Multicolored spells have always been popular with players and are quite literally the stuff of Legends (1994), the first set to include multicolored spells (all were legendary creatures).
“The OG EDH.”
Over the next decade, multicolored spells became a normal occurrence in MTG releases and peaked in Invasion (2000). Invasion block focused entirely on multicolor themes and play, and was a triumphant success. In particular, Apocalypse (2001), was a hit since it featured enemy-colored spells that were seldom printed in the early years.
“There was a need for deed.”
It’s not surprising that five years after Invasion, we were introduced to the vibrant multi-world of Ravnica (2005) for the first time. Ravnica is one of the most iconic locations in multiverse. In my estimation, it ranks second, behind only Dominaria in terms of design and popularity. Spin-offs rarely compare to the original, but Ravnica is a rare exception that delivers quality and popular appeal. Ravnica is Frasier to Dominaria’s Cheers.
The Ravnica concept was straightforward, yet elegant: A city-planet (plane) devised of ten warring factions, each of which represented one of the ten combinations of mana. The true genius of Ravnica was it felt like home even when it was still brand new. The guilds helped provide a name, face, backstory, and themes not only for card design but also for flavor.
Before Ravnica I was merely some dude who like blue-white decks, but from thereafter I was known as an Azorius mage! It’s a subtle distinction with huge ramifications you might not even have considered. The flavor, mechanics, and themes associated with the 2005 guilds have shaped the way we think about and understand the game.
Check out these U/R cards from Apocalypse:
What is the theme of these cards? Sure, there’s an element of “red (damage) + blue (draw, tap, or counter) = U/R,” but what is the unifying theme? Smart Mountain creatures? Angry Island dwellers? It wasn’t until guild Izzet was unveiled that the combination shifted to the technology focused, steampunk gadgeteers that embody the flavor of U/R. All of the Ravnica guilds played a role in redefining how we would view each combination moving forward.
It was not easy to whittle my list down to just ten. Keep in mind that the list is iconic and not necessarily best in Constructed today. These are the cards I believe are most closely associated with Magic’s favorite multicolored plane.
When you’re all finished up with the article, be sure to drop your #Ravnica10 into the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of my picks and discuss the cards that you believe most exemplify the Ravnica experience.
To me, iconic means the card has reached a position of a certain historical significance. It’s an icon. I don’t believe any of the latest Ravnica block cards have earned a seat at the Top 10 table, yet…
It’s hard to predict the future with Sensei’s Divining Top banned, but Phoenix feels like a potentially iconic card. It’s the namesake of multiple decks across several formats. With that being said, I need to see more over a longer period of time before it’s in my Top 10. A lot can happen in five years!
Ethereal Absolution is the stuff of Limited nightmares. It’s one of the least beatable Limited cards I’ve ever seen. It also has Commander staple written all over it. I’m about to start working on Standard decks and Ethereal Absolution is absolutely one of the cards I’m most interested in putting to work in various shells. It clearly has a way to go to reach icon status, but it has so much raw potential that it could easily be a card we still reference five years from now.
Trophy is a huge Modern printing for one of Modern’s oldest and most beloved archetypes, The Rock. Now that Counterbalance/Top decks are gone from Legacy, I believe that Trophy will soon surpass Abrupt Decay in terms of icon status.
Bouncelands, Guildgates, Signets, Guildmages, and Charms
Each cycle is iconic because each draws from the guild structure that runs through the entire plane. But no single Gate or Signet is iconic enough to warrant a spot on the list.
My Top 10
10. Leyline of the Void
Leyline of the Void embodies the innovative design I associate with Ravnica sets. It’s an enchantment that can be played before the game begins if it’s in a player’s opening hand. The card is also extremely effective at disrupting graveyard-based strategies, for obvious reasons. As a Vintage fan, Leyline V. Bazaar has been format defining interaction for fifteen years. The graveyard has become an increasingly important resource in Modern since the release of Arclight Phoenix and Creeping Chill in GRN, which has led to a surge in Leyline play and price in recent months.
9. Doubling Season
Double your pleasure, double your fun! Doubling Season has never been a tournament staple but is easily one of the most played spells from Ravnica. It’s a Commander all-star and sees considerable play around kitchen tables all over the world.
There are few cards that can facilitate such absurdly, arbitrarily huge plays as Doubling Season. If you want to make a hundred tokens or go infinite with Jace, Architect of Thought: “’Tis the season.”
I worked at a game store for many years and Doubling Season was one of the best selling, most popular, and most-difficult-to-keep-in-stock singles for the duration of my tenure. It’s unplayable in Modern, has been reprinted, and is still expensive! Doubling Season makes my list because it is one of the most beloved kitchen table cards of all time.
8. Lightning Helix
It matters not if you are aggro, midrange, or control because Helix is at home in all of these styles of decks. The true utility of the card is the great rate: 2 mana for 3 damage and 3 life.
I love the elegance of simple designs. Helix doesn’t prevent damage to creatures, but it’s still throwback to where Magic all started in terms of flavor:
The card flavorfully represents the core tenants of red and white Magic. It is easily the most Boros card ever created. The card has always seen considerable Constructed play but has recently seen a renaissance in Modern over the past few months.
7. Sphinx’s Revelation
The card affectionately known as “Rev.” This card is one of the most terrifying Standard forces of all time. The combination of raw card advantage paired with life gain is difficult for any deck to overcome.
Return to Ravnica Constructed is cited as one of the most popular Standard formats of all time and Rev decks were a cornerstone of the format. It didn’t hurt that the strategy boasted one of the most robust control shells ever:
The deck was one of the most terrifying Standard control decks we’ve seen.
6. Pack Rat
Rev wasn’t the only nightmare card to haunt RTR Standard. In fact, Mono-Black Rat was the actual best deck.
