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Insider: A Set Review of Return to Ravnica, Two Weeks Early

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I clicked over to MTGSalvation this morning to see what the three new spoiled cards were. Lo and behold, I saw nearly two hundred more than I had expected to be spoiled. Frankly, this is lame. If you're going to be the biggest vandal in Magic and bust open booster boxes to spoil a set, at least sign your work. Sure, there's a lot of chaff that has to go into every set, things for Limited that are not going to excite anyone during spoiler season. Two weeks early, though, and we know about 98% of the set. I feel for the writers who now have to pretend that what they're announcing isn't known to everyone who Googles RTR (the spoiler is the first result!). Anyway, we have a set to review. I'm going to give you my financial takes on the set, and I won't be alone. This week, you will read many set reviews and I suggest that you give each one some scrutiny. I'm reviewing mainly with an eye toward Eternal magic, which is my strength. Typically, there isn't much in a new set for Eternal formats, so I'll amuse you and me both with commentary on other cards. There are two kinds of financial reviewers; ones that have the guts to use dollar signs and hold themselves accountable, and everyone else. I'm striving to be the former, but with things like Eternal-specific foils, it's mainly a guess. Many of these cards are going to be worthless in non-foil and worth-something in foil (think Spell Pierce and Lodestone Golem). Let's take a look.

 

Angel of Serenity

4www
Creature - Angel Mythic Rare
Flying
When Angel of Serenity enters the battlefield, you may exile up to three other target creatures from the battlefield and/or creature cards from graveyards.
When Angel of Serenity leaves the battlefield, return the exiled cards to their owners' hands.
Illus. Aleksi Briclot #1/274 5/6

 

We have seen Angel of Serenity start out at $5, then $7, and now $10. I don't think she's done climbing. Patrick Chapin gushed about the card in his article this week, spending thousands of words on the Angel and her infinite interactions. Patrick knows what he's talking about and he especially knows tap-out threats. This is the sort of card that completely swings a game and wins you games you had no business winning. You're getting beat by four monsters and then she comes down, eats three and holds off the fourth. Or she rebuys your Restoration Angel and Snapcaster Mage when she dies. Or she shuts down all of the defenders that an opponent has and cruises in. $10 is not her upper limit. I think this card will hit $15 on pretty good odds.

Eternally speaking, she's not good enough in older formats, but she might shine in Modern. Here's my thinking: UW Tron loves this kind of card, the big, rewarding monster. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is the typical reanimation target and that kills a whole lot of stuff. On the other hand, it does not stop Tarmogoyfs and a few other really annoying problems. I can see her coming out in a Gifts deck, where hardcasting is reasonable, or being reanimated the old-fashioned way. She's also a fine Birthing Pod target if you want to get up to seven mana.

 

Rest in Peace

1w
Enchantment Rare
When Rest in Peace enters the battlefield, exile all cards from all graveyards.
If a card or token would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead.

Everything seems geared toward hating the graveyard these days and this is one of the more spectacularly-hosing varieties. It's not going to see much Standard play because it doesn't cantrip like Ground Seal, but it can see some profound Eternal play. Vintage decks can easily support five colors, often dipping into White for Swords to Plowshares. This, like Leyline of the Void, can make an infinite combination with Helm of Obedience. Since the Helm never sees a monster hit the graveyard, it mills an opponent's deck if all you do is pay x=1. As this fact becomes more public, expect people to try more Helm decks. In Legacy, using Rest in Peace and the Tax-Rack engine to set up Helm is a natural course and I expect people to give it a try.

Helm has dropped from $8 to about $3 these days. Pick some up if you feel lucky.

Rest in Peace demands a lot from a Vintage deckbuilder; it won't do a thing versus Workshops, but it crushes Dredge and can stop Blue decks pretty well. Keep an eye on foils of these; the regular versions are selling for $2, which will go down, but Vintage players could show some love for this in foil form.

 

Sphere of Safety

4w
Enchantment Uncommon
Creatures can't attack you or a planeswalker you control unless their controller pays {X} for each of those creatures, where X is the number of enchantments you control.
Illus. Slawomir Maniak

 

This is big; really big. Moat is stupid expensive at this point and the most prolific user of Moat is Enchantress. This is a good counterpart to Moat and will compete for slots. I don't think Enduring Ideal is a worthwhile Modern deck, but this can have a home in that, too. This is an uncommon, which means that the regular version won't be worth a thing. Keep an eye on foils, though; Enchantress players love to foil out their decks. You need look no further than Sterling Grove to see a good example of how you can profit from this.

