Hidden Gems #3

Limited Master Raphael Levy returns with the latest edition of Hidden Gems! Today, he brings us a few more Ravnican rares that are sadly overlooked in Ravnica Block drafting… if they’re utilized correctly, they can lead to wacky fun times. A perfect article for the run-up for this weekend’s Pro Tour Prague. Looking for something different when drafting RGD? Raphael can help!

Dissension is finally out, and many of you have started to think about how the draft format has changed. I, too, like all the players attending PT Prague, have started playing with the new set. From now on, I’ll take into account Dissension in my card reviews. I’ll finish reviewing undervalued Ravnica rares in today’s article, and then take a look at Guildpact ones. Meanwhile, I hope I’ll have the time to discover what Dissension twelfth-pick rares have to offer. I will review them later is the series.

Ravnica Rares, Part 3:

Razia’s Purification

At first, I thought this card would be more popular. Its effect has a huge impact on the game. It’s no secret: the card’s text makes it pretty clear. I’m always very surprised to get this card tenth or eleventh pick. Out of the seven other drafters at the table, is no one able to make good use of this card? It sure requires some setup, but seeing this card picked so late and sitting in the sideboard every time makes me think that the actual setup you need is unreachable.

I played this card many times, and it was often devastating. It’s one of those Limited cards that make the game totally different once you’re holding it. Cards such as Insurrection, or Wrath of God, are similar. You will start playing totally differently once you draw them. In the case of Insurrection, your game consisted in having some of your guys swing through for damage, chump blocking, avoiding creature trades, before reaching eight mana and winning. Wrath of God (and affiliates) make you play the weakest creatures you’re holding, push some damage, try to hold the ground for some time while keeping your good creatures in hand… then you sweep the table and play the big boys.

Razia’s Purification requires a setup you won’t be able to obtain with every deck, but basically, any Green deck with some fatties and able to produce W and R mana should consider this card much more often than it currently does. The setup is somewhat different from the Wrath of God one. Let’s say you have it in your opening hand, and your mana base will allow you to play it between turn 6 and 8. Depending on how aggressive your opponent will be, your final goal will be to have one huge guy standing in front of irrelevant creatures or lands, and still holding enough pressure in hand to seal the game a few turns later. To reach this situation, you only care about big threats, creatures you won’t want to see after the Purification. In the best case, you’ll keep a Karoo land in play along with a big and a smaller creature. In hand, you’ll have one or two lands, and one or two creatures that you’ve been keeping the whole game for the situation.

It can be interesting as well with the graft mechanic. Build up the biggest creature you can, sweep the board, and “go for it!”

Searing Meditation

This is not exactly a power card, but it deserves a better opinion. What are the first few things we can say about it?

It doesn’t actually do anything by itself.
Activating it requires gaining life.
It’s basically a bad Lightning Rift.

All this is true, but I have to say that I often consider this card when I see it. The only deck it fits is a deck where you have access to life gain… which is uniformly WRB. You can try with Blue instead of Black, so you have access to Overrule in Dissension… but paying at least five mana to deal two damage and maybe counter a spell doesn’t seem too exciting.

What you need to play this card are stable ways to gain life. There aren’t many of those around. The most interesting are probably Mourning Thrull, Agent of Masks, and Orzhov Guildmage. Paying eight mana for two extra damage with Orzhova, Church of Deals seems a bit tough. Combine two Mourning Thrull, with at least four other ways to gain life, and you’ll have a reliable source of damage and creature removal.

This is a deck Mark Zajdner drafted in GP Richmond. It features three Meditations! It’s pretty extreme, but the build around is interesting.

The Benediction is quite a bad card by itself, but becomes “playable” if you have Searing Meditation. Playing Benediction is rarely very exciting…

… But, with the new format, a new mechanism emerged: Hellbent.

The BRW deck is probably the deck that takes the most advantage of Hellbent. The biggest problem with this archetype is that it will take a few turns to achieve Hellbent, and then you will be powerless to fight any upcoming threats. Searing Meditation is a pretty cheap enchantment that will stay in play when you’re done with your hand, and may provide you with some crucial card advantage later on with the help of either your Thrulls already in play, or life gain you’ll draw later in the shape of Blind Hunter, Centaur Safeguard, Douse in Gloom, and other less common cards like Agent of Masks, Orzhov Guildmage, and Sunhome Legionnaire.

The good thing about Benediction of Moons is that it’s a cheap sorcery that will allow you to achieve Hellbent earlier. I don’t think I would ever play Benediction of Moons if I don’t have Searing Meditation, but I’m saying that without the enchantment in play it has a little use, especially since you want your Gobhobbler Rats and Demon’s Jesters to be enhanced as soon as possible.

Down the rabbit hole

Tunnel Vision

A two-card combo that wins the game in Limited? This is one piece of the puzzle. Junktroller, the other piece, is a good card by itself. I’m sure you’ve read reviews about that guy before, so no need to tell how useful it can be. My advice: pick Tunnel Vision if you have already drafted a Junktroller. And play it, even splash it if you’re not Blue. Keep in mind that you don’t need the two cards at the same time. Activate Junktroller once during the game, on one of your opponent’s cards, make sure your opponent hasn’t shuffled his deck in the meantime (with the help of a Farseek or some Transmute effect), and win with Tunnel Vision when you draw it. It’s simple, yet very efficient. I can’t count the number of games I lost online to this combo, while my deck was twenty times better than my opponent’s offering.

