In July, Wizards of the Coast unveiled two new settings for upcoming Dungeons & Dragons product lines; one was fan-favorite: Eberron and the second was a collaboration with their other franchise, Magic: the Gathering, to produce Guidemaster’s Guide to Ravnica. Players will assume the roles as members from one of the ten guilds of Ravnica. For those unfamiliar with any lore from the Magic: the Gathering card game, Ravnica is a different plane of existence similar to how D&D has the Material Plane. Each plane in Magic runs their cosmology and magic is drastically different as well. In Magic, players assume the role of planeswalkers, mighty spellcasters who have awakened a special spark that allows them to travel to these planes at will. Ravnica is an ecumenopolis or a city that covers an entire planet (for Star Wars fans, this is essentially Coruscant).

Brief Card Game History for Ravnica

The Plane of Ravnica, Image by Wizards of the Coast

Players journeyed to the plane of Ravnica for the first time in the fall of 2005. In Magic: the Gathering, a period of print runs for booster packs is defined as a block while an individual card set has their unique pool of cards. During this period, most Magic the Gathering blocks consisted of three sets (from 2014, a two-set paradigm has been utilized), for the Ravnica block, the three sets were Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, and Dissension. Also, during that period, there were novelizations for the blocks. Ravnica was a very well received Magic block and changed the game’s meta for many years with many novel mechanics and the introduction of “shock-lands.” The Ravnica block also gave us cards that led to a televised top-deck moment immortalized in a pro-tour.

The meta after the Mirrodin (world magic of artifice and metal) and Kamigawa (a Japanese inspired setting) block caused many players to leave during these blocks due to the delayed response from Wizards to adjust or fix tournament climate. Ravnica was released late as a successor to the very beloved Invasion block and saw many Magic players return. A few periods of Magic players resurgence could be marked for the next 3 to 4 years after Ravnica but few carried the nostalgia or reverence from this block.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Return to Ravnica block. To combat against rising card prices in the secondary market and capture old fans, Wizards returned to Ravnica once again as a pivotal part of the growing Magic narrative set forth from the start of the Lorwyn block in 2008 (often remarked as the Planeswalker reset). Fans (such as myself) returned to playing this set with the Guilds once again taking center stage with the backdrop of a legendary race to unlock great power. Ravnica would make an occasional return in flavor text or cards in other sets.

But early 2018, it was revealed that Magic the Gathering would hold a third Ravnica block called Guilds of Ravnica. The practice of spoiling card sets has become standard practice since 2013, and the revelation of many reprints has suggested (by many MtG pundits) that the game is once again attempting to circumvent secondary card prices to allow entry into Magic’s key tourney meta (specifically Modern).  The above is merely opinion and conjecture, but regardless, some fans were left divided on the news for a third visit to the beloved to the City of Guilds. The reveal of Guidemaster’s Guide to Ravnica has created another split fanbase even if there have been long held inclinations to merge Magic the Gathering and D&D by fans (as hinted by the Plane Shift “product” line, I reviewed one of them here and here). You can read more about the July 23rd News Release fiasco I wrote on Encounter Roleplay here.

A Brief Introduction to Magic’s Five Colors of Mana

In Magic the Gathering, the game utilizes a currency system for players to cast their powerful spells and summon allies. Magic is harnessed by collecting mana reserves from the plane. Certain types of land produce a specific mana type that is often denoted by one of five colors. Each color of mana embodies a philosophical, spiritual, and methodical interpretation of the caster and beings with strong affinity to them. Some creatures (especially in the case of Ravnica) often exhibit traits and proficiency in wielding more than one color of mana.

