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Monday, July 24, 2017

Commander Review: Return to Ravnica

September 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Review

Return to Ravnica

“Aaaah…. Home Sweet Home….”

Planes revisiting set are always interesting as we get to see what happened after the events when we left the Planes. The first time Wizards did that was with Time Spiral block, which revisited Dominaria after going around the Multiverse visiting other Planes like Mirrodin, Kamigawa & Ravnica. They even go as far to revisit everything on Dominaria by bringing back some old names and old mechanics with the block. Then Wizards did it again with Mirrodin with the Scars of Mirrodin block, showing what happened to the people who were left behind after the last visit to Mirrodin, and the eventual corruption which converted Mirrodin into New Phyrexia. Today we are looking at the revisit yet again to another familiar old place, Ravnica. Being a block which feature combination and encourages multicolor the set really shook up MtG environment for a while when it was legal with its many multicolor spells and everyone favorite shocklands. Now that power is back and with it also come some new legendary Creatures for us EDH players. So let’s get on with our review on these new Commanders may be.

 

The Legends: 

A brief introduction to the set Return to Ravnica, the set, as mentioned earlier, is a revisit to Ravnica. Where we last left it, the Guild pact was all but demolished and a new one was signed. Some of the old guild leaders had fallen from their power and some even killed in the events thus some of the guilds had new guild leaders. The Legendary Creatures in this set are the new Guild Leaders featured in this set are from the guilds, Azorius Senate, Golgari Swarm, Izzet League, Cult of Rakdos & Selesnya Conclave. As with the old Ravnica block, each guild has a mechanic tie to them which more or less represents what the guild does. Here are the new mechanics introduced for each guild.

  • Azorius Senate – Detain: Keyword action which in effect an Arrest or Faith’s Fetter for various permanent or permanents for one turn.
  • Golgari Swarm – Scavenge: Keyword ability which is a variation on Flashback that makes target Creature bigger with number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of Creature exiled with Scavenge. Scavenge can only be played as Sorcery.
  • Izzet League – Overload: Keyword ability which provides an alternate and more expensive mana cost for a card, usually an Instant or Sorcery, which upon paying the cost would change the spell from a singular target to all by replacing all instances of “target” to “each” on the card.
  • Cult of Rakdos – Unleash: Keyword ability which allows a Creature to enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it but it can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.
  • Selesnya Conclave – Populate: Keyword action which copies a token you control as it resovles.

 

Leading each of the showcased guilds are the following guild leaders.

Guild

Guild Leader

Azorius Senate

Isperia, Supreme Judge

Golgari Swarm

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Izzet League

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Cult of Rakdos

Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Selesnya Conclave

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

 

Isperia, Supreme Judge

Promotion From Champion to Leader

While not having much coverage in the events of the last Ravnica visit, the Sphinx Champion of Azorius had taken up Guild leader this time. Though bigger in power than its last appearance, Isperia had lost the Flying Creature tutor it had but instead had the ability replaced with a trigger which converts each Creature attacking you or a Planeswalker you control into card draw. As a General, this version of Isperia pales in comparison to the old one since tutor ability is valued much more in EDH. It would still make a good Creature in the same deck though as both version of Isperia can be on the battlefield at the same time. You could attack with Isperia the Inscrutable and after connecting with the opponent, tutor for Isperia, Supreme Judge. Not really a General material but rather more worthy as an attacker instead.

 

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

The Longer you live…. The Longer you Rule

The Golgari guild lord who took over control after the guild previous leaders and purun died in the events when we last visited Ravnica, Jarad plays true to the Golgari graveyard theme. Like a Lhurgoyf, his power and toughness grows with the number of Creatures in your graveyard, making him a very good beatdown General in the late games. If your opponents have a lot of walls to throw in front of him, you could use your other Creatures instead by using Jarad’s second ability to deal some life loss to not one but ALL opponents. Not a very political General since that ability causes all opponents to lose life equals to the sacrificed Creature’s power. For this purpose, Creatures with Persist and Undying are very much recommended. The last ability of Jarad is a good foil against graveyard style decks which steals from opponent’s graveyard, since you can just sacrifice a Swamp and a Forest to bring him back to your hand anytime when your opponents try to steal him. Here are some of the Persist and Undying Creatures you could use in combination with Jarad. It is to be noted that the combination of Persist and Undying effectively gives you a Creature which cannot die; you could then use Jarad to keep on sacrificing the Creatures to slowly kill all your opponents.

