Dead Can Revel

Posted in Limited Information on September 5, 2012

By Steve Sadin

Return to Ravnica preview season is underway! If you want to stay on top of all of the new cards as they're previewed, then you should make sure to bookmark the Return to Ravnica Card Image Gallery. There are already a few dozen cards for you to look at (including Jace, Architect of Thought) and there will be new ones going up every weekday for the next two weeks—so take a look now, and check back regularly to stay up to date!

Done looking at the Card Image Gallery? Good! Because I have a new preview card that's sure to become a Limited staple for the next few months.

Evaluating New Cards

When I'm looking at a new card for the first time, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Can I build a deck around this card and is there a type of deck this card excels in?
  2. Is this card better than (or at least comparable to) other cards at the same mana cost?
  3. Is this card worth a card?

Not many cards are unique enough, or good enough, to justify building a deck around them—but it's still worth asking that question (particularly as it can help you determine if there are specific types of decks that a card will be better suited for).

I ask myself if I think I can build a deck around a card first because some of the best cards only shine when they're a part of focused strategy.

For example, Guttersnipe is the kind of card I'm excited to build decks around (both Constructed and Limited)—but there will be times when I have to leave it in my sideboard. Whereas Selesnya Charm will make the main deck of (virtually) every deck I draft that can easily cast it, but it isn't something I will ever try to build a deck around.

GuttersnipeSelesnya Charm

Selesnya Charm isn't powerful enough for me to take a green-white gold card with an early pick, and it doesn't appear to have the potential to do anything degenerate even in the right deck. It's just a good, versatile card that's capable of shining in a lot of different situations.

If you can cast it.

My preview card for today is also a good card in Limited. It might not be worth building a deck around like Guttersnipe. It might not be as versatile as the multi-purpose Selesnya Charm.

But it's easy to cast, and it's an absolute bargain for its cost.

Ready to see it?

Dead Reveler

Now, a card doesn't have to be flashy for it to be extremely effective—it just needs to be worth the card and the mana you're going to spend on it. And Dead Reveler is sure to be worth the price.

Dead Reveler | Art by David Palumbo

It's Okay to "Overpay" For Spells But Not For Creatures

Lightning Bolt, Searing Spear, and Ghostfire have all been first-pick quality cards in their respective Limited formats. While Lightning Bolt is far and away the best of the bunch, Ghostfire is still a bargain at three mana.

Lightning Bolt

That's because 3 damage is enough to kill off most three- and four-mana creatures—and even some five-mana fliers. So while you might not get a big advantage on paper by using a Ghostfire to kill off a three-drop, the flexibility to deal with just about any small- to medium-sized creature that your opponent plays, at instant speed no less, is more than worth the price of admission.

Heck, even Essence Drain, which costs five times as much as Lightning Bolt, is often worth first picking because it can kill an extremely wide range of problem creatures. However, if you're looking at a creature without any abilities, then you're going to need to pay a lot more attention to how much it costs.

Mana cost matters a lot, particularly for creatures. So while Riot Devils might not have been a particularly good card in Innistrad Limited, Elvish Warrior has been a first-pick-quality card in multiple different formats. Consequently, the reason why Dead Reveler is set to be a great aggressive creature in Limited is because, like Elvish Warrior before it, Dead Reveler is going to be bigger than almost all of its peers.

Riot Devils
Elvish Warrior

I've seen very little of the set at this point, but I would be hard pressed to imagine there will be many cheap creatures, or removal spells, that can single-handedly neutralize a 3/4 for three. Sure, there will be four- and five-mana creatures that can go toe to toe with, or even dwarf, your Dead Reveler, but that's to be expected.

Kill 'em Quick

If your opponents never get the chance to cast their big spells, or you are able to get off to early leads and press your advantage with a couple of removal spells, it won't matter that their creatures are bigger than yours. If your deck is fast enough, you can make sure your opponents will be dead before their five-, six-, and seven-cost creatures can even touch you.

Any time you're on the play, you open on a 2-power two-drop, and follow it up with a Dead Reveler, your opponents are going to be in a lot of trouble. Even if your opponents have good draws, they will be hard pressed to keep up with you. And if they stumble even a little bit, you'll make sure they don't have any time to draw out of it.

Default Setting

When you're on the draw, it can be a bit more difficult to swarm your opponents. But if you have the ability to play 3/4 creatures for three, you will often be able to overpower your opponents with your oversized threats. However, you should not assume it's always correct to unleash your Dead Reveler, even on turn three.

If you're on the draw and your opponent gets off to a quick start with a two-drop and a three-drop, you might need to play your Dead Reveler as a 2/3 so you can block with it.

Sure it sucks to give up on a "free" +1/+1 counter, but if you can save yourself 4 life the turn you cast your Dead Reveler (and maybe more as the game moves forward)—then you probably got a good deal for the +1/+1 counter you had to give up.

As long as you take a moment to count up how much damage you are likely to gain by playing a 3/4 and how much life you are likely to lose by giving up on a potential blocker, then you should be able to correctly choose whether or not you should unleash with relative ease.

Just make sure you actually take the time to make the necessary calculations before you make your choice.

Early Reactions

Right now, Guttersnipe is getting a lot of my attention. I can't wait to use it to finish off my opponents in (what might have otherwise been) close draft games, and I want to see if I can build a good Standard deck around it.

Are there any Return to Ravnica cards that you know you're going to try to draft and/or build Constructed decks around?

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