Howdy folks! It’s Joe again and we have something special. We did one of these for Dominaria prior to its release. At our editor’s request, we’re doing a Ravnica Lore Dive! Guilty as charged – Editor
Ravnica is a popular plane, and it’s history is very storied and interesting. We’re going to be doing a brief overview/timeline of the plane’s major historical events and a fun little overview of each of the Guilds within the plane.
Let’s hop to it shall we?
Prior to the Guildpact, prior to much of Ravnica’s actual history, there was a race of soldier factions called the Erstwhile. Eventually all of the Erstwhile perished, but were sealed away in the very bowels of the plane. Their resting place was Umerilek, Mausoleum of the Erstwhile. They would later be raised as zombies by Mazirek of the Kraul for Vraska.
The First Guildpact
Taking place ten thousand years before the events of Ravnica: City of Guilds, the plane of Ravnica was wracked by violent and bloody conflicts, one after another. Various factions fought ferociously, each seeking total control of the world. The Sphinx planeswalker Azor saw this violence and realized it would eventually consume the entire plane. In his wisdom, he gathered together nine others from the various factions, proposing a way to end the violence and suffering.
Thus, the Guildpact was created. Ten leaders, known as the Paruns, each signed the magical document. The power of the Guildpact essentially prevented overreach; factions couldn’t interfere with each other’s business, and each faction fulfilled established roles within the society. The magic contained with the document provided the power necessary to nullify any actions taken of hostility towards the other factions. In time, these factions became known as the Ten Guilds of Ravnica.
During the Guildpact’s signing, Azor himself added extra magic to the document. In the event that the magic was ever broken, this fall-back system would activate. In doing so he created what became known as the Implicit Maze.
One Guild (the Dimir) would eventually fade into legend as the missing “Tenth Guild.” This was actually intentional; one of the clauses of the Guildpact specified that no one could ever reveal the existence of House Dimir.
The Signing of the Guildpact was widely regarded as a cause for celebration. Every year the Festival of the Guildpact took place within the city to commemorate the lasting peace made possible by the magical document.
Ravnica: City of Guilds
Ten thousand years passed. Upon the cusp of the Decamillenial Celebration of the Guildpact’s signing, it suddenly came crashing down.
Agrus Kos, an officer of the League of Wojek, began investigating the death of Saint Bayul. Fonn Zunich, a Ledev Guardian, helped him track the killers. They eventually discovered a conspiracy to kill Mat’Selesnya (the consciousness that governed the Selesyna Conclave).
The Devkarin Elf Savra was being manipulated by Szadek, the ancient Parun of the Dimir Guild. Aided by the Golgari Guild’s ancient Parun Svogthir, Savra was taking control of the Golgari Swarm away from the Sisters of Stone Death. This manipulation culminated in an attack on the Selesnyan Conclave, using the Guild’s Quietmen. Agrus Kos was instrumental in stopping this conspiracy. In doing so he very publicly arrested the vampire Szadek at the Decamillenial.
Due to the clause in the Guildpact that prevented the reveal of the Dimir, the public arrest of Szadek single-handedly broke the Guildpact’s magic (though many would not know for some time that this had occurred). Szadek was imprisoned by the Azorius Guildmaster and secretly executed.
Agrus Kos retired from life as a Wojek officer, stepping down from detective work to instead work for his friend Pivlic in the Utvara Reclamation Zone as an Orzhov Security Guard. However, it wouldn’t be long before the former Wojek again crossed paths with danger. Agrus’ former friend Feather, an angel, left to find the Boros Firemane Angels. Baroness Teysa Karlov moved to Utvara to claim her inheritance. These two events pushed Zomaj Hauc (an Izzet Guild Archmage) to accelerate his plot to hatch dragon eggs within the reclamation zone.
Joining up with Teysa (in addition to Gruul Vor Golozar and the goblin Crixizix), Kos infiltrated Zomaj’s base of operations. Unfortunately the acceleration worked; the dragons hatched. During the ensuing chaos, the Izzet observation sphere carrying Kos and Crix crashed, fatally wounding the Wojeck officer. Zomaj was killed and his plan stopped, but Kos perished despite Crix using a teardrop (a mana healing device) to try to heal Kos’ broken body.
His funeral was attended by many that he had known during his time as savior of the world twice-over.
Unfortunately for good old Agrus Kos … death was not the end of his service. Conscripted as part of a clause in his Wojek contract to serve as a spirit guard for the Azorius Senate, Kos was once again called into action by the Azorius Guildmaster Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Szadek, Guildmaster of the Dimir, although he had been executed, was loose as a ghost. Clearly didn’t think that one through – Editor
As Kos had unknowingly broken the Guildpact, Kos was now conscripted to find him.
