So the full Return to Ravnica spoiler is out. I want to take an early look at the Limited format, and give a rundown on the top commons for each color, gold, and hybrid. Now this is going to differ quite a bit from my normal Limited card evaluation articles. For those articles, I have a chance to play with the cards and practice with them. Add on top that this is a gold format, which should encourage more three- and four-color decks and splashing (if it’s anything like old Ravnica). This should still be a helpful breakdown of what you might open at your local prerelease, and what cards you perhaps don’t value highly enough.
For white, it looks like the best common you can open is Arrest (Editor’s note: Post-publishing correction here—Arrest is an uncommon in Return to Ravnica). Basically every Limited set has a card like this in white that shuts down a creature. I can’t remember the last time that card wasn’t the best common in its color, or right at the top of the list. In M13, I didn’t like Pacifism all that much because it was weak to exalted strategies.
I don’t have to compare Pacifism to Arrest like I normally would because I have played with Arrest in Scars of Mirrodin Limited. Arrest was absolutely bonkers in Scars, because it could contain basically any bomb rare and it was easy to splash—you get 1 Gold Myr and you’re good to go. If new Ravnica is anything like old Ravnica then I imagine it’s just a mistake to not play all of your most powerful cards. With Arrest only costing one white and being able to stop good rares, I would be happy to open this card in my next Sealed. In my mind splashing an Arrest is far more acceptable than splashing a Pacifism, because splashing a Pacifism feels like splashing a Pacifism and splashing an Arrest feels like splashing a Doom Blade… if that makes sense.
I really don’t know what to make of blue. I read over the blue cards multiple times and I just can’t find anything that stands out to me and makes me want to be in this color. Some of the rares are nice, sure, but past that it’s pretty grim. My gut says Stealer of Secrets is likely the best blue common, since it’s easy to cast and this type of creature is usually awesome in Limited environments—especially in a world where people are going to have wonky manabases. This is the type of card that can get down early and present a serious threat.
I know it’s good, because when people play Scroll Thief against me and I can’t defend for a turn, I feel helpless. They instantly get value, have a free turn to put out another threat—and with the extra card drawn and time to set up, it is usually a very real possibility that they can stitch together a way to remove a blocker next turn and get in for another card, generating a snowball effect. Then you blink and the game is over. I see this card being pretty fun with Voidweilder.
My second pick for best blue common would probably have been either Runewing or Isperia’s Skywatch, but I couldn’t possibly describe either of those cards as “efficient” and sleep well at night.
Black is very interesting. It offers many playable cards, as well as good options for decks you can make with them. If I had to pick the best common it would easily be Stab Wound. First things first—this card gets a flavor A+! I mean it does exactly what you think a Stab Wound would do, and it does it in a way that makes the card playable and interesting. I may call myself a competitive magic player but these types of things are still pretty cool to see.
Now this card isn’t always going to kill the threat you want it to, but that is a pretty common theme in this set—so when you find one that does, let me know. I like this card because I have been on the delivering end of some non-lethal Crippling Blights, and not ones as glamorous as shutting off your Scroll Thief/Fog Bank. Sometimes when your hand is just slow you have to slap it on a Silvercoat Lion and hope for the best—not my finest moment.
But I imagine in situations like that, when I have to slap a Stab Wound on a 3/3 flying creature to stay alive, I’m going to feel a whole hell of a lot better about it. In fact that is a play I would actively want to do instead of feeling like I have to do it or I just die. Cards like this are usually only as powerful as the creatures they can kill, but I think Stab Wound is going to be a mix of Douse in Gloom and Lust for War, though I admit clearly worse than both.
Annihilating Fire deals 3 damage to target creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would die this turn, exile it instead.
I think by far the best red common in the set has to be Annihilating Fire. Three-mana instant for 3 damage is just awesome. Being able to exile the creature you kill is pretty minor in Limited, but I can see this card making waves in Constructed removing Geralf’s Messengers. The only handicap this card has is the double-red casting cost, which means to play it you are going to want between seven and nine red mana sources in your deck.