The colors of Mana and their affiliated Guilds

The Five Colors of Mana are:

  • White. Users of white mana typically value life and protection, have a strong sense of order, duty, and community, may use healing magic, and represent divine entities such as angels.
  • Blue. Users of blue mana value intelligence, wit, and knowledge. Spells and magic that involve the mind or illusions are common among blue mages.
  • Black. Black mana users value power at any cost. Such individuals are often selfish, and goal-oriented, with many that delve in perverse magic such as necromancy and blood magic. This mana is often associated with demons as well.
  • Red. Users of red mana value freedom and anarchy above all else. Elemental fire, earth, and lightning represent a fire mage’s proneness to anger and volatile emotions.
  • Green. Green mana users value nature and growth. There is a strong sense of survival of the fittest, but also the ability to grow stronger.

By combining colors of mana, a caster will often embody the philosophies and traits of both colors. Some synergize well with each other (these are called allied colors) which are White-Blue, Blue-Black, Black-Red, Red-Green, and Green-White; non-allied colors include White-Black, Blue-Red, Blue-Green, Black-Green, Red-White. Additional combinations exist, but the dual-color combinations are relevant for Ravnica as they serve as a Guild’s identity.

Brief History of Ravnica

Ten thousand years before the events in Ravnica, City of Guilds, the world was in constant violence with various factions waging war against each other. A council of ten factions met, and ultimately, these factions would sign an agreement that imparted a powerful enchantment called the Guildpact. These surviving groups that would later become the ten guilds of Ravnica. Ravnica was initially a city within the plane, but over time as civilization consumed the entire planet, the name became the sole distinction for the realm.

The ten guilds of Ravnica are (with respective color mana attributes):

  • The Azorius Senate is the legislative and judicial body of Ravnica bureaucracy. (White/Blue)
  • The Boros Legion is a standing army that protects the Guildpact and contains the League of Wojek, the official peacekeepers of the City of Ravnica. (Red/White)
  • The House Dimir is a shadowy and manipulative guild that most believe no longer exists (and some who know have their knowledge wiped out), it provides illegal but necessary services. (Blue/Black)
  • The Cult of Rakdos, considered a necessary evil by some, is composed of thrill-killers who provide the heavy labor force of the plane. (Black/Red)
  • The Golgari Swarm manages food production and organic waste disposal. (Black/Green)
  • The Gruul Clans have fallen from their former glory as the keepers of Ravnica’s wilds and now are nothing but a loose affiliation of berserker clans. (Red/Green)
  • The Izzet League is responsible for civil engineering works and new magical developments. (Blue/Red)
  • The Orzhov Syndicate regulates trade and banking, among others. (White/Black)
  • The Selesnya Conclave promotes the most robust religion and its guards patrol the rural areas. (Green/White)
  • The Simic Combine provides medical assistance and performs biological research. (Green/Blue)

The power of the Guildpact is subtle, preventing each of the guilds from infringing on the others’ designations and specialties. Primarily, it was a magical charm to stop the guilds and their members from deviating from their roles to maintain the delicate power balance. While not everyone (the Guildless) is not required to be a part of a guild, the guilds serve specific functions of daily life that are felt across all of Ravnica.

During the events of the Ravnica, City of Guilds block, a new Guildpact is created but did not enforce it’s magic on the guilds any longer. Jump forward to the events in Return to Ravnica block, and the guilds more or less are disbanded, but old habits are hard to break. The guilds rebuild, and eventually, the Izzet League discovers an ancient power source below the city that requires an individual to traverse through ten guildgates to reach it. The sole individual would have the means to control all the guilds, and thus the Izzet mages suggested that each guild select a champion to traverse this Dragon’s Maze. By the end, the mind mage planeswalker, Jace Beleren, infuses the power of the planet and becomes the Living Guildpact.

Fast forward again to the eve of the Guilds of Ravnica block, and Jace Beleren returns to his home plane to continue preparations of their confrontation against the all-powerful elder dragon planeswalker, Nicol Bolas. Bolas is a power hungry draconic entity before the power change both in the card game and seeks to achieve his lost godhood. The elder dragon has been the preverbal ultimate villain in this Gatewatch storyline.

Further Readings

  • Playing in Ravnica
  • Mana and D&D spellcasting (Coming soon)
  • You can pre-order your copy of Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica here.

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