Return to Ravnica Type 4 Set Review
While the newly released Return to Ravnica set looks to be very good for Standard and Modern constructed formats, it will be equally exciting for the greatest casual format of all time: Type 4. There are some really standout cards that will be ramp up the power of any Type 4 stack. Check out our review after the jump!
If you have never had the privilege, Type 4 is a format with a shared stack/deck of cards, infinite mana, and the ability for each player to cast up to only one spell a turn (one on your turn, one on player 2’s turn, one on player 3’s turn, etc.). The full rules and an introduction can be found here, courtesy of our very own Stephen Menendian.
Each builder’s Type 4 stack will be different, with a balance of creatures, tutors, removal, counterspells, and everything else shaped by the owner’s hand. They will dictate the power level by what spells are deemed acceptable or too powerful, and what flavor they want. In my personal stack, which I consider relatively balanced stack, I don’t consider X spells like Fireball (deal X damage, or unlimited) very entertaining, so we’ll ignore those or things with Firebreathing (ie infinite pump abilities), as I want more interactive games, and generally only the most efficient or powerful spells are going to make it in the stack when facing so much stiff competition from nearly 20 years of Magic sets.
Destroy target creature. Its controller discards a card.
The destroy target creature plus discard pu-pu platter is nice, but it comes at Sorcery speed, which is below average. I don’t expect this to make any mature Type 4 stacks, but it does provide a decent option for pauper, block, or budget versions.
Whenever a creature you don’t control dies, return it to the battlefield under your control with an additional +1/+1 counter on it at the beginning of the next end step. That creature is a black Zombie in addition to its other colors and types.
The closest comparison to this card is Debtor’s Knell, which is already in most people’s Type 4 stacks. I expect this will grab a spot right alongside it in nearly every stack, because the effect is very powerful, and as an enchantment, is mildly difficult to deal with.
Creature – Vampire
Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, put that many +1/+1 counters on it.
While this is a decent size creature with evasion, it doesn’t do anything to impact the board other than make itself or a couple of other creatures bigger. This will make for a great option for a block Type 4 stack, but I don’t see it slithering into many others.
Destroy target monocolored creature.
Depending on the Instant speed removal already in your stack, this ranges from totally mediocre to totally above average. The inability to kill all of the gold creatures in Type 4 should prevent this from seeing play in any mature stacks, but it remains a very relevant option for pauper and block stacks.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may exchange control of Conjured Currency and target permanent you neither own or control.
At the very mimimum, this belongs in every Chaos Stack*, because the effect is so fun. While certainly nowhere close to an overpowered or even great card, Currency does provide some nice flavor and a chance to jack permanents from your opponents, adding a layer of intrigue to games. This will probably be going into my stack.
Return target nonland permanent you don’t control to its owner’s hand.
Overload 6U (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each”.)
As an Instant speed removal spell that can bounce everything you don’t control, Cyclonic Rift should be an automatic inclusion in every Type 4 stack. If you play Type 4 with the variant that ‘alternate casting costs’ (ie. anything not in the upper right hand corner paid) does not count as your spell for the turn, the possibility of casting this for its Overload cost makes this card even more appealing.
Jace, Architect of Thought
Planeswalker – Jace
+1 : Until your next turn, whenever a creature an opponent controls attacks, it gets -1/-0 until end of turn.
-2 : Reveal the top three cards of your library. An opponent separates them into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other on the bottom of your library in any order.
-8 : For each player, search that player’s library for a nonland card and exile it, then that player shuffles his or her library. You may cast those cards without paying their mana costs.
Starting Loyalty: 4
While very powerful in constructed play, planeswalkers often find themselves homeless in Type 4 because of the various removal and huge creatures that can kill off their entire loyalty in one swing, not to mention the fact that their abilities are often not as good as just casting the regularly played cards in Type 4 with a huge power level. This iteration of Jace has a chance to be playable though. At a bare minimum it will replace itself with the second ability (the miniature Fact or Fiction ability). But if you have a ton of defensive cards that can keep Jace on the table turn after turn, the so called ‘ultimate’ ability for -8 loyalty would be truly gamebreaking. More serious testing is required of this card, but the potential is certainly there. I would recommend proxying this up and trying it out in your stack before picking up one, as it will probably be very pricey upon release and drop thereafter.
Creature – Wurm
When Worldspine Wurm dies, put three 5/5 green Wurm creature tokens with trample onto the battlefield.
When Worldspine Wurm is put into a graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into its owner’s library.
A 15/15 creature is noticeable, and one that leaves 3 residual 5/5 counters on the battlefield when it dies is eminently playable in Type 4. All of the other Green cards in this set are very underwhelming for our purposes, but I expect Worldspine Wurm to be an auto-include in every non-pauper (commons and uncommon only) Type 4 stack.
Street Spasm deals X damage to target creature without flying you don’t control.
Overload XXRR (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each”.)
