Magic The Gathering news, tips, strategies and more!
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.
Part Three – Uncommons in Limited Play
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.
It is difficult to review the gold cards
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 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
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 in
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
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
Moldervine Cloak is the best
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
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
Nullmage Shepherd gives you a decent
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.
Keening Banshee is the best black uncommon for
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
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
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.
Devouring Light is the best white
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
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
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 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.
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
Flash Conscription is the top red 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
Indentured Oaf is kind of nice, a big cheap red creature
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.
Remand is the best blue uncommon for limited (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
Wizened Snitches is a fairly unimpressive 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.
Selesnya Guildmage makes a 1/1 green
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
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.
After a certain amount of limited play with Ravnica, 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.
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
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’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
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
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!
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online
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