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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Oct 02 2007 4:53pm
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The Azorius Guildmage's Guide to Buying Ravnica Block

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 articles covering Ravnica’s green cards, and red and black 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, red and black - and gold cards in those colors - already. I include 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. Remand is a perfect example – it is played in Classic. I will also note cards that are worth speculating on, such as possible combo enablers that do not have a combo at present, but may in the future. 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. Best of all, head over to 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. 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. Azorius Chancery) and the Signets – at least the non-green ones – is also highly recommended.
A quick Azorius note: the Azorius Signets and bounce lands are already commonly played in Extended.  
Let’s start with the cards that you definitely want to get for future use, assuming you have any though of playing these colors in any format. 
Must Haves:
Bathe in Light
Blazing Archon is a huge, massively expensive flier that can completely shut down beatdown decks.   It costs way too much to hard cast, in nearly all cases, but it is a great reanimation target. For example, it will shut down Ichorid. Collect it accordingly – a reanimation target is generally a two-three per deck card. Few Reanimator decks will run four copies, even of a critical card like this. 
If mono-colored decks ever come back into style, Bathe in Light is a good way to get an alpha strike through.  Bathe in light has only occasionally seen play so far – but formats involving Ravnica cards were never mono-colored formats. However, an Extended Boros or Black White deck might find Bathe useful. This is another speculative card. Getting them now will costs a quarter at most. Getting them in three years, when they suddenly feature highly in a tier one deck, they will cost a lot more.
Blazing Archon
Faith’s Fetters is not just lifegain – it is lifegain that shuts off all non-mana abilities.  Four mana is a lot, but it does a lot as well. I’m not sure that the card is an auto-include in any tier one Extended or Classic deck now, but it could be in the future. Right now, a playset costs a few cents, so there’s no real excuse for not buying them. Three years from now, if they fill a critical need in the metagame, they won’t be this cheap.
Condemn is a staple in Standard (since it was reprinted in Tenth), as well as Extended, Prismatic and – possibly – Classic. In Classic, Condemn competes with Swords to Plowshares, the best white removal spell ever printed, but even there it may have it’s uses. Condemn is cheap, and there is no real excuse for not having four. Even aggro decks, like Boros and Gaea’s Might Get There, are running Condemn.
Mistral Charger
Compulsive Research is the second best three mana card drawer in the current Extended format. It will never be as good as Thirst for Knowledge, since Thirst is an instant, but it is solid. It will always be playable – the only question is whether something better will be around. Nothing in Time Spiral block is as good, although Foresee is close. Once again, I’m not sure that Compulsive Research will always be playable – that depends on what Wizards prints in future sets. However, Compulsive Research is close to perfect. They are also cheap, so keep a playset around.
Mistral Charger is a cheap flier with power equal to it’s mana cost. It is also splashable, and has no downside. Wizards keeps trying to make White Weenie work, and it is often close to playable. (It could be really good next season, looking at a previewed card – a 2/2 for a Green and a White that prevents any cards costing four or more from being played.)  If White Weenie does make a splash in Extended, Mistral Charger might have a place. Again, maybe – it depends on what else is available, but it’s worth blowing a dime or two on a playset, just in case.
Compulsive Research
Copy Enchantment
Court Hussar is an Impulse on legs. It digs into your deck, while leaving a body that can kill 2/1s all day, or stop the Kird Apes of the format from attacking. If Blue White control can find a place in future Extended formats, Court Hussar is the type of card they might play – assuming, of course, that future formats do not all revolve around Dredge and other broken mechanics.
Copy Enchantment is not broken now. However, the value of Copy Enchantment depends heavily on what enchantments are out there to copy. Right now, there isn’t much. However, Wizards has periodically pushed enchantments, and they are unlikely to stop until they break something. Copy Enchantment is a cheap method of copying any critical enchantment - and tapping into the combo.
Court Hussar
Muddle the Mixture
Gigadrowse is already playable, and has seen a lot of play as a staple in last season’s Dragonstorm decks. Gigadrowse combines the ability to shut down an opposing decks mana (something usually only available in Mana Short) with the ability to Deluge attackers. Playable in blue heavy decks – although the massive blue mana commitment may limit it’s playability. 
Muddle the Mixture is a second rate counterspell, while it’s transmute ability makes it a second rate tutor. The combination, however, may make it exactly the tool needed by certain decks. Several of the Transmute cards, including Muddle the MixtureDrift of Phantasms and Clutch of the Undercity may all be useful in some future formats.
Remand is the new gold-standard counterspell. It is playable now in Standard, Extended, even Legacy and Vintage. Remand is one of the invaluable “Time Walk” spells, like Memory Lapse. Of the two, though, only Remand is a cantrip. Remand will be tier one for a long time – get them.
Plaxmanta is a means of protecting your creature on a stick. The grizzly bear sized body at a grizzly bear cost is useful by itself, while the flash and protective abilities make the card worthwhile. Plaxmanta is only useful in a blue green aggro deck, but those decks exist: remember Blue Green Madness?
Spell Snare is another cheap, potent counterspell, meaning already played in Extended and Classic. True, it only counters cards with a mana cost of two, but that covers a lot of ground: everything from Isochron Scepter to Counterbalance to Lightning Helix to Tarmogoyf. Targets are everywhere, so Spell Snare will be as well.
(Editor's Note: Dark Confidant may be a pretty important two drop to counter as well.)
Repeal, like Remand, is a cantrip. It is also a complete beating against tokens, and the new Lorwyn set appears to have plenty of those. It is also very good against any cheap creatures, and Extended always features many of those as well. It is not Remand, but it will be playable, especially as sideboard material.
Spell Snare
Train of Thought
