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What RTR Staples Am I Targeting?


The third set of Theros was just released. Do you know what that means for me? New Standard format? That’s not really my thing. New Nyxish cards to acquire via trading? That’s not really my thing either. It means that it’s time to look at the previous block for good casual cards to see what I want to pick up for my deck stock. What Return to Ravnica–block cards entice me? Over the next few months will be the chance to pick up some from traders, stores, and friends looking to move out of the soon-to-be-old block.

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
Now, I’m not a finance writer. The only time, in my entire Magic-playing life, I have ever purchased something with the intent of selling higher was when I picked up four boxes of Modern Masters last year. I spent around $950 for all four, and CoolStuffInc.com is selling them right now for $430. I’ll sell them soon, and I’ll make a nice profit. But that was stealing Twizzlers from a proverbial baby. Since I’m not at the forefront of Magic finance-dom, the goal of today’s article is not to explain how you will make money from a certain card or what will happen to the market six months down the road.

All I want to do is explain the casual cards I intend to target for my own personal collection.

To begin, it seems that most recent blocks have had iconic mythic creatures that are really strong in Casual Town and that embrace the flavor of that block so perfectly I doubt we’ll see a reprint. For example, it’s hard to imagine the Eldrazi receiving reprints in Magic 2015. We might see lesser ones in things like Commander decks (just like we had Artisan of Kozilek), but I don’t think you’ll see Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre anytime soon. The same is true of the legendary Angels from Avacyn Restored (and Griselbrand). I suspect the same will be true of the Gods of Theros block.

We have the guild-leader mythics from Return to Ravnica block that fit this mold. Considering we never saw a reprint of guild leaders from the first block, chances seem poor we’ll see reprints of these sometime soon. For my taste, the single most important cards for me to target in picking up have to be the mythic legendary guild leaders from RTR. Let’s look at them:

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Now, some of these are lower-priority targets because they aren’t as good at the table. Borborygmos Enraged is just as angry as many other beaters in Gruul decks. Some of these are good utility cards or adjuncts to decks that have some value, such as Isperia, Lazav, or Niv-Mizzet.

But we have some amazing casual all-stars in this list. Of them all, the one I think is the most powerful down the road is the Prime Speaker. It has a unique effect, it slides into a lot of G/U casual decks, and it’s downright powerful as all get out. I also like Aurelia, Jarad, and Trostani a lot for their colors.

What about other mythics from this block? Will I be looking to acquire some others? Absolutely. Here’s my short list of other mythics I like enough to pick up:

Hellkite Tyrant

And yes, that’s a huge list. There are better cards than Voice of Resurgence, Enter the Infinite, Legion's Initiative, and such. Some of these mythics are bone-cheap right now. This is the best time to grab stuff like the Hellkites. A few of these cards were among the most expensive in Standard, such as Domri Rade or Sphinx's Revelation. If they begin to drop, I’ll look to grab a few here and there.

Of this list, some cards are solid niche cards that are easily replaced by others. You can have card-drawing X spells that don’t gain you life, so Blue Sun's Zenith is fine as a Revelation substitute. The same is true of many of these cards. You can find other big Dragons, Demons, Wurms, Hydras, and Angels.

Master Biomancer
So, what are my top targets from this list? What are the ones I feel should really be added to my deck stock? It’s simple: Master Biomancer, Master Biomancer, Master Biomancer, and Master Biomancer. It’s just too good a card to not grab in spades—I want to toss four into any sixty-card deck that wants him. I also need to include him in any Commander deck that even thinks about him a little bit. It’s that good of a card. After that, I like Ral Zarek, Vraska, and Domri. Gideon doesn’t suck, but he only becomes useful if you can protect him after you jump him up in loyalty counters, and that’s hard to guarantee. Unlike the other Gideon, it’s hard to make him work with other white strategies. Domri is perfect for Gruul, while Ral and Vraska do strong stuff for their guilds, too. Jace is all right, too—I want to grab some, but there are better ways to weaken an attack or draw some stuff.

After that, what are the other cards I want to snag from RTR?

Well, we’ve had a long time to pick up bulk rares. So if I wanted, say, Chaos Imps for my deck stock, I’ve had plenty of time to purchase it at the going rate of bulk rare. What I am now looking for are cards with some value that I am actively looking to pick up.

