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Return to Ravnica

I got one Dryad from the Selesnya Conclave and wanted to find a deck that would let it fit in:

At first I thought it was awesome! I really loved Savannah Lions and a 1cc 2/1 creature with no drawback is really aggressive. I though about playing it this in a deck full of Quirion Dryad, Loxodon Smiter, Centaur Healer and Thragtusk until I stopped and thought that this card is really a hoser for anything that wants to use the graveyard as a resource. Yes, that includes Snapcaster Mage. But thinking more about it, Snapcaster Mage is really awesome because of all the cheap spells way back when Phyrexian Mana is available. Now that it’s not, then Snappy wouldn’t be that awesome anymore. Of courseI can be proven wrong. But until my theory is proven otherwise, I think having a 2/1 hoser that just dies to Tragic Slip is really mediocre.

Furthermore, everyone predicted that any variant of a Zombie deck would be the tier 1 deck this coming standard and this card will not be helping us battle that deck at all. It only hoses instants and sorcery and Zombies’ strength is the ability to recur creature spells. I think printing it with a text that says “If a card would be put into the graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead” would be way too much awesome. However, printing it that way it would somehow take it to the broken side.

This card is surely one of the best cards in the old Ravnica block. A 4CC 4/4 body that gives you 4 lives and regenerates your creatures surely is a creature card you can’t ignore. I also used it as a tie breaker for the Zoo mirror during the standard season when the old Ravnica is still legal. If you are fighting with a Zoo deck way back then, you will certainly almost all of the time voluntarily lose 4 lives because of the Shock lands and in mirror matches, where a match could only last 10-15 minutes, keeping your life at 20 would definitely give you a big advantage. Unfortunately, Loxodon Heirach is not reprinted when we returned to the plane of Ravnica this year but there were some cards that to some extent came close enough.

Centaur Healer


A 3CC, 3/3 body that gains you 3 life. It’s proportional to the Heirach although placing it at common might’ve lessen the body and the life gain a bit. But still is a good card overall. I’ve had one or two of this in one of the decks I had last pre-release and I’m quite impressed. This card helped me maintain my life far from the burn range of Izzet and Rakdos. An excellent blocker at 3/3 and an even more impressive attacker. In the standard format, I would guess this would be an excellent addition to a GW deck battling against Zombie decks. The only creature big enough in “Brains” deck is Geralf’s Messenger (and Falkenrath Aristocrat) and the Centaur can deal with them in battle. You can even partner this with Restoration Angel, just for the abusive gain life shenanigans. Overall, I think this might not single handedly replace Loxodon Heirarch, but it is a card that can live to his legacy.

Loxodon Smiter

It doesn’t gain you life, it doesn’t regenerate your creature, but a 3cc 4/4 that can’t be countered is a card you can’t really get over with. Plus, it is resilient to discard effects your opponent might have. I am not sure how that ability is green or white though. The only card that reminded me of the same ability is Dodecapod which is a 4cc 3/3 creature that becomes a 5/5 when discarded. And Dodecapod is not green or white, it’s a colorless artifact! Anyways, I am not sure how that ability got in here but I think it’s because green and white are both black’s mortal enemies and discard is undoubtedly black in nature. To be honest, this card doesn’t really impress me aside from the fact that it is a 3cc 4/4 creature.  Yes, it looks like Loxodon Heirach literally because they are both Elephants but aside from the power and toughness, it doesn’t really inherit anything from the Heirarch which is a little bit sad to think. Plus it can be easily killed by Abrupt Decay. On the up side, this card could be nerve-wracking to control decks, especially the blue variant decks. So yeah, let’s just wait and see how it will play in the new Standard metagame.