Persist Creatures

Undying Creatures

Aerie Ouphes Butcher Ghoul Demonlord of Ashmouth
Lingering Tormentor Evernight Shade Geralf’s Messenger
Rendclaw Trow Howlgeist Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Woodfall Primus Sightless Ghoul Strangleroot Geist
Vengeful Vampire Vorapede
Young Wolf

 

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Back in Control

Like an opposite to all of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind’s abilities, it now lacks the explosive combo the old Firemind had with Auras like Curiosity. While it still flies, the new Niv-Mizzet is now bigger in size. Card draw from this new Niv is only trigger when you deal damage with it to a player thus making Curiosity sort of in-built this time round. A twist on the damage dealing trigger for Niv is that now it is an activated ability of dealing 1 damage to a target. Like the old Firemind, the activated ability will trigger the trigger ability here again. The new Niv is good to use if your playing field has a lot of small Creatures. As the damage dealing is activated, you could continuously trigger the ability to take out Creatures or shoot down an opponent, all the while drawing cards when you use the ability. Otherwise, both Niv is interchangeable, but if given a choice, the new Niv offers another neat combo with either Charisma or Basilisk Collar which makes it above the old Niv. With that combo, you either steal or kill all those Creatures Niv can touch.

 

Rakdos, Lord of Riots

“Let’s PARTY~!!!!!!”

The last time we saw him, he was hit back on his awakening and fell into a slumber back into the lava pit he came from. Now Rakdos is back from his slumber and out for blood this time. At just 4cc (BBRR) for 6/6 with both Flying and Trample, Rakdos packs a whole lot of power. The only drawback is that your opponent has to lose some life before you can cast Rakdos, not a problem since his color identity has tons of ways to damage the opponents. The secondary ability is what makes Rakdos a much powerful powerhouse than his previous self. Your Creature spells cost 1 less to cast for each life our opponents lost each turn. Combine this with Artifact Creatures or Colorless Creatures with 6cc or less, those Creature spells become free with each successful hit from Rakdos. This works even better in multiplayer games when you cast an Earthquake which spare Rakdos, allowing you to cast all Artifact Creatures or Colorless Creatures for free after that. For eg., a typical multiplayer game in our play group usually contains four players, casting either of Earthquake or 4 would reduce the cc of your Creature spells by (3 x 4 = 12). You could cast Blightsteel Colossus; Darksteel Colossus; It That Betrays; even Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre all for free after that. But because board sweep is very common in EDH, Haste becomes a very important aspect for victory here as an old saying said, “Powerful Weapons are useless if they do not hit its target”. You could use Creatures with continuous abilities instead but as per most Creature-based strategies are easily neutralized in EDH by board sweeps.

Casting Cost

Creatures

6

Duplicant; Steel Hellkite; Triskelion; Wurmcoil Engine

7

Darksteel Gargoyle; Grim Poppet; Lotus Guardian; Myr Battlesphere; Pentavus; Phyrexian Colossus; Platinum Angel

8

Platinum Emperion; Sundering Titan; Ulamog’s Crusher

9

Artisan of Kozilek; Hand of Emrakul; Nullstone Gargoyle

10

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth; Spawnsire of Ulamog

11

Darksteel Colossus; Pathrazer of Ulamog; Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

12

It That Betrays

 

