Pattern Recognition #74 - Rav, Part 2

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


5 July 2018


Hello everyone! I am berryjon, your resident Old Fogey. Welcome back to Pattern Recognition,'s most regular article series - barring the occasional week off for work or just because I'm out of energy. I endeavor to provide insightful, thought provoking and educational material for you all. Or at least a convenient target for all of you to aim your Lightning Bolts at.

Last week, I left you off having only gone through the first half of the Ravnican Guilds. Today, I'll start off by finishing giving you quick summaries of each and their relevant mechanics.

Our first stop is the Izzet, named like all the others for their founder. Bringing to the table, the Izzet are the scientists and engineers of the Plane, responsible to creating, improving and maintaining the civic works and infrastructure. Enough so that their rare dual land - Steam Vents is a reference to this machine-centricity. It's too bad though that the two Izzet Mechanics have nothing to do with this, instead focusing on the Mad Science part of their guild identity. Replicate acts as a weird version of the later Multi-kicker, except that you get the ability to change the target of each new copy of the spell. Overload, their second mechanic, channels Izzet's inner Tim Taylor and demands MORE POWER to turn their single target spells into something that hits everything. Cyclonic Rift is just so much fun! However, when I get to my retrospection, I'm going to have some fairly harsh words to say about this guild, and how they've really hurt .

The Orzhov, also known as the Church of Deals is in nature, and threads the fine line between the Church of Ravnica and the Bank of Ravnica. Their first mechanic was the needlessly complicated Haunt, which allowed a creature to have one more effect after they died. Very, very complicated. So their second mechanic rolled back the complications and we got Extort, a much simpler mechanic that merged White and Black's life gain and drain into a bonus effect for playing certain spells. They also gave me my second favourite legend from Ravnica - Teysa, Orzhov Scion.

Rakdos is the guild. In theory, they are the criminal guild, and the guild when brute force was needed and the Gruul could not due. Oddly, because of their desire for 'fun', they also have a large offering in the entertainment industry, including catering of all things. They suffered much for being the combination of the two most destructive colours, and I'll get back to what I mean later. Mechanically speaking, their impulsive nature is represented by the Hellbent keyword, which rewards the player for having no cards in hand. No cards means no plan, which means you can go all-out, right? I've won a couple games by holding onto Demonfire until it was the last card in my hand. On the other hand, Unleash is a purely creature-based mechanic which allows you to make your creatures bigger at the cost of making sure they can't block. Which is very agreeable with the aggressive leanings of these two colours - colours that have plenty of options for non-creature removal of creatures

Representing , the Selesnya is the guild of nature. Unlike the Gruul, they work more towards harmony with the city itself, incorporating buildings into their growth. They are also the most creature-based guild on Ravnica, and this is reflected in their mechanics. Convoke, which made a return in Magic 2015, is one that had its rules changed slightly between the first and last printing. Originally, you could tap creatures to reduce the cost of a Convoke'd spell, but the change meant that you could instead tap creatures in place of mana while casting the spell. This was changed to avoid problems with other cost manipulation cards. Populate was another creature mechanic, except that it instead focused on the creature tokens that and put out lots of, duplicating them for even more!

Finally, but definitely not least, the Simic are the physicians and biomancers of Ravnica. Unlike the Selesnya, who grow through nature, the Simic grow through magic. In addition, while the Izzet focus more on the materials sciences, the Simic take care of the biological ones. Graft allows you to move +1/+1 counters from a creature with this ability to another creature when they enter the battlefield. I hope you brought a few dozen counters for this ability, as many also shared a Lord effect for creatures with said counters. Supplementing this is Evolve, which is a little more passive, but does require bigger and bigger creatures to come int play to

So, there you have it. Ten Guilds. Twenty Mechanics.

But not all mechanics are created equal. Some are distinctly better in design or implementation than others.

SO let's get my promised comment out of the way first, and address just how the Izzet ruined . Their two mechanics are found exclusively on Instants and Sorceries. With the exception of Djinn Illuminatus, which simply gives Instants and Sorceries the Replicate keyword.

Ravnica began this trend, to the point where it seems like this is all that any deck is supposed to care about. From Blistercoil Weird to Adeliz, the Cinder Wind to Bloodwater Entity to Enigma Drake to Mirror Sheen and those are just the multi-coloured ones! I was utterly disappointed when Jaya Ballard, Task Mage's +1 turned out to be more mana for Instants and Sorceries only! I mean, yeah, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage has always been about casting spells thanks to her Spellshaper creature type, but seeing it on her Planeswalker version was just so....

