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Lessons from the Guilds of Ravnica Prerelease


I played in a Guilds of Ravnica prerelease this weekend. I'd read up on the guilds' power levels, and most articles and posts ranked Dimir first, Golgari and Selesnya second and third, Boros fourth, and Izzet last. Unfortunately, I hadn't preregistered and my top two choices (Dimir and Golgari) were unavailable, so I chose Selesnya. (Golgari was more popular than I'd expected because people were hoping to find Assassin's Trophy in their seeded pack) I opened a Steam Vents and a Watery Grave and went 3-0 before splitting in the last round, so all ended well.

Here's the pool I opened:

Lands (8)

Golgari Guildgate
2 Izzet Guildgate
3 Selesnya Guildgate
Steam Vents
Watery Grave

Artifacts (5)

Izzet Locket
Rampaging Monument
2 Selesnya Locket
Silent Dart

White (10)

Conclave Tribunal
Hunted Witness
Intrusive Packbeast
3 Ledev Guardian
Righteous Blow
Sworn Companions
2 Tenth District Guard

Blue (10)

Capture Sphere
Dazzling Lights
Devious Cover-Up
Disdainful Stroke
2 Leapfrog
Muse Drake
Sinister Sabotage
Unexplained Disappearance
Watcher in the Mist

Black (7)

2 Bartizan Bats
Hired Poisoner
Never Happened
Severed Strands
Spinal Centipede
Undercity Necrolisk

Red (7)

Barging Sergeant
Cosmotronic Wave
Direct Current
Fire Urchin
Goblin Cratermaker
Goblin Locksmith
Maniacal Rage

Green (16)

Beast Whisperer
2 Devkarin Dissident
Generous Stray
Golgari Raiders
Grappling Sundew
Hitchclaw Recluse
Ironshell Beetle
Kraul Harpooner
Pack's Favor
2 Portcullis Vine
Prey Upon
Siege Wurm
Sprouting Renewal
Wild Ceratok

Multicolor (22)

2 Artful Takedown
Camaraderie
Centaur Peacemaker
Conclave Guildmage
Deafening Clarion
Erstwhile Trooper
Garrison Sergeant
Glowspore Shaman
Hammer Dropper
Hypothesizzle
Ionize
Join Shields
Ledev Champion
Nightveil Sprite
Ochran Assassin
Rhizome Lurcher
Rosemane Centaur
Skyknight Legionnaire
2 Sumala Woodshaper
Swathcutter Giant

Hybrid (4)

Fresh-Faced Recruit
Pitiless Gorgon
Vernadi Shieldmate
Whisper Agent

Split cards (1)

Status // Statue

The pool had a number of strong Green, White, and Green/White multicolor cards, including bombs like Camaraderie and Beast Whisperer, removal spells, mana sinks for the long games, and three Selesnya Guildgates to fix my mana, so the deck pretty much built itself. The only significant decision was whether to splash another color. I decided to splash Black to get access to Ochran Assassin to break ground stalls and Status // Statue for additional removal. I only had two expensive cards with convoke, so I cut Sworn Companions and a couple of two-drops to make space for the Black cards and Join Shields, which I wanted to try out.

Here's the deck I ultimately built:

My first round was against an inexperienced player piloting Izzet and I had a bye in the second round, but I think this is a 3-0 deck regardless. The third round was against a strong Selesnya deck (one with no splash), and I managed to pull it out after losing the first game. I also won the one game that my final round opponent and I played for fun while waiting for our match slips. Some things I learned from these games:

The deck's mana was quite good because of the four Guildgates, and my 17 lands gave me access to ten sources of Green mana, eight sources of White mana, and three sources of Black mana, without any Green mana fixing. And while the deck has three Black cards, Ochran Assassin is the only one that requires Black mana since Pitiless Gorgon and the first half of Status // Statue can be cast with just Green mana.

