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Magic: The Gathering – The Nerdy Goes to Guilds of Ravnica Pre-Release

by Ron Duwell | October 6, 2018October 6, 2018 1:30 pm PST

We came, we saw, we Boros’d our way to a winning record at Guilds of Ravnica pre-release this past weekend, ditching our beloved colors of Green and White Selesnya for a chance to bash in with the militaristic Ravnica guild of Boros.

The lure of Boros’ mentor mechanic pulled me away from the hippy-dippy teachings of Selesnya and its convoke spells. I got plenty of experience a few years back with convoke when I played Frontier and used a few Magic 2015 cards, and I decided to go with Boros to try something new. Stacking mentor triggers, turning 1/1 wimps into 3/3 threats out of pure aggression, pressuring opponents before they could set themselves up.

That’s my style of Magic.

And yet, even after picking the Boros seeded pre-release box and jamming a few aggressive creatures, I still ended up with a control deck! Boros Control in Guilds of Ravnica? How on Earth did we get there?!

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THE POOL

It’s all in the Sealed Pool, and it’s all what the Magic Gods deliver in your packs. Guilds of Ravnica seems a lot like Ixalan in that Sealed might not be the best way to play. All of your bomb rares might be in one Guild, but the support commons and uncommons might be better served in another Guild. This leaves a deck that doesn’t have nearly the same level of synergies as one you might have created in a Draft.

This turned out to be the case for me. I’ll explain with the breakdown of my packs.

Our shiny Boros pre-release box. With Boros, we’re looking for smaller creatures with aggressive stats and offensive abilities. What brutal tactics await us inside?

I was excited to see this appear as our promo card. Tajic, Legion’s Edge is exactly what we want, an aggressive creature with haste, mentor, and the ability to gain first strike for just two mana. With this in our deck, we’re looking for smaller creatures to pump up and jam in early with, keeping our opponents on the ropes and unable to stabilize.

Guilds of Ravnica‘s pre-release is unique among recent sets in that, rather than the usual six normal booster packs, it came with five booster packs and a special sixth pack that was seeded specifically with the Guild you’ve chosen.

This pack used only cards that were designed to give Boros a boost in power, and it turned up pretty well. What’s in here we could use?

Obviously, we could use this.

One of the best split cards in the set, this is a cheap combat trick or a powerful removal/lifegain spell for four mana.

Decent top of our curve. Excellent for weakening opposing creatures and blocking survivors when they crack back on the following turn.

A pair of common mentors. Wojek Bodyguard is better since it is more resilient and cheaper, but Barging Sergeant is fine in a slower Boros deck looking to ambush an opponent.

Solid target for an early mentor counter. It’s better for this to be killed early and have that counter put on the lifelink soldier instead.

A bit slow for what Boros is looking to do, but it can open up a path for your creatures to get through later in the game.

Decent combat trick that helps secure your life total.

So, we had a decent start to a Boros deck. Three mentors, a decent curve topper, and semi-decent target for mentor. What came next?

Hmmm… not a lot of Boros cards in here.

Solid mentor, and even though it dies easily, 5 power is nothing to laugh at. If this gets through and powers a creature, your opponent is all the weaker on the next turn.

Easily the best common removal spell. Took this out of the pack right away.

Our rare was a sideboard card, useful against Dimir and Selesnya decks with tough creatures, but not useful in the main deck.

Better luck in pack 3.

Meh…

Our rare is… okay. In a two-color deck, it’s a 2/2 that can deal two direct damage at any point it wants. Since this is sealed, we’re likely to have three colors, so it’s, in theory, a 3/3 with the same ability. Not earth-shattering, but definitely fit for the main deck.

“Assassin’s Creed: the Magic card” is an aggressive attacker and a quality late-game flyer. Good pick.

Easily a card we want to splash, and we did have a Selesnya Guildgate in the previous pack. A 4/4 vigilance helps give us some beef that Boros’ tiny creatures lack.