Blind Obedience

I don’t need stuff like Lotleth Troll or Loxodon Smiter, cards that were valued because of their power–toughness ratios in Standard. Who cares at the kitchen table? Why run the sorcery Dreadbore when I can play an instant Hero's Downfall for 1 more mana? There are plenty of 2-drops I can run if I don’t have Precinct Captain. So the stuff I want is unusual or different, and it does something I like when I play on Monday night while watching football. That’s why these thirteen rares are on my pick-up list.

Look, you’ve either already picked up enough of the shock duals that you are set for years or you don’t need me to talk about them at length. But what about this other stuff? Blind Obedience and Crypt Ghast are great, the Rift and Mortars are also very strong, and you have useful cards like Assemble the Legion and Aetherling.

So, of this list, which ones do I want the most? Supreme Verdict (being able to Wrath the board without worrying about someone saying “no” is a good feeling), Chromatic Lantern (for what it does to decks with at least three colors), and Cyclonic Rift (for being a bounce spell early and a mega-bounce spell later). I think those are the best value at the kitchen table.

And of course, that’s not all. There are some strong uncommons that I like as well. Some of these cards are great utility options, while others are just downright awesome. Here are my uncommons slotted for pickup:

Urban Evolution

Again, these are those that have costs to them already. Because of its reprint in Commander, I have a ton of Guttersnipes or else I would want to be actively picking those up as well. I don’t really like storm-style decks, and I don’t see Burning-Tree Emissary as a pickup, but you might, and that’s fine.

Let’s look at the non-cycle cards first. Folks, there are two cards on this list you must have in spades. One card on that list in particular has become one of my default removal pieces in its color because of just how good it plays. It is the Swords to Plowshares of artifact destruction: Vandalblast. You can play it early to Shatter one artifact or you can play it later to destroy everybody else’s. It’s an amazing tool. Similarly, every Simic-colored deck wants Urban Evolution. The combination of card-draw with ability to drop another land for free speeds you up, and it is a potent player in that color combo. After those, the rest are useful. (We already had Pongify, but having another option is nice with the Hybridization.)

Duskmantle Guildmage
The Guildmage cycle is odd. Previously, the original Ravnica-block stuff could be used generally. For example, Dimir Guildmage could be used to draw a card or force a discard. It works in any U/B deck. But the Duskmantle Guildmage is not. One ability causes milling, and the other causes an odd life-loss thing. It’s not for every U/B deck, but in the ones that want it, it’s even more powerful.

I just tossed Sunhome Guildmage into an Iroas, God of Victory Commander deck. That deck needs this Guildmage because it spits out tokens, which are harder to block and won’t die to attacking, and it pumps the front, which is good for the exact same reason. Again, any deck that likes these guys will love them. It’s an essential player. But many R/W decks will skip by. This makes them different in kind to the first cycle. But they are still useful pickups, throw-ins for trade, and such.

On the other hand, the Charm cycle tends to be generally useful in any deck with the colors. Take Golgari Charm, picked basically randomly. Regenerating each of your guys is a great combat trick or a way to fight against damaged-based removal (or even stuff like Day of Judgment). You can also take out an enchantment or shrink everything -1/-1 for a turn, which can often kill a lot of stuff at the table. It can work in any B/G deck. Similarly, Izzet Charm can loot down two cards, counter some stuff in the right situation, or Shock a creature. They all have a lot of value.

Wear // Tear
In my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets from Dragon’s Maze are the split cards. Cards like Wear // Tear, Far // Away, and Turn // Burn are great for their colors. For example, when fused, Turn // Burn will kill an indestructible Avacyn, Angel of Hope in colors (U/R) that normally can’t. Toil // Trouble can end people at the kitchen table who have horded cards, and you might even be able to draw two. With the exception of the yucky Protect // Serve, this is a cycle of solid cards that’ll do well for us.

In addition to these cards, I also want to pick up Guildgates when I can. I suspect they’ll be reprinted a lot in future products, such as Commander decks, so I’m not going out of my way to buy them in bunches. This is especially true for the enemy colors, which had fewer mana-fixing options.

After the shiny new packs from Journey into Nyx are all cracked—cards are all sorted and filed away and added to decks—the next step might be to start looking at the Return to Ravnica block to procure cards that were out of reach before. Are there some targets you have that I didn’t mention? Thanks for reading!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

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