 

Cyclonic Rift

1u
Instant Rare
Return target nonland permanent you don't control to its owner's hand.
Overload 6{U} (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of "target" with "each".)
The Izzet specialize in unnatural disaster.

Now what makes Cyclonic Rift interesting is the instant speed. If this were a sorcery, we simply would not look at it. I think Overload is going to make for great Control decks in Standard, but the Rift also has some nice applications for Eternal formats. Seven mana is not a big challenge to get to with Mana Crypt and Tolarian Academy and the end result is a big deal. Hurkyl's Recall is better against Workshops, but this is maindeckable bounce. I cannot accurately say what this is going to do in Standard. but again, the foil market in Vintage can add a boost to this. I really feel like Cyclonic Rift is going to be a big deal in Standard, but it has to compete with Unsummon. We'll see.

 

Jace, Architect of Thought

2uu
Planeswalker - Jace Mythic Rare
+1 : Until your next turn, whenever a creature an opponent controls attacks, it gets -1/-0 until end of turn.
-2 : Reveal the top three cards of your library. An opponent separates them into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other on the bottom of your library in any order.
-8 : For each player, search that player's library for a nonland card and exile it, then that player shuffles his or her library. You may cast those cards without paying their mana costs.
Illus. Jaime Jones #44/274 4

 

Though a Standard standout, I see no home for this guy in Eternal. The older formats have the better Jace and Modern has too many monsters dealing damage for this to survive.

 

Sphinx of the Chimes

4uu
Creature - Sphinx Rare
Flying
Discard two nonland cards with the same name: Draw four cards.
Illus. Greg Staples #52/274 5/6

 

Sphinx is Dredge's best friend right now. I'm even considering it in Modern, if you can believe that, because discarding two like-named dredgers with Sphinx will probably let you mill your deck on the spot. The problem is that I don't know how you get this into play without Dread Return! In Legacy and Vintage, it's a different animal, since you have the reanimation spell. That said, I don't know if you have enough time in any Eternal format to set this up. I like it a lot and using Sphinx to mill your whole deck is pretty cool. I have a feeling that this is going to be regulated to casual decks using Squees and Punishing Fires, though. They're pre-selling for a quarter apiece, which is probably an accurate price.

 

Desecration Demon

2bb
Creature - Demon Rare
Flying
At the beginning of each combat, any opponent may sacrifice a creature. If a player does, tap Desecration Demon and put a +1/+1 counter on it.
Illus. Jason Chan #63/274 6/6

 

I was an early fan of the Demon and I still like it. I bring it up here because I think it has some good applications in Modern Jund. That deck loves efficient finishers and getting lots of value and the Demon is superb. Either it munches down a critter every turn, fulfilling all of those dreams of attrition, or it does a punishing pile of damage in the air. Jund is a popular deck and it often has problems sealing the game after stabilizing. I could see this demon coming in through the air to solve that issue.

 

Vandalblast

r
Sorcery Uncommon
Destroy target artifact you don't control.
Overload 4{R}

 

Can you believe that we ran all through black and most of Red before we hit another winner? With Eternal cards, that is often the case! There is a big barrier to entry because of the power level, but sometimes you get cards like this one that play into the very different dynamics of older formats. In both Vintage and Modern, Vandalblast is sure to be a staple. It kills the early Lodestone Golem in Vintage or stomps Affinity in Modern. I like this a lot as a sideboard card. Shattering Spree, now $4, is a go-to in both formats, as is Ancient Grudge. This is easier on the mana and while it lacks the speed of Grudge, it can comprehensively handle threats.

I tested a lot of Ancient Grudges in Modern against Affinity and I found that they just did not carry enough water for sideboards. The problem was that you would take out their Cranial Plating but then you could not touch the underlying Etched Champion, so you ended up dying to that and random beats. This resets the board quite nicely, even clearing out the Champs!

There is precedent for sweeper cards like this to rocket up in price over time. Foils of this are obviously a good grab, but bear in mind that Shattering Spree is probably worse than this most of the time and it's still got a good price tag.

 

Abrupt Decay

bg
Instant Rare
Abrupt Decay can't be countered by spells or abilities.Destroy target nonland permanent with converted mana cost 3 or less.
The Izzet quickly suspended their policy of lifetime guarantee.
Illus. Svetlin Velinov #141/274

 

I suppose the big question on this card is "where is the price going to settle down to?" Maelstrom Pulse is the next closest comparable card and it has been expensive throughout its life. Maelstrom Pulse was in a reasonably-loved set with Mythics, so it's fitting the same mold as Abrupt Decay. However, Maelstrom Pulse isn't an Instant and three mana is a gulf of difference over two in old formats. This can't kill Jace or Lodestone Golem, but it clears out Chalice of the Void, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and Counterbalance. That's a pretty good scorecard. I feel like this is the card that people dedicate decks to, much like Chris Pikula dedicated his Deadguy Ale deck to Vindicate and found a deck that could work around it. This is a monster of a card.

