We don’t know much about Guilds of Ravnica yet. We do know, however, that there will be five guilds: Dimir, Selesnya, Boros, Golgari, and Izzet. We can almost confidently guess that there will be a new dual land for each of those guilds—original shockland reprints wouldn’t surprise me, but if we don’t get that we’ll get something similar, and we will not get them for the other guilds.
By itself, this already narrows down a lot of potential archetypes in the future. Unless we get a lot of rainbow lands (lands that add all five colors), it’ll be very hard to have, for example, a B/R deck, or a “mono-green splash blue” deck. You can still play cards like Cinder Barrens, but you don’t really want to. On top of that, there’s the fact that the cards themselves will be in those color combinations—given the relative power level of flagship gold cards in this type of set, it shouldn’t be hard to arrive at a scenario where only guild decks exist.
This also affects what shards and wedges can be played. Naya, for example, is a good bet because it has two dual lands: R/W and G/W. If you try Jund, however, there’s only one dual land: B/G (since both B/R and G/R are in the following set). The shards and wedges that are “supported” by Guilds of Ravnica are:
In this article, I’ll take a look at the five guilds that are coming back in this set, and I’ll try to see what we can do with them once the rotation happens. Keep in mind that this is a highly speculative article—the goal of it is to know what the possible directions are with Guilds of Ravnica.
Most lists in this article will be bad, but you have to understand that there’s an enormous rotation happening. A huge chunk of Standard is going away, and that chunk was incredibly overpowered, which doesn’t leave much. Even some of the Ixalan themes are unlikely to work, since both Simic (Merfolk) and Orzhov (Vampires) are in the next set. On top of that, we’re banking on getting some good cards for our decks, since we’re focusing on the guilds that will be featured in Guilds of Ravnica specifically because of that.
We also know which mechanics will exist:
Dimir: Surveil. Scrying that sends the card to the graveyard.
Boros: Mentor. When a creature with mentor attacks, you put a +1/+1 counter on an attacking creature with less power.
Golgari: Undergrowth. Cares about the number of creatures in your graveyard.
Izzet: Jump-Start. You can cast instants and sorceries with jump-start from your graveyard by discarding a card, paying the mana cost, and exiling the jump-started card.
With that said, let’s take a look at the guilds:
The Selesnya mechanic—convoke—is very interesting because, by itself, it has historically not been good, but at the same time it probably means that we’re going to have a lot of cheap creatures and token makers as the support cast, and the support cast is usually very good. If things remain the same way with Guilds of Ravnica, then we could have a very strong G/W tokens deck on the way, because there are several cards that are already legal and could find a home in the archetype: Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy, Legion’s Landing, Radiant Destiny, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and so on. Shalai, in particular, seems to have gotten better, as there are no more Chandras or Glorybringers, and those were its natural predators.
Another characteristic of Selesnya decks is that they’re metagame dependent. They can have powerful draws, but they usually cannot beat a sweeper—that is just a limitation of the color. So if people play a bunch of Wrath effects, this deck becomes weak, as the color combination isn’t equipped to deal with them.
The true test, to me, will be whether the G/W cards can survive Goblin Chainwhirler, and whether Goblin Chainwhirler will remain good. There’s a chance that there’s just not enough red for it to be consistently played. If Chainwhirler is a big part of the meta, then you’re going to need token makers and cheap creatures with 2 toughness, or this deck is doomed before it is even released. If it’s not, here’s a good start:
As it is, this deck could easily be mono-white, but I’m counting on the fact that we’ll get at least one good Selesnya card, and then we reevaluate based on what it is. The Vampire core is strong if there’s no Chainwhirler, but you can easily replace it with a different core that shows up. Having a good convoke payoff is also not out of the question, of course.
U/B decks are very popular now. U/B Control and Esper (which is basically an U/B deck) are good, and U/B Midrange has a claim as the best deck in the format. This is a sample list:
At first glance, this deck appears to have lost a lot. It loses most of its card advantage mechanisms (Champion of Wits, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner), it loses its finishers (Torrential Gearhulk, The Scarab God) and it loses some of its removal spells (Fatal Push). The saving grace is that Vraska’s Contempt is still there, and that was the main reason for having black, but, with Torrential Gearhulk gone, that’s also a little worse. If this deck is to succeed, it probably has to incorporate a more Search for Azcanta-centric approach, now that basically every other way of generating card advantage is gone.
Historically speaking, the Dimir guild has been pretty bad. Transmute was more of a combo mechanic than a Dimir mechanic, and milling is mostly a casual ability. Maybe cipher was good, but there was no way of knowing since no one understood what it did.
Surveil seems interesting, but it’s not really a build-around in any way. Whether it’s good or not will simply depend on how much it costs. I’m probably willing to pay as much for it as I am for scry, even if it is a better mechanic. So I’d take a card with surveil 2 over scry 2 for the same cost, but I would not pay one more mana for it. I do like the synergy with Search for Azcanta, and I think that’s another reason Search for Azcanta will be an even more important card for control decks.
Unless Dimir cards happen to be super overpowered, it’s looking to me like control and midrange decks should branch to 3 colors. The issue with Dimir is that the best control card remaining in the format (Teferi, Hero of Dominaria) is of a shard that is not supported. It’ll be almost impossible to play Esper—the mana was already bad enough with duals from both aligned combinations. If you want to play Dimir in a control deck, then Grixis is probably the better choice.
The biggest reason to play Grixis—Nicol Bolas, the Ravager—still exists. This doesn’t solve the kill conditions issue, but it helps, and it’s also a way to get card advantage. There’s no more Abrade or Lightning Strike, but there will also be less need of them without Scrapheap Scrounger or powerful artifacts. There might also be a sweet Izzet spell you want to play (like an Electrolyze). The two keywords also work relatively well together, since you can use surveil to bin a card and then cast it with jump-start.
