EDHREC Guilds of Ravnica Preview Card
Hello everyone! Today is an exciting day, as I have the distinct pleasure of bringing you EDHREC's preview card for Guilds of Ravnica! Thanks to Wizards of the Coast for the exclusive free preview! Since I know you're all here to see the card, let's skip the pleasantries and take a look!
Discovery/Dispersal is one of the the new split cards for Guilds of Ravnica and is, quite obviously, one of the two representatives of House Dimir. There are two full cycles of split cards for this set, one at rare and one at uncommon. Both cycles share the the same pattern, in which one half is a lower-costed spell with a hybrid mana cost and the other is a higher-costed multicolored spell. Now that we've covered a few facts about the cycle this card belongs to, let's talk about the card itself.
Surveil 2, then draw a card.
Hmm. This ability sounds familiar.
When we look at Discovery, the easiest comparison we can make is that it's a modified Preordain. Strictly comparing these two will cause many people to lament that Discovery is not a one-mana cantrip like its cousin. That said, the similarity is still present, and I think many people will be inclined to play this spell because of Preordain's long-standing popularity; it doesn't appear in over 22,000 decks without good reason. However, we can't write off this half that easily, because the comparison isn't that simple. The impact of 'Surveil 2' is much different than 'Scry 2.' Scry is a great filtration ability, but I think Surveil is a better fit for EDH as a whole. While Scry can enable strategies like Grenzo, Dungeon Warden, Surveil enables a much higher density of archetypes.
If we just glance around EDHREC we'll see plenty of commanders in a myriad of colors that can use the Surveil mechanic to great effect. Meren of Clan Nel Toth is the second-most played Commander according to EDHREC, and I doubt many fans of this necromancer will say no to a way to dump cards in the yard. This same argument can be made for basically any commander with the word 'graveyard' in its text. Alesha, Smiles at Death, Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and many others can leverage this mechanic, but the additional effects tied to each Surveil card will determine if those cards make the cut or not.
There is one legend that stands above the rest and who is particularly excited for the Surveil mechanic, and that's Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Sidisi is currently the 11th most played commander recorded on EDHREC, with 2,100 decks to her name. (She actually ranks 4th most popular if we exclude legends that were first introduced in a Commander product.) Sidisi sits uniquely in a position to take advantage of the new Dimir mechanic, because it actually triggers our Khan's Zombie-making ability.
Meren and Alesha can't use our new Discovery card, but Sidisi is happy to find a convenient cantrip that also produces a cheap Zombie (though remember, Sidisi only triggers for each instance of creatures hitting your graveyard, not for each individual creature card). If we compare Discovery to the 'Big Three' of cantrips (Brainstorm, Preordain, Ponder), we'll see that most Sidisi decks don't play them that often, which isn't surprising. That doesn't bode well for this card's chances here. However, Brainstorm appears in almost a tenth of possible Sidisi decks, so I think there's a glimmer of hope for it. In both cases, you're manipulating the top of your deck for Sidisi to make you a Zombie, and that's just good old-fashioned Magic.
That's only the first half of this split card. Does the other half make this more playable?
Each opponent returns a nonland permanent they control with the highest converted mana cost among permanents they control to its owner's hand, then discards a card.
At face value, this is a powerful effect, especially once we consider that it can be cast at instant speed. On average, the most impactful or threatening card on each player's board is likely to be the one with the highest converted mana cost. While bouncing a single nonland permanent per player may not seem like much, I think it's a bit better once we compare it against its contemporaries. Using Scryfall, we can see that this type of effect is actually not that common, and we can still be thankful that Wizards is pushing effects that scale with multiplayer formats in Standard sets.
[(o:each or o:any) o:opponent (o:return or o:destroy)]
Using this search in Scryfall, we find similar effects that globally hit our opponents but not ourselves. We get a total of 60 cards in the search, and many barely qualify. However, we do have a few cards that are comparable to this new spell.
Crackling Doom was the very first card I thought of when I initially read Dispersal. Both of these cards deal with threats according to which is the "biggest." Crackling Doom gets rids of the most powerful creature that each of our opponents control, while Disperal bounces the most expensive nonland permanent our opponents control. Crackling Doom currently sees play in 6,700 decks, which is incredibly impressive for a three-color card. That's 21% of possible Mardu decks! Let's compare Dispersal to a few more of its peers.
The most recent comparison is the highly lauded Windgrace's Judgment. Dana Roach has talked about his experiences with this powerful removal spell on the EDHRECast, and it's already proving to be worth the hype. Windgrace's Judgment is currently in a criminally low 270 decks, but I'll give that a pass because it's still so brand new.
So how do these compare? Windgrace's Judgment is flexible and easily looks like the better card, which shouldn't be surprising. However, that itself isn't a fair judgment, because we need to consider the colors of these spells. Golgari colors are known for dealing with permanents quite handily. We've already had access to Abrupt Decay, Putrefy, and Maelstrom Pulse, and now Guilds of Ravnica is adding Status//Statue and Assassin's Trophy to the mix. Golgari has never had issues getting rid of permanents.
