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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 

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This Space For Rent

The Southwestern Paladin
Ravnica Reviewed
Part Three – Uncommons in Limited Play
by Jeff Zandi
October 26, 2005

Exploring Ravnica takes a little time. In the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about the relative value of each Ravnica common for limited play. Sealed deck and booster draft are the ways most people first encounter a new set, and I am no different. In this article, I would like to wrap up my review of individual cards from the new set by looking at each of the uncommons. I think if you learn what to do with the commons and uncommons in limited formats, the rares will take care of themselves. The commons reviewed in the past two articles required and deserved our first and greatest attention for two reasons. First of all, in limited formats, you see more commons than uncommons or rares by a factor of three to one. Knowing what to do with the commons of a new set is more important for the limited format player than knowing the intricacies of the cards (rares and uncommons) that you will see much less often. Secondly, the previous articles provided a higher level of detail about each card reviewed because the set was so brand new that many people had not seen the cards yet.

In this article I will rank each of the uncommon cards in each of the colors as well as the uncommon gold cards, hybrid and land cards.

GOLD UNCOMMONS

It is difficult to review the gold ca
rds in Ravnica for limited play without considering the kind of decks that each gold card would be likely to appear in. In other words, when you think about a green/white card, you don’t need to think about that card as existing in a vacuum, you have the advantage of thinking of the other Ravnica cards available to the green/white drafter. When you look at the relative value of a gold card, you should consider the kind of deck that it would be best in.

Putrefy is the top Gold
Ravnica: City of Guilds uncommon for limited, in my opinion. In limited play, removal cards are very important and this card takes care of a wide range of targets for you, fits right into what you are trying to do with a black/green deck.

Lightning Helix is speedy damage. Red/white likes to go fast.

Drooling Groodion’s activated ability lets you kill creatures with the extra benefit of pumping up your own. How satisfying is it to pump up your own creature to protect it from being destroyed while simultaneously weakening (or destroying) a creature on your opponent’s side.

Sunhome Enforcer is a bargain at four mana for a 2/4 spirit linked creature that also pumps. Excellent.

Flame-Kin Zealot fits right into the red/white deck, it’s relatively fast, haste-y and it pumps up all of your other guys, what’s not to like?

Clutch of the Undercity has won me over. At first, I thought it was too much colored mana to bother with for only a bounce effect. The key is to know what kind of deck you have. If you are playing blue/black mill, you NEED cards like this to give you time to run your opponent out of cards. If you aren’t playing mill, Clutch still gives you bounce and the ability to Transmute into a four casting cost card you like better.

Pollenbright Wings seemed too expensive to me at first, but I have found that this card does two important jobs that you really will appreciate in any green/white limited deck. First, this card helps you against flying, an ability you can’t get enough of in green/white. Secondly, if you are playing green/white, you are ALL ABOUT making more 1/1 Saproling tokens. The fact that this card does cost so much can actually be an advantage. Usually, by the time you have the resources to play this card, you have a creature WORTH enchanting and, more importantly, you may have an opening for attack against an opponent that has CLEARLY NOT left any flying creatures back on defense. The surprise factor that this card can provide may win the game for you all by itself, not to mention produce many token creatures for you to block with in case the game is not yet over.

Watchwolf is an incredibly efficient creature, two mana for a 3/3 with no drawback (other than requiring two different colors of mana). The only problem is that this card is more of a luxury than a necessity in the green/white deck, which is why he is ranked no higher than he is. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly is nothing wrong with this monster, it’s just that if you are playing green/white, big creatures ARE NOT your big problem. Yup, I’m going to play Watchwolf in all of my green/white booster draft decks, but I am NOT going to use a high pick in order to get him. I don’t think there are enough green/white cards cheap and powerful enough to try to bowl over your opponent with a super-speedy green/white creature rush deck.

Psychic Drain is a card I still don’t like, but limited players with more skills than I have tell me that this card fits the blue/black mill deck, giving that draft deck design the weapon it needs to finish off many opponent’s decks late in the game. This means that you probably should NOT play this card unless your deck is seriously employing the mill strategy. Don’t make the mistake of splashing this card in a black or blue deck thinking that you might run someone out of cards. This card is strictly for the mill deck.

Moroii seemed like one of the best cards i
Ravnica: City of Guilds n the format when I first saw it. I love big flyers and I’m not at all afraid to pay one life each turn to have an enormous 4/4 flyer for just four mana. The problem with this card is its roll in your deck. If you are black/blue, top players believe you should be milling. If you are milling, you will wind up needing your creatures to hold off the opponent, that means your amazing Moroii could be staying back to block as often as it attacks. Hard to believe, but I have already seen it many times. While you normally don’t splash a third color for creatures, I think this card is BETTER for green/black decks that splash blue than it is for blue/black mill decks. Obviously, if you have figured out some blue/black non-mill strategy that can attack more aggressively, Moroii is definitely for you.