Several major events occur during the timeline of Dissension.
This section starts out reasonably enough, but gets pretty intense; hold on to ya butts – Editor
We find out that the Boros Angels and their flying ship the Parhelion have discovered Aygrem, a place where ghosts from Ravnica congregate. (Aygrem came into being because the Guildpact prevented planar travel into and out of Ravnica). Feather found the Parhelion and met with Razia, the Parun of the Boros Legion. The Angels were embroiled in conflict with the ghosts, and Razia was killed by the spirit of Szadek. Feather was able to hide in Agyrem and later escape. The Parhelion, however, began returning to Ravnica, set on a collision course with Prahv, the seat of Azorius power.
Also during this time, Jarad, Guildmaster of the Golgari and his son Myc Zunich (For those of you not keeping score at home, Fonn Zunich was at one time married to Jarad, resulting in little Myc) are abducted by Rakdos cultists. They are taken to Rix Maadi, where Lyzolda (the acting Rakdos Cult Guildmaster) uses his blood in addition to draconic cerebral fluid taken from the remains of Zomaj Hauc’s dragons to revive Rakdos, the ancient demonic Parun of the Guild. (Don’t try this at home, kids. Ever.) Myc thus develops a mind-link with the demon until he is saved by his parents. Jarad is killed by Lyzolda during this time, but uses his powers to raise himself as a Lich.
Meanwhile, Crix of the Izzet finds a group of Nephilim, ancient beings that crawled out from the depths of the Utvara Reclamation Zone, feeding upon the draconic corpses left by Zomaj Hauc’s plot. The Nephilim grow in size and strength because of their draconic meal, and head towards more populated sections of Ravnica. Crix attempts to warn Niv-Mizzet, the Parun of the Izzet Guild, but Niv-Mizzet feigns disinterest and leaves the scene. This causes Crix to abandon the Guild.
The Parhelion crashes into Prahv as Kos is conscripted to find Szadek by Augustin IV (Azorius Guild Leader). The day’s delights continue to multiply: Kos is informed that due to the magical law surrounding Szadek and the Guildpact, Kos is the only person who can destroy the vampire. Augustin IV sends Kos to infiltrate the seat of the Simic Combine. The Simic Guild, not a machine for harvesting corn or wheat – Editor
The Simic are reported to be working with both Szadek and the God-Zombie Svogthir (who has taken residence within Savra, Jarad’s sister and previous Matka of the Devkarin Elves). Seriously, this is beginning to feel Byzantine – Editor
Kos infiltrates the Simic, but blows his cover. He also takes up residence inside the body of Savra. Think weird Russian Doll situation rather than Super 8. Not that that really makes it better – Editor
After overpowering Svogthir, Kos kills Momir Vig, the Guildmaster of the Simic Combine. He’s not fast enough, however, to prevent the Elf from release Project Kraj, a living cytoplastic marvel that consumes every piece of cytoplasm in the city of Ravnica in mere moments. Kraj rampages into the city, taking on Rakdos who is now under the full control of Lyzolda (now that the mind link with Myc Zunich has been severed).
The Azorius Senate prepares to declare martial law to take control of the plane. However, Kos objects and reveals the truth: Augustin IV was responsible for Szadek, sending the Vampire’s ghost to Aygrem to rally the ghosts against the angels, and was even responsible for Momir Vig being killed. He had engineered everything that had happened, with the goal of creating a new Ravnica in the image of the Law.
In the end, Augustin IV is defeated, destroyed by Szadek himself as the Vampire turns on him. Kos is raised back as a semi-corporeal ghost two years later as Aygrem overlays onto Ravnica, creating the Ghost Quarter. Feather, the new Boros Guildmaster reveals that a new Guildpact has been created, one that does not rely on magic. Kos is tasked with becoming the commander for the Boros within Aygrem, as Szadek’s ghost has escaped there.
The non-magical Guildpact does not officially recognize House Dimir as an official Guild, but the Guild remains active under the leadership of the shapeshifter Lazav. During the interim between the original Ravnica block and Return to Ravnica, it is revealed that the Guilds themselves face near-dissolution before reforming. Feather was ousted as the leader of the Boros Legion, replaced by the war-angel Aurelia.
Relative peace settled upon the plane, preparing it for its next event: The Implicit Maze.