And now that we are looking at three colors, this guy becomes a viable threat so long as we get two or three more Guildgates.

Overall, another pretty weak Boros pack. No mentors, one semi-decent target, a mediocre rare. Better in pack 3… I hope?

I hope you like my shorts because they are the most interesting thing in these lame pictures. Niv-Mizzet is boss, but we don’t nearly have the Izzet support or the Guildgates to cast him.

We do have some prime removal in Red, though. 4 damage, even at sorcery speed, is back-breaking.

We’re fine with this guy. He’s easy to cast and purely aggressive with that first strike ability. With a mentor on the field, he’s even more dangerous.

Here’s a quality Red creature. It pumps your offensive creatures, pushing through more damage, or it pumps your mentors, allowing them to power up more power creatures. Solid pick.

Since I was already considering splashing Green, I thought to go for a four-color deck using the Golgari Guildgate in this pack to splash for this insane card. I did not go that route, though I wish I had.

Okay pack, but still no good mentors, and if I see one more Candlelight Vigil or Tenth District Guard, I am going to snap!

Onto pack 5, hope it’s better than what we’ve seen.

Freakin’ Tenth District Guard, get out of here! But ooooo, look at that! A Boros Rare!

Meh, it’s okay. A solid removal spell that occasionally turns into a game-winner. Not the kind of rare we’re looking for but an easy inclusion in our deck.

We’re splashing Green! With two of these, we’re all set.

Another 1/1 for one. We’ll include it since we’re light on targets for mentor.

But I still want to be strangled at this point. Boros is letting me down so hard. Four packs and Hammer Dropper is our only mentor! By turn-4, it’s too late to do anything with! I’d settle for a Blade Instructor at this point.

Pack 6… I hate Boros. I’m done forever!

……. I hate this sealed pool. Everything about it is pure garbage. I show up to play Boros, and outside of my seeded pack, I don’t get a single aggro mentor.

Fine spell. VERY fine spell. This blows up big blockers, sure, but it also can deliver the last six points of damage your aggressive deck is looking for. Guaranteed hit, too.

We’re very light on mentor, but these guys can help maintain our life total and convoke our centaurs. Very good card.

Weird card, but it can close a game if you have enough creatures on the board. It also wipes out lifelink soldiers and goblin tokens. Just one is all you want in a deck, and I got just one.

Feeling desperate at this point, so I’ll toss this in there for a little bit of power.

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But yeah, very disappointed in my Sealed pool. No good Rare cards, no quality mentors in pack 2 through pack 6, no Healer’s Hawk to power up, no Parhilion Patrol, no Skyknight Legionnaire, no Boros Challenger, my favorite Boros uncommon, no Legion Guildmage… and no way to build around another Guild either. My Black spells are bad, and I need Izzet Guildgates to cast Niv-Mizzet. My jump-start pool is non-existant, my surveil cards are limited, my card draw is lacking…

If there was a worse sealed pool out there last weekend, please… show it to me. It’s what I deserve for abandoning Selesnya. I throw myself at your merciful feet Trostani and promise it will never happen again.

THE DECK

Creatures (13)

Instant (5)

Sorcery (4)

Enchantment (1)

Land (17)

Sideboard (5)

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There she is… about as mediocre as a Boros deck gets, if even we can get to mediocre. It’s so bad that the most interesting decision I had to make was between Garrison Sergeant and Barging Sergeant, two tower-tiered commons. Despite my complaints about not having enough mentors, I did decide to go with the Garrison Sergeant after finding enough Guildgates.

Doesn’t matter since neither card came out.

THE GAMES

With this heap of garbage, I took on three opponents.

My first opponent was a Golgari deck with a splash of Blue for some extra card draw, and it wasn’t a very interesting match up. I easily overpowered his early blockers, and I finished both games with an Inescapable Blaze.

Magic is so much easier to win with an aggro deck when your opponent essentially starts the game at 14 life. I rode the blaze to a 2-0 game record in my first match

1-0 matches (2-0 games)

My second opponent built a Dimir deck with a splash of Green, technically making this my second Black/Green/Blue Sultai deck. However, the builds couldn’t be different.

