Prerelease weekends are just about the most fun I have playing Magic. Sure, I jump into the spoiler list as soon as it is complete, I read and talk about all the cards from the new set, just like I’m doing in this article. But the real fun starts the first time you take new cards and actually play with them. Sealed deck is actually my favorite Magic format. Booster draft is the more skillful limited format, but sealed deck brings plenty of its own challenges. It’s really fun and satisfying to look at a random card pool and build the best possible forty card deck. The point of prerelease weekend, of course, is to have fun and play with the brand-new set. Still, since there are booster pack prizes on the line, you might as well be a little competitive and try to take the most prizes home with you. That’s why I’m writing this piece. I want to help you win more packs at your Guilds of Ravnica prerelease.
Guilds of Ravnica is a set based around multicolored cards, and gold card sets are very skill-intensive for limited play. You have so many more decisions to make with a gold set because there are so many more cards that can fit into whichever two-colored shell that you focus on. Yes, I’m taking for granted that the best sealed deck possible from six packs of Guilds of Ravnica is likely to be a two-colored deck. I’m confident that the way to go this weekend is to assess all of the cards in your pool and then choose the guild (there are five two-color pairings featured in this set) that includes more of the best cards in your pool. It’s entirely possible that you might splash a few cards from a third color, but a third color splash should be very small and the cards you splash better be easy to cast and powerful enough to risk your deck over.
At the prerelease you will receive one of five different prerelease kits, one for each of the featured guilds. In most cases you will get to pick the guild that you would like, either white/red Boros, white/green Selesnya, blue/red Izzet, black/green Golgari or blue/black Dimir. Your prerelease kit will contain six regular Guilds of Ravnica booster packs and one special seeded booster pack. The seeded booster pack contains a foil promo version of a rare or mythic rare from your kit’s featured guild. The other cards in the seeded booster are all relevant to your kit’s featured guild.
Before you start building your deck, make sure you look at all of your cards. Even though your card pool is likely to favor the guild you chose, you still need to see all of your cards in order to figure out what the best sealed deck will be. I always sort my cards by color and lay them out in columns, one for each color, with creatures at the top of each column and spells at the bottom. This exercise helps me to remember that creatures are the most important way to win in Magic sealed decks, year after year, set after set. When I get to my gold cards I might make a new column for each two-colored guild or I might add them to the five columns of cards I already have. No matter how you do it, make sure you look at all of your cards with an open mind before deciding on the colors for your deck.
Examining the Commons and Uncommons
There are lots of very powerful rares and mythic rares in this set. Some of these cards are so powerful and intricate that they will cause entire constructed decks to be built just to take advantage of them. I believe it’s easy to see which rares are the most powerful to play in your sealed deck. They sort of stick out from the rest of your cards. At the same time, you only get six rares/mythics in your sealed pool, maybe one or two extra if you get lucky and open foil rares. The real power of your sealed deck will be determined by the commons and uncommons in your pool. I want to share a few of my favorite commons and uncommons from each of the colors in Guilds of Ravnica. In each color I have included a few cards, from best to worst. I have also listed the individual colors in best to worst order, as they appear to me a few days before prerelease weekend.
Murmuring Mystic is an uncommon 1/5 Human Wizard for 3U. Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery you create a 1/1 blue Bird Illusion creature token with flying. It’s good news that this creature’s defensive 1/5 body is not cursed with defender. Blue decks play plenty of instants and sorceries no matter what color they are paired with. Izzet players, mixing blue and red spells, will have a good assortment of instants and sorceries that Murmuring Mystic will use to fill the skies with tiny blue flyers.
Selective Snare is an uncommon sorcery for XU that returns X target creature of the creature type of your choice to their owner’s hand. Anytime you get a spell that can remove, even temporarily, multiple targets from your opponent’s side of the battlefield without affecting yours, it’s a very good thing. This card ranges in value from good to completely bonkers depending on how good your opponent is. The better a job that your opponent did in crafting a synergistic sealed deck with creatures aligned with each other by creature type, the more you’re going to rickity-WRECK them when you play Selective Snare on your pre-combat main phase. Maybe you’ll play Selective Snare for 3U and bounce, say, Flight of Equenauts and Ledev Guardian and Parhelion Patrol back to your opponent’s hand because they are all Human creatures. So much targeted bouncing for so little mana, all because Guilds of Ravnica has so many creatures grouped into the same creature type. More often, you’ll probably pay 2U to bounce two guys. Yes, there will be times when the most troublesome creatures on your opponent’s side aren’t the same creature type. The most important factor with this spell is that it’s a sorcery. This spell only pays off for decks that like to attack. If you’re in blue and you have a deck that likes to attack, this spell has real blowout potential.
