I got home late on Wednesday night. It was too cold; mist drizzled from the sky just enough to leave a wet stickiness on any exposed skin. I was glad to be able to walk inside and allow my laptop to boot up.
Being past 9PM, I knew that the articles at magicthegathering.com, which I read daily, would have been updated (hurrah for PST). I loaded up the page and found myself clicking on a seemingly innocuous link. Here, in its full oversized glory, is what I found:
The long-awaited Ravnica duals had finally been announced. And on top of that, they were good. They were really good. Truly, these Ravnica lands not even released yet have already taken their place right behind the Original Duals and the Fetchlands in terms of power.
Temple Garden will be joined in Ravnica by Overgrown Tomb (:symbg:), Sacred Foundry (:symrw:), and Watery Grave (:symub:). So what effect will these four have upon Standard? Extended? Vintage? The game in general?
With the exception of Block (which we know too little about for me to comment on), Standard has always been the format most defined by its lands, or rather by the lack of them. A lack of good fixers dooms a format to monocolor decks and eventual sterility, as can be seen by the recent Mirrodin/Kamigawa environment, where all the good nonbasics made colorless mana or were dangerous or unreliable.
Every so often, a decent balance is struck, such as Odyssey/Onslaught's two good and one mediocre land for each allied color pair. This allowed decks like the three-color Wake to exist without making multicolor too good for decks like Mono-Black Control to compete.
There's no question as to whether the new lands will see play in the new Standard. And with both these and the Painlands available, I doubt that any mana base will remain unstable after the Ravnica block finishes. If they're really desperate, they can resort to Tendo's Ice Bridge or the Kamigawa cra... I mean taplands.
The only thing left to wonder is whether Wizards has overdone the amount of mana diversity available. It's certainly possible to so overload the environment with easy fixing that it completely negates the advantage of having a one-color deck. While this could make for an interesting environment, it takes away a fundamental part of deckbuilding strategy.
Before we see the rest of Ravnica, we can see that we're at about the same place we were in Odyssey/Onslaught. The four selected color pairs for Ravnica: City of Guilds will have their New Dual, their Painland, and many selections for a third fixer land. Mono-color was competitive then, and perhaps it will be again now. It likely depends more upon the strength of the multicolor cards we'll see in the new block. If they're strong enough to truly abuse both these lands and the inevitable Sakura-Tribe Elders, Kodama's Reaches, and Gifts of Estates while dodging potential new nonbasic hosers, perhaps monocolor really will die for a while.
Standard wasn't the only format that made a likely-comical "WOW" face upon hearing about the RAV lands. Extended faces not only a change in the number of mana fixers available to the decks, but also a fundamental change in how lands in the format operates. Unlike Standard, Extended still has legal Fetchlands. With these lands now able to fetch nearly every color in a single sacrifice (or any color once the third set is released), the format opens itself up not only to legitimacy of three or four color decks, but also to endless splashes. This is a mindset that Legacy and Vintage players have enjoyed since Onslaught's release, but since Onslaught rotated into Extended when the Original Duals rotated out, Extended is new to the idea.
Suddenly Goblins can fetch Bidding mana with its Wooded Foothills. Tog can, with hardly any effort at all, dispatch with a troublesome permanent using Naturalize. And why not? It runs five Green sources by changing one measly slot in the deck. Hell, I'd be testing Gro right now if all the cards that were waiting for the Duals weren't about to rotate out.
Because of this, Extended may be more deeply affected by the lands than Standard will be.
One thing's for sure: if there's ever a time for Domain to make a comeback in Extended, it's now.
Legacy and Vintage already have the Original Duals, which seem to be strictly superior to these (no, really, I can't think of a single situation in which the new lands are superior, and I'm usually good at that. Any help, audience?). But what's tournament Magic if not a lesson in the values of redundancy? Suddenly your favorite two-color deck can... well... replace the Painlands with these as multiland 9-12.
Vintage is a metagame where every player has to be wary of nonbasic hate. Back to Basics and Blood Moon are just as format-warping as any Null Rod-style disruption could be, and Price of Progress strikes fear into the heart of multicolor control decks. Most smart deckmakers make it a point to allow a sane number of basic lands to chill with manabases that could buy and sell them ten thousand times over. As such, there simply isn't room for another dual land.