At first glance this seems like a bit of a restriction, but my instinct says that red is a color in this set that doesn’t really want to be playing the multicolor strategy. Many of red’s commons incentivize you to play an all-in aggressive strategy, and I think the rewards are there if you try it. Splatter Thug and Bloodfray Giant are aggressively costed creatures with unleash that I suspect will be getting unleashed far more often than not. Maybe it’s just the inner-psychopath in me, but I want to lead off with Bellows Lizard and second turn play a Pursuit of Flight on it and just start beating down. If opponents are going to waste time trying to set up a four-color manabase, they are going to just get shredded by cards like this.
Green is a little bit more difficult to rank. I think for Sealed deck play, the best common is going to be Axebane Guardian. A three-mana 0/3 that fixes for all five colors, as well as having the potential to make multiple mana makes him a dream for a green sealed deck. In draft my *hope* is that the best green common is Giant Growth, and I think the only chance that this isn’t the case is if green either turns out to be a terrible color for aggressive strategies, or if the format gets to be so inbred that always drafting five colors is best and decks like this don’t really want a Giant Growth or aren’t weak to a Giant Growth.
Growth is at its best in a red-green mirror match or some other matchup where combat is key and there is little interaction. I hold out hope that it will be as good as it has been in previous sets, because of the huge lack of instant unconditional removal in this set. There is no Murder and no Doom Blade, and the closest thing to it costs six mana, so any observant player should be able to avoid that type of blowout.
The best gold common is easily Auger Spree. This is a card you will splash a huge percentage of the time and not be disappointed. It’s a kind of mix between Blood Lust and Sudden Death or Death Pulse, but it’s easier to cast in some decks and has good utility. You won’t always use this to deal 4 damage, but when you do it probably wins the game. Being an instant is pretty awesome and -4 is actually huge. This card is going to be Terminate really often, and if that isn’t attractive enough I don’t know what to tell you.
Put a 3/3 green Centaur creature token onto the battlefield, then populate. (Put a token onto the battlefield that’s a copy of a creature token you control.)
My next choice and possibly the correct choice for best sealed common in gold is Courser’s Accord. I would still way rather first pick Auger Spree in draft, but if the games are going to come down to a grind, then being able to produce multiple threats is insane. This thing acts as a sort of mini-Broodmate Dragon and if you have any other cards in your deck that can produce tokens, then the populate will just be gravy. This card is one to keep your eye on.
I was planning on talking about the best hybrid common you could open, but there don’t appear to be many of those and the ones that do exist are quite underwhelming. Instead I’m just going to talk about the best overall hybrid card and that is Growing Ranks.
Now I’m willing to stick my neck out there on this one and say that this is actually very good, and not similar to those other ranks—Endless Ranks of the Dead. Though they look similar, I believe that Growing Ranks is going to be doing something very similar and powerful without the handicap of having to draft all Zombies. It seems much easier to just make a token and keep it alive.
This doesn’t even factor in how powerful this card becomes when you start by casting a card that creates multiple tokens, or if you cast a card with populate after you have triggered the Growing Ranks once. I think both of those possibilities make this card much more explosive than previous Ranks, and a card you actually want to open in draft first pack. In Sealed it becomes much more of a crap shoot. Sometimes you will have opened a ton of token synergy and you will love it, and sometimes you will build a green/white deck and leave it on the sidelines. At least in Sealed you won’t ever play it if it’s not good.
The best rare for Sealed, and maybe best rare in the format overall could easily be Chromatic Lantern. This card is just silly as it lets do you absolutely anything you want, and makes mana a non-issue. I see myself losing to this card a lot in Sealed because once it gets cast the player with it can just start to cast the most powerful card in their entire pool every turn. I might be overrating it, but you always want to open this and you will always play it no matter what your deck is.
This was a new thing I tried and I’m not sure how helpful/interesting that it is. It was fun to write and a good way for me to look at the new cards from a different perspective.
As always, feedback is appreciated.
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