First Impressions Of Ravnica Spoilers

The latest Return to Ravnica spoilers have given Valeriy Shunkov some food for thought. Find out where he thinks some of the new cards might find a home in Standard and Modern.

Spoilers are finally here! It’s that exciting time when you look at some spoilers from the new set and start brewing, trying to imagine a place for literally any spoiled card. Most of them will obviously be only Limited playable (like the exciting Nivix Guildmage that I would pick in a draft just because of the art), but some cards will be good enough to make the cut in Constructed. So let’s stop screaming, "Shocklands are back!" and look at these priceless treasures!

Two-Mana Spells

Of 41 already spoiled cards, fourteen have a converted mana cost of two (and ten of them are multicolored), and almost all these spells are extremely powerful. Look at the three Charms—even the worst one (Azorius Charm) has some potential in Constructed, not to mention the amazing Izzet Charm (which I’ll cover extensively later in this article) and the very flexible Selesnya Charm (simultaneously a creature, a removal spell, and a pump spell). I’m very impressed with this work of Wizards and am waiting eagerly for Rakdos Charm (Disentomb + Shock + what?), Golgari Charm (oh wait, did I say Disentomb is for Rakdos?), and for the entire Gatecrash set.

Two mana also offers us a bunch of great creatures. Both spoiled Guildmages are very good in Limited (though unfortunately unplayable in Standard), and Grim Roustabout would probably see Constructed play (as his M13 counterpart Crimson Muckwader) — 2/2 for 2 with cheap regenerate is a legitimate investment. Unleash is very interesting mechanic, especially if we’ll see cheap undercosted creature (like 1/1 for R with unleash).

Rakdos Shred-Freak is another creature with Constructed potential. Two-mana creatures are constant weak point of red aggro decks, so this one easily makes the cut for Mono Red (which will exist in a first few weeks of new Standard regardless of anything). Black aggressive decks will likely prefer splashing for Crimson Muckwader (even with Shred-Freak’s synergy with Falkenrath Aristocrat), but Mono Red has much fewer options.

Basically, Mono Red has good burn (Pillar of Flame, Searing Spear, Bonfire of the Damned), good early cards (Falkenrath Noble and Goblin Arsonist), and a good late game (Thundermaw Hellkite and Zealous Conscripts) but nearly nothing in between. So I’m not going to post a decklist for it yet, but I recommend you to keep an eye on any new red cards.

Jund More Time

Dreg Mangler, better known as the Revenge of Rotten Tomatoes, is a very interesting creature even if you don’t start laughing uncontrollably when you see the hasty Zombie Plant. Dreg Mangler and Flinthoof Boar are interesting remakes of Boggart Ram-Gang. Both cards have relevant abilities (scavenge and reduced mana cost), and, as their predecessor, they both will be Constructed playable (while probably not exciting).

Jund currently dominates Block Constructed, and I see no reason why better a mana base wouldn’t make it even more powerful. I can imagine two versions of the deck: a fast one based on Strangleroot Geist and a heavier one similar to Block. If you remember the evolution of Alara-Zendikar Jund around Pro Tour San Diego, you will not be surprised with my choice.

Jund by Valeriy Shunkov

4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Rootbound Crag
3 Blood Crypt
2 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Forest
1 Swamp
2 Mountain
4 Dreg Mangler
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Deadbridge Goliath
4 Thragtusk
2 Searing Spear
4 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Rakdos’ Return
2 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Tree of Redemption
3 Zealous Conscripts
3 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Dreadbore
2 Garruk Relentless

Falkenrath Aristocrat is still nuts, but I’m not sure she would survive the competition with Deadbridge Goliath and Thragtusk (though she would be better than Huntmaster of the Fells). This deck doesn’t play mana dorks to produce turn 2 Dreg Manglers, but it has better ways to spend a time in the early game preparing for an endless stream of scary monsters.

Stomping Ground will be a fantastic addition, but the mana is good enough right now, while the creatures are just the best possible three-colored mix. I’m not sure if Restoration Angel is worth adding white (Deadbridge Goliath seems to naturally take the Angel’s slot), but Farseek became just unfair and nearly any green-based deck is possible. I’m especially waiting for something interesting to exploit Snapcaster Mage in BUG / RUG with Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, but it’s hard to imagine with almost two hundred cards uncovered.

Dreadbore is an interesting card to discuss. Go for the Throat and Doom Blade leave us for Murder with its excellent flavor and awkward mana cost. Instant speed removal is vital for possible black-based aggressive decks, but I could easily imagine Dreadbore as at least sideboard card in aggressive decks to deal with protecting Garruk Relentless, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and, hopefully, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Bonfire of the Damned would make the same job better, but Bonfire is slow if not miracled, so Dreadbore would sneak through the card quality barrier.

