Guilds of Ravnica limited events are starting soon (in fact on Arena they start today), and to prepare the limited playing community is judging every new card in the set. You can see the results of their work at the Guilds of Ravnica community set review. The current card rankings represent the efforts of hundreds of players submitting over 100,000 individual card grades. You guys are amazing, and once again I'm blown away by the time you've taken to submit your grades.
If you haven't had a chance to submit your grade, follow the link above and fill out the surveys. Once you have, check out the community rankings, where you'll see that even for cards where there is general consensus, the limited playing community doesn't always 100% agree.
To illustrate my point let's look at one of the least controversial cards in the set, Doom Whisperer:
No surprise for a huge, undercosted, evasive threat with a potentially broken ability, but the community has decided Doom Whisperer is a bomb. Whether it's an "A+" bomb or merely an "A" bomb is open to debate, but the message from the community is clear: Doom Whisperer is a nightmare for opponents.
If Doom Whisperer represents one end of the scale — where the community mostly agrees — the cards we are going to talk about today are on the opposite end. These are the cards where we couldn't agree, where there is no consensus. Last time we looked at the most controversial commons and uncommons of Guilds of Ravnica. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial rares and mythics — 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. Chamber Sentry
The controversy: Chamber Sentry is one versatile card. No matter how many colors you end up putting into Chamber Sentry you are getting a fairly reasonable creature. While a 1/1 for 1 that can sacrifice itself to ping something is nothing to write home about, a 2/2 for 2 that can throw two damage around is pretty solid — we've all seen how annoying Walking Ballista for 2 can be once it's on the battlefield. And in a set full of gates, lockets and all manner of color fixing the fun doesn't have to stop there.
If you do manage to assemble the full WUBRG, Chamber Sentry offers you a recurable — but slow — way to grind out any game.
The controversy seems to come from whether Chamber Sentry can live up to its full promise, or if it will be a solid yet ultimately unimpressive card in a set full of powerful multicolor bombs.
Community grade: C+
What I think: I really, really like how flexible Chamber Sentry is. In any normal two color deck, Chamber Sentry will be a 2/2 with nice upside. That seems like an extremely reasonable card already.
The fact that any guild can get a nice potential 3/3 body with little more risk than playing a partially off color gate makes Chamber Sentry a low risk splash, and a great payoff for hitting an extra color (or two, or three) with your already flexible Ravnica mana base.
I'm not sure where Chamber Sentry's lower grades are coming from — constructed players mad it isn't Walking Ballista? — but right now I'm putting Chamber Sentry at a B, and depending on how prevalent splashing is, and how good it is to be able to throw around little bits of damage I could see this going up for me before we leave the format.
Chamber Sentry is a great card that goes in any deck, which means I don't expect to pass it very often.
7. Unmoored Ego
The controversy: The community has mostly decided that Unmoored Ego is a card you should never play in draft, but a sizable enough minority of players have put it all over the rest of the map, and thus Unmoored Ego finds itself on the most controversial card list.
Community grade: D
What I think: Sometimes you are going to be playing a slow deck and your opponent has a card that you just can't beat, and Unmoored Ego is going to be your sideboard Hail Mary.
Other than that Unmoored Ego should probably just stick to constructed sideboards.
6. Mausoleum Secrets
The controversy: Here we have our first (but, spoiler, not last) callback to an old school powerhouse card.
Two mana to tutor up a (black) removal spell when you need an answer or a (black) creature when you need a threat — at instant speed to boot — that's an attractive deal. However the controversy stems from the fact that fueling Mausoleum Secrets in your average deck is anything but trivial.
Will Golgari graveyard decks or Dimir surveil decks be able to fuel Mausoleum search in limited?
The community is skeptical and has, on average, given Secrets a subpar rating.
Community grade: C-
What I think: Although the undergrowth mechanic is Golgari's signature mechanic there's very little support at common and uncommon for self mill or other methods of cheating creatures into the graveyard. To me that says Golgari decks aren't going to be "undergrowth decks" but decks that are incentivized to trade so they can get occasional additional value from casting cards with undergrowth late in the game.
That makes a card like Mausoleum Secrets - which is only useful once there are creatures in the graveyard - a real liability. The search restriction is similarly problematic, not just because you can only search for black cards, but specifically because you can't search for lands.
Because, the sad fact is that sometimes when you can tutor for any card, the thing you desperately want to search out of your library is just a basic swamp. That ability to smooth out your land drops so you don't stumble in the early game is a big chunk of Demonic Tutor's power.
While you will play Secrets in a slow deck that wants additional access to it's key cards, Masuoleum Secrets is neither a high pick, nor a particular good card.
5. Risk Factor
The controversy: Cards that let your opponents make all the choices, even when both those choices seem bad for them, have an almost preternatural ability to be worse than they appear.
They also have an uncanny knack for making the most controversial list.
The controversy here comes from just how high the stakes are: Risk Factor gives your opponent the choice of either losing about half their starting life total or letting you draw an extra hand.
In the end the community decided this card was worth the risk, and the community ranking is above average.
Community grade: C+
What I think: If I were a cynical man I would call Risk Factor a Lava Axe that won't kill players and a draw spell that won't draw cards.
Maybe I've been burned by one too many opponents who've managed to find a way to win despite the hard choices presented to them by a card like Risk Factor, but I'm going to say this card is below average.
