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The Guild Throwdown-Showdown!


Howdy folks! It's Joe Dyer, otherwise known as the host of Vintage 101. When I'm not playing or writing about Magic in all its various forms, I enjoy the goings on of Magic's vast and expansive storyline. I'm a huge Vorthos, and I love analyzing the various ins and outs of the story.

Today we're gonna be diving right into what we know and what we don't know about the upcoming storyline through Ravnica Allegiance and of course, the third unnamed "Ravnica" set. So, without further ado, let's dive into things!

Five Guilds will Fall, Five Guilds will Rise

So, we already know from the original Guilds of Ravnica spoiler season one very crucial thing to the upcoming event when Nicol Bolas, Ancient Dragon Planeswalker Extraordinaire, comes to the world of Ravnica. Five Guilds will fall under Bolas' sway, each of them controlled by a different Planeswalker, and five Guilds will oppose them. We also already know that two of the Guilds were in Guilds of Ravnica and three of them will be in Ravnica Allegiance. There has been much speculation on which of the other Guilds will fall to Bolas, so before we get to the speculative, let's focus on what we already know about the Guilds that Bolas controls.

The Golgari Swarm

This one is pretty easy. We already know that Vraska, the newest leader of the Golgari Swarm, is working for Nicol Bolas. She was a face character of the Ixalan storyline, where she retrieved the Immortal Sun for Bolas under the pretense of being granted the Guildmaster position within the Golgari. While Vraska had her true memories of her experience on Ixalan sealed away by the Living Guildpact, Jace Beleren, we know that for now, Vraska believes that she is in control.

I believe Vraska is going to be one of the major wild cards to the storyline once we get to the third set and know a little more about what's going to happen with Bolas. Even without her memories, Vraska is fiercely loyal not only to Ravnica (as it is her home after all) and also to her Guild. At some point during the timeline set by Guilds of Ravnica, Vraska was responsible for the petrification of the Azorius Guildmaster Isperia the Sphinx, as seen on the card Assassin's Trophy.

The Izzet League

The Izzet, on the other hand, have a more subtle control by the Draconic Planeswalker. While the dragon Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, is still technically the Guildmaster of the Guild, his attention to the Guild's daily affairs is lackluster at best, taking a backseat to more important research (based on the card Firemind's Research and Quasiduplicate is possibly a cloning type project) that demands his full attention. As such, he has turned management of the Guild over to his Viceroy, the Planeswalker Ral Zarek. Of course, Niv-Mizzet isn't aware of the fact that Ral is a Planeswalker at all, a fact that Ral has worked tirelessly to keep from his supposedly omniscient Guildmaster. His own special project, Lightning Bug, has been tracking Planeswalkers for some time now, and even was used in conjunction with Jace Beleren to advise him of Gideon and Vraska's whereabouts.

However, there's a deeper rabbit hole. Ral Zarek is actually working for Nicol Bolas. While we don't know the full extent of his service, I suspect that it largely has to do with Project Lightning Bug itself, since it is a detection system for Planeswalkers. Ral has slowly set the Guild to work on his own projects, wresting some semblance of control away from Niv-Mizzet.

The Other Guilds - Selesnya, Boros, Dimir

Since we know that only two of the Guilds within Guilds of Ravnica are under Bolas' control, we also know at least three of the Guilds that are not. Surprisingly enough, House Dimir is not aligned with the Dragon, even going as far to note that they believe they have intel on other guilds having fallen to an outsider's influence (on the card Sinister Sabotage) and the enigmatic Guildmaster Lazav revealing to the Selesnyan Emmara Tandris that he believes that the alliances of the Guilds have frayed and broken (on the card Vicious Rumors).

With this knowledge, it gives us the information that three of the non-Bolas Guilds are W/G, W/R, and U/B respectively. This will play heavily into the next section.

Speculation and What We Know About Ravnica Allegiance

This is where we get speculative, but I am reasonably sure that my predictions here are accurate based on the information we do have about Ravnica Allegiance.

