Last weekend’s World Championship put Guilds of Ravnica cards on display for the first time, as the Ultimate Guard Pro Team beat out Hareruya Latin in the Team Series Final. Both of these teams were given ample testing time with the cards, and brought Team Coverage up to speed on how they felt about each color combination.
There’s never a better time to learn from those who have already dumped hours of testing into the new set. Nor does it hurt that these players are among the best in the world! After getting the chance to play with these cards last week, here’s where these hard-hitting heavyweights landed on the set when it comes to Izzet and Dimir.
Izzet is, by consensus of these pros, the best guild. Powerful synergies across both creatures and spells mean that it’s simple enough to pull together a proactive and interactive deck. There are no clear weaknesses to the Izzet colors—they contain first-rate removal like Command the Storm and Direct Current, and value-laden defensive creatures like Muse Drake and Dimir Informant. The key, however, is knowing the best way to craft a game plan around these cards.
Anyone who drafted Return to Ravnica will remember the Izzet deck that played early defense with Frostburn Weird and Lobber Crew before eventually winning in one huge swingy turn thanks to a finisher like Teleportal. Oddly enough, the cut and thrust of the Guilds Izzet deck is largely the same. Generally speaking, a good Izzet deck looks to gum up and control the board with defensive creatures alongside removal spells and countermagic, then eventually pull together a massive turn that puts the game out of reach.
Broadly, there are two avenues to achieving this, and it mostly depends upon what your card pool looks like—specifically, which finishers it contains. The commons are all built to support this game plan, with high-quality interaction and high-toughness creatures.
In addition to the previously-mentioned Command the Storm and Direct Current, Izzet removal also includes Capture Sphere, Precision Bolt, and the incredible Hypothesizzle. The Izzet creatures at common all support a defensive game plan: Piston-Fist Cyclops, Wall of Mist, Watcher in the Mist, and of course the mighty Muse Drake.
So, based on the commons alone, it shouldn’t be too difficult to built the foundation of a defensive, controlling deck. What about the finishers? Again, it depends on what you can get your hands on. There is no shortage of big, swingy finishers at higher rarities, and which ones you utilize will ultimately depend on the packs you open in Sealed or the landscape of the table in Draft.
The marquee gold mythic—Ral, Izzet Viceroy—is one of the best options, but you don’t have to rely on opening a mythic. Niv-Mizzet, Parun is high-unbeatable, and there are other powerful rare finishers such as Erratic Cyclops. Even at uncommon, Crackling Drake is a stone-cold late game bomb, and Murmuring Mystic slowly but surely assembles an unassailable board as you just play your natural game.
Relying on individually-powerful single-card finishers should cause you to alter your game plan accordingly. Be judicious with your interaction, and try to be conservative with countermagic to defend your big hitters. You should have no trouble pulling together the disruption you need to control the game—between the commons discussed above and the uncommons like Beacon Bolt and Lava Coil, controlling the board is relatively straightforward.
Dimir was another favorite of the teams this weekend, although it fell a little short of Izzet in their estimation. One of the great strengths of the Dimir deck is its consistency, with surveil looking to be one of those fantastic Limited mechanics that helps to ensure you play actual Magic each game.
While Izzet is overloaded with great red removal, there aren’t so many black-based interactions. But the black removal spells are very powerful, if a little clunky at the top end. Deadly Visit makes up for its high cost with the surveil 2 rider, and turn 5 is a great time to plan out your next few draws to mitigate flood and dig to powerful cards. The real all-star, however, is Artful Takedown—this card usually kills both a creature and gains some life by tapping another one down. Prioritize playing as many copies as you can.
The lack of abundant black removal at common means that Dimir decks need to lean on Capture Sphere and Unexplained Disappearance to control the board more, but unlike Izzet, which looks to unload a huge finisher, Dimir decks are all about chip damage and grindy board states. There are, as a result, plenty of unexciting but effective evasive creatures that will push through damage.
Watcher in the Mist is the new Cloudreader Sphinx, and Muse Drake is always a defensible play. At uncommon, Nightveil Predator is an untouchable powerhouse on both offense and defense, while Nightveil Sprite is a great marriage of both evasive chip damage and fueling the surveil game plan.
Additionally, there are some creatures that offer significant rewards for prioritizing surveil cards while putting your deck together. Dimir Spybug and Thoughtbound Phantasm reward you for playing cards that already stand on their own two feet, and Darkblade Agent is great at grinding through prolonged games, provided that you’ve set your deck up correctly with surveil cards.
Surveil is a deceptively powerful mechanic. Dimir Informant is a lot better than it looks, and uncommon disruption like Sinister Sabotage or Price of Fame all help to smooth out clunky draws. Binning unnecessary lands, finding key removal, or simply fueling surveil synergies are all potential benefits of the mechanic. Plus, every now and again you can bin a Chemister’s Insight and feel like a genius.
Ultimately, Dimir is less about managing the board (unlike Izzet) and more about playing to it, making good blocks, getting in for damage where possible, and pulling ahead by inches rather than miles. Alternatively, you can just open Doom Whisperer and live life on easy street.
Both Izzet and Dimir share some core deckbuilding and game play principles. Both guilds seek to leverage efficient interaction to disrupt the opponent, but whereas Izzet seeks to be as defensive as possible before making big, game-winning plays, Dimir instead wants to find ways to pull together incidental advantage and win by nickel-and-diming the opponent into oblivion.
Adopting the correct mindset when either building a Sealed pool or pulling together a Draft deck will give you significant percentage point over opponents who aren’t as dialed-in to the subthemes and nuances of the set. Next time, I’ll be back with Boros, Selesnya, and Golgari.