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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 One – Green, White and Black Commons by Jeff Zandi
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 view.

GREEN COMMONS

TIER ONE – ALWAYS PLAY

Farseek is a sorcery for 1G that
Ravnica: City of Guilds 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 sensitive creatures.

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 Convoke mechanic.

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 green).
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 this card.

BLACK COMMONS

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 your hand.
Mostly, you’ll just point this at a creature that’s bothering you and hope that you remember not to point it at enchanted creatures.

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 in y
Ravnica: City of Guilds our 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. ‘Nuff said.
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 your deck.

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 you.
Don’t play him if you don’t have to.

WHITE COMMONS

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 in white.

Conclave Equenaut is a a 3/3 Human Soldier with
Ravnica: City of Guilds Flying 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 serious one.

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 does.

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 playable.

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 one.
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 stuff.

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!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
zanman@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online



 

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