Guilds of Ravnica spoilers are done and the set is looking to be one of the best of all time. Multi-color based sets typically tend to have a high power level, and from the look of cards like Assassin’s Trophy and Knight of Autumn, Guilds of Ravnica will not buck that trend. Beyond the new cards, the new mechanics are also fun, interesting and provide several avenues of deck building exploration.
Starting with a returning mechanic, The Selesnya Conclave is bringing us Convoke. Convoke allows you to use your creatures to get a mana discount on the spells you are casting. Cheating on mana leads to some of the more broken things you can do in competitive Magic, and in this installment it looks like Wizard’s R&D took that seriously by not printing a single interesting card with Convoke, aside from the mythic. And no, I don’t mean the buy-a-box promo Impervious Greatwurm, I’m talking about the set mythic March of the Multitudes.
The Boros Legion brings us a new mechanic very much in line with the all-out offensive that we are accustomed to seeing from this aggro-slanted color pair. Mentor allows one attacking creature to PERMANENTLY buff another attacking creature with lesser power by placing a +1/+1 counter on it. At first blush, Mentor looks to be one of those “great in Limited” mechanics that just can’t quite make it in the big leagues. But I have a sneaking suspicion that cards like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice and Tajic, Legion’s Edge will form the core of the “new red aggro deck” in this format.
In line with the shadows and mystery surrounding The House Dimir and the mind-games they are known for playing, the new mechanic Surveil this guild brings us allows players to look at the top card of their library and either put it back, or pitch it into the graveyard. This is basically Scry with an upside, if you build your deck to use it. I believe that Surveil will provide the utility cards that power both grindy midrange as well as hardcore control archetypes. Mission Briefing is a “fixed” Snapcaster Mage and Notion Rain will be a multi-deck all-star in this format.
Also true to form, the Undergrowth mechanic for The Golgari Swarm makes your spells better according to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. The grindy graveyard strategies typically come out of the gates slow to develop, but by the end of their respective formats prove to be powerhouses of inevitability. Think Ishkanah, Grafwidow of recent Shadows Over Innistrad Standard. Necrotic Wound is going to be the de-facto removal spell for its entire life in Standard and Mausoleum Secrets is going to feel like Demonic Tutor every time you play it. Get your copies of each now, cuz you’re gonna want them.
And finally, with the winner of the “this mechanic name belongs on another Plane” category, The Izzet League has the new ability Jump-Start, which allows the spell to be cast from the graveyard through the action of discarding a card from your hand in addition to paying its other costs. This can be thought of as another form of Flashback, however I would argue that it is significantly worse simply for no other reason than it costs you a full card from your hand. Most of the Jump-Start spells are over-costed because they allow you to cast them twice, plus tack onto that the situations where you simply cannot Jump-Start the spell thanks to holding your silver bullet sideboard card as the last card in your hand or simply being Hellbent (having no cards in hand for those of us that weren’t around for the first trip through Ravnica) and you have yourself a recipe for unplayable cards. Aside from the occasional one-of Sonic Assault, Quasiduplicate, or Maximize Velocity, you won’t be playing these spells in Standard.
Thanks to the influx of all the new cards and mechanics from Guilds of Ravnica, there will be some clear winners from the established decks leading up to rotation. Of the tier 1 decks, I think the strongest archetype sticking around in the new meta will be from one of the Guilds that’s not even showing up until the next set!
UW Control featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria will be the premier “Tier 0” deck of this format. Teferi is the The Question and The Answer like Iverson. The biggest hits this deck takes is losing the Cycling mechanic. Irrigated Farmland, Censor, Cast Out, and Hieroglyphic Illumination gave the deck the flexibility of having hard answers or access to drawing cards to find answers, but there are other cards from Dominaria and M19 waiting in the wings for their turn to shine, and a few new Surveil stars will give this deck what it needs to remain at the top of the heap. Here is a first pass at how I will be building this deck:
Moving into existing players who are going to get a strong bump from their respective color-pair Guilds actually showing up, I think the most obvious deck to gain spells more powerful than it loses will be the Grixis Control deck. Leaning on the subtle yet undeniably powerful Dimir spells, while charging the deck up with the explosiveness of the Izzet, this archetype is poised to make a solid and lasting impact on #MtGGRN Standard. The deck will easily slot its Watery Grave and Steam Vents to make up for the loss of Fetid Pools and Canyon Slough and the mana base will probably get stronger thanks to the power of early untapped duals. Losing card selection from Champion of Wits and the long game recursion of The Scarab God will mean that the deck has to retool around some new lines of play, but access to the Surveil cards, the black Undergrowth cards, and some Izzet trickery will more than make up for the rest of the utility losses. I am very excited to build this archetype and run it through its paces on Magic Arena. Here is my initial plan for what looks to be the most powerful, but also the most skill testing and decision dependent deck for the meta:
Turbo Fog is one of the best decks from M19 Standard and it is not losing very many pieces. And the pieces it is losing have near identical counterparts being printed in Guilds of Ravnica. Please go look at the recent 5-0 list from the Magic Online Competitive League posting and tell me that you can spot all the differences in 30 seconds or less. I’ll wait. The list below will most likely place in the top 8 of both the Open and the Classic for SCG Columbus on October 6-7.
Next up, the Steel Leaf Stompy deck gets some great new tools, but will need to take a harder slant into Green-Black than the previous iterations that saw only a small Black splash for Scrapheap Scrounger. The card Assassin’s Trophy will almost unequivocally require any Green deck to also run Black for its inclusion. Stompy didn’t lose too many pieces so I suspect that some builds won’t even change, however I believe that not adopting the new best removal spell in all of Magic is incorrect. If I were to take a Stompy deck to a tournament week 1, this is what my deck would look like:
It is common knowledge in competitive Magic that coming into any new format, red aggro wins the first few weekends until the midrange and control decks can get the balance of strategy, threats, and answers figured out. While I do not think this archetype has a viable future through the entirety of Guilds of Ravnica Standard, it could be a way to steal some wins early while Blue-White and Grixis get their builds figured out. I think that the base build of the Guilds of Ravnica Standard will be Boros based and look a lot like this:
Moving into new Archetypes that I believe will become known quantities throughout Guilds of Ravnica Standard, I think that the Golgari will give us a classic “Rock” style midrange deck that either ends up Abzan or Sultai. I can see value-engine toolbox style deck borne from combining Selesnya with the base Golgari package. In reality, I fully expect Dimir’s Surveil spells to combine very nicely with Undergrowth to generate a synergy engine that cannot be stopped. Here is another list that I am very excited to put together and take for a spin on Magic Arena:
Pre-Release is this weekend and I fully intend to play as much Golgari as I can get my hands on. It does feel like I am betraying my roots, as I “came back” to the game when Return to Ravnica was released (really, I only played for 3 or 4 months back in 1995 where I bought like 2 Revised Starter Decks and 3 boosters of Ice Age) and the first Standard deck I ever built was Selesnya. Then, for Gatecrash I discovered my love for House Dimir and happily played my Zombies into the face of Restoration Angels, Thragtusks, and Huntmaster of the Fells‘s. But the potential of pulling a seeded Vraska, Golgari Queen or Assassin’s Trophy as my date-stamped foil promo present too much of a temptation for my gambling mind to pass up! Whatever you choose to play, I hope your guild treats you well and your pulls are bountiful.
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.
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