Pack Rat is an army in a can: a Rat lord that makes more Rat lords. The copies retain the ability to create more Pack Rats, which means that if even one token remains, the swarm will soon replenish.
It was also one of the most unbeatable Limited bombs ever printed. Whether you loved or hated the Rat, I guarantee you remember it!
Remand was, and still is, a deranged card. Few things are more infuriating than being Remanded when you are behind in tempo. This innocuous 2-mana instant is one of the most Standard warping cards of all time.
Do you really want to play that sweet expensive spell in a format where Remand is legal? The card fostered some seriously messed up strategies:
Tron: Turn-3 Signet, Remand you.
Magnivore: Blows up your lands. Remands you. Please stop.
Owling Mine: Having trouble emptying your hand with this Ebony Owl and Howling Mine in play? Here’s a Remand!
I’ve heard that Spell Snare was created for Dissension as an emergency answer to the Remand/Boomerang decks. Remand continues to be a formidable Modern card to this day where it is used to make tempo plays and facilitate Grapeshot storm kills.
4. Golgari Grave-Troll
GGT is a symbol of Magic design gone completely awry. While I think the naming of the guilds is the most iconic aspect of the plane, the dredge mechanic is the most infamous.
Dredge facilitated a new style of gameplay that had never been seen before where a player could essentially take their library, dump it into their graveyard, and use that to play a bunch of free spells and abilities without paying mana.
More often than not, Grave-Troll has no game text other than “dredge 6.”
6 is the largest number on a Dredge card, which ensures that Troll will remain one of the most broken creatures ever printed. The card has spent most of its life banned in Modern but made quite a name for itself over the years in Standard, old Extended, Legacy, and Vintage.
3. Life From the Loam
Dredge is such a big part of the Ravnica experience that I decided to give it two premium spots on the list.
Unlike GGT, which isn’t typically useful beyond the dredge 6 text, Loam is an extremely useful spell that spans a range of archetypes and formats: Aggro Loam, Lands, and Dredge. It’s a 3-for-1 that you can recur with the drawback that it only gets back land cards.
Also, Loam has become the face of the Modern Dredge deck with Troll once again banned. The dredge is great, but the card advantage fuels giant Conflagrates. In Legacy, Loam is the centerpiece of the Lands archetype, which is one of the most unique combo-control decks ever created. It’s great in Commander. LFTL is an amazing card with many uses (all of which involve recurring lands).
#Golgari #Simic #Gruul
2. Dark Confidant
One name. Three letters. A billion game-deciding flips.
Dark Confidant is the design and original likeness of Bob Maher, hence the nickname. Bob Maher is even pictured selling information to a weird Orzhov Jabba the Hutt creature in the artwork. The card would also rank highly on a list of all-time Magic nickname cards (a topic for another day), which is a testament to the card’s iconic status.
The card has seen substantial play in every known format. First and foremost, when it drops unanswered on the second turn it can easily create a cascade of card advantage that can run away with a game.
It’s also a dramatic card where the outcome of one flip often decides an entire game!
For all these reason and more, Dark Confidant is high on my list of iconic Ravnica cards.
Also, fun fact: Dark Confidant is a Dimir card even though it feels like a Rakdos card and gets played mostly in Golgari decks, which is basically the most Dimir thing ever.
1. Deathrite Shaman
The single most iconic Ravnica card is Deathrite Shaman. It was a toss-up between DRS and Bob. I went with my heart.
DRS is nasty. It’s so evil that it is now imprisoned in Azkaban, i.e., on the Azka-banned list in both Modern and Legacy.
The card is so powerful that it doesn’t make a shred of logical sense why or how it exists. It’s commonly described as a 1-mana planeswalker because it has so many abilities. Some will argue that Bob is more iconic, especially now with Shaman extricated from Legacy play.
I think DRS has an exceptionally unique iconic attribute: it is commonly understood to be the best creature ever printed. It’s the gold standard by which we measure what is a completely unacceptable rate for a green, or black, hybrid 1-drop.
Even if the card is no longer “street legal,” it is and will continue to be iconic in the same way that Black Lotus is iconic. Even if 99% of mages will never cast a Lotus that doesn’t mean that 99% of people don’t know what the best card of all time is. The same can be said of DRS being the best creature of all time.
The Secret, Not So Secret #1: Shocklands
The shocklands needed their own category of discussion. I originally had them grouped with Gates and bouncelands but quickly realized that simply would not do. They are one of the most iconic cycles of cards ever created and deserve a special place of acclaim.
It is actually debatable whether all ten shocklands are the most iconic cards from Ravnica. These lands are the non-basic building blocks of Modern, as well as any Standard format where they appear. Speaking of iconic, these lands are so closely associated with Ravnica that we non-basically know when a Ravnica set rolls out that shocklands will return to Standard. It’s yet another Ravnica bonus.
Another neat quality about the shocklands is that no matter which Ravnica format you played there is a 100% chance the cycle left an impression. These lands have been a staple of all three Ravnica blocks.
With that being said, it would have been a boring list if I had gone with a bunch of shocklands, DRS, Bob, Loam, and Remand (although I’m pretty sure I played such a deck in Modern at some point…).
I hope you enjoyed my review of the 10 (secretly 20) most iconic Ravnica cards of all time. I’d love to discuss your #Ravnica10 in the comments. Do you disagree? Let me know. I had to make some difficult cuts and rather than drop 10 into the “Honorable Mentions,” I decided it would be best to let the readers defend the honor of some of the great Ravnica icons that narrowly missed. I’m also curious to hear which Ravnica Allegiance and Guilds of Ravnica cards people think have a legitimate shot (or already deserve!) a seat at the Ravnica table.