The Mechanics of Ravnica


In my opinion, Ravnica has been one of the most innovative sets in the past couple years. The whole concept of creating colour pairs and exploring how and why they work together seems so simple, yet in reality is very complex. Ravnica has had a significant impact on both Extended and Standard. The most obvious impact has been the long-awaited dual lands. Many other cards are also being used in Standard, though such as Glimpse the Unthinkable, Boros Swiftblade, Lightning Helix, Putrefy, and Grave-Shell Scarab. In Extended, Life from the Loam has been used to great effect. However the point of this article is to discuss the impact of the mechanics in Ravnica: Dredge, Transmute, Convoke, and Radiance.

Dredge. First, to refresh your memory, Dredge reads : "If you would draw a card, instead you may put exactly X cards from the top of your library into your graveyard. If you do, return this card from your graveyard to your hand. Otherwise, draw a card". Dredge is, in my opinion, the best mechanic in Ravnica. It has even been described as an something good instead of a drawback, and results bear this out. Life from the Loam has been used in several Extended decks since Pro Tour: Los Angeles. The Life from the Loam and cycling lands combo has been used well and has even made it to the final table at Pro Tour: LA. At Virginia Champs, Bennie Smith made 5th place using many Dredge cards: Life from the Loam, Darkblast, Nightmare Void, Golgari Thug, Grave-Shell Scarab, Greater Mossdog, and Stinkweed Imp, which is nearly all of the good ones.

Dredge is by far the most used mechanic in competitive Magic, as it is effective and can often be taken advantage of. Here is an example of a fun casual deck I have been playing with for a while that uses dredge to reanimate.

GB DredgeMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
3 Overgrown Tomb
3 Watery Grave
3 Yavimaya Coast
3 Llanowar Wastes
3 Underground River
1 Island
4 Swamp
4 Forest

2 Gleancrawler
4 Nezumi Graverobber
3 Thought Courier
4 Shambling Shell
2 Yosei the Morning Star
1 Autochton Wurm
1 Grozoth
1 Razia, Boros Archangel
2 Golgari Grave-Troll

Other Spells
2 Zombify
1 Vigor Mortis
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Last Gasp
3 Darblast
2 Telling Time
2 Recollect
2 Putrefy

Although this deck obviously isn’t ready for competitive play, you can see how Dredge works. By getting big creatures into your graveyard, while returning creatures and spells to my hand, I can get large amounts of damage in, on turn 4-5 (via Nezumi Graverobber and Zombify).
Dredge is also very useful in Limited. It is used as a way of making sure that your creatures don’t die as you always have a way of returning them. All Dredge cards are playable in draft or sealed deck. Many commons that have dredge can even be drafted near first pick such as Stinkweed Imp and even sometimes Shambling Shell.

To sum up, Dredge has been the most played mechanic in competitive Magic, and can be seen not only as a way to return cards from your graveyard to your hand, but as a way to get more important (and potentially abusive) cards into your graveyard. One last interesting fact: Dredge has the most rares of all the mechanics in Ravnica.

Transumte. Again, to refresh your memory: "X, Discard this card from your hand: Search your library for a card with the same converted mana cost as this card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Play only as a sorcery." This mechanic is very interesting. It has seen very little play, as the ability seems slightly overcosted and limited. Having to be played as a sorcery is too slow for blue and black control decks, and the fact that it costs 3 often makes it difficult to play other cards on the same turn. Also, the fact that you have to search for a card with the same converted mana cost seems limiting. Still, flavourwise, it is interesting having spells and creatures "morph" into other things. This is also one of the more strategic mechanics in Ravnica, as it requires a great deal of thought about when to use the ability and what to search for. [And in how to build your deck, especially in Limited. - ed.]

It seems the only transumte card being used in competitive Magic is Perplex. Because there are so many better counters in available, such as Hinder, Remand and Mana Leak, Perplex has only been used in a couple decks. Perplex was used in a Champs deck by edt himself, Eric Taylor, who grabbed 4th place in Michigan. He was playing a Heartbeat of Spring deck. He used Perplex to be able to grab other important 3-to-cast spells such as Early Harvest. Brainspoil is another transmute card used in many Battle of Wits decks to search for Battle of Wits hoping to win the game.

In my opinion, Transmute is an underrated mechanic, and can probably be used in casual more effectively. The most obscure Transmuting card though is Grozoth, the huge 9/9 Leviathan wall. In the previous deck I mentioned, I used Grozoth. However, a better way to take advantage of its ability would be to include some 9-to-cast spells such as Plague Wind or Kuro, Pitlord. I would still use it in a Reanimator deck though, because it would be taking advantage of the fact that you're discarding it. For example,

Turn 3 : Transmute Grozoth for The Unspeakable
Turn 4 : Zombify Grozoth.

UBG TransmuteMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4x Drift of Phantasms
4x Maga, Traitor to Mortals
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Sakura-Tribe Elder

Other Spells
4x Heartbeat of Spring
4x Early Harvest
3x Perplex
3x Sensei's Divining Top
2x Dizzy Spell
4x Kodama's Reach

4x Overgrown Tomb
4x Watery Grave
2x Yavimaya Coast
6x Forest
4x Swamp
4x Island

Transmute works for the Dimir well and is also the most unexplored mechanic in Standard and Extended. And one last interesting fact about Transmute is that it is the only mechanic in Ravnica to derive its name indirectly from a card name from other sets (Neurok Transmuter and Transmute Artifact). Dredge, of course, was directly lifted.

