The third expansion in the Return to Ravnica block arrived last week. As discussed in an earlier article, the current Magic block represents one of the smarter moves that Wizards of the Coast have made: revisiting one of the most successful and popular blocks ever. For those new to this topic, the Ravnica setting featured 10 dual-colour guilds, each with a highly defined thematic flavour and set of relevant game mechanics. The latest set, Dragon’s Maze, features all ten guilds (in many of the previous expansions set in Ravnica, only small subsets of the guilds were represented at one time), and thus proffers up a wide range of starter decks called “Intro Packs”.
At first, the overall composition of these Intro Packs had me puzzled, and even negative. You see, each pack consists of a main preconstructed deck (which is built much how a player might assemble a deck, with a theme or strategy in mind), and two booster packs. These booster packs are standard, which is to say their contents are completely random, rather than selected to back up the main deck in the way of a sideboard or such. At first, I thought to myself, “Well, this is pretty stupid! Only 40% of the cards in the boosters, on average, will ever apply!” However, I have come around to a less hostile opinion… While the above statement is true of an Intro Pack taken in isolation, as soon as you start buying more Intro Packs, you are able to start trading cards between them. Yes, this does smack of a money-making ploy, but there is also a less sinister aspect to the (initially) useless cards: education. Obviously I don’t mean that in the “school” sense, but rather in terms of learning the game. By seeing cards in other colours, you are shown what those other colours are capable of, which is handy both in getting you interested in trying them, and in knowing what to expect when you face them. Furthermore, the extraneous cards also represent an opportunity for players to trade with each other (and swap stories, strategies, and tips.)
The decks I was able to examine for this review, specifically the Gruul (red-green) and Simic (green-blue), are both quite tightly focused on their particular strategies. The Simic deck in particular caught my fancy. I have always been partial to opposite-colour decks, hence I have enjoyed playing Orzhov (white-black), Golgari (green-black), Simic, and Izzet (red-blue) the most, so seeing a well-put-together Simic deck was very gratifying. It finally sees justice being done to Simic’s overarching theme of creature evolution – it takes some time to happen, but if you fail to intervene, before you know it you’re facing an army of overdeveloped monsters that leave you feeling rather… inadequate – and dead!
All the guilds make full use of their signature mechanics, introduced earlier in the block, as well as global mechanics such as the Guildgate lands and the Cluestone artifacts (mana accelerators that can be sacrificed for a card). There is little in the way of new mechanics, though the split cards that first appeared back in Invasion make a comeback, complete with a name for their mechanic: Fuse, which (as with the original cards of this sort) allows a player to play both halves of the card at the same time.
In closing, here are my thoughts on the set: the whole Return to Ravnica block has been, compared to many previous sets, downright inspired. It has, to some extent, done justice to the excellent block that it segues from, and I can see it not only keeping current players interested, but also expect it to attract new players and even win back some veterans who may have drifted from the game. Dragon’s Maze lives up to this expansion block.