Return To Ravnica Set Review: Commander

See which cards Sheldon thinks probably won’t get played, might get played, probably will get played, and definitely will get played in his review of Return to Ravnica for the Commander format.

After getting lots of positive feedback about the style of the M13 review, I’m going to format it the same way. We’ll talk about cards in four categories: "Probably Won’t Get Played," "Might Get Played," "Probably Will Get Played," and "Definitely Will Get Played." Remember that this is a Commander only review. There are great cards for other formats, especially Limited, that don’t translate well into 100-card decks.

Probably Won’t Get Played

White:   Armory Guard; Concordia Pegasus; Fencing Ace; Knightly Valor; Security Blockade; Selesnya Sentry; Sunspire Griffin

Blue:   Aquus Steed; Runewing; Search the City; Skyline Predator; Sphinx of the Chimes; Tower Drake

Black:   Combat Slug; Deviant Glee; Ogre Jailbreaker; Perilous Shadow; Stab Wound; Tavern Swindler; Zanikev Locust

Red:   Bellows Lizard; Cobblebrute; Explosive Impact; Gore-house Chainwalker; Minotaur Aggressor; Pursuit of Flight; Splatter Thug; Tenement Crasher

Green:   Axebane Stag; Brushstrider; Drudge Beetle; Giant Growth; Korozda Monitor; Rubbleback Rhino; Towering Indrik

Multicolor: Auger Spree; Coursers’ Accord; Heroes’ Reunion; Frostburn Weird; Golgari Longlegs; Hussar Patrol; Rakdos Cackler; Rakdos Shred-Freak; Rakdos Ragemutt; Risen Sanctuary; Slitherhead; Trestle Troll; Vassal Soul

Artifact:   Civic Saber

Might Get Played

White:   Avenging Arrow; Bazaar Krovod; Ethereal Armor; Eyes in the Skies; Precinct Captain; Seller of Songbirds; Soul Tithe; Swift Justice; Trained Caracal

Blue:   Cancel; Crosstown Courier; Dispel; Doorkeeper; Downsize; Faerie Impostor; Hover Barrier; Isperia’s Skywatch; Mizzium Skin; Paralyzing Grasp; Soulsworn Spirit; Stealer of Secrets; Syncopate

Black:   Assassin’s Strike; Cremate; Daggerdrome Imp; Dark Revenant; Drainpipe Vermin; Grim Roustabout; Launch Party; Mind Rot; Terrus Wurm; Thrill-Kill Assassin

Red:   Annihilating Fire; Chaos Imps; Electrickery; Goblin Rally; Lobber Crew; Pyroconvergence; Racecourse Fury; Street Wreckage; Viashino Racketeer

Green:   Archweaver; Centaur’s Herald; Golgari Decoy; Horncaller’s Chant; Savage Surge; Stonefare Crocodile; Slime Molding

Multicolor:   Call of the Conclave; Carnival Hellsteed; Centaur Healer; Common Bond; Deathrite Shaman; Dramatic Rescue; Dreg Mangler; Fall of the Gavel; Judge’s Familiar; Loxodon Smiter; Lyev Skyknight; Rakdos Ringleader; Rites of Reaping; Search Warrant; Sluiceway Scorpion; Spawn of Rix Maadi

Artifact:  Azorius Keyrune; Codex Shredder; Golgari Keyrune; Izzet Keyrune; Rakdos Keyrune; Selesnya Keyrune; Street Sweeper; Tablet of the Guilds

Land:  Azorius Guildgate; Golgari Guildgate; Grove of the Guardian; Izzet Guildgate; Rakdos Guildgate; Selesnya Guildgate, Transguild Promenade

Neat in design and viable for other formats, the Guildgates just don’t measure up to the other multilands in Commander.

Probably Will Get Played


Azorius Arrester:  I like Detain. Perhaps getting a little set of handcuffs (you know, like the size of a Monopoly piece) to put on top of detained creatures would be cool.

