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Sunday, September 2, 2012

How It Seems Return to Ravnica Pre-Release Will Work

With all the information from last night about Shocklands and new previews, what got glossed over was how the Pre-Release will work for Return to Ravnica.

From the start, we were told of "Guild Packs" that will serve as the 6th pack of a Sealed Deck Pre-Release. It was assumed from the chatter that you would pick one of the 5 Return to Ravnica guilds and, along with your 5 normal packs of Return to Ravncia, you'd get 1 "Guild Pack" of 15 cards: 14 cards exclusively in the  colors of the Guild you chose plus a Pre-Release promo tied to that Guild.

However, last night we not only got the Pre-Release promos for the set spoiled but also the way these packs will actually work.

First, let's see how the Pre-Release will work.

(Details are from http://www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Events.aspx?x=mtgcom/events/prerelease-facts)

When you go to the Pre-Release, you'll choose 1 of the 5 Return to Ravnica Guilds:

  • Azorius (White/Blue)
  • Izzet (Blue/Red)
  • Rakdos (Red/Black)
  • Golgari (Black/Green)
  • Selesnya (Green/White)

You will receive a collection of stuff called a "Guild Prerelease Pack". It contains the following:

  • 5 normal Return to Ravnica boosters.
  • 1 14-card Guild-specific pack
    • These 14 cards that fit your Guild's colors (mono-color cards could be included, but they will fit your Guild's colors. Also, I assume nothing with even a loose affiliation with another Guild would be included)
  • 1 Prerelease card specific to your Guild.
  • 1 Spindown Life Counter (I would assume "20" is the Guild symbol of your chosen Guild)
  • 1 Achievment Card (probably similar to the last few Pre-Releases)
  • 1 Guild Symbol Sticker
  • 1 Letter from your chosen Guild's Guildmaster

That's not too shabby, is it? :) As usual, it's a Sealed Deck tournament, meaning you build your deck from the 6 packs you get plus any Basic Lands you need (usually provided by the tournament venue).

Why don't we look at the Pre-Release cards now? Perhaps what they do is important to what you'll pick for the Pre-Release (and it gives me a good excuse to post a few Spoilers this afternoon. ;)  )

(NOTE: All images from Wizards of the Coast's Return to Ravnica Card Image Gallery and may or may not be the artwork used for the Pre-Release promo versions)


If you're reading and going "Wait...the reminder text sounds familiar." Well...that's because it's normally been on cards. Look at Arrest (oddly enough, from the block Return to Ravnica will replace in about a month!):

From  http://magiccards.info/som/en/2.html

So this also gives me a good excuse to preview Azorius' new keyword, Detain.

When a creature with Detain gets to use its Detain ability, it allows that player to choose a certain number of opponent's nonland permanents (it'll be specific how many in the text) and keeps that/those permanent(s) from doing 3 things:

  • No attacking.
  • No blocking.
  • No activating their activated abilities (Anything with a colon [:] before the actual effect is an activated ability)
The effect usually lasts for a turn, so it's kind of like getting a Frost Titan effect when the Detain trigger happens.

Detain's trigger isn't the same for every creature. For Archon of the Triumverate, it's on attacking. For Lyev Skyknight, though, (another preview card from the Card Image Gallery), it's when he enters the battlefield.


So we have a 4/4 Flying Haste dragon for 5 mana. Not bad as-is. But this lets you cast Sorceries as if they were Instants! Imagine being able to cast Past in Flames on your opponent's turn to set up a win on your very next turn, or casting Reforge the Soul to refill your hand while your opponent can't use what he drew because he didn't think to keep some lands untapped to gain mana from them.

Though I'm sure some pro will be much more sinister than I with their plans. ;)


Yesterday one of our player's reactions to "Unleash" was one word: "Lame." Why? It was on a 1/1 creature.

AHem...perhaps to explain Unleash. It's a pretty simple mechanic really. You can bring the creature onto the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. As long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it, though, it can't block. Yes, you're basically forcing your Unleash creature to focus on attacking only.

