We’re now returning to Ravnica for a third time, and after two very
successful visits it’s very clear that Wizards of the Coast is looking to
keep that ball rolling. Guilds of Ravnica is jam packed full of
interesting cards- cards that are obviously pushed, weird reprints in
entirely new contextual settings, and a lot of interesting new mechanics
that need to be evaluated.
We’ve got a ton of cards to get to today so we’re not going to waste any
time. Evaluating cards is extremely difficult, and aside from obvious hits
like Assassin’s Trophy and Legion Warboss, the jury is still out on most of
the set. It’s easy to be wrong, which can misinform your early deckbuilding
choices, or even worse, your preorders.
Love and hate are the two most visceral of human emotions, while existing
together as the opposite of indifference. Here are my loves and hates for Guilds of Ravnica.
Love: Conclave Tribunal
Let’s start with a really easy one: Conclave Tribunal is going to be one of
the premier removal spells in Guilds of Ravnica Standard.
Four mana at sorcery speed is usually a little more than you’d like to pay
for your removal spell in Standard, but can be handled if the spell is
exceptionally versatile or has other upsides as well. Cast Out was a well
played card in Standard when it was available, and Ixalan’s Binding has
also seen some play as well. The flexibly of being able to hit any
permanent is huge, as it gives your removal spell applications across
almost all matchups.
However, Conclave Tribunal doesn’t cost four mana. Convoke is a very
powerful mechanic, and it will not be hard to make Conclave Tribunal into a
Banishing Light or better. In fact, if your deck is heavily based on
creatures, it may come down for as few as one or two mana, making it one of
the best removal spells in the format.
Make no mistake; if you’ve got creatures in your deck, Conclave Tribunal is
likely the best removal spell in the format available to you.
Hate: Mission Briefing
Everyone, this card is not Snapcaster Mage. This is a
The 2/1 body on Snapcaster Mage is everything to what the card is and does.
It’s straight card advantage, a threat, and a blocker. Think of it this
way: how good does end of turn Snapcaster Mage targeting Lightning Bolt,
Lightning Bolt you feel? It’s literally a defining feature of the Modern
format. Now think about casting an end of turn Mission Briefing flashing
back Lightning Bolt. How did that feel? It probably felt like an awkward
Open Fire that you gained a little value off of but had to jump through a
Mission Briefing is to Snapcaster Mage as Recollect is to Eternal Witness.
Yes, there are times that Recollect is playable, and there will certainly
be decks that occasionally want Mission Briefing, but the excitement over
this card is completely overblown. This is a fringe playable card, nothing
Love: Tajic, Legion’s Edge
Wow, this card is pushed. A 3/2 haste creature with mentor is honestly
not that far off from Constructed playability on rate alone, and Tajic gets
to add two more abilities on top of that!
The “prevent all noncombat damage that would be dealt to other creatures
you control” ability is fine but unexciting, given that it doesn’t actually
protect Tajic from being killed. However, it’s good against damage-based
sweepers and fine in general. The ability to get first strike, however, is
fantastic in any matchup where Tajic may get blocked, as even the threat of
activation will make blocking him a very difficult proposition.
The fact that Tajic can get in immediately on Turn 3 while also pumping up
your aggressive two-drop is quite the start, and there’s no doubt that if
there’s any Boros deck is even remotely interested in attacking that Tajic
will be one of the key cards alongside…
Love: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Wizards of the Coast must really want Boros to be a thing.
Like Tajic, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is another insanely pushed legend
with absurd stats and abilities. Even all by her lonesome, Aurelia is a 4/5
flying, trample, vigilance creature for only four mana that evades several
the format’s removal spells. Serra Angel, eat your heart out.
But the truth is she is so much more than that. Her mentor ability is
solid, but the fact that she can immediately pump an attacker the turn she
enters the battlefield gives her a sort of pseudo-haste and makes for an
immediate impact. Both of her abilities also work really well with…
Love: Swiftblade Vindicator
Okay, I swear the Boros love train stops here.
Tajic and Aurelia are pretty obvious, but Swiftblade Vindicator is
currently flying under the radar. This makes sense, as Swiftblade
Vindicator looks fairly innocuous. It’s a 1/1 creature with some abilities
that doesn’t really do anything on its own. I mean, trample? Really?
