Guilds of Ravnica brings us back to one of the most beloved planes in the multiverse. We are venturing there in the context of a multicolor set focused around five guilds, each with their own mechanic: surveil (Dimir), jump-start (Izzet), convoke (Selesnya), mentor (Boros), and undergrowth (Golgari).
Today I’ll offer some insights into the new Limited format, along with a Pick 1 Pack 1 list. I used the same sources as I did for the previous few sets, and I took the weighed average of the normalized grade of the following three sources:
- LSV’s set reviews. In this classic article series, LSV provides a Limited grade between 0 and 5 for every card in the set. I’m well aware that what he writes about the card is more relevant than the grade, but the grade still conveys some information. If a range was specified for a card, then I took the middle point as the rating. I used LSV’s grade for a weight of 40%.
- The Draftaholics Anonymous rankings, collected on Sunday September 30. Their scores for cards are derived from users who are presented with choices between two cards in a Pick 1 Pack 1 context. I scaled the ratings so that the card with the highest score became a 5.0 and the card with the lowest score became a 0.0, in line with LSV’s ranking scale. I used their grades for a weight of only 20% because the interval for their scores was smaller than previous sets.
- The LR Community review rankings, also collected on Sunday September 30. Their rankings are based on a project by cricketHunter where hundreds of users submit Limited grades for every card in the new set. I scaled the grades so that the card with highest grade became a 5.0. Thanks to cricketHunter for providing me with the raw data! I used their rankings for a weight of 40%.
After taking the average of the three grades, I made some adjustments for multicolor cards and colorless cards to get closer to a proper first-pick first-pack order. After all, first-picking a multicolored card like Skyknight Legionnaire reduces your flexibility because it only goes into one guild, whereas an artifact like Rampaging Monument keeps your options open.
But my grade adjustments are different than usual because, well, Guilds of Ravnica is an unusual format. In most Draft formats, if you start with a red card, you can move into four different 2-color combinations: red-white, red-blue, red-black, or red-green. In Guilds of Ravnica, you’re only incentivized to draft two of them: red-white and red-blue. So while first-picking a red-white card would typically reduce your options by a factor of four, it only reduces them by a factor of two in Guilds of Ravnica. For this reason, I didn’t want to adjust the grade of (non-hybrid) gold cards too much—I only subtracted 0.20 points. I treated Lockets, Guildgates, and shock duals as gold cards as well.
Although there aren’t many pure colorless cards in Guilds of Ravnica, I did add the customary 0.25 points for them. Non-split hybrid card are akin to colorless cards, though not completely, so I added 0.15 points for them. For example, Fresh-Faced Recruit could go into Selesnya, Boros, or Izzet, and therefore helps to keep your options a bit more open early in the Draft. The hybrid split cards are kind of in between colorless cards and gold cards, so I opted to keep their grade unchanged for the first-pick-first-pack context.
The end result was a number for every card in Guilds of Ravnica—an aggregate of the above three sources. My raw data, which may double as a searchable text list, is available here. After I got a number for every card, all I had to do was to press sort, and the pick order list arose.
This methodology leads to a list that captures first impressions. Indeed, most rankings were made before anyone even had a chance to play with the cards. But it’s a good starting point for newcomers and an excellent tool for discussions. By fixing a ranking, statements like “this card is overrated” or “this card is underrated” become more concrete. It also allows for some fun analysis.
What is the Best Guild?
Taking the grades for granted, I found the following. The first three columns indicate the power of the best commons and uncommons in every guild. A guild consists of all its single-color cards of its 2 colors, in addition to all of its gold cards. The final column takes the average grade over all rarities, including rares and mythics, weighed according to their relative occurrence.
|Guild||Average grade of the top 5 commons||Average grade of the top 10 commons||Average grade of the top 5 uncommons||Average overall grade, weighted for rarity|
There is no guild that excels in every category. Selesnya has the highest average overall grade, but Dimir has the best commons. So it’s tough to provide a definite ranking. But if I had to provide my best guess, then based on all columns together I would say Selesnya > Dimir > Boros > Golgari > Izzet.
Now let’s turn to the list. Remember that it’s essentially one big continuous list, to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. I added a few headings only to make it easier to read and so that I could intersperse some comments, but the categories are fairly arbitrary.
These are the best cards in the set according to this aggregate list. It seems reasonable to first-pick them over any common or uncommon.
The Part with the Best Uncommons
Yes, there are rares and mythics in this category as well. Remember that it’s all one continuous list—this is just where we see the best uncommons appear. The way to read it is that Status // Statue should be first-picked over Trostani Discordant or Beast Whisperer, which should in turn be first-picked over Price of Fame if they’re all in the same booster together.
I’ll add that Status // Statue seems overrated in this list. It’s a good card for sure, but I wouldn’t take it that highly since it only excels in Golgari. In my opinion, Price of Fame is the best uncommon to first-pick.
The Part with the Best 6 Commons
Interestingly, there are lots of black and/or blue cards among the top commons in this list. This may result in too many people at a table hoping to draft Dimir after their first few picks.
The Part with Commons 7-11
Guilds of Ravnica has some weird rules interactions. For example, Affectionate Indrik always locks in a target, but you decide whether or not to fight at resolution. So if your opponent casts Pack’s Favor in response, you can choose not to fight when the trigger resolves, but you can’t choose a new target.
