One week in and Guilds of Ravnica has wasted no time delivering on
a radically different format. So far, it would seem the format is built
around four main styles of play, depending on your base color:
- Red – The most popular “good deck” on week one.
Blue – Five different styles of blue control put up strong
finishes, not to mention a couple copies of Mono-Blue Aggro.
White – While not as popular as the base red and base blue decks,
both the SCG Columbus Open and SCG Standard Classic champion played
base white decks that stand poised to make big moves this week.
Green – Technically, Selesyna is at least 50% green as well, but
even beyond Tokens, Mono-Green and Golgari (sometimes splashing
blue or white) both had respectable finishes and are a little bit
of a wild card going forward.
Black hasn’t really been a base color so far, but it’s far and away the
most popular support color for blue control, as well as being a popular
choice to pair with green (my theory is that Watery Grave and Overgrown
Tomb are clues for explaining this phenomenon).
Here’s a quick snapshot of the top tables metagame for the events. Given
the team nature of SCG Columbus, these results are not weighted by finish.
Red is clearly the week one pace-setter; however, zero copies making it to
the finals of either event raises an eyebrow. What really has my interest
is the incredible diversity of blue decks we saw.
For starters, the majority of blue decks were Dimir-based. Sultai, Grixis,
Esper, straight Dimir, every combination of Dimir and a possible splash was
represented. Here’s an example of Dimir to give us a baseline to consider
each of the possible splash colors against.
- 3 Essence Scatter
- 1 Dead Weight
- 4 Vraska's Contempt
- 1 Search for Azcanta
- 1 Arguel's Blood Fast
- 2 Moment of Craving
- 1 The Eldest Reborn
- 2 Cast Down
- 4 Thought Erasure
- 4 Ritual of Soot
- 4 Disinformation Campaign
- 2 Discovery
As you can see, there’s no shortage of Guilds of Ravnica carrying
weight for this list. To begin with, without awesome Planeswalkers, the
void left by The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk rotating is being
filled by a new five and six.
Doom Whisperer is, without a doubt, one of the premier plus-sizes in the
new format, and while it may not be strictly “on-theme” in Dimir Control,
you gotta win with something, and it’s just a better card than any of the
other creatures that cost five or more in blue or black.
Dream Eater is a little “fancier” and sort of does a halfway believable
Torrential Gearhulk impression if you squint. Its body is much, much less
impressive, and it always seems to Gearhulk back a bounce spell, but at
least you also get some fairly quality selection in the form of surveil 4.
While I love Doom Whisperer, put me down for cautiously open-minded about
Dream Eater. I would love to do better, but we could probably live with
Dream Eater if we had to.
While it’s only in the sideboard, I did want to call out Thief of Sanity,
which seems like a better card to me than Dream Eater. If it connects even
a single time, you’re just really doing it and can snowball an advantage
like a much better Shadowmage Infiltrator.
That said, it’s understandable wanting to keep it for the sideboard, as it
would turn on every random Shock, Lightning Strike, Dead Weight, etc. our
opponents would have just rotting in their hand game 1. As such, Estes
instead relies on Disinformation Campaign for generating the kind of card
advantage needed to take over the game.
Okay, so maybe Doom Whisperer isn’t so off message, after all.
Disinformation Campaign actually seems really sweet here. Yeah, they get to
discard their mediocre removal spells at first, but we’re still drawing
cards. Eventually, we’re going to have to actually win the game and neither
Doom Whisperer nor Dream Eater is super good at protecting itself. If we
can strip our opponent’s hand with discard, however…
Disinformation Campaign is actually sort of a three-for-one. It starts as
an Unhinge, which is a two-for-one, but isn’t quite good enough. However,
the next time you surveil, you’ve effectively “drawn” another
Disinformation Campaign, making it a three-for-one (and the third card is
even a possible, eventual three-for-one!). Amusingly, The Eldest Reborn is
actually kind of a fifth Disinformation Campaign in a way.
Once you’re packing Disinformation Campaign and Doom Whisperer, you’re
starting to get into some real sorcery speed-type of time and will need to
tap out fairly often. Fortunately, Dimir is less reliant on permission than
other possible blue combinations thanks to another great discard spell to
pair with Disinformation Campaign:
Thought Erasure is basically an easier to cast Distress, with surveil 1
tacked on. Distress was already fringe playable, and surveil 1 is the
difference between Cancel and Sinister Sabotage.
