Sperling’s Sick of It: Guilds of Ravnica Edition

Heading back to Ravnica (Return to Return to Ravnica or RTRTR) is design on easy mode. The flavor is proven to work, gold cards look cool even if they aren’t (Don’t believe me? Check out the original Legends spoiler), and people have an endless appetite for split cards and mana rocks. The floor is high. You can’t really mess it up that badly if you stick to some simple formulas…

…Or Can You? (Invert // Invent)

I have to start here, with the elephant (Loxodon?) in the room. It’s easily one of the most poorly designed cards of the last 10 years if you set aside obvious power-level gaffes, to paraphrase Jeff Cunningham. The first thing that jumps out is how badly the new card frame screws with the look and feel of split cards. Putting it side-by-side with an original makes it even more clear:

There’s a symmetry that’s obviously gone, but the card also loses the fractal aesthetic, the sense that the smaller parts are shrunken or fragmented mini-versions of the larger card. I vividly remember the first time I saw a split card back in Invasion and thinking and feeling like the card could be cracked in half like a Kit Kat bar and you’d be left with 2 mini-cards. That’s gone, and I’m sad about it.

Another part of the look, the feel, and the aesthetic that has been scrapped is the naming convention of “X and Y” expressions. Wax and Wane, Fire and Ice, Assault and Battery—Status and Statue…. it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

Oh, and I guess I should mention that they had to Day-zero errata the card because they forgot to put “until end of turn” on the left half. The wording also relies on the reader understanding that switch and exchange are different concepts under the Magic rules. So on top of not functioning as intended without the errata, it might not function as intended at all until the players pull up the rulings to resolve how it works.

The excitement of split cards is back, baby!

Status // Statue

I’m not done with you yet, Status and Statue (Status or Statue? Status Statue?). STATUS. STATUE. One is an intangible reputation effect that, naturally, gives deathtouch… and the other half is just a kind of artifact basically that kills artifacts. The cool thing about Fire // Ice is that either half could be a card—a little low power for sure, but as a common you wouldn’t blink. Imagine a card called Statue that was like a Putrefy, except it’s a noun so I guess “Putrid?” I’m shaking right now I’m so upset. “Putrefy your Signet.” “Okay, you got it. “Statue your Icy.” “Excuse me?!”

“Status my Rat. It gains deathtouch.” C’mon guys. You’ve made like 30 split cards total. We’re already down to Status Statue with no theme, no resonance in the name, nothing intuitive, and nothing exciting.

But Matt, They Use Nouns. That’s Just What They Do

Why isn’t it Assurance and Assembly, then? Checkmate, atheists.

Split Cards No Longer Work with Brain in a Jar or the Expertises

This happened in 2017, but if you think I’m not still pissed about it, you must be new here.

Citywide Bust

My ex who used to go out every night in a super low-cut top.

Bounty Agent

Sells paper towels.

Dawn of Hope

That dish soap commercial where they clean up the animals who were at the oil spill.

Blade Instructor

Trained Wesley Snipes to do some of his own stunt work.

Crush Contraband

Notice that there’s no body cam on those shoulder straps. Typical narc.


Alternate flavor text: “I’m excited to announce that I will be moving the team to work on some of Wizards’ non-MTG properties…”

Haazda Marshal

Our broadcast team for the next PT has the Cheon, it has the LSV, and it _____________.

Inspiring Unicorn

Cool looking horse, but did a card this weak get a billion dollar plus valuation?

Flight of Equenauts/Ledev Guardian

I hate these “Human” cards where the art, the power and toughness, and the abilities reflect the mount. It’s like when your boss takes credit for the entire project in the kickoff meeting with the rest of the company. “Ah yes, I worked very hard converting oats into the ability to fly 50 miles per hour.”

Should my Horse lord or Wolf lord buff these creatures? Nope, only the most privileged sentient beings get billing on the type line.

Intrusive Packbeast

Good thing the rider fell off or you would NOT be drawing a card off Wirewood Savage when you cast this.

Luminous Bonds

A reprint. Why not create a new type of Bonds with a slightly different flavor? In other words:

Righteous Blow

We don’t do crude sexual humor here. Next!

Sworn Companions

Take Heart

Great scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Chemister’s Insight

“Surely we can’t just use an image of the goth chick from NCIS?” “Turn it upside down. I hope Sperling doesn’t catch it.”

Dazzling Lights

This is recycled art, originally commissioned as a mockup of the user experience when they added special effects to sacrificing Treasures in MTG Arena.


Part of a cycle. Coming soon are: Runhorse, Flybird, Swimfish, and Crybaby.

Maximize Altitude

“We need a synonym for jump. Everyone has had a turn at this except Eric Lauer. I hope he doesn’t go too literal.”

Muse Drake

An interesting musical collaboration for sure.


Worthy of a reprint. Always gets used in fun and fair ways when it shows up.

Selective Snare

And respectfully restrained use of the hi-hats as well.