Goblin Storm

Izzet Charm and Goblin Electromancer were among five cards spoiled in Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari, and when I saw those cards, I immediately thought about Modern Storm. This deck is extremely popular online due to its cheapness (and would be even more popular with the decreased cost of Steam Vents), but it has a number of weaknesses, some of which would be solved with the new cards.

Izzet Charm is a perfect tool for such a deck; it works as fifth Faithless Looting, it kills nearly all problematic creatures (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg), and it allows us to protect ourselves mid-combo. Sadly, the Charm can’t your opponent, but I’m probably being too greedy. Izzet Charm is good enough for Modern RUG Delver or a RUG Standard deck (though I don’t see any good topdeck manipulation and thus don’t expect Delver of Secrets to be good in the format).

Goblin Electromancer is an interesting card. He’s bad in any deck with effective spells (for example, spells in U/W/R Russian Delver cost U, R, W, and R/W) but would be nice in a deck with bad cards. Nearly any combo deck has a ton of them, and Storm is a perfect example. Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, and Seething Song are not Dark Ritual for some reason, and Goblin Electromancer would fix that card design mistake.

Having a creature in Storm has some significant downsides like making your opponent’s dead removal cards playable, but most games of Magic are post-board ones where opponent will side removal out anyway. Goblin Electromancer in play essentially copies each of your Rituals (and improves Manamorphose), allowing you to mulligan more aggressively and to have a margin in case of a Mana Leak on your last Ritual.

Goblin Electromancer also gives you an interesting way to solve post-board Storm’s problems with numerous hate: a transformational sideboard into a U/R Delver deck. Storm decks use sideboarding into Splinter Twin combo from time to time, but this combo is vulnerable to many kinds of similar hate and, more importantly, has similar bad matchups, while Delver sideboarding would be very good against decks like Martyr of Sands or Naya Pod with Glen Elendra Archmage.

The sideboard would include only fifteen cards of course, at least half of which would be creatures, so it would be good to include some removal or countermagic in the maindeck. The best way to do so is by building a Mono-Red Spinerock Knoll / Pyromancer’s Swath deck with a ton of burn to activate Spinerock Knoll, but Goblin Electromancer is bad in a deck that relies on Lightning Bolt and Shard Volley.

This deck is of course far less effective than true RUG Delver, which it tries to be, but it’s still viable and a relatively cheap upgrade to Storm. Snapcaster Mage could easily be Vendilion Clique (far better for a blue-heavy metagame, if you for some reason decide to play Storm in that environment) or Quirion Dryad. Other ideas include using Augur of Bolas or the new Guttersnipe, but they are probably just not worth sideboard slots.

Guttersnipe, nevertheless, would be an interesting idea for a Spinerock Knoll deck. It’s much more vulnerable than Pyromancer’s Swath and doesn’t work well with Grapeshot, but it significantly improves our chances to activate Spinerock Knoll even without a second burn card (while three cards are needed without this Goblin). I’m probably too optimistic about this little creature, but I want to give him a chance.

Storm by Valeriy Shunkov

4 Spinerock Knoll
13 Mountain
3 Pyromancer’s Swath
3 Guttersnipe
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Shard Volley
4 Grapeshot
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Pyretic Ritual
2 Seething Song
3 Past in Flames
4 Manamorphose
4 Faithless Looting
3 Shattering Spree
2 Fungal Reaches
4 Defense Grid
2 Magma Jet
2 Empty the Warrens
2 Pyromancer Ascension

Jace, Tamiyo, and Others

Jace, Architect of Thought is definitely not Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but he has some potential: a reasonable mana cost, the ability to protect himself, a powerful second ability, and synergy with Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. This could finally push control to a playable level in Standard. I have no idea how would it look; Terminus’ playability highly depends on some sort of topdeck manipulation, which we are unlikely to see due to Delver of Secrets.

If U/W Control is still not playable, I’d try to find a place for Jace in some kind of Grixis planeswalker deck with Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Bonfire of the Damned and Flames of Firebrand are probably enough to stabilize even without any kind of Day of Judgment (while Drowned Catacomb in Gatecrash would make Mutilate playable in blue-based control), and Chromatic Lantern would help to solve color issues and accelerate into the mighty Dragon.

Anyway, control will be the last archetype to emerge—and it still needs many tools to be good—so let’s just keep it in mind when looking at the spoilers the next couple of weeks. And don’t forget that while Jund dominates Innistrad Block Constructed, Intangible Virtue is banned in that format.

Good luck!

Valeriy Shunkov