Tag: Return to Ravnica (page 2 of 2)

Returning to Ravnica

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Hypersonic Dragon, Art by Dan Scott

I must confess that, as much as I adore the setting and dynamics of Ravnica, I missed the block the first time around. I picked up Magic: the Gathering for the second time just as Time Spiral was debuting, after a long hiatus from the game stemming from the events leading to my breakdown. If I knew then what I know now… ah, but it’s water under the bridge. The future is brighter than the past, and the future is the Return to Ravnica.

I committed myself to representing Izzet all weekend long, and not just because their promotional card is a lovely alternate art foil of [mtg_card]Hypersonic Dragon[/mtg_card]. Which we could actually use, in deviance from the normal sealed rules. I was looking forward to what amounted to a Magic marathon, especially because the last couple work weeks have been so grueling. So it began at my friendly local gaming store, Cyborg One, with…

Friday Night, Midnight

After a long day of work and a less than stellar showing at Friday Night Magic, I prepared myself for the first pre-release event. Upon opening the box, I found my packs were leaning towards the new mechanic Izzet introduces in the set, Overload. Each card with Overload can be cast for that increased cost, which allows you to switch the word “target” on the card with the word “each”. The highlights were [mtg_card]Mizzium Mortars[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Cyclonic Rift[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Teleportal[/mtg_card]. Two [mtg_card]Goblin Electromancer[/mtg_card]s made those spells very inexpensive, even on Overload. The main card from the guild pack, however, was [mtg_card]Mercurial Chemister[/mtg_card], a somewhat beefy scientist that allowed me to draw cards with relative impunity.

However, it was difficult to strike the right balance with the deck, and all of the big spells supporting rushes towards the win only ever broke even for me. Still, a record of 2-2 is nothing to sneeze at, and I did get a couple new prize packs.

Saturday Afternoon, Noon

With the guild box at this event, I found myself splashing into Azorius. Two of my big rare pulls, [mtg_card]Righteous Authority[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Detention Sphere[/mtg_card], seemed extremely helpful in maintaining control of the battleground. Considering my largest bomb was the intimidating [mtg_card]Utvara Hellkite[/mtg_card], I wanted to make certain I would see the turn in which the big guy hit the table. More often than not, however, I didn’t need him. As good as his synergy was with the aforementioned Hypersonic Dragon, most of the work was done by a [mtg_card]Stealer of Secrets[/mtg_card], usually enchanted with [mtg_card]Pursuit of Flight[/mtg_card]. Multiple Detain effects (Detain shuts a creature down for a turn) and other removal made fliers even more difficult to stop. At one point, I had a Stealer with Pursuit, [mtg_card]Knightly Valor[/mtg_card], and Righteous Authority enchanting her. This sort of thing saw me placing second overall in the event, with a record of 3-0-1. I split my prizes between packs and store credit, and opened a [mtg_card]Blood Crypt[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Vraska the Unseen[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Epic Experiment[/mtg_card] among others.

Sunday Afternoon, 2 p.m.

Sundays during these weekends are different. Cyborg One runs Two-Headed Giant events, and with this pre-release, each team got two guild boxes to start with. I paired up with Jay Treat, mastermind of Wizard’s Familiar, to make the most of the event. He chose Selesnya while I continued to participate in these things FOR SCIENCE! He opened a [mtg_card]Grove of the Guardian[/mtg_card] to go with the one he had as a promotional foil, while I opened an [mtg_card]Armada Wurm[/mtg_card]. I also opened a second [mtg_card]Hypersonic Dragon[/mtg_card], and we began to formulate our plan. In essence, it fell to me to manage the early game, holding off aggression with [mtg_card]Frostburn Weird[/mtg_card]s and removal like [mtg_card]Street Spasm[/mtg_card] while he made preparations for his large token creatures. Once he had at least one out, he would Populate them as much as possible, generating additional tokens as part of several instant-speed spells, such as creating flying creatures with [mtg_card]Eyes in the Skies[/mtg_card] or making his creatures indestructible with [mtg_card]Rootborn Defenses[/mtg_card]. We felt prepared for just about anything.

Our first game ended with a rules dispute, and while technically the win was ours, after all of the back and forth we offered our opponents a draw, rather than just cackling all the way to the winner’s circle. After that, though, all of our wins were legitimate, though some were a bit narrow. At one point, I had a Hypersonic Dragon on the field, and he had two Bird tokens and a Guardian token. While the Guardian did not fly, there was a [mtg_card]Rogue’s Passage[/mtg_card] available, which meant that, since our opponents had no way to block flying creatures, we could damage them with impunity. And with that mix of creatures, with every attack we were devastating their life total.

We placed first in the event. It may be the biggest prize pool I’ve ever won in Magic. I couldn’t have done it without such an exemplary partner.


With a very comfortable amount of store credit to my name, and after several good trades, I am now in a position to roar back into constructed Magic events. My Legacy deck is nearly complete, I have two Standard decks to finish, and I have a couple ideas for the Modern format. But that is a post for another time.

FNM: One More Time

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Return to Ravnica is right around the corner. And when it comes, I will be wearing the blue and red of Izzet with pride. I have at least one Standard deck planned, and the guild is looking strong in Limited formats as well. On top of that, I’m planning on dipping my toe into Legacy soon, and the deck I’m considering is entirely red. But that’s a post for another time. Today we’re talking about Friday Night Magic.

