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 One – Green, White and Black Commons by Jeff
October 14, 2005 by Jeff Zandi
Ravnica: City of
Guilds is a monstrous set
full of amazing cards
with never-before-seen capabilities. Ravnica is a richer set
than any produced by Wizards of the Coast in many years.
This set is so multi-layered and complex that it is a little
hard to know where to start. So, in order to eat this
elephant of a set, I plan to start with a single bite. In
this article, I have reviewed the fifteen commons from each
of the following colors; green, white and black. Next week,
I will review the rest of the commons including red and
blue, as well as the common gold cards, artifacts, hybrid
cards (the cards with the strange-looking split mana symbols
in their casting cost) and common non-basic lands.
In each color, I have reviewed the cards from best to worst,
in my opinion.
Since limited formats are the first environment that players
(including me) tend to encounter cards from any new set, my
card review is primarily from the limited play point of
TIER ONE – ALWAYS PLAY
Farseek is a sorcery for 1G that
lets you search your library for a Plains, Island, Swamp or
Mountain and put it into play tapped. If you are playing
green in a limited format, you certainly are playing some
other color as well. More often than not, your limited deck
will need access to a third color. Farseek hooks you up on
turn two. Not as good as Rampant Growth, but in the city
limits of Ravnica, Farseek is as good as it gets. In Ravnica
limited formats you play green for two reasons: mana fixing
and big men.
Since mana fixing may be the most important job of green,
Farseek is the best common in the set for limited. It’s not
a surprise that the next two best green limited cards are
also mana fixers. In constructed formats, Farseek may be
useful since it can search for certain non-basic lands like
the new dual lands (SHOCK LANDS) from the Ravnica block as
well as the original dual lands.
Elves of Deep Shadow is a 1/1 Elf Druid for one green mana
that taps for black mana and deals a point of damage to you.
This is really only a good mana fixer for you if you are
playing black. Luckily, in Ravnica, if you are playing
green, there’s a pretty good chance you are playing at least
a little black as well. This card is a reprint, appearing in
print for the first time since it originally appeared in The
Dark. The old art is cooler.
Civic Wayfinder is a 2/2 Elf Warrior Druid for 2G. When he
comes into play, you may search your library for a basic
land card, reveal it and put it into your hand. This is a
very useful early game play that you will make many times in
Ravnica limited formats.
Siege Wurm is a 5/5 Wurm with Trample and Convoke for 5GG.
With the Convoke ability, this big trampling body is easy
enough to play in most limited decks by turn five, even if
it means tapping all your creatures using his Convoke
ability. He would be a higher booster draft pick if he were
a little easier to play.
Elvish Skysweeper is a 1/1 Elf Warrior for one green mana
who lets you pay 4G and sacrifice a creature in order to
destroy a flying creature. This little guy is HUGE. Even
with a toughness of one, the Skysweeper turns out to be very
hard to get rid of, it seems. Elvish Skysweeper has two
really good things going for him that make him so feared by
your opponent. First and most important, you can sacrifice
ANY of your creatures to use the Skysweeper’s ability to
destroy a flyer. Secondly, you can use the Skysweeper’s
ability the turn that you play it since it doesn’t require
tapping. This also means that you can use Skysweeper’s
ability multiple times in a turn if you have enough mana.
It’s easy to underrate this creature, but once you see how
good he is, you’ll include one in every limited deck.
Greater Mossdog is a 3/3 Hound with Dredge 3 for 3G. The
thing about the Dredge ability is that it’s really only good
when it’s on a card that you would REALLY want back from the
graveyard over and over. Mossdog’s 3/3 body qualifies.
Transluminant is a 2/2 Dryad Shaman for 1G that can be
sacrificed for one white mana to put a 1/1 white Spirit
token with flying into play at the end of the turn. This is
a quality 2/2 bear for two mana that gives you a two-for-one
as long as you are playing white. It doesn’t hurt that many
green decks in limited formats also contain white cards.