I was and still am disappointed.

But here's the thing about the Izzet and their background on Ravnica. They are also the Engineers of Ravnica. And yet in both sets their interactions with Artifacts is limited at best, nothing more than the usual for either colour. Instead, we are focused on the temporary effects in the game. Imagine if the Izzet could destroy artifacts to gain new ones, from Red to Blue in colour!

Or better yet, combine Red's natural aggression with Blue's evasive abilities, and go for a low to the ground aggro style! I mean, it's not like Teleportal exists, right?

Battalion was mentioned in the comments last week, and that too is something I would like to talk about. Battalion's strength is in its simple design. In fact, it's even easier to utilize than the closest current mechanic - Exalted. Instead of attacking with one creature to get +1/+1 per member of the cheer squad and maybe something else, you get lots of creatures attacking where everyone gets better for it, from Legion Loyalist on up. Battalion gets better with the more creatures you have!

The Boros went from Worst to First with the new mechanic in terms of power and viability. I mean, not to knock on Radiance, but while the theory was sound, it probably could have stood to be framed as "Pick a Colour - All X of that colour get Y", instead of the finicky targeting and sharing a colour scheme that probably got pushed through due to the fact the entire block was designed to be a Gold Block, so colour had to matter.

Except, you know, aside from things like Transguild Courier, colour didn't really matter in the set.

On the flip side, we have the mechanics that really shouldn't have seen the light of day. Cipher? Really? Wizards had to create new terminology to deal with the card, and that it has multiple different states of being, being both a spell and a static ability. And then look at the costs involved! Paranoid Delusions is nice and all, but who seriously thought that Stolen Identity would go anywhere?

And on top of that, this is a creature-attacking mechanic in a colour pair that doesn't like to attack with creatures! I talked about this with my article about Ninjutsu. Mechanics that force people to attack in colours that aren't suited for it - like, you know, and you get people who will reject it and move on to other things.

Hellbent was another neat idea that was hindered by the execution. By rewarding people for having no cards in hand, you encourage faster play and more aggressive casting. Except, you know, except for permanents, this meant that you could only get the effect on the last spell cast in your turn. And you had to keep emptying your hand each turn to keep the effects.

Amonkhet tried to help this out with the non-Keyworded 'Heckbent', such as Hazoret the Fervent's inability to attack or block unless you had only one or less cards in hand. And I can tell you that having a single card in hand is far more powerful than having none. If only because you're bluffing that the Mountain in your hand is actually an Inferno.

I would like to hear your favourite and least so mechanics from these two blocks! Discuss in the comments below please.

Join me next week when I start on the history and important characters of Ravnica. There's a lot to cover, and I might even have nice things to say about Jace, the Mind Sculptor.


Oh, who am I kidding. It's Jace. Nothing good has ever come from him.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #73 - Ravnica, Part 1 The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #75 - The History of Ravnica

Myr_Mythic says... #1

Favorite mechanic: Overload Least favorite mechanic: Unleash

July 5, 2018 5:22 p.m.

berryjon says... #2

Overload is fun, but it's really a retemplated Kicker-styled mechanic.

July 6, 2018 1:48 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #3

While I think "ruined" is a bit too harsh a way of putting it, I do agree that the overly spellslinging-centered theme of today's is not to my taste. As someone's who's favorite color is , it feels weird that its enemy colors are more appealing to combine it with than its ally ones (compare e.g. Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge to Karador, Ghost Chieftain).

Still, it's not all doom and gloom; we do have e.g. The Locust God, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (the Izzet parun no less!) and last but not least Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, for which Wizards themselves commented that it was strange that there was no commander that cared about artifacts. Here's hoping the coming Rav set will make Izzet a more diverse a guild.

July 7, 2018 3:37 a.m.

Gotta love that tim taylor reference :D

Most favourite mechanics: graft, unleash and extort.

Least favourite mechanic:

replicate. It's so overly boring that i even forgot the name seconds after reading the article. Seriously. I had to scroll back up for the name. Same for forecast, though Pride of the Cloudsis awesome.

July 7, 2018 6:42 a.m.

Guftders says... #5

Most favourite mechanics: Transmute, Dredge,

Least favourite: Cipher, Haunt,

I like Forecast and Detain, but not as much as Dredge and Transmute. Dredge because of it's deck in Modern deck and Transmute because it's great for EDH.

July 8, 2018 1:31 p.m.

killroy726 says... #6

I think cipher has a better ground to stand on in EDH. But you're right when its limited purely to its home colors.

July 9, 2018 9:26 p.m.

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