Insider: Researching Ravnica

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We begin this week with a first look at Ravnica, a set highlighting color relationships. Ravnica was an ambitious block; it made personalities out of every two-color combination, setting them to a guild and a backstory, a host of creatures and a portfolio of effects. Ravnica was a big fan favorite, since it introduced a lot of interesting and powerful cards, including a bunch of really good uncommons. Ravnica was a cure for the power-light Kamigawa block; it was easy for someone opening a pack to understand.

While Ravnica is notable for the shock duals, it's also packed with lots of neat two-color cards and casual roleplayers. Let's take a look at the first half of the set with an eye on the money cards!

Blazing Archon

Don't confuse this with Blazed Archon, which cannot attack and has Cumulative Upkeep: Doritos.

For nine mana, a flying Magus of the Moat is pretty slick. Nobody actually pays retail on this guy; he comes out with Oath of Druids, or maybe with a zombie-fueled Dread Return. I had assumed that this was just a bad, goofy rare with a little niche use. After all, Cruel Ultimatum is less than a dollar. However, Archon commands some cash above a narrow rare. I suppose some people just hate getting attacked.


Chord of Calling

Chord has been recently eclipsed by Green Sun's Zenith, but it has been showing up in both Legacy and Modern. It can instantly grab bullets like Aven Mindcensor and Gaddock Teeg, making it a little more flexible than the Zenith. I have seen plenty of decks running the two fetching spells next to each other. Chord is also significantly cheaper than the Zenith right now, so it makes an attractive option for people making budget Elf decks. I expect Chord to go up a bit in price as it picks up in Modern.


Circu, Dimir Lobotomist

All the guilds in Ravnica had affiliated Legends. Each had a big boss and a faithful lackey, and Circu worked for Dimir. Circu is a terrible, unplayable card that isn't even going to see play in Commander. Aether Shockwaveingly, he's also worth a few bucks. For people who do the milling thing, what could be better than mising an extra two cards from that Glimpse the Unthinkable or Mind Funeral? I would assume that Circu can really screw up a deck with lots of four-ofs, but I also suspect that those are hard to find in awful-casual-deck land.


Cloudstone Curio

Cloudstone Curio is strictly a combination card, although I'm sure you could work it into a deck that abuses ETB effects. Common targets in the past have been elves of all sorts, as well as Kobolds and things that trigger when they come into play. Curio has gotten a bit of attention for Modern because it can power up storm combo kills. I think it's worth getting a set in case a new combo comes out that's better than the dominant ones currently ruling Modern; Curio is one of those cards that gets better with each set.


Copy Enchantment

Some people like to put decks together that focus on one or two enchantments, and they want to get double duty out of them. A great example is Paradox Haze. If you're building around that card with something like Smokestack, you want as many copies of the Haze as you can get. Enough people want to double up on their enchantments to pull Copy Enchantment out of the junk bin.


Dark Confidant

We know why Bobby is good, so let's focus on his price lately. He went from $30 to $50 on hype from Modern, but he's been absent from the best Modern decks. The bubble on him burst a few weeks ago, as people realized that Bob wasn't as good as people originally thought; he dies very quickly. Sites were buying Bob at $35, but I think those prices are chilling a little. The best time to get rid of Confidant has passed, but he's still worth a bit of money. I expect him to drop down to about $25-30 in due time.


Doubling Season

Letting a Planeswalker trigger its ultimate the turn it enters play is a little too good...

This card is the banner card for casual money cards. It was relatively unnoticed when it first came out, but people quickly picked up on it and the casual market has driven it even higher. I find it interesting that Doubling Season has remained roughly the same price for about two years, even after Commander drove some more demand. It's a long-term stable bet, since Wizards will never reprint it in appreciable quantities, due to its overpowered effects with Planeswalkers.


Firemane Angel

I really like Firemane and I sort of wish we had more of this kind of effect. She popped up in Standard decks, being discarded early to Compulsive Research and gaining impressive piles of life. If you had two of these in your graveyard, you would realize just how strong Ivory Tower used to be. Eventually, Firemane would start coming back, causing all sorts of trouble. It's a stellar card and it's disappointing that she's so unloved so as to be worth only a buck.


Followed Footsteps

People love this kind of effect. See the non-broken usage of Splinter Twin and the appeal of cards like Mimic Vat and Soul Foundry. Casual players dream of tagging this thing on their Primeval Titan or Broodmate Dragon and just going nuts. It can even copy an opponent's creature, making it a game-leveler and legend-killer.


