Ravnica has charmed the Magic world as the most story-driven plane of them all. For long-time Magic players, this is our third trip to the City of Guilds. Today you can even play Dungeons and Dragons in Ravnica. Many of us joked in September that the new set should have been called Return to Return to Ravnica, but the fact is, it’s been wonderful to go back to a place that remains at once familiar and exciting. Ravnica’s ten guilds give players a unique focus for gameplay in limited formats. Ten guilds, however, is a little too much for a single set to represent with any depth. Therefore, Guilds of Ravnica brought us Boros, Dimir, Izzet, Golgari and Selesnya. Each guild represented by a two-color combination, red/white, blue/black, blue/red, black/green and green/white respectively.
Now it’s time for prerelease players to declare their allegiance to one of the other five guilds. It’s time to explore the two-color possibilities of Azorius with white/blue, Simic with blue/green, Orzhov with white/black, Gruul with red/green and Rakdos with black/red. With Guilds of Ravnica, only Boros gave players a purely aggressive direction. This time around, with Rakdos and Gruul, aggro players will have twice as many options. Green was often disappointing in Guilds of Ravnica sealed deck and booster draft. Will Ravnica Allegiance offer a more even choice to players? We can’t wait to find out.
This weekend, at a Local Game Store near you, we’re going to find out what’s fun and what’s terrifying in Magic’s newest expansion set. Do you have a favorite among these five guilds? Good news, Wizards of the Coast wants to tip the scales in your favor with prerelease packs seeded for your choice of guilds. Your prerelease pack will contain six regular Ravnica Allegiance booster packs along with a special seeded pack. Your seeded pack will contain a prerelease foil edition of a rare or mythic from your chosen guild along with, according to Wizards, stuff to “help your deck fire on all cylinders.”
Changes to the world of Magic: the Gathering are coming faster than ever. No more Masters sets for a while. The Pro Tour is partially moving to online play on Arena. No more PPTQs. Dogs and cats living together. In these chaotic times, at least this week, it’s comforting to do something fun and familiar. We’re going to our prerelease events to play with a brand new Magic set for the first time. We’re going to open all our cards and lay them all out by color in order to decide what the best possible deck is, even though we’re likely to play the guild that we chose ahead of time. We’re going to end up with forty-card decks (not forty-one) that have about seventeen land and twenty-three creatures and spells. We’re going to turn these cards sideways and try to win some matches. If we do win these matches, the purveyor of your lgs is going to lay some treasure on your hands in the form of more Ravnica Allegiance booster packs. Sounds good to me. My hope with this article is to help you win more boosters at your Ravnica Allegiance prerelease.
Most of the time in this sealed format, particularly during prerelease weekend, your deck is going to be centered around one of the two-colored guilds. Some people like that and some don’t. One man’s two-color synergy is another’s unimaginative color-by-numbers game play. While I’m all for exploring the game space created by these new cards, I’m going to go for what works the best. Give me the strong color synergy of the guilds. There’s a Guildgate in every booster pack, so it’s not at all out of the question to add a few cards of a third color to your Allegiance sealed deck. You’re likely to want to play a lot of Guildgates in your deck anyway because each of the five guilds contain cards that care about how many Gates you control. Some people love drifting full on into a third color, or even a fourth. I’m much more likely to stay as close to my best two colors as possible with just one or two cards from a third splash color. My limited leader, for many years, was Neil Reeves. Neil was once considered the best limited player in the world. Neil said a splashed card was either a strong removal spell or a bomb creature. It remains very solid advice.
Each of the five guilds in Allegiance comes with a brand new mechanic. I’m listing them in the order that I think they matter for sealed deck.
Orzhov’s ability is called afterlife. Afterlife is a triggered ability of creatures that have the afterlife ability on them. When a creature with afterlife dies (goes to the graveyard from play) the afterlife ability triggers creating a number of 1/1 white and black Spirit creature tokens with flying. For example, Imperious Oligarch is a common 2/1 Human Cleric with vigilance for WB. This creature has afterlife 1 meaning that when this creature dies it triggers and creates a single Spirit token. Most cards with afterlife have ‘afterlife 1’ indicating that a single Spirit token will be created when the creature dies, but some cards have higher values after the keyword afterlife. Every card with afterlife simply comes with built in card advantage. It’s amazing that the free tokens you get when your afterlife creatures die have flying. It is possible for an ability to give afterlife to a creature that already has afterlife. When this happens, each occurrence of afterlife triggers separately when the creature dies. This ability is so good for limited that players will actually be looking for ways to sacrifice their creatures at times in order to get the evasive Spirit tokens.