While Sinister Sabotage is quite good, interestingly Estes has opted
against any because of just how often he’s going to have to start tapping
out on turn 3 and beyond. Instead, he’s on just a few Essence Scatters,
with some Negates and Disdainful Strokes in the sideboard.
While Essence Scatter and Negate are nothing new, Disdainful Stroke is back
in a big way. Whether this is a maindeck Stroke format remains to be seen,
but I’d be especially cautious about maindecking them in this style of
Dimir, given just how much we’re going to need to be tapping out.
Continuing with the tapout theme, Ritual of Soot is an excellent new
sweeper that really works well with Disinformation Campaign. As you wear
down your opponent’s hand, they’re going to have to play everything onto
the table, leaving them more vulnerable to sweepers.
Discovery is decent early for helping smooth draws and helps provide a
critical mass of surveil cards for Disinformation Campaign. Meanwhile,
Dispersal really shines here, as stripping the opponent’s hand will turn it
into an instant-speed catchall removal spell as the game drags on.
It’s a small point, but it’ll be interesting to see what the right type of
balance is between Dead Weight and Moment of Craving. They are so close in
power level, it might just be that having a mix is slightly better to
increase your options for when you draw both. We may also want to consider
Fungal Infection, depending on which opposing threats we expect to be most
popular from week to week.
One notable absence from this list is Ravenous Chupacabra. It’s not that we
need it or anything, and maybe Ritual of Soot does the work it would do.
It’s a pretty solid card in the format, though.
Hunter Krot’s Sultai Control deck makes use of Ravenous Chupacabra, along
with a very different sort of card advantage engine despite being basically
just a Dimir deck splashing a couple of copies of Vraska, Relic Seeker.
I think Vraska is enough better than Dream Eater, I’m generally pretty
interested in options that consider such a swap. Krot’s list really leans
into the Planeswalkers, employing Karn, Scion of Urza instead of
Disinformation Campaign as a card advantage engine (along with a couple of
Treasure Map). What’s more, he actually plays all four Thief of Sanity
maindeck, just letting removal be good, since it would hit his walkers
- 2 Essence Scatter
- 4 Vraska's Contempt
- 2 Treasure Map
- 2 Moment of Craving
- 2 Fungal Infection
- 2 Cast Down
- 3 Thought Erasure
- 3 Notion Rain
This deck is just so much card draw! He’s even packing Notion Rain
instead of Discovery for even more card advantage.
Four Overgrown Tombs and four Woodland Cemeteries is plenty for Vraska, and
I don’t think I’d play a Forest despite the Field of Ruins. We’ve even got
Treasure Map making Treasures, plus plenty of surveil to fix our mana. In
fact, if we find ourselves playing too many lands tapped, I think we could
even get by on less.
The biggest option from Krot’s list is Assassin’s Trophy. If we do want to
run some of it, I think we’ve really got to up the green mana count, along
the lines of Andrew Tenjum’s top 16 list:
- 4 Vraska's Contempt
- 2 Walk the Plank
- 4 Treasure Map
- 2 Search for Azcanta
- 2 Golden Demise
- 2 Moment of Craving
- 4 The Eldest Reborn
- 2 Cast Down
- 2 Thought Erasure
- 2 Assassin's Trophy
- 2 Ritual of Soot
Interestingly, Tenjum goes the complete opposite way on creatures, cutting
all of the Doom Whisperers for the full playset of The Eldest Reborn, as
well as maxing out on both Karn and Treasure Map(!)
The highest finishing blue deck of the weekend was Andrew Jessup’s Grixis
control deck splashing Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, instead of Vraska or
Here, we see a lot of the same cards, but interestingly, he’s packing three
Dream Eater and zero Doom Whisperer. I’m not sold on that kind of time, and
it’s not like he’s that long on countermagic anyway, needing to stay
I think I’d prefer Joshua Cook’s Doom Whisperers, and honestly, I don’t
hate Thief of Sanity. Once you’re playing Bolas anyway, maybe just embrace
You know, once we’re looking at stuff like Thief of Sanity, I can’t help
but wonder if there’s a way we can really lean into it and also play
Hostage Taker. I mean, once you’re playing must-kill threats, why not play
Maybe we don’t even need a third color and could just play something like:
Still, I think I’d like playing even more must-answer threats. With Hostage
Taker and Vraska’s Contempt eating up the four slot, and Doom Whisperer and
The Eldest Reborn eating up the five, what we really need is another
must-kill three-drop. I’m not sure such a card exists, sadly.
