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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Sep 20 2007 8:56am
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The Rakdos List of Future-Playable Ravnica Block Cards 
 
We are in the last two months of Ravnica block. Already, people are looking towards Standard with Lorwyn. Prices on Ravnica cards will drop, then rise once the set goes out of print online. Now is the time to buy - and I’ll tell you what to buy.
 
As I explained in my previous article, covering Ravnica’s green cards, not all of the Ravnica block cards will be worth getting. Some are limited-only specials, and will never be played in any meaningful format again. Those are only worth playing if you have some particular love or nostalgic feeling for the cards – in which case you probably have them already.   Instead, I’ll recommend the cards that you may want to be playing in the future, in Extended, Classic or Prismatic.
 
I covered green, and gold cards with green already. I will group the rest into two articles: Rakdos (covering red and black) and Azorius (covering blue and white.) I’ll stick the cross colored cards – cards like the black white Castigate into whichever article seems more fitting. 
 
I’m going to divide the cards into three categories – must haves, worth speculating on and almost good enough. The must haves are obvious – these are staple cards that will be played in various formats pretty much forever. Seal of Fire is an example. The cards worth speculating on are possible combo enablers that do not have a combo at present, but might. Protean Hulk was in that category, then Wizards changed the wording on Flash and the combo was born. Now Flash is restricted in Classic. Finally, the almost good enoughs are cards that had some potential, but could never cut it in Standard – and are never going to get better.
 
A caveat – I do not build many tribal decks, and have not been playing pauper for a while. I may miss some cards for those formats. For Pauper, however, I would just recommend getting a complete playset of all Ravnica block commons. If you play draft or sealed much, you probably have them. If not, such sets are dirt cheap at the moment. Easiest of all, head over to MTGOTraders.com and click on a set, then the commons tab for that set, and just order any commons you don’t have. Most cards are a couple pennies – and you can get a further discount for paying via Paypal. To get you started, here’s a link to the Dissension commons.
 
I am also only covering colored cards in these articles. The dual lands, of course, are staples, and will be forever. Wizards has almost guaranteed that they will be reprinted in Eleventh Edition, and they will be played in almost every format indefinitely. I have playsets of all ten – and I recommend that everyone else get them as well.   Beyond that, getting playsets of the bounce lands (e.g. Golgari Rot Farm) and the Signets – at least the non-green ones – is also highly recommended.
 
Must Haves:
 

Char

Demonfire is the second really good burn spell listed in the article, but it is, at beast, the third best in the set. Demonfire is very powerful, and an excellent finisher for decks that get out a lot of lands, then empty their hands. That is not a good description of any decks or archetypes in Extended or Classic at the moment, but the spell may still find a place in some future red decks. I’m not sure that you will ever need four, but having two or three for sideboard use may well be critical in some matchups.

Char is the best of the burn spells – well, one of the two best – to come out of Ravnica block. It is the “color=pie friendly” version of Psionic Blast.  It is an instant, hits creatures or players, and does four damage for three mana. Red mages will play this one pretty much forever.

 

 

Demonfire
 
 
Lightning Helix
 
 
Combo decks, like Dragonstorm, need a way of hiding cards from discard spells, like Duress. Ignorant Bliss served that function in Dragonstrom decks for the last year or so. Ignorant Bliss is not quite as good as Brainstorm at hiding combo pieces, but it is close – and Brainstorm is not Extended legal.

 Here’s the best burn spell in Ravnica block. It is already played in Boros decks in practically every format (with the exception of Vintage.)   It is almost Lightning Bolt in mana cost, and better than Lightning Bolt in every other way. Get four. These will be played forever – and will only grow in value.  They won’t stay at two for a TIX very long, once they leave print.

 

Ignorant Bliss

 

Seal of Fire

Scorched Rusalka has two main functions. First, it can sacrifice a creature at instant speed, which is a critical ability when facing Dredge decks with Bridge from Below. Second, it can provide a way of getting that last couple of points through to a player – even when a player has defenders or something like Moat.  Mogg Fanatic may be a better option for the first function, but it cannot do the second. 

 Seal of Fire has been an Extended staple since RDW2k – the dominant red deck in the year 2000.   Seal of Fire is even better today, since Tarmogoyf loves having an enchantment in the graveyard. I scooped up a playset immediately, but am now considering investing in foil copies. I have two from draft and sealed play, and while I usually don’t go for foils, this is tempting. 
 
