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Magic: The Gathering – Closing the Book on Guilds of Ravnica

by Ron Duwell | January 27, 2019January 27, 2019 7:30 am PDT

Pre-release went well this past weekend of Ravnica Allegiance, so with the official launch of Magic: The Gathering’s next expansion into its Standard rotation, let us close the books on the previous one, Guilds of Ravnica.

Ultimately, Guilds of Ravnica delivered a fairly fun Limited experience. Drafting it was as simple as finding a lane and sticking to it for all of your packs, and if you read the signs right, you pretty much were guaranteed a winning record. None of the Guilds nor the gameplay came as close to being as shallow as the Ixalan expansions, but when put next to Dominaria, it came up way short. At the end of the day, it hovered in pretty middling range, above Core 2019.

Fun, but I think the general lack of power from the Guilds held it back. Some found ways to win, but ultimately, none of the Guilds were overly exciting. Ravnica Allegiance has no such problem, and will ultimately be remembered as a better set, I predict.

As expected, Surveil from the Blue/Black Dimir decks proved to be the most useful ability, the easiest to draft, and the most consistent to win. Surveil added guaranteed card advantage on nearly every turn with the ability attached to 20+ cards and the payoffs were huge, especially on the prime uncommon of the set, Disinformation Campaign.

However, Dimir decks often lacked a good closer. All that card advantage proved for not if you failed to land a bomb rare to close out the game. In their desperation for some kind of beef, Dimir players even turned to vanilla fluff like Douser of Lights to be their winners, elevating an otherwise useless card into an all-star performer.

For what Dimir had in consistency with winning, Blue/Red Izzet also emerged as an explosive Guild thanks to its huge uncommon or even common payoffs. Niv-Mizzet and his crew weren’t easy to settle on when drafting, but with even one or two of those superstar cards on the battlefield, players could close the game with no sweat. Wee Dragonauts, Piston-Fist Cyclops, Crackling DrakeMurmuring Mystic, or even weak sauce like Beamsplitter Mage could put the game away with a play or two.

The power of Izzet and the consistency of Dimir dominated the set. Boros and its mentor ability were fine but not all that much fun to use. I like beat down decks, but I like variety, which this Guild lacked. After playing with it in Ravnica Allegiance, Gruul is everything I wish Boros had been. Beats with a spice of variety. So nice!

Selesnya lacked enough ways to make tokens for convoke to make an impact, and Golgari did… something. I’m not sure what, but I just know that if you drafted it, you usually lost.

My predictions

  1. Dimir
  2. Selesnya
  3. Boros
  4. Izzet
  5. Golgari

If I remember correctly, I had the Guilds ranked this way.

The outcome

  1. Izzet
  2. Dimir
  3. Boros
  4. Selesnya
  5. Golgari

I put Izzet above Dimir just because of its ability to close a game often proved too much for the other guilds to handle. A splash of Black or even just straight up Blue spells gave it access to surveil cards, granting it the same consistency that Dimir decks had. Without question, Grixis Blue/Black/Red decks were the most powerful three-color combination.

Green was the weakest of the five colors, and the Guilds it made up underperformed on every level. What a shame. Maybe that’s why I was not a fan of Guilds of Ravnica. Weak Green makes me an upset Magic player. Ravnica Allegiance makes up for it with Green being an absolute powerhouse!

My Five Favorite Limited Cards

The best uncommon in the set. This engine could win with you the game on its own with enough support. Draw a card, make them discard, surveil for advantage, take it back, cast it again, draw a card, make them discard.

I think my record was playing this card three times in a single turn when I had a Doom Whisperer in play, and my opponent discarded their entire hand. Absolutely devastating. Disinformation Campaign turned useless fodder like Barrier of Bones into playables and rock solid commons like Watcher in the Mist and Whisper Agent into being more desirable than rares and uncommons.

Easily the most useful card in the set, and at uncommon, it was likely to appear in multiples. I often first picked this and forced Dimir if I had to.

I’m going to put all three of these cards together. I talked about them earlier, but this triple threat of spell-based payoffs often proved too much for opponents to survive. The explosiveness of Wee Dragonauts and Crackling Drake could drain an opponent of half their life in one turn, and with jump-start attached to Blue’s excellent draw spells, Radical Idea and Chemist’s Insight, you’d be ready and loaded for another turn immediately after!

Murmuring Mystic was more of a resilient card. 5 toughness made it hard for Boros cards to get through, and those 1/1 Bird Illusion tokens eventually made an army that could block devastating menace creatures and close out the game through the air in large numbers.