These are preselling for $15 right now and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you'll see that price or near to it for its Standard lifespan. This is dependent on there being a half-decent G/B/x deck that comes along, but it's not unreasonable that a Farseek deck runs one Overgrown Tomb to turn on its Decays.

 

Counterflux

uur
Instant Rare
Counterflux can't be countered by spells or abilities.
Counter target spell you don't control.
Overload 1{U}{U}{R}
Illus. Scott M. Fisher #153/274

 

Counterflux is going to be a dud all over. It has to compete with Cancel in Standard, which people hate playing to begin with. If it exiled a spell, it would be a big role-player, since it could counter all of the rares in RTR that are otherwise unstoppable. As it is, Counterflux does not add much to Last Word or Mindbreak Trap.

 

Detention Sphere

1wu
Enchantment Rare
When Detention Sphere enters the battlefield, you may exile target nonland permanent not named Detention Sphere and all other permanents with the same name as that permanent.
When Detention Sphere leaves the battlefield, return the exiled cards to the battlefield under their owner's control.
Illus. Kev Walker #155/274

 

There's this joke on MTGTheSource, a big Legacy forum, that makes "Awesome" a keyword. It means "this is blue so you can pitch it to Force of Will." Otherwise boring cards are Awesome for the fact that you can send them away to fire up the counter. Detention Sphere is getting a lot of Legacy attention because, like Thopter Foundry, this card has Awesome and it is a reasonable card for archetypes that used to hurt for this effect. Maybe you could not justify those Oblivion Rings in Delver or a UW Control deck, but this is a fine piece of tech because it's not going to be totally dead. It also comes down to kill zombie armies from Dredge and really screw up Elves and other swarm strategies. It's going to be a hot Standard card and I don't think Legacy is going to warp its price too much, but remember that Legacy players will likely want these.

 

Epic Experiment

xur
Sorcery Mythic Rare
Exile the top X cards of your library. For each instant or sorcery with converted mana cost X or less among them, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost. Then put all cards exiled this way that weren't cast into your graveyard.
Illus. Dan Scott #159/274

 

This otherwise-silly card is notable because it could be a great machine in UR Storm in Modern. UR Storm has to do this really impoverished mana-hungry race to 2RR and 10 storm to make two Grapeshots (or make Remand tricks) or try and fuel Pyromancer's Ascension and get somewhere with it. Epic Experiment is basically a card where hitting X=7 or more will just win the game. Storm runs enough cantrips that it can get greedy on lands and it has enough mana acceleration that this spell can pay for itself post-flip if nothing else. I also like that it's bonkers if you hit a Wheel of Fate and see seven new cards. Keep an eye on Wheel and Epic Experiment.

 

Rakdos Charm

br
Instant Uncommon
Choose one: exile all cards from target player's graveyard; or destroy target artifact; or each creature deals 1 damage to its controller.
"Let all feel joy in pain."
-Rakdos
Illus. Zoltan Boros #184/274

 

Rakdos Charm: reactions of puzzlement from Standard players, anger from Legacy players and love from Vintage players. Its two modes are basically "BR: screw up the one Vintage strategy or screw that other one up." It's very easy to run in Vintage and solves a lot of problems. This is going to be abysmal in Standard but a sure hit in foil form in Vintage. Scoop up copies and put them on the internet!

Sphinx's Revelation

xwuu
Instant Mythic Rare
You gain X life and draw X cards.
"Let the knowledge of absolute law inspire you to live a life of absolute order."
Illus. Slawomir Maniak #200/274

 

I am specifically watching U/W Tron with this. I have had enough times where I am out of gas and I need to both stay alive and see some juice. This solves both problems, but it's probably too expensive to cast if X is anything less than 3.

Supreme Verdict

1wwu
Sorcery Rare
Supreme Verdict can't be countered.Destroy all creatures.
Leonos had no second thoughts about the abolishment edict. He'd left skyrunes warning of the eviction, even though it was cloudy.
Illus. Sam Burley #201/274

 

If you needed more evidence that Merfolk is going to get out and stay out, look at this. Supreme Verdict has Awesome, which makes it great in Legacy. It's no stretch to run it in any deck that otherwise wants Wrath. This represents a long-term bearish position on Merfolk decks; unwind your positions on Cursecatchers if you still have them.

