Cook’s Kitchen – Return to Ravnica! (Part 1)
Glancing at the Return to Ravnica spoilers, I’m pretty impressed. They really managed to bring back the look and feel of the original block. I’m even more surprised about how they kept on par with the original power levels of cards. There were also some favorites that were brought back, such as the “Shock Lands”!
Once Farseek was listed in the spoilers it was the talk of the town for weeks whether or not the Ravnica duals would be printed. Here they are, confirmed, and on their way back to standard! Standard right now is going to have the most ridiculous manabases with one-hundred and twenty available dual lands! It’s ridiculous! We even have the return of the classic Invasion-style dual lands in common form for each guild! Talk about greedy, before the set is done being spoiled part of me wants to see a non-basic hate card printed. With everyone running these four or five color manabases I’d like to see a card slightly more powerful than Anathamancer created. It’d be nice to give people the fear, keeping them honest. But we’ll see, maybe even the return of Fulminator Mage?
The unique abilities of this set look pretty strong too!
Detain – “(Until your next turn, that permanent can’t attack or block and it’s activated abilities can’t be activated.)”
Populate – “(Put a token onto the battlefield that’s a copy of a creature token you control.)”
Scavenge – “(Scavenge cost, Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counter’s equal to this card’s power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.)”
Unleash– “(You may have this creature enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. It can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.)”
Overload– “(You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each.)”
Detain is going to be a very strong ability in limited often making or breaking games. It’s a limited time removal spell often coming on a creature’s body. The best thing about the ability in my eyes is that it allows for the player to attack and not have to worry about the crack back. Populate like Detain I see being an ability that’s not going to be that great in standard unless some impressive tokens are printed. It doesn’t do enough and isn’t aggressive enough for green and white. At best in the current format the ability copies a 3/3. It’s probably the worse of the five new abilities. Scavenge is bonkers! It’s basically a draw spell since it’s +1 card after the creature has died. Not to mention it’s going to end stalemates in longer games. Graveyard abilities after always interesting, I expect some great things from cards with this ability. Unleash is the most skill intensive ability shown so far, as it requires the player to think long term and not immediately. What will be happening three turns from now? Am I the beatdown? I expect this ability to be extremely strong in limited and to see some Standard play. Overload is an interesting ability that is basically a “Kicker” cost for cards. Making each individual card more powerful as the game continues. If they print some good cards with this ability, it could really have an effect on the standard format.
Let’s take a look at some individual cards!
Precinct Captain – I know that the Boros guild isn’t bring printed until the next set but this creature should shine once paired with a color with plenty of removal and tempo. It doesn’t necessarily need to be red, it’s just that the deck needs to be tempo oriented with plenty of removal/reach to clear the way for this beater. The fact that it’s double white could hinder it seeing play, but we’ll see. We could possibly see a base white aggro deck splashing blue and red with plenty of dual lands. Getting to play Geist of Saint Traft is still very good in Standard! Especially now that M12 will be rotating out with Phantasmal Image. Get these cards cheap and just hang onto them for a couple of months, I could see them being very good.
Jace, Architect of Thought – Whenever I talk to anyone about the new Jace I seem to be the only person who thinks this new Jace is worse than the previous. His first ability is next to useless when it comes to a Planeswalker’s ability. Unless the opponent is stuck with a 1/1 in play, your opponents creatures are going to do some damage. When I first read this Jace I thought the minus two was actually better, I thought it was Fact or Fiction, meaning five cards. Nope! It’s only three! This means at best his ability is -2 loyalty draw two where you know you’re not getting the best card out of the three. How weak. Let’s be honest, his ultimate is a pipe dream. Not to mention, why would anyone want to ultimate this card outside of a casual format? It’s a lot of work and effort to use this ability for one card in constructed play. I would not invest in these. Actually, my advice is if anyone opens one trade it and or sell it before the value goes down.
Desecration Demon – There’s been some talk about this creature since every fat creature for 2BB gets discussed as the “New Juzam Djinn”. In a mono-black deck this will be a suitable replacement for Phyrexian Obliterator, while Obliterator is better in that role, it’ll do just fine. With enough removal no one will be tapping this Demon. I’ve even seen a bit of Legacy talk about this guy in a Chalice aggro type deck, but we’ll see. I think that idea is mostly wishful thinking. Don’t hang onto these too long, I see little value in these after the initial few weeks.
Worldspine Wurm – This fattie has Commander/EDH written all over it! I can only imagine how sweet it would be to Natural Order away a Wood Elves into this bad boy. It’s even somewhat protected by removal by making three smaller versions of itself. The downside is white removal spells are bad for it (Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Terminus). If you open one of these, you’re probably going to be sitting on it for awhile.
