Guildpact Constructed Set Review Part VII: Guild Mana and Artifacts

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In the final installment of this enlightening series, Mike shares his thoughts on guild mana spells, artifacts, and lands. He also outlines the varying strengths of each Ravnica Block mechanic thus far, and gives his view on the success of Guildpact as a whole.


Part 1 of this set review can be found here: White
Part 2 of this set review can be found here: Blue
Part 3 of this set review can be found here: Black
Part 4 of this set review can be found here: Red
Part 5 of this set review can be found here: Green
Part 6 of this set review can be found here: Gold

For the last gasp, here’s the review Rating System:

Constructed Unplayable
This card should not be played in Constructed under any normal circumstances and will never generally be found in a competitive Constructed deck. In the case of multicolored cards, the effect may be a powerful one, but not justified by its cost. Example: Brass-Talon Chimera, Lead-Belly Chimera

Playable – Role Player
This card is either unspectacular and competing with cards that do the same thing more efficiently, or useful in only a limited number of decks. For whatever reason (redundancy, lack of better alternatives), the card is good enough to fill a role in a reasonable Constructed deck. Example: Frogmite, Pyrite Spellbomb

Playable – Staple
This card is played in whatever decks and strategies where it would be appropriate, almost without question. When the card is absent, we start asking questions. Example: Cursed Scroll, Sensei’s Divining Top

Playable – Flagship
This card has a powerful or unique effect, so much so that we build decks around it rather than fitting it into decks. Quite often, the presence of this card allows for new archetypes to be explored. In some cases, those archetypes are not very good (but without their flagships, we would never even ask the question). Example: Arcbound Ravager, Isochron Scepter

Debtor’s Knell
I think this card has a great deal of potential. Keep in mind that Debtor’s Knell requires Orzhov Guild mana, not Black and White like Ghost Council of Orzhova or some of the true multicolored cards, so you can run it in, say, B/G. I actually don’t think this card is very difficult to resolve, and it should reward you greatly after a long game attrition fight… even against Mono-Blue. Don’t believe me?

Channel Ghost-Lit Stalker.


Debtor’s Knell.

The synergy with channel creatures like Arashi, the Sky Asunder can’t be exaggerated (unless you get stuck reanimating multiple copies of the same Legendary Spirit or something). What I really like about the Ghost-Lit Stalker setup is that you can take the other guy’s bombs if you like. Moreover, this card seems insane against Grave-Shell Scarab or in conjunction with the Black and White 187s.

I think Debtor’s Knell will be a sideboard card mostly, but there are few cards that seem as solid in board control fights.

Playable – Role Player

Djinn Illuminatus
This mighty card is actually quite close to Constructed Unplayable. I mean, a 3/5 for seven? The thing is, you don’t need Blue and Red mana to play the Djinn. You can force it down with Seething Song in a Mono-Red power deck if you like. Once the Illuminatus is down, it should be fairly difficult to lose. Lava Spike can be a kill from twenty. I’ve had decent success in testing with Desperate Rituals from both sides of a burn spell. Forget about untapping with actual Blue cards in hand… you’re basically never going to lose a counter war, and card drawing should be twice as plentiful (stock up on those instants).

At the end of the day, the issues with this card are its cost and the likelihood of untapping with a relatively small seven-drop in play. If you can get the Djinn down and keep it for a turn, don’t be surprised if you put your opponent in wild and different situations you never expected to see in serious Constructed.

Playable – Role Player

Giant Solifuge
This card is spectacular… even if it isn’t a 4/3. Mono-Red decks are going to love this one… if the opponent taps out, he’s basically eating feet. The Solifuge is also a superb potential redundancy over Rumbling Slum in G/R decks.

Obviously, Giant Solifuge is bad if the opponent has a Sakura-Tribe Elder in play, but creature light decks are going to have a rough time with this card, and its trample will come into play as a faux burn card quite often.

Playable – Staple

Gruul Guildmage
Overall, Gruul Guildmage seems to have weaker abilities than all the others we’ve seen… his Giant Growth ability? For the same mana there is basically no upper limit to the damage that Selesnya Guildmage can do for the same. His "ping" ability? It doesn’t compare favorably in terms of resources to either of Orzhov Guildmage’s Bleeder skills in the long term… but somehow the Gruul’s immediacy makes it attractive anyway.