Selesnya Sagittars lets you block flyers. Okay, that’s all I’ve got… This creature is neither terrible nor is it great. Does this card fit well in most green/white limited decks? Sure. Is it worth playing? Of course. Is it an early draft pick? Certainly not.

Twisted Justice would be a great card if it cost UB instead of 4UB. By the time you cast this six casting cost sorcery, your opponent is sitting on any number of little dudes. If you can live with spending six mana to make me sacrifice a 1/1 token allowing you to draw a single card, knock yourself out. If you draft this card, here’s two things you might want to do. First, put it in your sideboard. Second, leave it in your sideboard.

Congregation at Dawn KIND OF does some things that green/white players would be interested in. These players want to draw their biggest, most powerful creatures at the right time in the game. This card can take care of that, but it’s hard to get excited about it.

Boros Swiftblade ends up being essentially a bear for RW. If this creature were 2/2 with doublestrike, he would be quite HOT. As it is, he’s just not that great. This card is a NEAR Guildmage experience.

Golgari Germination provides you with a passive ability to put some extra 1/1s in play in green/black. If you want to make 1/1 token creatures, you can do it a lot better with other cards. This card might make sense in sealed deck play, but in booster drafts, you want to draft enough cards that are better than Golgari Germination so that you don’t have to consider playing it.

Dark Heart of the Wood makes me smile, but only because I like the mix of cards that have been reprinted in Ravnica from previous sets. Playable? Not very. This is not Zuran Orb.

GREEN UNCOMMONS

Moldervine Cloak is the best
Ravnica: City of Guilds equipment card in Ravnica. Technically, of course, this card is a creature enchantment. With the ability to Dredge this card back to your hand, however, Moldervine Cloak becomes one of the most powerful cards in Ravnica limited formats, sealed deck or booster draft. Pick this card high or you won’t see it at all.

Trophy Hunter is a good bargain for a creature even if you never needed its ability to destroy flying creatures and gain +1/+1 counters. Once you consider the power of this card to keep your opponent’s flyers out of your way while simultaneously turning itself into a more and more powerful creature, you will want Trophy Hunter in every green limited deck you play.

Root-Kin Ally would be a little too expensive for its power, toughness and overall value. This card’s Convoke ability mitigates his slightly inflated mana cost in most cases. The turn you play Root-Kin Ally, you immediately make it harder for your opponent to attack. This card may be your ultimate win condition in green/white decks that make a lot of 1/1 tokens that you can use to power up the Ally.

Carven Caryatid is a wall and therefore cannot attack, but its 2/5 body is tremendously effective on defense and the card that you draw when you play this Spirit more than makes up for its shortcomings.

Goliath Spider is a huge man that can block flyers. However, it IS an eight casting cost creature WITHOUT the Convoke ability, making it hard to think about playing more than one.

Recollect is Regrowth for three mana. You will be happy anytime you have one of these in your deck, but its not the kind of card you should play two of.

Dowsing Shaman offers the powerful ability to return enchantment cards from your graveyard to your hand. When he’s not providing card advantage by allowing you to reuse enchantments lost earlier in the game, he holds down his turf just fine as a 3/4 Centaur Shaman for a splashable 4G. Once again, like some of the other cards down here near the bottom of the green uncommon list, you wouldn’t necessarily want more than one of these cards in your deck and he is not necessarily a must play if you don’t have enchantments in your deck.

Nullmage Shepherd gives you a decent
Ravnica: City of Guilds 2/4 for 3G. The ability to tap four untapped creatures you control to destroy a target artifact or enchantment is not always necessary, but will be extremely useful at times.

Rolling Spoil is another useful card that doesn’t automatically fit into every green deck, even those playing black as well. In sealed deck Ravnica play, land destruction becomes more important, making this card a little better. In most cases in limited play, this will be a card you want to sideboard in against the green/white token generating deck.

Overwhelm is a disappointing finishing strike that just doesn’t work very well. First, it costs seven. Second, it’s a sorcery. Both of these shortfalls take away a lot of this card’s ability to take the opponent by surprise. Giving a card like this Convoke is kind of a mean joke, since you NEED all of your creatures to attack in order for Overwhelm to be, well, overwhelming. All of this card’s problems aside, it would be quite a bit more interesting if it gave all your creatures Trample along with the +3/+3. This is supposed to be an “I win” card, but it simply has been the waste of a card slot when I have included it in my deck.