And for mentor creatures like Parhelion Patrol, remember that it checks on resolution and when it triggers. Notably, if you attack with a Parhelion Patrol and a Fresh-Faced Recruit, you cannot use Parhelion Patrol’s mentor trigger to target Fresh-Faced Recruit and then cast Take Heart in response. The mentor ability is never placed on the stack because there was no a legal target as it triggered.
The Shock Duals
Dual lands are always underrated in Limited. And these are among the best dual lands you can find in the history of Magic. They improve your mana consistency, support splashes, and don’t enter the battlefield tapped unless you choose to. I don’t mind starting the Draft with a shock dual.
As a methodological note, I took the average grade for all shock duals and used that number to construct the list. This leads to this singular, logical category. I did the same for Guildgates.
More Good Cards
I was a little surprised to see Glowspore Shaman so low because Golgari is really lacking setup cards. Glowspore Shaman is the only playable non-rare, non-surveil card that puts cards from your library into your graveyard, and I think it should be prioritized more highly.
There was a large disagreement on the grade of Chromatic Lantern across my various sources. LSV rated it lower than the Lockets, which may be true for 2-color decks, but I think the upside of having Chromatic Lantern as the ideal fixer for 3-4 color decks shouldn’t be overlooked, especially as an early pick in the Draft. I think the card is rated approximately correct in this list.
Guildgates are worse than shock duals, even with some of the Gate-reliant cards around. But they are still excellent mana fixers, and they’re almost a necessity if you want to splash a third color. Don’t be afraid to take them relatively early.
Speaking of 3-color decks, remember that Jeskai, Sultai, Naya, Abzan, and Grixis all encompass two supported guilds. Of these, Jeskai and Naya are probably the weakest because Boros is the aggressive guild and aggro decks don’t want to have too many tap-lands.
Experimental Frenzy was the card with the highest disagreement across my data sources. I think, in line with LSV’s grade, that the card is underrated in this list. I remember playing with Future Sight, which could provide an unbeatable stream of card advantage, and Experimental Frenzy can take a similar role as a curve-topper in a low-curve red deck. Just don’t cast it on turn 4.
There are several other cards in here that I feel are underrated, all because they fit so well in multiple guilds. Healer’s Hawk, for instance, synergizes with both convoke and mentor, and is thus much better than you might expect. Due to these Boros and Selesnya mechanics, 1-drops are definitely worth playing in this format.
Fire Urchin is another example of a card that fits in both guilds matching its color, since it synergizes with both mentor and jump-start. Hence, I believe it should also be ranked higher.
Mentor in particular is an ability that will have us re-evaluate various cards and abilities. I expect that low-power creatures and/or creatures with lifelink, vigilance, or double strike will turn out to be more valuable than usual. Likewise, Maximize Velocity (which you’ll find in the next category) can be quite the swing on a mentor creature, so it’s another card I feel is underrated.
Mediocre Filler and Unplayables
Many cards here, at least the ones near the bottom of this list, are indeed far from great.
My Guilds of Ravnica Bucket List
Guilds of Ravnica is brimming with potential, which encouraged me to collect the sweet plays, powerful combos, and awesome decks that I want to assemble at least once over the lifetime of this format. Hopefully you can draw some inspiration from this list.
- Casting March of the Multitudes while I control Divine Visitation.
- Splashing Conclave Tribunal off of 3-4 Sprouting Renewal and/or Vernadi Shieldmate with no other white sources in my entire deck.
- Drafting a deck where the only creatures are defenders and where my only win condition is a set of Devious Cover-Ups. This deck would aim to loop Devious Cover-Ups (while shuffling back arbitrary new spells to counter) to eventually deck the opponent. The mirror match will be fun.
- Drafting the 5-color Gates deck with Guild Summit and more Gates than basic lands. I would add that Guild Summit becomes playable with 6 Gates (since that makes it close to Divination if you see 1/3rd of your deck in an average game) and gets progressively better with every additional Gate. I do admit that you need a lot of Gates before Guild Summit becomes great, but at least District Guide and Circuitous Route also count.
- Discard Nullhide Ferox to Burglar Rat.
- Put Maniacal Rage on an opponent’s defender to attack for lethal.
- Cast Gravitic Punch on Erratic Cyclops twice in one turn. That’s exactly 20 damage if the opponent has no blockers and no answers.
- When my opponent blocks Truefire Captain with a 3/3, cast Sure Strike as a combat trick…on their creature.
- Win a game and lose a game thanks to Chance for Glory, both in the same match. (I would need a rather aggressive deck filled with high-power creatures before I would consider playing it, but I do believe it has more potential as a finisher than its current place in the pick order list would indicate.)
- Use Trostani Discordant’s ability to retake a creature stolen by Connive // Concoct.
- Win the game by hitting three creatures with Etrata, the Silencer.
- Draft an Azorius, Orzhov, Simic, Rakdos, or Gruul deck.
Since the prime goal of this aggregate list is to spawn debate, let me know which cards you felt were overrated or underrated. Also, if you have sweet additions to the bucket list, then don’t hesitate to share your suggestions in the comment section below!