Conclusion

I think Wizards did not intend for a reprint of Loxodon Heirach neither did they intended to replace it with another card. I think they are trying to shy away from reprinting anything aside from the Shock Lands. But until we get to the third set, we can’t really tell what they are up to. Wizards has been pulling various stunts lately, the latest of which is the Return to Ravnica prerelease and they pulled it successfully I think. It’s the first time I’ve played in two prerelease flights since I started playing Magic. And the players in our local stores are enjoying it as well. And I also saw some new players in the store too. And I’ve been playing against them in the prerelease not bashing them but in fact teaching them how to play Magic. It was really nice. Anyways, I hope something comes along the lines of Loxodon Heirarch in “Sinker”, otherwise, I am still ok getting all the new cards in the set. And I am starting to like Selesnya as a guild.

The original Ravnica block is my favorite block of all ever since I started to play Magic. It is the block that I have been playing tons of tournaments with. I feel that I am at my strongest when that block came in. I was playing different decks every FNM just because of the versatility of the set of cards at my disposal. And whatever deck I play during the FNM, I can pretty much win 4-0 or 3-1 at worst. I even went into one tournament where I placed 4th amongst all 120-200ish players using a Boros deck. Zoo has been my best deck during that era as well. I like the fact that matches using the Zoo deck would only take me 15-20 minutes to finish and I still have time to look around and watch other players play on other tables. That gave me ideas of how the decks players brought to the tournament worked and would use that advantage when I face other players.

When I heard that Return to Ravnica is actually being printed out, my brains almost exploded. I looked at hundreds of Ravnica cards and speculated what was going to be reprinted. I did not expect a lot of cards being reprinted like Watchwolf, Loxodon Heirarch, Giant Solifuge, Putrefy or Mortify Although, there’s 50% of me saying I hope it will get reprinted in the next set. But what I did expect is that they will reprint the duals. I was expecting it too much that I haven’t even bothered to look at any alternative cards that might replace them if they are not reprinted. And yes, Wizards has decided to reprint them. I am not sure how’d I react if they didn’t but I am just glad they did.

I am way too much excited that the card store nearest me announced they are ready to accept preregistration, I immediately preregistered myself and my friend in two events – Midnight and Noon events. I decided to go for Izzet and Golgari respectively but in the end I decided to play Golgari and Selesnya.

Populate

I am a little bit apprehensive at first of the theme called Populate. I think it will not be as good as Convoke. But I was proven wrong when I chose and played the Selesnya guild. Here’s what my deck looked like in the pre-release:

Selesnya Prerelease deck
Main Deck (40 cards) Sideboard 
1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
1 Wayfaring Temple
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Towering Indrik
1 Centaur Healer
1 Azorius Arrester
1 Gatecreeper Vine
2 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Dyrad Militant
1 Druid’s Deliverance
1 Common Bond
1 Arrest
1 Aerial Predation
1 Soul Tithe
1 Rootborn Defenses
2 Eyes in the Skies
2 Trostani’s Judgment
2 Giant Growth
1 Grove of the Guardian ( Selesnya prerelease card)
2 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Swamp
5 Forest
6 Plains
1 Dramatic Rescue
1 Lyev Skynight
1 Hussar Patrol
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Drainpipe Vermin
3 Crosstown Courier
1 Dynacharge
1 Cobblebrute
1 Tenement Crasher
2 Grim Roustabout
2 Tower Drake
1 Sunspire Griffin
1 Tavern Swindler
2 Rakdos Charm
1 Essence Backslash
1 Survey the Wreckage
1 Deviant Glee
1 Rakdos Shred-Freak
2 Dead Reveler
1 Civic Saber
1 Street Sweeper
2 Chemister’s Trick
1 Runewing
1 Izzet Charm
1 Street Spasm
1 Mana Bloom
1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Knightly Valor
1 Sphere of Safety
1 Avenging Arrow
2 Ethereal Armor
1 Savage Surge
2 Search Warrant
1 Tablet of the Guilds
1 Golgari Longlegs
1 Axebane Stag
1 Explosive Impact
1 Rubbleback Rhino
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Ogre Jailbreaker
1 Auger Spree
2 Electrickery
1 Fencing Ace
1 Axebane Stag
1 Rakdos Ringleader
1 Launch Party
1 Dynacharge
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Hypersonic Dragon

I splashed black just because of Jarad. It was so hard to resist the ability of sac’ing a creature and the player loses life for the sac’ed creature’s power. At one game I had to kill my opponent by just sac’ing and 8/8 Elemental to Jarad. It was so much fun. The look on my opponent’s face was so hilarious! He was at 16 lives left and at end of his turn, I triggered Grove of the Guardian tapping a  bird token and Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage hence producing an 8/8 Elemental creature with vigilance which I used to attack on his turn. Down to 8, I sac’ed the token to Jarad. It was so much fun!

