The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Pyroconvergence | Jack Wang

Magical Thinking: Return to Ravnica

Welcome back to Magical Thinking, a look at the cards and art of Magic: the Gathering, set by set, from the beginning, from the perspective of a casual fan. This week we start a brand new block, which returns to a fan-favorite plane. Yes, we’re returning to Ravnica with the most aptly named expansion name ever: October 2012’s Return to Ravnica.

A lot has changed in Ravnica since the last time we were there. The Guildpact, the magical spell which kept the guilds from open warfare, is now gone. Predictably, the guilds are now at war. In the midst of the chaos, planeswalker and professional smarty pants Jace Beleren is plumbing the depths of Ravnica’s underground in search of powerful magic. What will happen to Ravnica? We’ll find out.

Like the previous Ravnica block, each set focuses on a particular group of guilds. This set will be looking at five of them. As a reminder, they are:

  • The Azorius Senate: The White/Blue guild. They focus on writing laws and maintaining order, and actively use red tape and bureaucracy to keep things from improving because they’d rather keep everyone under thumb. Like I said before, if Mitch McConnell was a Magic creature he’d be Azorius.
  • The Cult of Rakdos: The Black/Red guild. A demonic cult of insane murderous performers who run Ravnica’s entertainment industry. Basically cross GWAR with the Insane Clown Posse.
  • The Selesnya Conclave: The White/Green guild. They focus on unity and community, and are both a hippie commune and a weird brainwashing cult which has no problem mowing down thousands of people for the greater good.
  • The Izzet League: The Blue/Red guild. Preoccupied with SCIENCE!!! And is run by an arrogant vainglorious dragon. Expect a lot of explosions and eaten interns. We’re gonna need another Timmy.
  • And last but not least, the Golgari Swarm, the Black/Green guild. They live under Ravnica and focus on farming and helping outcasts and exiles. Forgiving the fact they have armies of zombies and fungus monsters, they are probably the most noble guild presented here.

But hey, maybe I’m being too hard on the other guilds, especially the Azorius. I should at very least give them a chance…

Well that didn’t take long, did it? Like I said, the Azorius are just the worst.

JUST THE WORST. I mean, wow, they are ratcheting up the scumbag cop for this one. Also, in this set every guild has their own keyword. Azorius gets detain, which means you temporarily take some opposing creatures out of play for a bit. Detain hits a 3 on the Storm Scale, so we could see this keyword again.

I am familiar with this card because it was in standard when I was playing on Arena, so I’ve seen it in action. It’s not the most powerful card, but he has his uses. And of course someone has to stick up for the little guy right?

Okay, I promise this isn’t just going to be me crapping on the Azorius for eight to twelve minutes…but I very easily could do that.

Oh, hey, yeah, the Selesnya are White too. Their keyword is populate, which makes copies of creature tokens. You can use this to build up an army in a hurry while doing other things. Populate got a 5 on the Storm Scale, which isn’t bad.

Yep, all this guild fighting going on and here’s this lady who just wants to sell her birds. See? It’s not just the Azorius being jerks in this set.

I like that. Ban guns, make giant cats legal.

Here we have the Izzet keyword overload. Basically for paying extra, you can turn a single target spell into a multi target spell. Four Mana to tap down all your opponent’s stuff is a pretty good effect. Yo ho blow the men down.

Ah yes, the “summon exact change” spell. Essential for those wizards who take the bus to work, because it’s better for the environment and you meet interesting people and have you seen how much flying carpets cost?

Yeah, if I saw that thing I’d probably give up trying to rob the place too. In fact I’d probably give up crime altogether and go on the straight and narrow.

Here we have the main character himself, looking more rugged and badass than he did the last time we dropped in on him. He’s got a pretty useful set, with the ultimate being great to steal your opponent’s best card and use it against them.

Hey, more Vedalken! Always love to see that. Also, WHAT THE ACTUAL SHIT? The Azorius is going full 1984 here. Someone seriously needs to reign them in.

Hey, how do we make a ghost even creepier? Give them big long hands for grabbing. You better just keep them touching stumps to yourself, mister. I don’t put up with any funny business.

I love the idea there’s someone out there whose sneakier than even the Dimir. Keep fighting the system there, sister.

Law and Order: Giant Gastropod Unit.

I guess you can call it a dead man’s party.

Also, this is the Rakdos keyword: Unleash lets you give a monster +1/+1 at the cost of their ability to block. But of course the best defense is preemptively killing your enemy according to the Rakdos, so it works out.

Why Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me…I hope.

There’s a video game industry joke in here, but given recent events I’m gonna restrain myself. Also, that flavor text speaks to me like none other has.

And finally we have the Golgari keyword: Scavenge allows you to destroy this card when it’s in your graveyard to power up a creature. Just take that zombie arm and use it as a club. He’s dead. He’s not gonna miss it.

This is another card that was in standard when I was on Arena. She’s a very useful card in lifegain decks because the coin flip is definitely worth the risk. Given the cost to activate her, I think she’s gambling with people’s blood.

