Guilds of Ravnica is upon us! The set released on Magic Online today (Thursday, Sept. 27) and pre-release weekend will be happening around the world this weekend. Given that we are a little over a week away from Guilds of Ravnica being Modern legal in paper, I’d like to discuss some of the cards in the set and how they impact Storm.
*Disclaimer – This are my opinions having not played with the cards below that you can certainly disagree with. What’s written here isn’t truth, just conjecture.
The first card that comes to mind almost immediately is Thousand-Year Storm. This card, aptly named, is off the charts in power level. In fact, it’s way more powerful than Pyromancer Ascension and additionally doesn’t need to use the graveyard to get going (one thing I really like in potential sideboard cards in Storm). Being able to untap with this card and at least two spells in hand with one being a cantrip almost certainly means game over for the opponent.
Now to the down side, which is fairly obvious – the mana cost. Despite the power level being actually insane, its converted mana cost (CMC) of six is a huge detriment, and one I believe will keep Thousand-Year Storm from seeing Modern play. At a CMC of four, I believe this card would be playable and boarderline playable at 3UR.
The next card that caught my attention is Firemind’s Research. This is a grindy card that has similarities to Pyromancer Ascension, Search for Azcanta and Dynavolt Tower. Truth be told, it’s probably somewhere in between. Similar to Thousand-Year Storm, I like the fact this card does not use the graveyard. Additionally, it cost two mana and is difficult to remove as an enchantment.
My issue with this card is the mana investment is steep, especially if you are planning on using Firemind’s Research as a win condition in addition to the card draw engine. Modern is a very fast format and this card wouldn’t be playable in a large number of matchups. I could see Firemind’s Research being playable in matchups like BGx and control decks, but even then it’s a stretch in my opinion. Storm has better current options (Pyromancer Ascension, Precognition Field, etc.) for this type of effect.
Guilds of Ravnica also gives us a couple of cards that can copy instants and sorceries in Expansion/Explosion and League Guildmage. See below.
League Guildmage is not expensive in converted mana cost, but its abilities are mana intensive. Expansion/Explosion has some potential to me, but the Expansion side not being able to be reduced in cost from a mana bear is an issue. Additionally, the card Increasing Vengeance is Modern legal and does not see play.
Next up are three cards (see below) that have the new mechanic jump-start, which is a pseudo flashback type of effect that requires discarding a card in addition to paying its mana cost to cast from the graveyard. Quite frankly, I’m disappointed that none of these excite me for Storm. I was really excited when jump-start was announced as a mechanic and hold out hope for something better in the future, but I just don’t see it in any of these cards.
Risk Factor is downright unplayable in my opinion as Browbeat exists and is not played in either Burn or Storm. Radical Idea is interesting, but two mana to just cantrip is a bad ratio, and even with a bear out, having to discard a land to draw a card is not good. Take Inventory is just a better version of this card, in my opinion, and it does not see play. Finally, I don’t think Chemister’s Insight is playable either as Gifts Ungiven is just strictly better, but I think it’s the most likely of the three cards above to do so. It’s a pseudo Pieces of the Puzzle replacement (though weaker in a vacuum), but should Storm go towards a more permanent-based sideboard plan, I can theorize a world where this card is alright (moreso if the CMC was 2U). In reality, it’s a big stretch and likely won’t ever see play.
The next card that I stumbled up and thought about is Ral, Izzet Viceroy. This card has the ability to see play in Modern, in my opinion, but I don’t see it in Storm. It checks boxes that plansewalkers need to in Modern – draws cards, protects itself and has a game-winning ultimate. Chandra, Torch of Defiance does all of this for Storm already and one mana less. This card could be a sideboard card to try out early on in the life of Guilds of Ravnica, but a one-of at most and I think there are better options for this type of effect.
The last card I wanted to discuss here that I’ve seen a lot of debate about in Modern as a whole as well as in Storm is Mission Briefing. Unpacking this card, the first effect is the new mechanic surveil, which is basically a scry except cards you don’t want on top of the deck go to the graveyard rather than the bottom of the deck. Time will tell, but this effect to me feels somewhere in between Preordain and Strategic Planning without drawing a card. Preordain with 100 percent be a four-of include into Storm if it wasn’t on the banned list and Strategic Planning has been played before. Surveil two in a vacuum seems like an effect that synergizes with Storm’s game plan, especially in game one when the graveyard is more reliable.
The second effect is a psuedo Snapcaster Mage effect. This card will not replace Snapcaster Mage as the body is viable in a lot of Modern strategies. Storm isn’t in the market to out-grind opponents to victory (with the exception of postboard games in certain matchups), and having enough mana to cast a card from the graveyard when we aren’t comboing can be difficult at times.
Finally, the mana cost of UU is the part of this card that if changed to 1U, allowing a cost reduction from mana bears, would vastly increase the chances of this card being playable in Storm in my opinion. One of the questions I asked myself is what card could I theorize casting from the graveyard with Mission Briefing? Rituals don’t really do anything as we have to pay UU followed by UR or just R with a mana bear. We could cast Manamorphose which would basically convert to a Preordain for four mana (or three with a bear in play). We could cast Gifts Ungiven from the graveyard, but the surveil two is worthless do to Gifts Ungiven shuffling your deck afterward. The card to flashback that makes the most sense is a one-mana cantrip. Is paying UUU worth draw a card and seeing the top 3-5 cards (depending on cantrip)? Time will tell, but my initial reaction is no.
So if you forced me to play Mission Briefing, how would I play it? I’d probably start with playing it in the Noxious Revival spot. This has a big problem, however, as one of the advantages of Noxious Revival is you can net mana from it due to its Phyrexian mana cost.
To summarize, Guilds of Ravnica has some sweet new cards that operate on the axis Storm is trying to operate on. The issue I see is either the card is too expensive, cost to much to get the effect they provide or better options exist currently. The biggest disappointment for me was not having a card with jump-start pop off the spoiler list. Some good news to close, however, is that Steam Vents will drop in price due to the reprint and we have some new flavor text for Goblin Elecromancer.
Did I miss any cards you’d like to discuss? Do you think I am improperly evaluating anything? Finally, what cards are you most exited to try? Let me know in the comments or via Twitter @StormModern!