Welcome back to the Lab! We’re here now, in the third week of Return to Ravnica previews. Back in the day, I would have been agog at the notion of a sequel to the sprawling cityscape world. In fact, I’m still baffled (delightedly so) by what is happening. We’re actually going back to Ravnica!
Ravnica is a straight-up juggernaut of a set that dangles prominently from Magic‘s timeline, like a branch drooping from the weight of its fruit. It made fresh tracks in the design space for multicolored cards, and its mechanics rang with their blend of flavor and function, primordial ancestors to the entire concept of ‘Fifth Stage Design.’
Leaving aside the appealing system of roving guilds, Ravnica also succeeded in my view (this is where my Johnny slant kicks in) because of its amazing amount of combo-fodder that it packed into individual cards that continue to make me slap my own brow. Doubling Season, Eye of the Storm, Warp World, Cloudstone Curio, Searing Meditation, Followed Footsteps. Just a bunch of insanely fun effects!
Will Return to Ravnica equal it? So far, there are some transfixing cards in the new set, and my preview today ranks among them. Like some of the cards mentioned above, my preview gives off a quirky vibe. Its text reads like some kind of hypnotically tasty morsel with a sudden sugar rush lying dormant waiting to spring.
It might not be an insanely threatening board presence, or even a strong combat deterrent, but as far as card filtration goes, Search the City is instantly intriguing as a temporary trampoline for the top five cards of your library that eventually collapses and leaves behind an extra turn. The way the card is set up, it feels like a game within a game, a concept that has always appealed to me.
Playing with Search the City is like accepting a subtle challenge: Can I cast all five?
Search the City relies on the assumption that your deck has other copies of the cards exiled on it. Therefore, it automatically pronounces itself dead on arrival in certain formats. Commander is completely out, and every time this card clogs the rare slot in a booster pack of Return to Ravnica Limited, that moment will be worth a sigh or two. And I’m sure a couple of the Spikier types have already yelled “JANK!”
Happily, the format of casual play accepts nearly every card out there, and I’m sure Search the City is rustling someone’s creative energies right now. It’s a somewhat complex card to process and can be tricky to pull off. It’s also a nifty set of hoops that help you out as you hop through them, inching ever closer to that extra turn. While a Time Walk effect is a nice payoff, in this case the journey toward it can prove more rewarding.
Search the City | Art by Jack Wang
To begin, let’s think about every line of the card text, to hopefully stir the idea waters.
“When Search the City enters the battlefield, exile the top five cards of your library.” For some reason my mind leapt to Parallel Thoughts, a similar blue enchantment from Scourge.
“Whenever you play a card with the same name as one of the exiled cards, you may put one of those cards with that name into its owner’s hand.” Here’s where things get interesting, provided you have enough extra copies of your spells in your deck (4-ofs seem to be essential here). Although Search the City exiles one copy (maybe more) of that spell, it also latches it to every other copy in your deck. It’s a strange way of allowing spells to leave copies of themselves in your hand as you cast them, under the right conditions (meaning: it’s the spell you’re ‘searching’ for.)
What that somewhat scrambled line of thinking ultimately yields is the concept of rigging my deck so Search the City can exile multiple copies of spells. That way, the last one could start a chain reaction, like each copy in the deck is attached to each other, drawing them out one by one, like a Magic trick (rimshot.)
This would also propel me to those last lines: “Then if there are no cards exiled with Search the City, sacrifice it. If you do, take an extra turn after this one.” A part of me wants to experiment with enchantment recursion, like Dowsing Shaman or Skull of Orm, but somehow those prospects feel thin and too difficult. This card is puzzling enough! (Although such a deck could be awesome.)
Instead, my deck ideas around this card are based around stacking the top of my library with a particular five cards, and seeing how quickly I can pop Search the City for its extra turn. My first idea for a card pairing was Scouting Trek. A giant Trek could enable a Search the City to exile a bunch of basic lands. And since Search the City uses the wording “play” rather than “cast”, you can chain these lands from exile.
Combined with methods of playing additional lands per turn, things get speedy. Rites of Flourishing offers an additional land and card in hand, and Journey of Discovery pulls double duty as a fetcher and spreader of lands.
I was strongly considering the quaint Explore, but another cheap spell from Worldwake caught my eye instead: Treasure Hunt. Treasure Hunt is a neat piece of digging, and when cast after a Scouting Trek, will fill your hand with lands. This might be useful to, say, flip Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant into her superpowered Essence half.
Sylvan Ranger and Misthollow Griffin seemed like good creatures to add. The Griffin can swoop out of exile at will, and a flying 3/3 is generally pretty nice. On the track of powerful finishers, I went with Wolfbriar Elemental, which can pump out the 2/2 wolves. If you can time it so the Search is sacrificed, you could have an extra turn to abruptly swing with those Wolves. Wurmcalling is another fun one, as you can buyback it and make massive Wurms!
And that completes it, here is the Lab's latest creation!