The Obligatory Vintage Ravnica: City of Guilds Review

JP tells you about the new duties he has assumed in the community while also providing the skinny on all the cards from Ravnica that should make an impact in the Vintage world.



NEW YORK—Area graduate student J.P. Meyer has once again returned from the astral plane and assumed physical form to undergo the elaborate coronation ceremony for the title of Type One Supercomputer. The title’s previous holder, known variously as “Philip Stanton“, “Pip”, or “Dr. Sylvan” in different venues, finally selected his successor after a number of days of deliberation.

Citing the demands of “real life”, Stanton, one of the internet’s most anthropomorphic supercomputers, retired from devoting processing cycles to compiling sophisticated-sounding gibberish about Magic: the Gathering this week. Several cults of followers were believed to have mass suicides in the works until today’s announcement of an “anointed successor” by their departing leader. Stanton is said to have selected Meyer after thoroughly consulting his fraternal order of internet servers, which has a name over 12,000 binary characters long.

When his android body emerged from the underground lair which houses Stanton’s dimensional nexus right next to the famous Red Lion, a component of the Voltron robot that guards humanity, he evaded most questions. “I know that some believe J.P.’s duties will be negatively affected by his other responsibilities, but let us assure you that this decision was made without the slightest imbibing of intoxicating liquors during last night’s council meeting at the Voltron Force Gentleman’s Club.”

“I felt this title was worth reinhabiting my body for,” said Meyer. “I must continuously expand my supply of worshippers in the real world so that they will continue to make human sacrifices, providing me with the energy to continue my disembodied work. My other organizations simply haven’t been delivering enough growth in worshipper population.”

Meyer’s other title, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (translated from the totally fruity-sounding official Latin title), was awarded earlier in 2005 when several European Cardinals, swayed by appeals from the interest group “J.P. For Pope”, put his name before the College after the death of Pope John Paul II. The Cardinals were most influenced by the idea that electing a young Pope would reduce the need for stressful future meetings and expensive Vatican funeral ceremonies. Citing budget cuts, they accepted the need for a vigorous, youthful occupant for the papacy, and selected Meyer for the job.

Cardinal Ratzinger, the one awarded all of the lame public duties of the papal office without the power of billions of worshippers supporting his astral work, described Meyer as “eminently qualified for his new duties as Supercomputer.” He further predicted that Meyer would display the “foresight to exploit the marketing opportunities exposed by the coincidence of these two powerful offices in one individual.”

Stanton, for his part, seemed to accept his retirement. “My readers were gradually realizing that I didn’t actually play Magic, anyway. It was only a matter of months before the [editor and Dark Lord of the Sith] Son of Knut found someone who made fewer uninformed generalizations about the game and could also do arithmetic.” He noted, amused, that the latter qualification was in even shorter supply than the former, and proceeded to make several quips about the state of education among this dimension’s merely mortal life forms.

His time since the announcement of a successor has been devoted to using his telekinetic abilities in the construction of a new facility taking advantage of the mystic energy flowing through the ley line intersection at the St. Louis Gateway Arch. “Now that I’m out of public office, I’m free from a lot of onerous regulations about taking bribes, maintaining financial records, and minimizing my conflicts of interest. For instance, I can now say ‘the guys from Meandeck are actually pretty damn nice’ and only a small lynch mob will be on my doorstep the next morning. Small mobs don’t scare me,” said Stanton as he fondled the lightsaber dangling at his belt.

Influential Magic community member and famed Jedi Master Steve O'Connell a.k.a. Zherbus could not be reached for comment; he is believed to be constructing a monsoon-season home on Dagobah. Outspoken loudmouth Ben Kowal was similarly unavailable: he was last sighted in a duel to the death with the guard of the impound where his car was being held for its numerous violations of automotive decency laws. Steve Menendian was reached, but only murmured unintelligible phrases about “the summoning” while spooky skeleton ghosts floated throughout the room where he was meditating over a black tome titled “Necromancy for Advanced Users”.

So with that out of the way, on to Invasion 2!