Return to Ravnica and the Implicit Maze
The Planeswalker Jace Beleren, having called Ravnica his home for a long while (being the first plane that he planeswalked to from his home plane of Vryn), begins undertaking research that had been discovered by the Izzet League’s Parun, Niv-Mizzet. Codes and symbols confront the Guilds, leading to the discovery of something none of them could have ever anticipated.
Amidst the constant conflict between the Guilds, Jace discovers that the messages left behind point to becomes known as the Implicit Maze.
Azor, the Sphinx Planeswalker who was Parun to the Azorius Senate, had known that the Guildpact could be broken. He thus created the Maze as a way to force the Guilds to work together to reinstate the Guildpact Reborn.
At the same time that Jace makes this discovery, so does Niv-Mizzet. Niv, however, does not understand what the Maze’s goal means. He believes that the Maze means ultimate power for the Guild that completes it, and he puts out a call to the other Guilds. Each Guild presents a champion to run the Maze in order to gain that power. As the Guild Champions fight and feud, Jace finds his way to the end of the Maze. He comes face to face with the Baliff, a being that declares Jace as the Living Guildpact. Jace is now a mediator of magical law, the living embodiment of the Guildpact documents.
Vraska, the Kraul, and the Look Ahead
Jace settled into his office as the Guildpact, but became challenged by the planeswalker Vraska. Vraska attempted to take control of Jace, but the Guildpact was able to shrug off her advances. Jace left Ravnica to find Garruk Wildspeaker and eventually to help save Zendikar, forming the Gatewatch in the process. Vraska stayed on Ravnica and sought to gain power over the Golgari Swarm.
By working with those disenfranchised within the Guild, including Mazirek of the Kraul, Vraska was able to discover the presence of the Erstwhile below Ravnica’s soil. The Zombie army was raised by Mazirek to carry out a coup of the Guild.
Vraska was then approached by Nicol Bolas, who promised to give her control of the Golgari if she were to utilize her talents on Ixalan for him. Vraska performed this function for him, procuring for him the Immortal Sun. She returned to Ravnica to become Guildmaster of the Golgari. She also used her powers to petrify the Sphinx Isperia, leaving a power vacuum within the Azorius Senate.
As we look ahead to the Guilds of Ravnica storyline, we know a few big important things:
- Isperia is petrified, leaving the Azorius Senate vulnerable
- Lazav of the Dimir suspects that at least some other Guilds have fallen under an invader’s influence (i.e. Nicol Bolas)
- Niv-Mizzet’s control of the Izzet League is slowly being peeled away, likely by the Planeswalker Ral Zarek (confirmed minion of Nicol Bolas)
- Five Guilds will fall to Bolas’ influence, while Five will not
The Guilds of Ravnica
So now that we’re caught up on history, let’s talk turkey and go over some of the players and details of the Guilds.
The Azorius are classified by the colors Blue and White, and believe in Law and Order above all things. Their Parun was the Sphinx Planeswalker Azor I (otherwise known as just Azor) and the known Guildmasters include Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Leonos II, and the Sphinx Isperia. The champion Lavinia was chosen to run the Implicit Maze. However, she ended up becoming a personal assistant to the Living Guildpact, Jace Beleren. The Azorius handle the governmental and legal sectors of the City of Ravnica.
Classified by the colors Red and White, the Boros Legion serve in both army and security functions across the city of Ravnica. The Guild’s Parun was the angel Razia; she held her position as Guildmaster until the events of Dissension when which she perished at the hands of Szadek of House Dimir. Pierakor az Vinrenn D’rav (aka Feather) took over as Guildmaster in her stead, swiftly followed by the war-angel Aurelia (simultaneously imprisoning Feather). The Guild’s Champion for the Maze was Tajic, Blade of the Legion. The Boros are separated by various tiers of service; one of these is the League of Wojek which provide law enforcement services throughout Ravnica. The human Agrus Kos was a Captain of the Tenth District within the League of Wojek.
The mysterious tenth guild that never existed, House Dimir is classified by the colors Blue and Black. The Guild’s Parun is the ancient vampire Szadek, who sought to undermine the Guildpact by proving the Guild’s very nature of existence. Szadek succeeded in this venture by lowering his guard to Agrus Kos and allowing himself to be arrested. Dimir is responsible for much of the espionage and assassination in the city. It is currently headed by the shapeshifter Lazav, and its Implicit Maze champion was the vampire Mirko Vosk.
