The day this article goes live is the official release date for Magic: the Gathering’s newest set: Guilds of Ravnica. The world of Ravnica is one of the most celebrated planes visited over the game’s 25-year run. With this being the third block set in the cityscape, I wanted to take a look at the impact it’s had. From flavor to gameplay to identity as a Magic player, Ravnica has given a lot since its first appearance in 2005.
Grab a spindown and shuffle up, let’s talk about Ravnica.
Flavor for Any Taste
Right off the bat, no conversation about Ravnica can go very far without mentioning the guilds. Ten powerful factions, one for each 2-color pairing in the color pie, run various neighborhoods and districts in this planet-sized city. These guilds gave a face to each color pairing, an identity behind a playstyle, in art and design. Aggressive Red-Black players were now Rakdos, controlling Blue-White players Azorious. Players would flaunt their guild identity in pins, clothes, even tattoos. The names of the guilds have since become shorthand for the 2 color pairings more than 10 years later!
The art direction for the Ravnica sets was, and still is, some of the most iconic and beloved in the game. A magical city spanning hundreds of miles, each guild decorated in their own colors and styles. The druidic Selesnya, for example, wear long flowing green and white robes and strong armor. The militaristic Boros are in red and white combat gear. The savage Gruul wear animal pelts if they decide to wear anything alongside their red and green war paint. Each guild felt like a strong representation of its corresponding colors, but with a twist. While there have been funny internet pictures made, no one guild can be classified as eternal antagonists or protagonists. Even the Cult of Rakdos, sadomasochistic performers led by a demon, has its benefits and positive moments. Not everyone in the Orzhov is corrupt; most of them are, but never mind that. The story and characters of Ravnica give everyone someone with whom they can identify.
Players Gonna Play… and Play… and Play…
Not only was the original Ravnica set a flavor knockout, but it added some key elements to gameplay that are still relevant today. Ravnica shook up Magic gameplay with mechanics that warped formats and old cards being brought into the limelight once again. The world was explored through mechanics like Dredge and Hellbent, both of which have become shorthand within the community. Fun gameplay and powerful effects have knocked the last couple Ravnica blocks out of the park.
More than just specific mechanics, Ravnica also brought cards like Doubling Season and Sphinx’s Revelation into the game. So many individual cards from Ravnica sets have gone on to become staples across various formats. Not the least notable of these are the commonly-dubbed Shocklands. Played in every format in which they’re legal, shocklands are the more balanced and accessible alternative to original ABUR dual lands. And from that sprung many more ideas for more competitive or flexible mana bases. All this from a cycle that started on Ravnica.
With a multicolored set came the idea to blend guilds together, playing off the strengths of each individual mechanic. Interweaving mechanics makes for fun, fluid gameplay that will definitely create some stories. Ravnica, especially with this newest set, toys with the idea of mixing and blending identities, split allegiances between guilds. And that would lead us into other color combos, but I think that’s enough of that.
Ravnica: City of Magic
With the release of a new MtG set comes a flood of people to their local games stores for prerelease. There’s laughing, joking, new cards, old friends. Maybe memories will get made, prizes won, money cards opened. But at the end of it, it’s a game — a chance to have fun and relax. MTG has gone through some rough moments lately, so a familiar setting might be in order. This setting, this world, was the first to start turning MtG into more of a community than any before it.
So if you play Magic and are going to prerelease on Friday (tonight!), best of luck and have fun! If you don’t, maybe tag along with a friend who’s going. There might just be a spot in a guild for you.