Azorius Justiciar:  Guess I’ll need two of those.

Keening Apparition:  Being a Spirit provides some soulshift possibilities, and more enchantment destruction is always helpful.

Palisade Giant:  It seems pretty likely that someone will play this and then try to make it indestructible. In the worst case, against Overrun decks that don’t run much spot removal it’s an expensive Fog.

Rootborn Defenses:  Populate is the secondary part of the card even though it’s printed first. Might be a viable Ghostway replacement in some decks.

Trostani’s Judgment:  Strangely enough, I think the otherwise shrug-worthy populate mechanic raises this from "might" to "probably will." It’s nice that it’s an instant, but 5W is really expensive since it has to compete with Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile.


Chronic Flooding:  The most likely case of this getting played is obviously in a self-mill deck. It’s a little difficult to force someone to tap a particular for mana, but notice that the trigger is only on the land being tapped. I suppose that means this plus Rishadan Port could be a thing.

Conjured Currency:  Embracing a fair amount of Chaos, I like the "you never know what’s going to happen" aspect of this card. Zedruu will like it because he doesn’t have to pay any extra to Donate things. Just make sure everyone is playing in different sleeves.

Inspiration:  Drawing cards as an instant is a favored arrow in the quiver of decks with counterspells in them, so it’s pretty likely that this gets played. It’s not quite as good as Fact or Fiction at the same cost, but it stacks up favorably against a bunch of other "draw 2" instants.

Voidwielder:  It’s an expensive Man-o’-War, but the ability is good enough to get some play. Being a Wizard doesn’t hurt it in the least.


Dread Reveler:  Hey, it’s a Zombie. We’re willing to accept less from them.

Desecration Demon:  There are enough good dies triggers that I’m a little wary of giving opponents the choice of sacrificing dudes, but this guy is pretty aggressive. The politics of who will sacrifice something is what makes it most interesting.

Destroy the Evidence:  Take out an annoying land and then mill several cards, all for the low price of 4B. Seems like a nice utility card. Particularly funny after someone has cast Mana Severance.

Pack Rat:  If someone was already thinking about building a Rat deck (of the non-Relentless variety), this one might push them over the edge.

Sewer Shambler:  Again, it’s a Zombie, and Zombie is hot these days.

Shrieking Affliction:  Someone is going to build a discard deck because of this card, play it, and then realize that making everyone else discard their hands is enough. They’ll then get Orc-piled in ensuing games and realize that players get grumpy when you resolve Myojin of Night’s Reach.

Slum Reaper:  Having another Fleshbag Marauder in the army seems good for Kresh, Thraximundar and creature control decks in general.

Ultimate Price:  As one-for-ones go, it’s decent, but considering Murder exists for only one more, it’s a little less likely to get played. Maybe to go on your Isochron Scepter.

Underworld Connections:  Since it’s favorably priced, I can see it getting played. I think that Phyrexian Arena is still a better choice since you don’t have to tie up a land.


Ash Zealot:  This card will get played more because of decks like Karador than the flashback stuff. Quite honestly, as the Karador player I’d rather see this than Rest in Peace, so go for it.

Batterhorn:  It’s worse than Indrik Stomphowler, but I imagine there’s a slot for it in Beast decks.

Bloodfray Giant:  This guy’s getting unleashed all the time. Giants don’t block!

Guttersnipe:  I actually don’t think this card will get played in the format, I just want to put everyone on notice: BURN IS BACK, BABY!

Mizzium Mortars:  I think some folks are going to try to make this work. Its overload cost makes it one more expensive than Flame Wave, but it hits all your opponents’ dudes. Ruhan may try to make use of this with Repercussion.

Traitorous Instinct:  Other people play really good creatures. It’s nice to occasionally borrow them. And then sacrifice them to Greater Good.


Aerial Predation:  The two life isn’t enough to make people replace Plummet, but I can certainly see green decks playing both.

Axebane Guardian:  Worst case, he’s a bad Utopia Tree. Best case…okay, the best case isn’t all that great, but he’s still likely to get played.