Sinister Sabotage

User experience mockup of someone seeing the battlefield tilted by 20 degrees in MTG Arena for the first time.

Watcher in the Mist

User experience mockup: “Here’s what it’s like watching Magic streams before MTG Arena…”

Barrier of Bones

I’d say the writing. Boreanaz and Deschanel had great chemistry, so it wasn’t that.

Burglar Rat

Sperling’s Opponents are Sick of It: Me choosing to draw with two of these in my deck in the control mirror. This isn’t funny in any way but it had to be said. Love these little guys.

Creeping Chill

You thought it was Netflix and chill, in reality…

Dead Weight

Before I forget, I want to congratulate Andrew Cuneo on his Team Series win as part of Team Ultimate Guard. Congrats!

Necrotic Wound

Someone explain why MTGO gives blue helper text for the Izzet cards that count instants and sorceries but not for the Golgari cards that count creatures? Instead I realize two turns too late that Leapfrog is a creature not an instant that gives target frog flying and now it’s too late.

Undercity Necrolisk

“In its territory, living is an affront.” Its territory is Twitter?

Veiled Shade

Again, I just have to give it up for Andrew Cuneo. Well done!

Arclight Phoenix

I’ve seen movies at the flagship one in Los Angeles. I’m glad it has expanded.

Erratic Cyclops

This set’s YOU HAD ONE JOB award goes to the artist here who put a cyclops in a helmet (I guess?) and included 17 things that could be the eyehole. I honestly have no idea what’s going on. It’s a cyclops. Show us the damn eye.

Maximize Velocity/Risk Factor

They’re not running out of names for red spells. Not at all. Why do you ask?

Sure Strike

Every set now includes Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest, Sure Strike, and a mix of other cards specific to the flavor and mechanics of that set.

Torch Courier

“’Light a torch and deliver this letter’ were his instructions, which he unfortunately reversed.” He delivered the letter, then lit the torch? Sounds like he saved some fuel. Top marks.

Affectionate Indrik

So it accidentally kills stuff, but it can only fight creatures you don’t control? What’s the flavor here?

Doom Whisperer, Whispering Snitch, Beast Whisperer, Whisper Agent

Fan Theory Alert: All of Ravnica’s storyline takes place within not a massive city of guilds, but rather within the multisphere’s largest library. Think about it. How did Book Devourer get so big? Why does every other card have the word whisper in the name? Why were the 1-mana jump-start cards named by a thesaurus?

Pause for Reflection

Every time Kibler walks past a mirror.

Pelt Collector

How does this one work? His friends give him pelts when they show up? When his friends die he makes pelts out of them (but not enemies)?

Assassin’s Trophy

It’s important that people never have to make choices about which removal to play. Choices make Magic less fun. All removal should just be point-and-click kill anything no-brainer “if I can produce B/G I play it” type of stuff. I guess it makes sense though. If, when your nuanced efforts end up as Invert // Invent, it comes times to sell packs, you can’t really risk nuance.

Beamsplitter Mage

Here you have a text box that sort of crumbles under its own weight, but whatever. It’s the flavor text that gets me going. “The Izzet love replicating results.” Was that a note in the file they accidentally thought was flavor text? I would have thought one of the writers in the Roseanne writers room would have at some point dropped a “show me, don’t tell me” that MaRo could have then brought back to his team.

Chance for Glory

Incredible that the set in which they had to errata something to add “until end of turn” (because otherwise how would you track it?) also includes an instant that intentionally does it.

Deafening Clarion

I can’t top friend of the column Tim Aten and won’t try:


That this didn’t end up the set’s worst design is quite an exclamation point (crap, he hates exclamation points) on Tim’s remarks.

Crackling Drake

Again, no cause for alarm regarding design space drying up—everyone chill out. This is an existing complex build-around creature in Standard but this time it costs 1 more mana and you draw a card.

Also, similar to how they decided not to print shroud and hexproof in the same era, can we do that with Cackling and Crackling? Innistrad’s Cackling Counterpart is too recent to print blue Cracklers.

Disinformation Campaign

A great literal interpretation here in the art. “Single-file line everyone—we’re going to play telephone.”

Etrata, the Silencer

“Vampire Assassin Librarian” wouldn’t fit on the type line. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

Garrison Sergeant

Is that… could it be… is that Pepe the Frog?


I already told you—they are NOT running out of names for the red spells. Why won’t you stop asking? What is wrong with you?

Mnemonic Betrayal

TFW when you remember the word FOIL but not what any of the actual steps of factoring are.

Ral, Izzet Viceroy

5 mana, +1 card, -3 removal, -8 game. It happens exactly as often as Sure Strike. Once per set.

Thought Erasure

Burn spells are setting the pace when it comes to being so generic that you can’t tell them apart as the well runs dry, but black discard isn’t far behind.

Thousand-Year Storm

Is it ethical to print cards like this while Conley Woods has a day job he is supposed to be focused on at least a couple hours per day?




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