Street Spasm acts as an Instant speed board sweeper to creatures without flying, which is nice. But where it gets interesting is if your playgroup decides to allow the use of the Overload ability as an ‘alternate casting cost,’ meaning that it wouldn’t count for towards your spell for the turn. If you choose this option, then certain cards with Overload become playable. I expect this to land in any pauper Type 4 stack, as well as a handful of those who allow the aforementioned ‘alternate casting cost’ option. It’s a decent card, but not overly impressive, because it is hurt by the inability to hit creatures with flying (but it can hit creatures that can’t be targeted, at least).
Destroy target artifact you don’t control.
Overload 4R (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each”.)
If you are playing a card like Shatterstorm (Sorcery speed removal for all artifacts) or Creeping Corrosion this seems like a strict upgrade, because it can hit all artifacts while allowing you to keep yours, and also has the added benefit of the Overload ‘alternate casting cost’ mentioned above, if you play that way.
Angel of Serenity
Creature – Angel
When Angel of Serenity enters the battlefield, you may exile up to three other target creatures from the battlefield and/or creature cards from graveyards.
When Angel of Serenity leaves the battlefield, return the exiled cards to their owners’ hands.
Angel of Serenity has an interesting ability to exile cards from the battlefield and/or graveyard when it enters play, and then return them to owners’ hands when it leaves play. The plan of just exiling creatures in play and hoping to win with Angel of Serenity is highly unlikely, but this does provide a number of tactical options for the discerning player. Returning previously played or dealt with dudes with annoying abilities like Nucklavee, Desolation Giant, and Myojin of Night’s Reach enables Angel of Serenity to become one big value package. More testing is required, but I am leaning towards this as a pretty intriguing option that I suspect will land in many stacks, including my own.
Exile target creature, then populate.
The populate ability on this card is irrelevant, but unconditional Instant speed removal of any creature exiling it from the game is a solid upgrade to an existing removal spell in any stack.
Gold and Multicolored
Abrupt Decay can’t be countered by spells or abilities.
Destroy target nonland permanent with converted mana cost 3 or less.
How good is an uncounterable spell that destroys anything with a CMC of 3 or less? In Type 4 with casting costs being so high I doubt this will make the cut in many stacks.
Counterflux can’t be countered by spells or abilities.
Counter target spell you don’t control.
(You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each”.)
This card is so obviously good that it had Vintage and Type 4 wizards Stephen Menendian and Kevin Cron buzzing about on Twitter immediately after it was spoiled, questioning back in forth just how insanely good this is, and where it ranks in the overall hierarchy of Type 4 cards.
— Stephen Menendian (@SMenendian) September 13, 2012
While Counterflux is obviously an auto-include in Type 4, both Kevin and I were of the opinion that there are better counterspells. Swift Silence, Force of Will (if playing ‘alternate casting cost’ doesn’t count as a spell), and Decree of Justice are certainly all better for the interactions they provide, and I would argue that cards like Desertion and Draining Whelk are better as well, especially in smaller games. But there is no doubt that Counterflux is in an elite class and will be one of the best cards in Type 4, and as I wrote on Twitter:
— Jason Jaco (@JMJACO) September 13, 2012
Destroy target creature or planeswalker.
The Sorcery speed of this removal spell is a downer, but the ability to hit a creature or planeswalker should not be overlooked if you have a number of planeswalkers in your Type 4 stack.
Exile the top X cards of your library. For each instant or sorcery with converted mana cost X or less among them, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost. Then put all cards exiled this way that weren’t cast into your graveyard.
This card is way too busted for any Type 4 stack. The non-Oracle player’s thought bubble text just reads: kill all other players. That doesn’t provide for interactive games, and that’s not very fun.
Counter target creature spell. Essence Backlash deals damage equal to that spell’s power to its controller.
Probably too limited in scope for a very mature Type 4 stack because it can only hit creatures, Essence Backlash would make for a flavorful addition to any pauper or junior stack. Not only do you get to counter a creature, but you also do anywhere from 2-12 damage, with the average probably being in the 7-8 range, which is not bad at all.
Fall of the Gavel
Counter target spell. You gain 5 life.
This is an upgrade to any generic counterspell you might have in your stack, and should be an auto-include in every stack. There’s not much discussion needed. Counter stuff and gain some life (which often equates to about a turn), both in one tidy package.
Search your library for an instant card with converted mana cost 3, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then repeat this process for instant cards with converted mana costs 1 and 2. Then shuffle your library.
This is an interesting and limited tutor that can be cast as an Instant, and provides a potential 3 for 1. I can see this settling nicely into most Type 4 stacks.
Players can’t gain life.
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player loses half his or her life, rounded up.
While too symmetrical to want to make anybody actually draft this card, Havoc Festival makes for a nice addition to a Chaos Stack* (see Appendix for Chaos Stack info).
Creature – Dragon
You may cast sorcery spells as though they had flash.
Vedalken Orrery is one of the best cards in Type 4 because it allows you to bend the one spell per turn rule and lets you play any type of spells on other people’s turns. Hypersonic Dragon is not quite as powerful, but is right in that wheelhouse, allowing you to cast Sorcery spells on other players’ turns, while also providing a 4/4 hasty flyer. This should be a welcome addition to your stack.