Jarad 

And the Selesnya Lord  Trostani rocks! It had a nice 2/5 body that blocks almost all the Izzet creatures. They could be a little tricky though so I keep those Giant Growths as long as I can. The gain life mechanic just blows me away. There was a time that I almost went up to 25 lives after I’ve been bashed down to 5 lives. That was sick!

Gain 1 or 3 o 8? You’re choice as long as you are gaining life. I think I’m liking the Selesnya guild a lot. Did I win in the prerelease? Yes! Although I just won 1 pack. You see in our store, you only get a pack when you win a match. My matches ended in this manner: Draw, Draw, Lose, Win. For the Draw parts, my opponents and I exceeded the time limit so we have to make a dice roll because none of us will ever get a pack if we didn’t. And being that I suck in dice rolls, I basically gave away those matches. It’s ok I think. I had opened an Overgrown tomb, Trostani and Jarad in my box, so I am happy anyways. I think my preregistration fee is just converted to cash. Plus I get a really cool dice:

Overall, I think the Selesnya Guild is probably the most bone breaking deck in Return to Ravnica Prerelease. You can never go wrong with any creatures. And you’ll always end up having tons of creatures even if your deck doesn’t have a lot of them. I ran 11 creatures only and never have I missed a creature in any of my turns tanks to Populate. The guild is really straight forward. Populate and you gain the advantage.

Trick Jerret wrote about the schedule below in the wizards site and I think I’m going to give it a try. I might not write an article about the theme everyday during the week but I’m going to try. Let’s see what happens.

Schedule!

10/1–10/5—Selesnya Week (Note that this is the Return to Ravnica release week, as the product will hit shelves on 10/5.)

10/8–10/12—No theme

10/15–10/19—Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Week

10/22–10/26—No theme

10/29–11/2—Azorius Week

11/5–11/9—No theme

11/12–11/16—Izzet Week

11/19–11/23—No theme

11/26–11/30—Golgari Week

12/3–12/7—No theme

12/10–12/14—Rakdos Week

Nivmagus Elemental. 

I am not sure if I’m excited about this or not but I decided I will take a look at this and blog til I don’t want to blog about this anymore. This is, of course, not a rant entry but rather a deep analysis on the card.

I’ve been thinking about this card since this morning not just because I am anticipating something BLUE today in the Return to Ravnica previews. I am not expecting much but I still wanted to see some good blue spells that would be previewed. Benefit of the doubt, there will be in the future. But…ok…we got this.

From the Comprehensive Rules, it states:

111.1. A spell is a card on the stack. As the first step of being cast (see rule 601, “Casting Spells”), the card becomes a spell and is moved to the top of the stack from the zone it was in, which is usually its owner’s hand. (See rule 405, “Stack.”) A spell remains on the stack as a spell until it resolves (see rule 608, “Resolving Spells and Abilities”), is countered (see rule 701.5), or otherwise leaves the stack. For more information, see section 6, “Spells, Abilities, and Effects.”

 

So yes, we still have to play the instant or sorcery spell. While it’s on the stack (while it is still a spell), you could then activate the ability of the Nivmagus Elemental and pay the cost by “exiling” the instant  or sorcery spell you played in the stack. To exile the instant or sorcery is a cost and not an effect so before the ability of the Nivmagus Elemental gets to the stack, the instant or sorcery gets removed first. Then when the ability resolves, you get the two +1/+1 counters for Nivmagus.