Castigate has exactly one drawback: it costs a Black and a White. Other than that, it is about the perfect discard spell. It can nail any non-land card, and it removes it from the game. You don’t have to worry about the spell being brought back with Eternal Witness, or the creature being Reanimated. It’s gone.
Train of Thought is another card drawing spell that may, or may not, ever find a place. Train of Thought really only shines when you can generate a ton of mana – much of it blue. This may not be too likely, but High Tide has been reprinted – and a bunch of Replicated Trains cannot easily be countered or retargeted. 
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Electrolyze is not quite Fire // Ice, but it is close.   It does not tap, but it does spread two damage around, and it is a cantrip. Once Fire // Ice rotates, this may be your best answer to annoying x/1 dudes, in circumstances where sorceries like Pyroclasm won’t work.
Extended and Classic games are fast, and tempo is huge. Grand Arbiter Augustine IV is excellent at swinging tempo. More importantly, he is really, really good at messing with Storm decks. He is one of those tools you will probably want to have around in a variety of future metagames.
Combo Pieces:
Some cards are good in every deck of that color, like Remand. Others don’t work in any deck, like Bloodletter Quill, which won’t be good in anything, ever. Some are combo pieces – cards that can do broken things if combined with exactly the right set of other cards.  Generally, these cards either do something that no other card allows, or are tutors that can find a particular card, or allow you to draw cards or cheat on man costs. Ravnica block includes a half dozen or so. 
Proclamation of Rebirth
Three Dreams is a tutor. It is an expensive and slow tutor, and it fetches Auras. This is almost a textbook definition of bad – but tutoring for three cards is a powerful ability. If – and this is a big if – Wizards continues to push auras, Wizards may enable a broken combo. Three Dreams could fetch the combo. Maybe – but these are so cheap, getting them is worth the gamble.
Proclamation of Rebirth has been played in various decks, usually involving Martyr of Sands recursion. However, it is a reusable way of putting cheap creatures into play – and that will always be good when the creatures have good enough comes into or leave play abilities.
Three Dreams
Eye of the Storm
Hatching Plans Drawing three cards at instant speed is possible. However, doing that makes Ancestral Recall the most expensive paper Magic card around. Drawing three cards for 1U is almost as good, provided you can sacrifice Hatching Plans. Some decks do – and cards which require you to sacrifice permanents will come again. Be ready.
Eye of the Storm is an incredibly powerful effect. Unfortunately, it is also a rules / tracking nightmare. (If you don’t believe me, try playing it in paper.) MTGO does a great job of tracking the triggers, but it is still tricky to play. Still, this can do broken things in certain combinations.
Hatching Plans
Dragons are rarely good in Extended – they cost too much. Niv Mizzet, the Firemind, however, has the potential to deal a lot of damage as you draw cards. Once again, this is a stretch, but not a really long one. I play Niv Mizzet in some five color builds, and in Prismatic Singleton.
Cheap cantrips are often very good. Cards that let you do things at times you otherwise could not may be good. Quicken is a cantrip, so it has possibilities. That’s all it is so far, but it is in the right color for this sort of trick. Blue always wants to play only at the opponent’s end of turn.
Orzhov Pontiff
Sky Hussar, on the other hand, is unquestionably a playable creature in Extended. I have been using it in my Tooth deck for years. Sky Hussar partners with Kiki-Jiki, Mirrorbreaker, to create infinite flying, hasty beaters. That combo works.
Cards that can wipe out a flock of opposing tokens are nice. Cards that can you’re your own creatures are decent. Flexibility it good. Orzhov Pontiff has all of that – but maybe not quite enough to make him playable.
Sky Hussar
Near Misses:
Finally, a few cards that I don’t quite think will make it into any competitive decks in the future, but did not miss by all that much. I mention them to remind you of them, and because I may be wrong. If I am, these are the sorts of cards that will shoot from very cheap to overpriced quickly, as soon as the deck archetypes become known. 
Graven Dominator is a hugely overcosted flier, with a temporary Humility effect attached. That it a very powerful effect, but the cost of Graven Dominator is so high that it is almost impossible to have any mana left over to do something after you cast it. It has some potential in a Reanimator deck, but I would rather have a better creature.
Ghostway was supposed to be a hoser to Wrath of God and similar effects. It never worked like that. It is too expensive, and too often dead. However, it might be worth remembering that it exists, if a format ever evolves to the point that such an effect would be useful. It is not impossible – I could see playing it against Balancing Tings.
Graven Dominator
Leyline of Singularity
Instant speed card drawing is fine. Cards like Impulse have been great in the past. Telling Time is almost as good – but almost is not quite good enough. After the Extended rotation – well, maybe.
Leyline of Singularity all the Leylines did innovative things, in addition to the whole put into play thing. Singularity is a great hoser for the infinite creature decks. Even against dredge decks, this Leyline would have some uses.
Telling Time
The concept of countering every spell on the stack is great. Drawing a card for every spell on the stack is also great. Swift Silence does that. The downside is that it costs 7.5 billion mana – way too much. Get one as a Cunning Wish target in casual games, but other than that it isn’t much good.
Aethermage’s Touch puts creatures into play for less than their mana cost. However, the creatures do not stay in play (absent something like Momentary Blink.) Aethermage’s Touch has already see some play in Standard, but it was later cut. 
Swift Silence
Twisted Justice
Twisted Justice is another powerful card cursed with an oversized mana cost. The card is good in casual and some multiplayer games, but extremely situational. I like it, especially in Prismatic Singleton, but it will never seen play in more competitive formats. 
There you have it. Between this article and the other two, you should have a shopping list of the cards to get before the prices start climbing again. You have maybe three weeks, but once the price fall – caused by people dumping Ravnica to get TIX for Lorwyn – ends, Ravnica prices will continue to go up. Head over to MTGOTraders,com and fill in those holes now. 
And that’s it for Ravnica, in Standard at least. I will probably be playing some Classic, a fair amount of Extended, and maybe playing in the Lorwyn Beta, with any luck. More on that later.
“one million words” on MTGO