Isperia, Supreme Judge
Legendary Creature – Sphinx
Whenever a creature attacks you or a planeswalker you control, you may draw a card.
While the ability to draw extra cards is always welcome, especially when attached to a 6/4 flyer, Isperia probably will not make the cut in most stacks. It is outclassed by Consecrated Sphinx in the card drawing department, and by most other creatures in the size (and special ability) department.
Search your library for up to two creature cards and reveal them. Put one into your hand and the other into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.
This basically acts as a Sorcery speed Eladamri’s Call to tutor up a creature into your hand, but also has the benefit of being able to dump something like Genesis or Glory into your graveyard for value. It is flavorful addition, but merits more testing to see if this is in for the long haul in advanced Type 4 stacks.
New Prahv Guildmage
Creature – Human Wizard
WU: Target creature gains flying until end of turn.
3WU: Detain target nonland permanent an opponent controls. (Until your next turn, that permanent can’t attack or block and its activated abilities can’t be activated.)
This is a really interesting defensive card, in that it can freeze out nearly any permanent from damaging you, can shut down stuff like Planar Portal, and also can give your creatures evasion. This is an auto-include in any budget or pauper stack, and I suspect will actually make the cut in a number of normal Type 4 stacks as well.
Creature – Human Wizard
1UR: Draw a card, then discard a card.
2UR: Copy target instant or sorcery spell you control. You may choose new targets for the copy.
Cards like Undead Gladiator and this are too annoying and too good for Type 4, in my opinion. Being able to cycle through your whole deck at Instant speed is stupid powerful, and this also allows you to repeatedly copy cards you cast. Way too good, in my opinion.
Skull Rend deals 2 damage to each opponent. Those players each discard two cards at random.
This card doesn’t look like much, but is actually pretty sweet, especially in large games. With each opponent discarding two cards this has the potential to be anywhere from a 4-for-1 to something absurd like a 16-for-1 in an 8 player game. Sign me up!
Supreme Verdict can’t be countered.
Destroy all creatures.
The uncounterability of this provides a nice upgrade to existing board sweepers, and make this an auto-include. Be sure to note that this doesn’t say bury like Wrath of God, meaning creatures could still potentially be regenerated.
Draw four cards, then discard two cards.
A cross between Thirst for Knowledge and Opportunity, I expect that Thoughtflare will make it into a lot of stacks. The ability to turn relatively useless cards into new stuff (relative card advantage) is always welcome, not to mention the Instant speed and natural card advantage.
Vraska the Unseen
Planeswalker – Vraska
+1: Until your next turn, whenever a creature deals combat damage to Vraska the Unseen, destroy that creature.
-3: Destroy target nonland permanent.
-7: Put three 1/1 black Assassin tokens onto the battlefield with “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, that player loses the game.”
Starting Loyalty: 5
While the normal planeswalker caveats are attached to Vraska, this is one spicy meatball! The utility of destroying creatures that would deal damage to Vraska, or any nonland permanent is nice, but the ‘ultimate’ ability is really dangerous. Giving you 1/1 tokens that can kill your opponents with one attack is very cool and flavorful. If you aren’t really attached to this card I would recommend proxying it up and picking it up down the road when the price drops considerably.
Unfortunately there are no very interesting artifacts in this set.
These are the cards that are the narrow list of playable and semi-playables for Type 4. Innistrad isn’t the greatest set, but here’s what I will definitely be including in my main stack:
Fall of the Gavel
Havoc Festival (for Chaos Stack*)
New Prahv Guildmage
Vraska the Unseen
Here are the cards I will be testing in the stack for further evaluation:
Angel of Serenity
When analyzing cards from a new set that can go into your stack, the two main questions I ask are “what would this replace in my current stack,” and “in what order would this card be picked in?” In the evolution of any Type 4 stack you generally weed out cards that are too strong, too weak, or just unfun. Cards that are too weak will generally be last picks, and any new cards that you add should never consistently be a “last pick,” or it shouldn’t be included in the stack.
Both the quantity and quality of these cards that will make the cut really speak to the impact this set will have on Type 4. There are very good counterspells, creatures, and some decent removal as well, and many more options for pauper (commons and uncommon only) stacks.
Until next time, may you mana be infinite and may your spells be uber!
Appendix and Reference
*Chaos Stack – a Chaos Stack is a separate stack of cards in addition to the normal Type 4 stack, and is used in conjunction with the Chaos Rule, which is essentially if X or more spells have been cast in a single turn (where X is an amount agreed to by the players beforehand), all spells on the stack are paused and the top card from the Chaos Stack is immediately flipped up and resolved, and then the stack and rest of the game is unpaused and continues as normal. Spells in the Chaos Stack will usually affect everybody (such as Eureka, Timetwister, Sway of the Stars, Time Stop, Howling Mine, etc.).
Type 4/Limited Infinity Introduction
Type 4: A Way to Enjoy Magic Again Part 1
Type 4: A Way to Enjoy Magic Again Part 2
Type 4: A Way to Enjoy Magic Again Part 3
The Fourth Type