The Izzet mechanic is interesting. It’s flashback, but you have to discard a card in addition to the cost. It isn’t anything new, but can be a way of providing virtual card advantage by letting you discard useless cards for a good effect. So in a way, it’s your “Champion of Wits,” and ensures that you’ll have a use for that 8th land or for that Essence Scatter against a creatureless deck. Still, as a form of card advantage, it’s not going to be enough on its own.
Currently, there aren’t any good Izzet decks. Izzet is also part of Grixis, so everything applies to it as well, but I actually have hopes for a different Izzet deck.
I think there are two possible paths for Izzet. The first one is that it becomes the new B/R deck. The mana in B/R will be unsustainable, and without Scrapheap Scrounger and Unlicensed Disintegration there’s way less incentive to be B/R anyway. Duress is a good card, but the blue counterspells (like Negate) can often make up for that kind of effect in the board.
A U/R deck isn’t really missing much to become a reality. I think that if you get a really good U/R card, you can just main deck four of that, sideboard some counterspells, and call it a day. Ideally, though, you also have a 2-drop that’s good, since most of the 2-drop options for red are bad right now. Imagine, for example, that they print the following card:
Deal 3 damage to any target. Draw a card.
This is not outside the realm of possibility, and I think it’d be good enough to make U/R a reality as long as you get any good red, blue, artifact, or Izzet 2-drop. Take a look at this sample list:
Another option is to go more all-in on Wizards. Adeliz is an extremely powerful card, and Izzet mechanics are usually spell-based, which is good for Wizards too. Add that to the fact that we could very feasible get a good 2- or a good 3-drop for a U/R Wizards deck, and we’re in business.
Right now, this is the best we can do with Wizards:
This deck wants another good spell, but it also wants a cheap Wizard—a 1- or 2-costed card, ideally. If whatever Izzet 2-drop shows up is not a Wizard, then there’s probably no reason to play this deck over a normal red aggro list.
Depending on what gets released, we can make this deck more blue. Cards like Naban, Dean of Iteration and even Naru Meha, Master Wizard can be good with the right support, and Merfolk Trickster and Wizard’s Lightning could both see play if we move in a more “blue” direction.
Boros is the other option for a red aggro deck. Its mechanic doesn’t seem that great to me—I could certainly be missing something, but to me it just seems too conditional (you have to attack with a mentor creature, then with another creature, and then it has to have less power).
One interesting avenue is to explore Path of Mettle. I wrote recently for DailyMTG about a Path of Mettle deck in the coming set, so I’m not going to dwell on it much, but the basic gist of it is that I think it has potential because a lot of the creatures you want to play have those abilities anyway, and because there are two cards that single-handedly trigger it and that also combo with each other (History of Benalia and Heroic Reinforcements). This is the list I suggested:
If we get better 2- or 3-drops with these abilities, then we can start replacing Relentless Raptor and Captain Lannery Storm, for example. It’s also possible that we get some new sweet burn spell like Lightning Helix (or even just Lightning Helix), which would be a great addition since the deck is weak to Chainwhirler (not the ping, mostly just the 3/3 first striker being hard to attack through). It’s also possible to play Chainwhirler in the deck, but then I don’t think you can run History of Benalia.
Boros can also combine with Izzet to make Jeskai. In my experience, Jeskai decks lend themselves to being control—if you do have an aggro Jeskai deck, it’s likely that it’s just better as two colors (since you won’t have a card like Mantis Rider pulling it in the tricolor direction). Overall, the mana just doesn’t support an aggressive tricolored option.
This is a Jeskai Control deck that already exists:
As with U/B, most of the important stuff is gone, but you actually get to keep Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which is the best card in the deck. If we get a good removal spell (and we almost surely will, with Izzet and Boros in the mix), then we can switch around some counterspells (there are many Cancel variants we can play), add Search for Azcanta in place of Glimmer/Gearhulk, and that might be enough, though ideally I’d want another source of card advantage—one more immediate (like Glimmer) to help make land drops. If we get a good removal spell and a good card advantage spell or creature, then it wouldn’t surprise me if Jeskai quickly became the best control deck in the format.
In all likelihood, this deck will morph into a more tricolored archetype, instead of just U/R splashing Teferi. There’ll be less need to cast a removal spell immediately and, if we get a dual land that has a basic land type (and therefore works with the other duals), the mana will be good enough. This allows it to play Settle the Wreckage and potentially Cleansing Nova.
Golgari is the combination I’m most confused about. There was a Golgari deck in Standard, but it was completely based on a card that ceased to exist (Winding Constrictor), so there’s no point in even looking. There was also a mono-green splash black deck, but the black card it was splashing (Scrapheap Scrounger) is also rotating, so there’s currently no real reason to be G/B as opposed to anything else.
If we see a Golgari deck, it’ll probably be based around the new mechanic. The way it’s worded, it could be anything, from a Lhurgoyf-type creature, to spells with variable threshold numbers, so it’s really impossible to tell.
Right now, the best way of milling cards at a profit is probably explore—that’s a green/black mechanic, so that should work (good thinking WoTC!). Surveil will be in black and can also be used for this. If the undergrowth effects are strong enough that you’re willing to spend a card to mill things, then Stitcher’s Supplier will be the card to do it.
Of all the mechanics, undergrowth is the one that has the most potential for other formats. Depending on what is released, it could fit right in the Vengevine decks in Modern.
Overall, I’m not even going to guess how a B/G list would look—I imagine that it’s going to look nothing like anything we currently have.
Well, that’s what I have for today. Again, remember that this is all very speculative, and just meant to jump-start (hah) you into thinking about Guilds of Ravnica.