Ivy Dancer has SIDEBOARD written all over it, since you don’t know if your opponent will be always be playing Forests. If Forestwalk is not useful for you, a 1/2 creature for three mana just isn’t going to be good enough for your deck. The fact is, in most cases, this card doesn’t make the cut EVEN when the opponent IS playing Forests, because you have to use this card in conjunction with another creature to gain Forestwalk. The allure, of course, is that you will use Ivy Dancer to give some gigantic monster the ability to smash your opponent, but I think you will find that this doesn’t happen as often as you would like.

Perilous Forays is the worst green uncommon, by a lot, actually. First, it costs a million. Five mana is a million for a card like this. In addition, this card requires you to dedicate a spot in your deck for it, pay five mana to put it in play AND THEN to spend one mana and sacrifice a creature to put a basic land card (or one of your dual land cards) from your library into play. Most of the time, turn five or six is a little late to be solving your mana color problems. The problems that this card solves could be better solved with MANY other cards in the set, including half a dozen common green cards and another half dozen artifacts. This card is not playable.

BLACK UNCOMMONS

Keening Banshee is the best black uncommon fo
Ravnica: City of Guilds r limited play. Nekrataal is the card most people seem to relate Keening Banshee to, and I can see the resemblance. Keening Banshee may not be able to kill as many creatures when it comes into play, but the residual 2/2 flyer is very nice for any black deck in any limited format.

Ribbons of Night costs five mana and is a sorcery, but it can target black creatures and the four damage that it deals will get most targets out of the way for you. I love the idea of getting an additional effect from a mono-colored card like this one by spending another specific color of mana when you play it. In this case, you get to draw a card when you play Ribbons of Night if you used blue mana when you cast it. Every black limited deck would be happy to play two or three copies of this card.

Vigor Mortis, the newest in a long line of creature reanimation cards in Magic: the Gathering, is a particularly effective card in a world like Ravnica, where your blue/black opponents are milling your cards into the graveyard and where you are milling your own cards into the graveyard with Dredge. Vigor Mortis puts a creature from your graveyard directly into play. If you pay green mana when you cast it, the reanimated creature gains a +1/+1 counter. Very nice!

Darkblast is powerful, reusable creature removal. The subtle power of Darkblast is that once it is in your graveyard, your opponent quits playing creatures with a toughness of one. In a pinch, you can play Darkblast from you hand during your upkeep, then use its Dredge 3 ability to return it to your hand in your draw step to use again to get rid of a particularly pesky two toughness creature.

Mausoleum Turnkey is a kind of random Gravedigger card, returning to your hand a creature from your graveyard OF YOUR OPPONENT’S CHOICE when Turnkey comes into play. Late in the game, you will receive a creature of no useful significance but when played earlier in a game, you may get back a very good creature. At any rate, the Turnkey is a perfectly acceptable 3/2 man for four mana. He is always worth playing as long as you get SOMETHING back from the graveyard.

Netherborn Phalanx, with a casting cost of 5B, is a very expensive 2/4 creature. This card is better if you think of it as a very splashable sorcery for six mana that causes your opponent to lose a life for each creature he controls while at the same time depositing a 2/4 creature on your side of the board. If this creature wins the game for you, and he might, it will be when you play him and not when you attack with him.

Vindictive Mob is a big 5/5 for
Ravnica: City of Guilds 4BB that requires you to sacrifice a creature when he comes into play. This creature is huge, but not broken for six mana. Because he offers no special abilities once he is in play, he can be pushed out of some limited decks that have too many better cards in the high end of the mana cost scale. This card may not be any worse than the two cards reviewed before it, but it certainly isn’t any better, either. There will be times when you find yourself creatureless and you need to rip an answer to the beating you are receiving. If your board is empty, this card is not a top deck solution.

Carrion Howler is a 2/2 for four mana, and that’s about the best thing you can say about it. Once in awhile, you will use his special ability to trade in combat, but in general, most of your opponents will block whenever you attack with this guy, and your opponent will not be likely to send a quality creature on the attack when you can kill it by blocking and activating your Howler. While this creature is not great, he may be a better choice than creeping into a third color. This card is all mutt, but sometimes one more average creature card is what makes your deck work.

Nightmare Void is a reusable Coercion that costs four mana. I don’t think this card is always playable, and my friends that are better at limited than I am don’t like it as much as I do. I do like that this card has Dredge 2, giving you the ability to punch cards out of your opponent’s hand one at a time one turn after another if that is what you think you need to do.