Legacy seems like a better home for these, as there's still plenty of room in manabases for a third playset of duals. However, even now nonbasic hate is beginning to creep into the corners of the format. Will Ravnica be the set that brings that hate closer to the mainstream decks? Only time will tell, but it wouldn't be crazy to assume that the Ravnica duals are made worse in Legacy by their own existence. Okay, maybe it's crazy to phrase it that way... a little...
So no, these will probably see a good amount of play in the Legacy, but much less in Vintage, excepting players who don't have the Original Duals. That, of course, brings us to another consideration:
Nearly the entire Magic world did a upon seeing these lands. The Standard players went :eek:. The Extended players went :eek:. The Legacy players went :eek:. The casual players went :eek:. The Limited players went when they realized their drafts would pay for themselves way more often now. The Spikes went :eek:. The Johnnies went :eek:. The Timmies went because they realized they'd get lands in the rare slot. Well, can't please everybody.
But you can please nearly everybody. And that's what Temple Garden has done. What happens when EVERYONE wants a playset of a rare? Its price goes sky high. Example: Pithing Needle costs $20 months after release. Now what happens when EVERYONE wants a playset of a rare in a big set? The price goes sky-higher (probably not an actual term...). I fully expect these lands to hover around $25 upon the release of the set, then settle down to $20, maybe $15 apiece once the next set comes out. Hell, even after they rotate out of Standard they'll probably still fetch $10. The lands from later sets won't have quite the same pricing, but they won't be cheap either.
So that means that yes, I expect these Ravnica lands to cost more than the Revised Original Duals for quite a while. So much for "budget Vintage players" getting a break.
Oh my... reminds me of
Oh my... reminds me of
Now, aside from the possibility of happening upon a hapless newbie who thinks that Temple is a place on his head and yet has a few for trade, you and I are going to have to shell out considerable sums of cash for these lands. Just for playsets of the first four, that's $320 at $20 apiece. Lotta scratch or trade fodder to drop. Even if you only want one playset, or one of each, it's going to run you $80.
But... but... what? I already said that these are going to be fundamental, core cards in both Extended and Standard. Legacy and casual players want a bite too. The top decks will be running these. Decks are going to start costing $100 before we even move out of the mana base. Sure, Kamigawa Block was a rare-heavy format, but even there the most you'd pay was perhaps $60 for a set of Cranial Extractions. Other than Kokusho, no heavily-played (read: not Pithing Needle) card even approached that price. Standard is about to recieve a major "barrier to entry" jolt to the arm, especially considering the Kamigawa block chase rares will still be played. The best decks won't be cheap, and unless the cheap decks can roll with the best, "playing optimal" might be an option a lot of tournament players will have to pass up. At least in Extended you can kinda imitate the effect by having one of each of these. In Standard one isn't going to change much unless you're playing Gift of Estates or similar.
So yeah, yeah, whine, whine, cards are expensive; suck it up. I'd like to, but I don't like the idea of returning to a format where "budget Standard" makes a common appearance. It's not supposed to be Peasant Magic Sanctioned, but it is supposed to be approachable. When the cost of a top-level deck jumps from, say, $300 to $380, that's a fundamental change that can affect participation in events. I just hope that a bevy of powerful commons and uncommons show up in Ravnica. $80 for 5.3% of the cards you need isn't fun, but if the other 94.7% costs $20, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad. Not only that, but in my opinion strong commons and uncommons indicate a well-designed set (hellooooo Tempest).
While I'm working my ass off for the money I'll need to purchase these behemoths of blending backbone, I'll also be considering in the back of my mind the amazing sight of it all. They're well designed. They're balanced. They're revolutionary, in terms of the Extended format. They're coming out in a few months, and we've been waiting for that day for a long time.
And when that day comes, I'll be there with bells on, kneeling down, and praying in the Temple.
Goblinboy wrote, edited, and made pretty pictures.
Belgareth would really like me to mention that he guessed what the RAV duals would be before anyone else did.