The 10 Ten Reasons You Should Attend the Ravnica Prerelease

Posted in Feature on September 21, 2005

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Hello. My name is Mark Rosewater. Besides being the head designer for Magic: The Gathering®, I am also the lead designer of Ravnica. So who better than me to convince you to attend the Ravnica Prerelease? And what better format than the age-old Top Ten list? Before I begin, I should admit that I don’t think I need ten reasons. In fact, using ten makes me feel a little greedy, but I am a stickler for tradition (and a fan of David Letterman), so here I go.

#10 – Ravnica is An Awesome Expansion

Many of you might have thought I’d save this one for the number one slot, but the Magic designer in me likes to break expectations. (Hmm, a stickler for tradition that likes to break expectations.) Let’s just start with the big guns. I have been designing Magic sets for 10 years. I have designed more cards than any designer in the history of the game. I know something about what the audience likes and doesn’t like. And Ravnica is a crowd pleaser. It has interesting mechanics, cool individual cards, and synergy like nobody’s business. Ravnica is the kind of set that makes me proud to be a Magic designer.

#9 – Prereleases Are Fun

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to a prerelease, but playing with cards that you’ve never seen before is quite a rush. In fact, not only do I recommend that you go, but try to steer clear of any spoilers (save the few cards we actually preview on MagictheGathering.com). The whole experience will be more fun if you get the fun of discovering the cards as you build your deck and play. And Ravnica has a few surprises in it that might raise an eyebrow or two.

#8 – The Cards Look Great

I could go off on how we’ve tweaked the borders on the gold cards and what the new hybrid frame looks like (we’ll get to hybrids in a moment), but that’s really not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the art. After a few years traveling to more offbeat planes, Ravnica is bringing things back towards a more traditional fantasy look. Set in a wonderous city no less. If you haven’t visited MagictheGathering.com, I suggest checking out “The Essence of Basic Land” by Jeremy Cranford, Magic’s Art Director. In it, he talks about the creation of the basic land. And then he shows some of the art. Take a look at the art. And that’s just the basic land! If you have any appreciation for the art of the game, Ravnica is going to be a real treat.

#7 – Multicolor’s Back, Baby

There are numerous themes that have proven popular with the players. None hold a candle to multicolor. The Ravnica block is all about multicolor, including some very new approaches to it. (I’ll get to it, I promise). It even has more multicolored cards than Invasion™. If you like multicolor (and come on, who doesn’t?), you’ll enjoy Ravnica.

#6 – The Guild Model

While Ravnica is a return to multicolor, it is not just Invasion II. The design team (led by myself and including Magic’s creator, Richard Garfield) chose to focus on the 10 two-color combinations. Ally and enemy considerations were put aside for this block, as we decided to focus equally on the 10 two-color combinations. To do so, we came up with the guild model wherein each color combination is assigned a guild that is given its own flavor and mechanics. Each guild, for example, has its own keyword mechanic and its own look and feel. To give the model room to breathe, we’ve spread the guild model out over the entire block, meaning that each guild will exist solely in one set. Ravnica features the House of Dimir (blue/black), The Selesnya Conclave (green/white), The Boros Legion (red/white), and the Golgari Swarm (black/green).

#5 – The Hybrid Mechanic

Remember opening up Invasion and seeing the split cards for the first time? (If you don’t, trust me—it was cool.) Well, Ravnica has its own new thing, the hybrid cards (and like the split cards, the hybrid cards have their own distinctive look). Each hybrid card has a special mana symbol that allows you to pay one of two colors for it. For example, a green/white hybrid card allows you to pay white and/or green mana anywhere a green/white hybrid mana symbol exists. The hybrid cards are what I always aim to achieve as a designer. It is an idea so simple it is surprising we hadn’t thought of it years ago, yet it has a depth of strategy large enough to create all sorts of cool gameplay experiences.

#4 – Four New Mechanics

As I explained above, each guild has its own mechanic. Dimir (black/blue) gets a mechanic called transmute that allows you to exchange cards for cards in your library with the same converted mana cost. Selesnya (green/white) gets a mechanic called convoke that can be paid for with creatures as well as land. Boros (red/white) has a mechanic called radiance that effects all creatures (well mostly creatures, there are some exceptions) that share a color with the targeted creature. Golgari (black/green) gets a mechanic called dredge that allows you to choose to draw the card out of the graveyard instead of the top of your library. Each mechanic has a very different feel, capturing the essence of its guild’s flavor. All four are quite interesting. And each mechanic shows up in both the multicolor and the monocolored cards that make up the guild. This means that even if you’re focusing on one guild, you’ll still have a chance to use mechanics from the other guilds.

#3 – Flavor, Flavor, Flavor

One of my goals with Ravnica was to better intertwine the mechanics and the flavor, and I feel we’ve succeeded in spades. One of the coolest parts about playing Ravnica is that you get a sense of the guilds not just from the art and the names and the flavor text, but also from the gameplay of the cards themselves. Dimir plays like Dimir. Selesnya plays like Selesnya. Each guild creates a play experience unlike the other three guilds in the set (and the other six guilds later in the block). Words alone cannot do justice to this gameplay experience. You honestly have to play it to see what I mean.

#2 – You Can Say You Were There

We believe that Ravnica might be the largest prerelease in the history of the game. Wouldn’t it be cool to say that you were a part of it?

#1 – You Can Get Your Hands On Cards Two Weeks Before They’re On Sale

Hopefully, I have convinced you how fun Ravnica is going to be to play. If you don’t go to the prerelease, you have to wait an extra two weeks to get your hands on actual cards. Why torture yourself?

Let me end with one final note. While it may sound like I’m hyping this set, there is not one word of exaggeration in this entire post. I sincerely mean every word I am saying. I really am very excited for Ravnica’s release. As the set’s lead designer and Magic’s head designer, I couldn’t be more proud of the set. This is Magic’s design (and development) on top of its game. Come check it out at the prerelease. I know you won’t be disappointed.

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