Biovisionary - Illustration by Ryan Barger

Biovisionary | Illustration by Ryan Barger

2013’s Standard environment was one of the best I can remember. Coming off of 2012’s Innistrad, a relatively high-powered block, we planeswalked to Ravnica and revisited the original 10 2-color guilds.

Gatecrash is the second set in the Return to Ravnica block, preceded by the titular Return to Ravnica, and followed by Dragon’s Maze, the final set in the block. While the original Ravnica block featured four guilds per set, Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica featured five each, with Dragon’s Maze supplementing every guild to top off the block. Gatecrash’s five featured guilds were Boros (), Dimir (), Gruul (), Orzhov () , and Simic ().

Gatecrash Basic Information

Consuming Aberration - Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Consuming Aberration | Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Set Details

Set Symbol
Set CodeGTC
Number of Cards249
Rarities101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythic rares, 8 tokens
MechanicsBattalion, bloodrush, cipher, extort, evolve

Important Dates

Prerelease eventsJanuary 26 to 27, 2013
Paper release weekFebruary 1, 2013
Launch partyFebruary 1 to 4, 2013
Game DayFebruary 23 to 24, 2013

About the Set: The Story

Domri Rade - Illustration by Tyler Jacobson

Domri Rade | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson

Gatecrash continues the story from Return to Ravnica, where Jace begins to unravel the mysteries of the Implicit Maze, a series of magical leylines that pass through the Guildgates. The Maze was created by Azor in case the Guildpact, the magic that keeps the guilds of Ravnica in balance, should ever be destroyed. Tensions threaten to boil over into an all-out guild war, and with the Guildpact, well, destroyed, Jace must race to the Maze's End with an elected runner from each guild before it’s too late.

Gatecrash also introduced players to a new planeswalker, Domri Rade. In a two-part story, Domri’s spark ignites after he’s buried alive in a Gruul proving-ritual known as, you guessed it, The Burying. Understandably, the stress from being buried alive triggers a strong emotional response, and as Domri’s spark ignites he’s flung across the Blind Eternities to Alara. He meets some elves, gets chased by a great beast of some kind, then planeswalks back to Ravnica, ready to knock some heads. Admittedly, Domri doesn’t get much screen time, but this does help establish his character as a brash and emotional teen.

Set Mechanics


The red-white Boros Legion is a standing army of soldiers and constabularies on Ravnica, and their mechanics reflect that. The unique Boros mechanic, battalion, was focused on attacking with three or more creatures at once. Battalion effects on creatures trigger when that creature and at least two others are declared as attackers. This synergized well with the weenies-style decks most Boros cards lent themselves to.

Each battalion ability had a different effect, but some were generally better than others. Firemane Avenger was a real menace in the format, and Legion Loyalist still sees play in goblin decks. Frontline Medic was a great counter to the Sphinx's Revelation decks that dominated the day, too.

Battalion appeared on 11 cards in Gatecrash, with two more added in Dragon’s Maze (Tajic, Blade of the Legion and Boros Mastiff).


Bloodrush is the Gruul Clan’s mechanic in Gatecrash. Creatures with bloodrush can be discarded to give an attacking creature a buff based on the discarded creature’s power, toughness, and abilities. For example, Wasteland Viper can be played as a 1/1 with deathtouch or discarded for one green mana to give an attacking creature +1/+1 and deathtouch.

Certain bloodrush cards were more valuable than others. Skinbrand Goblin didn’t see a lot of play in a format where Giant Growth is just better, but I’ve lost my fair share of games to Rubblehulks and Wrecking Ogres.

Gatecrash printed the first 11 bloodrush cards, and two more were added in Dragon’s Maze. There haven’t been any new bloodrush cards since then, though.


House Dimir is the blue-black guild with a mill theme and a “graveyard matters” subtheme. Gatecrash introduced two mechanics unique to the Dimir. The first players came up with “grind” to refer to a pseudo-mill effect where a player mills cards until they hit a set number of land cards. Mind Grind is the most famous of these cards and rounds out the top end of mill decks to this day. Dimir cards took advantage of that with splashy rares like Consuming Aberration and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind.


The second Dimir mechanic, cipher, is a keyword that appears on instant and sorcery spells. Cipher is two abilities: one triggers while it’s on the stack, and one triggers while it’s in exile. The first allows you to exile the cipher card “encoded” on a creature as the effect resolves. Whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, the encoded spell’s effect is copied and cast without paying its mana cost. Cipher was best used on the Deathcult Rogues and Invisible Stalkers that haunted that year’s Standard.

There are a scant 14 cards total with cipher because the ability is considered to have narrow design space. That won’t stop R&D from printing jank in Commander precons, though, and cipher returned on a single card in Streets of New Capenna, Writ of Return.

Overall, the Dimir mechanics hit the mark flavorfully, if not so much mechanically. We haven’t seen either the grind effect or cipher really revisited since Gatecrash, and we shouldn’t expect it anytime soon.


The Orzhov Gatecrash mechanic “extort” was one of the first times Magic’s design really began to home in on the concept of “life drain.” Extort is a triggered ability that activates when you cast a spell. You may pay an additional one white or one black when you cast the spell; when you do, each opponent loses one life and you gain that much life. You can only pay once per trigger, so you’ll need multiple instances of extort on the field before this really takes off. Luckily, all 11 Gatecrash extort cards are permanents, and DGM’s Pontiff of Blight has an anthemic extort effect for your field.

Of those original 11 extort cards, Crypt Ghast is the most exciting. Just getting access to a mana doubler for four is great value, but then you consider the built-in mana dump that is extort.

Extort returned as a one-off card in the Streets of New Capenna Commander Decks, Life Insurance.


The blue-green Simic Combine were themed around +1/+1 counters, and their set mechanic was evolve. A creature with evolve would get a +1/+1 counter when another creature with greater power or toughness would enter the battlefield. Most of the evolve creatures have unequal power/toughness to capitalize on this effect. Cards like Experiment One and Gyre Sage could get out of hand quickly, and Elusive Krasis had some punishing plays. The Simic guild leader Prime Speaker Zegana was the perfect way to round out your mana curve, guaranteed to enter with one more point of power than your strongest evolve creature and refilling your hand by five or more.

Gatecrash introduced 11 cards with evolve, with two more added in DGM. Evolve has returned more times than any other Gatecrash mechanic. It came back once in Modern Horizons (Gluttonous Slug), once in Modern Horizons 2 (Scurry Oak), and once in the Warhammer 40,000 Commander Decks (Tyranid Prime).

Official Spoilers









Notable Cards

Shock Lands

The shock lands, named because of their option to Shock you to remain untapped, are staples in competitive formats across Magic. They’re some of the best 2-color lands available, and each has the associated basic land types of their colors. In a Standard with Farseek, this meant turn two ramping was incredibly valuable (and still is, generally).

The shock lands were reprinted until the 2019’s Guilds of Ravnica.

Charm Cycle

Each guild received a 2-mana charm with three modes in the RTR block. To this day, Boros Charm is the one that sees the most play. Its variety of modes let you burn an opponent, save your creatures, or give something double strike, all at instant speed! Boros Charm’s utility is what’s made it stand the test of time and remain a valuable Gatecrash card.


Gatecrash included two cards with alternate win conditions. The first, Biovisionary, triggered a victory for you if you controlled four or more cards named Biovisionary at the beginning of your end step. This made Biovisionary a fun Clone-based combo deck, playing well with DGM’s Progenitor Mimic and Avacyn Restored’s Infinite Reflections.

Hellkite Tyrant

The second alternate win condition was Hellkite Tyrant, a 6/5 for six mana that steals every artifact a player controls when it deals combat damage. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control 20 or more artifacts, you win! This wouldn’t become the powerhouse it is today if not for Commander, especially now with the rampant number of artifact decks we’ve seen crop up since The Brothers’ War.

Illusionist’s Bracers

I’d be remiss not to mention Illusionist's Bracers. Copying a creature’s activated ability is a necessity in any deck that banks on it. Commander decks like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and Triad of Fates absolutely need one of these to go off, but it can fit onto just about anything you’d like with an activated ability. In decks like Kaalia of the Vast or Ghave, Guru of Spores, it’s a “win more” effect that’s certain to drive your opponents mad.