With only one Ravnica pack left, it becomes harder to get both pieces of the puzzle. Without Junktroller, this is not worth picking or considering. Dimir mill decks are barely playable anymore, and even back then, it wasn’t too good.

Sins of the Past

As you’ve probably noticed, this card wheels 100% of the time and never ends up being played. This is not a great card, but far better than people think. I would include this card in a deck with at least four of creature removal spells (Brainspoil, Ribbons of Night), efficient card drawing spells (Compulsive Research), and burn spells (Cackling Flames). In the late game, it lets you use the most efficient spell you’ve already played.

If you like wacky decks, you would have liked one of the decks I drafted in Honolulu (in a “friendly draft”. I don’t have the exact list here, but it consisted of:

Blue card drawing spells: a pair of Compulsive Research, a pair of Train of Thoughts, Consult the Necrosages, Flow of Ideas.
Some creature removal spells: Brainspoil, Disembowel.
A few creatures to hold the ground for a few turns: Terraformer, Junktroller, Surveilling Sprites.
A bunch of mana: Signets, and lots of Karoo lands.

And finally: Sins of the Past and Storm Herd!

The gameplan was to stall the ground long enough to be able to play Storm Herd, either by reaching ten mana, or by playing it thanks to Sins of the Past once you’ve discarded it with Compulsive Research, or through your regular discard step — Thanks to the Karoo lands, I had eight cards in my discard step.

The deck was hellish fun to play, and it performed much better than I expected.

All this to say one thing: this format is very open to wacky draft strategies, and the more you know about the rares of the format, the more open and prepared you are to draft and build an efficient and unexpected wacky deck.

To the skies!


The stats of this guy aren’t very exciting. Before Dissension I wouldn’t consider playing the Hydra maindeck. It was sure a very good sideboard card again big Green ground creatures, but was lacking too much versatility to be efficient in the maindeck. It worked great with Savage Twister, but there’s no real need to talk about a combo that includes such a devastating card. Now that Dissension is out, I do believe the Hydra became a pretty good card, for a few reasons. First of all, when you’re going for Selesnya in the first pack, there’s a pretty big chance you’ll go for Blue in the last pack. If you manage to draft Graft creatures, the Hydra won’t come into play as a poor 1/1 anymore, and will be considered a bigger threat. I’m talking about Blue because of one card: Helium Squirter. If your Hydra has the ability to fly, the chances are that you’ll never be attacked again. Let’s just call it a cheaper “Blazing Archon”, sort of.

The problem, as Anton mentioned last week, is that WW in the casting cost is an issue. From what I heard, White seems to be the least popular color in the new format. This is a Good Thing and Bad Thing at the same time. Good, because if everyone thinks the same way, you’ll get more good White cards. Bad, because White might simply be the weakest color.

Just a few words about the combo with Pariah’s Shield… I’m not including Pariah’s Shield in the “underrated” cards, because I think it’s way too expensive to actually be good. It has some effect on the game, but at what cost? The combo with Phytohydra is pretty huge once you have it going, of course… When you picked the Hydra tenth pick and you’ve seen Pariah’s Shield going around, keep in mind that it could be a winning combination.

Three Dreams

I had to mention this one somewhere. It has been underrated for a long time, but I think it went up in players’ opinion. In a control deck, this card is just huge. Once you’ve drafted it, make sure you get the pieces you need to make this card efficient. In Ravnica, you have the 187 auras —Galvanic Arc, Faith’s Fetters, and a couple of very good, less common, auras – Followed Footsteps, Moldervine Cloak, Mark of Eviction. In Guildpact, you have access to Pillory of the Sleepless and Infiltrator Magemark; in Dissension, Plumes of Peace, Ocular Halo, among others. With the addition of the last set, you’re losing in efficiency, but you’re gaining in versatility.

In the new format, card advantage is more important than ever. This card provides lots of it. Getting one or two creature removal spells, plus a creature enhancer, for one card, sounds like a fair deal.


This is a card I’ve heard a lot about. And it’s definitely not popular at all… at least among those who don’t know about it. I think Neil Reeves was the first one to advocate the card on the Pro Tour. Since then, many followed his advice.

Mindmoil allows you to cycle through you deck very quickly, playing the best card from each iteration of your hand. It’s particularly effective if you have a specific bomb to dig for, as you can just play Signets and cheap creatures to get multiple hand cycles in a turn. The turn you’ll lose when you cast it will be compensated by the huge deal you’ll be making afterwards. Not an auto-inclusion, but you should check your deck twice before putting it aside; check what you’d be able to play the turn after you played it. Remember how much Boros hates drawing extra and unnecessary lands? With Mindmoil, you have an efficient way to take advantage of the late-game land flood.

I would consider it in any deck with Red without an efficient way to use late-game lands.

That’s it for Ravnica Rares!

More cards next week!