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

Voice Who Speaks For All

The newly improve guild leader of Selesnya is back this time with much better abilities than before. The previous version, Chorus of the Conclave, was weakened in the opening events of Ravnica. Almost killed by Szadek when its essence was joined with Savra, and at that moment Szadek killed Savra. It had resided in a wolf then to recover itself. Now recovered; the Voice is back as Selesnya’s guild leader once more. Unlike the previous version, Trostani had lost the ability to Forestwalk and smaller in size for both power (-1) and toughness (-3). The casting cost is also easier to cast this time with only GGWW instead of 4GGWW. However its abilities are much better and useful than before. Instead of pumping more mana when casting Creatures to make them bigger, Trostani now lets you gain life equal to the toughness of the Creatures entering the battlefield. That plays into the Life Gain Style. The second ability, featuring the new keyword mechanic Populate, plays into the Token Style. Using the Populate ability may not look very big of an effect since most tokens we commonly see are small, like Saprolings, Soldiers or Zombies. But we are talking about EDH here where anything could happen. That token could be a 6/6 Wurm from Crush of Wurms; or a */* Avatar token from Ajani’s ultimate; or one of the Ooze token from the army of X numbers of X/X from Gelatinous Genesis. It is especially deadly when it is combined with Ajani Goldmane’s ultimate since you will double your life points when you use it and doubles it again when you Populate as the Avatar token takes its power and toughness from your life points. The Return to Ravnica set also provides a lot of huge tokens producers too, all in the same color identity of Trostani for it to Populate. Sure you lose the game when you take 21 General damage, but not much people in their right mind would like to ram their Generals (unless it flies) into your great wall of Avatars.

 

Best Guild Leader

Top Five Nominees

Although not all fit for being Commanders, many of the Guild Leaders for Return to Ravnica are still very well designed for EDH. If we will to rank them, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord tops for his ability to off all opponents at once when you want to. Facing off multiple opponents is never an easy task. Jarad offers you with an ability to make all opponents lose life at the same time. A possible scenario with this ability could be you take out few weaken opponents and attack the remaining opponent with Jarad himself for his power grows with the number of Creatures in your graveyard. His color identity also offers good mixture of control, disruption and tutor cards. Second in place would be Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius for the neat combo it has which dominates over any Creatures it can touch. Once the combo is established, Creatures without Hexproof and Shroud are all neutralized by the combo, either stolen or killed. Also its color identity offers a lot of control and damage spells and effects. Standing in at third is Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice as it combines two quite powerful play style into one. Both Lifegain and Token style have many standalone cards to function well without external help. The color identity also supports both style with many options to choose from. Ranking rather low in fourth is Rakdos, Lord of Riots for his Creature spells reducing ability, although as powerful as it may sound, Creature based strategy in EDH is very dangerous as board sweep is common. Dropping a ton of Creatures with his ability may be very exciting, but at the same time that would also provoke the next player in turn to sweep the board for the Greater Good. Rakdos would rank higher if not of this. Finally, Isperia, Supreme Judge was rank bottom of them all because it pales in comparison to the old Isperia’s tutor trigger. The card draw is no less powerful but in multiplayer games, everyone would just avoid attacking you to prevent it. Under the same color identity, there are many other Commanders which have better abilities than it, making it better as a normal Creature than as a Commander.

 

Old Faces New Faces

As Return to Ravnica nears its release date, everyone is excited to get their hands on all those powerful cards. The set has so much to offer to EDH besides the above Legendary Creatures. There is something for everyone coming our way and worth exploring in everyone decks. I for one am looking forward to adding some of the above to my exisiting EDH decks. As usual with each new set, EDH finds more new ways to collaborate the cards together. We shall end today article for now for you all to digest the information. Till the next article, heres wishing everyone is able to get their hands on their dream cards from the set, regardless from whacking boosters or drafting.

 

This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.

:D~

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  1. […] Lord of Riots – As discussed in the Commander Review, his cost reduction is a combination made in heaven with the Eldrazi. A normal attack from Rakdos […]



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