Bramble Elemental is a 4/4 Elemental for 3GG. Whenever a
creature enchantment (we’re calling these things AURAs now)
becomes attached to this creature, you get two 1/1 green
Saproling tokens. Basically, this card is just a nice 4/4
man most of the time. I don’t generally like creatures that
require you to play some certain other card to get any
special benefit from the creature you have already played. I
learned to get over that last year with the Spirit/Arcane
TIER TWO – POSSIBLY PLAYABLE
Gather Courage is an instant with Convoke that gives a
target creature +2/+2 until end of turn for just one green
mana. It’s sneaky and fun that you can simply tap one of
your green creatures (like the one that just blocked but
needs a little help in order to survive combat) to pay for
the spell using this card’s Convoke ability.
Scatter the Seeds is an instant for 3GG with Convoke that
puts three 1/1 green Saproling tokens into play. As an
instant, this card can provide surprise blockers to help you
on your opponent’s turn. More importantly, Scatter the Seeds
can be cheaply played at the end of your opponent’s turn
when you have untapped creatures with which to use Scatter’s
Convoke ability. Creatures with Convoke are good, sorceries
with Convoke are BAD and instants with Convoke are the best,
at least with respect to the ability to make use of the
Golgari Brownscale is a 2/3 Lizard with Dredge 2 that costs
1GG. Any time you return this creature to your hand from the
graveyard, you gain two life.
Dredging this guy up from your graveyard is not always going
to be the first thing on your list to do, but it’s nice to
know you can guarantee a creature with your next draw if
this little guy is staring at you from the graveyard.
As a creature, Golgari Brownscale may not be too exciting,
but still provides a very reliable blocker and sometimes
attacker in the early to mid game.
TIER THREE – NOT A STARTER
Sundering Vitae is an instant with Convoke for 2G that
destroys an artifact or enchantment. For only one more mana
than Naturalize, you get an equally powerful card that can
be paid with no untapped mana in front of you by simply
tapping three of your creatures (as long as one of them is
This card will be a very useful sideboard card in Ravnica
limited formats. I also think this card will find its way
into some constructed decks’
sideboards simply because of the Convoke ability, replacing
Naturalize in some constructed sideboards.
Fists of Ironwood is a creature enchantment for 1G that puts
two 1/1 green Saproling tokens into play when you play it
and gives the creature it enchants trample. The blue and the
black common creature enchantments are given more credit
than this one, but I like the fact that Fists of Ironwood
gives your creature a somewhat decent ability AND gives you
two 1/1 dudes.
In a way, the two things you get from this card will be good
at entirely different parts of the game. On turn two or
three, you might want to play this card simply to get two
more creatures into play. Late in the game, the two 1/1s may
be much less important than the trample ability. In either
case, green is so rich in playable commons that I find it
hard to make room for this card. Normally, you don’t go out
of your way to play a card that gives one creature an
ability like trample. The fact that you get two 1/1s
definitely makes this card much more playable, but it’s far
from being a sure member of your starting team.
Dryad’s Caress is an instant for 4GG that gains for you a
point of life for each creature in play. If any white mana
was spent in the playing of this card, you also untap all
creatures you control. This card hasn’t been given much of a
chance so far, I have to admit, but there could be a time
and place in limited play when you would want to use this
admittedly expensive combat trick.
Stone-Seeder Hierophant is a 1/1 Human Druid for 2GG that
taps to untap a target land. Furthermore, whenever a land
comes into play on your side of the board, this creature
untaps. Sorry, not good enough. It’s remarkable that among
fifteen green commons, this is the only card that I truly
think is completely unplayable. Even more remarkably, I
understand that there could be arguments made on behalf of
TIER ONE – ALWAYS PLAY
Last Gasp is an instant for 1B that gives a target creature
-3/-3 until end of turn. While this card is far from perfect
as far as fast, cheap removal goes, it does its job well
enough to be the best black common for limited play. This
card, as well as the next two, are somewhat special in that
they are very reasonably costed black removal spells that
can each destroy black creatures. Their design is obviously
very important in a set where so many cards have black in
their casting cost.
Brainspoil is a sorcery for 3BB that destroys a target
creature that isn’t enchanted, that creature cannot be
regenerated. This card also has Transmute 1BB, which allows
you to discard this card for 1BB to search for another five
mana cost card from your library, reveal it, and put it into
Mostly, you’ll just point this at a creature that’s
bothering you and hope that you remember not to point it at
Disembowel is an instant for XB that destroys a target
creature with converted mana cost of X. This card is so much
better as an instant, not only for purposes of surprise, but
also because the end of your opponent’s turn is a much safer
time to have all your mana tapped. You might have to tap A
LOT of mana when you use this card.