Scorched Rusalka

Tin Street Hooligan

Forcing an opponent to discard two cards, early in the game, is big. Cry of Contrition fits a particular type of deck – the Cry / Augur of Skulls deck at the moment – but it works quite well in that deck. In the current Extended, Duress and Cabal Therapy are the one mana discard spells of choice, but those cards will both rotate out of Extended next year. At that point, Cry might replace them, at least in some archetypes. Since they are commons, it’s worth keeping a playset around, just in case.  

 Tin Street Hooligan is a standard inclusion for aggressive Green Red decks in any metagame which includes artifacts. Since that description applies to Extended, Classic, Prismatic, Legacy and Vintage, that makes the card pretty much a sideboard standard. In some cases, the Hooligan may be only the second best choice – for example, Ancient Grudge may be better – it is still worth getting a playset. They are not expensive, today.
 
 
Cry of Contrition
 

Dark Confidant

In Magic, the best attribute a card can have is a cheap cost. Cards like Swords to Plowshares are not only potent because they are almost free, but because they remove annoying problems – like Dark Confidant. Darkblast is not only just this side of free, it is reusable.   It also kills Dark Confidants, and even Hypnotic Specters, if you cast it before drawing, then dredge it back and cast it again. 

If I had to rank the invitational cards in order of impact on the game, Chris Pikula’s Meddling Mage is number one, and Bob Maher, Jr.’s Dark Confidant is number two. Bob’s card is played in every format, including Vintage.   Going further down the list, I would rank Jon Finkle’s Shadowmage Infiltrator, then Darwin Kastle’s Avalanche Riders. Both of the later two were very powerful when they first appeared, even if they are not as potent today.  Meddling Mages are worth 85 TIX today. Dark Confidants will never be quite that expensive, but they will be twenty TIX cards in a couple years.

 
Darkblast
 
 

Last Gasp

Graveyards are powerful things. At the last big Vintage event, and Ichorid deck made T8.  On StarCity Games, Pat Chapin wrote about how Dredge is warping Extended.  Leyline of the Void is one of the best graveyard hosers around. It says a lot that some decks are running four copies maindeck in certain formats.  This the quintessential sideboard staple.

 Another excellent piece of removal. Last Gasp gives any creature, of any color, an immediate size deficit.  It can kill almost anything (other than some Tarmogoyfs), and even do in regenerators. It is cost efficient and splashable. About the only reason not to play it is because other cards may be better. Smother springs to mind – same mana cost, but it kills Tarmogoyfs, Psychatogs and Quirion Dryads.   

 
Leyline of the Void
 

 

Stinky is a great answer to Tarmogoyf, or practically any other attacker without regeneration. He is also reusable, and works in the dredge decks. I like him, but I’m not sure how often he will be better than Damnation or a more potent dredge card. I was undecided about whether to put Stinky into the “get these” or “near misses” category – and I still am.

 

Stinkweed Imp
(Editor's Note:  I think these are must haves if you are going to play Extended.  Unless WOTC finds a way to slow down Dredge, it is going to be a key player for some time.)

Discard is best if you can remove exactly the card you want gone. Duress and Cabal Therapy are good for precisely that reason. Random Discard is nice, because you may just hit the card you need to eliminate. Nightmare Void is targeted, but it is costly. On the plus side, it is reusable. In certain matchups, especially control verses control, Nightmare Void can be a perfect tool. I don’t know that you need four of them, but a pair (one maindeck, one as a Burning Wish target, might be the right number. 

 

Nightmare Void
 

 

With some of these cards, I have to predict how they might be used in Extended decks. With Boros Swiftbalde, we know. Boros Swiftblade appears in Domain decks, where (Gaea’s Might) can mean that he hits for twelve damage on turn three.  The Domain Zoo decks have already made T8 at Extended GPs and other main events. They aren’t going away anytime soon. 

 

Boros Swiftblade

The 5/5 flying Vindicate is a very potent card. The downside is that is costs 8.5 billion mana. In Extended through Classic formats, cards that cost this much are more often Reanimation targets than they get hard cast, but hardcasting the Angel is not impossible in a GWB Rock deck. It is a high-end finisher, and as such I see it as more of a Living Wish target or, at best, a two of in certain decks. I don’t know that you need four, but get and keep two. 

Angel of Despair
   

 

Debtors
  

 

 While this may look unplayable, it was included in high-finishing Legacy deck. Basically, this comes out of the sideboard against decks that cannot burn it away. If it can connect, and you have emptied your hand, this can be devastating.  True, it is only usable in certain decks and in certain matchups – but it also a really cheap card at the moment.  Now is the time to pick up a playset.   

