive otherwise
lethal blocking, en masse. And most importantly, it allows
all of your Haunt creatures to reuse their come into play
effects. However, there's a word of warning to go with this.
If you're planning on abusing Ghostway, make sure that you
don't have any Haunt triggers on your own creatures when you
cast it. If a creature that is being haunted is removed from
the game, the card haunting it forgets it's existence and
you'll lose the chance to use that haunt effect.
The second item on our list – Haunt cards require creatures
to be in play for maximum effectiveness. It seems like a
simple statement, but it's one not to be taken lightly. One
of the most standard ways of making use of lots of
goes-to-graveyard effects is to incorporate lots of massive
removal like Wrath of God. That's not going to work so well
with haunt, though. You want at least one creature to remain
in play when your haunters die. Preferable something that
you can control the lifespan of. So a better option than
mass removal is selective creature sacrificing cards.
Currently, there's a limited supply of these. When Mirrodin
rotated out of Standard, we lost one of the best options
available in Spawning Pit. The black and white colors of the
Orhov also seemingly prevent the use of one of the most
popular creature sacrificing engines of the current
environement – I'm talking about Greater Good of course –
from being reasonable. The number of black and white cards
that allow for selective creature sacrifice are somewhat
limited, and I would expect this to be intentional. Having
control over your hauntings is extremely important. So
remember when you're drafting RGG this weekend that if you
think you want to try the Orzhov, picking up a Thoughtpicker
Witch might be more important than ever.
Another important factor here is that if your opponent has a
way of sacrificing their own creatures to some end, it's
probably a bad idea to try to haunt them. If the creature is
no longer in play when the leaves-play haunt trigger
resolves, then it won't work. There's a lot of things to
keep in mind when playing with haunt.
The third item on the list gives us an interesting split in
just how haunt plays out over the course of a game. Either
you can use your haunt triggers on your own creatures,
expecting to having a greater degree of control over their
lifespans, or you can haunt your opponent's creatures if you
have a way of then killing the creature, hopefully
generating even more cool effects. Triggered abilities are
the new black.
That's a lot of talking about haunt, and I expect to have a
lot more to say about this very interesting mechanic in the
coming weeks. I definitely want to give it a shot this
weekend. Anyone who knows me knows of my love for
black/white decks, and I'll be hard pressed not to go nutty
with the Orzhov.
That brings us to the oddball guild of Guildpact – the Izzet.
They've often been described as the silly guild, but the
mechanic is no laughing matter.
Replicate – When you play this spell, copy it for each time
you paid the replicate cost. You may choose new targets for
Where the Orzhov gave us a very sublte mechanic with a lot
of variations on just how it works in game play, the Izzet
have seemingly given us the opposite. Replicate spells not
only do the same thing – they do the same thing over and
over. I'm sure you can imagine some of the effects that
Replicate spells can produce, even if you haven't seen them
on the spoiler yet. Doing damage, drawing cards, etc. Note
that taking more turns is fortunately *not one of the
replicatable effects. Of course, there's always Djinn
Illuminatus for that.
So what should you be thinking about with Replicate? It's a
simple mechanic, but there might be more going on here than
you realize. Replicate is in many ways the ultimate test of
a player's ability to decide whether they should bide their
time or go for it. Let me give you an example, with one of
the simplest Replicate cards that you'll be seeing this
weekend and for the next couple years:
Train of Thought 1U
Draw a card.
Some replicate cards, like this one, are simple because they
have no targets. Train of Thought produces copies of itself,
but it's best thought of as one large spell. If you cast it
without replicating, it is an expensive cantrip with no
effect. Hardly worth 1U, and sorcery speed to boot. If you
replicate it once, you're getting a sorcery-speed
Inspiration. That's looking a bit more reasonable. If you
replicate it twice, you're paying 3UUU for 3 cards. That's
two mana more than you'd be paying for those three cards
from Concentrate at the same speed. There is no point at
which the mana to cards drawn ratio becomes very strong.
