Posted in Feature on December 31, 2012

By Staff

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The plane of Ravnica is an endless metropolis where ten two-color guilds vie for authority. The Return to Ravnica set took Magic back to this beloved setting and showcased five of the ten two-color guilds. Gatecrash brings new cards and strategies for the other five guilds: the white-black banker-priests of Orzhov, the blue-black manipulators of Dimir, the red-green ravagers of Gruul, the red-white legions of Boros, and the green-blue biomancers of Simic. Each guild has its own philosophy, its own strategy, and its own signature mechanic.

Multicolored: Gold and Hybrid

A multicolored card is just what it sounds like: a card with more than one color. There are two kinds of multicolored cards you'll find in Gatecrash. You're probably already familiar with "gold" cards, which are spells that require two or more different colors to cast:

Drakewing Krasis

Drakewing Krasis

Gold cards are straightforward. Drakewing Krasis is both green and blue, and you need one green mana and one blue mana (along with one more mana of any type) to cast it. Anything that affects green spells or blue spells will affect it; anything that affects, say, "nonblue" spells won't affect it, because it is blue, even though it's also another color.

Also appearing in Gatecrash are hybrid cards, which made their debut in the original Ravnica block.

Burning-Tree Emissary

Burning-Tree Emissary

You can pay a hybrid mana symbol like by paying one mana of either of its two colors—in this case, or . You don't have to pay the same kind of mana for all the hybrid mana symbols on one card. So you can cast Burning-Tree Emissary for , , or .

No matter what color or colors of mana you use to cast it, Burning-Tree Emissary is always red and green.

"Gold" and "hybrid" aren't colors, nor is "multicolored." But some effects may refer to multicolored cards. That includes any card with more than one color, so it will affect both hybrid cards and gold cards.

The Orzhov Syndicate: Extort

The Orzhov are a guild of profiteering pontiffs and wealthy nobles, thriving on the devotion—and debt—of their followers. The extort mechanic lets you bleed your opponents dry.

Basilica Guards

Basilica Guards

Whenever you cast a spell, the extort abilities of permanents you control will trigger. As the trigger resolves, you'll be given the chance to pay or . (All extort cards, regardless of color, let you pay either color.) If you decide not to pay, nothing happens. But if you do have a spare mana to pay, each of your opponents will lose 1 life, and you'll gain that much life. Each trigger lets you pay up to one mana; you can't pump more mana into it.

If you control multiple permanents with extort, each one triggers and resolves separately. You choose whether to pay for each trigger. So for each spell, you can pay a number of times up to the total number of extort triggers on permanents you control.

The House Dimir: Cipher

In the dark alleys and tunnelways of the undercity lies the unfathomable network of the Dimir guild, carrying the words and spells of the guild's leaders throughout Ravnica.

Call of the Nightwing

Call of the Nightwing

As a spell you control with cipher resolves, you may exile it and choose a creature you control. The cipher card is then encoded on that creature, and whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, its controller may copy the encoded card and cast the copy without paying its mana cost. Usually, the creature's controller will be you, but if another player takes control of your creature (due to something like Act of Treason, for example), it takes the encoded spell with it to its new master.

Some of the finer points:

  • After you copy the encoded spell, it remains encoded on the creature (whether you cast the copy or not).
  • If more than one spell is encoded on a single creature, you can copy any or all of them when that creature deals combat damage to a player. You can cast the copies in any order.
  • The copies created by the triggered ability can't be encoded on a creature.
  • If you cast a spell with cipher, encode it onto a creature, attack with that creature, and deal damage with that creature, you'll get to cast that spell twice in one turn.
  • The spell's instructions are followed in order, so exiling it and encoding it on a creature is the last thing you'll do while resolving it.

In the case of Call of the Nightwing, that last bullet point means you can encode the spell onto the creature token the spell itself just created.

The Gruul Clans: Bloodrush

The warriors of the scattered Gruul Clans spend a lot of time fighting for territory, for loot, or simply for enjoyment. A creature with a bloodrush ability is so eager to get into the fight, it might not even wait for you to cast it.

Zhur-Taa Swine

Zhur-Taa Swine

Bloodrush is an ability word that marks a particular kind of activated ability you can use when a creature card with bloodrush is in your hand. Each bloodrush ability has a cost of paying some amount of mana and discarding the creature card. It targets an attacking creature, which means it can be activated only during combat and only targeting a creature that's currently attacking.

The actual bonus is different on each card with a bloodrush ability. Zhur-Taa Swine is a 5/4, and it gives the attacking creature +5/+4. Take a look at Viashino Shanktail:

Viashino Shanktail

Viashino Shanktail

Viashino Shanktail is a 3/1 with first strike, and its bloodrush ability, correspondingly, gives the attacking creature +3/+1 and first strike.

A bloodrush ability isn't a spell and can't be countered by things that only counter spells. It uses the stack and can be responded to normally.

The Boros Legion: Battalion

With shining weapons and righteous fury, the Boros advance in ordered ranks on the miscreants of Ravnica. Boros creatures with battalion abilities are at their strongest when they attack alongside their allies.

Boros Elite

Boros Elite

Battalion is an ability word that marks a particular kind of triggered ability. A creature's battalion ability triggers when it and at least two other creatures attack. The bonus from battalion abilities varies from card to card, but the trigger is always the same.

Battalion abilities use the stack and can be responded to normally.

The Simic Combine: Evolve

The Simic plumb the secrets of life itself, accelerating the evolution of their creations and even themselves with the evolve keyword.

Cloudfin Raptor

Cloudfin Raptor

Evolve is a triggered ability that triggers whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control. At the time that happens, you compare the new creature's power to the evolve creature's power and the new creature's toughness to the evolve creature's toughness. If either or both of those values is higher for the new creature, the ability triggers. (It only triggers once for each creature that enters the battlefield, even if that creature's power and toughness are both higher.)

After the ability has gone on the stack and players have a chance to respond to it, it resolves. If the new creature still has a higher power and/or toughness, you'll put a +1/+1 counter on the evolve creature.

If multiple creatures enter the battlefield at the same time—say, because they're tokens—evolve triggers separately for each, and the triggers resolve one by one.

For example, say an effect puts three 2/2 creatures onto the battlefield while you control Cloudfin Raptor. Each of those creatures has a higher power and/or toughness than the Raptor, so evolve triggers three times. When the first trigger resolves, Cloudfin Raptor gets a +1/+1 counter. When the second trigger resolves, Cloudfin Raptor is a 1/2. The second 2/2 creature token no longer has a greater toughness than Cloudfin Raptor, but its power is still greater, so Cloudfin Raptor gets another +1/+1 counter. When the third trigger resolves, that 2/2 creature token has neither a greater power or toughness than the now-2/3 Cloudfin Raptor, so no +1/+1 counter is added.


Multicolored cards can put a strain on your mana, so Gatecrash features five common "dual lands"—lands that can tap for either of two different colors of mana—called Gates.

Orzhov Guildgate

Orzhov Guildgate

Orzhov Guildgate enters the battlefield tapped and can tap for or . It doesn't have the types Plains or Swamp, but it does have a land type: Gate. Being a Gate—sort of like being an Elf—doesn't mean anything on its own, but it's a marker that other cards in the set look for. So why is it good to have Gates?

Gateway Shade

Gateway Shade

Gateway Shade, like many Shades, has an ability that boosts its power and toughness when you spend black mana. But it also has a second ability that lets you tap any Gate, regardless of what colors of mana that Gate can produce.

When you do this, you're not tapping the Gate for mana. You can tap a Gate for mana or to pay for Gateway Shade's ability, but not both.

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