Since I’ve been stuck in New Mexico with no way to play paper Magic, I’ve resorted to drafting on Magic Online for the past week or so. It took a few drafts to start going infinite, and chaining drafts with the winnings from the previous felt pretty good, but in the end, a string of frustrating losses have led to me going MODO-bankrupt.

I’m just putting it out there: Return to Ravnica is not a good limited format. Cue the boos and hisses.

This isn’t a statement born out of repeated losses drafting this set (paper or digital). In fact, I really want to like this format. There are still two months left until Gatecrash, and a good portion of my store points will have to come from drafting this set, but I’m not going to be happy about it. The reason is simple: at times, it just feels miserable.

The designers very obviously tried to push drafters down the pre-determined paths for each guild. Pick one of five, stick to that color combination, make a solid deck. Seems good, no? All except for the fact that you’re essentially playing Rock-Paper-Scissors. The Azorius Flyers deck so often gets eaten alive by the Rakdos decks, while that same aggressive looking Rakdos deck might just get stonewalled by a Golgari Trestle Troll and Towering Indrik deck — so on and so forth. Tempo is crucial — despite the format not being as fast as some of the others, missing a land drop on that critical third turn often puts you so far behind. And at least in my experience, coming from behind is almost impossible.

This is starting to sound like a certain other tempo-based format, isn’t it? How’s this for more similarity: the removal sucks in RTR just about as much as it did in Avacyn Restored. It really says a lot that cards like Annihilating Fire, Augur Spree and Stab Wound are the premier removal spells at common level. Notice that only three guilds have access to those spells. What do the White-affiliated guilds have for common removal? Avenging Arrow? You either 2-for-1 yourself or 1-for-1 after taking a massive hit to the dome, all the while losing tempo. Yuck.

The final nail in the coffin is the groan-inducing bombs. Remember how fun it was to get your board Bonfired in AVR? Well actually, that wasn’t much fun at all. It’s about as fun as seeing your opponent drop a Pack Rat on turn 2 and knowing that the game is effectively over already. Another one that comes to mind is Collective Blessing; this one, I’ve heard people vehemently argue, is beatable — sure, if you have a Keening Apparition or a maindeck Sundering Growth handy right there and then, you’re fine. In every other situation, however, you’re just dead. The final silly bomb that I’ve never been able to beat is Cyclonic Rift. Most of the time I die to the alpha-strike following this spell; other times they deal the remaining points as I struggle to set up my board again.

And all of these are rares. Not mythics. Rares. What were they thinking.

I truly hope Gatecrash will see more variety than what RTR has to offer. I really want to be able to use my abilities to read signals and evaluate picks and actually have them matter in the end.

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