Magic is releasing a brand new set, and that means the return of everyone's favorite squabbling factions. So how will the Izzet, Dimir, Golgari, Selesnya and Boros perform in draft and sealed? The community has been at hard at work trying to figure that out with the Guilds of Ravnica community set review. If you haven't had a chance to participate, follow the link and rate the new cards for sealed and draft. It's a great way to prepare for the new format, and a great way to see how your fellow players are thinking about the set going into the prerelease this coming weekend.
Once you've had a chance to grade the cards you might find, much to your shock, that not every player agrees with your carefully chosen letter grade. Even the least controversial cards in the set has it's supporters and detractors. Take a look at this adorable little city dweller:
Spinal Centipede is a perfectly agreeable limited card - but is it just a filler common like about half the community thinks - a "C" level card, or is it one of the better commons in the set - a "C+"? Just how big is a deal is the community's minor quibble over Spinal Centipede anyways? We can quantify it. If you were to take two random participant's grades from the community review of Spinal Centipede and measured how wide the disagreement between their grades was, you'd have the community review's controversy metric. And by that metric Spinal Centipede is the least controversial card in the set.
And according to this metric there are some cards the community just can't agree about at all. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial commons and uncommons - as voted on by you, the limited playing community. For each card I'll start by summarizing the controversy, looking at the average community grade and then offering my take...
...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.
8. Haazda Marshal
The controversy: Haazda Marshal is a cheap token maker but one with a woefully under powered body. In order for Haazda Marshal to make even one token he needs at least two friends. And for him to actually survive that attack is going to take even more help.
Luckily Boros does have a way of making sure the lowly Marshal can keep getting through:
And if Marshal and friends can keep getting in, making token and growing bigger, then the extra token - which itself can get mentored - is going to be a nice payoff. So in the end how did the community decide whether the low impact body was worth it to have a token making engine?
Community grade: C-
What I think: I do like Haazda Marhsal's interaction with Mentor creatures. An opponent who is facing down an attack from the Marshal, a creature with mentor (like the aforementioned Blade Instructor), and a third battalion member is going to have an interesting choice. Should they kill the Blade Instructor and stop more +1/+1 counters from coming down? Kill the Marshal before it spits out more tokens?
It's easy to see a curve out that involve Marshal some removal and a mentor creature or two putting the opponent in a position from which they can't recover. However, that doesn't change the fact that Marshal unaided is a 1/1 creature with no evasion. That makes it just about the most horrible top deck imaginable.
And when you get the Marshal going, what do you get for your trouble? A single 1/1 per turn. Certainly effects that pump out a small body every turn can be powerful—Squirrel Nest, Bitterblossom, a posse of planeswalkers—but those are at their best when you can sit back and build up for an alpha strike over several turns. Haazda Marshal has to be getting in to build that army, which makes for a very different dynamic.
Some formats reward an aggressive deck that can get out the gates quickly, go wide and beat down hard. If there exists such a deck in Guilds of Ravnica (cough... Boros... cough) Haazda Marshal might be a bit player. It's not enough for me to give this a good grade, but it might make the cut in the right deck.
7. Costmotronic Wave
The controversy: Cosmotronic Wave does two situationally good things at a high price and at sorcery speed. Between the casting cost, the timing restrictions and the hit or miss nature of the abilities it's not suprising that the community struggled to find the right grade for Cosmotronic Wave.
In the end the players who really, really liked Cosmotronic Wave were just about evened out by those who thought it underwhelming and the community average ended up being perfectly average.
Community grade: C
What I think: If either half of Cosmotronic Waves's ability goes well for you, you should end up very happy. Cards with this sort of flexibility make for a very maindeckable card. The only thing that makes me reticent to go any higher than the community grade is that there's a limit to how many Cosmotronic Waves I'll be willing to play in any deck. Right now I'm going to put that number at 1, but if the format breaks the right way I can see picking up Cosmotronic Wave higher.
6. Selective Snare
The controversy: Selective Snare lures in players with the tantalizing offer offer of bouncing a whole board full of creatures on the cheap. If you've ever cast Undo or Sea God's Revenge, you know that can be a game-winning play. But in a diverse plane like Ravnica, how often will the crowds align for such a blowout? Without that upside, Selective Snare is pretty awful: 1U sorcery-speed creature-bounce is a card I would never want to maindeck.
So the controversy is: is the upside worth the risk of having to play a potentially underwhelming bounce spell?
The verdict was split and in the end the grade for Selective Snare is a just average.
Community grade: C
What I think: Sorcery speed bounce with situational upside is not a card I'm especially excited about. I can see this making the cut - especially if reseting Mentor-ed creatures at sorcery speed is important or if I find opponents routinely playing incidentally tribal decks. But I'm hoping to keep this in my sideboard to start.
5. Creeping Chill
The controversy: Cards that only effect an opponent's life total are a mainstay on the controversial card list (this may be foreshadowing). Unless a card like Creeping Chill actually kills your opponent, it's essentially dead, and casting it is a waste of a card and mana. For that reason, a plurality of players in the community review regard Creeping Chill as an unplayable 'F'.
However, some players are clearly intrigued by Creeping Chill's second ability. Getting three damage and three life for the low, low cost of no cards and no mana has got a subset of the community intrigued. And with Surveil being a major mechanic in Guilds of Ravnica, the possibility of getting something for nothing has landed Creeping Chill as the fifth most controversial common or uncommon on the list.