Capture Sphere is a common aura for 3U with flash. When this card enters the battlefield it taps the creature that it enchants and the enchanted creature does not untap during its controller’s untap step. This is blue’s common removal spell in this set. It has some advantages over a card like Waterknot, for example. While Capture Sphere costs four mana, it is interesting that you can play it at the beginning of your opponent’s combat. When your opponent’s best creature is suddenly unable to attack you may have fouled up their entire attack for that turn. Instant-speed removal (this card is virtual removal) changes games. Play all the copies you have.
Chemister’s Insight is an uncommon instant for 3U. This spell draws you two cards and has jump-start. This card takes the place of a spell like Divination in the two previous sets. Chemister’s Insight costs one more mana but you can play it at the end of your opponent’s turn. That makes this card slower to deploy in most games, but I’m sure that will be fine in sealed deck games. This is the perfect kind of spell to have jump-start. Later in the game you will certainly find yourself at the end of an opponent’s turn with a basic land in your hand that you don’t really need and 3U available to you. This card is really going to draw you four cards during the game. I’m not sure how many copies you can play, but the first copy should almost certainly be in your deck.
Watcher in the Mist is a common 3/4 Spirit with flying for 3UU. When this creature enters the battlefield you surveil for two. This mid to late game card gives you a way to win the game while also improving your next draw while potentially putting jump-start spells into your graveyard. This is a mere common, so you are very likely to have at least one in your sealed deck pool. I’m don’t know how many copies you should play. I believe I will play at least one of these very often.
Leapfrog is a common 3/1 Frog for 2U that has flying as long as you’ve cast an instant or sorcery this turn. A 3/1 creature for three mana is very normal, and unexciting. In blue/red decks, however, Leapfrog can be an all-star. The Izzet guild is famous for following the time-honored plan of putting red and blue together with a bunch of cheap spells and some flyers. In a deck like that, your Leapfrog will be flying over your opponent’s defenses plenty of times. I only wish it wasn’t so easy to kill.
Dimir Informant is a common 1/4 Human Rogue for 2U. When this creature enters the battlefield you surveil for two. This card fills the shoes of previous cards like Omenspeaker. Like Omenspeaker, Dimir Informant’s best feature will be the ability to help you find land when you need it and get rid of lands from the top of your deck when you don’t. It’s not great that Dimir Informant arrives on turn three instead of turn two. There are hands you could keep with two lands and an Omenspeaker that you might have to mulligan with two lands and Dimir Informant. Still, I think this will be a cheap defensive card that helps your deck every time you play it.
Inspiring Unicorn is an uncommon 2/2 Unicorn for 2WW. When this creature attacks it gives all creatures you control (including this one) +1/+1 until end of turn. This is a 2/2 for four mana that battles like a 3/3. This card is only good when you’re attacking, so he needs a fairly aggressive deck to be valuable. Very good.
Intrusive Packbeast is a common 3/3 Beast for 4W with vigilance. When this creature enters the battlefield you tap up to two target creatures that your opponent controls. This is a five-drop that actually helps aggressive decks.
Parhelion Patrol is a common 2/3 Human Knight with flying and vigilance for 3W. This creature has mentor. Mentor is really just an interesting extra for this creature, what you’re really paying for is a 2/3 flyer that doesn’t tap to attack. This is a solid play on turn four. If you want Parhelion Patrol’s mentor ability to really pay off, you’ll want to power up the Patrol in some way. This creature takes a leadership role among your army and because it’s a common, you are likely to have more than one of them. When you have two in play, you could buff one of them with some spell or ability in order to have its mentor ability put a +1/+1 counter on your other Patrol. Next turn, your permanently enhanced Patrol can help put a counter on your other Patrol. Mentor is a very nice ability for Boros players, and non-Boros white players will enjoy the benefits as well with Parhelion Patrol.