Beamsplitter Mage + Piston-Fist Cyclops + Maximize Altitude also proved to be a deadly combo that was easy to set up. Even Leapfrog proved amazing in some cases!

I’m sorry to have underrated Izzet when looking at the set. Blue/Red is always a favorite of mine, but the dream of Selesnya lured me away with its false gods and empty promises. All four of those cards could easily go into the fifth slot, but I have one other card I’d like to mention for Limited play.

This card. This f&*%ing card! If this came down on turn-1, it demanded an immediate answer. Boros and Selesnya had so many ways to manipulate this card, it was disgusting. Convoke benefited from it with faster access to Siege Wurm or Conclave Tribunal, and mentors obviously wanted to load it up with counters.

Turn-2 Maniacal Rage? Forget about it! Game over! Turn-2 Ironshell Beetle? Sure thing! Rubblebelt Boar? Why not? Healer’s Hawk overperformed on every level, making it a star common that I always drafted highly. Evasive lifelink from turn-1 was perhaps a little underrated when designing the set.

My Five Favorite Constructed Cards

I’m always looking to shake up the Modern Naya Zoo shell, and any Green one-drop that can compete with Experiment One deserves attention. Ultimately, Experiment One’s resilience is most powerful than the trample and easier counter ramp that Pelt Collector provides, but a sweet combo with Vexing Devil, a card that has long desired to fit in Modern Naya Zoo, gave the deck a new angle to work with.

In Standard, you can bet I love this card! It fits nicely along Llanowar Elves as a Green one-drop and the beat down it provides when bigger creatures come down is pure value for what you paid.

Two more efficient and brutal Green cards. Kraul Harpooner might not be that tough, but with 3-power, playing it on turn-2 creates more than enough pressure to demand a response. Later in the game, this card easily takes down Crackling Drake, Enigma Drake, and even Lyra in a pinch. Good early, good later, a sign of a great Green two-drop.

As for the Nullhide Ferox, nothing felt better than seeing your Llanowar Elves survive two turns and slamming this on turn-3. Especially against mono-Red decks, where burn spells are too weak to handle or even target it while it trounces all over their wimpy creatures. I’ve had players scoop on the spot when they saw this card come down so early.

Sadly, I haven’t gotten to play it for free yet. Someday…

The whole mentor ability never really gelled with constructed play, proving to be a little too slow to keep up with normal aggressive decks. Often times, the pressure to turn on the ability forced players to make awkward attacks and sacrifice creatures for +1/+1 counters, rarely a good trade. Riot and the Red/Green Gruul decks don’t have this problem and can safely pump from a distance, making it a more viable decision.

Aside from Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice though, Legion Warboss had the best track record as a mentor in my case. This card gets out of hand if left unanswered, and when paired with cards like Heroic Reinforcements? Forget about it! This runs rampant all over defenses.

After switching from White/Red Boros decks to Gruul decks, Warboss only gets better when cast on turn-2 with a Llanowar Elves in play. Those goblins pile up with no defenders to stop them. The future also looks bright for Warboss since enough support for goblins exists right now to make a mean deck, and a powerhouse bomb is all it needs to hold the deck up. We have one more expansion taking place in Ravnica, and Krenko is still nowhere to be found.

Standard Goblins in War of the Spark?

Since getting back into Magic, Amonkhet’s and Core 2019’s Enigma Drake has been one of my favorite cards. This is the improved version, and together, the pair made up a dominant Standard deck that is still viable after Ravnica Allegiance came out. Load up on Red removal, Blue card draw, and some counterspells for protection and watch as these high-toughness creatures only get more and more powerful.

Izzet Drakes can be an obnoxious deck, but man, is it fun to play!

Honorable mention

I’m still looking to break this card on Magic Arena. Leonin Warleader, Legion’s Landing, and Dawn of Hope all seem to be a piece of the puzzle. The big question now is what color does it pair best with? Boros gives access to Legion Warboss, plenty of free Goblin tokens, Heroic Reinforcements, and lots of Red removal like Justice Strike, Lava Coil, and Deafening Clarion to control the board in the meantime.

The problem with this deck is that it wins too fast, often times before Divine Visitation hits the board. Not a bad thing, but it defeats the purpose of the deck, leaving our build-around as a sort of alternate win condition if things don’t go right.

Selesnya also works with Saproling Migration and March of the Multitudes as obvious tools for angel generation. I settled on both Green and Red before Ravnica Allegiance came out, making use of all the cards mentioned here, and it doesn’t really work. I’ll need to settle at some point, but I have far more success with Boros decks, even if it means I win with means other than a n army of charging angels.

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