 

Debtor’s Knell is a very powerful effect. It is very costly, and may be uncastable in many competitive formats, but it is still worth considering as a one-of tutor target in some control decks. More importantly, this card is busted in multiplayer games. I will keep several around just for that purpose.

   

Jagged Poppet
 

 

Rain of Gore is a cheap, effective answer to lifegain decks. Lifegain, whether from Martyr of Sands, Loxodon Hierarch or Loxodon Warhammer can be a big problem for a RB deck, but Rain of Gore can solve that problem. This is like Sulfuric Vortex: it is a specialized answer to a serious problem for certain decks. If you like to play aggressive RB decks, you need a minimum of three – and probably a playset – of these. 

 

Mortify

 
Rain of Gore

Mortify is one of the basic utility spells that will always have potential. If enchantments ever play a big part of a format, (e.g. Trix in Extended around 2000, or Slide in Extended a couple years later) it is better. It is a useful Cunning Wish target at any time, since it combines creature kill and enchantment kill.   I have four and am keeping those, but I would recommend at least three, for sideboarding. 

 
 
Shadow of Doubt
The history of two-mana hosers is mixed. Some, like Kataki, War’s Wage, work wonders. Others, like Terferi’s Response, never quite make it. Shadow of Doubt is right on the borderline. It is cheap, it is a cantrip and it has seen play, but not a lot. Cards like Stifle may be better. Still, it is cheap enough, now, to be worth getting. The ability to counter a tutor or search effect is huge in Classic.  I have four, and I'll be hilding onto them until I need them.
 
Combo Parts:
 
These cards are really only usable in combo decks. However, these cards are cheap, now – but explode in price once the combo is discovered. I try to spot them ahead of time, and keep a playset on hand. Sure, some may sit at $0.20 for years – but some may explode.   I have won big several times. I bought my first Bazaar of Bagdad for $3.50. Now they are worth $200.00 apiece. Illusions of Grandeur is another classic example: I pulled four from the $0.25 bin years ago, but once the Donate / Illusions combo appeared, their price went over $20 each in short order.  
 
I other words, these are all speculative, but if you are interested in playing combo, it might well pay to invest the couple TIX to pick up playsets of these.  
 
 

 

Stalking Vengeance allows creatures to smack players without attacking.  It is expensive, but if you can reanimate it or otherwise cheat it into play, it can help combo out the opponent. Most recently, I saw someone cast Buried Alive to put Vengeance and two Phyrexian Dreadnoughts into the graveyard, then reaminated them all with Living End. The Dreadnoughts promptly died, since the player did not sacrifice other creatures, and Stalking Vengeance dealt 24 damage to the opponent.

Flame Fusillade

 
Stalking Vengeance

Every so often, Wizards makes a mistake and prints or erratas a card to allow it to untap easily or cheaply, and it becomes an infinite damage combo with Flame Fusillade. In Legacy a couple years back, this happened with Time Vault. A month ago, it almost happened with Eater of the Dead. Eater received a quick corrective errata of the errata, but the potential is always there. When it happens, Flame Fusillades will explode in value. 

 

 

Crypt Champion

It is hardly Demonic Tutor, but it is not broccoli, either. It is a playable tutor with a reasonable cost. It is already seeing play in some decks, like TEPS, and may see play in others. Once again, it is cheap now, and if it becomes a mainstay of a potent combo deck in the future, it’s price will climb rapidly. It’s a gamble, but the odds are highly in your favor on this one.

 

By now, most players know of the Crypt Champion / Saffi Eriksdotter combo that is played in Project X decks. That combo repeats indefinitely. It gains life with Essence Warden – and it can also do a lot of damage with the preceding card – Stalking Vengeance.   Again, it is not certain that the combo will be playable, especially since MTGO does not have a macro option to allow large numbers of repeats, but the card has potential. It’s worth getting a couple just on spec, because the card is cheap.

Infernal Tutor
 

Moonlight Bargain

Sins of the Past simply costs too much for what it does. You almost never want to play retail for the effect. However, the card is amazing when you don’t have to pay full price.   Right now, Sins of the Past has a place in Minds Desire decks. It could also have a place in future decks built around other mana cost reducers or special effects. Wizards has printed these in the past – e.g. Spellbinder – but the cards have never been quite good enough to see play. That means that Wizard is sure to revisit the concept in the future.  

Moonlight Bargain is more of a long shot. The ability to draw up to five cards is huge, but the cost in life is also significant. The biggest advantage is that this is an instant. I can see playing cards like this in controlling Psychatog builds. I don’t know that I would ever justify playing four, but collecting at least two makes a lot of sense.

