Ravnica's Busy Afterlife

Posted in Arcana on March 7, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

Ravnica is a city-plane teeming with the dead, which helps tie the Ravnica Block mechanically to the spirit-heavy Kamigawa Block and provides plenty of fodder for flavor. With the ghost-ruled Orzhov and the reanimation-happy Golgari vying for power over the dead, there aren't many bygone citizens of Ravnica resting peacefully in the ground. Today we look at several Ravnica Block cards that illustrate this.

Restless Bones
Take for example the card Restless Bones. As implied by the flavor text, those pieces of cloth over the skeletons' faces are their burial shrouds, still clinging to them as they stir from their graves to fight for some guild's purposes -- and possibly still clinging to their faces as they are re-slain by their own kinsmen.

"We mourn our dead. We shroud our dead. We bury our dead. Too often, it seems, we must kill our dead again."
- Grazda, veteran armorer

Empty the Catacombs
There's another revealing piece of flavor text on Ravnica's Empty the Catacombs, which depicts a necromancer raising scores of bodies from the dead in the depths of a Ravnican tomb. Truly, necromancy is high art in Ravnica.

When the dead are laid to rest in Ravnica, it's usually just a nap.

With all this necromancy going on, graveyard removal is a necessity both mechanically, to keep the Golgari dredge mechanic in check, and also in-setting. That's the concept behind Guildpact's reprint of Cremate.

Cremation of the dead is not a religious ritual in Ravnica. It's a business designed to keep the Golgari from growing in numbers.

Grave-Shell Scarab.

Strands of Undeath
What can such mastery over the afterlife do to your sense of right and wrong? Well, the Ravnica card Strands of Death shows off some of the philosophy of the Orzhov's ghostly ruling elite:

Why limit yourself to mortal law when you can outlive those who enforce it?
- Czaric, Orzhov prelate

And it's not only the Black-aligned guilds that recruit spirits to their numbers. See Carven Caryatid and Primordial Sage, Benevolent Ancestor and Ghost Warden, Ethereal Usher and Hunted Phantasm, and Guildpact's cycle of Rusalkas. All forms of existence are welcome in Ravnica's guilds -- corporeality not required. Who knows, perhaps the spiritcraft practiced in Kamigawa may be alive and well in some new form in Ravnica?

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