The Ravnica: City of Guilds Prerelease event has come and gone. I attended the event in Atlanta—which is not my usual stomping grounds for these events. Normally I would be hitting that event in New Orleans.
Sigh. We won’t even start on that topic, my friends.
Regardless of having to find an alternate venue to participate in, having to drive an extra 4 hours, and not really seeing too many familiar faces, I and the few other Klaukwork Wizards that made the trip had an absolute blast! The new card set is amazing! Limited play in this hot, new environment is extremely skill intensive. Deciding what colors to play and how to adjust your mana base appropriately takes both a discipline and finesse that has never been asked of players until now. Invasion™ Limited easily allowed you to play multiple colors and rewarded you greatly for playing as many colors as possible. After all, Five-Color-Green was a respected Limited archetype in the days of Rith, the Awakener. Ravnica Limited slyly asks you to choose the one guild you will ally with. Yet, you are also all but forced to make a back-alley deal with up to three other colors. Choose your alliances wisely because if there is one thing I secretly took away with me from the Prerelease (other than the ability to mana flood at will), it was discovering that which cards you should include is quite a different puzzle from which cards you can include.
But, that is exactly what makes the early days of a new set so entertaining. Everyone thinks that they know how to put all the cards together to complete the puzzle. In reality, it will take weeks, if not months, before most connect all the pieces with each other. Nothing helps you more though than getting hands-on exposure to all the cards. Nothing replaces actual play.
If you attended the Prerelease, that was a first solid step toward unraveling the mysteries of this setting. If you weren’t able to enjoy a Prerelease event, or if you just want more exposure, then you are in luck. Wizards of the Coast, in conjunction with one of your local stores, is offering the next great opportunity for getting your hands on and minds around Ravnica. October 7–9, 2005 will be the weekend for Ravnica Release events. You’ll have to check with your local store for specific dates and times during this weekend to find out exactly when they will be hosting their Release event. If they’re not participating, ask them why not?! They are putting you behind the learning curve when they could be putting you ahead of it. Not to mention you will be missing out on a lot of fun and cool prizes.
The Release event will be either Sealed Deck or Booster Draft, depending upon what your store has decided. These are definitely two different tasks when it comes to Ravnica. For some fantastic guidance, check out Scott Willis’ Limited Information article, Welcome to the City of Guilds. I especially liked the portion on mana in this format that Scott discusses. It ties right in with my above comments about what you should and what you can include in your deck. He also gives some great insight on the differences between Sealed and Booster Draft in Ravnica: City of Guilds.
You’ll also want to contact your local store to find out what the entry fee will be. No matter where you participate though, your entry fee will get you one Ravnica: City of Guilds tournament deck and two Ravnica: City of Guilds booster packs for a Sealed Deck event or three Ravnica: City of Guilds booster packs for a Booster Draft event. There will be a Release foil promo card (while supplies last at your location) for each player. The top three players will each receive a special life counter. Additional Ravnica: City of Guilds booster packs will be given out to at least the top four players. If you aren’t one of those players, you can still win one of the special life counters that will be given away to one random participant. Cool prizes for all! See how that works?
Which guild will help you snag the prize? Will it be the sneaky and all-knowing House Dimir that helps you to snake your way into the winnings? Perhaps it will be The Golgari, as they teach you the true meaning of life and death. Maybe you can calmly have your forces gather together under the nurturing council of the Selesnya Conclave. Or maybe you will throw caution to the wind as you simply assault your opponent with the armies from the Boros Legion. Who knows? You might even decide the time has come for some of the other guilds to rise before their time as you instead take the battlefield with the forces of ones to come such as the Orzhov Syndicate or even The Izzet. Whatever guild(s) you decide will help you take control of your Ravnica Release event, just know that I have seen every one of them succeed. Many might claim that if you don’t include green in your build, then you are doing something wrong. That is far from the truth of the matter. I have even seen a blue-red build in a draft take home the gold. There’s something to be said for drafting the two colors that most others are not, when you can recognize that it is happening; then you will steadily add the goods to your deck while others fight over scraps of the “playable” colors.
Most writers/theorists will focus on the commons and uncommons of a set when they speak about a Limited format. Well, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not like most. My gears turn in opposite directions from many.* If I may for a moment, let me talk to you about a few rares that you should hope to see on your side of the table. I think it is fair to discuss this instead of focusing on commons and uncommons, because this is one of the more balanced Limited formats I have ever seen. These are the few rares I have been witness to that unbalance the power on the board. You should be aware of them as well as how to police against them.
Calling all cards! Calling all cards! Be on the lookout for the following offenders of unfair Limited play. They are armed and extremely dangerous. You are authorized to use lethal force if you have them in your sights and you feel threatened. Repeat. Use lethal force if you have them in your sights and you feel threatened. Shoot ’em! Take ’em down! Because if you don’t, they won’t think twice about doing you in.
