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Magic: The Gathering Guilds of Ravnica – Our Favorite Rares

by Ron Duwell | September 28, 2018September 28, 2018 3:30 pm PST

And, at last, after a week of reviews, we come to the rares. By this point, I’m leaning towards Boros, Dimir, and Selesnya as being the better of the Guilds, but who knows? A bomb or two might just change how I rank all of them.

Will Golgari and Izzet pick up the pace and surpass their rivals? We’ll have to see!

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MONOCOLOR

Do you need to even read the card to know this is awesome? I mean, Wizards has created some overpowered angels in the last few sets, and each and every one of them has overperformed in Limited Magic.

Light of the Legion is a Boros creature, as seen in the mix of red as well as her mentor ability. With a stunning 5-power and the evasive ability of flying, she’ll pass out +1/+1 counters for days on end! This angel is hard to kill, and it will easily survive multiple combats, delivering value with each character it pumps.

When you opponent finally plays a big enough blocker or wastes her with a removal spell, she still delivers +1/+1 counters upon her death. Whatever you do with her, you’re getting value.

White often struggles to gain card advantage or draw anything outside of the standard draw step, so consider this a viable option to keep your White weenies flowing. Lifelink tokens are all over the place in Guilds of Ravnica so gaining a point here and there shouldn’t be too hard.

Likewise, casting White weenie creatures and keeping your board flush with bodies usually means you’ll have open mana at the end of a turn, so that cost upon gaining life isn’t as big as it seems.

After you’ve drawn a card or two, Dawn of Hope begins to pay for itself further by becoming an engine for lifelink creatures for four mana a pop. If those lifelink creatures start swinging in and drawing cards, you’ll have created an engine that opponents will have a hard time keeping up

Convoke usually just sits in as an alternative to a normal casting cost, but this is a card that grants benefits. You WANT to use convoke with this card as doing so creates value for the creatures that helped cast it.

And don’t worry about tapping out to cast this Venerated Loxodon, not many opponents are going to want to swing into a sizable 4/4 body. Of course, this is all case by case, based on what’s in front of you, but Venerated Loxodon should hold most lines while waiting for his powered up army to untap.

Ugh, how do you overpower a big blue flyer? Give him not one, not two, not three, but FOUR relevant abilities. Let’s count them down.

  1. Flying – slammin’
  2. Flash – Ambush an attacker, come down during an opponent’s end step
  3. Surveil 4 – Deeply fix your deck
  4. Bounce a non-land permanent – Attached to Flash on a creature, this is back-breaking

Ideally, Dream Eater comes down during an opponent’s attack phase. It bounces a big threat and blocks and kills another one, you end up with a clear board for attacks on your turn and exactly the card you’re looking to draw on your draw step. Win win win!

Ideally, you’ll want to cast this on a creature with a relevant “enter the battlefield” ability to get value from it right away. If not, creating a copy of a hulking beast is also a legitimate strategy.

And then, this card gets to do that twice! Jump-start has finally delivered a card that has truly impressed me. I wouldn’t mind tossing away a crappy goblin or unnecessary land for the chance to get another Citywatch Sphinx or Murmuring Mystic.

Blood Operative does everything! First, it clears graveyards of any annoying recurring jump-start spells or undergrowth creatures, pinning Izzet and Golgari decks in place. Then it attacks, killing most blockers in its path while most likely dying, earning you three life in the process.

Following its trip to the graveyard, it just keeps coming back! So long as you using surveil on one of its dozens of enablers, you’ll get Blood Operative back on your front lines and get to exile another graveyard card. The three life you pay to bring him back is quickly negated the next time it lands a hit. Rince, repeat.

Recurring threats are always great in Limited, especially ones that guarantee value every time it comes back.

Five mana for a 6/6 flying, trample win condition isn’t that bad of a price to pay. Doom Whisperer is a HUGE threat that must be dealt with the moment it hits the board. Otherwise, it will storm over and kill anything you put in its path.

But it’s not just the stats or the art that make this card a frightening nightmare. Read that second line of text twice. FREE, instant speed surveil for the mere price of two life. Fix your deck, dig through the waste, draw the exact card you’re looking for, enable your surveil triggers whenever necessary. Life totals are pointless in Limited Magic once you have such an efficient killer on your side, especially if you’ve stacked the deck to guarantee its success.

As if surveil needed to be any better…

Profit from death, just as Black likes to do. Midnight Reaper also is aggressively paced, so don’t fear to charge it into battle either. It replaces itself by drawing a card off of its own death, as well.