 

Sins of the Past

 
Flame-Kin Zealot
 
Two years ago, a deck was built around Flamekin Elemental and Patriarch’s Bidding.   Currently, some of the best Dredge decks also use the Elemental to give all it’s creatures haste and +1/+1. That is a powerful ability – and it makes the Elemental a tool worth keeping. Mass reanimation is a theme that shows up every couple sets – it will return. 
  
Near Misses:
 
Let’s move on to some other Ravnica cards that are almost good enough to be worth keeping. However, almost is not the same as playable.   If I have playsets of these cards, I will keep them, but I don’t expect to need them again in the future. Some cards are just plain cool – others just never quite make it. These don’t make it.   I think – I’m mentioning these because they are right on the verge, and because I may be wrong. 
   

Hunted Dragon

This was used, at times, in fast red decks, against decks like Dragonstorm, or decks that hardcast Akroma or Bogardan Hellkite. It works, sort of, but I’m not sure that many Extended or Classic decks will be running spells that are that expensive. If they do cast things like Demonfire, cards like Shunt are cheaper and more effective. 

Hunted Dragon is a hasty finisher in a certain kind of deck. However, I see this as too expensive, too easily dealt with and with too large a drawback to ever see play in Extended or Classic. Hasty finishers in these formats are either combos that just win the game, or cheaper creatures, like Tarmogoyf or Giant Solifuge. Hunted Dragon might be fun in an Aether Flash deck, but that sort of thing is casual only.

Parallectric Feedback

 

Reroute

Delirium Skeins is nice, provided you can either break the symmetry or want to discard cards. That can happen, but just not often enough to make the card all that good. Far too often you want to hold onto cards, or your opponent has already emptied his/her hand. I spent a lot of time trying to break this card in various formats from Extended to Pauper, but I just don’t see it. On the other hand, a playset costs about a dime.

Reroute is a cool effect. It is cheap, and a cantrip. The problem is that the card is so very narrow. It retargets an activated ability. Stifle stops the ability – and stops non-targetted abilities, for half the price.   Reroute is the sort of thing that gets played in Mental Magic, or games where Cunning Wish can find anything in your collection. It is not playable elsewhere.

 

 
Delirium Skeins
 

Necroplasm

Seize the Soul is a reusable (once) removal spell with a nice after effect. It is a fine one-off in many current control decks, where it serves as a silver bullet / tutor target. The problem is the cost. It costs a ton. It may still be useful as a tutor target, but I think the circumstances where that might happen few and far between. I’ll keep a couple, just in case, but I don’t really expect to need them. 

This card is a nice answer to hoards of tokens – but better and more flexible answers exist. Necroplasm can be found with Living Wish, but so can a lot of other situationally useful cards. I have trouble imaging a deck that produces hoards of tokens, but has no method of giving them haste. With haste, of course, Necroplasm’s EOT trigger is useless – you are already dead. 

 

Seize the Soul

 

 

 
Skeletal Vampire

Firemane Angel is a very good combination of early game benefit and late game inevitability, but she is so slow. Extended is a format where the aggro decks beat for a dozen or more on turn three. Combo rips off a win on turn three. Gaining one life a turn is pretty much irrelevant – and the odds of ever casting the Firemane Angel are about equal to my chances of playing goalie for the Milwaukee Brewers. (Yes, I know baseball teams don’t have goalies – that’s the whole point.)

 

 

Skeletal Vampire is a very powerful six mana finisher, but he is now moving into a world where six mana finishers are few and far between. The Blue White Tron deck in Extended runs (Triskelavus), but only because it has a huge amount of mana available, and because it can reuse Triskie with Academy Ruins.   Outside of decks like that, I can’t see Skeletal Vampire finding a job anywhere.

 
 
 
Firemane Angel
    
 

Ghost Council of Orzhova

Wizards keeps pushing life gain.   At some point, they may make life gain good enough to make this work. Maybe. The activation cost is not insignificant, and the amount of damage it can do is far less than infinite. Searing Meditation decks were nothing more than Tier Two (or less) in Standard. I can’t see them getting better that Tier Three in Extended anytime soon.

This is another solid creature with a very potent effect. However, you need a very specific metagame and some cheap, useful creatures with good leaves-play abilities to make this work. It is possible, but unlikely. Still, the card is really powerful in those rare instances when the stars align. I am still wondering if I want to spend the eighty cents apiece to complete my playset.