Ravnica Most Wanted
#10: Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran
Let’s not beat around the bush here people. A 5/5 creature in combat (you know… that time that matters the most for almost every creature in Limited) for 5 mana is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s see though, he can make your red creatures more powerful, your white ones more likely to live through combat, and your red-white ones downright powerhouses? Kill him on sight! Ok, maybe just make it where he can’t attack. Any trick that accomplishes these two things is worth considering if you see him on the other side of the combat. I have even seen someone successfully hold him at bay with Cyclopean Snare. While not necessarily the most mana-efficient answer, it at least allowed them to not get completely crushed until they found a better answer.
#9: Sisters of Stone Death
Blah, blah, 8 mana, blah, blah. Blah, blah, never get cast, blah, blah. What? Huh? That’s in play? Hmm… this is bad for me, right?
Keep in mind that if the Sisters remove a creature, they can bring it back at any time, even a later turn. Once online and swinging, these gorgons are going to all but ensure the game will soon be over. Short of killing it, Faith’s Fetters is one of your best solutions to the Sisters. Hold onto the Fetters if you don’t think you can finish off an opponent before they drop this monstrosity into play.
#8: Hammerfist Giant
Opening this guy in your first pack is reason enough to draft blue-red. Make sure your Flight of Fancy is enchanting him for extra entertainment. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter.
This is one of those cards that doesn’t seem good in every deck, though it still stings to see it cut regardless. If you make tokens, play this card. You will not regret it. If you are playing against this, especially in a token deck, expect to see Rally the Righteous in your opponent’s build and plan accordingly.
#6: Concerted Effort
Boros Guildmage was never a better friend to you than when you have this card in play. Make sure you respond to Concerted Effort while it is on the stack by giving one of your creatures first strike. I’m sorry… I mean all your creatures. I’m sure this card will be even more powerful once the Azorius Senate** throws itself into the struggle in Ravnica. It is cards like this, among others, that currently make me run enchantment destruction in my main deck.
#5: Woodwraith Corrupter
Ok. This guy makes 4/4 creatures. Not until the end of turn, but he makes 4/4 creatures. Yet another lesson why it pays to read the card fully and take a moment to think about it. Whatever solution you have for an army of 4/4 creatures is what you should utilize against this guy.
Yeah… that’s what I thought. I didn’t have an answer either.
#4: Loxodon Gatekeeper
This guy is a nightmare in an aggressive deck. Nothing like getting whooped up on for the first 3 turns of the game only to discover that you now are under the effects of a Kismet while you attempt to gain control of the board. You can almost hang up racing the opponent at this point. Pay attention to your mana curve and adjust accordingly if this guy wrecks you. Big, stupid elephant.
#3: Hunted Dragon
Dragons are usually good, and this one is no exception. The fact that he gets to swing before the Knights hunting him is what makes him one of the best of the Hunted creatures. Oh, yeah… and the fact that he flies. That’s pretty good as well. Kill on sight if you are facing this thing. Sadly though, you probably will take at least one hit from him before you get to kill him. This is probably one of the worst creatures you can see sitting across the table from you.
#2: Hunted Lammasu
And this would be the worst. It only gives one token to your opponent, and that token isn’t even big enough to take out the Lammasu. For all the hype the dragon is getting, I still think I would rather face off against it than this bad boy. Your strategy here should be to have it in your deck instead of in your opponent’s. Of course, if that’s not possible, then use good old-fashioned creature removal. Good luck with that. I hope you have something handy.
#1: Bloodletter Quill
Spend 2 mana and draw a card? Bargain? Ridiculous card advantage? You betcha! Since putting the counter onto the Bloodletter Quill is part of the activation, simply respond to it by removing a counter. Presto! No loss of life! I’m not sure how good this thing is if you don’t have access to the black-blue to remove counters, but my suspicion is that it is still more than playable.
Faith’s Fetters, Smash, Sundering Vitae… reporting for duty sir! If you don’t have something to bring in against the Quill, then it will likely be an uphill battle once it hits play.
Now keep in mind, this is not a top 10 list of the best rare cards for Limited play in Ravnica. It is simply a list of the 10 cards I have personally seen tip the balance of a game that may have otherwise been decided solely on better play and deck construction. Simply a rogues gallery, so to speak. Each had a story unto itself during the Prerelease weekend. If you are interested and just have to know… all you have to do is ask.
Have fun watching your own unique stories unfold at the Ravnica Release event near you. I’m sure your top 10 list will have its own tales to tell.
Catch ya’ll later,
John H. Klauk
Klaukwork Wizard on Magic: the Gathering® Online
johnklauk at wotcdelegates.org
*What else would you expect from a Klaukwork Wizard?
**They are the blue-white guild appearing in one of the next two expansion sets.John started playing Magic back when Antiquities came out. He is a frequent top 8 finisher at PTQs and States using non-archetype decks and is a Regional Coordinator for the Delegate program. John would like to give a huge thanks to Southeast Magic for hosting such a spectacular Ravnica Prerelease event in Atlanta, as well as a special thanks to Tim Weissman for doing his best to give New Orleans players someplace to have a Prerelease event at.