Pre-release events are going on today and tomorrow for the upcoming Magic: The Gathering Return to Ravnica set. For those planning on attending or even vaguely considering it after reading this article, I have some tips and notes for you.
If you are a Duels players that’s never been to an event like this, I strongly recommend it: you’ll meet a ton of nice, helpful people, play with some brand new and very fun cards, and have a chance to win a ton of packs (much more than at your normal event).
If you’re unfamiliar with the set, it operates on the same premise as the recent Duels expansion: you pick a two-colour guild, each of which has its own mechanics and playstyle, then run with it. All of the guilds correspond with the expansion guilds, so when you get in the shop, you pay your ~$30, pick Rakdos, Golgari, Selesnya, Izzet, or Azorious, open your six boosters (one of which contains cards specifically for your guild), then build a deck out of them and try to beat as many opponents as you can.
March of the hippies
After reading heaps of articles analyzing the different guilds and colours and format in general, and given my personal playstyle, I went for Selesnya (aka the hippie guild), which is based on tokens, lifegain, and the Populate mechanic which lets you copy a token each time you populate. The word has been Selesnya can dominate mid to late game which is where most draft events are won, and I’m pleased to say this is very much true.
Before I get to match reports, let’s take a look at my deck:
- 2x Centaur’s Herald
- 2x Swift Justice
- 2x Gatecreeper Vine
- 1x Druid’s Deliverance
- 1x Vassal Soul
- 1x Eyes in the Skies
- 2x Trostani’s Judgment
- 1x Horncaller’s Chant
- 1x Heroes’ Reunion
- 1x Sunspire Griffin
- 1x Phantom General
- 1x Growing Ranks
- 1x Golgari Longlegs
- 1x Loxodon Smiter
- 1x Selesnya Keyrune
- 1x Common Bond
- 2x Centaur Healer
- 1x Call of the Conclave
- 1x Transguild Promenade
- 1x Grove of the Guardian
- 1x Selesnya Guildgate
- 7x Forest
- 7x Plains
The strategy should appear pretty straightforward: keep populating the battlefield with tokens, swing in with those and fliers, gain a little life, ramp a little, and maybe remove a few of their creatures.
Match 1: Golgari
For this one I was paired up with a very young kid at his first event. I felt bad stomping him but it had to be done; the match proved an easy and straightforward 2-0 win, with very little played on his end, and a ton of centaurs on mine.
Match 2: Golgari
The first round was by far both the best and worst round of the day.
We went back and forth with tokens and his Unleash and Scavenge creatures, while his Stab Wound continued to drop my life each turn. Let me tell you: watch out for this card, as it’ll prove a pain in your side on two different levels; I recommend leaving the enchanted guy back as a blocker to die as soon as possible, or if really necessary, use your own removal on him, because the damage adds up quick.
Going to late game, I was at 6 life with two centaurs and an 8/8 Vigilance Elemental from Grove of the Guardian on the field; one of the Centaurs was 1/1 and enchanted by Stab Wound; he has Tablet of the Guilds and Thrill-Kill Assassin out and is sitting at 9 life. I attacked in with the centaurs, dropping him to 5, and pass turn; he attacks in with the Assassin (which can’t block due to Unleash), and has one card in hand. I debate whether or not to block with my Elemental, but ultimately decide not to, as I’ve gotten greedy and want to kill him next turn no matter what (between Tablet and whatever removal spell he might have in hand, plus me having little in mine, I figure the game could sway in his favor). It proves a stupid decision, as he casts Giant Growth on the Assassin, and I die next turn from Stab Wound.
The next game I rally my usual army of tokens, though this time it’s even more fierce, as I have the 8/8 Elemental populating every turn from Growing the Ranks. While he amasses a respectable green and black army featuring Korozda Guildmage, my tokens prove too much and I run him over. Unfortunately, due to the long first round, we go to time after this one and are forced to draw, eliminating me from the top 3.
Match 3: Azorious
This match was a weird one featuring mostly just plain blue or white weenie fliers; at one point I was scared for my centaurs due to his Volatile Rig, but I exiled it before it could do harm with a Trostani’s Judgment and found myself with yet another centaur. As in the first match, there wasn’t much of a fight and my tokens overwhelmed my opponent.
Since my shop (Giant Robot Comics in Dartmouth, NS) is relatively small, we only ran three rounds. As such, the top 3 winners received a crazy 6, 10, and 15 booster packs, respectively (I’m estimating, but that’s what it looked like).
1st place winner ran Golgari; between him and my second round opponent, I can say it’s a reasonably strong guild to go with, though from my brief experience, Scavenge wasn’t much of a threat, at least not with tokens running rampant. I still maintain it’s a mostly overcosted and a rarely truly useful mechanic, though I suppose it depends what guild it’s up against, too. If I’m not mistaken, a Rakdos player placed second or third; I can’t speak for the other top 3 player.
In terms of spread among guild choices, it was surprisingly even, but Standard events at my shop always see a huge variety of decks anyway, so I suppose it’s not too surprising.
The new cards are terribly fun to play with and I can already tell drafting this set is going to be a blast each and every time, especially given what an insane percentage of the cards are actually good and/or valuable, and not just in the Limited format. Just remember to play it a bit safer than I did, lest you lose out on 15 boosters.