Chorus of Might:  You see Overrun coming. This, not so much. It can certainly be a surprise kill, especially with a Commander, out of nowhere.

Deathbridge Goliath:  I’m not overly fond of scavenge in the format, but this creature’s size-to-cost ratio gives it a reasonable chance of getting played and used.

Gatecreeper Vine:  I’d like to see the Gates be a little better before committing to this one, but in the worst case it’s a dude that gets a land. If I had Rampant Growth in Karador, he’d probably replace it, even though the land goes into your hand, simply because he’s another body for the graveyard.

Gobbling Ooze:  I prefer my sacrifice outlets to cost zero mana, but one green isn’t so bad.

Mana Bloom:  Even without the chicanery of Doubling Season, there are likely quite some uses for Mana Bloom. I think I’d still prefer a land-fetcher on turn 3 or 4, but that’s just me.

Oak Street Inkeeper:  Winner of the "Cards I Had to Read Ten Times" competition, decks that like to attack like the Innkeeper. The problem is that she’s unlikely to attack herself, meaning she won’t be tapped and protected. Nonbo with Seedborn Muse.

Seek the Horizon:  I haven’t seen this played much in the format because of cards like Explosive Vegetation and the infinitely awesome Skyshroud Claim at the same cost, but I think that reprinting it might give decks—especially the three- and five-color ones—something to think about.

Sundering Growth:  If a Selesnya deck is playing Naturalize or Disenchant, there’s no downside to playing this instead.


Abrupt Decay:  Uncounterable mini Vindicate is nice, if a little narrow.

Azor’s Elocutors:  Filibuster counters!!! It’ll be epic to see it go off, but I think it’s highly unlikely. Still…filibuster counters!

Blistercoil Weird:  When something untaps because of a trigger, I always see the combo players sniffing around.

Chemister’s Trick:  The overload cost makes things a little expensive if you want to also do some other combat tricks, but creating a scenario where they have to attack—just not you—is a cool idea. For sure this is going into my Ruhan deck.

Collective Blessing:  What’s keeping this from being on the "definitely" side is that it doesn’t give your creatures anything else, like trample, vigilance, or hexproof. At six mana, you might want that little extra something.

Cryptborn Horror:  Reasonable for the Rakdos decks, but in this format might fall into the same problems that bloodthirst has—you need to be able to get in for damage.

Golgari Charm:  Probably the weakest of all the Charms but will still probably get played, again because of the flexibility.

Growing Ranks:  Rhys the Redeemed is excited about Growing Ranks. Getting something for nothing after the initial investment is still always good.

Hellhole Flailer:  Will probably always be unleashed and likely additionally buffed up.

Izzet Charm:  I had actually hoped for a little more from this one. It’s solid but unspectacular. I guess I was hoping for some version of Cerebral Vortex on it, which is probably asking too much.

Izzet Staticaster:  A nice response to Avenger of Zendikar triggers going on the stack.

Jarad’s Orders:  One that I think looks better than it actually is. At least it can’t Tutor up Prime Time.

Korozda Guildmage:  Nice flexibility, nice (if slightly expensive) sacrifice outlet.

New Prahv Guildmage:  Again, nice flexibility, but the second ability is a little expensive.

Nivmagus Elemental:  Again, better Magic minds than mine will have to figure out how to break this card, but it seems like the kind of card that could be at the bottom of something absurd.

Righteous Authority:  The thing that might keep it from getting played is the mana cost. That said, Bruna says hello.

Rix Maadi Guildmage:  Still a little underwhelmed by most of the Guildmages, but this one still has some possibilities—like finishing off a player who someone else has dropped to low life.

Skullrend:  I think some folks will play this then go back to playing Syphon Mind instead.

Skymark Roc:  There are plenty of slightly annoying but not powerfully dangerous small utility creatures running around the format, creatures that you might not want to spend your targeted removal on, instead holding it for the bigger and badder. The Roc might be some help in keeping those pesky guys in check.