Stinkweed Imp is a 1/2 Imp with flying and Dredge 5 for 2B.
Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a creature,
destroy that creature. I overlooked this creature’s value at
first, but there’s just no getting around it, Stinkweed Imp
is reusable creature removal. So far, Research and
Development seems to have gotten the Dredge costs right. If
a card has a high Dredge cost, and five is the highest that
I’ve seen, chances are the card is pretty powerful.
Regardless, Stinkweed Imp is a card that your opponent will
not be happy to see you play, and certainly not when you
play him over and over again.
Dimir House Guard is a 2/3 Skeleton with fear and Transmute
1BB for 3B. This creature also has the ability to regenerate
by sacrificing a creature you control. This creature has
everything you need in a card. If your opponent isn’t
playing black, or not much black, you probably want to play
a creature with fear. If your opponent has a lot of black
creatures, you might want a regenerating creature, or you
might want to use the Transmute ability to go into your deck
and find a four casting cost card that you would rather have
hand than Dimir House Guard.
Sewerdreg is a 3/3 Spirit with Swampwalk for 3BB.
You can sacrifice
Sewerdreg to remove a card in any graveyard from the game.
Swampwalk is good for you whether your opponent is playing a
lot of black in his deck or even just a little. There will
also be times when you sacrifice this guy to get a Dredge
spell out of your opponent’s graveyard.
TIER TWO – POSSIBLY PLAYABLE
Roofstalker Wight is a 2/1 Zombie for 1B that gains flying
until end of turn when you spend 1U. There really is nothing
wrong with a 2/1 bear for two mana. The ability to give this
creature flying is not as important as you might think.
Early in the game, when there are no flying blockers to kill
this guy, you won’t particularly want to use your mana every
turn giving this guy flight. Late in the game, when you need
flyers most, Roofstalker Wight’s body will be too small to
provide more than a one turn speedbump.
Clinging Darkness is a creature enchantment for 1B that
gives the enchanted creature -4/-1 until end of turn. This
card provides SOME limited removal capability. Sometimes, it
might be enough to use this card to take the steam out of an
opponent’s creature even if it doesn’t actually kill it. I
tend to not like this card very much because I don’t trust
that the creature I enchant with it will end up dying
without taking one of my creatures with it. This may be a
card you just have to play though, if your opponent has
important cards with one toughness or if you need an answer
to flying creatures.
Mortipede is a 4/1 Insect for 3B. For 2G, all creatures able
to block Mortipede this turn must do. Even though green is a
popular secondary color for black limited decks in Ravnica,
I have not gotten much use out of this card’s activated
ability. Most often, this is simply a good blocker or else
an attacker that generally takes down whatever blocks it.
Good, but not great.
Strands of Undeath is a creature enchantment for 3B that
causes your opponent to discard two cards from their hand
when it comes into play. This enchantment also lets you
regenerate the enchanted creature for one black mana.
Nothing wrong with making your opponent discard two cards,
but whenever this card is in my hand on turn four, I seem to
have better things to do with my turn than playing this
card. This card is useful, but easy enough to leave out of
Sadistic Augermage is a 3/1 Human Wizard for 2B. When this
creature is put into a graveyard from play, each player puts
a card from their hand on top of their library. This card
would be a lot better if it only made your opponent put a
card on top of their deck. As it is, this card is not that
good for your early game board development. You would rather
play Mortipede for 3B than to spend one less for this guy.
TIER THREE – NOT A STARTER
Shred Memory is an instant for 1B that removes up to four
target cards in a single graveyard from the game. This card
also has Transmute 1BB, allowing you to discard Shred Memory
when you spend 1BB to search your library for any card
costing two mana. Transmute is really this card’s best use.
If you don’t have Last Gasp or some other important two
casting cost spell to search for, you probably shouldn’t put
Shred Memory in your limited deck.
Thoughtpicker Witch is a 1/1 Human Wizard for one black
mana. For one mana and the sacrifice of a creature,
Thoughtpicker Witch lets you look at the top two cards of an
opponent’s library and then remove one of those cards from
the game. Not wonderful. The best this card gets is letting
you selectively mill your opponent’s deck each time one of
your creatures is on its way to the graveyard. Don’t fall in
love with the idea that you’re going to wreck your
opponent’s deck with this card’s ability. Unless you have a
million Saproling tokens, you will run out of creatures
before they run out of cards. Could be fun, though.