Rakdos’s ability is called spectacle. Cards with this ability have an alternate mana cost, referred to as their spectacle cost. When you play a spell that has spectacle, you can choose to play the card’s spectacle cost (generally a significantly lower cost) than the regular mana cost if an opponent has lost life this turn. For example, Skewer the Critics is a common sorcery for 2R that deals three damage to any target. This card has a spectacle cost of one red mana. If your opponent has lost life earlier in the turn, you can play this spell for its spectacle cost of just one red mana. You gain the advantage of possibly being able to play more spells in your turn if you first deal damage to your opponent. These cards a limited a bit in that they are going to be played most often after combat. It’s up to you to turn this limitation into an advantage.
Azorius’s ability is called addendum. An instant spell that has the addendum ability provides an extra effect when it is played during your main phase. For example, Sphinx’s Insight is a common instant for 2WU that draws you two cards. If you play this spell during your main phase you also gain two life. I like the subtle benefit that cards with addendum can provide. It’s always important to remember that even though instant spells can be played during your opponent’s turn, it’s often better for you to play them on your own turn. Addendum is a way to get more out of your instant spells when you don’t decide that you need to play them during your opponent’s turn.
Simic’s ability is called adapt. These creatures have an activated adapt ability that puts a certain number of +1/+1 counters on it if it did not already have any such counters on it. Aeromunculus is a common 2/3 Homunculus Mutant with flying for 1GU. This creature has adapt 1 for a cost of 2GU. You can activate this creature’s adapt ability by paying 2GU. When the ability resolves, if the creature doesn’t have any +1/+1 counters, it will get a +1/+1 counter. Interestingly, you can always activate the adapt ability of a creature, but it won’t put any counters on the creature if it has any on it when the ability resolves. This ability is obviously slow. You have to feel good enough about a creature’s base statistics without looking ahead to how good the creature will be when you are eventually able to use its adapt ability. Also, you may choose to use other abilities to put +1/+1 counters on your creatures that will interfere with your ability to use these creatures’ adapt ability later in the game. On the other hand, when games go long and each player has a wall of creatures in front of them, the Simic player will gain an advantage by being able to improve his creatures with adapt.
Gruul’s ability is called riot. When a creature with riot is entering the battlefield you decide whether you want the creature to have a +1/+1 counter on it. If you don’t choose to put a counter on it, the creature has haste. This is a replacement effect that your opponent can’t respond to. For example, Zhur-Taa Goblin is an uncommon 2/2 Goblin Berserker for RG with riot. When this creature enters the battlefield you choose whether or not to have it enter with a +1/+1 counter or have haste. If you choose for your creature to get the counter it enters the battlefield with the counter already on it. It’s not a triggered ability that your opponent (or even you) can respond to. Intellectually, I think this ability is a bit of a cop out, a very generically good ability that lets you build your own adventure, either having a creature that can attack immediately or else is a little bit bigger than normal. For game play purposes, this is a very fine ability. Gruul is all about attacking and smashing the opponent, it’s the most aggressive guild in the set. Riot will be a very useful ability for Gruul sealed decks.
Commons and Uncommons
Rares and mythic rares usually scream out how good or bad they are. Giant monster that can’t be blocked? In. Complicated enchantment that needs a dedicated constructed deck built around it? Out. You only get six rares and mythics in your sealed pool. Actually, there’s a seventh rare or mythic in your special seeded booster. It’s the commons and uncommons that have the most to do with how successful your sealed deck will be. If you have bomb rares, you’re going to need your commons and uncommons to buy the time necessary to get your awesome rare card in play. If you don’t have bomb rares in your pool, it’s the commons and uncommons that are going to have to race you past your opponent before they get their bomb rares on the battlefield.