Undercity Shade seems terrible to me, but I am told by better players that it’s not that bad. Basically, you have to swallow hard when you spend FIVE mana to put this little 1/1 Fear guy into play. One turn later, you feel totally fine about having an evasive creature that pumps +1/+1 for one black mana.

Golgari Thug offers a rather painful way to get a creature back from your graveyard to your hand. Most of the time, you would much rather have Raise Dead than this card because when you want a creature back from the graveyard, you want it NOW, not whenever your Golgari Thug manages to get itself killed. When you REALLY want some amazing creature back from your graveyard, your opponent will stop attacking with creatures the Thug can block, and your puny Thug attacks will always be unblocked. This card CAN be playable, and it DOES have Dredge, but this little guy is just never going to be an impressive part of anyone’s limited format deck.

Dimir Machinations is my least favorite black uncommon in Ravnica. I don’t think you want to spend a turn and a card draw to remove cards from the opponent’s library that aren’t doing anything to you yet. As many times as you remove powerful cards from the top of your opponent’s deck, you will just as often be moving cards out of the way to help the opponent get to his best cards. The fact that this card has Transmute might make it more playable at times, but in general, this card does nothing for me.

WHITE UNCOMMONS

Devouring Light is the best white
Ravnica: City of Guilds uncommon in Ravnica. This card is a much more effective version of Chastise, allowing you to remove an attacking OR blocking creature. This card makes the most effective use of Convoke seen so far, allowing you to play Devouring Light without having any untapped lands available to you. This card messes with your opponent’s mind because he can not easily know whether you have Devouring Light in your hand or not.

Divebomber Griffin is both a creature and a creature removal card. Unfortunately, since you have to tap Divebomber Griffin to use its ability, it doesn’t get to be both at the same time. When your opponent has flyers in the air already, or if you are behind much in life count, the Griffin will probably need to stay behind for defense, where he can bring down a six toughness creature by blocking it and putting three points of combat damage on the stack before tapping and sacrificing to deal three more points of damage to the attacking creature. Late in games, or anytime you have control of the air, you can use this 3/2 flyer to chop your opponent’s life points down to size.

Sandsower didn’t seem like much to me when I first saw it. I saw a very bad Master Decoy, one costing me four mana that couldn’t tap a creature all by itself. Now that I have seen Sandsower in action, I have become better educated about its usefulness. This card is really quite adaptable. Early in the game, he may be nothing more than a small creature blocker. When you get six creatures in play, this card becomes quite powerful, and decks playing white very often DO get six creatures in play. With six or more creatures in play, you are suddenly able to tap TWO creatures on your opponent’s side during HIS turn. If you have seven creatures, and one of them is the big monster that you want to hit your opponent with , you can use Sandsower’s ability to tap two of your opponent’s creatures during his turn, then untap and tap two more of the opponent’s creatures, opening up the way for your big guy to get through.

Oathsworn Giant costs a lot at 4WW, but it gives you a lot for the mana spent. You get a 3/4 with Vigilance that gives all of your OTHER creatures +0/+2 and Vigilance. Suddenly, all of your creatures are harder to kill and get to attack without tapping. This card will very often give you control of the board. If you already had control of the board, this card will further secure your position while giving you the option of attacking with more of your creatures without the fear of leaving yourself defenseless on your opponent’s turn.

Auratouched Mage is a rather specialized card, one you obviously would not want to include in a deck that did not contain creature enchantments (auras) that you want to play on your own creatures. If your deck has a couple of Galvanic Arc or Flight of Fancy cards, you will want to play Auratouched Mage. Yes, this 3/3 costs six mana, but remember that you are really paying for three effects at the same time. For this one time, highly splashable 5W cost, you get a 3/3 creature, you get to search your library for a creature enchantment and you get to put that creature enchantment into play enchanting the Auratouched Mage. Hmmm, six mana for a 3/3 creature with first strike that deals a one-time shot of three damage to a creature or player? Sold! Six mana for a 3/3 flying creature that gives me a one-time opportunity to draw two cards? I’m in!

Bathe in Light is the kind of solid white protection instant that often makes the cut in limited decks. This card has the benefit of having Radiance, a double-edged sword that can affect your opponent’s creatures as well as your own. When your opponent plays a card to get rid of your most powerful creature and you save it by giving it protection from the offensive color with Bathe in Light, you won’t care that other creatures, even your opponent’s creatures, might receive the same protection until end of turn.