Man, the Orzhov aren’t even in this set and they still manage to be the worst.

Man, Ravnica is a pretty wild place to live. How does a plane that’s like 90% city have such a robust ecosystem? Where do these things keep coming from (I mean besides the Simic)?

Whatever they pay road workers in Ravnica, it’s not enough. Forget the guilds, what are the unions in Ravnica like?

Rakdos party games leave a lot to be desired. You don’t even want to see their version of pin the tail on the donkey. Whatever you think that is, it’s worse. Trust me.

Not gonna lie, this is a pretty cool card. It lets you set up some epic duels between you and your opponent’s creatures (and just as often you end up pitting your demon against their songbird seller).

Yes. YES. YEEEEEEEES.

Not since Portal Second Age, we now have it back again: GOBLINS. WITH. FLAMETHROWERS. Thank you, Return to Ravnica. Until further notice you are the best set ever.

I mean, that’s not something you want in your eyes. Also, I love his improbably big axe (Is that an axe? What is that?).

Fuck yeah. Fight the powers that be. Support local businesses. Um, what is he selling again? I kind of hope it’s not drugs. It’s drugs, isn’t it?

“Should we call an exterminator?”

“Are you crazy? That’s a load bearing spider!”

Exit left, pursued by a centaur.

Gonna need a really big can of Raid for that guy.

Ah, giant growth. Always a classic. Also, fuck you, Azorius. I’ll toss whoever I want when I want. You’re not my dad.

Sometimes you just need to kick back and take it easy for a bit. Honestly, if I lived in Ravnica I’d duck into a tavern and just wait till stuff blew over, full Shaun of the Dead style.

Are oozes just giant compost piles in Ravnica? Also, this would go well with populate but it’s presented as a Golgari card. Kind of weird.

Hey, speaking of populate. The crazy thing that isn’t even the biggest Ravnica wurm I have seen. I mean, that thing is Eldrazi-sized.

Quick refresher, archons are the White Mana creatures meant to represent the more authoritarian and law-focused aspects of White. So it’s no surprise the Azorius use them.

Nice populate target.

One neat Chemister trick! Azorius Senate hates him! Click here for more information!

I mean, the Izzet would totally invent Buzzfeed if they could.

Okay, I’ll give them this, this is a pretty cool card. You wont hear me say that a lot about the Azorius.

Rakdos-style acid reflux. We’re gonna need a stronger antacid.

Hey, another card that I saw a lot of in Arena when I still played. These guys are the backbone of any Izzet deck. respect the goblin.

I love all these little imps raising Hell. This set is amazing.

We’re reaching the guild leaders. I always like Sphinxes in Magic, even when they run shady organizations like the Azorius. And dammit Isperia is really cool looking.

I gotta say, for a lich Jarad takes good care of himself. He looks better than most liches I’ve seen in Magic. And that includes Planeswalkers turned into liches.

Horton heard you were talking shit.

Here are two of my favorite Guild leaders with their new cards. Both of these guys have a place in my heart. One of my first attempts at a serious deck on Arena was a Rakdos deck. But more on that later.

I really love how the elementals in Ravnica are mainly just animated parts of the city. What else would they be in a city world?

And of course there is a cycle of these charm cards which give you options of what to do with them. Always nice to have versatility.

Operation: Rakdos Edition.

Don’t touch the sides. Or do, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think this patient is gonna make it either way.

“This isn’t Hill Valley…MARTY!”

And here are the Selesnya leader the Trostani. Who are basically three Dryads fused together at the roots. Because stacking Dryads on top of one another makes them stronger I guess.

HEY. NEW PLANESWALKER. Meet Vraska. She’s Golgari, she’s a gorgon, she’s Jace’s future love interest, and she’s the future leader of the Golgari. I really like her and I love to see her in stuff.

Okay, the Selesnya gets a litle slack from me because that’s a pretty cool sentiment. Protect the environment, Dryad Militant.

So not all Ravnica elementals are part of the city, I guess. Also, I love the armor/exoskeleton they fitted it with. Very sci-fi looking.

Wolverine and the X-men: Rakdos Edition.

So they invented shredders on Ravnica. The interesting thing is it has a setting that fixes the shredded documents for some reason.

We also get a cycle of keyrunes, which are mana rocks that turn into creatures. This one becomes a deadly bug. Gross and creepy. I love it.

I can believe the Azorius would be that petty.

Yes, I know, I failed to not drag the Azorius this entire article, but come on…just…GRAAH.

Most of the Ravnica lands are stuff we’ve seen: Guild gates and shock lands. But we do have a few new ones mixed in. Like this number. In true Ravnica fashion it turns into a giant elemental, so the grove itself is gonna get up and kick your ass.

And I think that’s a good place to leave it. Come back next week for the next set of the Return to Ravnica block: Gatecrash, where we will check in with the other five guilds of Ravnica. I for one can’t wait, and I don’t think you can either. But wait we shall, and until then Stay Magical.

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Jessie Staffler

Jessie Staffler

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Creative Writer looking to make money writing. Prefers to write stuff based on fantasy, Sci fi and horror