The return to the best world Wizards ever created is shaping up to be quite the epic sequel. I was nervous about returning to a previous world after Scars block turned out so horribly.
If you like what Wizards did with Mirrodin, I am happy for you, but I found the three sets lackluster other than a hand full of cool constructed cards (the swords mainly). Phyrexian mana was neat at first but cheating on mana is never a good thing for a healthy constructed environment. Basically Scars block is my least favorite since I began playing Magic. With that in mind, you can imagine how unhappy I was about going back to Ravnica so soon.
It turns out I had no reason to worry. Return to Ravnica is shaping up to be quite an awesome set. With only a third of the set spoiled I am already excited. There are a ton of new cards split over the five guilds that look fun and interesting.
One trend I am noticing in this set is a power level of spells much closer to that of creatures. We all know Wizards has focused on making Standard all about battling with creatures, which has inevitably resulted in better and better creatures. In the new set it seems that the power level of the spells is increasing as well.
Last week, I talked about the three guild charms that have been spoiled so far. Those spells seem obviously powerful to me. It may be that Wizards sees this multicolored block as an opportunity to push the power level across the board.
Selections from the Spoiler
Today I want to talk about some of the cards that seem pushed in power level.
First up we have Slaughter Games. Here are its predecessors:
Adding uncounterability to this spell is a clear increase in power level. It is certainly much better than the extra damage offered by Thought Hemorrhage. At four mana, these Cranial Extraction remakes have been mostly unplayable, but with the additional ability Slaughter Games becomes very reasonable.
This time around sideboards may have quite a bit more Slaughter Games in them. The presence of this Rakdos hate card may limit the possibilities of a combo deck existing in Standard as well.
In original Ravnica, we had powerful spells like Putrefy and Mortify that players still remember and wish would return to Standard. Now, we are chopping off a mana from those types of effects in both Dreadbore and Abrupt Decay.
The obvious comparison for Dreadbore is to Terminate because they cost the same mana and provide similar effects. Essentially we lose a big strength from Terminate (being an instant) to gain strength in another area (the ability to kill a planeswalker). Dreadbore seems quite strong and should see some play. Being a sorcery does hurt its chances but the ability to destroy a planeswalker outright, which has never been printed before, makes it worth the drawback.
Abrupt Decay on the other hand basically does it all. The combination of low mana cost, uncounterability, versatility and instant speed should give this spell the opportunity to shine in multiple formats.
Most players are talking about the Modern and Legacy implications, but it will certainly impact Standard as well. Because you are limited by targets that cost three or less, you most likely won’t want the full four copies, but that won’t stop this card from having a big effect.
Next up we have Supreme Verdict. This card is not getting much attention at all and I have no clue why. A Day of Judgment that can’t be countered! The main reason Day of Judgment was not seeing play in Standard is because it would just get countered by all the Delver players. With Verdict that is no longer an option.
I still think Terminus is better because of creatures’ resiliency in the format right now but adding uncounterability to Wrath of God is a crazy bump in power level. This card also seems insane in EDH if you play that format.
Even though counterspells are not nearly as powerful as they used to be thanks to the uncounterability cycle and Cavern of Souls, reprinting Syncopate scares me a bit. For comparison, I have been playing Condescend in my Modern decks for a while now. These x counterspells can be used either as a two-mana counter like Mana Leak or as a kind of Spell Blast late-game, adding lots of versatility to the world of permission.
While I don’t want to be the one holding up counters when people can simply slam a Cavern to ruin my plans, Syncopate is still capable of putting limitations on the format. It forces players to play more tribal decks in order to run all four Cavern of Souls. The amount of impact this card will have is yet to be seen, but the effect is worth noting.
This card is great! First of all, I know the mana cost says three but the actual cost is four because you want to be able to activate it the turn you cast it. When you realize you’ll draw cards at the same pace as Phyrexian Arena, it becomes apparent how strong it is. The one drawback of Phyrexian Arena was that you could kill yourself but with Underworld Connections that will never happen.
I love the fact that it is an enchant land because they don’t print cool cards like that anymore. The flavor of the card is amazing too.
I expect this card to see play in Standard in a variety of decks. I could even see the Zombie aggro deck playing a couple of this card main or sideboard, but even if it doesn’t, a control strategy will adopt it.
This is my favorite card in the new set so far. The overload ability is a bit expensive, but six mana is still reasonable. What I love about this card is that early in the game it is a solid removal spell but later it becomes a Plague Wind.
Think Bonfire of the Damned is amazing? I like Mizzium Mortars even more. One thing to keep in mind is that the triple-red overload cost will require you to have a lot of red mana before you start relying on the card’s upper end.
Is a multicolored Impulse that looks at five cards but can only find a creature or land good? Yes. There are many applications for this card but the main one seems to be for a reanimation deck. Frites, for example, may still be viable and if so, this spell helps out a lot. I like this card much more if you are putting cards in your graveyard with flashback because then it effectively draws more than one card.
Genesis Wave for spells! That is one impressive x spell. If there is a deck that wants to play lots of instants and sorceries but also has a lot of mana, this card seems insane. The problem is that most likely, you will be playing some number of creatures and that will throw off the effectiveness this spell. As of yet, there are not many ways to ramp your mana in the new format but even if there were, they don’t go well with Epic Experiment. I am not sure this card will find a home but it is definitely awesome.
Finally, we have Rakdos’s x spell. I must say that I am underwhelmed by this card. A lot of advocates for this spell compare it to Blightning. The difference is that Blightning was mana efficient and this card is definitely not. It costs 4-5 mana for the same effect as Blightning, depending on whether the damage or discard matters more. That is too late in the game to impact many matches.
If two control decks are battling it out, I think this card could be a fine way to gain an edge, but that makes it a good sideboard card, not maindeck material. This card seems way overhyped and I am not buying into it.
No More Spoilers
Well, that’s it for me today. I think it is evident that the spells in Ravnica are being pushed to the power level of the creatures. Having powerful spells is great and healthy for the format as long as none get pushed too far. Next week I will have more spoilers to talk about and maybe even some new deck lists for you as well. Enjoy the rest of spoiler season!
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Force!
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