Thanks! by Necropotent at Fri, 10/05/2007 - 17:22
Necropotent's picture

Thanks for writing this article. As I never really had time to draft with Ravnice block, this has helped me figure out which cards are worth investing in and which ones can be ignored, so to speak. I'm not even sure I knew Mistral Charger existed...

Thanks! by Necropotent at Fri, 10/05/2007 - 17:21
Necropotent's picture

Thanks for writing this article. As I never really had time to draft with Ravnice block, this has helped me figure out which cards are worth investing in and which ones can be ignored, so to speak. I'm not even sure I knew Mistral Charger existed...

Thanks! by Necropotent at Fri, 10/05/2007 - 17:20
Necropotent's picture

Thanks for writing this article. As I never really had time to draft with Ravnice block, this has helped me figure out which cards are worth investing in and which ones can be ignored, so to speak. I'm not even sure I knew Mistral Charger existed...

One card that's coming up lately by hamtastic at Wed, 10/03/2007 - 09:36
hamtastic's picture

... is Suppression Field.


Against Fetchlands, Equipment, manlands, Grim Lavamancers, etc, it's a powerful effect, especially if you're not running fetchlands yourself.  I've seen it slow decks down to a crawl on turn 2 while you're still plugging away. Building a deck around this and other disruption is causing headaches in extended already (G/W Noobstax) and many of the same exploits can be found in Classic.

Nice article and series though, thanks!