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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 Roadmap
It’s Easy to Get Lost in the City of Guilds by Jeff Zandi
Sept. 23, 2005 by Jeff Zandi

Ravnica: City of Guilds premieres tomorrow in pre-release events all across the country. The newest stand-alone expansion to Magic: the Gathering has been the object of highly charged anticipation and speculation for many months. Some are already comparing Ravnica: City of Guilds to the year 2000 release Invasion. This comparison is based primarily on the very large number of gold (multi-colored) cards in both sets. After seeing the new set, you will know right away that such a comparison is accurate only on the surface. A set with as many multi-colored cards and new abilities as Ravnica contains can be a little confusing to players first experiencing the set. I hope you will find some of the information in this brief “Ravnica Roadmap” helpful in making sense of this exciting new set.

Ravnica: City of Guilds is a set with something for everybody. Everybody thirteen years old or older, that is. Tournament packs (we used to call these sealed decks) as well as booster packs carry a label stating simply “age 13+”. This is a first for packaging of any Magic: the Gathering product to date. I guess we’ll be checking IDs at the pre-release.

Right out of the box, Ravnica is easily the most interesting expansion in several years. Multi-color is the reason, but this new set has a lot more going for it than gold cards. Ravnica introduces a brand new idea called “hybrid” cards. These are the cards with the strange split mana symbols. These split mana symbols represent a cost that can be paid with either of two different colors of mana. These cards are NOT gold cards because you don’t have to be playing both of the colors involved in a hybrid card’s casting cost in order to use this card in your deck.

At first glance, I felt that a lot of the creatures in the set were slightly overcosted, at least as compared to last year’s Kamigawa block. After experiencing the new set, I think that the card costs are very even across the set. The general cost of a basic 2/2 or 3/3 creature may be higher than in some other sets, costing four or five mana in this set (respectively) as opposed to three or four mana. However, on the whole, I have found the cards in Ravnica: City of Guilds to be fairly costed. In limited play, this set may end up being a bit on the bomb-driven side, since some of the higher costed rare creatures can turn a game decisively if they suddenly appear in play for one player or the other. This can be said of a lot of sets. The extremely powerful rare creatures in Ravnica seem to be a little more difficult to cast (think multiple intensities of multiple colors), a feature that may make these cards more fair in limited formats than the so-called “bomb rares” of other sets.

The Ravnica block, which includes Ravnica: City of Guilds as well as the two smaller expansions that will follow in 2006, will tell the story of ten guilds, each represented by one of the ten possible two color combinations in Magic. However, each of the ten guilds are not represented equally in each of these sets. Ravnica: City of Guilds focuses on four of the ten guilds, the House Dimir (blue/black), the Golgari (black/green), the Boros Legion (red/white) and the Selesnya Conclave (green/white). Because this set focuses on these four guilds, all of the hybrid colored cards involve only the four dual color combinations of the four guilds mentioned above. The card count in Ravnica: City of Guilds is intentionally unbalanced with respect to color. This is also a function of how this set focuses on the four two colored guilds.

DIFFERENT GUILDS - DIFFERENT ABILITIES

Each guild in Ravnica has a new ability exhibited only on cards from that guild’s color combinations.

Convoke belongs to the green/white guild. When cards with the Convoke ability are played, their mana cost can be reduced by tapping untapped creatures on your side. For every creature you tap with a card’s Convoke ability, you reduce that card’s effective casting cost by one of the color of the tapped creature. Gather Courage, for example, is an instant that gives a target creature +2/+2 until end of turn and which has the Convoke ability. When you play Gather Courage, you can pay the one green mana cost as normal, or you can use the Convoke ability to tap a green creature (this could be either a mono-colored green creature or a creature that is both green and another color) to reduce the cost of Gather Courage by one green mana, making it possible to play this spell seemingly for free. There are instants that have Convoke, and these are the most interesting to me, because they can be played at the end of your opponent’s turn, when tapping your own creatures as part of the Convoke ability has the least negative impact on your side of the board.

Transmute is an ability found only on cards aligned with the blue/black House Dimir guild. Drift of Phantasms is an 0/5 Spirit with defender and flying that costs 2U and which has the Transmute ability. You can play this card as an 0/5 creature, or you can use the card’s Transmute ability for 1UU. If you do, you can discard Drift of Phantasms to search your library for any card with the same converted mana cost (three in the case of this card, unrelated to the Transmute ability cost) and put that card directly into your hand after revealing the card and reshuffling your library. You can only play a card’s Transmute ability when you could play a sorcery. Basically, every card in your deck with Transmute can be used as a “Demonic Tutor” type card for any other card in your library with the same converted mana cost. Remember, the card you search for only has to be the same CONVERTED mana cost, so you can use the Transmute ability of a blue card to search for a card of ANY color, as long as the total/converted mana cost is the same.

Radiance is an ability of the Boros Legion (red/white guild). Cards with the Radiance ability affect not only the card they target, but also every card that that share a color with the targeted creature. Incite Hysteria is a sorcery that costs 2R and has Radiance. When you play Incite Hysteria, you choose a target creature, that creature and all creatures that share a color with the target creature cannot block this turn. Leave No Trace is an instant for 1W that has Radiance and which destroys a target enchantment and all other enchantments in play that share a color with the targeted enchantment.

