Ravages of War – Portal Three Kingdoms
Date Reviewed: June 8, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 3.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If you find your way over to the right parts of the internet and check out what’s being added to The List for Tales of Middle-earth, you’ll find that there’s a surprising number of existing Magic cards whose names or concepts recall the Lord of the Rings mythos. This raises various questions, but more importantly, I feel like the reference Tolkien might have wanted us to remember is Ravages of War. His experiences in World War I colored everything he ever wrote – the Dead Marshes in particular are considered to be a close adaptation of the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme.
Casting a card like Ravages of War in Magic is nowhere near as distressing as that, but it does tend to cause arguments and (over)analysis in its own right. Cards like this are often held up as examples of “anti-Magic”, which prevent things from happening and don’t advance the game state. I’m not opposed to such a concept, but it needs to be applied consistently, and – spoiler alert – it’s usually not. I happen to somewhat agree with the assessment in the context of this specific card: Ravages of War is good when you’re ahead and have momentum (ie. lots of artifact mana, classic hyper-evasive white creatures, etc), but when you’re not, it stops the game for a few turns. Remember, since it costs four mana, everyone has likely made low-cost plays by then, and needs more lands to start than they usually would. Presumably, you already spent time at the beginning of the session sitting around and waiting for a Magic game to start; and if you just want to hang around together, you don’t necessarily need Magic cards to be there at all.
Casual: 3 (it’s effective in certain decks and matchups, but why would you need to?)
Commander [EDH]: 3
Mass land destruction has been part of Magic since the beginning, though its presence has fallen off sharply in recent years as a result of its unpopularity and, frankly, it not being a great strategy. This isn’t to say that a well-timed Armageddon or Sunder won’t win you a game, but the issue is that they do little to swing a lost game, the very definition of a “win more” strategy. Still, there’s something about nuking all of the lands to put a game out of reach for your opponents that can make you feel warm inside.
That brings us to Ravages of War, which is a Chinese mythology-flavored version of the iconic Armageddon. Armageddon (whose sole Pojo review came in 2002) got reprints in both of the other Portal sets, but Portal Three Kingdoms got its own unique take. Unlike a spell like Warrior’s Oath or Imperial Seal, this is exactly the same, minus the name, as Armageddon, and it even shares Armageddon’s legality (Legacy, Vintage, and Commander).
That said, Ravages of War is plagued by the same issues as Armageddon: it is very much a win-more card, a four mana sorcery whose main objectives are either to lock down a game or to enact a bit of spite right before your opponents ream you. A well-timed Ravages of War can put a game out of reach, but this is a four mana sorcery that does little to thwart the board of creatures that may or may not be craving your soft, tender flesh at that very moment. It’s not without its uses, but neither Ravages of War nor Armageddon have seen Legacy or Vintage play in years, and I do not believe it’s shown up ever since Armageddon’s Sixth Edition outing (its last run in Standard) rotated out of Extended. Making the most of this demands either an insurmountable board state or a bevy of baubles and artifacts to keep the engines going.
Anymore, mass land removal is a win-more maneuver or just a way to tilt a table off of the face of the planet, which is not a wholly unreasonable approach if you are so inclined. Ravages of War will set you back a pretty penny to do so, as it’s $150 for the judge promo or $350 for the original printing, quite an increase from the $7 Armageddons you can get…but, honestly, sometimes you just need a very stylish, showy way to tilt a table, and this will do the job.
Constructed: 2 (there are better ways to wipe out all of the lands, and a four-mana spell in Legacy has a pretty step bar to get over to be worth playing)
Casual: 3 (call this splitting the difference between your opponents being impressed by a Ravages of War and them wanting to wreck you for blowing up their lands)
Limited: 2 (it’s functionally the same as Armageddon, so I’m fine giving it a Limited score; Armageddon isn’t a great Limited play, just serving to drag a game out even more unless you’re already winning)
Multiplayer: 3.25 (you’d better be planning on winning as soon as possible)
Commander [EDH]: 3.5 (it is a second Armageddon, and sometimes a salt mine needs more ways to mine the salt)
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