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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ravnica Spoilers from Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari

Hey hey hey again!

Today I come with actual card previews. Yay!!! lol.

Last year, when we got Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas, we learned that the order of Duel Deck releases was getting switched. Normally, in the Spring of a year we'd get some oddly-themed Duel Deck (Phyrexia vs. The Coalition, Elves vs. Goblins, etc.) while in the Fall we'd get a Planeswalker-themed Duel Deck (Elspeth vs. Tezzeret, Jace vs. Chandra, etc.). They decided to change it up so that the Fall Duel Deck could serve as a preview of the upcoming block.

And preview is more than the right word!

Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari gives us more Return to Ravnica spoilers than just Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. Each deck contains a few Return to Ravnica previews for your insatiable hunger for the return to the plane of Ravnica!

First off, let's start off with the new guild leader, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord!

(NOTE: all images come from this article on the Duel Decks: Playing with Izzet vs. Golgari)

Jarad is only the 3rd Zombie Elf to be printed (less than 2 years ago was Glissa, the Traitor and back in Apocalypse was Llanowar Dead) and the 2nd one that could be a Commander.

You'll see a theme among the guilds in Return to Ravnica...in some way, they can work with the mechanics from Ravnica: City of Guilds block. Jarad is no different. He starts off getting +1/+1 for each creature in your graveyard. Hmm...Dredge shenanigans, anyone? And at 4 cost, that's not a bad deal. Depending on when he comes out, if you mill yourself or do a lot of discard effects, he can be quite the bargain at 4 mana.

For 1GB and sacrificing another creature, you can have each opponent lose life equal to that creature's power. Hmm...Drove of Elves, a ton of green permanents...no, that won't swing the game at all... *rolls eyes* lol.

Then comes his "semi-reanimation" effect. You have to sacrifice a Swamp and a Forest to return him to your hand from your graveyard. Life from the Loam would be very interested in this. "I sacrifice a Blood Crypt and Temple Garden to bring Jarad back to my hand. Now I play Life from the Loam, getting back Blood Crypt and Temple Garden." Not as much of a loss then, eh?

In Standard, I don't know how he'll fare. Golgari won't get Dredge back (in fact, none of the Guilds get their original abilities back), so it'll be tougher to get creatures to the graveyard on purpose without a lot of sacrifice outlets. And even then, why get rid of an army for a single big creature with no protection, no evasion or semi-evasion (like Trample), and returns to the hand for sacrificing a Swamp and Forest?

No...Standard won't be this Lich Lord's playground, not without a lot of help from the Golgari guild in general. But on first blush, I just don't see it. In Modern, though, where Dredge can work quite nicely and all 5 Mirrodin-based Swords are legal...I wouldn't doubt it, honestly.

Next up, we have the Guildmage cycle previewed in Golgari. I'll introduce...Korozda Guildmage!

(BTW, Korozda is the new location for the Golgari's guild house)

So we already see some changes over, say, Golgari Guildmage. For one, he's not hybrid; his casting cost is strictly 1 Black and 1 Green. He's also got 2 non-hybrid abilities that are still multi-colored. (I figure WotC didn't want Guildmages going into decks that didn't support the Guild it came from, at least in part). So how good could this Guildmage be?

Quite good, in fact. For 1BG, you can give one of your creatures +1/+1 and Intimidate! Imagine that! If Scars of Mirrodin block were legal for Standard after Return to Ravncia releases, you'd see Poison decks jump 10-fold, I think. However, Return to Ravnica's release will push Scars of Mirrodin (and Magic 2012) out of Standard, so that's no issue anymore. Still, though, in a B/G beatdown where U/R or U/W may live on as competitive Standard deck colors, I'd imagine a Korozda Guildmage can deliver quite a beating on bigger creatures. As well, as long as you have the mana, you can do this as many times as you want: either give a big creature an even bigger boost, or allow another of your creatures to get slightly bigger and perhaps become unblockable. Really not too shabby, even outside of Standard.

As for its second ability, Saprolings are back!!! If one of your creatures is about to die, just pay 4 mana and sacrifice it (you were going to lose it anyway, remember? ;)  ) and get some tokens to replace it. Oh, and while we may or may not get a Doubling Season reprint, we do have its cousin in InnistradParallel Lives. Hmm...possible combo if the right cards come out?

I think you'll love playing Korozda Guildmage. It's got power and who doesn't love tokens, right? :)

NEXT UP!...an example of the Scavange mechanic (replacing Dredge for Golgari) used on a very decent creature. I give you...Dreg Mangler!

Dreg Mangler returns Plants to the forefront of Magic (as they were in Ravnica), this time with a decent creature.

