Over the holidays, I taught a couple of friends to play with the Ravnica Guild Kits. It was a fascinating experience. They’re well-balanced against each other; but due to the history of the plane and Wizards’ desire to include representative cards from each set, they’re overwhelming for newer players. We had to go over old mechanics repeatedly, for example. But I also watched new emergent moments with great delight. Personally, I’d put these as the best products Wizards has released since the original Commander decks, even if they’re pretty opaque for new players.

For older players, however, they’re pure delights. Together, they are a reminder of how concrete and creative the Ravnica blocks have been, how they’ve defined what color combinations can do, and the ethos behind each pairing. Commander players can find hidden gems from our first trip to the plane, cards that have faded from view yet persisted. To follow up my Mirrodin blocks hidden card review, and because many of us are getting our first chance to play with the set this weekend, I thought I’d do the same for Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, and Dissension.

Before Lingering Souls, there was the beautiful Belfry Spirit. Five mana for three flying power isn’t great, but five mana for five sacrificial bodies is a superb deal. I’m pleased to see that Afterlife is going to be the mechanic to embody the Orzhov Syndicate—I’m a huge fan of sacrifice decks and the Aristocrats archetype. Making everybody a Doomed Traveler is a great way to get extra value out of your expendables.

Decks that want this: Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Vish Kal, Brago, Krav/Regna

Bloodbond March is 99% useless in Commander, but that 1% is rarified stuff. A few dozen Shadowborn Apostles, a dozen high-impact demons, and you can turn your deck into a tutoring engine.

Deck that wants this: Meren of Clan Nel Toth, or any other deck that wants to run the Shadowborn/Relentless combo.

Bottled Cloister is not a card for the faint of heart. You’re in danger of it getting destroyed during someone else’s turn and Mind Twisting yourself; but if you can live with that, this is a slow but potent card engine. It’s also absolutely brutal with Ensnaring Bridge—no one else can attack, only you. It also provides a pain-free Phyrexian Arena for faster decks, who just want to drop their hand and ride to victory.

Decks that want this: anything that wants to be hellbent; Damia, Sage of Stone; Neheb, the Worthy; decks that play creatures and turn them sideways.

Eventually we’re going to hit a critical mass of cards that make Hatching Plans playable. Standstill was a powerhouse back in Mishra’s Factory Draw-Go decks, and all this needs is a simple “sacrifice a permanent” effect to become a two-mana Ancestral Recall, like Standstill before it. Faith Healer isn’t enough, but a few more Faith Healers would be. Failing that, a reprint of Abjure would be worth testing this in Modern.

I’m going to move on before I convince myself this is playable with Vraska, Golgari Queen.

Decks that want this: Barrin, Master Wizard; Zur the Enchanter; Dralnu, Lich Lord

Light of Sanction is certainly a niche card. But this keeps your Pestilence or Pyrohemia sticking around indefinitely, makes Blasphemous Act, Starstorm, and Star of Extinction even better, and allows you to take full advantage of Deafening Clarion.

Decks that want this: Archangel Avacyn, Oros, the Avenger

Before Mirage Mirror, there was Mizzium Transreliquat. It’s not as straightforward or cheap as Sculpting Steel, but it’s more malleable. Three to play and three to copy Grim Monolith, before turning it into Wurmcoil Engine a few turns later. That line of play will bring you joy. It can also switch multiple times in a turn, assuming you have the mana to dedicate to it, and can even represent a threat against Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral’s Disk.

Decks that want this: Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer; Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

I feel like I praise Moonlight Bargain enthusiastically and regularly—most likely because I do. This generally reads “Draw two, lose 4, drop a Bloodghast, a land, and a reanimation target in the graveyard.” As such, it wouldn’t be overpowered—but that Instant speed gets it over the hurdle. Test this out; you’ll be amazed at how many answers it finds for you, and how it does so while feeding your ‘yard.

Decks that want this: Dralnu, Lich Lord; The Scarab God; Alesha, Who Smiles at Death; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord; Sidisi, Brood Tyrant; Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

EDHREC isn’t a perfect barometer, but it’s pretty useful. Nullmage Shepherd, per the site, is in 2,518 decks. Seedborn Muse is in 13,384. Those numbers should be equal.

Decks that want this: Arcades, the Strategist; Rhys, the Redeemed; anything with green color identity.

“Exsanguinate for thirty?”

“I have a response.”

Decks that want Parallectric Feedback: None, if we’re being honest. But the one time it works, it’ll be immediately folkloric.

Big dumb lizards play politics, as it turns out. Being able to pass out deathtouch amongst anyone’s creatures imbued with +1/+1 counters at a moment’s notice (and 1G) means you can affect the flow of combat. Simic Basilisk is not far from forgotten Ravnica Limited star Ursapine, only less mana intensive to murder things.

Decks that want this: Daghatar the Adamant; Ghave, Guru of Spores; Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Idyllic Tutor costs 2W and $25. Three Dreams tutors up three times as many cards—with the Aura restriction, of course—and does so for under a buck.

Decks that want this: Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker; Bruna, Light of Alabaster; Uril, the Miststalker; Daxos, the Returned

Like Fendeep Summoner, Woodwraith Corrupter can either represent surprise damage or surprise land destruction. A deeply weird card, it’s found a new life in my The Gitrog Monster deck, where the record for “wait, what does that do again?” utterances is four in one game. Try it out and share the bafflement!

Decks that want this: The Gitrog Monster; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Part of playing creatively in Commander is recalling the cards that were bombs in the past—or situationally hilarious in Limited—and testing them out again. Here’s my list of the unbeatable cards from my Two-Headed Giant prerelease, then, so that we don’t have to redo this list in fourteen years:

The Prerelease was a blast! Ravnica always brings out the more creative side of R&D, and so the original sets territory worth revisiting with a modern sensibility. Very soon, we’ll do the same with Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, two of the most underrespected blocks in Magic’s history, and we’ll see what gems have yet been dug up.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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