Convoke. Convoke is a simple little mechanic that reads: "Each creature you tap while playing this spell reduces its cost by 1 or by one mana of that creature’s colour." Convoke is a very Green-flavored mechanic that isn’t used much at all, and suits the Selesnya very well, as the Selesnya Guild s all about unity and members of the guild helping each other. Although useful in Limited, it hasn’t seen any play in Constructed formats due to the fact that it isn’t as powerful as Dredge and other archetypes such as Greater Good and White Weenie (alliteration!).

On MTGO, many players are beginning to create G/W token decks using Twilight Drovers, Selesnya Guildmages, and Scatter the Seeds. The aim of this deck is usually to swarm the opponent with tokens and use Scion of the Wild as a large creature, and Glare of Subdual to completely loosen the enemy’s defenses. While this deck is getting increasingly popular, and a variant of it was very successful at Worlds, it still doesn’t make much use of convoke.

Therefore, I am going to examine convoke’s use in limited. Important cards with convoke that should be drafted or played are Devouring Light (one of the best uncommons in the set), Scatter the Seeds, and Siege Wurm. The rare convokers are much more difficult to play as they are very costly. I have played many RAV-RAV-RAV drafts and many of those times I have played R-W-G, and Devouring Light has won me games. Devouring Light, Gather Courage, and Scatter have won me many games, because they are very good surprises you can throw at your opponent. Gather Courage is an especially good card because it requires one small tap and can often save and/or destroy a creature. Unlike transmute, I would almost always try and play convoke if in the colours during a draft or Sealed.

In Casual, Convoke decks would generally involve hordes of tokens to be able to take advantage of large convoke spells such as Hour of Reckoning, which would work exceptionally well in this kind of deck. Also, tokens would allow us to play the creature with the largest toughness in the history of Magic the Gathering: Autochton Wurm. Such a deck could be

GW ConvokeMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4x Selesnya Guildmage
2x Veteran Armorer
4x Selesnya Evangel
3x Autochton Wurm
2x Scion of the Wild
2x Seige Wurm
1x Twilight Drover

Other Spells
4x Glare of Subdual
4x Hour of Reckoning
3x Pollenbright Wings
4x Scatter Seeds
4x Fists of Ironwood

10x Forest
10x Plains
3x Vitu Ghazi, the City Tree

Radiance. Radiance is a warlike mechanic that gives all creatures that share a color with the targeted creature the same benefit or bane. This mechanic flavourfully fits the Boros, as they are master soldiers. However, this mechanic just doesn’t make the cut for competitive Constructed play. Most of the abilities on the cards are too weak or overcosted to see play; take, for example, Brightflame. Brightflame is a cool card, and it looks pretty good at first, but the cost is simply too high. There is a better alternative for mass removal (Hideous Laughter, or Wrath of God for an in-color choice) and Brightflame won’t even fit in R-G-W control because of its hefty WWRR requirements. Other cards like Wojek Embermage and Wojek Apothecary are too costly and too weak, and all the commons (except for Rally the Righteous, which I successfully used at Champs) just plain suck. Bathe in Light was used in a couple of decks because it can be seen as a good way to make all of your R/W weenies unblockable.

Radiance is even barely seen in Limited play, as the cards are even too weak there. Wojek Siren and Surge of Zeal are almost always last pick in draft, and all the other cards are too underpowered (Cleansing Beam is seen occasionally, and the only real Radiance cards that are used are Rally the Righteous and Incite Hysteria). Bathe in Light is used as well, though its uncommon status means it is seen and played less frequently. However, R/W doesn’t need its ability to do well in Constructed and Limited alike. Its cards are so strong, and Radiance really just gets in the way. When I went to Champs, I played a R/W deck, that, although it was a budget creation, did fairly well, and did incorporate some Radiance.

RW Radiance/WeenieMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Boros Swiftblade
4 Skyknight Legionnaire
3 Frenzied Goblin
1 Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran
1 Savannah Lions
4 Thundersong Trumpeter
3 Boros Guildmage
4 Flame-Kin Zealot

Other Spells
4 Lightning Helix
3 Char
4 Rally the Righteous
1 Bathe in Light
1 Cleansing Beam

12x Mountain
11x Plains

White Weenie is a good archtype in Standard and it has been paired with Red occasionally. Still, in Constructed and even Limited it’s tough to play Radiance.

Each guild in Ravnica has its own wants and dreams, and the keywords try and represent how they work and how they go about trying to make those dreams reality. I have examined how each mechanic is used in Costructed, Limited, and Casual play. Although some mechanics are more used and possibly stronger they are all interesting and haven’t been fully explored yet.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: For fun, try building a deck that revolves around any mechanic as I have.

Anyhow, HAVE FUN,
See Ya!


Credits: I'd like to thank all the people who helped with this article: Binary, morgan coke, goblinboy, Belgareth, Lesurgo, Dr. Tom and myself.
Editing: Dr. Tom
Images: Topher


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