MTG Gatecrash: Sealed Decks with a Plan

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This weekend is the Magic pre-release for Gatecrash, the second block in the Return to Ravnica series.  With 249 cards in the set, Gatecrash is another large set and will be drafted on it’s own.  Sealed packs and singles for this set may be purchased starting on February 1st, when we’ll also be hosting the first FNM Gatecrash-legal Standard of the season (that includes special release card promos).

Gold Hybrid

So what’s Gatecrash all about?  I’ve talked before about the Ravnica block being a “gold set,” but what does that mean?  At the most basic, it includes gold cards and hybrid mana cards (pictured left).

Both traditional gold cards and hybrid mana cards are multicoloured (and count as all of their colours at all times).  Gold cards are pretty easy to understand.  Mortus Strider is blue and black.  You need one black mana and one blue mana (along with one more mana of any type) to cast it.  Anything that affects black or blue spells will affect it; anything that affects, say, “nonblue” spells won’t affect it, because it is blue, even though it’s also another color.

Arrows of Justice is also both red and white, but it is easier to cast.  You can pay one white mana and two of any other to cast it, or you can pay one red mana and two of any other.  Cards like this can fit well into a red or a white deck and are easy to draft or play without requiring you to commit to more colours.

Gatecrash also introduces a new mechanic for each of the two-colour guilds in this set.  extort

The Orzhov Syndicate introduces Extort.

Whenever you cast a spell, the extort abilities of permanents you control will trigger.  As the trigger resolves, you’ll be given the chance to pay W or B (extort cards, regardless of color, let you pay either white or black).  If you decide not to pay, nothing happens.  If you do have a spare mana to pay, each of your opponents will lose 1 life, and you’ll gain that much life.  Each trigger lets you pay up to one mana; you can’t pump more mana into it unless you have multiple cards with extort in play.

This mechanic is as much about winning a slow, long game as it is about staying in that game with life gained.  If that’s your style, you’ll fit in well with the ghost council.

The House Dimir uses Cipher.

cipherAs a spell you control with cipher resolves, you may exile it and choose a creature you control.  The cipher card is then encoded on that creature, and whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, its controller may copy the encoded card and cast the copy without paying its mana cost.  This ability is a bit tricky.  Here’s what you need to know:

  • After you copy the encoded spell, it remains encoded on the creature (whether you cast the copy or not).
  • If more than one spell is encoded on a single creature, you can copy any or all of them when that creature deals combat damage to a player. You can cast the copies in any order.
  • The copies created by the triggered ability can’t be encoded on a creature.
  • If you cast a spell with cipher, encode it onto a creature, attack with that creature, and deal damage with that creature, you’ll get to cast that spell twice in one turn.
  • The spell’s instructions are followed in order, so exiling it and encoding it on a creature is the last thing you’ll do while resolving it.

The Gruul Clans just Bloodrush.Bloodrush

Bloodrush is an ability you’ll see on red and green creatures.  For a cost stipulated on the card you give an attacking creature a bonus, which means it can be activated only during combat and only targeting a creature that’s currently attacking.  The bloodrush ability isn’t a spell and can’t be countered by things that only counter spells.  It uses the stack and can be responded to normally.

The Boros Legion adds Battalion.


Boros creatures with battalion abilities are at their strongest when they attack alongside their allies.  Battalion is an ability word that marks a particular kind of triggered ability.  A creature’s battalion ability triggers when it and at least two other creatures attack.  The bonus from battalion abilities varies from card to card, but the trigger is always the same.

Battalion abilities use the stack and can be responded to normally.

Boros decks making good use of this mechanic will include a lot of creatures, both with the Battalion mechanic and to help support it.  If you’re in these colours, make sure you don’t include too many combat tricks as they’ll take up valuable space for these creatures.

The Simic Combine is Evolve-ing.

Evolve is an ability that triggers whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control.  Compare the new creature’s power to the evolve

evolvecreature’s power and the new creature’s toughness to the evolve creature’s toughness.  If either or both of those values is higher for the new creature, the ability triggers (it only triggers once for each creature that enters the battlefield, even if that creature’s power and toughness are both higher).

After the ability has gone on the stack and players have a chance to respond to it, it resolves. If the new creature still has a higher power and/or toughness, you’ll put a +1/+1 counter on the evolve creature.

If multiple creatures enter the battlefield at the same time—say, because they’re tokens—evolve triggers separately for each, and the triggers resolve one by one.

Legion of Overpowered

For example, say an effect puts three 2/2 creatures onto the battlefield while you control Cloudfin Raptor.  Each of those creatures has a higher power and/or toughness than the Raptor, so evolve triggers three times.  When the first trigger resolves, Cloudfin Raptor gets a +1/+1 counter.  When the second trigger resolves, Cloudfin Raptor is a 1/2.  The second 2/2 creature token no longer has a greater toughness than Cloudfin Raptor, but its power is still greater, so Cloudfin Raptor gets another +1/+1 counter.  When the third trigger resolves, that 2/2 creature token has neither a greater power or toughness than the now-2/3 Cloudfin Raptor, so no +1/+1 counter is added.

So hopefully that adds a little bit of clarity, both for the pre-release and for future drafts.  Hope to see you all out this weekend, where we get to explore the other half of new Ravnica together.

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