Artful Dodge is nice and it will make your Nivmagus unblockable and the flashback can feed him. But Arftful Dodge is a spell that you can afford to feed him by. If you are going to go the aggro route, would you rather let Nivmagus chump up a Searing Spear rather than burn your opponents in the face or kill an opposing creature with it? I don’t think so. The two +1/+1 counter is very tempting, but I have to say no because basically Nivmagus has no defense on him. He is not hexproof or indestructible. He can be bounced by or get killed by any other kill spell there is, and sad but true, it can happen anytime after you’ve invested too much and fed him a lot.

111.1a A copy of a spell is also a spell, even if it has no card associated with it.
111.1b Some effects allow a player to cast a copy of a card; if the player does, that copy is a spell as well.

 

Great! So I don’t have to feed him good spells but instead feed copies of the spell. Nah. No thanks.
I think for a blue mage, it wouldn’t be possible  even if you’re going the aggro route. You need to have mana open for spells that you could play on your opponent’s turn.. like counter spells. Oh, there is no good counter spells in RTR? Again my friend, benefit of the doubt. There is atleast one good spell in the form of Izzet Charm riding in the same colors as Nivmagus. Let’s just hope there’s something out there coming.

Moving on, doing a quick “copy spell” inquiry in the gatherer, I found 4 spells that can copy anything. They are blue and red. No other colors have the same effect. Here they are:

   

We can scratch Crackling Counterpart because it copies creatures (unless you want me to go on and say that you can feed that to Nivmagus). Copying a spell is mana intensive. Let me do the math:

  1. Reverberate – Cast an instant or sorcery spell, copy using reverberate to feed the copy to Nivmagus. Total cost:  Cost of instant or sorcery + RR. So if you cast say Searing Spear (1R) + Reverberate (RR), your cost is 1RRR to either deal 3 damage to your opponent’s head or to his creature and get two +1/+1 counter to Nivmagus which you can attack for 3, or 1RRR to get four +1/+1 counter to Nivmagus and attack for 5.
  2. Increasing Vengeance– Again, using the same logic above but this time using Increasing Vengeance to copy Searing Spear, you could:
    1. Pay 1RRR  to either deal 3 damage to your opponent’s head or to his creature and get two +1/+1 counter to Nivmagus which you can attack for 3 or
    2. Pay 1RRR to get four +1/+1 counter to Nivmagus or
    3. Pay 3RR, after A or B resolves, to deal another 3 damage to your opponent’s head or to his creature and two +1/+1 counter on Nivmagus or
    4. Pay 3RR, after A or B resolves, to put four +1/+1 counter on Nivmagus or
    5. and so on… and so forth…

Do the same calculations for Spelltwine. Get my point? The point is, you would have to spend ridiculous amount of mana just to copy spells and feed to Nivmagus. I don’t think it is worth it.

So at this point, I am not closing the door to our friend here, but until I find a more compelling reason to play it, I would let him move around the sides a bit.

I would like to rave about all the ridiculously low casted overpowered spells that wizards have in store for us in Return to Ravnica but it is very disappointing to a blue mage since the start of the spoiler season.

After all the uncounterable spells, which I read in Mark Rosewater’s twitter, will be a rare cycle of 5, they now present us with a subpar counterspell.

Yes, sure it counters and exiles the card it counters but paying XU? “X”! in a blue spell? Really?! Ok…
Unless they present us a really good blue card in the coming days, the blue mage in me will never be happy. The only real blue spell that got me excited is the Izzet charm. I think I should start looking at other colors, say GREEN.

 

On the side note, at the very last of the article today at wizards:

Zac draws a fifth land, hurries his Hellkite onto the battlefield and into the red zone and drops me to 13 or so. Now empty-handed, he resignedly plusses his Liliana.

“No cards?” I ask.

He fans his hands, daring me to do my worst.

I show him a card he hasn’t seen played yet, an Azorius instant that isn’t obviously worth playing, but in this situation, thoroughly devastating. He rolls his eyes in mock, mock frustration.

“Bounce your dragon. Ready to discard?”

His Hellkite hits the bin as my second Smiter hits the battlefield. I finish off his Liliana and make quick work of the game.

I hope that Azorious instant is good.