Gird for Battle is an uncommon sorcery for one white mana that puts a +1/+1 counter on each of up to two target creatures. If you’re on Team Boros (red/white) you’re going to love an aggressive permanent power up like Gird for Battle. No, you can’t but both counters on one creature. That’s okay, you’re adding two +1/+1 counters to your team for just one white mana. Sure, we all wish it could be an instant, but I think this card gives you a lot of value in an aggressive deck for just one mana.
Flight of Equenauts is an uncommon 4/5 Human Knight with flying for 7W. This card has convoke so that you can tap creatures you control to reduce the cost of the spell. If your deck has a lot of fairly cheap creatures in it, you could possibly dominate the skies with this big 4/5 flyer as early as turn five. Turn five is when you might expect to play a flying creature this large in white, but usually only a rare. If your curve is good enough, Flight of Equenauts could be an important win condition for your deck. Tapping your creatures the turn you play this card costs you the opportunity to attack with them but your new 4/5 flyer makes a pretty good blocker. It could be a blowout in your opponent’s favor if you tap your team to play this creature and your opponent eliminates it before your next turn. This card can be good but is risky. It’s good news that the casting cost only has one white mana in it.
Skyline Scout is a common 2/1 Human Scout for 1W. When this creature attacks you may pay 1W to give it flying until end of turn. Make no mistake, this dude will be land-bound for most of his existence. When you play the Scout on turn two your plan is not to waste mana to give him flying on turn three. But there will be times late in games when this card is simply a two-powered flyer for just two mana. This is a two-drop that will always make the cut, even when other small creatures get squeezed out of your sealed deck.
Plaguecrafter is an uncommon 3/2 Human Shaman for 2B. When this creature enters the battlefield each player sacrifices a creature or planeswalker. Each player who cannot sacrifice a creature discards a card instead. You can’t choose to discard instead of sacrificing a creature if you have one. This card is never any worse than a trade of Plaguecrafter and your opponent’s worse creature. On turn three it’s probably a trade of Plaguecrafter and your opponent’s only creature. I like the options this card gives you, and the fact that it costs your opponent something even if you play Plaguecrafter when they don’t have a creature in play.
Deadly Visit is a common sorcery for 3BB that destroys a target creature. This spell also has surveil 2. Surveil is at least as good as scry and might be better in black, a color that can take advantage of extra cards in its graveyard. Surveil 2 is a great bonus for a card you were going to play anyway. I’m sure I’ll play every copy of this spell I have available to me when black is one of my main colors.
Lotleth Giant is an uncommon 6/5 Zombie Giant for 6B. When this creature enters the battlefield it deals one damage to a target opponent for each creature card in your graveyard. Sealed deck games run long enough for you to play Lotleth Giant late in the game. Late in the game… you know, when a bunch of your creatures from earlier in the game are in the graveyard. This card is going to surprise opponents and break board stalls with its enters-the-battlefield ability.
Pilfering Imp is an uncommon 1/1 Imp for one black mana with flying. For 1B you can tap and sacrifice Pilfering Imp to look at your opponent’s hand and force them to discard the nonland card of your choice. You can only use this ability when you could cast a sorcery. On turn one, this is tiny beater in the air that will help you deal some early damage. Later on you can sacrifice it to get a removal spell or some other bomb out of your opponent’s hand. The trick will be knowing the time to sacrifice this little guy. Again, you have to remember that you can only use the sacrifice ability at sorcery-speed. This card is a great way to put a discard effect into your deck without costing yourself a creature slot.
Mephitic Vapors is a common sorcery for 2B that gives all creatures -1/-1 until end of turn. This card also has surveil 2. You’re going to need this card. Most of your opponents are going to have multiple creatures in their decks that have a toughness of one. Other times, you will play Mephitic Vapors after combat to finish killing creatures that blocked you. Surveil 2 is going to help you whether you play this card early or late. This card will be good on turn three plenty of times against Boros opponents.