To this end, I have examined the commons and uncommons of Ravnica Allegiance and rated the best six in each color. The colors, and the cards in them, appear in the order that I like them best for sealed deck.
Since the two-colored, guild-aligned, gold cards are so key to this set, I’ve listed them before the mono-colored cards. For each guild, I’ve selected my favorite common and my favorite uncommon.
Sunder Shaman is an uncommon 5/5 Giant Shaman for RRGG. This creature can’t be blocked by more than one creature. When this creature deals combat damage to a player, destroy target artifact or enchantment that player controls. This is a lot of hurtin’ for four mana. Opponents will probably complain about it.
Savage Smash is a common sorcery for 1RG. Target creature you control gets +2/+2 until end of turn and fights a target creature you don’t control. The hardest thing about the fight mechanic is that it often requires you to trade your creature for the one it fights. Savage Smash helps make sure that your creature wins the fight.
Sphinx of New Prahv is an uncommon 4/3 Sphinx for WWUU with flying and vigilance. Spells your opponents cast that target this creature cost two additional generic mana to cast. Ten years ago, this card would have been a rare. How outstanding this card will be in your deck rests entirely on how quickly you are able to cast it. Definitely play all of your Azorius Guildgates.
Lawmage’s Binding is a common enchantment aura with flash for 1WU. The creature enchanted with Lawmage’s Binding can’t attack or block and its activated abilities can’t be activated. It’s not incredibly important that this card can be played at instant speed, but it’s awfully nice. This is a wonderful removal card for Azorius even though there are plenty of effects in the set that can destroy an enchantment.
Sharktocrab is an uncommon 4/4 Fish Octopus Crab for 2GU. This creature has adapt 1 for an activated cost of 2GU. Whenever one or more +1/+1 counters are put on Sharktocrab, tap a target creature an opponent controls. That creature does not untap during its controller’s next untap step. This improbable seafood platter will haunt your dreams if you look too hard at the artwork, but it will thrash your opponent in a very real and deadly way if your Simic deck has enough ways to put counters on creatures.
Aeromunculus is a common 2/3 Homunculus Mutant for 1GU with flying. This card has adapt 1 for an activated cost of 2GU. It’s just too easy for Simic players to have a 2/3 flyer on turn three. This is a high quality common flyer. Terrible name for an airline, great name for a Simic monster.
Mortify is an uncommon instant for 1WB that destroys a target creature or enchantment. Sure, this is a reprint, but it rates way up there on the reprint power scale. This card is so good it could have been in Ultimate Masters. Orzhov players are going to break a lot of their opponents’ toys.
Final Payment is a common instant for WB. As an additional cost to cast this spell either pay five life or sacrifice a creature or enchantment. Destroy target creature. Instant speed removal for just two mana? Yes, please. Sure, you will choose to sacrifice a creature a lot of times, but you’re going to surprise yourself at the number of times you choose to pay five life.
Macabre Mockery is an uncommon instant for 2BR. Put target creature from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gets +2/+0 and haste. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step. While Threaten appears in a lot of sets, like this one, as a matter of fact, Wizards of the Coast hardly ever gives us instant-speed creature-stealing. While the only creatures you can “borrow” with Macabre Mockery are the ones in your opponent’s graveyard, I believe you are up to the challenge of killing your opponent’s creatures. You might Mockery on your opponent’s turn in order to get an unexpected blocker from your opponent’s graveyard. More than likely, you’ll play it on your own turn so that you can punch your opponent in the face with his own creature. Don’t forget that you get those sweet enters-the-battlefield effects as well.
Get the Point is a common instant for 3BR that destroys a target creature. Then you scry 1. Your opponent will probably know something is up when you leave five mana untapped and pass the turn. That doesn’t mean that they will be any happier when you gun down their best creature at instant speed and then scry.
Green fuels two guilds that want to win the game in different ways. Simic decks are slower but build up a critical mass of large monsters. Gruul gets into combat sooner and more often but also features big creatures. Green was not exciting in Guilds of Ravnica limited. Congratulations, green lovers, because things are different in Ravnica Allegiance.