A 2/2 mentor for three mana is not that exciting since it can only put its +1/+1 counters on one-drop creatures, but mentor is hardly Legion Warboss’ most powerful ability. In limited Magic, value is everything, and nothing comes at a cheaper price than free. Free bodies, free creatures, free dudes to throw at an opponent is always pure, unfiltered value, no matter how you look at it.

Legion Warboss’ goblins might have a hard time surviving the combat they are forced into, but if enough go unblocked and survive or if one or two gain a counter from mentor, your army of tokens becomes a threat your opponent will have to deal with.

And you paid NOTHING for that army. A 1/1 charging in is likely to meet a quick and painful death, but an army of four or five with the ability to be powered up is something to fear.

Erratic Cyclops looks like a lot of fun. For a turn or two, it will be a blocker that nothing in the set can push its way through.

After a turn or two, once you have six mana on the board and a handful of powerful spells, it can start the beats. Inescapable Blaze, Cosmotronic Wave, and Chemister’s Insight should help it get there, but even a chain of cheaper draw and damage spells will push through a ton of damage.

So long as the creatures keep flowing, Beast Whisperer is a resilient 3-toughness creature that will give you easy card advantage. With enough creatures in your deck, you’ll easily be able to draw out the rest.

Undergrowth delivers another huge payoff, this in the form of drawing up a creature from your deck, ensuring that you have a play on the next turn. Hatchery Spider is also one of the best defense cards in the set, guaranteeing that you’ll be getting that next turn to play the creature

Even if your dig turns up nothing of value, you still end up with a 5/7 on the board, so it’s not like you totally missed out on value. There aren’t many creatures in this set that can get by Hatchery Spider, putting even the biggest flying bombs on watch.

The successor to the Modern favorite Green 1-drop Experiment One, fans are calling this Elfspiriment One. Hilarious!

While I doubt it will have the resiliency of Experiment One, this creature gains counters more often thanks to benefiting from creatures dying, and it gains trample once it becomes a 4/4. In any Green beatdown deck in a Guilds of Ravnica draft, this is the obvious play you want to make on turn-1. There is enough power here to get him up to a 5/5 trample for a single mana. Not bad.

Green is nonsense in Guilds of Ravnica. Seriously, read this card again, and tell me it doesn’t just blow your mind. It’s a 6/6 hexproof for four mana. I mean, WHAT?! How can you lose?

Granted, you can’t cast non-creature spells unless you pay an extra two mana, but in any self-respecting Green deck, you’ll only be wanting to cast creatures! In essence, it costs an extra two mana to cast a non-creature spell when this is on the board, but you open up Nullhide Ferox to removal with its hexproof gone.

If an opponent wants to remove Nullhide Ferox, getting rid of its hexproof is their responsibility, making their removal spell cost two more. That’s fine if it forces them to tap out valuable mana that late in the game.

Oh yeah, you can easily play this on your opponent’s second turn as well. If you’re playing against Black, and your opponent plays Burglar Rat on turn-2, you get a free 6/6 hexproof on the board…

Your opponent will likely board out Burglar Rat after feeling that kind of pain.

Again, nonsense! These effects can be played on three different creatures, ensuring they all survive combat and wipe an opponent’s board on the spot. Another option is to pile them all on an unblocked creature, getting an extra 9 damage through to an opponent and likely closing the game at that point.

Shock lands are back. Even if they aren’t in your color, take them. They are staples of Modern and worth quite a bit on the secondhand market. If you want to open up a third color, these are also a decent method of doing so.

__________

I don’t think there is much debate about Green not being the best color in Guilds of Ravnica. However, this is Ravnica, where monocolor doesn’t matter. How does Green hold up in the cycle of Guilds?

MULTICOLOR

BOROS

Again, do you even need to read the text to know this is awesome. Aurelia is 2/5 flyer for four mana is a decent common, better than Sun-Crested Pterodon, which tore through Rivals of Ixalan as one of the premiere commons.

After that, her second ability is mentor, but how can a 2/5 hope to power anything?

Well, her third ability allows her to put an automatic +2/+0 on any creature at the beginning of combat, including herself. This triggers before mentor, which kicks in when creatures begin attacking, so in reality, Aurelia is a 4/5 flying mentor, which can power just about any Boros creature in the set. Following that, she also gains trample because she is Red, and she gains vigilance because she is White.

She also doesn’t have to target herself and doesn’t need to attack to activate her ability. If you want to hold her back for blocks, all of these bonuses can be put on any Boros creature, turning something like Boros Challenger into a 4/3 trample, vigilance, mentor. Even putting it on a plain White creature or plain Red creature gives most of the bonuses.