Transmute spells

One mana: Dizzy Spell

Two mana: Muddle the Mixture, Shred Memory

Three mana: Drift of Phantasms, Dimir Machinations

I’ve purposely left off any Transmute spells that cost more than three mana since that’s the point where your mana curve tops off. Dizzy Spell has the problem that it costs more than Merchant Scroll but can’t tutor for nearly as many cards, so it’s automatically not worth considering. Muddle the Mixture is really eh since probably the best target for it is Mana Drain, but Muddle the Mixture is already a counter so that use is kinda pointless. Shred Memory is purely a sideboard card, so you probably don’t need the Transmute ability tacked on. Still, I guess it might be useful if you draw it at a time when you don’t need it, since you can turn it into a Mana Drain. The only other use that I can think of is Accumulated Knowledge, but Intuition/AK is pretty out of favor right now. Drift of Phantasms and Dimir Machinations are more problematic. Both of these cards are really, really weak so they are only going to be used for their Transmute ability, and by their Transmute ability I mean the ability to find Tinker or Yawgmoth’s Will. Are Tinker and Will that good that it’s worth playing a narrow (but uncounterable) tutor for them? I’d lean towards no but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the format got extremely control-centric and then Transmute into a Boseiju’d out Tinker or Will became a focus in control matchups.

Loxodon Gatekeeper

There has been a little bit of buzz concerning this card with regards to a mono-White Prison deck. The problem that I see there is not with the idea of mono-White Prison itself, but rather with the casting cost of this card. Prison decks are capable of playing four-mana artifacts, not spells. The mana base in those decks can’t accommodate colored spells which cost more than around three mana. The only real way to pull this off is to run Gilded Lotus, but as a lot of people found out with Workshop Slaver and 7/10 was that this ended up making the decks too prone to mana flooding.

Suppression Field

This is the main card that started the mono-White Prison buzz. Suppression Field is a very complex effect upon a Prison deck’s plan. It can keep fetchlands from being activated early, but at the same time makes it harder for Stax to get Crucible of Worlds/Wasteland started. It makes it harder for other decks to use their Goblin Welders, but on the other hand it is probably worth it for you to be running Goblin Welder in your deck as well. It will take a lot of testing and various deck construction strategies to find the optimal place for this card.

Oh, and the optimal use for this card is not as a sideboard combo hate card, as I have occasionally heard. It does almost nothing there.

Compulsive Research

The obvious first question here is as to where, if anywhere should this be played over Thirst for Knowledge. Leaving aside Goblin Welder decks of course, the most probably candidates would be Gifts decks. The loss of instant speed hurts in control matchups, but there are far more lands than artifacts in Gifts. The other option to keep in mind is to think about the possibility of a deck which would want to run both Compulsive Research and Thirst for Knowledge in order to really load up on draw effects.


I’m just listing this one because it feels like R&D just tossed a bunch of abilities onto it in a way that doesn’t really seem aesthetically pleasing. It’s like they just used the random card creator and went with it. I really do want to link you to it, but rumor has it that R&D has put their utmost effort into keeping this knowledge out of MaRo’s hands, as it would create an unimaginably dangerous situation for Magic.*

Tunnel Vision

At first, I just assumed that this was possibly the worst tutor ever, until I realized that it said “Target player”. With all of the restricted cards in Type One, this card can come very close to being a win condition. Hint: if you think that they’re playing it, Darksteel Colossus is probably the best card to name with this since your opponent won’t want to draw it.


Is this the new Lava Dart? Its Dredge cost is miniscule, so there is little worry about dumping too many cards into your graveyard if you have to recur it a few times in order to make sure that that Goblin Welder or those Fish creatures die. It even has bonus synergy with Gifts Ungiven, Intuition, and Brainstorm. It’s not going to turn Vintage on its ear but it still fills an important niche and it fills it well.

Dark Confidant

There’s no deck currently that would want to run this card. The best possibility that I can see for it so far is in a U/B Fish deck where each card wouldn’t cost more than two mana. I’m not actually sure just how much Black would be in the deck, though. Black doesn’t really offer much other than Cabal Therapy and Withered Wretch.

Oh yeah, and watch out for Force of Will. Hitting one of those with your Dark Confidant is not going to be comfortable.


I really wish that R&D had costed this spell at something really low, like B or BB. If they did that, the card would torture Johnnies even more as they struggled to find a way to ever be able to find a way to have enough targets to be able to cast the card.

Hunted Horror

This is the only Hunted creature that’s actually castable in Type One, which is ironic since it’s best use is not to cast it. That’s right, I’m talking about you, Illusionary Mask. Hunted Horror is by far the best backup creature for Phyrexian Dreadnought if you’ve got an Illusionary Mask out.

Moonlight Bargain

In terms of raw power, this is probably the strongest card-drawer since Fact or Fiction. The double-Black casting cost would’ve doomed the card in earlier sets, but Ravnica provides another set of duals which will make the casting cost issues much less of a problem.

Ultimately though, I just don’t think that it has a place. The draw spell department is too crowded right now and draw engines like Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge that are more powerful than Moonlight Bargain aren’t even seeing play right now. Intuition/AK probably draws as many cards for the same price, can be broken up, and doesn’t cost you a huge chunk of your life.