Enraged Ceratok is an uncommon 4/4 Rhino for 2GG. This creature can’t be blocked by creatures with power two or less. It’s extremely likely that your opponent won’t have a creature than can block and kill this monster on turn five. The best part is that they can’t double block it with a pair of 2/2s. It’s too bad this Rhino didn’t get trample.
Titanic Brawl is a common instant for 1G. This spell costs one colorless less to play if it targets a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it. Target creature you control fights target creature you don’t control. Instant speed fight effects are good enough that we hardly ever see them. This kind of effect is made better in this set because both green strategies have such large, efficiently costed green creatures. Essentially, this card will cost two mana in Gruul decks and will often only cost one green mana in Simic decks. It will be very good in both.
Biogenic Upgrade is an uncommon sorcery for 4GG. You distribute three +1/+1 counters among one, two or three target creatures. Then you double the number of +1/+1 counters on each of those creatures. At the very least, Biogenic Upgrade represents the permanent addition of six +1/+1 counters to your board at sorcery speed. It can easily be better than that if one of the creatures you put a counter on already has counters on it from earlier in the game. All of the counters get doubled on the three creatures you target with this spell. This will be the last spell you play in many games that you win.
Gatebreaker Ram is an uncommon 3/2 Sheep for 2G that gets +1/+1 for each Gate that you control. If you control two or more Gates this creature also gets vigilance and trample. I like this creature because it’s fine, though unexciting, even when you play it on turn three with no Gates in play. It could have said that it got +1/+1 counters based on Gates you controlled when it entered the battlefield. The way it’s printed, it is simply a 2/2 that gets bigger based on how many Gates you control, no matter when those Gate cards show up. I automatically play this card as soon as I have three or more Gates in my deck.
Rampaging Rendhorn is a common 4/4 Beast for 4G with riot. Choose your own adventure. What will it be, a 5/5 for five mana or a 4/4 with haste? I’m generally not thrilled with the stats on most of the creatures with riot, but I like this one.
Axebane Beast is a common 3/4 Beast for 3G. Just an easy-to-play creature that punches reasonably hard. The most boring creature in your deck but still solid.
The blue cards of Ravnica Allegiance serve two very different guilds, creature-based Simic and control-based Azorius.
Gateway Sneak is an uncommon 1/3 Vedalken Rogue for 2U. Whenever a Gate enters the battlefield under your control this creature can’t be blocked this turn. Whenever Gateway Sneak deals combat damage to a player you draw a card. Once in play, this card amounts to a free card every time you play a Gate card. Even when you don’t, you may find other ways to help the Gateway Sneak deal combat damage in order to gain free cards.
Arrester’s Admonition is a common instant for 2U that returns a target creature to its owner’s hand. This card has an addendum ability that draws you a card if you play this spell during your main phase. While this card would be so much better if it cost two mana instead of three, it is still very valuable. It’s important to remember that with cards with addendum, the answer isn’t always to play it on your main phase in order to gain the additional effect, in this case, a free card. There will be plenty of times when it will be more useful to bounce a creature on your opponent’s turn. However, this card’s addendum ability gives you an incentive to bounce your opponent’s creature during your main phase when doing so is better or at least just as good as the other option.
Skatewing Spy is an uncommon 2/3 Vedalken Rogue Mutant for 3U. This creature has an adapt 2 ability that costs 5U. Each creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it has flying. While it takes six mana to put two counters on this creature, the Skatewing Spy will provide flying for your other creatures with +1/+1 counters the moment it enters the battlefield. Giving your team flying will always be an important ability in sealed deck.
Chillbringer is a common 3/3 Elemental with flying for 4U. When this creature enters the battlefield it taps a target creature an opponent controls. That creature does not untap during its controller’s next untap step. This very useful effect has appeared in the past on smaller, cheaper cretaures. However, five mana is fine for a 3/3 flyer that also locks down an opposing creature for a turn. I’ll play at least one copy of this spell whenever I have one.
