Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and spend some time with the new expansion for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. I initially reviewed the game back in June of this year. The game launched just a few weeks prior to the release of the Magic 2013 core set and gave players their first taste of the new cards. The same has happened this time around, in a few weeks we’ll see the physical release of the Return to Ravnica block. The expansion adds a new campaign ladder of five battles, each against a guild that appears in the new block.
For the unaware or those relatively new to the game of Magic, Ravnica was a block in 2005 that introduced the dual-colour card along with guilds that used the two colours and had varying signature styles. For example, the Blue/Green Simic Combine made heavy use of the Graft mechanic to move +1/+1 counters around the field.
The guilds featured in the expansion are the same ones that will be seen in the upcoming block: Selesnya Conclave, Golgari Swarm, Azorius Senate, Cult of Rakdos and Izzet League. As was the case in Ravnica, these all have differing play styles and this time each guild has a mechanic only found on their cards, some of these are present in the game such as Rakdos’ Unleash mechanic but some I have still not come across. The new decks are clearly the main selling point of this expansion so without further ado I give those all a rundown.
Selesnya Conclave: Collective Might (Green/White)
This deck focuses a lot on pumping out tokens and then playing cards that benefit from having a large number of creatures in play, such as Scion of the Wild whose power and toughness are equal to the number of creatures you control. Given that he only costs 3 mana to play this becomes a very powerful combination when you’re dropping saprolings all over the board. Other mechanics that see a lot of use here are trample (because it’s green, duh) and Lifelink as well as other life gaining effects. This is the first deck you face in the expansion and one that took me a few games to defeat. If you like to bring out a lot of creatures then this is perfect for you.
Azorius Senate: Aura Servants (Blue/White)
Now this is a bit of a weird occurrence for me because I normally loathe playing blue because it gets entirely too fiddly and I can’t be bothered playing counter after counter whilst chipping away with a tiny 2/1 bird. Yet this deck is fantastically constructed, the core mechanic revolves around various effects that trigger when you attach an aura to one of your creatures. These effects range from drawing a card to putting a 4/4 flying Angel token into play, coupled with cards that help you get auras both into your hand and into play. This deck becomes very powerful very quickly. This is the deck I mostly used to beat the expansion.
Izzet League: Mind Storms (Blue/Red)
This is actually very similar to a deck I own in the physical game. The entire idea is to throw out as many instant and sorcery cards as possible with the downside of having fewer, smaller creatures. It’s not very good for solo play honestly but it really shines in multiplayer co-op, if you can get your teammate to play a deck with a lot of creatures whilst you sit back and throw lightning at things. There is one very nasty creature in the deck though, Spellbound Dragon, which is already a 3/5 with flying gets +x/+0 when it attacks where X is the converted mana cost of the top card of your library. That can inflict some serious damage if timed with one of the deck’s big drops like Beacon of Destruction with converted mana cost 5.
Cult of Rakdos: Grinning Malice (Black/Red)
This is a pretty fun play that revolves around quick attacks and various effects when creatures die. It is quite the epitome of what a black/red deck should be, using hasted creatures with minimal toughness and cards like Deathgreeter that allow you to gain life from their loss. On top of this a lot of cards allow you to force your opponent to discard cards or even sacrifice creatures. Played well this deck will shine in most areas of the game.
Golgari Swarm: Sepulchral Strength (Black/Green)
A deck in a similar vein to the previous but with bigger and better green creatures is Sepulchral Strength. This is the final deck of this expansion. Once again the key here is to benefit from the death of creatures. The Golgari have always followed the theme of recycling and once again this is no exception. I didn’t really enjoy this deck as much as the others honestly, but I’m not sure if that’s because some of the others are so good. Graveyard size is a recurring variable with the use of Mortivore whose power/toughness is equal to the number of cards in all graveyards and can be regenerated for only 1 black mana. Similarly, Sewer Nemesis makes both creatures stronger over time. It also forces opponents to discard cards.
On top of the new decks the expansion adds a new round of challenges to the game. I’m not really a fan of the challenge mode because it feels like I’m penned in to one solution (because I am). The new decks are the shining star of this expansion by far and will inject a bit of new life into the game and at the same time give you a bit of a taste of what is coming in Return to Ravnica.