But, of course, we don’t play cards in a vacuum. Just look at how well
Swiftblade Vindicator plays with our previous two loves, Tajic and Aurelia.
Turn 2 Swiftblade Vindicator, turn 3 Tajic is an attack for seven damage
that leaves you with a 2/2 double strike creature on defense, and it only
gets better if you play Aurelia the following turn as you’ll be attacking
for eleven and have a substantial battlefield presence. This isn’t even
some sort of Magical Christmas Land scenario, it’s literally just casting
your creatures on curve.
Swiftblade Vindicator has mountains of potential.
Hate: March of the Multitudes
March of the Multitudes doesn’t really make much sense.
At first glance, it feels like a hyped-up mixture of Secure the Wastes and
Sphinx’s Revelation. You get to make a bunch of creatures on your
opponent’s end step or in combat, and they have lifelink too so you can
gain some of the life back you may have lost by leaving your mana up and
not doing anything.
The problem is, Secure the Wastes was rarely played in actual creature
decks. Convoking this card is not only tough, but also a huge opportunity
cost. So, we pass the turn with five mana and three creatures on the
battlefield that we can’t attack with that turn and our big payoff is five
1/1 creatures? What if we just attacked with those creatures and played
some other great five-mana card instead?
Part of what makes a card like Secure the Wastes interesting is that it
does something that’s different and unexpected. You’re playing a deck
that’s playing a lot of spells, flashy planeswalkers, or creatures, and all
of the sudden you have a bunch of small creatures out of nowhere and your
opponent isn’t equipped to handle them. But if your deck is already full of
small creatures, spending a bunch of them and mana to just make more small
creatures just feels like a waste.
Love: Chemister’s Insight
I know, I’m predictable. Look, there was a time when Arcbound Ravager was
legal in Standard and I chose to register multiple copies of actual
Inspiration in my control deck. These days, we’ve got it made. Glimmer of
Genius! Hieroglyphic Illumination! And now, Chemister’s Insight!
Chemister’s Insight is very similar to Glimmer of Genius, in that it’s a
four-mana draw two with some significant upside. Being able to turn that
extra land or dead removal spell into another two cards is fantastic,
ensuring that your control deck never runs out of gas or things to do with
its mana in the mid to lategame. Control decks always need to play a large
amount of lands to ensure they make their land drops and any card that can
help mitigate mana flood is a very welcome addition.
I look forward to casting Chemister’s Insight over the next two years over
and over again.
Is Narcomoeba one of the most broken creatures of all time? Yes, actually,
but it has more to do with how Narcomoeba plays with broken mechanics like
dredge or cards like Hermit Druid which allow you to flip your entire
library into your graveyard in one shot than anything else. Without help,
Narcomoeba does almost nothing, and there’s nothing broken enough in
Standard for Narcomoeba to see any play at all.
Yes, Narcomoeba is very cute with surveil, and surveil is one of the best
mechanics in the set. You know what else is good with surveil? Just playing
We already know how effective scry is at helping us make land drops and
find the cards we need, and surveil is just an extension of that with some
added graveyard synergy thrown in for good measure. It’s not a mechanic
like dredge or affinity that needs to be built around, and even if it was,
getting a Suntail Hawk for all of your trouble is about the most pathetic
payoff I could possibly imagine.
Please don’t put Narcomoeba in your Standard decks.
Love: Goblin Cratermaker
I wish I could be playing Goblin Cratermaker in my Legacy Goblins deck this
weekend at SCG Baltimore!
As a Standard or Modern card, Goblin Cratermaker is a very reasonable
two-drop. Ember Hauler was always solid if unexciting, and Goblin
Cratermaker’s ability to also deal with artifacts and random Eldrazi
creatures is a nice bonus. However, Goblin Cratermaker’s real home is going
to be Legacy Goblins.
One of the problems with Legacy Goblins has been that the deck has hardly
gotten any new cards in the last half decade. Goblin Trashmaster was a nice
recent addition for the sideboard, but the job of “maindeck artifact hate”
card has always fallen to the somewhat unexciting Tin Street Hooligan.
Having the maindeck ability to remove an Umezawa’s Jitte or Ensnaring
Bridge is a very important tool to have access to, so much so that I’ve had
a Taiga in my Goblin deck for years for the sole purpose of using
Tin Street Hooligan.