Azorious/Izzet/Selesnya Charms –
Azorious Charm really got screwed over, after seeing Izzet Charm everyone had high hopes for the rest of the cycle. Azorious Charm has one relevant ability, Draw a card. If the third ability of putting an attacking or blocking creature on top its owner’s library was at the bottom instead, it would make up for the first ability being terrible. Lifelink, really?
Izzet Charm was a breath of fresh air, that card is solid. All three of its abilities are relevant! I don’t see this card replacing anything in RUG Delver/Canadian Threshold but I could easily see Izzet Charm in Legacy UR Delver. The card is going to see play in Modern and Standard as well.
Selesnya Charm like Izzet is great! Three different types of combat tricks! It’s going to make games interesting. It’s going to be tough to play around this card for sure. I don’t think this spell is good enough to see play in Legacy Maverick, but definitely in Modern and Standard.
Can’t be countered Cycle – Abrupt Decay, Counterflux, Loxodon Smiter, Slaughter Games, Supreme Verdict.
Abrupt Decay is very interesting, it’s Smother and Maestrom Pulse molded into one card. My initial thought was that this card would be perfect for the T.E.S. sideboard since it can uncounterably destroy counterbalance. The mana with this card is incredibly awkward and I don’t know if my storm deck’s sideboard can support it, we’ll see. Not to mention, it doesn’t hit Leyline of Sanctity, Lodestone Golem, and other various problematic permanents. How many Counterbalances are there around anyway? The only deck to really play the card is Miracles and it’s a bench player on that team. Counterbalance is past its time, it’s no longer the star player.
Outside of storm, there’s been talk about Decay just replacing Maelstrom Pulse. The problem with this is these decks have issues with Planeswalkers – mainly Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Abrupt Decay isn’t exactly as great as it seems but it’s still very good, don’t get me wrong. I think this card is going to do some damage in Standard and Modern. But not as much as people expected it to in Legacy.
I couldn’t be more disappointed with Counterflux. This card needed to read, “Exile target Spell”. That is all. Blue really got the shaft in the last few sets, not that this is a completely terrible thing. They’re setting a trend that blue is going to be weak in standard for a long time. At least this one spell could have gotten around all of the hate. Nope.
Loxodon Smiter is perfect for the card’s name. Someone was really angry at Lilliana of the Vail when they created this card. A three mana, 4/4, with two solid abilities. This creature is going to see a lot of play in any deck with these colors.
Slaughter Games, like Azorious Charm had so much potential. I’m sorry you too had to be another Cranial Extraction knock-off.
Supreme Verdict! They fixed Wrath of God! It now pitches to Force of Will in Legacy in the match-ups where it’s bad. Being uncounterable is crucial for a four mana spell in that format, with all of the Dazes, Spell Pierces, and even Cursecatchers. I still don’t know if this will see play over Terminus though.
Dreadbore – Terminate but better!?! Well, it’s a sorcery where Terminate is an instant. But HOLY CRAP, it destroys Planeswalkers! This card is obviously very good, it’s going to be a standard staple for a long time. Hang onto them.
Dreg Mangler/Lotleth Troll – These reanimated walking corpses are ridiculously good! Both of these are going to turn Zombies into “The Deck” post rotation in Standard. Dreg Mangler being a 3/3 haste, for three mana, in a creature type that was already good, is good enough. Then it has Scavenge! It’s basically another spell. It also has synergy with Lotleth Troll not being a completely useless card once discarded. Troll’s synergies with the preexisting Zombie deck are just absurd. Discarding Gravecrawlers to Troll and then casting them from the Graveyard is just filthy! I think both of these cards will be Booms!
Epic Experiment – Bust. In every format, especially Legacy Storm. In order for this card to be played in some combo deck in Legacy it’s going to have to be built around properly much like Past in Flames needed to be. Epic Experiment will need combo decks to stop playing cards like Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, and Lion’s Eye Diamond in order to create a better opportunity in order to win the game. Cards like Cabal Ritual come to mind as a pseudo-replacement for some of these artifacts.
There’s been talk of this card as a Burning Wish target. In Legacy combo decks, there’s already Diminishing Returns, Past in Flames, Ill-Gotten Gains, as well as other potentially less playable engines such as Reforge the Soul. Why would this be better than any of the aforementioned? Probably because the spells revealed are free, but then again, this card is a mana sink. A player would have to play this card for nine mana to get similar results to cards like Diminishing Returns or Reforge the Soul. Nine mana after a Burning Wish means that Diminishing Returns floating five mana couldn’t get the job done. This isn’t likely to happen. Although Epic Experiment does have the benefit of not being symmetrical, I wouldn’t count on this card seeing any play.
I wish it was better, it has Epic in the card name! It’d go well into “The EPIC Storm – T.E.S.”.
Hypersonic Dragon – Normally a five mana, 4/4, flying creature, with haste is already decent for limited and standard. Then they gave it an ability. While we haven’t seen too many sorcery speed Izzet spells that are worth playing yet, there’s still a few cards to be revealed. This card will probably see some play in casual formats filling the same role as Leyline of Anticipation. It’s a fine creature, not over powered or too weak. There needs to be some balanced cards in the set right?