 

Treasured Find

bg
Sorcery Uncommon
Return target card from your graveyard to your hand. Exile Treasured Find.
Illus. Jason Chan

 

This is a Regrowth, which is restricted in Vintage. The power of Regrowth was that you can use it to get a lot more Ancestral Recalls or Black Lotuses. Treasured Find is going to see a bit of exploratory play in Vintage and I want to run them alongside Gushes. Getting access to five Regrowths with Gush is really, really twisted. The typical "get these in foil" line applies, especially because they are going to see some sure Commander love too.

Dryad Militant

gw
Creature - Dryad Soldier Uncommon
If an instant or sorcery would be put in a graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead.
"We will defend the worldsoul from Izzet 'progress' at any cost."
Illus. Terese Nielsen #214/274 2/1

 

I don't see these as the next coming of Kitchen Finks, but damn... these Militants are good. Currently selling for $1.25, I see these as underpriced and here's why. Every deckbuilder in Standard that starts with W or G and wants to win through combat damage is going to put "4 Dryad Militant" on the deck registration sheet and then have to talk themselves out of it. This is a "justify not having it" and not "justify playing these" kind of card.

 

Nivmagus Elemental

ur
Creature - Elemental Rare
Exile an instant or sorcery spell you control: Put two +1/+1 counters on Nivmagus Elemental.
When it escaped, the experimenters hesitated. It would cause untold havoc, yet they wished to see it in action.
Illus. Mike Bierek #219/274 1/2

 

I had not originally seen that this permanently pumps the Elemental. That changes things a bit. I see someone trading a junk spell in hand to pump this up. Thus, it becomes a 3/4 for let's say, 1UU that makes you discard a card. Is that awful or what? Now if we dump two spells into this, we've got a 5/6 with some pretty juicy stats, but we are also out two cards unless we have stack tricks like Isochron Scepter to work with. I see Storm decks sideboarding these but man, how often do you want to just throw spells away? Is an opponent going to care that you ate the spell that they were countering? Nivmagus Elemental looks like too much work to get going, and every spell counts.

This is, simply, not a monster that you want to rip off the top and it's also not something strong enough to build around. These have cooled to about $3 and that seems about right for them. This is not a Delver.

 

That concludes my Eternal-centric set review. What did I miss? What do you disagree with? Ultimately, RTR has a bunch of great role-players but like the original Ravnica, it does not have much that fundamentally changes Eternal formats. It still looks great and I'm hoping that the remaining dozen cards (including a few mythics!) are worth the wait.

 

Until next week,

-Doug Linn

9 thoughts on “Insider: A Set Review of Return to Ravnica, Two Weeks Early

    1. Yeah it\’s a really interesting card; you get a LOT for one mana these days! I don\’t see it being great at doing a whole lot in Legacy since Ooze is still better. What I like about the Shaman in smaller formats is that it really changes the flow and balance of life totals. Having him active for three turns or so means that life totals have changed by a swing of 6, and he\’s just fine sitting back to block tokens in the meantime.

  1. ‘Jace AoT: a Standard standout’ Are you high? I think relentless rats will be big before this card ever sees play in standard. Someone may play it in EDH as it just nets you two shitty fact or fictions and maybe leads to a bribery effect if your opponents don’t own removal. But I would never call this card a standard standout.

    1. The way Chapin described Jace 4.0 made sense to me. For 2UU you get a sorcery speed Fact or Fiction. You can choose to take the 1 card pile, in which you get the 1 card + Jace on the board, or you can take the other pile, in which you get 2 cards + Jace on the board. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

    2. No need to take that tone. Jace is a fine role-player and GerryT/Patrick/Brad Nelson have all been favorable about the card. Anyway, JAOT is not really a focus of this article.

      1. I think you are a little overly optimistic about the card. A sorcery speed 3 instead of 5 version of FoF doesn’t sound appealing. But if you are right and it is played in any competitive decks, I will apologize for being rash with your review.

  2. “like the original Ravnica, it does not have much that fundamentally changes Eternal formats”

    Golgari Grave-Troll & Stinkweed Imp would beg to differ.

    Good article, though.

  3. i’m not sure how to capitalize on it, but i am fairly certain ghost quarter is going to see a lot more use in standard. in a set with this much dual, mana bases will be much easier targets. thanks to farseek, i know people are going to push shocklands over basics.

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