Gruul Guildmage is going to see more play in Red Deck Wins-style decks than any other archetype. I don’t know if it is better than Boros Guildmage, and even Izzet Guildmage has a claim to the two-drop spot, but this candidate is the only card that can play as a Cursed Scroll in the late game.

Playable – Staple

Izzet Guildmage
If any of the Guildmages is going to be broken – really broken – it’s Izzet. Selesnya is superb in the abstract, and won the World Championship at its first at bat. Boros has been played in Extended and Standard Red Deck Wins decks… by the same player on the same weekend. Izzet, though, is the only Guildmage that comes with the words "infinite combo" taped to it.

Izzet Guildmage should be solid in Red Deck Wins and other burn-bearing beatdown decks (there are worse things in life than doubling a Volcanic Hammer), but the card becomes really special when you combine it with Desperate Ritual. You probably already know this, but Lava Spike is infinite.

Playable – Staple

Mourning Thrull
It would be a shame if this card actually made the cut in White Weenie when Lantern Kami rotates.

Constructed Unplayable

PT Queue

Orzhov Guildmage
Both of this creature’s abilities are superb, specifically for the projected Orzhov strategy. That said, it is unclear whether Orzhov Guildmage is good enough to make the cut in a deck where it seems the perfect fit. The main issue I see for this card are that it has to get in line. Hand of Cruelty. Hand of Honor. Nezumi Graverobber. Leonin Skyhunter… the list goes on and on. Both Black and White have superb two drops. Because of that, Orzhov Guildmage may have difficulty making the cut in Standard, at least at present. For my part, I am focusing more on cards like Ravenous Rats and Shrieking Grotesque… possibly this will be an automatic four-of in Block?

Playable – Role Player

Whenever I see this card, only two words pop into my head: "Adrian" and "Sullivan." Only the Corrupter could love the Petrahydrox. He would embrace it, though, and build stacks of decks around this card, calling it his "infinite Scryb Sprites recursion." Really.

Adrian used to say that Jackalope Herd had a special ability, not a drawback. It is much more explicit with Petrahydrox… This card is pretty difficult to kill. Even if the opponent has a global removal spell, you can just Shock this guy, making it a reasonable finisher in a control deck.

The downside of Petrahydrox, in the nail-in-the-coffin role, is that it is smaller than the highflying 5/5s been defining Standard’s endgames over the past few months. Generally speaking, the opponent will be able to use odd cards (say, Giant Growth) to create tempo swings when Petrahydrox is supposed to be tangling with real threats and not just mopping up the board.

Playable – Role Player

Wild Cantor
Is it a big deal that this card is considerably worse than Skirk Prospector? R&D had no idea Skirk Prospector was going to become what it did. Is it any shame to be less popular than an unconditionally played one-drop that is run in four-of numbers in basically every Goblins deck? Wild Cantor is better than Blood Pet, a contributing threat in one of my favorite decks of all time.

So will it get played? Where do we sign up?

I think that Wild Cantor is too far behind all the Green one-drops, and significantly behind Frenzied Goblin, Frostling, and Scorched Rusalka at present. It’s not unplayable so much, as just not going to be played. Perhaps if there is a deck that needs a quick burst of splashed mana?

Playable – Role Player

Gruul Signet
The worst of the Signets in Guildpact. This card is behind Sakura-Tribe Elder at the same mana, and this time there is no Green UrzaTron deck that may need to lean on its "Talismans" to hit its first Green mana.

Playable – Role Player

Gruul War Plow
It’s interesting that this is a Gruul War Plow, because I don’t think the Gruul would be caught dead playing this card right now. For four mana, Gruul gets a 5/5, and even its second stringers can boast four power without a three mana tariff.

That said, I think that this card could conceivably see some play in control decks, the same way Jade Statue got played in Type 1 those many years ago. The problem is that the real Jade Statue is in Standard, and doesn’t demand splashed Gruul Signets or any such extravagances.

