Well, folks, it's been awfully quiet around here the last few months, and I wish it weren't so. Alas, demands of real life continue to make free time a precious luxury which I must carefully spend, lest I run out of it.
That said, there is no way in hell I would let a new set slip by without doing a set review, so I break my silence at least for as long as it takes to complete this review of Gatecrash, the hotly anticipated follow up to last year's Return to Ravnica.
Folks, I was a big fan of the last set, but overall, I think Gatecrash is set to blow it out of the water - at least for some people. Guildpact seems largely aimed at a different audience than RtR was. Return to Ravnica certainly brought a lot of new toys to the casual and EDH crowd, but overall I felt the set would have been far more thrilling and satisfying to me were I a more competitive player. Whether Limited was your stock and trade or one of the constructed formats - Modern or Standard - I think RtR was aimed more at you, the tournament-oriented player.
Don't get me wrong, I found a lot to love in RtR, but I truly think I would have found much more still if I were able to Draft as much as I'd like to, or if I were a Standard player at even the FNM level. Gatecrash, on the other hand, seems to have far more casual appeal, more EDH-worthy stuff, and basically it just feels more "Timmy" where RtR felt more "Spike".
As an aside, "Johnny" seems to have gotten the short end of the stick yet again. I feel for the clever, creative and original deck builders out there. The "Johnny" cards these days tend to be stuff like Omniscience or Enter the Infinite - basically, they take very little creativity or cleverness to win with these cards. I feel like Wizards has bought to much into the stereotype of the Johnny player, assuming that all Johnny wants is to win with some big combo. But really, what Johnny really wants is to solve a puzzle - to figure out how to win with a big combo. It's missing the point entirely if there is no puzzle. The stupidest, most unoriginal, creatively-bankrupt player in Magic's history should have no trouble figuring out how to win with cards like Omniscience.Sure, you have to live long enough to cast the spell, yeah, but that's not good enough. If the only puzzle Johnny has to solve to win is "How do I get 10 mana to cast this?", he is not going to be satisfied one whit - not if he's a true Johnny.
Johnny wants, above all else, to kill you with cards you never see coming. To kill you with cards you had written off as unplayable jank. To win in a way that is uniquely his own. Shit like Enter the Infinite ain't going to cut it. There's probably a better selection of Johnny-ish stuff if you're solely focused on 60-card, but for the EDH-oriented Johnnies, there is not a whole lot to get excited about.
Anyway, that is more preamble than I intended, and more soapbox-y too. On with the show!
Up first is the might Orzhov Syndicate. Orzhov is my favorite guild, both in flavor and in gameplay. I love a good W/B deck, and so I indulge my personal bias today, and let my favorite take the lead.
I will admit that this does have some interesting political implications in multiplayer, but not ones that I personally feel are worth exploring.
I plan to play this card a lot, and I expect it will be used against me with alarming frequency as well.
Would have been far more interesting with Extort instead of the current life loss wording.
Overall I'm quite excited by the Orzhov Syndicate here. They got one of the worst Charms, the guild mechanic Extort is woefully unplayable, save the Rares with the keyword, and the spot removal is weak. That said, they did get some very playable cards at Rare, the new Guild Leader should help to open up new avenues of deck building in the W/B colors, and their new Guildmage is one of the best. Then there's the 1-2 punch of Meciless Eviction and Immortal Servitude. Not terrible by any means.