For 1BG, you get a 3/3 with Haste. Not too shabby of a 3rd turn play! But goodness, it died the turn it came out due to some double-blocking! What a waste!

OR...or...you could get some decent-sized creature out and use Scavenge to make it bigger.

Scavenge is a sorcery-speed ability (meaning you can only use it when the stack is empty and on one of your Main Phases only) that allows you to exile the creature card and pay the Scavenge cost (usually 2 colorless more than its casting cost) to put a number of +1/+1 tokens on a creature equal to the Scavenge'd creature's power.

So in this instance, let's say you are using Jarad mixed with the Korozda Guildmage. Jarad's a 2/2, but with the Mangler in the graveyard it's a 3/3. Psh! Scavenge that Mangler and make Jarad instead a 5/5! With enough mana, you can use the Guildmage to give it another +1/+1 and let it attack through for 6!

But that's not all. Champion of Lambholt loves Scavenge! Make your creatures most likely unblockable after a Scavenge or two? Are you crazy!? ... Yes, yes I am. :)

Finally, let's say your opponent has an Undying creature you just can't stand. You can destroy it outright, but it'll just come back. Uh...Scavenge says "target creature", not "target creature you control." Yes, let him have 3 +1/+1 counters...then Murder it! No self-reanimation there, folks.

With all the Golgari previews out of the way, let's move on to Izzet. This is the guild I'm most interested in, as I loved the flavor of Izzet when it came out but wasn't overly enthused by the power of most of its cards.

This time, though, it looks like WotC is out to strengthen the Izzet guild.

There is no preview for the Guild leader here, but it will be Niv-Mizzet. The version of him in this Duel Deck is the original Guildpact one, the version we all know and love...to hate. :p

However, we do get some preview cards from the Izzet side of the deck. The first shows off the new Overload mechanic. Let me show you...Street Spasm!

Okay, so another "X" spell for Red that deals X damge to target creature without flying you don't control. So yeah, a removal spell to boot! But eh...not too exciting.

That is, until you read Overload. If you pay the Overload cost (which, I'll assume, is always exactly double the original casting cost) instead of the original mana cost, you get to change all instances of "target" to "each."

WHOAH! HUUUGE difference!

Let's say you do end up battling an army of Saproling tokens. Yeah, XR to target isn't going to be of much good. Instead, though, pay perhaps 11RR, or 4 total (where X = 1), to deal 1 damage to each Saproling instead. See how powerful Overload can be?

It's Izzet's new ability, which is reminiscent to Replicate. Replicate allowed you to pay a cost (usually just its mana cost) as many times as you wanted as you were casting the spell in order to make copies of that spell. Overload in a way is kind of a Replicate in that you could just see the spell copying itself and hitting every non-flying creature you don't control. (Of course, technically it's not targeting if you Overload. Remember, you replaced "target" with "each").

I honestly don't see Street Spasm being good unless tokens take over. Even then, it's creatures without flying, so White will prefer Midnight Haunting and Lingering Souls. This will make Street Spasm at best a Side Deck card in Standard. In older formats, again unless tokens take a lead or you have a ton of mana, I bet you'll be using it more for its normal cost to take out a single non-flying creature.

(Two more and I'm done, I promise! lol!)

Next up we have a cycle of Charms, one for each guild (the fact that there will be one of each is spoiled in today's Card of the Day on the dailymtg.com website). Izzet got the Charm preview. Welcome...well...Izzet Charm!

It seems the Charms from Alara block were quite popular, enough to bring a Charm cycle back for Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash.

(For the record, a "Charm" is any spell where you can choose 1 option from a list of 3).

So off the bat, Izzet gets a counterspell similar to Mana Leak. Countering noncreature spells I feel will be a must soon, so this is a good reactive spell.

But what if creatures start becoming an issue? The 2nd option allows you to do 2 damage to a creature.

Need to draw? This is where Blue meets Red. You can draw 2 cards (Blue)...but then you have to discard 2 cards (Red). Not bad if you have stuff you need to get rid of, but on an otherwise empty hand...yeah...lol.

Again, there will be a cycle of these, 1 for each Guild, so look for a Selesnya, Rakdos, Azorious, and Golgari version in Return to Ravnica in a bit over a month.

Finally, we have the last Izzet preview card of the bunch. Wanted to pay less for your spells but never liked the mana cost for doing so? How's about a cheap alternative in Goblin Electromancer?

Goodness! 2 mana for a 2/2 already? That's not too shabby on the 2nd turn. But what's this?

"Instant and Sorcery spells you cast cost 1 less to cast"? Are you insane!?

Yes, for the record this lets your normally turn 4 Rewind work on Turn 3 (and consequently basically make 1 mana). Or perhaps that late-game Burn at the Stake that needs to be followed up by an Incinerate for the win? That now costs a total of 1RRRR.

