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Magic History: Gatecrash

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Gatecrash.

After 30 years of Magic: The Gathering, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at Gatecrash, the second set in Magic: The Gathering's Return to Ravnica block.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

The second set in Magic: The Gathering’s Return to Ravnica block (and 60th expansion overall for the game), Gatecrash, burst onto the scene on the first of February, 2013.

The Marks – that’s Rosewater and Gottlieb – co-led design with Dave Humphreys heading up development.  Jeremy Jarvis was the set’s art director.

The set features a lot of carry over with its predecessor, Return to Ravnica, with its focus on the plane’s two-colored guilds, multicolor themes, and hybrid mana.  But, unlike Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash focuses on five guilds not found in its predecessor: R/W Boros Legion, U/B House Dimir, G/R Gruul Clans, W/B Orzhov Syndicate, and U/G Simic Combine.

As for story, Gatecrash represents the middle part of the overall Return to Ravnica main story, which we summarized in our Return to Ravnica video.  But, the block had a handful of side stories, including (just to pick a few) those that include the introduction of a new planeswalker, Domri Rade, why Gideon Jura was visiting the plane and how he worked alongside the Boros Legion while doing so, and every Magic player’s totally lost homunculus, Fblthp.

<DOMRI’S STORY>

Domri Rade’s story shows his ascension towards being a planeswalker, beginning when he was little more than a Gruul hoodlum with big aspirations.  They’re aspirations that would lead him to take part in something the Gruul call the “Burying,” which is a ritual during which a person strips away all attachment to Ravnican life, as the city is seen by Gruul shamans as a place that is a slave to rules and the destructor of nature.

Those who endure the Burying are considered to have come back to the tribe reborn, clear of purpose, and ready to live life the Gruul way.

That night, deep in the Utvara Stomping Grounds, the shamans escort Domri, whom had been prepared in burial garb, to a dark hole dug just for him.

As he lay in his grave, he felt earth piled upon him as he was being buried alive.

At first, he remained calm and kept his mind occupied.  But as the hours passed… or was it minutes?  Days?  He had no way of knowing.

Panic began to set in and darker thoughts started to take hold.  He began to think that he really was going to die there alone, buried in the earth.  He wanted to struggle, but found no give.  Immobile in his earthen grave, he felt something new take hold.

His spine burned.  His head filled with light.  He shot out into the multiverse.  He felt new like a sparkling jewel.

It was nighttime when he finally made it back to his tribe’s camp.  He sulked in, convinced he had failed the test of the Burying.

When the shaman who oversaw the ritual found him, Domri expected expulsion or worse.  What he got, however, was a warm embrace.

Domri felt a flood of emotion overtake his body.  And he felt ready for any adventure that would come his way from then on.

<GIDEON STORY>

In search of the pyromancer planeswalker, Chandra Nalaar, with hopes of having her join the efforts against the Eldrazi on the plane of Zendikar, Gideon Jura found himself on the plane of Ravnica.

Upon his arrival, though, he found his initial efforts to be fruitless at best.  What he did discover, though, is an increasing amount of tension between the plane’s guilds, including among the guildless, whom were becoming increasingly paranoid as they often found themselves caught in the crossfire.

While battling some Rakdos cultists, Gideon caught the attention of the Boros Legion.  Shortly thereafter, he was paid a visit by the Legion’s guildmaster, Aurelia.

Thinking he could be a strong weapon for the Legion, she offers him to lead one of their battalions and promised him the opportunity to lead more should he formally join their guild.

While Gideon, who felt the Legion had the best opportunity to bring some form of peace to the realm, accepted Aurelia’s offer to lead one of their battalions, he declined her offer to become a full-fledged member, as he had duties elsewhere to attend to.

<FBLTHP STORY>

As for Fblthp, he served the Azorius Senate and helped maintain the Magister’s Gardens.  For the most part, he was left alone to tend to his duties.  Keeping up the plants and keeping the area tidy was something he was quite content with.

Of course, life has other plans.

One day, an Azorius arrestor named Parisha took him along on a mission to apprehend a Rakdos criminial named Vadax Gor whom had a rather deviant reputation (even for a member of the Cult of Rakdos).  Unbeknownst to the homunculus, he was to be used as bait to lure the criminal out into the open.

As expected, Gor took the bait.  Thankfully for Fblthp, Parisha was prepared and arrested the criminal cultist on the spot.

The mission a success, the Azorius Senate awarded Fblthp with the possibility of his eventual descendants (should he every have any) being allowed to petition the Senate to officially register the homonculus’ heroic exploits upon his death.

<TEYSA’S STORY>

Taysa Karlov, the first and only grand envoy for the Orzhov Syndicate and official speaker and ambassador for the guildmaster, the ghastly Obzedat, sit in her chair at Karlov Manor deep in thought.

“They’ve ruled for far too long,” she says silently to herself.

She has had enough of the dead old men of the Obzedat.  The Orzhov guild must be reshaped into a power that Ravnica has never before seen.

For what must have been the hundredth time or more, she opens up the ancient tome that lay on her desk: The Generational Manifesto for the Orzhov’s Future.  She’s read it cover to cover more times than she can count, though lately the words within have had new meaning to her.

One bit in particular stood out to her more than most:

“Freedon from the mortal connection to crude coinage and simple riches allows the members of the Obzedat to pursue true and holy power, unshackled by worldly concerns.  So, why do they still pursue the coin with as much fervor as ever?”