Classified by the colors Green and Black, the Golgari actually serve an important role in the City of Ravnica, performing agricultural work and waste management. The Guild’s Parun is the ancient God-Zombie Svogthir, an undead necromancer of great power. The Golgari Swarm has arguably had the most power plays for control of its guild than any of the other Guilds. Svogthir was defeated by Gorgons known as the Sisters of Stone Death, who were then overthrown by Savra (and Svogthir). After Savra’s demise, Jarad (Savra’s brother) took command of the Guild, persisting even through his death in Dissension when he became a Lich. Jarad ruled the Golgari until the Planeswalker Vraska overthrew his leadership with the help of Nicol Bolas. The Guild’s champion for the Implict Maze was Varolz.
Classified by the colors Red and Green, originally the Gruul were charged with maintaining the wild nature of Ravnica. Much to their chagrin they found that civilization overgrew those places, and eventually the Gruul were left without a job. Several other Guilds sought to take on the mantle of caring for nature. The Gruul decentralized into numerous clans and thus have no one leader. However, the largest clan is led by the cyclops Borborygmos, who is considered by many to be the de facto leader. The Clans also revere the being known as Ulasht, the Hate Seed, despite it not being officially affiliated with the Guild. The Guild’s champion for the Implicit Maze was a two-headed ogre named Ruric Thar.
The Izzet League is classified by the colors Blue and Red; they are scientists, engineers, and some of the most brilliant minds on the entire plane. The Guild is controlled solely by the dragon Niv-Mizzet, who is known as the Firemind. The Izzet are known for their zealous nature in the pursuit of science, oftentimes killing themselves with a new experiment gone wrong. One of the chief members of the Guild, the Planeswalker Ral Zarek, has secretly taken control of the Guild while the Firemind himself is distracted by his own research. Ral Zarek is secretly in league with Nicol Bolas. The Guild’s champion for the Implicit Maze was a Weird named Melek, Izzet Paragon.
Classified by the colors black and white, the Orzhov is the Guild of Deals, handling banking and protection as well as religious services as one of the plane’s largest religious orders. Dealings with the Guild extend often into one’s afterlife. The Parun of this Guild is actually a group, known as the Obzedat, the Ghost Council of Orzhova. The Obzedat is comprised of past patriarchs and matriarchs of the Orzhov lines, although it is unclear which of these was present for the signing of the Guildpact. One of the primary Orzhov aligned characters in the lore and also the Champion for the Implicit Maze is the Advokist Teysa Karlov, who secretly harbors hatred for the Obzedat, and has recently attempted to destroy the Ghost Council.
The Cult of Rakdos is classified by the colors Red and Black, and their fanaticism is bar none among the forces of chaos. Although the Cult provides numerous services in the form of entertainment, food industry, and manual labor, they are also heavily involved in murder and slavery. Their Parun is the ancient sleeping demon Rakdos, for which the Guild is named. Many have taken up the Guild leadership while he sleeps. The Guild’s Champion for the Implicit Maze was Exava.
Classified by the colors Green and White, the Selesnya see themselves as stewards of life and nature, providing services such as healing and religious faith (competing directly with the Orzhov) as well as charity work. The Guild’s Parun is the spirit Mat’Selesnya, which is the formation of several dryads into a single elemental being. Mat’Selesnya lives within the Vitu-Ghazi tree, until it was ultimately destroyed by Kraj and Rakdos during Dissension. The current Guildmaster is the triple-dryad named Trostani, and the Guild’s champion during the Implicit Maze was Emmara Tandris, a nature mage who had a close relationship with the Planeswalker Jace Beleren.
Classified by the colors Blue and Green, the Simic work towards perfection of life sciences and conservative efforts for the improvement and betterment of society through science. They handle are responsible for many of the physicians and much of the medical care within the city. Out of all the Guilds it is actually unknown who the Simic Parun is/was; it was once mentioned that the Parun was supposed to be a Vedalken Biomancer with the surname Simic. The Simic have seen the most change of all the Guilds, as their Guildmaster Momir Vig was killed during the events of Dissension along with Project Kraj. After this, the Guild rejected the corruptive nature of science for advancements through nature and magical means, reorganizing under the merfolk Zegana. The Guild’s champion for the Implicit Maze was Vorel.
That’s all we have this week folks! I hope you enjoyed our little trip down Ravnica’s memory lane! I love doing these since it’s just a lot of fun to delve into the history of the planes and lore of this game.
Until next time!
Joseph is an avid player of eternal Magic formats, including Vintage and Legacy. As a Nic Fit player who will tell anyone who will listen about his deck, Joe spends his time analyzing and playing on Magic Online and various online platforms, while prepping for competitive events. To follow more Joe, check out his Twitter!