Sphinx’s Revelation:  At first blush, this might seem to be a viable replacement for Blue Sun’s Zenith, but don’t be fooled. You’d rather have the BSZ back in your deck than that extra life.

Thoughtflare:  There might be some better draw options, but when you want to sift through your deck and set up some flashback stuff, this will be a go-to.

Treasured Find:  As an extra Regrowth, sure. As a replacement, no way.

Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage:  Meh. Sure, not having to tap for the abilities is good if you have a pile of mana and the populate cost is affordable, but still, meh.

Wayfaring Temple:  Not a great upside, but not really any downside given its mana cost.


Chromatic Lantern:  We see Prismatic Omen getting played, and the Lantern does what that does and more, although it obviously doesn’t change land types (which probably most significant with Last Stand).

Volatile Rig:  Someone is going to play it just because they like flipping coins.

Definitely Will Get Played


Angel of Serenity:  Certainly played in Angel theme decks, this new twist on Faceless Butcher / Fiend Hunter is powerfully flexible. You can clear a path for attackers with it, get rid of tokens (perhaps slightly more important with populate around), or you can effectively have it as a Regrowth for some of your own creatures.

Arrest:  Already getting played. In the format of large mana, one more than Pacifism comes easily for a huge benefit.

Martial Law:  I see this one as quietly very good. Once your original investment is paid, you get to do it for free every turn, which I think is quite significant.

Phantom General:  Toby Elliott squealed with glee when he saw the card text and then cried when he saw that it’s not in Ulasht colors.

Rest in Peace:  Ouch. Those of us with heavy graveyard strategies need to think about getting our yards shuffled back in on demand AND getting some quick enchantment removal. Karador right now is thinking "Its burns us…" I think it’s slightly undercosted. 2W or even 1WW seems a little fairer.

Sphere of Safety:  The Zedruu deck is going to play this. Enchantment decks are going to play it. Maybe even any deck that just wants to make their planeswalkers slightly more difficult to kill will play it. A little expensive at 4W, but that’s the price for making Ghostly Prison and Propaganda even better.


Blustersquall:  Nicely flexible, and the overload cost is really cheap for what it does. I think it’ll also get players thinking again about Turnabout.

Cyclonic Rift:  One of the most talked-about cards ever since it was spoiled, it’s not a game-breaker like Upheaval. It’s going to be really, really good, but in no universe is it ban- or panic-worthy.

Inaction Junction:  On the surface, it seems like a card that would go on the "probably" list, but I think the cantrip part of it makes it a definite.

Jace, Architect of Thought:  Let’s face it. The card starts with "Jace," so if all the abilities just said "Durdle," people would still play it. Fortunately, it’s pretty good. The first ability plusses up the loyalty counters while keeping the one-power dudes from being able to knock it down. I think this will end up being more significant than people originally think—a minor annoyance turned into a major downside. The ultimate isn’t as broken as say Tamiyo’s, but it’s still pretty saucy.

Psychic Spiral:  This will be absolutely bonkers in any kind of mill deck. I have it slotted for The Mimeoplasm, which mills everyone so that there is stuff to Reanimate but has the secondary strategy of being able to simply mill out people. Getting to kill someone AND set up my stuff for reuse is insane.


Grave Betrayal:  Now we’re talking! Black is killing stuff anyway. Imagine resolving this one turn and Damnation the next!

Necropolis Regent:  Vampires are already pretty tough. This one doesn’t even have to be in a Vampire deck to be awesome. The only downside is that it’s a nonbo with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed.


Dynacharge:  This is the winner in the "Only Ever Gets Played for Its Overload Cost" category.

Guild Feud:  Oh, the humanity! Another Chaos-Embracing card that’s sure to get big roars from the table when unexpected things get revealed. Unfortunately, you can’t really do anything to buff up or protect the revealed creatures, so you had better have fatties on your side. From a flavor standpoint, easily my favorite card in the set.

