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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Oct 1, 2012

Returning To Ravnica, Experiencing The Prerelease

This past weekend marked the beginning of an important time in Magic: The Gathering. It was the weekend of the prerelease, which is an event where players get to see and play with some of the new set for the game before it releases. Being the Magic player that I am, I was revved and ready to hit this prerelease like a freight train. I made sure to get everything packed and was out the door Saturday morning before my local game shop even opened.

I started playing Magic back when the Mirrodin block was out. There have been plenty of new sets since then, but in my entire career none have stood out to me like the Ravnica block. I fell in love with the guilds and really liked the idea of dual-colors signifying a guild loyalty. Each guild played to different strengths, so there was always something for everyone. I played the most heavily during this block’s run, and when it was rotated out I became quite upset. Since I’m a player who primarily sticks to standard-legal decks, I could no longer use the cards I came to favor. Now, however, Wizards of the Coast has decided that we need to go back to this legendary city to see what’s changed since its fall. I couldn’t be happier.

The city of Ravnica is ran by different guilds, each with their own influence over certain operations within the city’s walls. Each guild is represented by two colors in the game, and playing a guild determines the type of deck you’ll use. A list of the guilds are as follows:

  • The Boros Legion – red/white
  • The Golgari Swarm – black/green
  • The Selesnya Conclave – green/white
  • House Dimir – blue/black
  • The Orzhov Syndicate – black/white
  • The Izzet League – red/blue
  • The Gruul Clans – red/green
  • The Azorious Senate – blue/white
  • The Cult of Rakdos – red/black
  • The Simic Combine – blue/green

In the newest set, which will release next week, we go back to see what’s happened with the guilds since we last left them. Return to Ravnica (as it’s so aptly named) will be this new set, and in it we’ll see Rakdos, Azorious, Izzet, Selesnya, and Golgari. Unlike the first time we met the guilds we’ll see a big set first, then a smaller set, and finally a set that compliments everything we’ve seen already. This will add more flavor, variety, and options to players when they construct decks.

With all of this knowledge in my brain I was stoked for the prerelease event. The breakdown was simple: you’d head to your local game store to register. Then you’d choose a guild to play as and pay the entry fee. You’d receive a guild box that would contain a guild pack, five booster packs, a life die, a sticker for your guild, and a letter from your guild welcoming you. Each guild’s letter was different, but they were all awesome. From the cards you received you’d build a 40-card deck to go up against the other players who attended. Then a series of rounds would ensue, each round consisting of the best two out of three games. Wins and losses were recorded and the next match-ups would begin. At the end of all the rounds the winners would win prizes, though at my game store everyone who showed up received a prize (that’s another reason why I love this shop).

I had spent the previous two weeks mulling over which guild I would choose, and it was seriously damaging my brain. Back when the original Ravnica set was out I played Golgari exclusively. At first I decided that I would follow this route again, though the night before the release I had a change of heart. In a last-minute change of plans I decided to choose the Rakdos guild. My idea was to build a deck that was extremely fast so I could get in and under my opponents before they had time to react. After constructing a deck, I found that my idea was solid.

I wound up with a lot of dudes that were low-cost, though they packed a punch. The new Rakdos mechanic is Unleashed, which allows you to summon a creature with a +1/+1 counter on it at the cost of being unable to block. Though they weren’t good for defending, I wasn’t planning on playing defensively so the mechanic worked well for me. I threw in an enchantment called Deviant Glee which pumped up my creature +2/+1 for one black mana. I constructed the deck in such a way that I could play a creature with unleashed on turn one, play the enchantment on turn two, and attack for 4 damage. This would stack each turn, providing my creatures didn’t die somehow, and I’d have my opponents down to half their life by the fourth turn. I was fast and furious, literally. My only downfall with this construction was that I had no flyers to protect me and I couldn’t deal with big creatures. That further reinforced my “get in there and get it done quick” strategy.

After a hard-fought six rounds I ended up going 4-2 and I placed in the top ten. I was extremely proud of myself, especially because I hadn’t played a constructed event, or limited for that matter, in about 6 years. I met a lot of cool people at the event, and I walked away with some awesome prizes. It made me feel good to be back in the game of Magic, and the best part of it all was that my wife joined in with me.

So now we come to the moral of the story. What would that be? I guess it’s that I’m excited for Return to Ravnica, the cards all look amazing, and going to prereleases is a lot of fun. If there’s one thing Wizards of the Coast does right it’s Magic: The Gathering, and I think this new set will see a large influx of new and returning players. I know Rakdos would be pleased with my performance, even if I didn’t come out all the way on top. From what I experienced Golgari and Azorious are the guilds to beat during these events. We’re only a week away from release, and the anticipation is agonizing.

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