Severed Strands is a common sorcery for 1B. As an additional cost to play this spell you have to sacrifice a creature. You gain life equal to the sacrificed creature’s toughness and you then destroy a target creature your opponent controls. Cards like this have been decent in sealed deck for decades. Obviously, this card represents card disadvantage, your sacrificed creature and Severed Strands in return for your opponent’s best creature. You will be willing to make this kind of trade most of the time. While you lose card advantage when you play this spell you can gain some life which might make the difference in the late game.
Wojek Bodyguard is a common 3/3 Human Soldier for 2R with mentor. This creature can’t attack or block alone. It’s inconvenient, to say the least, not to be able to attack with this creature by itself. It’s a definite downside. In Boros decks, however, you’re going to have a lot of creatures in your deck and quite a few of them will cost one and two mana, which means when you play Wojek Bodyguard on turn three you will be able to attack with him (and a friend) on turn four putting a permanent +1/+1 counter on another smaller attacker.
Hellkite Whelp is an uncommon 3/3 Dragon with flying for 4R. Whenever this creature attacks it deals one damage to a target creature the defending creature controls. This medium-sized flyer helps create his own holes in the opposing forces. This is a very decent creature for red, it probably goes better in Izzet decks than Boros, but I’d be happy to play it in either.
Barging Sergeant is a common 4/2 Minotaur Soldier for 4R with haste and mentor. At five mana, this isn’t one of the fastest members of the Boros track team. Still, haste makes up for a lot. Mentor is such a powerful ability that it doesn’t appear on very many creatures with power greater than two. Four is greater than two. I want to play this guy, he can be the top of the curve of my Boros deck Friday night at midnight! On turn five you get a four-powered monster that attacks immediately and that puts a +1/+1 counter on another one of my attackers that has a smaller power than the Sergeant. I’m in.
Ornery Goblin is a common 2/1 Goblin Warrior for 1R. When this creature blocks or becomes blocked by a creature it deals one damage to that creature. If you play Ornery Goblin on turn two you can attack with him on turn three in a lot more situations since your opponent’s early-turn creatures are more likely to have one toughness. I’ll play as many copies of this little guy as I can find.
Book Devourer is an uncommon 4/5 Beast with trample for 5R. When this creature deals combat damage to a player you can discard your hand and draw as many cards as you discarded. It’s a ‘may’ ability. This card is a no-brainer if you can afford to have a six-drop in your deck. I believe you can run a couple of six and even seven-drops in sealed deck. This creature is beefy and gives you options. Trample makes this creature’s second ability extremely relevant in many situations.
Command the Storm is a common instant for 4R that deals five damage to a target creature. Five is a lot to pay for a removal spell, but you take what you can get. It’s a good thing that this is an instant even though your opponent will always be suspicious when you leave five or more mana untapped.
Affectionate Indrik is an uncommon 4/4 Beast for 5G. When this creature enters the battlefield you may have it fight a target creature you don’t control. In many games, this is a late-game removal spell for green. With any luck, you can use Affectionate Indrik to take out an annoying creature on the other side of the board that doesn’t kill your Beast. Because this is a ‘may’ ability it can’t ever screw you up.
Circuitous Route is an uncommon sorcery for 3G. You search your library for up to two basic lands and/or Gate cards and put them onto the battlefield tapped. You’re going to have a good number of Gate lands in your card pool and you want to use all the ones that can help your deck. Circuitous Route, while slow, ramps you while also solving your future colored mana problems. This card will let green decks go a lot bigger than non-green decks will be able to go.
Devkarin Dissident is a common 2/2 Elf Warrior for 1G. This creature has an activated ability that pumps it for +2/+2 until end of turn for 4G. You can forget about this activated ability in most cases, this is just a 2/2 for two mana. But let me tell you what happens as the game goes along. Your opponent uses their removal spells on your “more dangerous” creatures. The next thing you know, it’s late in the game and your opponent never got around to killing Devkarin Dissident because they didn’t think this little guy would ever become a problem. All you can ask from a common creature is for it to be useful early as well as late in games.