Searing Meditation

 

  

Sunhome Enforcer

Alphabetically, the last Rakdos multicolored cards in the list is Wrecking Ball. It is one of those always-useful cards. It can kill any creature, or smash a land if no creatures deserve to die. If the colors support it, it is an excellent Cunning Wish target. It is quite solid in Pauper.   In constructed, four mana almost certainly is too much. 

If this was a common, I would be all over it for Pauper decks. As is, the Enforcer really only has a home in some multiplayer / two-headed giant decks. It really isn’t worth considering for constructed tournaments, ever, but it is cute. A playset costs $0.20 right now – and you may be able to sell or trade them off for a higher price in the future, especially to casual players. Maybe.

Wrecking Ball
 
There you have it – my list of red and black Ravnica cards I expect to need in the future. I have most of them, but I am still completing a couple playsets. So, did I miss something or overrate anything – sound off below. 
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO 

0 Comments

Thanks! by Kitzu at Sun, 09/23/2007 - 11:22
Kitzu's picture

As someone who has been out of MTG for several years (played lots from IA/4E-Odyssey block), these articles have been *very* useful.  Do you plan to cover lands and artifacts?  I assume signets and both sets of duals (common and rare) are key.  What else would you recommend?

If you have similar suggestions for Time Spiral block, I'm all ears -- like I said, I'm just getting back to playing...

Thanks!

 

Very Good by tempesteye at Fri, 09/21/2007 - 11:11
tempesteye's picture

I don't usually comment but I just wanted to say that I thought it was a good article and spot on.

Always a pleasure to read your stuff.

by one million words at Thu, 09/20/2007 - 18:39
one million words's picture

Thanks for the comments.

Moonlight Bargain is a reach - but it is an instant.  I've been around long enough to remember EOTFOFUL (end of turn Foact or Fiction you lose) - any instant speed card drawer that digs five cards deep has potential.  Too bad it costs 3BB, not 2B.  Nightmare Void - yeah, that's a stretch.  One for Burning Wish, maybe.

 I used to include prices, but they change.  If the price at MTGOTraders goes down, including prices makes them llok to expensive.  If prices go up, people are disappointed.  I should have put more links into the article - I'll make sure I get those in next time.

Oh, yeah -  MTGOTraders FTW.

 

by urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213 (not verified) at Thu, 09/20/2007 - 23:04
urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213's picture

I like the article.. I like hunted dragon though, hasty flyers are always worth a second look.. I like the firemanes too but usually only when they hang out in the graveyard..

 I don't think many of the commons will be hard to come by, usually commons are always the cheapest unless there is a huge migration out of MTGO the commons won't be too hard to come by. Mortifys are almost essential, versitle cards are always valued high.

 I enjoyed the article. thanks.

 

Pete Jahn by mtgotraders at Thu, 09/20/2007 - 21:36
mtgotraders's picture

Pete Jahn FTW

Shadowmage by iceage4life (Unregistered) 129.2.218.204 (not verified) at Thu, 09/20/2007 - 22:59
iceage4life (Unregistered) 129.2.218.204's picture

"Both of the later two ere very powerful when they first appeared, even if they are not as potent today." Shadowmage Infiltrator saw pretty much no play until it was reprinted in Time Spiral.  A 1/2 with alot of teeth kept him out of standard and extended decks.  

Other cards: Nightmare Void, Unless rotation slows extended down a ton there is no way Nightmare Void is being played.  Heck even if a four mana discard spell is viable why not just run Cranial Extraction?

Boros Swiftblade, the Domain decks that are his forte are leaving extended in a year.  No saclands means the decks wont work.

Moonlight Bargain: "I can see playing cards like this in controlling Psychatog builds." Fact or Fiction is clearly superior and not rotating until Tog also leaves Extended.  Not to mention that this would be better in aggro Tog builds as control decks don't like to loose a ton of life.  (And aggro decks don't like five mana spells so I guess it is homeless).

Over all thought it was a good list and well done. 

P.S. Ghost Council is worth speculative investment for sure, think there is 70-80% chance it will be played after ext rotation and maybe before.

Cool by Gameben23 at Thu, 09/20/2007 - 12:04
Gameben23's picture

I was actual about to do an article like this until JXClaytor told me it was being done by you. I would have done it differently, including more cards that would be good to get before extended rotates next year, did you know Meloku is only 1 tik? Yeah... Anywho that leads me to the one of the things I didn't like. I would have liked to see prices with the cards, maybe help attract business to our great friend MTGO Trader. Other than that, I see some of the cards being fairly far fetched such as Moonlight Bargain and Nightmare Void, but that also means no cards get left behind. So great job, can't wait for the next one.