Let's start with the Guilds we're going to see within this set:

  • Orzhov
  • Simic
  • Rakdos
  • Gruul
  • Azorius

The Guild makeup for these two large sets was not random, as noted in the original Guilds of Ravnica spoilers. Guilds had to be shifted around for story reasons, and I have a few predictions based on that. Most specifically, I am for certain that the three Bolas controlled Guilds in Ravnica Allegiance will be: Orzhov, Gruul, and Azorius

Why, you might ask? Primarily it has to do with the color balance. As we are well aware of, mechanically Wizards of the Coast always errs on the side of balanced colors when it comes to the world of Ravnica, and by having those three Guilds be under Bolas' sway, it puts the colors in line so that each color appears twice within the five Guilds.

Example:

  • Orzhov (W/B), Gruul (R/G), Azorius (U/W), Golgari (B/G), Izzet (U/R) - Each color appears twice.
  • Selesnya (W/G), Boros (W/R), Dimir (U/B), Rakdos (R/B), Simic (U/G) - Each color appears twice.

This has been the going prediction that has been floating around for a while now across communities like Reddit and it generally makes sense. But let's take a look at the deeper reasons why this would happen with these three Guilds.

Orzhov - The Issue with Teysa and the Obzedat

The last time that we saw Teysa Karlov in the storyline, she was attempting to infiltrate the Obzedat's chambers to retrieve crucial information she needed to oust the Council of Ghosts. However, Teysa was caught in the act and stripped of her titles and imprisoned (per the Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica Dungeons & Dragons supplement). At this point, Teysa needs a lifeline and a way to overthrow the Ghost Council. That lifeline comes, I feel, in the form of the Planeswalker Kaya. Kaya was last seen during the events of Conspiracy: Take the Crown where she was responsible for the final death of the reigning Monarch, King Brago the Eternal. In case you weren't fully aware of the implications of that, Brago was not human. He was a ghost. Kaya's special abilities allow her to interact directly with spectral beings. In short, she assassinates ghosts.

What better person to turn to than someone who can kill the very thing you want to get rid of? I think here is where the speculation begins. We already know, thanks to a RPTQ Playmat (and the cover of the Ravnica novel set to come out next year), that Kaya is involved in the storyline. And while we are speculating on the fact that Nicol Bolas is in charge, we don't know who approaches who here. I am honestly speculating at this point that Bolas (possibly disguised or something) approaches Teysa with information that can help her free herself of the Obzedat, by pointing her in the direction of Kaya. What's telling to me about the art on the Playmat is that Teysa is not in the picture at all. I suspect that once Kaya has finished disposing of the Ghost Council, that Teysa is either re-imprisoned or killed to ensure that Bolas has full control of the Guild.

What's Kaya's motivation here? Money of course. While Bolas has wealth, I'm sure, it's noted that the Orzhov is the Church of Deals, and they control much of the minted coin supply within Ravnica. That kind of money keeps Kaya comfortable for a long time.

Gruul - Domri Rade

The Gruul on the other hand, are a very simple set of Clans. They are angry, angry over the fact that their entire Guild's purpose has basically been taken by the other "nature"-aligned Guilds in the world, but mostly they're just angry about the way they're treated. You can see hints of this dissent on the face of the card Street Riot, where a familiar character's name appears. First introduced in Gatecrash, Domri Rade was introduced as a Gruul-aligned Planeswalker who is very young, but very powerful. As we've also now seen art of Domri from Ravnica Allegiance through Reddit, it's obvious that Domri ends up being in charge of the Gruul Clans, perhaps even uniting them under his cause.

Personally, I feel like Bolas isn't going to have to do much to convince the Gruul to align with him. As a Dragon, he is the pinnacle of natural predation, a force to be feared and worshipped by the Gruul, but also Bolas is capable of offering the Gruul what they want the most: a chance to return Ravnica to the natural uncivilized nature that it once was. Of course, we know that Bolas is possibly lying about this promise, but it won't take much to get the Gruul involved.

