When I was a kid, I savored every Magic: the Gathering card I could get my hands on. My friends and I were obsessed with the game. We’d spend every recess in elementary and, later on, middle school slinging spells and seeing what new cards each other had acquired over the weekends. It got to the point that, when in 2005, Wizards of the Coast released the “Ravnica: City of Guilds” expansion, I started skipping lunches and used the money I saved to buy packs of cards.
So, yes, the world of Ravnica has a special place in my heart. It’s a world unlike any other in Magic‘s vast multiverse of planes. It’s an endlessly expansive city (god I wish New York was like this) that is governed by ten guilds. There are the militant Boros and the collectivist Selesnya. There are the Izzet mad scientists and the Golgari rot farmers. And rumor has it that there’s even a secretive guild of spies, the Dimir (my personal favorite). The flavor of these guilds translates directly into the game mechanics of the cards released in Ravnica expansions, creating a perfect harmony between game play and creative self expression.
And now, thirteen years after the first Ravnica block of sets (and six years after the second), Magic has finally returned to Ravnica once more. Over the weekend, Wizards released “Guilds of Ravnica,” the first of three new expansions set on the plane. This set focuses on half of the ten guilds and showcases their characteristics in ways we’ve never seen before. It’s a bombastic and exciting statement of a set and Wizards recently provided the Beat with some product for our review. It’s my pleasure to take you through one of those products today.
When I was new to Magic, Booster Bundles (then called “Fat Packs”) were my favorite things to buy. While perhaps not as explanatory of the rules as a Starter Set, Bundles offered a variety of gameplay tools beyond just cards– making them valuable for someone who needed things like deckboxes and dice. While some things have changed about the bundles over the years, the core of them remains the same. Let’s take this one apart and see what’s inside.
First off, when you unwrap the bundle, you’ll find that the cardboard wrapper around the box unfurls into a full art poster. Sometimes these posters feature card art from their respective expansion. This one features the “Guilds of Ravnica” key art of a floating city shaped like Magic‘s trademark planeswalker symbol.
Laying out the contents inside the wrapper, you find a “Guilds of Ravnica” player guide and the box that contains the rest of the bundle’s contents. This player guide contains a visual checklist of every card in the expansion, easily allowing you to keep track of your collection. It also contains some information about the story in of this set, which focuses on a mysterious conspiracy that has begun to sow discord among the guilds of Ravnica.
Opening up the box, you’ll find a spindown dice, ten booster packs, a few “learning to play” insert cards that lay out the game in its most basic terms, and 80 basic land cards.
Normally, basic lands are part of an expansion proper, meaning you will open one in most booster packs of that set. However, “Guilds of Ravnica” uses its basic land slot for lands that produce two types of mana, known as Gates, instead of for basic lands. As such, this bundle is the only place you can pick up lands with art from the “Guilds of Ravnica” expansion. Wizards even included a foil version of each land in the bundle, which is a nice extra touch.
Proving that Wizards loves Ravnica as much as I do, there are different variants of the spindown dice you can get in this bundle (the die are 20 sided and you start a typical game of Magic at 20 life, thus making their purpose pretty self evident). Each spindown features the symbol of a guild from the “Guilds of Ravnica” expansion and is colored based upon the respective guild’s two in-game colors of mana. I happened to open an Izzet die, which is colored blue and red. I’m fond of the navy shade that they’ve chosen to employ here.
Let’s get to what we’re all really here for, though: cracking some packs. Our first pack reveals…
Wow! A lucky start with a foil Watery Grave. For those less familiar with Magic, rare lands like Watery Grave, colloquially known as “shocklands” because they can be tapped for mana immediately if you let them shock you, are special because their flexibility makes them stronger than most other lands such as the Izzet Guidegate next to my Watery Grave, which always enters the battlefield tapped. Most Magic sets have a cycle of rare dual lands. Even among those rare cycles, however, the Ravnica shocklands have always stood out because they are almost unique in that they have basic land typing that allows cards like Farseek and fetchlands to search for them.