So why would you ever do this? Look at Carnival Hellsteed.

For 6 mana, he's a 5/4 with First Strike and Haste. 5 power with First Strike is very helpful, but what if you're not focused on defense? What if your opponent has an empty field and you can hold off any other creature threat he's got?

Give the Hellsteed a +1/+1 counter and let it attack for 6 each turn, duh! And if your opponent happens to get something out to block, then Hellsteed will just First Strike it to death with 6 power vs. what will most likely be a relatively smaller-toughness creature.

It's important to note, though, that if you do give an Unleash creature a +1/+1 counter FOR ANY REASON, it will not be able to block. This might be where you'd favor casting a Blessings of Nature and giving an Unleash creature a +1/+1 counter. This way, if you have a big creature you didn't want stopped, it won't be a problem now. (Of course, you'll then have to deal with a stronger creature next turn, so be careful about doing that!)


So perhaps we won't get Doubling Season reprinted, but honestly we've got half the card in Innistrad's Parallel Lives. This gives us, for the most part, the other half of Doubling Season.

If any creatures you control would get any +1/+1 counters, double them up! Hmm...Blessings of Nature looks better and better now, eh? lol!

Well, think of it this way...working with Unleash you get a creature in with 2 +1/+1 counters instead of 1. If you use it against Unleash (as I was talking about just a couple paragraphs above), your Unleash target only gets 1 +1/+1 counter while, in total, your other creatures would get 6 total +1/+1s! (Either 1 creature gets 6, or 1 gets 4 while another gets 2, or each gets 2, etc.)

I imagine with Shocklands being back we'll see Rakdos and Golgari team up in this fashion. Or perhaps it could just be a Golgari beatdown deck using effects that gives +1/+1 counters...including Scavenge! Or because of Shocklands, why limit ourselves? When Gatecrash comes out, we'll have Breeding Pool so we could go with Inivisible Stalker Counters (using Scavenge and the 1- or 2-of Blessings of Nature to make 1 huge Invisible Stalker that's difficult to handle.)

This is a potentially Standard-playable card, but I feel it'll find a lot more favor at the casual table as 4-toughness creatures aren't as easy to handle in and of themselves.


Okay...so I'll be honest. This feels like a kick to Selesnya. Every other color gets a decent creature while Grove of the Guardian gets a land?

Perhaps it's not as bad as it looks. Remember, Selesnya's new keyword is Populate, which lets you make copies of tokens. It's plausible that this effectively reads as:

4GW (remember, you have to tap Grove of the Guardian itself, so that's like using the mana from itself)
As an additional cost to cast this creature, tap two untapped creatures you control.

So from that perspective, perhaps it's not too bad. And if there are cards that can get lands back, even if it's just 1 or 2, that'll possibly net you two of these guys. Unfortunately, we don't know of any yet so I have to judge off a 1-time activation.

An 8/8 is scary! Add to that it can attack and block with no problems and this can be a menace.

But what I'm also seeing is what's termed "power creep" in creatures. No longer is a 3-mana creature a 2/2 with a decent ability. It's usually a 3/3 with a keyword or 5/4 with nothing else. This increases the chances your 8/8 could be killed on it attacking. Add to it that we have 2 guilds with Red and 2 with Black and there can be some decent damage or toughness-lowering abilities that ends up killing this humongous 8/8 before it actually deals a ton of damage.

If it had Trample as well (that way White would be Vigilance and Green would be Trample, making it a White/Green creature), I'd be more willing to try it. As it stands now, though, I'd like to see more of the set before passing judgment.

As a Legacy and Modern note, though, remember that Green has Life from the Loam and can use Crucible of Worlds so perhaps there it might make a better casual card for playgroups that play those formats but don't use tournament decks.

I hope you enjoyed the run through the Pre-Release promos! Hopefully over the next few days I can get more previews posted for you. Until then, take care and enjoy Return to Ravnica preview season!

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