The author of the passage was unknown to most, but not all.  The Orzhov aristocracy knew it was written by Tihana Jarik, whom was tried by the Obzedat and put to death for it.  Teysa knew she had to find Jarik’s collection, which was hidden by the guildmaster under strong magical seals.

But, still, she had to try.

Not long before the running of Niv-Mizzet’s Implicit Maze, she sends a message to a trusted and respected member of another of Ravnica’s guilds.

Not long after, Tajic, a knight and high-ranking guildmage of the Boros Legion sits in her parlor.  Our of respect for his office and power, she gets right to the point.

“I would like to form an alliance with you.  A special kind of alliance that requires absolute commitment and dedication.”

Tajic smiles, as if he had been expecting Teysa’s request from the get-go.

“You want me to help you run the maze and steal the prize from the insatiable claws of Niv-Mizzet?” he asks.  “No problem.”

“No,” Teysa replies.  “I want you to help me destroy the Obzedat.”

And, as mentioned, there are a number of other side stories – far more than we’re going to cover here.

Now, as for the set itself, Gatecrash is a large set consisting of 249 cards, which was a change from the usual block structure of having the second and third sets within a block be smaller (usually around 180 cards or so).  Despite being a large set, though, Gatecrash did not contain any basic lands.  Instead, the land slot within booster packs was used to provide players with a higher percentage chance of getting a dual-colored Guildgate land as a means for easier color fixing.

Continuing its guild-specific themes, each featured guild in Gatecrash has its own unique mechanic, keyword, or ability word associated with it.

House Dimir’s is Cipher.

<DTW-Gatecrash 08:15-31 “Dimir are the sneaky…for Dimir.” 08:35-59 “The Dimir mechanic…for free.” 12:09-39 “The big challenge…band of things.”>

Bloodrush is unique to the Gruul Clans.

<DTW- Gatecrash 16:12-25 “The Gruul philosophy…keep attacking.”  16:42-17:03 “What Bloodrush is…+4/+2.”  18:51-19:00 “Mechanically, it did…looking for.”>

The Orzhov Syndicate have Extort.

< DTW- Gatecrash 19:08-21 “What extort said…for one.”  21:31-55 “We decided we…there.” 22:45-23:05 “Extort is pretty…fun mechanic.”>

Battalion is the Boros Legion’s new toy.

< DTW- Gatecrash 23:25-32 “Battalion was a…or more creatures.” 26:46-27:14 “Looking back…this plus two.”>

And the Simic Combine get Evolve.

< DTW- Gatecrash 27:56-28:08 “The Simic had…the Simic line.”  28:29-43 “How Evolve works…gets bigger.” >

Like Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash was available in 16-card booster packs, six-card booster packs, a pair of event decks, five bi-colored intro packs, and a Booster Battle Pack that contains two semi-randomized 22-card decks, two Gatecrash booster packs, and helpful information for beginners.

Also like Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash prerelease kits were split up between the set’s five featured guilds, each containing a special, guild-specific alternate art, foil promo card.

For Gatecrash, those prerelease promos are: Foundry Champion for Boros, Consuming Abberation for Dimir, Rubblehulk for Gruul, Treasury Thrull for Orzhov, and Fathom Mage for Simic.

As for the set’s other promos, game day participants were provided a full-art Zameck Guildmage with top-eight game day finishers also receiving a foil, full-art Firemane Avenger.  Skarrg Goliath was Gatecrash’s release-day Friday Night Magic promo.  Gatecrash league participants were given a Soldier creature token card.  The set’s buy-a-box promo was Nightveil Specter.

As for non-promo cards worth a mention, Gatecrash has a handful, starting with the five shockland reprints (one for each of the set’s featured guilds):  Breeding Pool, Godless Shrine, Sacred Foundry, Stomping Ground, and Watery Grave.

There’s also:
•    Biovisionary, an alternate win condition card;
•    Boros Charm, a very popular inclusion in red/white Modern burn decks;
•    Crypt Ghast, a black mana acceleration creature;
•    Enter the Infinite, a powerful (albeit expensive to cast) combo enabler;
•    Hellkite Tyrant, another alternate win condition card;
•    Legion Loyalist, an extremely common inclusion in Modern Eight-Whack decks;
•    Lord of the Void, a large and powerful demon that both technically mills cards from an opponent’s deck into exile and (quite possibly) steals a creature from those exiled cards for you, and;
•    Thespian’s Stage, a must-include in Legacy lands and Dark Depths strategies.

The set also has a few cycles worth a mention:

•    Primordials, which is a cycle of seven-costed Avatar creatures that have an enter-the-battlefield ability that scales up depending on the number of opponents one has;
•    Denizens, each of which have a triggered ability whenever you bring out a creature that matches its color;
•    Land auras, each of which grant its enchanted land an activated or triggered ability, and;
•    Multicolored, guild-specific X spells, which (as the category might suggest) are guild-colored spells that have an “X” in the casting cost.  All are either sorceries or instants, save for the Simic-colored Nimbus Swimmer, which is a creature.

Overall and in hindsight, Gatecrash, isn’t a set that many Magic players would say was overly impressive.  But it was a set Magic Head Designer, Mark Rosewater, says he learned a lot from.

<DTW-GatecrashLL 34:10-40 “I think Gatecrash was…from it.”>

So, what are your thoughts on Gatecrash?  Please share them in the comment section.

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Thank you for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.