Sins of the Past and Recollect

I’m pointing these ones out purely as cards to consider with Gifts Ungiven. It’s important to keep track of all the various graveyard recursion cards in case they can set up new Gifts combos or new ways of casting Gifts in order to find specific cards.

Flame Fusillade

Everyone knows about this combo by now. While it looks like it’ll make a big splash in Legacy, I’d wait-and-see when it comes to the applicability in Vintage. At the very least, it’s probably strictly superior to Goblin Charbelcher/Mana Severance.

Indentured Oaf

This has nothing to do with Vintage, but if you are going to submit an article to Star City, never begin an enumeration with “firstly.” Even though it is an acceptable way to start an enumeration according to the American Heritage Dictionary, Knut hates when you do that and will change it to “first.”

Sundering Vitae

This will require testing to find out whether or not these situations actually come up, but this could possibly be a cheaper Naturalize effect for some Fish decks. You’ll have a Spirit token from Oath, so taking into account Convoke this costs at most the same as Naturalize against them.

Dimir Cutpurse

Alright, I guess this does give this new U/B Fish deck a second powerful tool. I think that it might actually be better in control decks against each other, since they’re better equipped than Fish-type decks to be able to cast this on turn 2 (read: before control decks can have Mana Drain active).

Also, I heard stories of people trading these at the prerelease for insane deals like one Dimir Cutpurse for a Pithing Needle and a Flooded Strand.

Dimir Doppelganger

Steve Menendian opened a foil one of these at the Richmond prerelease and got so excited that he chased me down and said “Oh God, oh God, JP, this card is going to be worth so much.” So take that as an endorsement, or something.

Master Warcraft

Ooh, I didn’t think that R&D had chosen Brian Kibler Invitational card as the one that they were going to print.

Shadow of a Doubt

While I do realize that this card is card advantage if you counter something like Demonic Tutor or a fetchland with it, it is usually not a gain in tempo. Stifling a fetchland provides tempo because Stifle requires you to tap one land, but since Shadow of a Doubt in all likelihood requires you to tap two lands it reduces the number of options that you have that turn and thus costs you tempo.

Don’t forget Mana Drain, either. That also counters tutors for just UU.


A lot of the attention towards this card was generated over the 1BG in the activation cost. The problem with this is that I can’t see any kind of deck which runs Black and Green that would want to play this card over Deed. The real focus should’ve been over the three in the top-right corner. That allows the card to be playable by Workshop decks. I realize that Deed effects are very strong against Workshop decks, but the one use of this that immediately comes to mind is if Workshop needs to deal with a card like Null Rod. Smokestack can probably sweep the board as quickly as Plagueboiler can, but the important difference here is that Plagueboiler doesn’t hit lands and thus doesn’t keep weakening you while you try to clear away problem permanents.

Dual Lands

I wrote and article back in August where I talked about Type One mana bases. One of the important facts that I noticed was that because of the presence of fetchlands and dual lands, there is more of an incentive to splash multiple colors than there is to invest heavily into a single secondary color. The new dual lands turn this on its head. You can now run say, eight Underground Sea or seven Plateau if you like. What this means for you is that you could play a heavily Blue deck but still have the ability to cast spells like Aura of Silence or Persecute that were nearly uncastable before.

So I guess Ravnica looks more like another Kamigawa. It has one card which looks like it will spawn a new deck type and then a bunch of fairly useful utility cards that fit nicely into established decks or might create variants of existing decks. That’s enough to make me satisfied with any new set. I tend to be wary of the Urza’s Sagas and Mirrodins of the world anyway.

JP Meyer

jpmeyer at gmail dot com

* Those cards really are awesome, though. Here are some gems that it created for me:


Choose one – target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn; or target Beast gets +1/+1 until end of turn


Tap an untapped basic land you control: put 1 6/5 red Dragon creature token with flying into play

Sacrifice 7 Dragons: add R to your mana pool

Instant or Sorcery

Tap target tapped land


When ~this~ comes into play, counter target spell

Instant or Sorcery

Until end of turn, if any player would lose life, you may Pay 4 life. If you do, instead copy target spell and choose new targets for the copy


If any player would draw a card, instead you put 4 1/1 Soldier artifact creature tokens into play


Enchanted enchantment gains ‘any player may play instant spells any time an instant could be played’

Instant or Sorcery?

Up to 2 target facedown Walls may not attack (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn)


Equip: 4G, Discard a colourless enchantment card from your hand

Equipped creature may not attack