Can you say "way too good"? I knew you could! lol.

Oh...wait...I lied! I have 1 more preview...well, more like 2, but once you see one we see them all really.

With Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari currently available to view on Magic Online, we saw some new artwork for the Izzet and Golgari Signets (2-mana artifacts that, for 1 and tapping them, make one of each color of that Guild). For example...

(Image from http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=443059)

Golgari Signet also got new art.

"So what? They do new art all the time in these Duel Decks. What makes the Signets so special?"

Well...last night I posted a link to some artwork of, among other things, the Guild leaders, the Guildmages, and...well lookie here! This is one of those artworks!

Since WotC wouldn't put out a lot of art that didn't come from actual cards, especially mixed in with artwork that is from cards we know, we can be safe to assume that all 10 original Signets will be in Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash!

It's far from actual proof, though. No one's holding a Return to Ravnica copy of Izzet Signet or Golgari Signet. But all evidence kind of leads to the conclusion that we're getting some of our favorite "mana rocks" back for 2 years of Standard action. :)

*pant pant pant*...And that's all I have...literally! lol! There is a storyline update on the guilds here: http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/210a  Watch for a ton of typos, though, as I don't think an editor re-read it before being published. :(

SO...impressions? Is Return to Ravnica living up to your expectations so far? Don't like it? Feel free to share below!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Few More Return to Ravnica Tidbits and Rumors

Hey guys!
  I'll post the preview cards from Izzet vs. Golgari tomorrow, but tonight the Magic Player's Championship and online copies of Izzet vs. Golgari seems to have brought some interesting developments.

First off, the link that's about to follow has artwork for 4-5 cycles of Guild-based cards among both Return to Ravnica and Gatecrashhttp://imgur.com/a/T9wjh

While there are no specific names (except for already-spoiled cards from Izzet vs. Golgari), it does break down to the following (in order):

10 Guildmages (sorry, no reprints from the original Ravnica block. These Guildmages are 2-color, non-hybrid 2/2's with 2 multi-color abilities.)
10 Guild Leaders (yes, you see Isperia, what seems to be a Ghost Council, and Jarad)
10 Signets (so yes, we're getting Simic Signet, Gruul Signet, Orzhov Signet, etc. all back in Standard for 2 years!)
10 "Charms" (from the spoiled Izzet Charm art last night...which I'll post tomorrow. lol!)
10 "Death to [Guild]" (which isn't noted as such, but Evan Erwin's Twitter calls it that: https://twitter.com/misterorange/status/241000829899919361)

As well, some interesting artwork came up while Featured Matches from the Magic Player's Championship were airing online. Look at these images (from MTGSalvation.com) and see what you think:

Hmm...I see a fountain sitting by itself and an anvil with molten something pouring out of it.

Kind of sounds like a Hallowed Fountain and a Sacred Foundry, eh? ;)

While it doesn't prove the existence of "Shocklands" (lands that enter the battlefield tapped unless you pay 2 life, like a self-Shock), keep these in mind...

1) WotC has said time and time again that new players don't like having life loss tacked onto their lands. Well...Shocklands aren't meant for the new player, they're meant for the strategic player who can either make back the 2-life investment or don't mind taking 2 life payment for having a land with 2 land types enter in. And Expansion sets aren't the place to be picking up new players, really...

2) Farseek's reprinting, along with new cards like Liliana's Shade and Gem of Becoming, show an interesting pattern...these cards say to search for "a Mountain card" or "a Swamp card" but not a "basic Swamp card", for example. Well...Shocklands have basic land types on them, meaning Farseek, Liliana's Shade, and Gem of Becoming can each search out, say, a Watery Grave.

3) WotC has had plans on reprinting these babies since when they came out. That's why they had fairly generic names such as "Watery Grave". You could set this on Zendikar, for example, in the swamps of Nephalia, so "Watery Grave" is not a plane-specific location. Their original intent was to put them into Core Sets, or at least that was the idea (to replace "Painlands" [Lands where you tapped for 1 Colorless mana OR got 1 of 2 colors for a 1-life payment] supposedly), and Core Sets at the time needed non-planar names moving forward. Instead, we got lands like Rootbound Crag as a direct result of Issue #1.

4) Wizards of the Coast has also said since Modern started as a format that they want to reprint staples at easier-to-get venues. Shocklands are just as helpful there as the original Dual Lands are for Legacy, so this would be a perfect avenue to reprint them: in a set that returns to where they came from!

Granted, it's all circumstantial evidence, but the timing is either all to coincidental or one big trolling. lol!