I love FNM as a concept. Having a steady night for competition at a low cost provided you can assemble a deck is very appealing. And the Internet has made deck assembly even easier. Any deck being played by the pros can be found with a quick Google search or two, and if you have the disposable income, even the rarest of cards can be found for sale somewhere.

Now, I will admit to a bit of emotional and cultural bias when it comes to this. It’s one of those moments where I shake my walking stick at the young whipper-snappers taking up table space in my hobby. You see, I first played Magic back before there was an Internet, and all you really had to go on was sheer deckbuilding instinct, hard-won experience, and the occasional article in Scrye magazine. Does anybody else remember Scrye? Anyway, there really isn’t anything wrong with copying a deck from an online pro-winning deck list, I just get a little peeved when I keep losing to the same online pro-winning deck list because everybody and their kid seems to be playing it.

Like I said, nothing wrong with this. Play what works for you. I just prefer building my own decks.

Of course, there’s no way to test my deck ideas other than playing them. While I recently got back into Magic Online for the first time since some point during the Renaissance, I don’t have anywhere near enough cards from the Innistrad block to replicate my deck. Speaking of which…

It will still be a couple weeks before my full Izzet plan comes to fruition. I do have a somewhat viable deck I’ve been monkeying around with, and I think I need to revisit its most successful iteration. At the same time, there are some concepts from the latest version of it that I really like, but the way it was set up was simply too reactionary. Still, having responses planned is good, and going fully aggro didn’t really work for me, either. The result is what the pros like to call “midrange.”

[mtg_deck title=”WB Token Midrange”]
// Creatures
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Hero of Bladehold
3 Stonehorn Dignitary
3 Blade Splicer
2 Bloodline Keeper
2 Captain of the Watch

// Spells
4 Lingering Souls
3 Honor of the Pure
3 Go for the Throat
3 Oblivion Ring
1 Intangible Virtue

// Planeswalkers
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Elspeth Tirel

// Lands
11 Plains
7 Swamp
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Vault of the Archangel

// Sideboard
3 Revoke Existence
3 Celestial Purge
3 War Priest of Thune
2 Day of Judgment
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Doom Blade

Cutting [mtg_card]Venser, the Sojourner[/mtg_card] hurts, but vigilant soldiers that slow down aggressive enemies while quick token generation holds off opposing creatures and makes it difficult for control decks to keep up may be a more viable path to victory.

I really can’t wait for Return to Ravnica. This deck need some time off, probably until Gatecrash shows up. Or I pull enough good cards to make a Junk Tokens deck…

Why Izzet?

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Ravnica is one of my favorite blocks in Magic: the Gathering‘s history. It provided a flavorful plane with lots of versatile deck ideas and all sorts of interesting guilds based on pairings of colors. So when Return to Ravnica was announced at PAX East, I pretty much lost my face. With the spoilers we’ve been seeing of the expansion, which hits next month, my glee is pretty justified. But while the Azorius guild is in my primary colors of white and blue, and a good deal of my cards from the previous block set in that plane appear to be from the sadistic playground of Rakdos, I’ve always considered myself Izzet at heart. Why?

Izzet is the red and blue guild. Blue is a color of mind games and control, featuring counterspells, illusionary creatures, and using an opponent’s cards against them, while red’s fast-paced flavor leans towards direct damage, fast creatures, and big flashy finishes like dragons and laying an unstoppable smackdown with a single card. When combined in the Izzet guild, the result is the magical equivalent of super-science. Izzet mages experiment with electricity, flight, spell manipulation, and time shenanigans. Why? Because they can!

Ravnica features a great deal of inter-guild politics and scheming, from Dimir spies lurking in the shadows to Golgari agents stealing undesirables for use in their experiments. Izzet certainly has its share of secrets, and if any of the guilds were to be working on some sort of doomsday device, it’d probably be them. However, it’s hard to imagine them working from a truly malicious angle. Again, for Izzet, it’s all about pushing the boundaries of Magic, trying new things no matter how dangerous, and letting the mind dictate one’s limits.

I like this very much because I’ve never been one to straight up copy deck lists from other players. I may get ideas from other lists, and I of course am curious about things like Maverick or The Rock, but I won’t be throwing down cash to simply run a deck someone else is running, regardless of how much that deck wins. For me, a good portion of the fun in Magic is the theorycrafting. Rather than being confident that I’m going to win every match I play, I’ve gone into events wondering how well or how badly the deck will run in competition. As much as it sucks to lose, especially when most “top” players tend to run the same deck, i.e. whatever the best pro players are playing, the experimentation does have rewards in and of itself. You learn about your own playstyle, you figure out what works for you, and you decide what you don’t want to do.

I think that’s where Izzet’s appeal lies, for me. While no two-color combination necessarily locks a player into a particular style of deck, red and blue together can go heavily for control, lean entirely towards aggression, or rest anywhere in between. It lends itself towards the very experimentation that keeps me going back to my favorite local comic & gaming store every week.

And it’s run by a genius dragon. That’s pretty much the cherry on it.

If you play Magic, are you excited for Return to Ravnica? Have you chosen your guild? I’d love to hear about it!

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