Community grade: D
What I think: Cards can land on a controversial list for all sorts of reasons. A common one is that constructed players are excited for the card and that excitement seeps into the community limited set review.
And while the dredge players of the world are evaluating a potential new toy, actually drawing this card in limited is a good way to be down a card against your opponent.
4. Gravitic Punch
The controversy: Leave it to the Izzet to make even a straight forward card like Lava Axe complicated.
Gravatic doubles down on a situational card like Lava Axe by being doubly situational. It's still only good if you can put your opponent's life to zero, and now can only do so if you have a creature with high power—that survives this card resolving. Only a handful of creatures have more than 4 power. Still, the ability to Jump-start means that you might be able to close out the game with the ole' one-two Gravatic Punch.
Cards that only effect life totals are always controversial, and Gravatic Punch is no exception. Overall the community judged Gravatic Punch to be a below-average card.
Community grade: C-
What I think: In the all-too-brief round of chaos drafts on MTGO last month, I got to assemble a beautiful combo:
With a spare instant or two, it wasn't hard to turn an unblocked cyclops into a K.O. That sort of "one big turn" combo kill is classic Izzet style, and this card could fit into that strategy—assuming the creatures doing the punching are up to the challenge.
If Punch has a home, I imagine it will be alongside cards like these:
These cards seem like fine ways to get in big chunks of damage, but 10-power Nivix Cyclops they are not. That means Gravatic Punch really is just a risky-Lava Axe with Jump-start. My default grade for Lava Axe cards is 'D.' For me the risks and advantages are a wash, so I'm going to stick with that here.
3. Join Shields
The controversy: Join Shields does most everything you'd want a mass pump spell to do - hexproof and indestructible foil most opponent's plans to interact with your creature. Untapping your creatures mean that committing to a big attack won't leave you vulnerable on the backswing, and combined with indestructible means you can commit your army fearlessly.
Wait, aren't we forgetting something?
Because Wizards forgot to add the whole "pump" ability to Join Shields, and because, for a combat trick, it costs roughly infinite mana, Join Shields ends up on the most controversial list.
Community grade: C
What I think: I think if your opponent has a bunch of tapped creatures and you have a suspiciously good looking attack, and they are holding open FIVE mana, it's going to be awfully hard to bluff with Join Shields on defense.
And because it doesn't grow your forces it's also not going to turn a board in your favor.
And because it costs so much, it's not an effective way to protect a key creature from removal.
Join Forces feels powerful, but ultimately too clunky to be a card I want to play.
2. Guild Summit
The controversy: Guild Summit offers a sweet reward for scooping up every gate you can during the draft. Given that Wizards has pumped up the "as-fan" for Gates—how often they appear in packs—to let players draft 3+ color decks, you might be able to end up with a warehouse of Gates, and thus draw a whole pile of cards from Guild Summit.
That has some players dreaming big. However, the majority think that the price of Guild Summit—4 mana or more if you want to get to get your one card investment back up front, assuming you draft and play enough gates to draw them—make it no better than a slow, conditional divination.
The community grade ranks Guild Summit below average.
Community grade: C-
What I think: Many times have I drafted five-color durdles: all the fixing and all the card draw but never getting my hands on good ways to actually win. It rarely goes well.
This card reminds me of Secret Plans from Khans of Tarkir: a powerful draw engine if the game played out just-so. But morphs are cards you actively want in your deck, and gates are only useful if they are helping you cast game-winning cards. If I draft five color gates, it will be so I can pick up lots of great gold cards and bombs, not to squeeze some clunky card advantage out of Guild Summit.
If you are the five color drafter, I don't think you'll have to work hard to have Guild Summit float to you during the draft. All this makes Guild Summit something I'm not going to prioritize.
1. Enhanced Surveillance
The controversy: Few cards are quite so on the nose as Enhanced Surveillance, whose purpose is to literally Enhance Surveil. This has all the feel of a build around type uncommon, but the community isn't sure if making each surveil trigger dig deeper is a good enough payoff for playing a card with such non-existant board impact.
Some players think that, once the card-selection starts flowing, the Dimir deck is going to run away with the game; they have ranked Enhanced Surveillance as a premium card. However, a sizable chunk of the community is skeptical and overall thinks it's below average. That makes Enhanced Surveillance our most controversial common or uncommon.
Community grade: C-
What I think: I quite like the Dimir value pieces in the set and feel that a surveil heavy deck is definitely going to be a major player in the format. However, what I like about surveil is that it's mostly costed to help sculpt your deck while playing otherwise reasonably costed cards:
And that the other payoff cards both effect the board and help close out the game:
But each of those cards just count how often you surveil, not how deep into your deck you spy!
It's hard to see what Enhanced Surveillance actually brings to the table for you average surveil-focused Dimir deck, since it neither has surveil itself nor helps close out the game by itself. However it's definitely possible that the problem with Dimir is that once you get a few payoff cards down, you simply can't reliably chain Surveil cards together without a card like Enhanced Surveillance greasing the wheels. If that's the case it's possible that Enhanced Surveillance is the lynch pin that holds a good Dimir deck together.
That said, I'm way more interested in making sure I draft this card:
...and at least going into the first weeks of limited I'm planning on leaving Enhanced Surveillance on the sideline.
Those are the 8 most controversial commons and uncommons in Guilds of Ravnica. What cards am I wrong about? Where is the community misjudging the cards? Do you have a better read on the environment? Let us know: rate the cards yourself.