Finally, there are pictures of the supposedly-fake-but-could-be-real Rootborn Defenses being signed by the Return to Ravnica design team. I doubt they'd sign a completely fake card, so Rootborn Defenses is real.

This confirms now 3 new keywords for the Guilds in Return to Ravnica:
SELESNYA: Populate (To populate, put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of a creature token you control.) (works with Ravnica: City of Guilds' Convoke, which lets you effectively treat creatures as mana)

GOLGARI: Scavenge [COST] ([COST], exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.) (works with Ravnica: City of Guilds' Dredge, which let you get back cards by replacing your draw with milling yourself for a certain amount of cards. If a Scavenge card ends up in your graveyard from Dredging, well...)

IZZET: Overload [COST] (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its test by replacing all instance of "target" with "each".) (Kind of works similarly to Guildpact's Replicate, which let you make copies of the spell for any number of times you could pay the Replicate cost [usually equal to the original mana cost])

We do not know what Azorius and Gruul's will be, but their originals were Forecast (on the upkeep, you could reveal the card from your hand and pay the Forecast cost to get a certain effect) and Bloodthirst (if this creature comes into play after an opponent took damage, you put a certain number of +1/+1 counters on it).

That's all I have time for tonight, but tomorrow I'll be back with a more thorough card update of what we know about Return to Ravnica, as well as some storyline links for you. :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Few Early Morning Return to Ravnica Impressions

Hey, I'm finally updating the blog! Yay!!!

(EDIT: I'll post article links later to give credit where credit's due, but they're on the main page of dailymtg.com throughout the day Monday, 8/27)

This morning came a lot of information about Return to Ravnica, which is exactly as it sounds: Magic's first run back to Ravnica since the plane was first explored in Ravnica: City of Guilds block.

While I don't have a lot of time (after all, it's 2:04 AM here as I type. lol!), I can give you a few highlights to chew on...

1) Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari is not just Ravnica-block reprints. Actually, like Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret, each deck will have preview cards from Return to Ravnica! Yes...preview cards!

2) The return to Ravnica will be much more kind and gentle than recent returns to planes. Whereas Dominaria had been through wars and an Armageddon and Mirrodin was invaded and changed, Ravnica will be relatively unharmed and unchanged from its previous incarnation. Consider this a check-up to see how everyone's doing.

3) NEW MECHANIC: Scavenge seems to replace Dredge in the Golgari colors (B/G). What is Scavenge?

"Scavenge 4GG", for example, means "4GG, exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery."

Take for example a 5/5 creature with Scavenge 4GG. When it's in your graveyard, on your turn at any time you could normally cast a Sorcery card, you can activate its Scavenge ability by paying 4GG and exiling this creature card from the graveyard to put 5 +1/+1 counters on any creature.

I can see Doubling Season getting a reprint or a lot more casual play. And you thought the price was high already...yeesh! ;)

4) NEW MECHANIC: Overload goes on Instants and Sorceries aligned with Izzet (U/R).

Take a new card in the Duel Decks, Street Spasm

Street Spasm
Street Spasm deals X damage to target creature without flying you don't control.
Overload XXRR

"Overload [Cost]" is an alternative way to pay for the spell. If you pay the Overload cost instead of the mana cost, you change each instance of "target" to "each" instead.

So let's take Street Spasm and say we have 8 mana.

Cast it for its normal cost. That's 7R, so X = 7. How does Street Spasm read?

"Street Spasm deals 7 damage to target creature without flying you don't control."

Instead, cast it for its Overload cost. You pay 33RR, or a total of 8 mana (6 generic {X=3 and X = 3} and 2 Reds).

It now reads

"Street Spasm deals 3 damage to each creature without flying you don't control."

Notice the subtle but important difference? You do less damage, sure, but you deal that damage to each creature now instead of just one creature.

I don't doubt we'll see cards that have normal casting costs but alternate Overload costs to change all instances of "target" to "each." For example...

MADE UP IZZET DAMAGE + DRAW CARD deals 4 damage to target creature and target player draws 3 cards.
Overload 6RRUU

But the point is...NEW MECHANIC! And it still fits the Izzet's theme of copying and its old version, Replicate. Changing "target" to "each" is kind of like saying "copy this spell as many times as there are targets and choose only 1 target that hasn't been targeted yet."....or something like that. That's what I get for doing this at 2:00 AM! lol!

4) GUILDMAGES ARE BACK: They're not your hybrid-color Guildmages, though. A Golgari-themed one in the Duel Decks has a casting cost of BG but is called Korozda Guildmage.

At this early an hour, that's all I have for you. If I can find time before Wednesday I'll post the preview images for all to adore. :)

Until then, may the wait for Return to Ravnica spoilers be short!