As I was preparing to write for this week, I realized I hadn't written my top ten article for Return to Ravnica yet. The top ten article is always an enjoyable one for me. Looking at a set from this perspective helps me understand its impact on Standard. I encourage everyone to do similar work breaking down sets for this purpose.
The other reason I enjoy the top ten article so much is because some of the choices I make are always controversial and I want to hear other players' opinions. I hope you guys enjoy the article as much as I do.
Exclusions from the Top Ten:
It's odd to start a top ten list with cards that were purposely excluded, but these two cards warrant explanation. I did not include either Supreme Verdict or Rakdos's Return despite other players' strong feelings about these two cards.
Supreme Verdict is certainly a step up in power level from what we have seen in the past, but today's resilient creatures laugh in the face of this mass removal spell. Uncounterability is nothing compared to stopping regeneration or exiling the creatures. Destroying all creatures most likely does not even rid you of all the creatures in play, making this new Azorius card undesirable. It does serve some function against white or green decks but it will not do everything like Wrath of God used to.
The second card I did not include is Rakdos's Return. This spell is way overcosted in my opinion. Blightning was broken in Standard and I hated playing against it but this x spell pales in comparison to the former Jund staple. It is not unplayable, but merely a strong sideboard card. Many writers are predicting the dominance of this sorcery, but I doubt it will play out that way.
Though it did not crack the top ten, Mizzium Mortars is a great removal spell early and even better late. One thing holding it back is the fact that it's a sorcery. Making it an instant would dramatically increase the amount of play it would see.
The second factor hurting Mortars is the triple red in the overload cost. I have worked on a lot of decks that would definitely play this card but since they only splash red, they have no chance of getting to the Plague Wind effect. If a red-heavy deck like U/R Delver becomes popular, this card should see more play.
10. Rakdos Cackler/Dryad Militant/Call of the Conclave/Dreg Mangler
Number ten is a four way tie between the new hyper aggressive creatures. They are obviously powerful due to their high power-to-mana ratio and all are likely to impact Standard.
Rakdos Cackler might be the most important of the bunch because it fits right into an existing aggro deck. Dreg Mangler is similar but players do not agree on the correct way to build Zombies, so the amount of play he sees will depend on how the format shifts.
A deck with Call of the Conclave has not found success yet but I think it will in the future. Who knows, when Gatecrash comes along with both the Boros and Gruul guilds, we may even have a new zoo deck that wants Watchwolf 2.0.
9. Loxodon Smiter/Centaur Healer
For number nine we also have a tie but this time only two cards are fighting for the spot. The problem with these cards is that they are so similar. They both have the same mana cost, a good power-to-mana ratio and a relevant ability. Most decks that want one of these cards wants both of them. The problem is that one is good against aggro and one is good against control.
Without many counterspells in the format, I think Centaur Healer has the edge right now. If Standard shifts and discard becomes a large factor, Smiter's stock goes way up. Both cards are quite good for Constructed. Loxodon Smiter may even see play in older formats because his can't be countered ability is so much better in those formats.
8. Underworld Connections
Up next we have Underworld Connections. This enchantment is one of Standard's best draw engines. One life per card is a reasonable rate and one that is easily paid. This Phyrexian Arena variant is one reason that Jund Control is doing well in Standard. The card is sure to be a hit in Commander as well. Drawing an extra card per turn is such a powerful effect I even think that Zombies should be sideboarding Underworld Connections in against control decks.
7. Detention Sphere
The only reason my number seven pick, Detention Sphere, is not higher on this list is because Oblivion Ring is already legal in Standard. Detention Sphere is better than Oblivion Ring but not by much. They will often function exactly the same but one is harder to cast.
The first time you exile two of your opponent's permanents with one Detention Sphere though, you will believe in its power. It will be as obvious as dollar bin dual lands. Zombie players beware the sphere before playing two Gravecrawlers!
6. Armada Wurm
Number six is the card I've thought about the most since it was spoiled, Armada Wurm. Bad jokes about the art aside, I'm sure all of you know how much I love this card. The first time I saw the armada of ten evasive power for six mana, I knew it would be awesome. The prohibitive mana cost may hold it back a bit, but as the format progresses I expect it to pop up more and more. The Frites deck, for one, may want this card as an additional threat.
Initially, Dreadbore was much lower on my list. With the recent success of planeswalkers in Standard, the Terminate variant's stock has gone way up. When I first considered this card for play in Standard, I thought the sorcery-speed drawback would hold it back. As it turns out, your opponent usually taps out for the planeswalker they're casting, leaving you free to use your sorcery to kill it. Oh, it also kills creatures, but that is less important.
4. Angel of Serenity
The number four card seems to be the prime finisher for ramp and reanimation decks in Standard. It's worth getting this seven-mana angel in play even if they kill it immediately. Hopefully you can target another copy in your graveyard in addition to two of your opponent's creatures in play. At the reasonable cost of seven, this finisher gets cast from your hand as well as cheated in from the graveyard. For now, she is the best option; we'll see if something from one of the Gatecrash guilds takes her place.
3. Abrupt Decay
The number three spot goes to the card that will affect the most formats, Abrupt Decay. The uncounterable ability is one of the most powerful effects in older formats where counterspells are so crucial. The shear fact that Abrupt Decay kills Counterbalance will ensure its place in Legacy. Also killing Tarmogoyf or Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration in Modern and Legacy makes it an influential new card for those formats.
It's also amazing in draft and sealed, but people are obviously more concerned with its playability in Standard. We all know its good, but the question is how many do you want? Regardless of the number run in decks, two mana for this effect is pushing the power level for certain. I suspect this is one card likely to hold its price tag for quite some time.
2. Lotleth Troll
The man taking the number two spot is Lotleth Troll. Man? More like creepy, horrific, monster troll eating what looks to be a man's heart.
Disturbing art aside, I am constantly astounded by the power level of this creature. With so many abilities and a low mana cost, he is powerful enough to see play in multiple formats. This troll is quite a formidable foe and will impact Standard until he rotates out. Considering how he dominates games on his own, it should be no surprise to see him up here at number two.
1. Jace, Architect of Thought
Taking the number one spot, we have the newest edition in the line of Jace clones. While this version of Jace is not as broken as Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I rate him as one of the most powerful ever printed. I would not be surprised to see two different versions of Jace taking spots one and two in most players' minds for best planeswalkers of all time. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is powerful and won't give up her number two spot easily, but she may have no choice.
Jace, Architect of Thought is much better than the initial assessment most players gave him. This guy is no joke and I expect players to be gunning for him the whole time he is legal.
In my opinion, these top ten cards for Return to Ravnica were fairly obvious. If you do not agree, please post below your own top ten. I encourage your feedback on this topic. Let's hear what you have to say!
Until next time,
Unleash the Return to Ravnica Force!
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