Vigorspore Wurm is a common 6/4 Wurm for 5G. When this creature enters the battlefield it gives a target creature +X/+X and vigilance until end of turn where X is the number of creatures in your graveyard. This creature cannot be blocked by more than one creature. We’ve come a long way in the game of Magic. Twenty-five years ago, in Limited Edition Alpha-Beta, you had Craw Wurm at common, a 6/4 monster for 4GG. This time, for a slightly easier to pay six mana you get a 6/4 that can’t be blocked by more than one creature at a time and which pumps up someone else on your team the turn it enters the battlefield. This card is imprinted with the Golgari watermark but I like it better in Selesnya decks where Vigorspore Wurm can power up one my white flyers on turn six.
Portcullis Vine is a common 0/3 Plant Wall with defender for one green mana. You can pay two mana of any color and tap and sacrifice Portcullis Vine to draw a card. If you’re green and your plan is play a longer game in order to win with very large creatures, you might not mind having an early game speed bump like this one that can do a little blocking for a few turns and then be converted into a new card.
There are 30 different cards in each of the five single colors in Guilds of Ravnica. Actually, there are 30 in all the colors except for green which has 31. There are 80 gold cards in Guilds of Ravnica. That’s the most in any Magic expansion since the 83 gold cards in Return to Ravnica five years ago. I think it makes more sense to review these cards separated into the five two-colored guilds that are featured in Guilds of Ravnica. For sealed deck play, and especially prerelease sealed deck play, I believe the way to go is to build your deck around one of the five featured guilds possibly splashing for a few cards in a third color if you have the mana fixing to support such a move.
As with the mono-colored cards, I have listed my favorite cards for each of the featured guilds in best-to-worst order. Boros has my favorite commons and uncommons.
Boros Challenger is an uncommon 2/3 Human Soldier for RW with mentor. This card has an activated ability. You can pay 2RW to give this creature +1/+1 until end of turn. A 2/3 for two mana is a good start. Mentor moves this card up a few more spots on the chart. The ability to pump itself makes the Challenger a powerful piece of a good Boros deck. It’s important to remember that when you attack with a creature with mentor, its power must already be larger than another attacker in order to put a +1/+1 counter on that smaller attacker. Mentor actually checks two times, when you declare an attack with a creature with mentor, and when the mentor ability resolves. Your mentoring creature has to have a higher power than another attacking creature in order for you to target that creature to get a counter. When the mentor ability resolves the targeted creature must still have a smaller power than the mentoring creature. In other words, when you have the mentor ability on the stack you don’t want another effect to raise the power of your smaller attacker. This won’t come up all that often. With Boros Challenger, just remember that if you want the Challenger, a 2/3 naturally, to put a counter on another two-powered attacker, you need to use the Challenger’s ability to pump itself before you declare your attack.
Truefire Captain is an uncommon 4/3 Human Knight for RRWW with mentor. Whenever this creature is dealt damage it deals that much damage to a target player. You can’t do better than that. If your opponent wants do deal a bunch of damage to the Captain they also take the damage. This card’s casting cost is deceptively high even in decks with eight each red and white sources. It’s not particularly likely that Truefire Captain will hit the board on turn four. Even with the troublesome mana cost, I’m very interested in a large creature with mentor that deals damage to my opponent even when it dies in combat.
Justice Strike is an uncommon instant for RW that causes a target creature to deal damage to itself equal to its power. This is a two-mana spell that can take down a very large and diverse group of the creatures in Guilds of Ravnica. It’s not foolproof, there will be times when you wish you could kill a creature whose toughness is larger than its power. What’s really going to happen is that your opponent is going to get a gut punch when their best creature dies at the end of your opponent’s turn at instant speed.
Hammer Dropper is a common 5/2 Giant Soldier with mentor for 2RW. You know what they say about two-toughness creatures? They die in combat. This card represents five power and the ability to put a +1/+1 counter on another attacker on the attack. Hammer Dropper is all about attacking and doesn’t care that he’s going to trade with an opposing creature. Mentor makes this a card you have to play.
Garrison Sergeant is a common 3/3 Viashino Soldier for 3RW. This creature has double strike as long as you control a Gate. This card’s value is entirely dependent on how many Gates you have in your deck. I would play Garrison Sergeant if I had at least three Gates in my deck. This card is not as good with two or fewer Gates in your deck. When the Sergeant is a 3/3 double striker for five mana at common, this is a very good card.