Necromantic Thirst is a creature enchantment for 2BB that
gives the enchanted creature the ability to return a
creature card from your graveyard to your hand whenever the
enchanted creature deals combat damage to a player. I
thought this might be a really good card…play it on an
evasive creature to get a bunch of creatures back from my
graveyard, holy card advantage! Well, it doesn’t usually
work out that way. This card is too situational to be really
good in limited play, because you don’t know when you will
have an evasive creature to play, or when you will be able
to play this on any of your creatures unlikely to be
blocked. If you are lucky enough to get an opening early in
the game, you may very well not have any creatures in your
graveyard yet. In any event, you have everything go your way
and manage only a single card from your graveyard before
your opponent two-for-ones you by dealing with your
enchanted creature on his next turn.
Not powerful enough to worry about, just don’t play it.
Infectious Host is a 1/1 Zombie for 2B. When this creature
goes to your graveyard from play, a target player loses two
life. This is not a very good creature, in case you couldn’t
tell just by looking at it. Still, I have had to play with
this guy in my deck, and he just doesn’t do too much for
Don’t play him if you don’t have to.
TIER ONE – ALWAYS PLAY
Faith’s Fetters is an enchantment for 3W that stops all
activated abilities of the enchanted PERMANENT from being
played (except for mana abilities). If the enchanted
permanent is a creature, it cannot attack or block. This
card is Arrest and Pithing Needle rolled into one. Yup, it
costs four mana, but this card is COMMON. This card gives
you a lot of options and is the best common card for limited
Conclave Equenaut is a a 3/3 Human Soldier with
and Convoke for 4WW.
Without Convoke, this card would still be a quality white
common. WITH CONVOKE, this card is a powerful evasive
creature easily playable on turn four. Very good, especially
in a set where evasion is very important like Ravnica.
Veteran Armorer is a 2/2 Human Soldier for 1W that gives all
your other creatures +0/+1. Just about as good a common bear
as you can imagine. This card gives you good early beatdown
and then eventually sits back making all of your other dudes
a little harder to kill.
Nightguard Patrol is a 2/1 Human Soldier with first strike
and vigilance for 2W. In Ravnica, good creatures at cheap
casting costs are at a premium.
Vigilance puts this card over the top, giving you good early
offense and defense all in one cheap creature. A toughness
of one is this card’s only Achilles’ heel, but it’s a
Screeching Griffin is a 2/2 Griffin with Flying. For the
cost of one red mana, you can make a target creature unable
to block Screeching Griffin this turn. I’m not necessarily
thrilled with the four casting cost 2/2 that you find
throughout Ravnica, but in this card, the cost is justified.
Longtime Magic players are familiar with the four casting
cost 2/2 Griffin card (there have been seven of them,
Razorfoot Griffin most notably). If you are playing white in
Ravnica, there is such a high probability that your deck
also contains red that this creature’s red costed activated
ability will be useful more often than not.
Courier Hawk is a 1/2 Bird with Flying and Vigilance for 1W.
This is one of the few plain vanilla creatures (creatures
with no abilities detailed in the card’s text box) created
by WOTC these days. Yes, 1/2 creatures, even flyers, have
not been particularly useful in the past, but evasion is
very important in Ravnica, creature enchantments are many
and cheap creature removal spells are few, so this little
guy is entirely feasible for your starting lineup.
TIER TWO – POSSIBLY PLAYABLE
Benevolent Ancestor is a 0/4 Spirit creature with Defender
for 2W. (just between you and me, I call these things WALLS)
Benevolent Ancestor taps to prevent the next one point of
damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this
turn. Samite Healer and similar creatures are always
entirely playable in limited formats, and they rarely get in
there and attack.
However, Benevolent Ancestor is all butt and no action,
unable to attack but providing excellent ground defense with
damage prevention to boot.