4. Experimental Frenzy
The controversy: If any up-and-coming Magic card designers are reading this article and wondering, "how can I create a controversial card?" — well, may I suggest the line of text "You can't play cards from your hand"?
The Izzet guild got it's hands on red's "use it or lose it" card advantage enchantment and boy did they cook up a weird one.
Red destroying enchantments? Can't play cards from your hand?
A plurality of players thought that this card was straight unplayable, but Experimental Frenzy had enough supporters to pull it into merely subpar range.
Community grade: C-
What I think: Experimental Frenzy is great.
Let's theory craft this out - we have Experimental Frenzy in hand, and play a few cards. Once we're low on gas we play Experimental Frenzy and then can start playing cards from the top of our library.
Most turns that means playing a land we find, and any other spells. That means we are able to virtually draw 2 or maybe even three cards a turn. This plan isn't foolproof — you can still only play one land a turn, so hitting two on top of your deck stops the games for a turn. However, for the most part you are going to be able to play two or three cards from your deck each turn, helping you pull further and further ahead.
Meanwhile we're actually putting cards away in our hand each turn, locked away by Experimental Frenzy's "can't play cards from your hand" ability. But this actually is great - it functions a little like Bomat Courier, actually:
Because once you've done burning through the top of your deck, you pay 4 mana, end your experiment and - voila - you're suddenly back to working with a full (and even carefully selected) grip.
3. Thousand-Year Storm
The controversy: Thousand-Year Storm does the unthinkable - it brings storm back to standard. The good news for 40 card decks is that the storm mechanic is not nearly as degenerate in limited as it is in constructed formats, and putting this ability on a six mana enchantment that does nothing else is a good way to lessen the chance of conceding to 5 copies of Risk Factor on the stack.
Overall the community thinks Thousand-Year Storm is a good one to miss, with a plurality deciding that it's an 'F'.
Community grade: D+
What I think: The set up cost required to win with Thousand-Year Storm is daunting. First draft an elusive spells deck, then don't actually cast your spells but somehow stay alive to resolve Thousand-Year Storm. Finally cast a bunch of spells and... profit?
And do that all without the cheap cantrips and mana ramp spells that a constructed deck relies on.
I'm sure there's a deck out there that will make this work for 1 match somewhere in the world, and when it happens, please post those pictures online, because it's something that really will only happen 1 time in a 1000.
For the rest of us who want to win a draft, we should probably leave drafting Thousand-Year Storm to the kooky Izzet tinkerers.
2. Chance for Glory
The controversy: I have another tip for any aspiring Magic card designers who want their future cards on the most controversial list: the phrase "you lose the game".
Chance for Glory gives you one shot to win the game, but you get to do so with a whole board full of indestructible creatures (notice the suspicious lack of 'until the end of turn'). That's a nice bonus, but is it enough of a bonus to make up for the fact that if you fail, you lose?
The community is overall down on Chance for Glory, with one of the weirder graphs I've seen in the card grades histograms. The spikes in the graph suggest groups of players who all think Chance for Glory is different types of bad: unplayable 'F' bad, maybe will make the maindeck if it has to 'D' bad, or below average 'C-' bad.
Community grade: C-
What I think: If any guild can use one more turn to finish off an opponent, it's the Boros Legion.
I imagine it would go like this: build up high-power forces and push through some damage, then, when your opponent taps out, alpha strike with your invincible team. If your guys are big enough, your opponent will need to chump to stay alive, and their defenses will be smashed when you attack for the win on the extra turn. If you cast it on your opponent's turn, however, you better be able to win in one attack step, because the wording says in that case you aren't getting another. Still, if you are the beatdown, Chance for Glory really can shut the door on a game.
It's not the kind of card I like - even in an aggressive deck - but in a deck all about putting the game away before your opponent can recover, Chance for Glory might have a chance to shine.
I'll go with the community average on this one.
1. Mnemonic Betrayal
The controversy: When a card is reminiscent of one of Vintage's most powerful and broken spells — Yawgmoth's Will — you have to pay attention.
Heck, Mnemonic Betrayal actually makes it easier to cast the recovered memories.
However, you can't build your deck around your opponent's graveyard and the cost of paying three mana to get a shot at your opponent's leftovers means that not all players have a high opinion of Mnemonic Betrayal. In fact the most popular rating for Mnemonic Betrayal is an unplayable "F".
However other players clearly disagree and Mnemonic's average grade is, well, average.
Community grade: C
What I think: I, for one, cannot wait until this gets resolved in a Vintage Super League. However, limited tends to be format bereft of Black Lotuses and Moxen (ignoring cube and that one super lucky Zendikar drafter). A lack of cheap spells to steal means that you probably aren't going to storm off with Mnemonic Betrayal.
It's hard for me to imagine the limited deck that wants Mnemonic Betrayal. How much mana do you need for this card to get you way ahead? Seven? Is there going to be a super controlling Dimir deck that can't actually win the game with out help from your opponent's graveyard?
What sideboard wants this? Maybe you can sideboard this against a self mill happy Golgari player to punish them from dumping spells into their graveyard?
Both seem very niche, and I think Mnemonic Betrayal is probably best forgotten.
Those are the 8 most controversial cards 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.