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord – This creature has future General/Commander written all over it for some of those kitchen table masters. Its ability to be rather large for little investment is huge for dealing “General Damage” quickly to knock others out of the game. Its second ability even says, “Each opponent”, they knew they were making a General or Commander when they printed this card. This won’t be an expensive mythic at all, but it is a pretty cool card.
Jarad’s Orders – This card won’t be appealing to most, but I’m pretty excited for it! In my Kresh, the Bloodbraid Commander deck it’s a tutor for Primeval Titan while putting Anger in the graveyard! Meaning the turn that Primeval comes into play you’ll be putting four lands onto the battlefield. I think that’s pretty decent. There’ are other implications as well. In a strict green and black deck Orders can put Genesis or a recurring creature into the graveyard. I don’t see this card seeing much Constructed play, but it’ll be a solid role-player in casual formats.
Rakdos’s Return – Strictly a casual card. It’s too slow to be effective in any constructed format.
Vraska the Unseen – Legacy, Standard, either way, I’m not impressed. It’s plus one Loyalty ability can just be ignored for a couple turns while the opponent attacks you instead of the Planeswalker. If Vraska’s second ability is used it’s going to be two turns until that card isn’t completely useless again. It might as well be Maelstrom Pulse with Rebound as an ability, because the plus one is useless and the ultimate is three 1/1 creatures. I’ve taken a lot of heat from people that I’ve spoke to about this card, but I don’t see it getting much playtime. It’s too much of an investment for such little effect, especially considering that Dreadbore is now a card.
Dryad Militant – Wow. This card was created for Legacy. It’s a Savannah Lions that is tutor-able with Green Sun’s Zenith and can completely shut off archetypes! I don’t see a deck such as Dredge consistently fighting off both Dryad Militant and Scavenging Ooze. Militant is important because it takes away the relevant cards in the Dredge deck such as Cabal Therapy, Dread Return, and even cards like Faithless Looting. There are other matches where this creature is good too, like any combo deck that uses it’s graveyard as a tool – sorry, Past in Flames. Militant can also remove cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Swords to Plowshares, etc. so that Snapcaster Mage cannot flash them back.
Expect to see this hybrid uncommon in Maverick decks soon.
Judge’s Familiar – A slightly better Cursecatcher? Perhaps, while it does have flying, it’s a part of a creature type that doesn’t have much going for it unlike Merfolk. There aren’t really any decks looking for a Cursecatcher type effect at the moment. There was some talk of this card seeing play in Maverick, but what would they cut? That deck is already very tight on space, to the point where it cut Stoneforge Mystic because it wasn’t good enough.
While this card is extremely cool, I wouldn’t bank on it seeing any Legacy play. I could see it possibly seeing some standard play in a Blue and White tempo based deck. I’ll probably pick up a foil playset on the off chance that it becomes playable at some point down the road. Who knows? Birds may become a thing at some point.
Nivmagus Elemental – I don’t think this creature is good at all. Exiling cards on the stack to provide a +1/+1 counter on a creature isn’t something I see as valuable. You would be investing cards and mana to add counters to a fragile creature. I’m not even convinced if it was exile an instant or sorcery from your hand it would be that great. But then again, I remember having nightmares about Psychatogs.
Rakdos Shred-Freak – I don’t know why, but I like this creature. It may only be good in limited, it may see some constructed play. But I’m a fan of two mana, two power creatures with Haste. Maybe I should’ve been a Goblins player?
Chromatic Lantern – This card is really interesting. It’s a new gem for commander in multicolor decks fixing terrible manabases while being an accelerant into some ridiculous five color spell or Ultimatum. But part of me wonders if it’ll see any Standard play, with one-hundred and twenty dual lands in the format there’s going to be several at least four color decks or three color decks with an off splash Ancient Grudge. These decks will want constant access to all of the colors, this card could be the niche card that they’re looking for. I could be wrong, but I’ll probably keep a couple of these just in case.
Grove of the Gaurdian – I’m with the camp that says that this is worse than Gavony Township. This card requires six lands to used AND two untapped creatures. Part of the beauty of Township was that a player could end step tap two mana dorks and a couple of lands to turn those dorks into threats. It’s a lot more of an investment to create an 8/8 because those mana creatures have to tap for the ability now, not to mention you’ve lost a land to the ability. It’s also easier to kill an 8/8 token in this format with Dreadbore and Abrupt Decay than several pesky 1/1’s with counters. Where’s Pernicious Deed?
Overall, I think this set is fairly strong and with about a hundred more cards to be spoiled there’s still a ton of exciting cards to see. I think this is by far one of the better sets since Zendikar.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource