What Was Left Out of Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica: One City, One World
As somebody who is a fan of both Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is something I thought previously only achievable in my dreams. But alas, and at last, here we are! However, I am first and foremost a fan of Magic, and the world of Ravnica is one I have loved dearly since it was first shown to the world over 10 years ago. In that time, there has been a lot of established and deep lore, and even some retcons, about the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why that is the world of Ravnica. As someone who has greedily devoured every ounce of this content, I am here to give my own say on what should have been in Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica.
Now, I am not here to say that any of the content already within Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is incorrect; after all, it was written and created by those who literally design Magic: the Gathering, and when you get right down to it, their word is law when it comes to the content that they produce about their own intellectual property. But, as a well-versed scholar who has explored the nooks and crannies of Ravnica, I can offer some additional information–some covert knowledge, if you will–about this beautiful, wonderful world. In this multi-installment blog series, I will give you some information on what was left out of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica.
Chapter 2: One City, One World
Probably the most interesting aspect of Ravnica as a whole is its very nature as a world entirely covered by a city. Sure, the ten Guilds are certainly important and intriguing, but the fact of the matter is that they only exist in, and their importance is only derived from, their place in the greater society that is Ravnica as a City World. The Signing of the Guildpact, which essentially marks the beginning of the expansion of the central city that was Ravnica, was signed over 10,000 years ago. In those 10,000 years, the city has expanded to cover the entire world, then continued to expand to the point of building on top of that first layer not once, not twice, not three, but four times (this is a guesstimate based on sources I have read; it is certainly at least 3 layers including the top one that is open to the sky).
This aspect is talked about in Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica, but it isn’t touched on much. They mostly mention that there is an undercity (the colloquial name for the layers of city below the topmost one), and they talk about a few locations there, but that is it. The undercity is a place of mostly lawlessness and crime, as one would imagine. The Cult of Rakdos, the Golgari Swarm, the Orzhov Syndicate, and the Dimir are the primary guilds that operate in these areas, although this is not an exclusive list. The Simic Combine is closely connected the the undercity as well, considering the zonots extend from the surface all the way to the once-hidden oceans below all the layers of city. These zonots give them some turf and territory on every layer of the city that surrounds these zonots, and even some beyond. The Izzet League is certainly unafraid of this territory as well, although underground explosions tend to be a bit more catastrophic, considering collapse can be even more deadly, so it isn’t their favorite place to be. The Selesnya Conclave, Boros Legion, and Azorius Senate are not unfamiliar or resistant when it comes to traversing the undercity, but they very, very much do not prefer it, and mostly turn a blind eye to it, considering the majority of the populace lives on the topmost layer. The Gruul are very accustomed to the undercity, but mostly at points where it is far from the machinations of the other guilds that live their, as well as far from any of the pieces of civilization that do exist within the bowels of Ravnica.
The undercity also has all manner of black markets, fight clubs, party clubs, theatres, and plazas; it is, after all, still a part of the city that is Ravnica, except below. It still has buildings, its own sewer system, and streets, albeit just a bit more decrepit, run-down, and seedier than the topmost layer, and of course gets even seedier the farther down one goes.
That covers all the vertical aspects of Ravnica, but of course, there is the horizontal as well. Page 8 of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica mentions that “no single map can encompass the tremendous scope of its sprawl, and its borders (if it has any) are unknown, except possibly to those who live near the edges.” This is one of my biggest points of contention with the book, mostly because it passes off the boundaries and extent of Ravnica as “mysterious” or “unknown”. The reason I disagree with this is twofold.
For one, there is not always a heavily defined geography to each world in the Magic: the Gathering universe, but it is not unheard of. Dominaria is one such world, the entire map of the planet being the only one that has been officially released. However, worlds like Theros do exist as well, where it is not a planet but rather a world with a literal edge that can be found if one travels far enough. Ravnica is one of the former, where it is indeed a planet, and a well explored one at that, which leads to my second point as well: the motif and selling point of the first set of Ravnica cards was that the whole world had been built into a cityscape. You can’t confirm or claim that a whole world is a city if you, ya know, haven’t built everywhere already (and several times over, as I said above). The original Ravnica novels also clearly stated this as well, even mentioning at one point the planet’s magnetic poles and how the Izzet currently have a base of operation at one of them.
This last piece of information is certainly one that you can either ignore or utilize at your own discretion, considering it can be seen as a minor retcon. There is enough to explore in the center, urbs, and suburbs of Ravnica that the “whole world” aspect doesn’t need to be touched on, but interact with that as you see fit.
And this ends the second installment of “What Was Left Out of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica”. Join me next time when I talk about the amazing, and definitely weird, advancements that Ravnica has achieved.