Versatile, powerful, a pure Magic the Gathering Angel.

Swiftblade Vindicator is obviously going to be a popular card. Quick beaters with double strike are always useful. Of course, this needs a mentor or a combat trick like Sure Strike to reach its full potential or else it dies pretty quickly.

Still, the setup is easy and the payoff is HUGE. Trample and vigilance are a nice bonus on top, guaranteeing damage gets through and making this beater a solid defender, as well.

Ugh, Boros is looking absolute sick at rare. Tajic is a mentor and has haste, meaning he can easily catch off an opponent on turn-3 and pump up a one or two-drop like Swiftblade Vindicator. That’s a solid enough ability attached to any creature to make it worth it.

But, Tajic also ensures that your own creatures don’t take damage in combat… yeah, that’s busted in a strong Boros deck. This ability does not apply to him, but triggering this ability doesn’t require him to attack either.

His last ability, giving him first strike for a Red and a White mana will help him survive combat though, allowing him to charge head-first into most early battlefields on turn-4. Great card, always play this if your deck is Boros.

Boros’ split card either blows up an attacking or defending creature for two mana, or it wins you the game on the spot with every creature you control gaining first strike and vigilance for not one but TWO combat phases.

It plays out like this. You play Resurgence, and all of your creatures attack without tapping and kill any blockers that get in their way, likely surviving because they have first strike. Then, they get to attack again, probably finishing off your opponent on the spot.

It’s a situational effect that might happen once in a while, but even if it doesn’t, the Response half of the card ensures you’ll always get value out of it being in your hand.

BOOM, Boros Sweltering Suns… 3 damage everywhere. Granted, this will likely kill off your wimpy Boros creatures, but you might not have a choice if they are falling behind a rival aggro deck.

On the flip side, gaining back a million life isn’t all that bad either. This card doesn’t require you to go nuclear and killl everything. Dealing damage and securing your life total for a longer aggro game is a decent move as well.

Selesnya

As I said before, creature generators are key to Limited Magic, and Emmara’s at least have the ability to survive into another turn. Tapping Emmara could be dangerous since you won’t want to attack into any blockers, losing your token engine.

However, with enough convoke spells, you should be able to creature a few tokens out of her. Those tokens ensure that a blocker will be left back during your opponent’s next combat phase, OR they can help ramp a convoke spell. The token is created when Emmara taps, not after the spell is cast, so go ahead and tap that token for mana as well.

Solid card, but you’ll need the convoke to really get her to work out.

Versatile as can be, in Knight of Autumn, you get a 4/3 for three mana… the kind of aggressively paced threat Selesnya is looking for.

OR

A 2/1 on top of removal of a deadly artifact or annoying enchantment.

OR

A 2/1 and four life, securing yourself another turn or two to set up your board for the true big threats. Knight of Autumn is not a bomb, but it is a really solid rare that can save your bacon in almost any situation.

Making a huge army of tokens is always fun, but you need to be sure that you can survive a turn after tapping out all of your creatures for convoke. Otherwise, this is just a lifegain spell when your opponent cracks back into your new recruits and wipes them out.

If you survive the turn after that, the tokens will likely gain that life back for you and put your opponent on notice that any damage the deal for the rest of the game will be immediately negated.

Decent enough. Card draw, life gain, and a stronger army is a good way to ensure that you either win the game or survive another turn with a loaded hand. If you go on the offensive after casting this card, lifelink tokens benefit the most from this spell, possibly doubling the amount of life you gain back and giving you that much more time to regroup.

Even if you cast this defensively, it’s a solid fortification card that can put an end to a game against an aggro deck.

Trostani is a five-mana lord for five mana, meaning she’ll need a bit more power to impress me than that. That ability is powerful in a Selesnya deck, but at mythic rarity? Meh…

Her second ability brings two lifelink tokens with her to the battlefield which are immediately boosted to 2/2. In total, on her own, Trostani brings 5/7 worth of stats for five mana, a better rate than Hatchery Spider and the option for gaining four life a turn. That I can dig.

Her third ability is useless in this Limited format, so don’t bother reading it. Just know that your creatures will be stronger, and your lifelink creatures will gain you more life back. That’s a fair deal for five mana if not slightly unimpressive seeing that she is mythic.

Boros’ split card is better since removal is a much stronger alternative than Assure, which is a mediocre combat trick at best. You’re going to want to cast Assemble with this one and get those three vigilance creatures. You’ll more consistently get them also since its a much less situational card than Boros’ Resurgence.