Playable – Role Player (conceivably; probably Constructed Unplayable)

Izzet Signet
The best of the Signets, Izzet’s version is going straight into two existing decks. Both Annex Wildfire and Hattori-Hanzo Tron are going to play all four copies.

Playable – Staple

Mizzium Transreliquat
This card is only good as long as it has something to shoot at. The idea of copying an Umezawa’s Jitte is exciting… kind of. Maybe it can answer the opponent’s Darksteel Colossus out of the sideboard? Mizzium Transreliquat seems more cute than good… maybe I’m missing something?

Constructed Unplayable

Moratorium Stone
Moratorium Stone isn’t Phyrexian Furnace or Scrabbling Claws… but it’s the only one we’ve got. Moratorium Stone has two things going against it: the first one is that the primary removal ability costs two more mana than we are used to paying; the second is that it doesn’t have the cantrip option that made those cards so attractive.

The second ability on Moratorium Stone is quite interesting… in a long game, it is possible to actually use this card as a combination of strategic removal and board control, not that I think that will come up so often. Moratorium Stone’s signature ability seems a bit clunky to me, and its primary ability is probably too expensive.

But like I said, it’s the only one we’ve got (in Standard).

Playable – Role Player

Orzhov Signet
Four Words: Ghost Council of Orzhova. It costs WWBB. Orzhov Signet makes WB. You’re just WB off now, friend! Other projected popular cards like Angel of Despair cost not just WWBB but loads of colorless, too. The more mana the merrier for the expensive Bleeder rares; Orzhov Signet is the perfect fit.

This card will see a lot of play in Orzhov, perhaps every Orzhov.

Playable – Staple

Sword of the Paruns
So if a card can do a lot of different minor things, does that make it major? Sword of the Paruns is more expensive than Sword of Fire and Ice, essentially does two less damage, only conditionally produces toughness (and even then considerably less defense), and is much worse at enhancing the creature base as a whole than, well, everything. Definitely this card will let you execute on some tricky plays, but only if you have a tremendous amount of mana at your disposal. I suppose the card is a weak Overrun on seven mana, but Overrun itself was barely playable; the token decks may prove me wrong.

Constructed Unplayable

Godless Shrine, Steam Vents, Stomping Ground
All of them are amazing, just as all the Ravnica duals were. Stomping Ground is the best because of Wood Elves, Steam Vents is the next best, and Godless Shrine is the worst because the Orzhov mana costs are so stringent. That said, like I said, all of them are amazing.

Playable – Staple

Gruul Turf, Izzet Boilerworks, Orzhov Basilica
These cards fall in the exact opposite direction. Gruul Turf is the worst, because Green/Red seems to have the least use for the cycle (now watch the Gruul come out with four main like Ghazi-Glare at Worlds); both the Izzet and Orzhov lands are very important; Boilerworks has natural fits in existing archetypes and is a critical dual that will enable the true U/R control deck (Annex Wildfire and Hattori-Hanzo Tron are not exact in this sense). Orzhov Basilica will be the best of the lot. I see it assisting greatly in accomplishing the WWBB costs discussed in the previous article, and combining nicely with White’s signature "Tithe" engine cards.

Playable – Staple

Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind
This card is significantly worse than Temporal Aperture. The problem is that Nivix only really works when you are revealing a card that can potentially generate card advantage; it doesn’t generate card advantage itself. If you flip a Telling Time, great; you get a free card drawing spell. If you flip a land, not so great. Temporal Aperture was so good because mana heavy decks could flip lands straight into play, cast artifacts, and so on. This card requires a lot of work (say, Divining Top at least) before it is doing work on a reliable basis. Nivix isn’t overcosted, taps for a colorless like any random specialty land, so it’s not Unplayable per se… but don’t expect mass adoption so much as bending over backward for a middling ability.

Playable – Role Player (especially if that role is tapping for one colorless mana)

Magic: the Gameshow

Orzhova, the Church of Deals
This card is roughly five or six times as powerful as Duskmantle, House of Shadow, while requiring only twice the requisite number of tapped lands to do its work. I can see Orzhova as the signature, uncounterable, finisher in the Bleeder deck, likely played to greater success than the semi-popular Shivan Gorge was in the pre-popular Ponza decks. Though it can’t kill Ramosian Sergeants, I think Orzhova’s life gain ability puts it peer to Rath’s Edge, which was an almost ubiquitous land option in Masques Block.