Dromad Purebred is a 1/5 Beast for 4W that causes you to
gain one life whenever Dromad Purebred is dealt damage. I
played this guy the first time I played with Ravnica
thinking that he had gained life for me for ALL damage dealt
to him, not just one. As he is, he’s still possibly playable
as a big wall that might gain a point or two for you now and
then. Not horrible, but not too good either. Cards that cost
five need to help you win a little more than this llama
Boros Fury-Shield is an instant for 2W that prevents all
combat damage that would be dealt by target attacking or
blocking creature this turn. If red mana is used to play
this card, it deals damage to that creature’s controller
equal to the creature’s power. Even without the ability to
use red mana to make this card actually deal damage to your
opponent, there is nothing wrong with playing one of these
in your deck to prevent all damage dealt by one creature.
With the ability added to this card when you pay red mana in
its cost, this card becomes much, much better. This is
really a white/red card. In a red/white deck, this card is a
lot more like a MUST PLAY card.
Wojek Siren is an instant with Radiance for one white mana.
Target creature and each other creature that shares a color
with it gain +1/+1 until end of turn. This card would be
just fine, even VERY GOOD if it said “target creature YOU
CONTROL and all creatures that share a color with it THAT
YOU CONTROL…” The problem with the Radiance effects is that
you want them to do only bad things to your opponent’s
creatures and only good things to your creatures.
Unfortunately, you can’t anticipate what colors all of your
opponents are playing when you build your deck. This card
fits best snugly in your sideboard until you know for sure
what colors your opponent is playing.
Votary of the Conclave is a 1/1 Human Soldier for one white
mana. You can regenerate the Votary by spending 2G. This is
really a green/white card in a way. If you don’t have easy
access to green mana in your white deck, this creature is
quite bad obviously. With the ability to regenerate him,
Votary of the Conclave is no MVP, but he certainly could be
TIER THREE – NOT A STARTER
Gate Hound is a 1/1 Hound for 2W that gives all of your
creatures vigilance as long as Gate Hound is enchanted.
Giving all of your creatures vigilance is a worthy goal, but
not necessarily one worth using two cards to achieve.
(the Gate Hound and a creature enchantment) This card could
be worth playing OCCASIONALLY if your deck happens to
contain four or more creature enchantments that you would
play on your own creatures. In limited play, this card just
won’t be good enough often enough to worry about.
Caregiver is a 1/1 Human Cleric for one white mana. For one
white mana and a creature sacrifice, you can prevent the
next one point of damage that would be dealt to target
creature or player this turn. Asleep yet? I don’t blame you,
this is a minimally interesting creature if ever there was
However, on the plus side, it’s a 1/1 for one mana that has
a special ability. The ability is terrible, though. When it
comes to preventing damage, you can find more efficient ways
than having to sacrifice a creature every time you want to
prevent a measly one point of damage.
Conclave’s Blessing is an enchantment for 3W with Convoke
that gives enchanted creature +0/+2 for every other creature
you control. In my opinion, this is the worst of the common
enchantments in the set. Convoke seems like a
counter-intuitive ability for a highly defensive card like
this one. This card says “I like to block things” and yet to
use the Convoke ability, you would have to want to tap some
of your creatures, leaving your side less protected for your
opponent’s next turn.
Leave No Trace is an instant with Radiance for 1W. Destroy
target enchantment and each other enchantment that shares a
color with it.
Radiance, that twin edged sword that cuts both ways, is less
of a problem in this case, since both players are not
particularly likely to have enchantments in play at the same
time. At the same time, this card can kill two Faith’s
Fetters at one time. I have personally had three of my
creatures held down with three copies of Faith’s Fetters at
the same time. Leave No Trace is a pretty bad name for a
Magic card, but to get rid of three copies of Faith’s
Fetters (quite a bad card name, too) I would play a card
called Leave It To Beaver if I had to. Strictly sideboard
REVIEWING THE GREEN, BLACK AND WHITE COMMONS
It should be comforting to limited players that SO MANY of
the commons from these three colors are very playable. In my
opinion, after playing with the set for about a week, I feel
the removal spells are fairly thinly distributed. Black has
some good ones, and next week, I’ll talk about what the red
commons have to offer. I think Ravnica limited formats will
be about mana. Players successful at building mana bases
that work well for their decks will have much more success
than the inexperienced player whose deck contains some
amazingly powerful rares that he never seems to be able to
get into play. In this way, Ravnica rewards good players
even in an extremely bomb-filled limited environment.
Of course, I would love to know what you think!
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online
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