Conclave Cavalier is an uncommon 4/4 Centaur Knight with vigilance for GGWW. When this creature dies you get a pair of 2/2 green and white Elf Knight creature tokens with vigilance. This is an excellent creature for the mana, but be careful about your mana base. You need eight green sources and eight white sources if you hope to play this card before turn six or seven. If your deck is Selesnya-focused and your mana base is good enough, you can’t go wrong with a 4/4 that turns into a pair of 2/2s when it dies.
Flower/Flourish is an uncommon sorcery split card that costs G/W (for Flower) and 4GW (for Flourish). Flower allows you to search your library for a basic Forest or Plains and put it into your hand, a perfectly reasonable play during the early turns of a game. Flourish gives creatures you control +2/+2 until end of turn, a very good spell to play on the last turn of the game before you attack for the win. I think you play this card in Selesnya decks for the Flourish but even so, it’s very useful that you can use it to find a basic Forest or Plains when that’s what you need to do.
Vernadi Shieldmate is a common 2/2 Human Soldier with vigilance for 1 G/W. This is a Selesnya card that, because of its hybrid mana cost, fits as easily in white decks as it does in green decks. That means this very decent two-drop is also good for Golgari and Boros. Very solid.
Centaur Peacemaker is a common 3/3 Centaur Cleric for 1GW that gains you four life when it enters the battlefield. The last time we had a card like this you gained three life. This time it’s four. This is a more than decent 3/3 for three that dedicated Selesnya decks won’t have trouble playing on turn three.
Goblin Electromancer is a common 2/2 Goblin Wizard for UR that makes instants and sorcery spells you play cost one colorless less. I normally don’t highlight reprinted cards (Goblin Electromancer is originally from Return to Ravnica and has been printed four other times as well) but Goblin Electromancer is too important a card for Izzet. The Izzet guild is the epitome of what red and blue like to do best in other sets: play spells. If you’re deck is mostly red and blue you’ll want to play all the copies of Electromancer that you can get your hands on.
Piston-Fist Cyclops is a common 4/3 Cyclops with defender for 1 U/R U/R. If you have played an instant or sorcery this turn this creature can attack as though it didn’t have defender. This is all too easy to pull off in an Izzet deck with say… 10 creatures and 14 spells with 16 land. This is a huge creature on turn three that could easily attack on turn four if you simply play a sorcery or instant first. When you’re too busy to attack with the Cyclops you have a powerful blocker. Because this card can be played as easily with blue mana as with red, you could include it in a Boros deck or a Dimir deck. I think the plan that makes this card work is straight out of the Izzet playbook and so I wouldn’t be likely to play this card outside of blue/red.
Hypothesizzle is a common instant for 3UR. You draw two cards and then discard a nonland card to deal four damage to a target creature. Yes, this card is awkwardly costed at five mana, but it’s just a common and it’s an instant to boot. You play it, hopefully at the end of your opponent’s turn, to draw two cards and then discard from you hand (doesn’t have to be one of the cards you just drew) a nonland card in order to deal four damage to one of your opponent’s creatures. It’s a card advantage spell and a creature removal spell in one. It would suck if, with an otherwise empty hand, you played Hypothesizzle and drew two lands. Hypo The Sizzle indeed.
League Guildmage is an uncommon 2/2 Human Wizard for UR. This Guildmage has two activated abilities: tap and spend 3U to draw a card or tap and spend XR to copy a target instant or sorcery spell with converted cost of X. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Pretty much only good for the first ability. This is a bear on turn two that might draw cards for you on later turns.
Status/Statue is an uncommon instant split card that can do one of two things: for one green or black mana (Status) you can give a target creature +1/+1 and deathtouch until end of turn or you can pay 2BG (Statue) to destroy a target artifact, creature or enchantment. This card has constructed-quality flexibility. It’s too good to leave out of your Golgari deck.
Molderhulk is an uncommon 6/6 Fungus Zombie for 7BG that costs one generic mana less to cast for each creature card in your graveyard. When this creature enters the battlefield you return a land card from your graveyard to the battlefield. This will be a good card in most Golgari decks, but it will really shine if your deck has lots of ways to churn cards into your graveyard in order to make Molderhulk cheaper to play. I doubt you would ever have to pay more than five or six mana for this big body.