Street Spasm:  Being an instant is probably the only reason this will get played, but it’s a pretty good reason. It’ll get used in emergency situations for its normal cost, but most often for the overload.

Utvara Hellkite:  HOLY MOLY! FIRE RAINS FROM THE SKY!!! I believe Karrthus just had a Jundgasm.

Vandalblast:  Another one that I think is actually going to slip under a few people’s radar, six mana to blow up everyone else’s artifacts seems pretty spicy. The one-mana blow up something now also gives it great flexibility.


Death’s Presence:  Why, hello Lord of Extinction and Stalking Vengeance. I may not have drooled when I saw this card, but…okay, I drooled.

Druid’s Deliverance:  I keep repeating that in this format, you need Fogs. Riku especially is going to love this one. "Avenger of Zendikar #3 and #4? Thank you very much!"

Urban Burgeoning:  I’m SURE that clever players will figure out how to best abuse this card. Anything that taps the land to do something other than produce mana, like Underworld Connections, is a good place to start. How about having your Maze of Ith available on EACH opponent’s turn?

Wild Beastmaster:  I’m already dreaming of scenarios in Animar with this and Forgotten Ancient. I think the card is quite good but doesn’t cross the line into great because it doesn’t give trample. Still, it’ll be worth exploring. Doubling up on Overrun power could be pretty cool. Or enchanting it with Eldrazi Conscription.

Worldspine Wurm:  If you don’t love 15/15s, then you don’t love this format. If you don’t love 15/15s that give you three 5/5 tramplers when they die, you need to seek professional help. Sacrificing Worldspine Wurm to Greater Good will get you the -1 penalty "Dookie" in the Aramda EDH League (for putting into your hand more than ten cards in a turn cycle), but I’m doing it anyway. Well, once. Penalties hurt.


Archon of the Triumvirate:  Competition in the Drogskol Reaver slot, this Archon is beginning to suggest to me that there’s an Archon deck waiting to be built.

Armada Wurm:  No, Armada Games didn’t have input in naming this card. It’s a fatty that makes another fatty (for you to then later populate). Ten trampling power for six mana is what Selesnya is all about.

Azorius Charm:  When the abilities on Charms are mediocre, they are worth playing for the flexibility. When the abilities are awesome, they become must-includes.

Corpsejack Menace:  More Doubling Season effects! More insanity for Ghave! Menace indeed.

Counterflux:  More likely played in formats where Storm is a real thing, the uncounterable counterspell will still get played in this one.

Detention Sphere:  There was a good deal of hype when this card was spoiled, all of it justified. It’s Oblivion Ring that will wipe out a token army. Before the banning, it would have probably gotten rid of multiple Primeval Titans.

Dreadbore:  The fact that it also kills creatures is secondary. Murdering planeswalkers without attacking them is tech.

Dryad Militant:  Combo breaker!!!

Epic Experiment:  Epic indeed. It’s Genesis Wave for non-permanents. I can see some pretty crazy stuff happening off of this, including some kind of infinite or near-infinite combos involving taking extra turns.

Essence Backlash:  When I cast Lord of Extinction and someone counters it with Essence Backlash, I will snap a photo. And die.

Firemind’s Foresight:  I’m sure the combo guys have already figured out how best to abuse this, although I suppose the best game-breaker combos are sorceries that cost a little more. Maybe we should run a "best Firemind’s Foresight" contest.

Goblin Electromancer:  Speaking of combo cards…

Grisly Salvage:  The Reanimator decks love this simply because of the low cost.

Havoc Festival:  Games just got shorter. How very Rakdos.

Hypersonic Dragon:  Just what blue and red need: the ability to Earthquake as an instant. This little Dragon might have gotten played even without the flash ability. With it, he is quite strong.

Isperia, Supreme Judge:  I see a new Azorius general in a deck that makes people attack. With Meishin, the Mind Cage. Awesome card, awesome flavor.