Azorius - A Familiar Face Returning

The Azorius on the other hand, are suffering a power vacuum. Their Guildmaster, the Sphinx Isperia, was petrified by the Golgari Guildmaster, Vraska. Because of this, things are in flux for the Guild that is focused on law and order. However, the speculation on who takes over the Azorius is based in some subtle hints on the artwork for the RNA Hallowed Fountain, as well as a slight confirmation on one of the Magic Arena official streams that the Planeswalker Dovin Baan will assume control of the Guild.

My thoughts on this are relatively straightforward. It actually makes a lot of sense for Baan to be here and in control of the Guild. It would not surprise me in the least if Bolas (or possibly Tezzeret under Bolas' orders) had sent Baan to Ravnica right after the events of Kaladesh to start worming his way into a place of substantial position/power within the Guild. Baan, being a Vedalken, would not drum up much suspicion as a rising and talented mind within the Senate, to eventually get to the point where if the opportunity presented itself, he could take control of the Guild. In fact, I very nearly suspect that Dovin absolutely knows of Vraska's service to Bolas, and thus would be willing to be put in a position where he could give Vraska the chance to deal with Isperia, allowing him to sweep in to take control during the power vacuum left in her wake.

The Other Guilds - Rakdos, Simic

Of course, it seems like an odd duck that the Rakdos would not want to be in on the whole death and destruction thing that Bolas plans to possibly unleash upon Ravnica. But here's the thing about the Rakdos. They're very much a cult, and very much devoted to the worship of their Guildmaster, the Demon Rakdos himself. Bolas to them, is not Rakdos. And Rakdos? Well, despite the occasional romp about and destroying things, he actually probably likes the plane just enough to want it to stick around, let alone giving up power to someone else. Plus he likes naps. Bolas being in control isn't really conducive to napping.

The Simic Combine on the other hand, since the events of Dissension have greatly disassociated themselves from the principals of the likes of Momir Vig (advancement through science at all costs) and have embraced holistic, even spiritual methods of advancing life through magical means. They are now stewards of life, and not a Guild that we would see allying with the likes of Nicol Bolas, who opposes life.

The Coming War - What Does it Mean for Ravnica?

With the stage set in Ravnica Allegiance, we look ahead to where things go into the third set of this whole shebang. This is the set where we know everything is taking place. Nicol Bolas' plans for Ravnica will finally see the light of day, and the Gatewatch story will finally come to an end. Guild will face Guild, and things sound rather bleak for the future of Ravnica.

However, given that Ravnica as a plane is considered to be a 1 on Mark Rosewater's "Rabiah Scale" (a scale that rates how likely we are to return to a plane), I wouldn't expect things to get super apocalyptic for the beloved plane. Ravnica makes a conveniently wonderful set to reprint cards like shock lands and the world itself is super popular, meaning they aren't out to wipe things clean.

That being said, I do expect things to be very interesting. One of the bigger wild cards of this whole thing is going to be Vraska. Vraska's memories are currently held by Jace Beleren, the Living Guildpact, and once those are returned, I expect things to get very interesting. I also expect that Ral Zarek may also turn as well, once he realizes what Bolas wants. It's also highly possible that Ral isn't even aware that Bolas exists, only dealing with things through Tezzeret (that we have seen on camera with Bolas telling Tezzeret to check on Ral), and may not be into having his plane destroyed.

Furthermore, the sheer presence of the Gatewatch and their allies means a lot. Ajani will reappear at some point, having gathered additional allies to assist in the battle, and now we have the likes of Teferi and Karn in the mix opposing Bolas. Regardless, it should be an interesting story. Let's just hope it doesn't end like Infinity War (spoilers).

Wrapping Up

That's all I've got for this little jaunt into the politics and speculation of the upcoming Ravnica sets. Do you agree with my assessments? Let me know in the comments what you think, and as always keep reading those story articles. They've been a lot of fun, and I expect once we return to the main storyline, things are going to be very epic.

Until next time!


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