Can you hear it? The skittering of goblins in back alleys, strange screams coming from Simic laboratories, and the steady step of the Boros Legion marching. Are you prepared to travel back to the biggest city in the multiverse. Guilds of Ravnica is set to release on October 4th where once again we will enter the plane of Ravnica and experience the culmination of the story of the Gatewatch. While we are just knocking on the door of spoiler season Wizards has been kind enough to reveal some information to us at PAX and even have made some videos that show some commons in the set. So today I thought I could share some of the information I have gleaned as well as thoughts. So let’s get into the mechanics of GRN.
Here we have the latest twist on the Scry mechanic and it is one I am personally in love with. Surveil allows you to look at the top cards of your library in correspondence with the number following the ability name such as 1 or 2. You may then put any number of those cards into your graveyard or back on top of your library in any order. This makes me believe this set will have some great graveyard synergies and one of my favorite things about Magic is using your graveyard as a resource. We can take a look at Deadly Visit which is my pick for the best black common in the set calling it now before seeing anymore. This is your typical black destroy target creature card but with added ability of Surveil 2 this will make a huge difference in games of limited where you get to filter two cards on turn 5 or later. Compared to a card like Contract Killing which gave you some temporary mana this helps you find lands which will be permanent sources of mana or find action. Having the versatility will make this card very powerful. Enough with Deadly Visit though let’s talk a little bit more about Surveil. In Constructed this may be the fuel for a new graveyard based archetype and I’ll be looking for it as soon as the set comes out and hope to find some nice utility cards that have the added benefit of Surveil. Something like a land that had Surveil would be pretty awesome like the Scry lands.
This is the only returning mechanic in Guilds of Ravnica and is a pretty powerful one. Anytime you get to use resources that don’t normally produce mana as mana producers then you tend to have some powerful interactions. For instance Elves in Modern do this powering out a bunch of small creatures then allowing them to tap for mana to produce huge effects. Cards with the Convoke ability allow you to tap creatures for either one generic or a mana of the creature’s color. So a creature with blue and red in their casting cost can tap for 1, U, or R. While a lot of the Servo producers are rotating out of Standard we do have the Vampire tribe that can produce a lot of tokens in White so I’ll be interested to see if that can be taken any direction especially with cards like Legion’s Landing. At the very least Convoke should be a handy mechanic in Limited allowing you to play some large spells early in the game to run over your opponent.
Izzet is one of my favorite guilds on Ravnica and Jump-start is probably going to be my favorite mechanic in this set. While similar to Flashback in that Jump-start allows you to cast a card from your graveyard with the Jump-start ability on it you get the added benefit of casting the card for the same mana cost all you have to do is discard a card (which could be another card with Jump-start on it). Usually cards with Flashback require you to pay much more than the initial CMC but with Jump-start you could cast the spell and then cast it again the next turn just by discarding a card which can often be used as another benefit. I’ll be interested to see if there are cards worthy of older formats printed with Jump-start in this set since it is a mechanic that seems like it could have a home somewhere in a format like Modern. One card I did see was a gold common that was 1UR for an instant tap target creature and deal 2 damage to its controller and the card had Jump-start. The fact that this card is a common implies that this will be an expert level set. They have multicolored commons and cards with that much text on them at common means that R&D is not messing around with this one which makes me very excited to play some Limited.
One of the more unassuming mechanics of this set but one that I think may have big implications for Standard. Whenever a creature with the Mentor ability attacks then there is a trigger put on the stack and another target attacking creature with less power can get a +1/+1 counter. One thing to note is that in order for this ability to resolve a check happens twice to ensure that the target creature still has less power before a counter is placed. So in order to target the creature it must have less power than the creature with Mentor and in order for the ability to resolve the creature must still have less power. If you have two creature with Mentor and want to put both counters on another creature you control you will want to ensure that you order the triggers correctly on the stack so that the target creature has less power than the creature with Mentor targeting it at that time. Imagine you have two 3/3s with Mentor and you also have a vanilla 2/2 and you attack with everything. Both Mentor abilities trigger and you can target the 2/2 with both abilities. When the first Mentor ability attempts resolve it will check if the creature still has less power and it does so it places a +1/+1 counter. Then the second ability attempts to resolve it will again check to see if the creature still has less power but now it is a 3/3 and has equal power so it doesn’t get the counter. It is something to keep in mind at your prerelease to not do yourself and make sure your opponents can’t do to you. With the dominance of red decks in Standard lately I could see some good red cards with Mentor making their way into Constructed and will be one of the first places I’m looking when taking a look at the fresh format. Red has continued to be the most successful color in the format and having some 2 drops or 3 drops with Haste and Mentor to pump your 1 drops and smash could be a recipe for success in this upcoming format.
Finally the last main mechanic in Guilds of Ravnica Undergrowth is another graveyard based mechanic and makes me really excited for this Limited format with what seems like a lot of synergy with Surveil, Jump-start, and now Undergrowth. Cards with this ability have varying effects but they all care about having creature cards in your graveyard and in particular the exact number of them. Moodmark Painter is another newer card that is seems like a pretty top notch common. Here target creature receives Menace and gets +X/+O where X is the number of creature cards in your graveyard. Of course only caring about creature cards makes this a little more narrow than just having any cards any your graveyard but with so much graveyard synergies there is bound to be some sort of sacrifice deck in Limited.
Hybrid Mana and Split Cards
Another newer spoiler is the fact that Hybrid Mana is returning and with that the set will also feature two cycles of Split cards. One cycle of split cards are themes after the Guilds and will feature hybrid mana half. All this points to a very complicated Limited format and I am very excited. I’m sure we all have seen and if you haven’t they are reprinting shock lands so theoretically the ability to play multiple colors in Limited is high. I do expect them to also print Guildgates at common to help facilitate all these multicolored cards and possibly have some nice other forms of fixing. Split cards make me excited to see what R&D have come up with since those are the type of cards that may have deeper Constructed impact than Standard and could provide some useful sideboard tech.
All of these mechanics and cards make me very excited for the upcoming set. This could quite possibly be a better Limited set then Dominaria and may provide for some very interesting drafts. I can’t wait for Prerelease to build my first Sealed deck on Ravnica and experience what I hope will be a diverse and interesting format. Plus soon spoiler will be in full swing and we will get to see what new tools we will be given to reshape the Standard format. I am very excited for rotation and even more excited to play some drafts.