Goblin Cratermaker, however, fills that role and more while also just being
a very reasonable card in its own right. Goblin Cratermaker is just as good
against Batterskull as it is against Delver of Secrets, allowing you to
remove the Tin-Street Hooligan slot as well as any Tarfire slots you have
left over from the days of Deathrite Shaman. Furthermore, it can also fill
the role that Stingscourger often has against Show and Tell decks by giving
you an answer to an early Emrakul, the Aeons Torn that you can grab off of
the Goblin Matron you put onto the battlefield off of their Show and Tell.
It even has some extra utility against Thought-Knot Seer and Reality
Goblin Cratermaker is fantastic, and I can’t wait to add it to the Goblin
Hate: District Guide
Look, I understand that Civic Wayfinder has a Pro Tour winning pedigree.
Yes, Borderland Ranger has done some nice things. However, that’s ancient
history and we’re currently living in 2018.
The power creep on Magic’s creatures has been trending upwards for years,
making tournament staple creatures from a decade ago look like jokes by
today’s standards. If you’re going to tap three mana in Standard now, you
can get Goblin Chainwhirler, Steel Leaf Champion, or Tajic, Legion’s Edge,
and that’s not to mention how good the two-drops and four-drops are as
well. A 2/2 for three mana that effectively draws a card just doesn’t stack
Unless the creature type ends up being relevant or there’s some sort of
deck desperate for mana fixing or gate synergies, District Guide is the
definition of unexciting.
Love: Runaway Steam-Kin
Speaking of great two-drops, Runaway Steam-Kin is awesome!
It’s very rare for red to get such an efficient creature for only two mana.
One spell after Runaway Steam-Kin puts it into normal 2/2 for two range,
but when you start looking at a two mana 3/3 or 4/4 without any help from
other colors things start to get really exciting. For two easy to cast
mana, that’s quite a deal.
But wait, there’s more!
Runaway Steam-Kin helps to push you forward and cast more, bigger spells,
giving an unexpected mana boost that can power you into the mid and
lategame. This can allow you to simply double or triple spell across turns,
or in more extreme cases, power out something huge. This works great with
kicker cards like Fight with Fire or Shivan Fire, which can be fine in the
early game and very powerful with extra mana later.
There’s probably some sort of combo potential for Runaway Steam-Kin in
Modern, but the fact that it’s just a solid card when played fairly puts it
way over the top. Fun and powerful, what more could you ask for?
Hate: Dream Eater
Look, I understand that we can’t always have cards like Torrential Gearhulk,
but Dream Eater is very underwhelming.
Yes, it has flash, and yes, it can answer almost any permanent on the
battlefield, but the problem is that you’re just not getting your mana’s
worth. Cards like Vraska’s Contempt or other removal spells can do the same
job at permanently answering a permanent for much less mana, and when we
look at the body on Dream Eater it’s easy to be unimpressed. Six mana for a
creature that dies to almost every removal spell in the format feels awful,
further exacerbated by the fact it will likely be played in a
creature-light control deck with few other targets.
The only real draw here is flash, which makes you want to play it in a
control deck with counterspells, but Dream Eater is so fragile you’re
better off just playing real removal spells and a win condition that can
actually, you know, win the game for you. If you’re not playing an instant
speed control deck, there are far better things you can do at sorcery speed
for six mana in Standard.
Surveil 4 is nice, but you just aren’t getting what you pay for with Dream
So Much To Talk About
There are frankly so many interesting cards in Guilds of Ravnica
to talk about it’s hard to stop, but alas we have word counts for a reason.
The most important thing is to think critically about cards yourself and
try to picture them in real world scenarios when you’re crafting your
opinions on them. It’s easy to hear an opinion or picture a best case
scenario and get really excited about a card, only to get let down when you
finally sleeve it up because you were blinded by preconceived notions and
best case scenarios.
And as always, there’s nothing better than application when it comes to
testing out theories. Sleeve those cards up! Get out to your Prerelease! I
had Tireless Tracker and Duskwatch Recruiter in my Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease deck, and just getting to play
with each card to see how good they were made sleeving them up for
my Week 1 Standard Open win with Bant Company
an easy choice.
I can’t wait to play Guilds of Ravnica Standard!