Exclusive Card Preview: Magic: The Gathering's Return to Ravnica

With the October 5th launch date for "Magic: The Gathering's" "Return to Ravnica" just around the corner, Wizards of the Coast has begun shedding light on what fans can expect from this 274-card set. Today, we'll be showing off "Cryptborn Horror," a red/black creature that is sure to whet your appetite, and send your opponents running in fear.

Veteran fans might recognize this upcoming set as a follow-up to the original"Ravnica" block from 2005-2006, and as such, "Return to Ravnica" draws heavy inspiration from its predecessor. The rich setting of the city of Ravnica is populated by ten guilds, each of which have their own signature two-color combo, and they'll all be making a return appearance here.

In both "Ravnica" and "Return to Ravnica", the gameplay focus is on multicolor cards with thematic ties to their associated guilds. "Return to Ravnica" will feature cards from five of these guilds: the Selesnya Conclave (green/white), Izzet League (blue/red), Golgari Swarm (green/black), Cult of Rakdos (red/black), and Azorius Senate (white/blue). But unlike the previous "Ravnica" block, where guilds were slowly rolled out over the course of three sets, every guild will debut in the first two "Return to Ravnica" block sets, leaving a third to further expand the play options for all ten guilds.

For those looking for some Ravnica backstory, Adam Lee of the official "Magic" blog has done an excellent job filling players in on where the guilds were last seen in 2006's "Dissension" storyline.

The city of Ravnica, as depicted by artist Richard Wright

There's also been some detailed explanation of the mechanics you'll find in "Return to Ravnica", and each guild its due. For instance, the Azorius Senate will have the benefit of cards with "Detain," an ability that lets them lock down an opponent's permananet, nullifying its effects for a complete turn. The Cult of Radkos sports creatures with the "Unleash" ability, allowing them to enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter but unable to block.

You'll be fishing for mana to get creatures with these multicolor creatures to the table, but not if you can gets your hands on a few Gates. These common dual-lands will let you tap them for two different colors of mana, just what your guild was looking for.

But enough talk, let's take a look at today's exclusive "Return to Ravnica" card preview, the Cryptborn Horror:

A rare Cult of Radkos creature, Cryptborn Horror is an excellent way to make sure your opponent stays down after having been kicked very hard, as its effectiveness is tied directly to the strength of your other attacks. The nice thing about Cryptborn Horror, though, is that its low casting cost and Trample ability will still make it a competent creature even if you didn't just deliver a back-breaking blow.

"Return to Ravnica" is still almost a month away, but check the schedule of your local game store, as preview events will be running throughout the last weekend in September.