However, taking the easy way out and casting Assure and simply winning a combat seems like a waste.

Golgari

Vraska is back to her dirty tricks, and as a four-mana planeswalker, she’s alright. The +2 ability allows you to start cashing in on useless land or creatures while you look for better cards. Just remember, you don’t have to use the ability either since it says “may.” If you don’t feel like sacrificing anything, just give her the +2 and call it a turn.

Her -3 ability allows you to blow up anything cheap. Not too bad if she comes down on ramp, but it’s also not something you’re going to use on a bomb. Most of Guilds of Ravnica’s best targets are more expensive than that.

If Vraska survives four grueling turns, her ultimate will win you the game. Menace, trample, flying, all of these abilities become one point of damage away from winning the game.

Without the ability to protect herself and her limited range of destruction, she’s no Vraska, Relic Seeker, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to cut her either.

Good enough for Legacy, good enough for Limited. I mean, that’s always the case, right?……

Assassin’s Trophy is the best removal spell in the set, no question. No land or amount of ramp is worth losing your win condition, and Assassin’s Trophy denies opponents of that on the spot! This card will reverberate throughout the format and ensure that Golgari has the best-selling sealed box on pre-release date, tomorrow.

This card is a little complicated. If played on turn-3, you have a 4/4 trample, which will likely be the strongest creature on the board and something no opponent will want to attack into. However, it’s on you to keep Charnel Troll alive. You’ll want to play this after combat on turn-3, hoping that your 1-drop or 2-drop ends up in the graveyard. If that happens, go ahead and play Charnel Troll on turn-3 because only then will it have fodder to sacrifice on your next upkeep, turning it into a 5/5 trample at the beginning of turn-4!

That’s a game you’ll likely win if you can keep discarding creatures to feed it.

DON’T play this on turn-3 with an empty graveyard! You won’t have the mana to discard anything and you’ll have to sacrifice it.

If you can’t get anything into your graveyard on turn-3 or turn-4, this doesn’t reliably get played until turn-5, when you have to extra mana to discard a creature. At that point, it become a little less impressive. It enables undergrowth, but who cares? It gets bigger, but big creatures will also be out by that point to rumble with it.

It’s too situational to be a reliable threat but explosive if you can put a creature in the graveyard by turn-3.

Insect tokens are a viable payoff for undergrowth, which you should have activated when turn-6 comes around. You’re getting value with at least three Insects, so trade away if Izoni is in your hand.

Those Insect tokens can certainly chump block, but they deliver more value if Izoni turns them into easy lifegain and card draw. Ideally, you’ll want to sacrifice them as they are blocking.

Without undergrowth, Izoni isn’t really worth it. Sacrificing even mediocre creatures is hardly worth a card draw.

Izoni is pure undergrowth payoff, but with a lack of other good undergrowth payoffs, it makes you wonder if he’s consistent or even worth building around.

Rock on! Underrealm Lich is boss! He’s a Sylvan Library attached to a 4/3 creature that can become indestructible on a whim. Adanto Vanguard was one of my favorite creatures in Ixalan, and Underrealm Lich is easily one of my favorites in Guilds of Ravnica.

Splash this into Selesnya, no question. The Guild’s lifelink and life gain abilities will make sure you never have to worry about Underrealm Lich bites the dust.

Buying back creatures is both a Green and a Black staple, so getting back two for two mana by casting Find is an easy cheap effect on this card.

Casting Finality is just a board wipe! You gain two counters, a Green ability, on your biggest creature and everything else gets -4/-4, including your own creatures. True, many of them will die, but so will your opponent’s… and your pumped creature and a possible Molderhulk will be all that’s left on the battlefield.

Your opponent isn’t coming back from that one.

DIMIR

Etrata is awkward. She comes down and has to survive the turn in order to start paying off. Then, she attacks and can’t be blocked, which is a good ability. She exiles a creature, which is a good ability. Then she gets shuffled back into the deck, which sucks. But, you’ll eventually find her again, and get to swing in for more damage, more exiling, and more shuffling.

My guess is that the alternate win condition won’t appear that much. Once an opponent sees her, they’ll be ready to take her out the next time she hits the battlefield… though, they’re really going to have to try hard against 5-toughness.

Most likely, she’ll attack, do three points of unblockable damage, exile a creature, and disappear for the rest of the game. MAYBE she comes out a second time, but it’s not something to bet on. Getting through that cycle once though makes her a good card.

Lazav really wants to be splashed into a Golgari deck, where he will have a ton of huge targets to morph into. Otherwise, with no solid creatures in the graveyard, he’s just a 1/3 that might be able to double as your bomb rare if it got removed or couldn’t close the game on its own.

