The prerelease weekend for Return to Ravnica is well underway, and thousands of Magic players across the world have gotten their first taste of the new set today. I was one of those, and my already-high expectations were massively exceeded; my full prerelease report is to come in a future article. For now, I will continue my breakdown of the full set by color with the second half of Return to Ravnica’s black cards out of the card image gallery. Let’s begin with a card that I saw getting used quite a lot this afternoon:
Ogre Jailbreaker – Some people (Spikes and overly self-serious aggro players) pooh-pooh defenders. They should not do that. At the prerelease this guy bought a lot of people a lot of time, and then they dropped their Gates and suddenly every Ogre Jailbreaker was way, way more efficient than any black creature has a right to be. If nothing else, Rakdos decks should be running this to hedge their unleash bets.
Pack Rat – This is more or less Golgari’s new tech because of how degenerately it interacts with scavenge, but pay attention to the fact that every discard is an exponential increase in power for it (One 1/1, then two 2/2s = 4 power, three 3/3s = 9, and so on) even without other Rats on the board. In Standard this is certainly an interesting removal-and-block-resistant beater that requires merely a bit of overextension to be effective, and in Casual and perhaps even Modern this is something that is going to make Ratcatcher a deck.
Perilous Shadow – Dang, what is with all the fat toughnesses in black in this set? Only being able to pump in even amounts is an odd limitation, but one that makes sense given all the other even numbers on the card (CMC and both power and toughness). This is worth an inclusion in Limited decks for sheer versatility; it’s a scalable attacker for all occasions and a damn good blocker too.
Sewer Shambler – I can attest as to just how amazing this card is, having used it at the pre-rel. This might be the best black hoser in the set, first off. But look at that scavenge cost: That’s only three mana to throw two +1/+1 counters around, and it’s a 2-power evasive body. On the battlefield or in the ‘yard, you will always find a use for this on and after turn 3.
Shrieking Affliction – Now this is a card I wish I had in my prerelease Sealed pool. This is an incredible way to punish aggro; and at one mana it can come down at any time, making your opponents have to always think twice about overextending. Plus it plays great as a win condition in monoblack control decks that pack a lot of discard; don’t even think about what it does in multiples because it is not pretty.
Slum Reaper – Fleshbag Marauder was insanely super efficient. This is Fleshbag Marauder at a higher p/t. Any questions? Assuredly always going to be a high pick in draft.
Stab Wound – With all the fat creatures in the Return to Ravnica metagame, this is more than just removal; this is a clock, and a surprisingly fast one too. I loved Pillory of the Sleepless and I have almost the same amount of love for Stab Wound.
Tavern Swindler – Look at her. LOOK AT HER. A voluptuous corseted white-haired con woman who’s got a coin flip activated ability and gives black a not-reliable-at-all means of last-ditch anti-aggro survival. This is going to be either your favorite or least favorite card in the set. (I think you can tell she’s basically my favorite, especially since I got to put her to good use at today’s prerelease. Tapping her all day long, oh yes.) Did I mention she’s a “strictly better” Walking Corpse? Because she’s not controversial enough already. WHAT A BABE.
Terrus Wurm – Okay, this is worse in many ways than Deadbridge Goliath. I can accept that. I will counter with the fact that its friendly mostly-colorless scavenge and mana costs won me games today. Do not discount the seven-mana scavenger.
Thrill-Kill Assassin – I keep thinking that R&D has got to be kidding me with these Rakdos creatures. A 2/3 for 1B? What is this, Arabian Nights? In all seriousness, though, there’s no wrong way to play this one; a deathtouchy blocker for two mana is obviously good stuff and a high-toughness attacker that makes blocking a real sadistic choice is usually even better.
Ultimate Price – I have not seen this in action yet, but I heard it’s great removal; many of the strong creatures in RtR are in fact monocolored and someone at the prerelease told me that this prevented at least one Desecration Demon close call.
Underworld Connections – Interesting enchant land subtheme in this set. I like how this can activate both immediately after dropping and on an opponent’s turn, unlike Phyrexian Arena, and can be turned off in a pinch. I can see this being abused with the likes of Arbor Elf in Golgari.
Zanikev Locust – This is a set full of expensive flyers, but this is one of the better ones; Golgari seems to lack consistent evasion otherwise, and four mana to three counters is the most brutal scavenge ratio outside of Slitherhead.