Festival of the Guildpact IS an
Ravnica: City of Guilds instant cantrip, drawing a card to replace itself for as little as one white mana. This is almost the best thing you can say about Festival of the Guildpact. I’m not against damage prevention effects, but this one can actually get pricey to use. Healing Salve prevents three points of damage for one mana, The Healing Salve-like instant from Saviors of Kamigawa (and Ninth Edition) prevents up to four damage for two mana. Preventing four points of damage with Festival of the Guildpact costs FOUR mana. You really won’t want to leave large amounts of mana open for this card. At best, you might use this card to prevent a crucial one or two or possibly three points of damage to a creature while drawing yourself a card.

Conclave Phalanx is sort of a so-what creature that COULD end up in your deck, but will often not be good enough. You might include this card in your draft deck as card number twenty-three (your least interesting non-land card) or maybe to keep your deck tightly within two colors. What you should NOT do is include this card because you are really interested in gaining life when it comes into play. The kind of one-time life gain provided by Conclave Phalanx is not nearly a good enough reason to pay five mana for a 2/4 dude. Convoke is always a nice ability, but on this card, Convoke is not the most useful. You can play this card, but there’s no reason to ever really like this card.

Seed Spark is a solid sideboard card that I would not recommend playing in the main deck. At first thought, you might imagine that most Ravnica limited decks include at least a few artifacts or enchantments. In playing many Ravnica drafts, I have not found this to be the case. When you need artifact or enchantment removal, and you sometimes will, Seed Spark does a good job, even if it is on the expensive side. This card is not Naturalize. Don’t let the prospect of this card’s ability to produce two 1/1’s in a green/white deck make you greedy enough to play Seed Spark in the main deck.

Chant of Vitu-Ghazi is an expensive Fog spell that allows you to gain life equal to the amount of damage that would have been dealt by creatures this turn. I totally get that since you are “fogging” you don’t mind tapping a good number of your creatures in order to use this card’s Convoke ability to make its eight mana casting cost easier to pay. This isn’t the worst effect in the world, but this card is one of the more difficult ways to generate it. I have tried it and found it to be pretty bad.

Wojek Apothecary is expensive, clumsy to use, and generally the worst Samite Healer that I have seen in a long time. Situational is the best word to explain how rarely this card will prevent multiple targets from being damaged or killed at a single time. And it doesn’t even prevent damage to players. Not playable.

Suppression Field has already shown itself to be sideboard worthy in constructed decks. In limited play, however, this card is not nearly as useful. It is hard to imagine that you are going to build an effective deck in limited that doesn’t need to make use of activated abilities of creatures, artifacts, enchantments and lands.

RED UNCOMMONS

A word about the red uncommons in
general. I don’t love them. Red is clearly missing the kind of easy to play removal cards that most large expansion sets include. In Ravnica, the lack of common red direct damage spells is not made up for by the red uncommons. Three of the four best Ravnica uncommons each give you slow, expensive ways to do what most sets would allow red to do more easily for less mana cost.

Flash Conscription is the top red
Ravnica: City of Guilds uncommon for limited play because it provides a game-breaking effect. However, this card’s effect comes for a cost several mana more expensive than past cards with similar abilities. In this case, you are paying six mana instead of three or four because IF white mana is used in the casting of this card, the creature you STEAL until end of turn gains Spirit Link while you have control of it. When this card is most often useful to you, you will invariably wish that it cost one or two mana less and did not have the option of giving the stolen creature Spirit Link. Still, even at six mana, this card is the difference maker that will make the most difference for players drafting red.

Cleansing Beam can deal two points of damage to more than one (possibly all) creature in play, but it’s far from being as powerful as Pyroclasm. Cleansing Beam is an instant, but it’s five times more expensive and much more random than Shock. The second best red uncommon in Ravnica is an unwieldy card with Radiance. This is one of the less exciting uses of Radiance, making Cleansing Beam a card that COULD help clear the opponent’s side of the board while leaving your creature untouched, unless your cards share a color with your opponent’s creatures. In optimal conditions, Cleansing Beam will be an instant version of Pyroclasm that hurts only your opponent. In most normal conditions, Cleansing Beam is an expensive way to get rid of one and maybe two creatures. In the City of Guilds, you have to work really hard for your creature removal effects.

Frenzied Goblin doesn’t look like much, but in speedy creature decks, he can be the absolute bomb. When you activate Frenzied Goblin’s ability, a target creature is made unable to block this turn, not just unable to block the Goblin, unable to block AT ALL. This powerful ability is offset a bit by the requirement that Frenzied Goblin must attack to use the ability. Once you have a good bit of red mana available to you with several creatures in play, easy to do in white/red decks, Frenzied Goblin can make it impossible for the opponent to block ANY of your creatures, providing one of the surest ways to make games end quickly in your favor. The downside of this creature is that it only works in one kind of deck. To keep a lot of creatures from being able to block, you have to commit a lot of red mana to the cause. This card is strictly for decks that can bring the beats FAST.