Of course, there’s also the Teferi plan.
Instead of Doom Whispering and The Eldest Reborn, we could just make white
the splash color and jam a playset of Teferis, and maybe a single Chromium
the Mutable for insurance.
Once you embrace the Teferi plan, it really lends itself a lot more to
playing permission, rather than always tapping out, since he literally
untaps your land for you. Once you’re on Sinister Sabotage, the Notion
Rains have got to go, making room for Chemister’s Insight.
It’s no Hieroglyphic Illumination, but Chemister’s Insight looks pretty
good to me. I’m not actually sure it’s appreciably worse than Glimmer of
Genius (in decks that don’t care about energy).
It’s not new per se, but you gotta admit, Vona, Butcher of Magan in the
sideboard is far more stylish than Lyra Dawnbringer.
If red removal is more your jam, instead of Ritual of Soot, Vraka’s
Contempt, Cast Down, and Moment of Craving, you end up with something like
Blair Splett’s top 16 list, which actually looks more different than it
Really, it’s basically the same deck, it’s just the removal lines up a
little differently. We’ve even got one Ral, Izzet Viceroy instead of a
Chromium for the backup kill card.
That said, it’s really the Expansion in the maindeck that interests me, and
in fact, I’m not against moving one of the sideboard copies to the maindeck
While I do like Sinister Sabotage slightly more in the abstract, Ionize
being easier to cast is a real thing, and the damage can sometimes matter,
even in a deck like this.
I’m a little surprised Splett didn’t play any Lava Coils in his 75, as the
card looks so good, to me. For example, consider Terren Huck’s top 8 list
from the Classic. Obviously, embracing Crackling Drake and Niv-Mizzet,
Parun takes you down a little different of a path, but it’s not like that
should really be the thing that gets you to play some Lava Coils instead of
just more Lightning Strikes or whatever. Deafening Clarion already hits
three so effectively, I think I’d want extra protection against four, you
The Legion Warboss sideboard action is kind of saucy. I wonder how
effective that sort of a “transformation” will be with that card.
Maybe it’s enough of a one-card engine, but I wonder if it takes too long
to really get going on its own. Mostly unrelated, but I wonder if Legion
Warboss might be the other “must-kill” three-drop we were looking for
Would it be crazy to play Duress?!
What about Tempest Djinn?
Yeah, it’d be crazy to play Tempest Djinn with one basic Island.
I didn’t mean in the Grixis deck. I meant in general, like for a blue deck.
This past weekend, we saw two people put up strong finishes with Tempest
Djinn blue decks like the following:
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 2 Warkite Marauder
- 4 Mist-Cloaked Herald
- 4 Merfolk Trickster
- 4 Tempest Djinn
- 2 Exclusion Mage
- 2 Nightveil Sprite
- 21 Island
These decks are definitely tempo-based, rather than control, and most of
the threats aren’t new.
I’m not sold on Nightveil Sprite here. It’d be one thing if we really
needed the surveil. That said, I guess we’re not making the best use of
Warkite Marauder anyway, so maybe it’s not a big deal?
Neither of these two-drops are even a Wizard or anything. Are we sure we’re
getting enough? I guess all we really want is someone to turn on Curious
Obsession and Chart a Course, though, right?
Really, what we want to be doing, is powering these cards up with stuff
like Mist-Cloaked Herald and Siren Stormtamer, possibly with Dive Down to
Maybe we should be trimming a couple twos for more Stormtamers? That
actually doesn’t sound too bad to me.
I love the use of Diamond Mare here as a tool against red aggro, by the
way. It’s not like it shuts them out or anything, but it is the sort of
thing you want and it’s at a good price.
For making sure you win the race against these green and white creature
decks that flood the battlefield. I would definitely keep it in mind…
…since you know, you don’t want to, you know, sleep on it.