Undercity Uprising is a common sorcery for 2BG. Your creatures gain deathtouch until end of turn and then a target creature you control fights with a target creature you don’t control. At the very least, this is a four-mana spell that will let you trade one of your creatures for your opponent’s largest creature (as long as their creature doesn’t have hexproof).
Golgari Findbroker is an uncommon 3/4 Elf Shaman for BBGG. When this creature enters the battlefield you can return a target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand. A “permanent card” isn’t a card you’re planning to keep in your collection forever, it’s essentially any kind of card other than an instant or sorcery. This card will be valuable in every dedicated Golgari deck as long as you make sure you have around eight black and eight green mana sources.
Glowspore Shaman is an uncommon 3/1 Elf Shaman for BG. When this creature enters the battlefield you put the top three cards of your library into the graveyard. Then you may put a land card from your graveyard on top of your library. Don’t be worried about milling yourself out of a game, that’s just not going to happen very often at all. I like this card as a 3/1 for two mana and not much else. It’s interesting that this card can help you fill up your graveyard for later undergrowth effects and sometimes you will choose to put a land from your graveyard on top of your library. It’s really too bad there aren’t any fetch-type lands in this set.
Rhizome Lurcher is a common 2/2 Fungus Zombie for 2BG. This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. It would be weird, but you could potentially pay four mana for this card and, with no creatures in your graveyard, have only a 2/2 to show for it. But I really doubt it. I think this is a 3/3 most of the time when you play it on turn four and is at least a 4/4 when played on later turns.
Nightveil Predator is an uncommon 3/3 Vampire for UUBB with flying, deathtouch and hexproof. This guy is loaded with features, just remember that you need a lot of Islands and Swamps in your deck if you hope to play him. If your mana is right, you can’t go wrong with Nightveil Predator and all its stats.
Whisper Agent is a common 3/2 for 1 U/B U/B with flash. When this creature enters the battlefield you surveil for one. This sneaky little creature will be a good surprise play during your opponent’s attack step. It’s a nice plus to surveil whenever you play one of these guys. The hybrid mana cost means this common dude can fit just as easily into Izzet and Golgari decks, though Dimir is where he fits the best.
Disinformation Campaign is an uncommon enchantment for 1UB. When this enchantment enters the battlefield you draw a card and each opponent discards a card. Whenever you surveil, return this enchantment to your hand. This is repeatable card advantage for you and card disadvantage for your opponent. Over the course of a game you might very well draw two, three or four cards from this one card in your deck. This card is mana intensive, but you only have to replay Disinformation Campaign when it fits your strategy over the game. It’s not the kind of card you should play multiples of, but I think one copy fits well into the typical Dimir control strategy.
House Guildmage is an uncommon 2/2 Human Wizard for UB. This creature has two activated abilities. You can tap him and pay 1U to not let a creature untap during its controller’s next untap step. You can use this ability on a creature even if that creature isn’t yet tapped. The second ability lets you tap the Guildmage and pay 2B to surveil for two. This second ability could make House Guildmage a useful splash for Golgari decks wanting to put more cards into their own graveyard.
Artful Takedown is a common instant for 2UB. You choose one or both: tap a target creature or give a target creature -2/-4 until end of turn. You would never want to spend four mana to tap a creature, that would be the world’s worst Magic card. The other choice, giving a creature -2/-4, is entirely reasonable for four mana. This card lets you do both things. Give -2/-4 to one creature to hopefully kill it while tapping another creature getting it out of your way so that you can attack. This feels like a good play at the end of your opponent’s turn. It’s too bad I’m not that excited about Dimir.
For sealed deck, the most important common artifacts are the series of five Locket cards. There is one for each of the five featured guilds. Each costs three generic mana to play and can be tapped immediately for either of its guild’s two colors. Each Locket can be tapped and sacrificed when you spend four hybrid mana of its guild’s colors in order to draw TWO cards. In sealed deck you absolutely play two or even three copies of any Locket that exactly fits the guild you are playing. You should probably play a Locket that touches a splash color if you are nibbling on a third color in your deck. This card raises the important question of whether Guilds of Ravnica is a 17 land sealed deck format or a 16 land sealed deck format. Heading into the prereleases I’ll say that it’s a 17 land format. If I had two or three Lockets in my deck, and I think three is as many as I would play, I would drop to 16 land.