Eyes Everywhere is an uncommon enchantment for 2U. At the beginning of your upkeep you scry 1. This card also has an activated ability that costs 5U that causes you to exchange control of Eyes Everywhere and a target nonland permanent. This ability can only be activated when you could cast a sorcery. Control decks will love having a free scry effect at the beginning of each turn. Later in the game you exchange this card with your opponent’s best creature. There are some downsides. Once you play this enchantment, your opponent will know that you are going to steal a creature at some point in the future. They may hold back from playing a bomb until after you use this card’s activated ability. If you exchange with an opponent also playing blue, they can also use the enchantment’s activated ability. Even when you steal a great creature from a non-blue opponent, you have given them a free scry effect each turn. I think it will be worth it most of the time.
Sage’s Row Savant is a common 2/1 Vedalken Wizard for 1U. When this creature enters the battlefield you scry for two. Not only do most decks need a certain number of small creatures for their casting curve, Sage’s Row Savant will allow you to keep a larger number of opening hands that have only two lands in them. When you play the Savant on turn two, the scry ability helps you set up your following turns very nicely.
The black cards in this set support two very different sinister guilds, Orzhov and Rakdos. Cards with blood and guts and knives on them are Rakdos, the ones with Vampires on them are Orzhov. More constructively, Rakdos cards will be more angry, more aggressive. The Orzhov cards are a little slower, intended for more deliberate control strategies.
Cry of the Carnarium is an uncommon sorcery for 1BB. All creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn. Exile all creature cards in all graveyards that were put there from the battlefield this turn. If a creature would die this turn, exile it instead. Enough, already! I get it. This card wants to exile dead creatures. The real value of this card is to keep aggressive decks at bay on turn three or four. Later in the game, Cry of the Carnarium clears the air of annoying Spirit tokens.
Clear the Stage is an uncommon instant for 4B. It gives a target creature -3/-3 until end of turn. If you control a creature with power four or greater, you may return a target creature from your graveyard to your hand. While -3/-3 until end of turn won’t kill every creature, it will kill a large number of possible targets. Since Clear the Stage is an instant, you can use it during combat to change a big attacker into a small attacker and then you block it and keep your blocker. Anytime you also get the bonus of returning a creature to your hand from the graveyard you’re going to feel pretty good about Clear the Stage. It seems strange, in a good way, that this card was made an instant.
Spire Mangler is an uncommon 2/1 Insect with flying and flash for 2B. When this creature enters the battlefield a target creature you control with flying gets +2/+0 until end of turn. Your opponent might attack with a 4/4 flyer and you have no flyers in play until you surprise them with Spire Mangler pumping himself into a 4/1 blocker. Other times, you might attack with several 1/1 flyers. After blockers are chosen you could play Spire Mangler to pump one of the attacking flyers. It’s boring, but you can also just play Spire Mangler on turn three and have an efficient flyer. This very playable small flyer gives you some interesting options.
Undercity Scavenger is a common 3/3 Ogre Warrior for 3B. When this creature enters the battlefield you may sacrifice another creature you control. If you do, put two +1/+1 counters on Undercity Scavenger and scry 2. In the worst case scenario you play this card on an empty board and get a 3/3 for 3B. Other times, you’re going to end up with a 5/5 monster for four mana that helps you draw a useful card on your next turn.
Blade Juggler is a common 3/2 Human Rogue for 4B. When this creature enters the battlefield it deals one damage to you and draws you a card. This card has a spectacle cost of 2B. If your opponent has lost life earlier in the turn, you can play Blade Juggler for just 2B. This card is very efficient if you can play it for the reduced spectacle cost. If I think I can pay the spectacle cost most of the time, I’ll play multiple copies of this spell. While it does bite you when you play it, the free card draw is completely worth it every time. You know, other than when you’re at one life…
Consign to the Pit is a common sorcery for 5B that destroys a target creature and deals two damage to that creature’s controller. Yup, it costs six mana to kill a creature with a common in this set. The casting cost makes it hard to imagine playing a bunch of copies, but I’m sure I’ll play at least a single copy most of the time. It’s no joke, however, that the two damage provided by this spell could win the game sometimes on turn nine or ten.