Beast Whisperer and Camaraderie are obviously amazing, and provide card advantage for a color that doesn't usually get much of it. Kraul Harpooner is also excellent as it's always at least a 3/2 with reach for two mana and that can sometimes acts as a Plummet. In the best case scenario, it'll kill a Roc Charger or Nightveil Sprite and live around to fight another day. The rest of my two-drops were also excellent:

  • Conclave Guildmage is an amazing mana sink in the late game, and is the only reusable ability in the format that creates 2/2's (the rest create 1/1's).
  • Devkarin Dissident often goes unblocked once you get to five mana because of the threat of activation.
  • Vernadi Shieldmate can attack and still help convoke creatures of either of its colors.

Other cards that were better than I expected:

  • Intrusive Packbeast ended a couple of games by tapping key blockers.
  • Rampaging Monument is always at least a Hill Giant with trample, and is excellent if you even get one additional +1/+1 counter on it. That's not too difficult in a multicolor set with plenty of gold, hybrid, and split cards.
  • Rosemane Centaur was was even better than I'd expected. It can usually be cast on turn four, is typically the biggest creature on the table at that point, is difficult to block without risking a 2-for-1, and can help convoke creatures of either of its colors after attacking.

On the flip side, Ledev Champion underperformed. I never wanted to use either of its abilities, so it was just a three-mana 2/2 that sometimes drew me a card (if Beast Whisperer was in play) and sometimes added a +1/+1 counter to Rampaging Monument. I'm also not sure whether Join Shields is good, since I never got to cast it.

Conclusion

The removal in Guilds of Ravnica is a lot better than in recent formats, being both more plentiful and cheaper to cast. Every color also has playable two drops at common, as well as playable defenders/Walls, so I don't think aggro is going to be very good in Limited formats.

Mid-range decks are probably going to be quite strong, especially since every guild has the ability to splash additional colors by using Guildgates that share one of the guild's colors: Boros can splash Blue and Green, Dimir can splash Red and Green, Izzet can splash White and Black, Golgari can splash White and Blue, and Selesnya can splash Black and Red. Since each color can be splashed by two of the guilds that don't include that color, expect splashable bombs and removal to be taken very early in draft. In the third round, the player sitting next to me was running a five-color deck; he was at table two, so he'd clearly been doing well with the deck.

Here's my overall impressions of each guild:

  • Dimir seems very strong. Surveil doesn't need any setup to be good, and card selection is always strong, especially in Sealed. There are a number of strong defensive options like Wall of Mist that can buy you the time needed to find your bombs, and the deck gets to run Artful Takedown, Watcher in the Mist, and Black removal.
  • Selesnya is also strong but does seem to rely on curving out. As with mana ramp decks, things can go poorly if you only draw your enablers, only draw your fatties, or if your opponent neutralizes your fatties.
  • Izzet relies on spells whereas Limited is based around creatures, but there may be an aggro deck based around Maximize Altitude, just as Dominaria had an aggro deck based around Arcane Flight. There might also be a controlling Counter-Burn version built around Electrostatic Field and Crackling Drake. Both versions will probably want to run as many Radical Ideas and Chemister's Insights as they can get, since they allow you to find and cast additional instants and sorceries while still running creatures in your deck.
  • Golgari has four ways to get creatures into its graveyard: Black surveil cards, Glowspore Shaman (an uncommon), discarding or sacrificing creatures (possibly to jumpstart, if you're splashing Blue or Red), or waiting for creatures to die in combat or to removal. Apart from Kraul Harpooner, Kraul Foragers, and Vigorspore Wurm, the rest of the cards with undergrowth are unplayable if you don't have creatures in your graveyard, so I expect many Golgari decks will need to run (not just splash) Blue in order to access Blue surveil and jumpstart cards. I will probably only end up in Golgari if I'm playing Dimir and get passed a Golgari bomb or if I'm not finding enough playables in Blue and Black.
  • As mentioned above, I think it's far too easy for Boros decks to get stalled in this format, and I don't expect to draft this guild unless I get a card like Chance for Glory or Response // Resurgence. Boros doesn't usually want to play Guildgates since they come into play tapped, which makes it difficult to splash Blue for Maximize Altitude, so I expect that Izzet will actually be the most effective aggro deck in the format since it provides ways for your creatures to get through.

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