Vintage: Spotlight on Ravnica
By Scott Lemenager on September 15th, 2005 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
Vintage is about to undergo some amazing changes. Not only are we about to be host to the introduction of Starter and the Portal sets to tournament play, but we are also about to be introduced to Ravnica.
Ravnica seems to be my favorite kind of set. On the outside its impact on Vintage seems low at best. No major new deck types for the format seem to be forthcoming, and we are left guessing which cards will have the most impact on current deck archetypes in the format. The following will be a review of many of the cards that should or just might have an impact, at least a little, on the most all-inclusive format in Magic.
On top of the Vintage world right now is Stax. This deck has won the last two major Vintage tournaments in the US and shows no real signs of slowing down. Ravnica might even give it more of a boost. Enter Suppression Field. This 1W Enchantment increases the cost of non-mana activated abilities by . This could spell doom for decks going up against some Stax builds that figure out how to make this seemingly symmetrical card asymmetrical. Decks like Dragon and Control Slaver both have some key plays affected by the field. Goblin Welder into Mindslaver now costs 8 rather than 4 to get the recursion going each turn, and Dragon has its draw engine badly hurt by making Compulsion and Bazaar of Bagdhad both cost an additional 2 mana. Among other deck types that could be hit if something like CronStax learns to abuse this card are the various VialFish decks in the format as now both Aether Vial and Umezawa's Jitte become considerably more expensive. Furthermore, Fetchlands could become a liability with this card seeing play, further giving Stax an edge in cutting off mana from the opponent. Here is what a build of CronStax might look like with Supression Field MD.
While there are several cards in the CronStax builds that have their own activation costs, Field still remains an asymmetrical card by mixing it with other mana denial components. Some tinkering is still to be done on the deck, but this is a great place to start with. The case for this card in Stax is pretty solid, but only in certain builds. Field fits perfectly into the mana denial strategies of Stax, yet the Stax builder needs to be aware of how many activated abilities he/she is running so as not to make the card symmetrical. The combination of this with Null Rod is also impressive basically shutting off every card in some decks. Could this be the death of Control Slaver? That's a pretty bold suggstion, and that is as far as I will go with it; Control Slaver has proven to be resiliant in the past. Certainly, though, under Suppression Field CS will have some problems: Goblin Welder, Mindslaver, Fetchlands, and other minor pieces of the deck all suffer from the Field's ability.
While Supression Field might have the most impact on the format, there are a number of other card choices that could see play in various formats.
Among other deck types that get a maindeck boost could be Dragon and Cerebral Assasin (as well as other minor Bazaar decks). Moonlight Bargain is a very solid spell, albeit a very expensive one that could provide an amazing boost to Dragon decks that can support a double black casting cost. Budget Dragon decks spring to mind immediately since many of these decks are running Dark Ritual. The ability to grab up to 5 cards, even at the cost of 10 life, while being able to dump something like a Squee, Goblin Nabob or Worldgorger Dragon and being able to keep your Animate Dead that pops up could be extreemly useful. The only major drawbacks of the card are its double black requirement and the fact that it is 4cc anyways, which means Mana Drain could be a serious problem. Another deck type that could conceivably use this card, although I cant see it replacing much, is DeathLong.
Another tool that could fit well into the SB of Dragon or Cerebral Assasin and Oath of Druids decks is Blazing Archon. This guy could spell game over for aggro decks trying to get in fast enough for a win against these slower combo decks. Being able to animate this guy gives these decks another solid answer to any sort of aggro meta that could be beating down too fast. The card is also a solid threat against anybody trying to win with Darksteel Colossus since now DSC cannot attack, and you have the ability to simply fly over with a 5/6. Here is what I would personally do for Cerebral Assasin if I wanted to run these cards.
While no amazing brand new decks have been discovered, the only card that could conceivably get overly broken is Eye of the Storm. This card's ability can create a sort of miniature Yawgmoth's Will every turn. The only problem is how to get a 7cc spell into play consistantly enough that requires a cost. Academy Rector decks could use this card to win with, however the question would have to be, "why is this better than just Rectoring up Yawgmoth's Bargain and winning with Tendrils of Agony?" Deck designers will need to prove that this version is better than existing builds of Rector. Another option for getting this into play though could be using Bazaar of Bagdhad to get it into the graveyard, then using replenish to bring it back, this deck might not be as suitible for the card though.
While the changes that could happen to certain decks are actually somewhat limited in this set, there are a decent amount of cards that could see play in a number of different decks, both maindeck and in the sideboard.
The most hype has been towards the new "transmute" cards. Of these cards there are two or three that stand out as something that could conceivably be used for vintage play. Muddle the Mixture might be the most interesting of these due to it actually having a good ability outside of transmute. Of course the drawback is finding a spot for a UU counter in a format that sees the best counters in the game. The transmute ability can fetch out a variety of spells here however, such as Demonic Tutor, Merchant Scroll, and Time Walk, along with creatures such as Meddling Mage for use in something like Fish. While Muddle has the best main ability, the choice I would make for most useful transmute ability is Dimir Machinations. DM can fetch out some of the most broken cards in the history of the game, two of which are Tinker and Yawgmoth's Will. When used in something like DeathLong the ability to tutor for these broken cards and have that tutor be uncounterable is very strong. However there are several drawbacks such as the fact that it is a 1BB sorcery speed ability, and the fact that Grim Tutor will shortly be availible in this same spot, and it has the ability to tutor for any card, not just those of 3cc variety.