Blockbuster provides an expensive way to take your opponent by surprise and clear his side of the board. In order to do this, you will have to play Blockbuster only when you not only have enough mana to pay its casting cost of 3RR, you also need to have 1R available to activate and sacrifice Blockbuster as soon as you play it. The biggest drawback of this card is that it only damaged creatures if they are tapped. This is the reason that you need to be able to play and activate this card on the same turn if you really want to catch your opponent off guard. Otherwise, your opponent will be able to play around Blockbuster. If this card were in a lot of other sets, it would BARELY be playable. Considering the lack of removal cards in Ravnica, Blockbuster becomes a must-play for decks playing a lot of red. After drafting Ravnica for a while, it seems as though this card is only good in the red/white deck. In sealed deck play, there are a wider variety of decks that can make good use of Blockbuster.

Greater Forgeling changes from a 3/4 monster into a 6/1 monster by activating it ability for 1R to give itself +3/-3 until end of turn. He is a decent big guy the turn you cast him. It is important not to think of this guy as anything more than a 3/4 most of the time, however.

Wojek Embermage is a great example of how one kind of creature can rule one year’s limited formats while a similar creature is not very important in another year’s limited formats. A year ago, the red common Frostwielder was a high pick in booster draft and it remained a high pick throughout the year.

Indentured Oaf is kind of nice, a big cheap red creat
Ravnica: City of Guilds ure that isn’t restricted to only attacking. He IS restricted to being able to damage only non-red creatures. Since there are no mono-red decks, and because most drafts only have one or two players drafting red, you should feel confident about adding this card to your draft decks. You may not need or want to draft this card particularly high, but Indentured Oaf should fit into all of your red decks.

Wojek Embermage is an uncommon and much less highly desired in Ravnica limited formats. Wojek Embermage is far from worthless, however. Wojek Embermage taps to deal a point of damage to a target creature and every creature that shares a color with it. This card is another case of Radiance being a two edged sword. If your creatures are the same color as your opponent’s, the value of this card is dramatically lower than average. If you creatures are different colors than the opponent’s, this card’s value is much higher. The bottom line is that Wojek Embermage is a situational card that you don’t want to draft terribly high.

Stoneshaker Shaman feels like more of a constructed card, an easy to destroy 1/1 that makes each player decide to either end their turns tapped out, or else sacrifice an untapped land at the end of their turn. I don’t think this ability is very useful for limited play. In limited play, this card will hurt you as often as it helps you, and I don’t think it can help you very much at all.

Instill Furor doesn’t do too much for you, and would have been a better card in previous limited formats than it is in Ravnica. This card offers you, at best, the ability to get rid of an annoying creature on the opponent’s side of the board unless they attack with it. Unfortunately, even though Instill Furor only costs two mana, it is kind of a slow card. First, you have to have this card in hand at a time when your opponent has the right kind of target creature to put it on. This card is next to worthless if you play it on a creature that your opponent doesn’t mind attacking with. When you do play it on a creature that your opponent clearly does not want to attack with, you are giving your opponent the chance to do a lot of things before Instill Furor has a chance to make them sacrifice the creature it enchants. The opponent gets to draw a card during their next turn, giving them a chance to draw an answer to your creature enchantment. The opponent also gets to use their creature enchanted with Instill Furor one more time before Instill Furor will require them to sacrifice it for not attacking. Instill Furor has the same problem as some of the other red uncommons near the bottom of this list, it’s terribly situational, making it the kind of card you want to avoid playing in your main deck.

Reroute is a very narrow card, only allowing you to redirect the use of an activated ability that involves only a single target. This card is an instant cantrip, but the ability provided is marginal and very situational.

BLUE UNCOMMONS

Remand is the best blue uncommon for limited
Ravnica: City of Guilds (or constructed) in Ravnica. The thing that makes Remand good in limited is that it will very often keep the opponent from accomplishing much with their turn while giving you a new card. At worst, this card will buy you a little time while getting you another card. At best, you can virtually steal an entire turn from your opponent in the early to mid-game for just two mana.

Belltower Sphinx is hard not to like. A lot of blue and black cards are great if you are playing a blue/black mill deck but not so hot if you aren’t. Even though the Sphinx’s ability to mill cards equal to its power whenever it hits your opponent, you don’t have to be dedicated to a mill strategy for this card to be very good. While other colors could ask for five mana for a 2/5 creature, yours is a flyer with a useful special combat ability. This card fits in every deck that has blue in it. In blue/black mill decks, he might be a blocker most of the time. In any deck with blue in it, he is a threat, one way or another.

