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 Innistrad, Parallel 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...
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!