Yet another solid card that will most likely see play in the format is Compulsive Research. The card is similar to Thirst for Knowledge and doesnt require a somewhat heavy use of artifacts to work well. However this has recieved the Wizards Axe to the speed category and is only a Sorcery. Had this been an Instant, it could have made a gigantic impact almost immediatly on the format, but as it stands however this will be most likely used in conjunction with decks either playing with, or trying to avoid In the Eye of Chaos. Beyond that this spell makes some quality card advantage availible to decks that previously could not afford to run TFK due to a low Artifact count.
Shadow of Doubt is one of the new "guild mana" cards from Ravnica. This card can be used in a seemingly wide range of decks from Oath to Dragon to Stax. The card is a sort of counter that stops Fetchlands and tutors of all kinds. The best application of this card would probably be in response to Tinker, by making the opponent not only lose Tinker, but lose an Artifact in play as well. On top of all that, they get to draw a card off it it, making this a very strong card advantage booster. Also by "Stifling" a Fetchland with this card you are gaining a strong advantage by virtually Wastlanding the Fetch; they lose a land and you draw a card, not too bad.
Of course out of all the cards in the entire Ravnica block, perhaps the most anticipated cards are the new "dual lands." These cards are functionally the same as the original duals, however they do carry a 2 life drawback if you want them to come into play untapped. While these cards are probably not going to have a signifigant impact on the deck types being played in the format, we will hopefully be seeing an influx of newer players who can finally get their hands on the lands they need to play better decks in Vintage. These will be a budget player's best friend. While they will initially be as much if not more expensive than the Revised dual lands, they will hopefully make the duals much more accessable for people in all formats of the game.
In addition to these main contenders, the rest of the set has another handful of cards that are right on the verge of being quality Vintage cards.
Leave no Trace - 1W
Radiance - Destroy target enchantment and each other enchantment that shares a color with it.
While this card is not a super beast or anything of the sort, this could make a decent SB option for 5 color mana base decks looking for a slot to fight against Oath and other such enchantment threats. Its just a bonus for Dragon to kill Ground Seal and Oath, or Seal and Food Chain in one swing. This is probably sub-par compared to Ray of Revelation, though.
Telling Time - 1U
Look at the top 3 cards of your library. Put 1 into your hand, put 1 on the bottom of your library, and put 1 on the top of your library.
This is an interesting card, but it is probably not as good as Impulse in the long run, which lets you dig 4 deep. The only advantage is that sometimes you might want a second card from those top 3 and this lets you keep one, while getting rid of only your worst. Its so-so.
Dark Confidant - 1B
At the beginning of your upkeep reveal the top card of your library and put it into your hand. Pay life equal to its converted mana cost.
Dark Confidant has a very interesting ability that can create some decent card advantage and tempo for the new UB Fish decks everybody seems to be trying to get to work. The life loss could prove too detrimental to the game plan though. On the surface he looks iffy, but could prove to be pretty good if that deck archytype can get moving.
Shared Memory - 1B
Remove up to 4 cards in a graveyard from the game.
I kinda like this card as both decent graveyard hate and as a tutor. It might be decent if put into the correct deck's Sideboard letting you chose to hate or tutor for something nasty all in one handy package.
Sundering Vitae - 2G
Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
This is a decent card that might replace Naturalize in some budgety decks like 9-land Stompy, RG Beatz, and maybe even Food Chain Goblins. It will usually only cost the same or even less than Naturalize in these green based builds.
Circu, Dimir Lobotomist - 2UB
Whenever you play a blue spell target opponent removes the top card of his library from the game.
Whenever you play a black spell target opponent removes the top card of his library from the game.
Opponents cannot play spells with the same name as a card removed from the game this way.
This is only a maybe. His casting cost is a little high, however the disruption he could create when resolved is astounding. A new deck might need to be made to fit him, but UB Fish could maybe go with it and some other new options. I could imagine this in a UB Tog kinda deck as disruption, but his cost is a little high.
Dimir Cutpurse - 1UB
Whenever Dimir Cutpurse deals combat damage to a player that player discards a card and you draw a card.
Another Ophidian/finkel card that is better in some ways and worse in others. His casting cost is similar to past versions, however with this one you get to draw a card AND the opponent discards creating even more card advantage. His drawback here comared to Finkel (Shadowmage Infiltrator) is the lack of evasion that Finkel sports. Still, this could be another card in a blue black based deck that could make the type into a contender.
So thats it, we have come to the end of my card review for Vintage Ravnica cards. I hope this gives some players an insight into what is out there and soon to be availible. I do hope I left a few suprises out so nothing was spoiled too much. All of these cards could make the cut and end up being a part of a new wave of T1 Magic. Only time will tell.
Feel free to comment on any choices I picked out, or any I might have left off of the list.
To reach me send a PM here on MTGSalvation or e-mail me at Lunarsoldier@yahoo.com
Edited by Goblinboy
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thanks guys!! and to Binary and others for help.
By Scott Lemenager on September 15th, 2005 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
About Scott Lemenager
Scott Lemenager is one of the best up in coming Vintage writers in the United States. Recently voted as "Best Vintage Strategist" on MTGSalvation and published on the front page at Star City Games, Scott continues to write solid articles on the Vintage format. Other recent accomplishments include the startup of www.norcalmagic.tk , a site dedicated to Vintage Magic on the West Coast, and the startup of his own proxied Vintage tournament Series. A shift in career goals also has Scott headed to the California Culinary Acadamy to continue his training as a World Class Chef and one day small business owner.