Clearly my allegiance to the Dimir is being rewarded. A Connive//Concoct and foil Nightveil Sprite! Cards like Connive/Concoct are cool because they’re essentially two cards stapled together. You can cast either side of the card for a different effect, giving you more flexibility during gameplay and leaving space for more options during deckbuilding.
Next up, we find…
Our rare is Camaraderie. The Selesnya Conclave is all about the power of collectivism and unity– for better or worse. Here though, strength is clearly in numbers as this card’s effect grows with the size of your army.
To point your attention at another cool card in this pack, check out Chemister’s Insight. It has the Izzet mechanic Jump-start, which allows you to cast the spell out of your graveyard after you cast it from your hand (or put it into your graveyard from your library thanks to something like Surveil). In exchange, you just have to discard a card. In essence, you end up trading two cards for four, which is a pretty good deal in a game like Magic where options are king.
Moving on, we open our next pack to find a Charnel Troll. Getting a 4/4 creature for 3 mana is pretty rare in Magic. It’s even rarer that the “drawback” this creature has is something of an upside as well. He’s pretty cool and also looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, for whatever that’s worth.
With our next pack, our rare is Risk Factor. This spell is the latest in a long line of “punisher” effects that ask your opponent to make a choice– they can either give you something tangible like cards or they can choose to let the punisher card hurt them directly instead. Historically, these cards have not been considered all that powerful as most of the time, the correct choice is very clearly to take damage rather than let your opponent draw cards. Risk Factor might be an exception, however. The card is already seeing some tournament play thanks to its efficient cost-to-effect ratio and re-usability thanks to Jump-start.
Another cool card out of this pack is Ledev Champion. Not only does he have an ability that allows him to grow into a bigger threat based upon the size of your army, he also has a second ability that allows to you create soldiers for that army. In a long game, he’ll certainly take over the board if he isn’t dealt with.
We’re getting towards the end of our box, but we have a couple more packs to go. In our next pack…
Our rare is Ritual of Soot.
This card is pretty cool as it’s the latest in a long line of variations on one of Magic‘s earliest card designs: Wrath of God. Removing threats through either combat or spells has always been important in Magic and cards like Ritual of Soot allow you to do so en masse, generating huge amounts of card advantage when you manage to take out 2 or infinitely more cards in exchange for one.
Oh hey, Magic has dream daddies too.
What? Our rare? Assassin’s Trophy? That old thing? It’s nothing. Just one of the strongest removal spells printed in the modern history of Magic, is all. This card is one of the few spells in the game that can destroy any permanent in the game, making it incredibly versatile. In exchange for their loss, all your opponent gets is a land that might be useful in the early game, but will decrease in value as the turns pass, making Assassin’s Trophy stronger and stronger as time goes on in turn.
Alright: penultimate pack.
Our rare is Bounty Agent. She’s a versatile creature who attacks and blocks in the early game before sacrificing herself to destroy almost any legendary permanent of your choosing. That makes her particularly strong in Commander, where every deck is helmed by a legendary creature (or planeswalker), ensuring Bounty Agent always has a target to snag.
Here’s a closer look at another split card, as well.
Finally, it’s time for our last pack!
What’s inside? We’ve opened some very cool cards thus far, but haven’t yet opened a mythic rare like Aurelia or Lazav. In theory, these extra-rare cards appear once every eight packs, so fingers crossed we pull a mythic here.
Alas! Vivid Revival is a great card that I’ll be sliding into one of my Commander decks, but it’s no mythic. Such is variance.
That said, even though we didn’t pull a mythic, all in all, this Magic “Guilds of Ravnica” bundle has had some incredible cards inside. I’m so psyched to have a chance to play with these cards and many others from this set.
Thanks for joining me for this unboxing. Welcome (back) to Ravnica.