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Review: Magic: The Gathering: Return to Ravnica Event Decks

If you’ve been keeping up with Magic: The Gathering’s product marketing, you know that some time ago, Wizards of the Coast refined their concept of the “pre-con” (preconstructed) deck into what they call “event decks”.  These are an attempt to overcome traditional pre-con decks’ stigma of being poorly built and unfocused, to be used almost exclusively for harvesting specific sought-after cards.  Since event decks’ inception, they have been a qualified success: they are more tightly focused, with more copies of key cards, built fairly synergistically, and come complete with sideboards that (mostly) make sense.  However, these are not championship-winning decks on their own, which is just as well.  Sure, you can certainly sling one of these in kitchen-table casual play, or even at a local Friday Night Magic session (though be sure you’ll get some derisive looks from vets, for playing with a pre-con – though that may be hypocritical, given how most of them play with ‘Net-decks themselves…), but for any sort of serious performance you will want to, at the very least, tweak them substantially – so their moniker of “event decks” is, really, not at all accurate, but merely marketing hyperbole.  So why do I say this is a good thing?  Because having truly competitive decks available out-the-box would spoil the metagame and stunt innovative design even more than ‘Net-decking already does.

 

Supplier: Blowfish Entertainment
Website: www.magicsa.co.za
RRP: R319.95 each

Today we take a look at the two recently released Return to Ravnica event decks, but first a word about the current set.  In all of Magic’s history, the Ravnica set-block was one of the most popular and successful (it is certainly my personal all-time favourite, that’s for sure!).  This year’s Magic offerings represent a visit back to that time, which is one of the smartest design choices Wizards of the Coast ever made.  This doesn’t indicate stagnation in terms of game mechanics – in fact, the current block’s mechanics are among the more interesting ones I’ve seen, and in true Ravnica spirit, the graveyard plays an important part.  If you’ve never played Magic before, or have taken a leave of absence, now is a really good time to get into (or back into, as the case may be) the game.

So, then, back to the event decks.  This latest release consists of two attractively packaged decks, with black seeing a lot of love, being paired with the two other most aggressive colours, red and green.

Wrack and Rage

The red-black Rakdos guild is back with this deck, focusing on this colour combination’s speciality: hitting hard, and killing stuff.  Mercilessly.  Mechanics of note:

  • Soulbond: pairing creatures to enhance them both – a bit like creatures behaving almost like creature enchantments, sort of
  • Unleash: the option for a creature to be summoned “bigger”, but unable to block
  • Morbid: spell has additional effectiveness if a creature died earlier in the turn
  • Overload: single-target spell can be played to affect multiple targets if an alternative, much higher casting cost is paid

This deck is a bit slim on seriously power rares, but is built fairly solidly with good common- and uncommon-level synergies, with a few rares providing some extra punch.

Creep and Conquer

The alliteration continues, heralding the return of one of my favourite Ravnica guilds, the black-green Golgari – masters of recycling, but not in any eco-friendly sense.  Creatures (and even some spells) in true Golgari decks keep coming back – they just refuse to stay dead.  Notable game mechanics:

  • Scavenge: exile the creature from the graveyard to bestow +1/+1 counters based on the exiled creature’s power, upon a creature in play
  • Undying: creature returns to play upon death if it has no +1/+1 counters on it at the time
  • Soulbond: pairing creatures to enhance them both
  • Morbid: spell has additional effectiveness if a creature died earlier in the turn

This deck works pretty well as a recycling engine with substantial creature control (direct creature kill cards.)

Both decks feature brand-new guildmages, as well as new charm cards: modal spells with three effects to choose from – powerful and versatile.

And what about value for money?  Well, here’s where things look a little less rosy.  Magic has constantly grown in cost to play, so it’s no surprise that these latest products are far from cheap.  When evaluating pre-con decks’ value-for-money, it is common practice to tally up the value of the contained cards and compare to the deck’s price-tag, but with these decks being recent releases, it’s tricky to do this accurately at this time, as the prices of the new cards haven’t stabilised yet.  However, preliminary analysis suggests that Wrack and Rage is somewhat overpriced for its contents; Creep and Conquer seems a bit better, more than breaking even (though not by much).  Ultimately, the decision comes down to how much you want the convenience of a ready-made yet competent deck, and how much you are willing to spend, as well as how badly you want the rares in these decks.  If you are new to the game, these decks provide excellent examples of sound deck-building principles.

Happy spell-slinging!

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