Glimpse the Unthinkable

Glimpse is absolutely the card to have for a milling deck, which people have been attempting to make since Millstone was printed. Two mana makes ten cards, which is about the best ratio you'll see printed. I am surprised that even though Glimpse has a huge amount of appeal, it has not been reprinted again. Because it is gold, it won't see play in a base set, either. It's a bummer. It's also worth noting here that Glimpse, although expensive, has held steady at this price for a long time. It seems that the casual market is satisfied with the volume it has and isn't driving up the price any more.


Golgari Grave-Troll

The relevant text on this guy is Canal Dredger 6. He's been banned in Modern because he's a core enabler of the Canal Dredger deck, but he still gets plenty of attention in Legacy and Vintage Canal Dredger decks. The Troll is not only a good combo piece early in the game, but he fulfills a win condition by being Dread Returned; he'll often come back with over a dozen counters tagged on, and wins the game in a few short swings.


Hunted Horror

Since it was printed, people have looked for ways to avoid giving their opponent two dudes. Whether it was Stifle or the now-useless A-Radha's Firebrand, the appeal of a 7/7 for BB is too appealing to ignore. I think Hunted Horror can see new light in a dedicated Torpor Orb deck, but it will never be a competitive card. That doesn't stop it from getting a bit of casual love, though!


Life from the Loam

Brutal with Strip Mine!

When this card was spoiled, I regarded it as the green Ancestral Recall. Sure, that's a bit of hyperbole, but it was, and is, an incredible card. Loam has powered up Extended decks with cycling lands and Death Cloud. It has spawned its own archetype, the Lands deck, in Legacy. Loam is solid with four copies and still backbreaking when a singleton copy is included in an Artificer's Intuition or Gifts Ungiven pile. Being able to drop more lands means that players can use symmetrical effects like Devastating Dreams to wipe the board, knowing they can rebuild quickly.

Life from the Loam is sure to see play in Modern, which will drive its price up a few dollars. Though the format lacks the cycling lands to really make Loam into an engine, the potential to rebuy Ghost Quarters, manlands and lands pitched to retrace Raven's Crime is compelling.


Lightning Helix

This card blew my mind when I first saw it. This was exactly what aggro wanted! It allowed you to be more aggressive in your attacks because it blunted counter-attacks. It was also what a control deck wanted, especially because it could remove a problematic dude and blank a Lightning Bolt. Everyone else loved Helix as much as I did, which makes it one of the perennial power uncommons from Ravnica. I feel that Helix was nothing short of groundbreaking design, even though it just tacked two Alpha commons together. Lightning Helix was an admission by R&D that we could have powerful, simple gold cards that would be easy staples. It wasn't a rare like Absorb was, and it wasn't marred by adding another colorless mana to its cost. Lightning Helix is a Platonic ideal of Magic design, and it shows that the development team had a lot of guts. Helix was like nothing printed before, and would look like a ridiculous fan-made card if anyone other than R&D conjured it up.


Loxodon Hierarch

We first had Ravenous Baloth, who would throw himself away if you needed extra life against aggro. The Elephant was even better, since he could sit around and block after making you resilient to A-Cabaretti Charm. In Standard at the time, there was a deck called Ghazi-Glare. It used Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree and Glare of Subdual in a G/W elfy shell to take control of the board and pound in. It ran Congregation at Dawn to make sure it could get its big monsters online, and one of the deck's most crushing plays was just going for three of this Dumbo. If you were playing an aggressive deck, you had to have a solution to a third-turn Congregation, followed by a Hierarch on the next three turns. Could you beat a trio of 4/4s and 12 more life? How did that change your combat math? A-Cabaretti Charm gets a lot worse and your 3-damage burn spells can't even dig into one of these.

Obstinate Baloth has since overshadowed Hierarch, which is good – nobody used the activated ability on this guy, and Baloth giving a perk when Blightninged away is nice. Still, the G/W fans like their lifegaining beaters, keeping this card afloat.


That's it for the first half of Ravnica; join me again next week as we close up the first set in one of Magic's most beloved blocks!

Until then,

Doug Linn

2 thoughts on “Insider: Researching Ravnica

  1. Life from the Loam is definitely not a $5 card any more. May just be a bubble (especially considering it didn't seem to see any real play in Philly) but it's currently more in the range of $15. Not sure if any of the other cards listed have had big changes.

    Random comment on layout – having an equal space between the end of the description of a card, its value, and the start of the next card doesn't make it immediately obvious which card the value is attached to. I've never noticed this effect before (maybe I'm extra tired), but for a second I was all like "whoa! Doubling season is nearly $40?" then I realized that was Bob. /end comment on layout

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