You're always paying two mana for each card drawn. Does that
mean that this is a bad spell? It's certainly outclassed in
terms of raw power when matched up against most other card
draw spells. It's not a bad card though. With Replicate, the
name of the game is dynamism. Replicate spells fill whatever
mana supply you have available. Train of Thought could be
used to quickly try to pull a land drop on the second turn
(pray that you don't end up in this situation). It could be
used to make up a mid game slump and get a burst of card
advtange. Or it could be that you rip it off the top of your
deck during the late game, and use it to draw 5 cards. That
kind of sudden card rush can quickly turn a late game stall
into a rout.
Like Haunt, there are a wide number of effects that
replicate can generate. Each spell is going to do something
different. By virtue of the mechanic, however, you don't
need a lot of copies of each one to generate the effect
multiple times. Izzet draft decks and sealed decks will
seemingly be a toolbox of assorted effects. The ability to
use these effects multiple times in quick succession means
that the red/blue guild will be less likely to run out of
firepower than the other guilds. More bang for your buck, as
the saying goes.
Bloodthirst X – If an opponent was dealt damage this turn,
this creature comes into play with X +1/+1 counters.
The Gruul Clans present us with what is certain the most
simple and straight-forward guild mechanic yet. What more
could we expect from a guild that is devoted to smashing
civilization and all things delicate and subtle. Still, even
a Johnny like me has to respect the sheer power that this
The first thing I'm going to do is present you with what may
be the most important Bloodthirst creature in Guildpact:
It's so simple. Deceptively so. Either this is a really bad
1/1 trampler for 2 mana or it suddenly becomes one of the
strongest two-drops we've seen in years. It's even better
than Watchwolf. So how do we effectively use the Mauler?
There are generally two ways of dealing damage to your
opponent. Either you can use a spell or you can hit them
with a creature. Now, when we're talking about getting the
best use out of a two-mana creature, the first option is
pretty much right out. We want to be dropping a 3/3 Mauler
or turn two. This means that we need to play a creature on
turn one and hope it scan swing through for a point right
off the bat and let us play our guy. This has a couple
– Firstly, quick creatures are extremely important for a
fast Gruul deck.
– Playing first might be a necessity.
What I mean by the second part there is that if you are
playing second, then the chances that your opponent will be
able to drop a blocker in time to stop your little guy from
swinging are greatly increased. So if that happens, we
certainly don't want to be playing our Bloodthirst creatures
when they are less effective unless absolutely necessary. So
we're back to drawing board. How best to deal damage to the
Shooting a burn spell at your opponent is almost always a
bad idea. There are three reasons why it should be done:
– The burn spell can only target players.
– It's enough to kill them or bring them within range of a
– It's going to let you get some real good use out of your
I added the third one there purely to service this section
of the article, but the more I think about it, I might be
wrong. The number of times when I would wish I had held a
Shock for a creature target rather than using it as a way of
getting out a Bloodthirster (not to be confused with the
Greater Daemon of Khorne) will be many, I fear.
So where does that leave us? The unspoken third option:
evasion creatures. Red and green are generally not known for
their large numbers of evasion creatures. The only time red
gets flying is when it's attached to a big huge dragon. And
green only seems to evade when it's Forestwalk. However,
Guildpact gives us a very important creature for getting our
Silhana Ledgewalker 1G
Creature – Elf Rogue
Silhana Ledgewalker can't be blocked except by creatures
Silhana Ledgewalker can't be the target of spells or
abilities your opponents control.
That's a couple of very solid abilities for a cheap little
elfin package. The ledgewalker lets you get your pokes in
against an opponent just when you need them to make sure
your bloodthirst is sated. And that second ability is very
important as well. You won't be losing this little guy to
Darkblast or anything like that. But you can still slap a
Moldervine Cloak on it, turning it into an incredibly deadly
weapon in it's own right. I expect to hear stories of Cloak/Ledgewalker
all weekend long, really. There's many decks that simply can
not handle this sort of thing.
Okay that's all I've got to say about these three mechanics,
this week. I'm going to make sure to follow up on a lot of
my assumptions next week. Two solid days of drafting will
certainly give me a whole new view on the set and the tricks
it has to offer. I'll be at the Minneapolis, MN prerelease
both days from early to late drafting it up. If you happen
to be in the area, I highly recommend it. Steve Port from
Misty Mountain Games in Madison puts on a great tournament
and the Minneapolis Convention Center makes for a very
comfortable location. Have a great weekend, everyone!
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