What about the Dimir colors?
[(o:destroy or o:return or o:exile) id<=ub]
Continuing to use Scryfall for help, we see our Dimir options are much more limited across this page. Once we apply Scryfall's EDHREC filter, we see the ubiquitous Cyclonic Rift, the former standard all-star Hero's Downfall, and a few others. In other words, there are only a handful of popular removal spells in these colors, especially not ones that scale against multiple opponents.
To try and get a handle on its power level, let's compare Dispersal to one more of its peers.
Dark Intimations is currently played in almost 1,100 decks, and I'm a little surprised it's seeing that much play. A third of that number comes from Nicol Bolas and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager decks (so we know "Nicol Bolas tribal" is alive and well). Even excluding those, Dark Intimations is still played in 700 decks, a healthy amount for a for a three-colored card.
I think this is the card with which Dispersal most favorably compares. Not only do each of these spells share two colors, but they also mirror each other in their removal style; a single card is removed from the battlefield, and our opponents have to discard a card. It's a bit like a larger-scale Dinrova Horror.
Dark Intimations and Dispersal also share similar weakness: we don't have a choice in what we remove. We can try to time our spells to get the maximum effect, but we're not able to rely on that consistently. For example, in a four-player game, Dark Intimations will most often trade for the three worst creatures our opponents control. Three-for-one sounds like a good deal, but it's often very easy for opponents to generate expendable tokens in EDH to avoid sacrificing something important.
Luckily, unlike Intimations, Dispersal is always going to bounce something substantial. There is no "chumping" this effect, per se. I suppose it's possible our opponents could return to their hands a high-value enters-the-battlefield effect, but overall, the ability to set back all of our opponents at once is definitely worth considering. If we cast this spell on curve, there's a high chance we bounce several enemy commanders in one go. Half of the 21 most popular commanders are either four or five mana, after all.
[is:commander] and [is:commander (cmc=4 or cmc=5)]
In fact, using one last Scryfall search, we'll see that 375 of 795 legal commanders fall between a CMC of four or five. That's 45% of legal commanders! We also know from this episode of the EDHRECast that the average converted mana cost in EDH decks has fallen to 3.5, which means this spells a darn good chance of bouncing our opponents' commanders rather than some other smaller-impact permanent. While neither Intimations or Dispersal gives us the choice of what to remove, I think I'm going to side with the newcomer over Intimations, and not just because of color restrictions. This spell stands a solid chance of bouncing a key piece of each opponents' strategy, and that's valuable tempo advantage.
Home Sweet Home
Once we look at the total package this card offers, I think the most common home that our preview card will find is in either Kess, Dissident Mage or Dralnu, Lich Lord. One of the most important parts of including a split card in your deck is the ability to leverage both of its halves, and I think these two commanders do just that. Casting one half from your hand and the other half from the graveyard gives you a powerful degree of versatility. It's like building your own Aftermath card! Our first half can dump instants and sorceries into our graveyard for bonus synergy, and then we can follow it up with the second half, a uniquely advantageous removal spell. Or vice-versa!
One last thing before we end this preview: there are a few quirks we should cover about Discovery/Dispersal, specifically with a unique attribute of split cards.
202.3d The converted mana cost of a split card not on the stack or of a fused split spell on the stack is determined from the combined mana costs of its halves. Otherwise, while a split card is on the stack, the converted mana cost of the spell is determined by the mana cost of the half that was chosen to be cast.
The total cost of the split cards anywhere outside of the stack is the sum of each half's converted mana costs. This means that if we "draw" Discovery/Dispersal with Twilight Prophet, each opponent will lose seven life and we will gain seven life. That's a substantial hit for a spell that can be cast for two or five mana! Prophet isn't the only creature that can leverage this rule; Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, one of the newest and most popular cards from Commander 2018, also plays nice with split cards by mirroring Twilight Prophet's "draw" ability.
One other commander that gets to play with the quirky side of split cards also hails from Commander 2018. FOr context, lets look at rule 708.3:
708.3. A player chooses which half of a split card they are casting before putting it onto the stack.
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign allows us to cast the top card of our library as an attack trigger as long it has an odd converted mana cost. However, Yennett only looks at the total CMC of the spell before casting it. Since Discovery/Dispersal has a total CMC of seven, we can cast it, but only one half of it. Despite how unintuitive it might seem at first, we can cast either half of the card with Yennett even though Discovery has a CMC of two while on the stack. Weird, right? Then again, this is a Dimir card, so we ought to be sneaky and pull some tricky moves!
That's it for our preview article! Thanks again to Wizards for the exclusive free preview! Do you think Discovery/Dispersal will make the cut in any of your Dimir decks? Do you think I'm right that it'll be most popular in Kess or Dralnu, or do you think it will show up more in Sidisi, Yuriko, or perhaps some other commander I didn't mention?
Thanks for reading!