In a previous article, I explored the best ways to pull together Izzet and Dimir decks. Today, it’s time to look at the three others in Guilds of Ravnica: Boros, Selesnya, and Golgari. It’s always useful to get a head start on attacking a new Limited format, and there was plenty to take away from how both the Ultimate Guard Pro Team and Hareruya Latin evaluated these color combinations after getting their hands on these cards a little earlier than everyone else.
Both Boros and Selesnya ranked a little lower than the blue guilds when it came to the Team Series Final (Izzet was widely accepted as the best of the bunch). There aren’t too many surprises when it comes to Boros—play a bunch of small creatures and turn them sideways, early and often. The mentor mechanic seems to be a remarkably efficient way to bridge past the early game and help your small creatures stay relevant as the game goes longer.
To get the most out of a Boros deck, there are three essential elements. The first element is mentor creatures—cards like Blade Instructor and Wojek Bodyguard are the best examples of this type of card at common. The second element is cards to pick up these mentor counters, and there are two broad types. The first type is all of the 1/1s for 1: Hunted Witness, Healer’s Hawk, etc. The second type is ones that are slightly more resilient or offer a little more bang for your buck, but are consequently a little more expensive: Skyknight Legionnaire is probably the best example here.
The third element you need is a robust removal suite to clear blockers that prevent your attacks. You always want to be attacking to get the most value from mentor (and to, you know, win the game), so be sure to include creature interaction. The good news is that there’s plenty of it and it’s of a high quality—not only does Boros get access to all the excellent red burn spells (Precision Bolt, Direct Current, Command the Storm), it also gets Luminous Bonds, a consistent Limited all-star.
The marriage of these three elements will result in a robust, aggressive deck, but let’s go a little deeper here and pick apart two more things you can do to level up your Boros decks. Firstly, playing low-power, high-toughness creatures seems like a ridiculous thing to do in Boros, but having a Fire Urchin instead of an Ornery Goblin means that a 3-power mentor creature will end up making the Fire Urchin a 3/5, whereas the Goblin tops out as a 3/2. Similarly, Ledev Guardian is a great mentor target.
Finally, look for ways to boost the power of mentor creatures however you can. Maniacal Rage is one way to do this, but even firing off a main-phase Sure Strike or Take Heart not only helps to push through damage but will result in extra mentor counters. This can be huge in setting up a mid- to late-game with respectably sized creatures that meaningfully contest expensive blockers.
Building a Selesnya deck is perhaps the most straightforward and least exciting challenge with Guilds of Ravnica. At first blush, there doesn’t seem to be too much to it—nuts and bolts Limited skills will help you put together a good-quality Selesnya deck more or less every time.
In direct contrast to Boros, Selesnya’s commons are unexciting. There is no shortage of 2-mana 2/2s, while there is a shortage of token generators to power convoke (Sworn Companions is more or less it). Instead, it’s the Selesnya uncommons that really start to power things up, so if you’re going to build a good Selesnya deck, take the uncommons early, because the commons are not particularly deep.
Ledev Champion, Conclave Cavalier, Affectionate Indrik, Conclave Tribunal, and Roc Charger are all examples of the sort of cards a good Selesnya deck needs in order to function. While a good curve is of course enormously important, be sure to prioritize powerful uncommons early in a Draft—you’ll have time to fill out your curve with 2/2s.
Convoke is a powerful mechanic in a vacuum. Anything that allows you to cheat on mana costs has the potential to be busted. But there just isn’t the depth of support for the mechanic you might hope for. Token generators, as mentioned, are pretty scarce. Most of the time, you’ll be tapping real creatures to power out expensive convoke cards, and that’s a real cost. It means they’re not attacking and—critically—not blocking, so be sure that the big play you make is worth the board position you sacrifice.
The most important thing to keep in mind when building a Selesnya deck is to avoid getting fancy or cute. While unexciting, most of the cards nonetheless stand on their own two feet in terms of power level and efficiency, and will win games without building around go-wide convoke nonsense. For example, don’t play Healer’s Hawk to play Rosemane Centaur on turn 4—just slam it on turn 5 and play a real creature instead of the 1/1.
Both Ultimate Guard and Hareruya Latin agreed that Golgari is—by a considerable margin—the worst of all the guilds. Just as Izzet was these players’ favorite, Golgari was definitively avoided. William Jensen ended up splashing both blue and red in his Golgari deck, which speaks to the overall lack of quality of the guild and its mechanic, undergrowth.
Undergrowth, unfortunately, is both difficult to enable and doesn’t offer sufficient payoff to be worth pursuing. Both Dimir’s surveil, and deathtouch creatures such as Pitiless Gorgon are designed to fuel your graveyard, but… then what? You get two counters on your Rhizome Lurcher? Your Kraul Foragers gains you 3 life? All of the common and uncommon undergrowth cards are expensive and clunky, and don’t offer sufficient incentive to play them.
Black offers premium removal like Deadly Visit, but green falls short when it comes to efficient creatures—who is excited to play Wild Ceratok or Wary Okapi? Even the Golgari gold uncommons aren’t particularly exciting (with the notable exception of Status // Statue). This could end up being way off-base, but I think you should actively avoid drafting or building Golgari. The black cards are better in Dimir, where blue helps you grind ’em out, and the green cards are better in Selesnya, where white doesn’t need graveyard shenanigans to pursue marginal effects.
Apologies to fans of the Golgari swarm everywhere—you got a little short-changed this time around in Limited. I’m sure that Assassin’s Trophy will make up for it in Constructed!
It will be interesting to see if these first impressions of each guild bear out across the format’s lifespan, or if there’s a lot we have left to learn about how things will end up going. In any case, armed with this early information you’re in a great spot to fire on all cylinders at early Guilds events. Best of luck out there, and may you open many Dimir Informants!