Dead Revels is a common sorcery for 3B that allows you to return up to two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand. This card has a spectacle cost of 1B. It’s easy to imagine scenarios where you attack with several creatures, deal some damage to your opponent, and then play Dead Revels for just two mana. This gives you the opportunity to possibly replay one of the creatures you just brought back from the graveyard. Both black guilds can get a lot out of use out of this card.
The white cards serve two different guilds, Orzhov and Azorius. Each of these color combinations have natural tendencies towards control strategies. However, it is possible, in each of these guilds, to build a deck more focused on smaller creatures, cheaper spells and more aggressive strategies as well.
Angelic Exaltation is an uncommon enchantment for 3W. Whenever a creature you control attacks alone it gets +X/+X until end of turn where X is the number of creatures you control. This ability is reminiscent of exalted. You never fill up a deck with too many cards that aren’t either creatures or cards that take care of your opponent’s creatures, but this one can pay dividends right away. On the turn you play it, it immediately allows you to make a better single-creature attack that you could have made without it. Imagine, after you build a board with some number of creatures, you can send a single 1/1 Spirit token with flying into combat and Angelic Exaltation will trigger to turn your small attacker into a much more dangerous one. This card can shorten games in your favor and it makes things hard on your opponent because you gain an advantage no matter which of your creatures you decide to attack with. As much as I like this enchantment I don’t know how often I would play two or more.
Summary Judgment is a common instant for 1W that deals three damage to a target tapped creature. This card has an addendum ability. If you play this card during your main phase it deals five damage to a target tapped creature. It’s easy to figure out what to do with this card. When a 3/3 attacks you and becomes tapped, go ahead and kill it before it damages you. If it’s a 4/4 or 5/5, either don’t block it or chump block it, then kill it during your next main phase with Summary Judgment. I’ll play multiple copies of this spell when they’re available.
Justiciar’s Portal is a common instant for 1W. Exile a target creature you control and then return it to the battlefield under its owner’s control. This creature gains first strike until end of turn. This first strike part is a throw-in, an entirely extra ability that turns this card into an interesting combat trick. Cards like this come in handy lots of different ways. You might use it to make your best creature jump out of the way of an opponent’s removal spell, or to remove an enchantment from one of your creatures. It could be a nice blowout when you attack with a big creature and then, when your opponent attacks with a creature he doesn’t think you can block profitably, you play Justiciar’s Portal exiling and returning to the battlefield your previously tapped attacker. Now your best creature is untapped and has gained first strike until end of turn. I’m burying the lead, of course. The best thing you can do with this card is to retrigger an enters-the-battlefield ability.
Rally to Battle is an uncommon instant for 3W that gives creatures you control +1/+3 until end of turn and untaps them. A common plan would be to attack with all your creatures. Your opponent has to decide which ones to block or whether it is better to let your creatures damage him so he can return a powerful alpha strike of his own. Then you ruin all those plans by playing Rally to Battle. Even when you aren’t committing the whole team to combat, you can feel better about whatever creatures you send into battle knowing that you can pump them all and regain their ability to block on your opponent’s next turn. I wish the bonus was +2/+2 instead of the more defensive +1/+3, but you can’t have everything you want.
Syndicate Messenger is a common 2/3 Bird with flying for 3W. This creature has afterlife 1. Four mana for a 2/3 flyer is fine but not exciting, but it’s the kind of creature white decks in this format will want. Afterlife is a nice extra.
Impassioned Orator is a common 2/2 Human Cleric for 1W. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under you control you gain one life. On early turns, he’s just a bear that helps your deck’s mana curve. Later, he becomes quite annoying for your opponent as the life points gained from this card’s passive ability stack up. Pretty good with afterlife creatures…
The red cards in this set fuel two different maniacally angry guilds, Rakdos and Gruul. Gruul is more creature-based and more aggressive (in this set, anyway). The similarities between these two guilds should make the red cards very easy to use in general.
Skewer the Critics is a common sorcery for 2R that deals three damage to any target. This card has a spectacle cost of one red mana. Already jumping into Modern constructed decks, Skewer the Critics is the best red common in the set. How many games will end after combat when you play this card for a single red mana to finish off your opponent. Maybe your opponent is at six life after combat and you have two copies of Skewer in your hand. Sounds really good to me.