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord:  This will be this set’s card that gets the most calls for banning. It is VERY strong, and Kresh is already striking up a relationship with Jarad. It is in no way ban-worthy. Certainly, there’s a danger point in that it’s difficult to prevent the life loss since it’s not targeted and not damage. It’s simply a card that we’ll all have to look out for, both as a general and one of 99. Will people lose to it? Yes. Will it warp the format? No.

Lotleth Troll:  I have to put this on the "definitely" list because Bennie Smith has already announced his intention to marry this card. It does have quite some possibilities, but it also has quite some risks in that graveyard hate in this set is really hateful. Probably still destined for my Karador deck.   

Mercurial Chemister:  This guy would get definitely get played with only one of those two abilities. Having them both makes him kind of absurd. I actually expect to see him in Grixis/Reanimator decks more than just Izzet.

Nivix Guildmage:  Perhaps the best of the Guildmages, I see this one also being pretty good with some black in the deck.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius:  He was strong enough as the Firemind. As Dracogenius, he’s kind of absurd. Probably swapping him in for the original in Ruhan.

Rakdos Charm:  Talk about a card that I love to play and hate to see. This singlehandedly does awful things to many of my decks with the first ability. On the upside, it kills the guy that just put a million tokens into play. The middle ability will almost never get played.

Rakdos, Lord of Riots:  In his colors, there’s no problem casting him, and there’s no problem making his last ability work. Aggressive if a little narrow, which is just fine. Nicely thematic.

Rakdos’s Return:  Mind Twist you. By the way, take that much damage. I didn’t want to waste the extra card to do both.

Selesnya Charm:  The Charms are officially better than the Guildmages. The first two abilities will see plenty of use, the third not so much. If it had deathtouch instead of vigilance, all bets would be off.

Slaughter Games:  The answer to single linchpin combo decks. Sure, it’s only getting one card, but that might be THE ONE card you have to get.

Supreme Verdict:  Either an additional Wrath or a replacement, this card is getting played.

Teleportal:  Another overload card that probably won’t get played much normally, it can still simply be a game-winner when cast for two, the unblockable part being the operative.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice:  I think people underestimate the value of life gain in the format. Sure, if someone can do infinite damage your life total doesn’t matter much and if they can kill you with general damage it doesn’t matter much, but otherwise it keeps you alive longer. This will be a nice, kind of inoffensive general, and certainly the one I’m going to build the white/green deck around in my one of each color combination project.

Vraska the Unseen:  Planeswalkers that do a great job of protecting themselves and then have crazy ultimates are certainly going to get some attention. This one will probably make more of a splash in Standard than Commander.


Pithing Needle:  It’s getting played already, and there are cards that deserve to be shut down. Jarad could be one of them.


Blood Crypt, Hallowed Fountain, Overgrown Tomb, Steam Vents, Temple Garden:  Nothing needs to be said about these lands. They’re already wildly popular in the format. Bringing them back is very nice for us, especially those of us who like the foilies, since these should eventually be cheaper.

Rogue’s Passage:  Unblockable generals will kill you dead.

Return to Ravnica is a super-solid set for Commander. With a full 60 of the cards in the "Definitely" pile (30 of them multi-color, which makes sense given the guild-driven nature), it will have an immediate impact on the format. The only card that I think is absolutely crazy is Jarad. People are definitely going to have to start playing more graveyard hate, which impacts a number of my decks (Karador and Kresh specifically) in a way that makes me a little twitchy. The good news is that the set also gives many of my decks some nice new fuel. Expect a full report on the changes in the coming weeks.

Next week, tune in for Part 2 of Reader Mailbag.

Interestingly enough, my Magic play style and my personality seem rather different. I’m at heart a Jund player, so I half expected that I might end up Golgari. I took the Guild test, answering as me the person, not me the Magic player. Turns out…

I am Azorius. I suppose that reflects my strong sense of justice (white) and that I know better than everyone else how to bring it about (blue). "I serve only justice. But through that duty, I serve all of Ravnica."