Return to Ravnica contains 274 cards (25 basic lands, 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythic rares), including randomly inserted premium versions of all cards in the set. As was the case with the original Ravnica block, Return to Ravnica focuses on the guild system and multicolor cards. Five guilds — the Azorius Senate, Golgari Swarm, Izzet League, Cult of Rakdos, and Selesnya Conclave — are featured in Return to Ravnica; the other five guilds appear in the following expansion, Gatecrash. Because R&D had to fit in five guilds, rather than four, the set contained more uncommon cards than usual. It is is unknown what the expansion symbol of this is set is meant to represent, though some people think it is a stylized Orzhov Mitre, a nib of a fountain pen or a gate.
As Gatecrash would not feature any basic lands, despite being a large expansion, Return to Ravnica featured 25 basic lands, 5 more than the usual 20. For the first time basic lands were printed in an expert expansion with reused artwork: one of each basic land type featured artwork previously used in the Ravnica block. Return to Ravnica also marked the return of the shock lands.
Richard Whitters was the Return to Ravnica Lead Concept Artist. He, alongside Aleksi Briclot, Pete Mohrbacher, Wayne Reynolds, Sam Burley, Jeremy Jarvis, created the Return to Ravnica motif sheets and style guide.