This opponent clearly had a strong pool, his deck was loaded with surveil cards, surveil payoffs, and not one but THREE Watcher in the Mist. Must be nice to play with Guild synergies and your premiere common.

I felt the full wrath of this deck in my first game, my tiny Boros wimps unable to power through a deadly combination of Watcher in the Mist and Vigorspore Wurm. I don’t think undergrowth is a good mechanic on its own, but when tied into a surveil deck… ugh, it’s just disgusting!

I hadn’t yet realized it since my first opponent fell so easily, but I was playing with a control Boros deck, overloaded with removal and not heavy on creatures. I sideboarded in Citywide Bust and Collar the Culprit to take out his big defenders, but I also put in my Maniacal Rages to try and beat him before he could settle in. This tactic worked, and his surveil cards couldn’t find his bombs.

In game three, I landed a Citywide Bust that took out two Watcher in the Mist and a Dimir Informant, and boosted my life total with a Soldier token and some +1/_+1 counters. It looked like I was going to win, but he played a Ritual of Soot, wiping my board of tokens and cheap creatures, and reestablished faster than me with another Watcher in the Mist. He then powered that with a Vigorspore Wurm for an extra nine damage.

All the while, he was at seven life, and I couldn’t get a single point in for Inescapable Blaze. I also had to find Inescapable Blaze, but it never turned up. I lost to his rebuilt board, falling 1-1 on the day.

1-1 matches (3-2 games)

My last opponent played an Izzet deck with a splash of Black. He sadly got a bye in the first round and got slaughtered in his second round. An experienced player helped him rebuild the deck, hopefully turning it for the better.

These games were LONG. None of our creatures came to the board, and those that did were immediately hit with a removal spell. The full power of my Boros Control deck showed off here as we grinded out two games that took the entire 40 minutes of the round.

In the end, my creatures outlasted his, and Inescapable Blaze turned up in time to win me the final game. Otherwise, time would have run out, and it would have been a draw.

2-1 matches (5-2 games)

______________

How did the individual cards do?

Overperformed

This card won me three games and, like I said, essentially starts an opponent’s life total at 14 from the beginning of the game. Better than Swatchcutter Giant as a 6-drop.

Saved my bacon so many times. When I needed some blockers, these turned up, and when I was on the offensive, the soldiers helped me survive longer with a counter or two on them.

Underperformed

Did not find much use for this guy all day. Huge disappointment! Only in one game did he act as intended, and the rest of the time, he sat in my hand as a dead card. I mean, I could rarely play him on turn-3 since he dies to even a Child of Night, a trade no Magic player should be willing to make. I mean, come on!

I also rarely had targets for him to mentor, and his first strike ability doesn’t even guarantee he survives on turn-5, when three power doesn’t make that much difference.

Changes?

What would I have played differently? Could I have?! Look at that pool, is there any other way I could have built this deck?

The best I can suggest is that I abandon the aggro game and mentor altogether and cut the two Hunted Witness. After that, I should have aimed for a mid-range deck and played the Barging Sergeant and run my own…

Yes, I had a Vigorspore Wurm in my pool, but I overlooked it when splashing Green. DON’T make this mistake. If you have this card an are playing with a slower deck, this is an excellent common. In those Izzet games, my graveyard was loaded with creatures, and this could have turned anything on the board into a game closer.

Had I committed more to Green, I could have also used the Prey Upon in my pool. I was already deep with removal, but cutting the Gird for Battle for this would have been a good choice.

Finally, I should have totally splashed for Black. Status // Statue is too good to ignore, and even if you don’t get to remove something with Statue, Status’ +1/+1 deathtouch for a hybrid mana is a quality combat trick.

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Still, with a 5-2 overall record, I can’t complain. I rode an awful Boros sealed pool to an unconventional victory. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to experience Boros as designed, which I thought sounded a lot more fun than the mess I concocted.

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