Lore Broker lets each player draw a card and then discard a card. Not to get TOO technical, but your card draw goes on the stack before your opponent’s, but his card draw resolves before yours does, meaning that he gets his card before you draw yours. His discard-a-card will also resolve before he does, meaning you will see what he discards before you discard. This card is particularly useful when you have a card in your hand already but your opponent does not. When that happens, you are making choices about which of two cards to keep while your opponent is simply drawing and then discarding the card that they drew.

Mark of Eviction does what Remand does, but it does it over and over again. The reason that you can be confidant that Mark of Eviction is a good card is that YOU keep spending one blue mana to enchant one of your opponent’s more important creatures while THEY keep having to spend a lot more mana replaying their creature. This card is also good on your OWN creatures that have coming into play abilities or that are enchanted with creature enchantments that have coming into play abilities.

Telling Time is intended to be a mix of two great old library manipulation cards, Impulse and Brainstorm. Telling Time comes up short of either of these cards, but is still nominally useful for limited. In real terms, this card only helps you a little bit in limited formats, because in of itself, Telling Time only moves a few cards around from the top of your library. To make this card more useful in limited play, you need to have cheap powerful cards worth hunting for at instant speed, or ways to reshuffle your deck after you use Telling Time. Ultimately, the thing I like least about this card is that you are only affecting the position of three cards. If Telling Time said “DRAW three cards (it says LOOK at three cards) and then put one card from your hand on top of your library and one card from your hand on the bottom of your deck, it would be A LOT better. This card has all the restrictions of Impulse and Brainstorm with only some of the benefits of either.

Halcyon Glaze is an enchantment that turns into a 4/4 flyer until end of turn whenever you play a creature. This is an aggressive blue card that may not fit into all blue/black mill deck strategies, but which I like quite a bit. I would not be excited about Glaze if it cost any more mana than it does, or if you had to pay an activation cost. Since all you have to do to activate it is to play a creature, Halcyon Glaze becomes a very powerful card in the early to mid-game. At the same time, there will be times later in the game when you aren’t drawing and playing creature cards when Halcyon Glaze will be totally worthless. This card is a real think piece.

Wizened Snitches is a fairly unimpressive
Ravnica: City of Guilds 1/3 flyer for four mana that makes each player play with the top card of their library revealed. This card belongs somewhere towards the end of the line of cards worth starting in your main deck, but he probably makes the cut. Snootchy Boochies here probably has more value in the blue/black mill deck where it might come in more handy than usual to know what card is on top of the opponent’s deck.

Flow of Ideas will probably draw three or four cards for you when you play it, but six is a lot of mana. Tapping out for a four casting cost card drawing card can be worth it in the early and mid-game, but later in the game, you are taking a big chance spending your entire turn to draw a bunch of cards. This card is risky.

Mnemonic Nexus is already considered a sideboard worthy card in constructed, and will be particularly useful in the sideboard against blue/black block constructed mill decks next year. In limited, this card is strictly for your sideboard, where it is remotely possible that you would bring it in as some kind of new-fangled Feldon’s Cane that reshuffles BOTH players’ graveyards into their libraries.

Ethereal Usher taps to make one of your creatures unblockable this turn, and this card can be Transmuted for 1UU into another six casting cost card (is that important?). This card just costs too much to be considered very realistically. IF you are going to pay six mana for a dude, you want one that represents a real threat all by itself. Making a creature unblockable is a fine ability, but this card simply costs too much.

HYBRID UNCOMMONS

Selesnya Guildmage makes a 1/1 green
Ravnica: City of Guilds Saproling token for 3G and gives ALL creatures you control +1/+1 for 3W. Both abilities are so powerful in limited play that I think this is the most powerful of the four Guildmages for limited play.

Dimir Guildmage is my favorite Guildmage for limited. I like both of this card’s four mana cost abilities, the U3 ability to draw a card as well as the B3 ability to make a target player discard a card. In the end, the card draw ability is the only one you use normally, but this card is a powerful addition to one of the best two color combinations in Ravnica limited.

Golgari Guildmage has two powerful abilities, but at 4B and 4G, they are the two most expensive Guildmage abilities to use in Ravnica. Because of the cost of these two abilities, Golgari Guildmage is hard to take advantage of, although you will certainly play as many of them as you can get if you are playing green/black.

Boros Guildmage is the littlest Guildmage of all. I ALMOST think that the four hybrid uncommons, each a Guildmage (I love that name) for the four featured Guilds of Ravnica: City of Guilds, are equally great. I think the odd man out is Boros Guildmage (actually pictured as a female). I think the Boros Guildmage is significantly weaker than the other three. I have not really seen her ability to give a creature haste or first strike to be particularly effective in Ravnica limited play. It would have been easy to make one of her ability a damage dealing ability, but no, the designers of Ravnica made some sort of conscious decision not to let red have very much of its normal direct damage entries.