Playable – Role Player (could be Staple)

Skarrg, the Rage Pits
My apprentice, the young Rabbit, believes that trample is as good as flying. I don’t agree… but I still think trample is the bee’s knees, especially in a Guild full of fat men. Skarrg is the best of the signature lands in Guildpact, no doubt; expect to see two to four copies in almost every dedicated G/R beatdown deck in the near future.

Playable – Staple

Rating the Mechanics
Now that we’re two-thirds of the way through Ravnica Block, I think we have the chance to look at the various Guild mechanics in a realistic and intelligent way. I would rate them thusly:

I rated Life from the Loam at Staple, but prior to Pro Tour: LA I had no idea how good Dredge was going to be. This is far and away the most powerful mechanic Magic has seen since Affinity for Artifacts, and should bend Constructed Magic to accommodate it as long as the cards remain legal. The ability to dump five or six cards at a time makes mediocre creatures like Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll all-stars in the best decks in Extended, and facilitates passive card advantage engines like Firemane Angel and Call of the Herd in the strangest decks.

I haven’t seen this in action yet, but Shattering Spree alone seems better than any mechanics-driven card out of any of the remaining three Ravnica Guilds.

I don’t think we’ve seen the extent of Transmute’s potential yet. That said, it has already contributed to at least one large-scale combination deck… probably Transmute will Voltron up with Dredge to break the Rule of Four in some future formats.

We haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg on this mechanic yet. Expect Ghazi-Glare to lean on it come Ravnica Block Constructed.

Seems a bit clunky to me, but, like Convoke, this mechanic can help to power out voluminous monsters at wholesale prices. Bloodthirst may see more adoption than Convoke, and even Transmute, but doesn’t seem as breakable as either, especially in big formats.

I’m willing to be proven wrong here (the forums are already talking about making the opponent discard on his draw step). This would have been dead last if not for…

Four months with no real adoption. It’s kind of like one over negative Dredge.

Guildpact as a Whole
The set is a nice one. It gives me exactly what I want out of a middle set: enhancement to existing archetypes without too many ripples in the metagame. G/R, and potentially B/W, will appear, but they aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. I would be surprised if a deck as genuinely different as Annex Wildfire came out of Guildpact; if anything, the Replicate cards seem to be creating more limiting factors rather than opening up new avenues. The X-Factor, of course, is the Izzet "infinite" deck(s). Does "genuinely different" count if everyone sees them coming? I just remember back to Pro Tour: NY 2000, when the Masques Pro Tour hit. Zvi asked me what I thought, and what I thought he was playing. I said G/R (I was wrong), but that "if there were a good Rising Waters deck, it would beat everything I had thought of," which was about what I had heard from any number of players. Zvi’s team won the Pro Tour via such a Rising Waters deck.


PS: Sorry I missed Invoke the Firemind yesterday. For the record, this is what I think:

Invoke the Firemind
At four mana I get, um, a cycling card? You need six mana over two colors to accomplish a Volcanic Hammer.

While I think Invoke the Firemind is good, I don’t think this card is nearly as amazing as everyone else does. If you can search it up with Transmute in Heartbeat… Great. The happy accident of a three mana cost there makes it the quintessential Role Player. The card is powerful for sure, but pure power does not a Flagship make. Definitely, this card will contribute, but not in the kinds of numbers that we think of for most staples, at least in big formats (remember when we all noticed Ruel played only three Ravagers?). I would expect one or two copies in decks that have a lot of mana and flexible needs (like Hattori-Hanzo Tron) and mass big format adoption only where another signature plays intersects (Standard Heartbeat).

I think it’s more likely that the best tuned decks, outside the block at least, will choose cards like Tidings to accomplish what they want rather than play this; forget about Extended, where players are better off with Fact or Fiction and Prophetic Bolt. Inside Ravnica Block, Invoke the Firemind will probably be Staple for want of better options, so that’s what I’m giving it – albeit grudgingly.

Playable – Staple