Dimir isn’t about big creatures either, so what’s the point?

Lazav does not trigger “enter the battlefield” abilities either, which is a minus. I would only play him if I had a Nightveil Predator or something with hexproof in my graveyard to ensure that he can’t be targeted. Again, too situational.

This is what I’m talking about. Not the legendary creatures or bombs, just a solid Dimir rare. A 2/2 flyer for three mana is good, but this card lives up to its name by stealing opponent’s cards. They won’t know what you took, they won’t know what’s on the bottom of their deck, they won’t know if it’s futile to dig for their win condition, they won’t know a thing…

…and you’ll know everything! They’ll eventually figure it out once you through that card back in their face!

Two decent effects, gaining control of a creature is always solid, even if you are getting something weak. There’s no shame in stealing a Legion Warboss! Just be sure not to take Trostani because you’ll have to give her back right away.

Unless they have a bomb 2-power creature, if there is such a thing, always cast Concoct. You’ll get to dig through your deck with surveil, fix it the way you want it, toss a huge creature into the graveyard, and get it back immediately! If you already have a solid creature in the graveyard, this ensures you’re going to get full value from the card. Naturally, this splashes well into a Golgari deck.

IZZET

Ral is the stronger of the two Planeswalkers in the set. Shame he’s in the Guild I think is the weakest… which is funny because Golgari is the second weakest. Maybe Wizards felt the need to bump both.

At any rate, he is already stunning with 5 loyalty points, a huge amount on any Planeswalker. His +1 ability opens up huge card advantage and loads up the graveyard with jump-start cards and other instants and sorceries.

Those instant and sorcery cards power up his -3 ability, which will likely kill any creature he targets.

And his ultimate, if you can get there, is game ending, turning any instant or sorcery into spot removal, burn damage to the face, and unconditional card advantage.

Izzet needed a boost, and this Planeswalker delivers… if you ever see him.

I don’t think Niv-Mizzet agrees with not being the premiere Izzet card in a set, but he’s not. Ral is definitely the better card, while Niz sits back and does his usual thing of penalizing opponents for your card advantage. Good thing that’s a mechanic worth building around!

A casting cost that strict demands huge payoff, and that’s what you get once Niv reaches the battlefield, unafraid of pesky counterspells. He deals a guaranteed 1 damage every single turn, and every spell you cast for the rest of the game turns into damage. Draw spells turn into 2, 3, or even 4 damage, and any burn spell tacks on an additional point at any target.

Oh yeah, he’s also a 5/5 flyer. Don’t forget that.

Ral’s easier casting cost and ability to function on his own, rather than being a build-around, make him a bit more playable in Limited, but the two will wreck havoc on opponents. Izzet might be the weakest Guild, but at the rare, these two cards can’t be beat, proving that it is the most difficult guild to draft, as well.

Sadly, they are also the only rare cards at Izzet on my radar. The rest are not that great, and even this split card fails to impress in the way others did. Expansion requires a spell that you’ll want to copy, meaning there are times when you simply can’t cast this. The cheap side of the split cards are supposed to prevent the card from being dead in your hand, but this will often be just that… a dead card.

The other half is too expensive to consider. For FIVE mana, you deal one damage and draw one card… ummm…. no. For ten mana, you deal six damage and draw six cards, which is a little bit better. In other words, the game has to go on for a LONG time, and you’ll want at least seven mana to make this card worth it… barely.

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So we reach the end of our reviews, and I can come up with two big conclusions

  • Dimir, Selesnya, and Boros are the best and most exciting decks. The synergize well, have powerful cards, and will be easy to build from a draft or a sealed pool.
  • Golgari and Izzet are not that great. Their mechanics are situational and lack payoff, and they are tough to build around. However, they are also home to Ral, Izzet Viceroy, Assassin’s Trophy, and Underrealm Lich, arguably the three best cards in the set.

Go for the synergies of the stronger guilds because they’re more consistent and you’re not likely to see the bombs as often. And if you do see the bombs in a Draft or Sealed pool, they splash well into the other guilds.

Between the top three, I think I like Boros the best now. Dimir’s and Selesnya’s rares left me wanting more, but Boros’ never failed to deliver. Each of the Boros cards we talk about today would crush any board state, and the same goes for yesterday, when it showed the strongest multicolor uncommons as well.

That being said, the best color overall is Green. It has the most playable, the best monocolor rares, and plenty of wiggle room in both Selesnya and even Boros. So… who’s down for Naya?


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