LAND UNCOMMONS

After a certain amount of limited play with Ravnica,
Ravnica: City of Guilds I have found that only two of the four uncommon lands see much play. Duskmantle, House of Shadow is a must-play for blue/black mill decks. Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree is a powerful part of many green/white decks. Even though the City-Tree requires an investment of 2GW and tapping the City-Tree itself in order to manufacture a 1/1 green Saproling token, this card seems to be much more viable than Svogthos, the Restless Tomb or Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. In the case of Sunhome, the problem is simply one of surprise and of resource cost. Tapping a total of five lands in order to give one creature double-strike until end of turn just doesn’t seem worth it often enough. I thought Svogthos would be more popular, but now that I have tried it, I think I know why it isn’t. Svogthos makes you dedicate six lands to the cause of attacking with an additional creature whose power and toughness will not get much above five or six in most cases.

ARTIFACT UNCOMMONS

Spectral Searchlight is the most useful uncommon artifact for Ravnica limited formats, in my opinion, because it solves your colored mana problems while also providing a cheap way to make your opponent take mana burn at the end of their turn (or any other time they have to clear their mana pool).

Voyager Staff seems totally innocuous at first, but it soon becomes clear that this little artifact is the answer for so many things. You can use it to save one of your own creatures from an opponent’s removal spell, or you can save your creature when lethal damage awaits it on the stack. You can also use it to make a creature enchantment fall off, or to counter a new creature enchantment. Finally, you can use it to get an opponent’s creature out of the way for one crucial attack. This card’s value is not without limits, however, so I would be surprised if multiple copies would be a good idea. There really is not an uncommon artifact that you would want to draft particularly high in a booster draft, and Voyager Staff is no exception.

Grifter’s Blade is cool because it’
Ravnica: City of Guilds s a relatively inexpensive combat trick that STICKS AROUND. Once the Blade is in play, its cheap Equip cost makes it easy to move from creature to creature.

Cyclopean Snare is not the world’s best Icy Manipulator wannabe, but it can be useful once you have enough mana. Eventually, you can use the snare once on the opponent’s turn and then possibly twice or even three times on your own turn in order to clear the way for a game-winning attack.

Junktroller is all wall, all the time, and the butt is enormous for this 0/6 creature. Junktroller makes it quite a bit more difficult for your opponent to run you out of cards with his mill deck, since you can use Junktroller’s ability in response to your card draw (in your draw step) to make sure you have a card to draw so that you don’t lose (to the inability to draw a card in your draw step). For this reason, you may want to keep a Junktroller stashed in your sideboard until you know your opponent is serious about milling away your deck.

Glass Golem may be a little better than the Leashling right below it on my list, but the difference is negligible. Glass Golem has the advantage of being a decent sized creature at 6/2 for five colorless mana. You can squeeze this guy into a lot of decks if you don’t have a better creature with a useful ability.

Leashling is ALMOST a six casting cost Blinking Spirit. The 3/3 and the colorless casting cost are both nice, but you won’t really want to activate Leashling’s return-to-hand ability any more often than necessary. However, when the game is dragging on and you and your opponent are hurting for ways to win the game, Leashling does give you some options. Most of the time, however, you won’t have room in your deck for more than a very few six casting cost cards. Leashling won't make the cut very often.

Peregrine Mask is a card that is only good when you are losing, and it’s only good when you play it on a good creature, which you wouldn’t be doing if you weren’t, well, losing. I just don’t like this card at all.

REVIEWING THE RAVNICA UNCOMMONS FOR LIMITED PLAY

Ravnica is simply full of rares and uncommons that are well-suited for limited play. Most big sets are. The difference is that WOTC Research and Development has outdone themselves this time around, successfully blending new ideas about playing multiple colors and multiple new game mechanics. Ravnica: City of Shadows has become an instant hit with players everywhere in the Magic world. There is no doubt that we will be talking about this set for many years to come. Many players compare Ravnica to Invasion, but I believe Ravnica surpasses Invasion in every way. While some very notable experts in limited play have cautioned that there are only a few deck archetypes in Ravnica booster draft, I would say the jury is very much out on this subject.

As good as this set is, I can’t help but dream about the next two sets in the Ravnica block. The synergies built into each of the four dual-colored Guilds introduced in Ravnica make me very excited about the surprises waiting for us in the next two expansion sets.

As always, I would love to know what you think!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@hotmail.com
Zanman on Magic Online


 

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