Dagger Caster is an uncommon 2/3 Viashino Rogue for 3R. When this creature enters the battlefield it deals one damage to each opponent and one damage to each creature your opponents control. This guy hate Spirit tokens! He also likes to arrive after combat to finish off your opponent’s creatures that barely survived combat.
Ghor-Clan Wrecker is a common 2/2 Human Warrior for 3R with riot and menace. I think you go with the +1/+1 counter in most situations, but there will be times when all you need is two extra points of power on the attack to win the game in which case you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well haste and menace go together.
Flames of the Raze-Boar is an uncommon instant for 5R. This spell deals four damage to a target creature an opponent controls. If you control a creature with power four or greater, this spell then deals two damage to each other creature controlled by that player. I don’t mind a six casting cost red instant, but I usually like them to deal a bunch of direct damage that can hit any target. It’s actually not that important that this spell be an instant, actually. The key is to play it when you have a large creature on your side so that you get both effects of the spell. That might mean having to play it before combat, or in the middle of combat after blocks have been determined. Got it! That’s the reason it’s an instant!
Gates Ablaze is an uncommon sorcery for 2R that deals X damage to each creature where X is equal to the number of Gates you control. How many Gates would you need in a deck to make this card a true board sweeper? The more the better, but you probably need at least five or six to make sure that your late game Gates Ablaze can deal at least three but optimally four or five damage to each creature in play. Again, all six booster packs you open have a Gate in them and there is probably a Gate in your chosen colors in the seeded booster you received. When your red opponent plays off-color Gates you can have a pretty good idea they might have Gates Ablaze waiting for you at some point. I think this spell works well with Gruul strategies that lay down a number of four-toughness creatures and then light up the board with three damage to each creature.
Rubblebelt Recluse is a common 6/5 Ogre Berserker for 4R. This creature attacks each turn if able. Just big and mean. When you’re a 6/5 monster, the requirement to attack each turn isn’t so much a limitation, it’s more of pro tip.
Each of the five guilds gets a Locket that costs three generic mana and which can be tapped for either color of the guild it represents. Each of these can be tapped and sacrificed for four hybrid mana of that guild’s colors in order to draw two cards. We didn’t play a lot of these in Guilds of Ravnica and I think they are generally to be avoided in this set as well.
Sphinx of the Guildpact is an uncommon 5/5 artifact Sphinx creature with flying for seven generic mana. This creature is all colors and has hexproof from monocolored. This is an impossible-sounding bomb that I can’t believe is just uncommon.
Gate Colossus is an uncommon 8/8 artifact Construct creature for eight generic mana. This creature costs one less for each Gate you control. This creature can’t be blocked by creatures with power two or less. When a Gate enters the battlefield under your control you can return Gate Colossus from your graveyard to the top of your library. I like it! Not enough to pay eight mana for it in a deck with no Gate cards, mind you, but I like it. Maybe your deck has just three or four Gates in it, you might still be playing this big guy for six mana. It’s got a little bit of evasion, basically this ability is called hexproof-from-chump-blocking and you might even get it back from the graveyard late in a game if you need to. What’s not to like?
Break it Down for Me, Player!
I’m excited about Gruul. It will probably be the first guild I try this weekend. I’m crazy about the big green creatures, the big red/green creatures and some of the red cards. I’m disappointed, on the other hand, at how tight-fisted Wizards was with riot. The commons with riot, particularly at the lower end of the mana scale, are just not very good. Gruul decks are going to come together pretty easily and will be troublesome this weekend.
I should be excited about Simic because I think that separately, green and blue have the best monocolored commons and uncommons. What I’m not crazy about is the adapt ability. While I’m not excited about how expensive it is to use the adapt ability, I do like a lot of the creatures that have adapt. Simic looks pretty good and not as slow as I thought. The only slow part is adapt.
Orzhov offers a lot of goodies and it would be easy to fall in love with an Azorius deck full of blue/white flyers. Rakdos is the guild I have no strong take on whatsoever. I think the theme of Rakdos might be “trash aggro” but I’m not excited about experimenting with it this weekend.
I hope all your decks this weekend are full of good rares and that you win a bunch of booster packs. Thanks for reading.
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