Available Products

Draft Boosters

Gatecrash booster pack

Gatecrash was sold in booster packs of 15 cards each, with the standard assortment of rarities:

  • One rare or mythic rare
  • 3 uncommons
  • 10 commons
  • One token or ad card
5 (Five) Packs of Magic the Gathering MTG: GateCrash Booster Pack Lot (5 Packs)
  • 5 (Five) Packs of Magic the Gathering MTG: GateCrash Booster Pack Lot (5 Packs)
  • This listing is for 5 packs only - Random Packs from a opened box
  • Each Pack Contains: 15-Cards, 1 Rare/Mythic Rare
  • Magic Boosters & Other Product and Supplies Sold Separately
  • NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.

Fat Pack

Gatecrash Fat Pack

The now-discontinued Fat Packs were a nice middle ground between buying boosters individually and purchasing an entire booster box. Fat packs were sold in a long card box and were designed to drop a player immediately into the world of the most recent set. Each fat pack included:

  • 9 booster packs
  • One card box
  • One Gatecrash Player’s Guide, containing useful play tips, story background, and a complete card list.
  • 2 deck boxes
  • 40 basic lands
  • Gatecrash spindown life counter

Fat packs are still lying around in warehouses and in the closets of resellers, but their exclusive spindown die and Player’s Guide make them a little more valuable than their constituent parts.

Magic The Gathering - GateCrash Sealed Fat Pack
  • Includes 9 booster packs, 70 basic lands, 2 deck boxes, a card box, a player's guide and a life counter

Booster Box

Gatecrash booster box

Gatecrash booster boxes contain 36 draft boosters with 15 cards each. They include the standard array of rarities per pack with no special Buy-a-Box promo card. Each Booster box contained:

  • 36 draft boosters with 15 cards each
Magic: The Gathering MTG Gatecrash Booster Box - Sealed Box (36 Packs)
  • Magic the Gathering - MTG GateCrash Sealed Box
  • 36 Booster Packs
  • Intro Decks & Packs Sold Separately
  • Look for other MTG Items ....
  • Gatecrash features 249 black-bordered cards, including randomly inserted premium versions of all cards in the set

Intro Decks

Gatecrash intro decks

Gatecrash also had five intro decks, one for each 2-color guild in the set. Each featured a foil 2-color rare from the appropriate guild and also contained:

  • One 60-card intro deck
  • Two Gatecrash Booster packs
  • One strategy and mechanics guide
  • One learn-to-play insert for new players
  • One foil “face” rare (included in the 60 cards)

Event Decks

Thrive and Thrash event deck

Two event decks were released, higher-power precons meant to be picked up and played immediately at Friday Night Magic. A 2-color Boros deck and 3-color Temur (which we used to just call “RUG”) deck were available.

Each event deck comes with:

  • One 60-card two-color deck (either Boros or Simic themed)
  • One 15-card sideboard
  • 7 predetermined rares per deck (included in the 60-card count)
  • One Gatecrash themed deck box
  • One spindown life counter
  • One strategy and mechanics guide

Prerelease Guild Box

Gatecrash prerelease pack

Most importantly, Gatecrash prerelease events invited players to “Fight for Your Guild” and choose one of the guilds to receive a special bonus themed booster for use in the Sealed events included in each prerelease pack. The cards in each booster were specifically tuned to only include cards from that particular guild. In addition, each contained a special prerelease promo of a 2-color rare, a flavorful letter from your guildmaster, and an “achievement tracker” for your prerelease event. Each prerelease booster contained:

  • 11 commons
  • Three uncommons
  • One rare or mythic rare
  • One of 5 different foil prerelease Promo cards (depending on which Guild)
  • One Guild symbol sticker
  • One spindown life counter
  • One letter from your Guildmaster
  • One achievement card

Wrap Up

Hellkite Tyrant - Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Hellkite Tyrant | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Perhaps my opinion is biased, but when Gatecrash was released in 2013, Standard was at its best. A number of high-power decks with a variety of archetypes and flavorful themes were all viable. It harkens back to when Magic was just beginning to change into the “fifth stage” of design.

Am I just looking back with rose-colored shades, or is Gatecrash really just the perfect set? And what are some of your favorite cards from the set? Let me know in the comments, or join the discussion on Draftsim’s Discord.

Thanks for reading and keep fighting for your guild!

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