Returning to Ravnica

Back in Melbourne! And just in time to attend the midnight prerelease event for the latest Magic: the Gathering expansion set: Return to Ravnica!

The prerelease event this time was quite different, as you had to pick a guild at the start of the event and you’d get a special random pack with cards for that guild along with the traditional booster packs. I met up with a few friends at the event and we each decided to choose a different guild to represent. I chose the Red-Black guild: Rakdos.

For this event, all the packs also came in a really cool box which also contained an introduction to the guild, a spindown life counter die, a guild crest sticker and an achievement card.

For those unfamiliar with Magic prerelease events, they are usually run as Sealed Deck tournaments, where you get a random assortment of cards (6 booster packs worth) from which you build a minimum 40-card deck. Any amount of basic lands can be added to the card pool to make up the 40-card deck. Here are the cards I had to work with:

Sealed Deck Pool:

White

Arrest

Avenging Arrow

Knightly Valor

Rootborn Defenses

Security Blockade

Swift Justice

Trained Caracal

Blue

Chronic Flooding x2

Crosstown Courier x2

Doorkeeper

Downsize

Hover Barrier

Runewing x2

Skyline Predator

Stealer of Secrets

Black

Catacomb Slug x2

Daggerdrome Imp

Dead Reveler

Deviant Glee

Drainpipe Vermin

Grim Roustabout x3

Launch Party x3

Perilous Shadow

Thrill-Kill Assassin

Ultimate Price

Underworld Connections

Red

Annihilating Fire x2

Ash Zealot

Batterhorn

Bellows Lizard x2

Bloodfray Giant

Chaos Imps

Cobblebrute

Explosive Impact

Goblin Rally

Pyroconvergence

Splatter Thug

Survey the Wreckage

Tenement Crasher

Viashino Racketeer

Green

Aerial Predation

Golgari Decoy

Horncaller’s Chant

Korozda Monitor

Savage Surge

Stonefare Crocodile

Towering Indrik

Urban Burgeoning

Azorius (White-Blue)

Detention Sphere

Dramatic Rescue

Hussar Patrol

New Prahv Guildmage

Izzet (Blue-Red)

Teleportal

Thoughtflare

Rakdos (Red-Black)

Carnival Hellsteed

Rakdos Shred-Freak x3

Rix Maadi Guildmage

Skull Rend

Spawn of Rix Maadi x2

Selesnya (Green-White)

Call of the Conclave

Centaur Healer

Common Bond

Golgari (Black-Green)

Lotleth Troll

Sluiceway Scorpion

Treasured Find

Artifact

Codex Shredder

Land

Azorius Guildgate

Rakdos Guildgate x2

Selesnya Guildgate x3

Temple Garden

Having picked the Rakdos guild pack, I obviously had plenty of Red and Black cards. Fortunately, they were also pretty good cards. I had a large amount of low cost aggressive creatures and plenty of removal spell to back it up. As a prerelease is a pretty casual event, you’re allowed to tweak your deck between games as long as you only use the cards you started with. Here’s the base deck that I ended up running:

Deck:

Black

Dead Reveler

Grim Roustabout x2

Launch Party x3

Ultimate Price

Underworld Connections

Red

Annihilating Fire x2

Ash Zealot

Bloodfray Giant

Chaos Imps

Explosive Impact

Goblin Rally

Splatter Thug

Rakdos (Red-Black)

Carnival Hellsteed

Rakdos Shred-Freak x3

Rix Maadi Guildmage

Golgari (Black-Green)

Lotleth Troll

Artifact

Codex Shredder

Land

Rakdos Guildgate x2

Mountain x8

Swamp x5

Forest x2

As I said before, I had plenty of aggressive creatures and removal, so I went with that plan. I also had Underworld Connections and Codex Shredder to help me refuel if needed. The one strange choice I made was to play Lotleth Troll. The thought behind that was I had a lot of low cost creatures which would be less effective in the late game, and the troll would provide an alternate use for them in the late game. However, I think the circumstances where the troll adds value are so marginal, that it probably wasn’t worth diluting the manabase for. The deck worked pretty much as intended, and the multiple copies of Shred-Freaks and Launch Parties really helped to maintain that consistency. Let me know if you think you have a better build :)

The tournament was 4 rounds, and I ended up going 3-1 with the deck. Game 1 was against a Golgari player, and I went 2-1. The 2 games I won went pretty similarly, with early Shred-Freak attacks getting slowed down by some larger defenders, then some key removal to break through enough damage for burn to finish the job. I lost one game because his creatures were too big and/or colourful to destroy, as I had Annihilating Fire and Ultimate Price sitting uselessly in my hand for a while. My creatures were outclassed without the removal to even the odds, and I lost that race.

Game 2 was against an Azorious player who had a great deck. Lots of tempo stealing and evasive creatures. I basically couldn’t block any of his creatures, so I Unleashed all the creatures I played. First game was a close race, with Explosive Impact helping me seal the deal. The second game he boarded in some tougher creatures to gum up the ground and stabilized. New Prahv Guildmage and a couple of other fliers helped him win that game. The third went pretty much business as usual for the deck, and I ended it with burn again.

Game 3 was the quickest all night. My opponent was playing Izzet and I just managed to stick lots of haste creatures and burn in his face before he could muster up any sort of defense. Two games went by in about 15 minutes.

Game 4 was tough, and he was playing Rakdos as well. Our decks were pretty much identical, but it  was the Electrickery that gave him the edge as it allowed him to efficiently deal with my Shred-Freaks. His deck also ran 3 Launch Parties. We each won a piece, and the third game he got the 2-for-1 with Electrickery and I didn’t have the relevant removal to deal with his Carnival Hellsteed.

Overall I was quite happy with how the deck ended up doing, especially considering its pilot was a rusty and sleepy malcontent. The one card that really grew on me was Codex Shredder. I put it in almost as an afterthought, but it did great work. Having an on-board Regrowth was really useful as it let me spend removal early and re-use it later, and the opponent had to always factor in that possibility. Carnival Hellsteed is also a great bomb, as they never see it coming and the first strike is just devastating on such a big creature.

The new set overall felt really fun to play, and it was an interesting experiment to have the guilds pre-chosen as it reduced the chances of having to build a hodge-podge multicolour deck. The identities of the guilds were very strong in and each had a distinct gameplay style and flair. The nostalgia factor is also very strong for me, as the first Ravnica set was one where I really got into drafting Magic. I think I was a little apprehensive as it’s hard to live up to one of the most successful Magic expansions, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised and pleased that Wizards managed to pull off a fun and nostalgic… Return to Ravnica. DUN DUN DUN!

As fun as it was, I probably won’t return to playing Magic competitively with any regularity as I just don’t have the time or focus anymore. Too many other board games to distract me. However, I am looking forward to adding key cards to the ever-growing Cube and getting that on the table again. Until next time, happy gaming!

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