Rampaging Monument is an uncommon 0/0 Cleric artifact creature with trample for four generic mana. This creature enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it. This creature gets a +1/+1 counter whenever you cast a multicolored spell. This creature is good enough for a filler position in most decks even if it never gains an extra counter. Every deck is going to have plenty of multicolored spells in it. It will be pretty great to play this card on turn four and follow it with a gold card on turn five before combat, improving your 3/3 artifact Cleric into a 4/4 right away. This card is not a bomb but very easy to like.
Gatekeeper Gargoyle is an uncommon 3/3 Gargoyle artifact creature with flying for six generic mana. This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each Gate you control. You would need four or more Gates in your deck before this card becomes particularly powerful, but I might like him with as few as three Gates in my decked. By the time you’re playing a six-drop you could have one or two Gates in play making the Gargoyle a very powerful flyer. This colorless flyer fits into all but the fastest sealed decks.
Along with five Guildgates, Guilds of Ravnica also brings back five “shock lands” in the rare slot, one for each of the five featured guilds. Most sealed pools will have one or two Guildgates that match the guild you are playing. There is also a sixth common Gate land in the set. Gateway Plaza enters the battlefield tapped and you have to sacrifice it unless you pay one generic mana when it enters the battlefield. Gateway Plaza taps for one mana of any color.
Putting it All Together
Each of the five featured guilds in Guilds of Ravnica takes you in a certain direction. Boros tends towards a swarming kind of aggression with fast creatures, a style that hits fast and has fewer late game options. Selesnya has a great selection of midrange creatures and late game effects that favor big armies but not much removal. Izzet decks want evasive creatures to ultimately end the game and tons of spells and some defensive creatures to help you get to the late game. Golgari has good creatures, early and late, and wants to capitalize on having a lot of creatures in its graveyard. Finally, Dimir wants to play the control game and ultimately win with evasive creatures. Just like every other sealed deck format you’ve ever played, Guilds of Ravnica rewards simple and effective strategies. It’s easier to put together an army of green creatures with either some black removal or white control effects. I imagine Selesnya and Boros will be very popular at the prerelease tournaments. It will be harder to win with Izzet and Dimir, and Golgari will be right in the middle. This set has enough powerful cards in all rarities to make any of these strategies effective.
The Boros cards have me the most excited, from the perspective of limited play, but I’m not sure how aggressive you can be in sealed deck. For sealed, I think Selesnya may be the best bet although I’m signed up for a Boros box for my midnight prerelease Friday night. Whatever guild I play, I’m going to keep my mana very tight and efficient. I hope I don’t splash a third color, quite frankly, because the good uncommons in any color pairing are very greedy with respect to colored mana. I hope to get a couple of Guildgates in my guild’s colors and a couple of artifact Lockets as well.
For my friends that like numbers I did a little counting exercise with Guilds of Ravnica. Specifically, I added up all the creature cards available for each guild. I think this matters more for the most attack-happy guild, Boros, but this information might be good for other guilds as well. These numbers give you some sort of broad sense of the set’s most basic building blocks.
Boros has 47 creatures available including 17 mono white, 18 mono red and 12 gold creatures. Of these, 22 are common and 15 of these commons cost three or less mana.
Selesnya has 48 creatures including 17 mono white, 20 mono green and 11 gold creatures. Of these, 24 are common and 14 of these commons cost three or less mana.
Izzet has 41 creatures including 15 mono blue, 18 mono red and 8 gold creatures. Of these, 19 are common and 14 of these commons cost three or less mana.
Golgari has 48 creatures including 18 mono black, 20 mono green and 10 gold creatures. Of these, 22 are common and 14 of these commons cost three or less mana.
Dimir has 42 creatures including 15 mono blue, 18 mono black and 9 gold creatures. Of these, 20 are common and 14 of these commons cost three or less mana.
Good luck at your prereleases this weekend and thanks for reading.
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