Ravnica / Ultimate Masters: Overview
As I took the time to mention before, I've been away for quite some time. It's been a really strange couple of months away, as I found myself almost entirely segregated from the community and the information with it. I've been dying to dive back in.
With that said, I need to keep this one short, as my purpose here is to "catch up" for Ravnica Allegiance. There is much work to be done to prepare, and I need to get back into this habit gradually.
As is tradition, I will lay out what I have selected as the top 5 commanders from both sets. However, unlike previous sets, I will be taking a lot more time to discuss several honorary mentions. Narrowing down to 5 was incredibly difficult, and only discussing these 5 would not do justice to these sets as a whole. With that in mind, let's kick this overview off with my picks for the top 5 commanders from Guilds of Ravnica.
First of all, let us acknowledge that PDH now has its very own Talrand. Murmuring Mystic is absolutely fantastic, and the top pick for this set. It creates flying creatures constantly, it has a bolt-proof toughness, and it's blue. What more could you possibly want?
The remaining 4, although not matching Murmuring Mystic, still hold their own as great additions to the format. Arboretum Elemental is a creature that I find particularly fascinating. Taking advantage of Convoke (one of the set's themed mechanics), this has the potential of entering the game quite early, and staying for quite some time. What set this creature so high on this list was due to it having Hexproof. It becomes far more difficult to remove, with the best solutions being quite easy to predict. The only thing that will keep this thing at bay is something with Deathtouch, such as Nightveil Predator. Although not incredibly strong, the combination of Flyng, Deathtouch and Hexproof is incredible.
To take on such behemoths, you will need to be creative. Maybe your weapon of choice will be to run a stronger flying creature, such as Crackling Drake. We have seen this creature before in other variants, such as Spellheart Chimera and Enigma Drake, there is a key part of this rules text. While previous mentioned rely on the graveyard (vulnerable to Bojuka Bog and other forms of graveyard hate), Crackling Drake is impervious to this issue, as it also focuses on cards in exile. Once you equip Clout of the Dominus to this card, this is a serious problem.
With commanders that have such a lethal effect on the field, giving your creatures a chance to pass through defenses will be what you need the most. Swarm Guildmage has several noteworthy features, but my focus comes down to the creature type. For those who have followed, you know that I have a particular love for Tribal Elves, and this being an Elf makes it a leading competitor for a slick commander. However, that is only one of many potential builds.
These are my picks for the top 5, but as I said before, there is so much more to talk about. Many of our honorary mentions are strong in their own right, or at the very least, quite interesting or unique. There is more to observe, and I want to break these down for you.
Kicking off our honorary mentions are a set of creatures that contribute something special to token and board filling strategies. I have always discussed different ways to combat token strategies, but I am equally as enthusiastic about making such strategies work.
These two, if only they had one additional color in their identity, they would be quite deadly. Card draw disadvantages do quite a bit to hinder the value of these creatures above, but are still worth the mention. In particular, Electrostatic Field will manage to become an early game nuisance.
It's so nice to see Boros receive some more support. One of the beauties of PDH is that it tends to receive card support accidentally, and having more ideas for Boros will never hurt. In particular, these two are fantastic for dealing a lot of damage quickly. With that said, both commanders are quite vulnerable to removal, and possess a color pairing that makes such removal hard to prevent.
This card really has my interest. Card draw is such a nightmare for mono-red decks, and the ability to cycle a hand is fantastic. Several sorcery spells exist, allowing us to give Book Devourer trample, triggering that hand cycling much easier. The primary issues here come from such a high cost creature, displaying such low power.
With Guilds of Ravnica commanders addressed, it's time to dive in to the new additions provided by Ultimate Masters.
Seeing an actual legendary creature enter the ring is always incredibly exciting, but the real head-turner for this set has to be Laboratory Maniac. To be honest, I'm not quite sure yet how this will play out. Card draw is fast, but not quite fast enough. I'd love to see how players in the community pull this off.
My personal favorites narrow down to Hero of Iroas and Shirei. With that said, I would love to have seen some more multi-colored options. Thankfully, the Ravnica sets will be covering such demands.
The Rest of the 99
Both sets managed to deliver many exciting commons, but in different ways, giving us an incredibly wide range of variety. Guilds of Ravnica provided us with new multicolored creatures and artifacts, while Ultimate Masters supplied us with an array of instants and sorcery spells (many that will be finding new homes in my own decks).
I don't have much to say here, especially since so much time has past, and my initial emotions have now faded. With that said, a few of these still have their initial impact. With Foil entering the format, I can imagine it will definitely see play. In particular, I'm quite curious to see it's value in 60-card games. Ulamog's Crusher is reppin' a fresh new artwork, and I absolutely love it! New mana rocks are never a problem, and I am glad to see a new cycle. Although there is nothing particularly special, redundancy is never a problem.
As I already said, this is meant to be short. My emotions are no longer fresh, but I need to keep the archive updated. I promise with the arrival of Ravnica Allegiance, I will provide a more thorough and precise review, laying out more structures and ideas.
Getting back on the PDH wagon has it's challenges, as there is much catching up to do. I still must balance with the rest of my life tasks. With that said, I am so happy to reignite this spark, and start producing again. Be ready for a refined piece, introducing Ravnica Allegiance.