Dredge is the ability belonging to the black/green Golgari guild, and is probably the most powerful of the four guild-based abilities introduced in Ravnica: City of Guilds. Cards with the Dredge ability can be returned to your hand from the graveyard. It works like this: Darkblast is an instant that costs one black mana that gives a target creature -1/-1 until end of turn. Darkblast has Dredge 3. Anytime that you are about to draw a card for any reason (like your draw step, or when you play a card or ability that causes you to draw a card) you can use the Dredge ability of a card in your graveyard. If you were about to draw a card and you wanted to use Darkblast’s Dredge ability from the graveyard, you could return Darkblast to your hand by putting the top three cards (because Darkblast has Dredge 3) of your library into your graveyard instead of drawing a card. The two most important things to remember about Dredge (which, to be honest, confused me for a little while) are that you can only use the ability to replace the drawing of a card only when you were about to draw a card, and secondly, that you don’t HAVE to use the Dredge ability when you don’t want to. Just because there is a card in your graveyard with Dredge, you don’t have to use that card’s Dredge ability when you would draw a card if you don’t want to. Maybe I need to draw a card this turn, so I’ll draw my card as normal but possibly use Darkblast’s Dredge ability to return it to my hand next turn during my draw step if I feel like it.

IS IT HARD TO PLAY ALL THESE MULTI-COLORED CARDS?

Good question. The good news is that Ravnica: City of Guilds is FULL of cards that help you play all of the different multi-colored cards.

Common mana fixers include four lands that tap to produce two mana. However, these lands come into play tapped and require you to return a land you control back to your hand. This small hassle is well worth the effort to give yourself regular access to multiple colors. Boros Garrison taps to give you a red AND a white mana, while Dimir Aqueduct produces a blue and a black mana, Golgari Rot Farm produces a black and a green mana and Selesnya Sanctuary produces a green and a white mana. Each of the four two-color guild color combinations are also represented on a series of four common artifact Signets. Each of these artifacts cost two mana and produce two mana when you pay one colorless and tap the artifact. Boros Signet produces a red and a white mana when you tap it and pay one colorless. Similarly, Dimir Signet produces a blue and a black, Selesnya Signet produces a green and a white and Golgari Signet produces a black and a green.

For the green mage, as in most blocks, there are a few more options for smoothing out your needs for multiple colors of mana. Elves of Deep Shadow is reprinted from The Dark for the first time ever, a 1/1 Elf Druid that taps for one black mana while dealing one damage to you. Farseek is a new take on Rampant Growth. Farseek is a sorcery that costs 1G that puts a Plains, Island, Swamp or Mountain card into play from your library tapped.

Spectral Searchlight is an uncommon artifact that costs three mana. When you tap the Searchlight, you choose a player (which can be one of your opponents or yourself). The chosen player adds one mana of any color he chooses into his mana pool. This card can be used to give yourself access to any color of mana, or you can use the Searchlight to give your opponent unwanted mana at the end of their turn (or at the end of any of step of their turn) in order to cause that player to take mana burn. This card will be very popular in limited right away.

Rare mana fixers include four of what many are calling Magic’s new dual lands. These four lands each produce one mana of either of two colors and count as each of two land types, like the blue/black land that counts as both an Island and a Swamp. These lands come into play untapped if you are willing to take two points of damage, or else come into play tapped. The four new dual lands, Texas players have coined the name “Shock Lands”, include blue/black, black/green, green/white and white/red. The other six rare dual lands will appear in the future expansions in this block.

The ultimate mana fixer, and one of the most highly anticipated cards from Ravnica, is Birds of Paradise. Birds of Paradise was not included in the July release of Ninth Edition, the first time Birds of Paradise had not appeared in Magic’s basic set since the game began. Now, Birds of Paradise is back and better than ever with all new black bordered art, the first black bordered (non-foil) Birds of Paradise available since the Asian black bordered Fourth Edition of ten years ago.

More important than simply including lots of mana fixers, however, is the clever way the designers of Ravnica guide you into playing certain colors together. After looking at the set for awhile, you will see how the gold and hybrid cards sort of encourage you to play lots of cards that fit together because they are either cards of different colors but of the same guild (blue/black, black/green, green/white or white/red) or because they are cards belonging to two different guilds that share one color between them. For example, green/white hybrid cards fit well in a red/white deck because a green/white hybrid card can be played with only white mana.

OTHER INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT RAVNICA

The art found in Ravnica: City of Guilds is striking and very interesting. The multi colored card backgrounds of the new hybrid cards are very attractive, as are the cards whose text boxes contain one of the guild symbols in the background. The basic lands not only have amazing art that clearly evokes the real estate of the city of Ravnica, but also are vividly colored in a way that makes it easier than usual to determine what kind of mana the land produces.

JUST GETTING STARTED WITH THIS SET

In the days and weeks to come, we will all learn a lot more about what Ravnica: City of Guilds has to offer. So far, from the small amount I have been able to experience, I have to say that I am genuinely excited about the set, more than I have been in a long time. I liked last year’s Kamigawa block more than a lot of my friends and teammates, and I liked the year before’s Mirrodin block as well, but I think Ravnica has as much to offer and more than any set since the Invasion block. At the same time, I would never try to say that this new set is a rehashing of the things we say in Invasion block. While both sets provide a study in color interaction, Ravnica’s use of guilds and the innovation of hybrid cards make multi-colored strategies more interesting than ever before.

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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