Guilds of Ravnica Set Review

Guilds of Ravnica Set Review

It’s time to return to return to Ravnica and we have lots of guild flavoured goodness to tinker with. I will look at the top cards of each rarity. I’m looking for clean designs, great gameplay or a card that inspires you to build a new deck. As always, this is all my opinion and some constructed format allstar may get ignored for a goofy unplayable card. 🙂 Since there are always a lot of interesting cards and design choices at uncommon, there are twice as many uncommons in my review as the other rarities.

Top Rares and Mythics

Thousand-Year Storm

Storm is a fun but fundamentally broken mechanic. Crow Storm was made into an un-card because of how unexciting it would be if costed appropriately. Thousand-year storm is a great piece of foreshadowing to the current story’s long awaited conclusion and a safe but fun storm variant. Keeping it fair without losing the excitement of ‘going off’ is a tricky thing to design, so for flavour and design this card makes my list.

Arclight Phoenix

Red has a history of underwhelming mythics and many of them are phoenixes. Flame-Wreathed Phoenix anyone? Things have gotten better with Rekindling Phoenix and now we have a new immortal fire bird to play with.

Best friends with cantrips and Goblin Electromancer the phoenix has even seen play in decks without any mountains in them. The return condition is challenging enough to be rewarding, whilst being reliable in the right shell. It gets quite disgusting when you have more than one fiery aven in your graveyard.

Nullhide Ferox

What is a Ferox? I don’t know but I love this take on hexproof. The best cards create interesting mini-games, and the ferox’s sometimes-hexproof ability is fascinating. Both players can activate it, but should they? This is going straight in my mono-green stompy deck where being unable to cast non-creature spells is a total non-issue.

Divine Visitation

Divine Visitation is unplayable without token makers, and unstoppable with lots of them. It also has the best flavour text in the set. Amusingly, it does ungodly things with fellow mythic March of the Multitudes.

Risk Factor

There have been a lot of ‘punisher’ in magic history. They are however very hard to design correctly. If the difference between the choices is too big, the decision is easy and predictable. Cards like Lava Blister don’t force interesting decisions.

Risk factor however is an interesting take on the classic Browbeat. Adding jump-start adds real spice. Making the decision once may be easy, but the second time, you might be running too low on life. The fact that the caster can’t predict their opponent’s choices also nices ties into the Izzet theme.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun

This is possibly the splashiest card of the set and would easily be deserving of mythic status if it wasn’t part of a cycle. Having appeared twice before, Wizards needed a fresh design for a well established character so they decided to turn everything up to eleven, even the casting cost.

The only clean answer to Niv are things like Ravenous Chupacabra as traditional removal is a two-for-one. And if your opponent doesn’t have removal ready, any self-respecting Izzet player will go nuts, constantly drawing cards and pinging things. This is my favourite card in the set!

Gruesome Menagerie

There are two reasons I included this card. Firstly it’s the black version of Cone of Flame or Bestial Menace. I really want to see this cycle completed.

The other reason I love it is it makes you look at deck construction in a new way. To optimise this card you need to fill your graveyard, and play good one, two and three drops. Like devotion you are paying more attention to the mana cost than you normally do, pushing you in new directions.

Swiftblade Vindicator

So many things make this guy crazy. Equipment, mentor counters, auras, pump spells, the list goes on. This is one of the simplest but splashiest targets for augmentation without turning to un-fun mechanics like unblockable or hexproof. Looking at you flavour-fail Invisible Stalker.

Top Commons and Uncommons

Sprouting Renewal

Competitive Magic has traditional revolved around sideboards. However design is starting to recognise the number of games that aren’t played this way. This includes casual games, multiplayer and the new Arena platform. Guilds features a few cards designed for best of one matches including Knight of Autumn and Goblin Cratermaker. Sprouting Renewal is my favourite for including convoke and great art.

Beacon Bolt

I really appreciate cards that interact smoothly with older mechanics. Beacon bolt counts cards in exile but it doesn’t insist that you jump started them. This means it will work perfectly with flashback or madness spells which can happily slot into a jump-start deck This opens up exciting avenues for brewing new archetypes.

Affectionate Indrik

For a long time humour on magic cards has been strictly rationed or exiled to the world of unsets. Guilds represents a rebirth of levity on our cardboard, and the cutest representative is Affectionate Indrik. I’m a big fan of this direction so the snuggle beast makes my list.

Enhanced Surveillance

For me surveil is the most exciting mechanic to build around from guilds, and this card is a huge nitro boost for the deck, allowing you to burn through your deck.

The first ability is so good you will need the second ability. If you surveil too often, greedily dumping things in your graveyard, you may accidentally kill yourself before you find a way to kill your opponent. If you dream of having a huge graveyard, this is the card for you.

Conclave Tribunal

I love making cards based around a mechanic. This approach often suffers from lacking quality removal and the deck builder is forced to include inefficient removal or compromise on theme. Convoke decks won’t have this problem. Convoke is a great mechanic to build around, and it won’t be embarrassed by this clean answer to almost anything.

Nightveil Predator

Part of designing a Ravnica set is encouraging players to stick to the guilds in draft and not to always play five colour good stuff. One incentive is the cycle of ‘CCDD’ costed uncommons. Most of them are exciting, especially Conclave Cavalier but the predator packs a real punch while being really difficult to deal with. The art makes it look scary and it truly is. If it wasn’t part of a cycle, this would easily be a rare.

Circuitous Route

Explosive Vegetation is a classic card which I love in my landfall decks for lots of landfall triggers in one turn. Circuitous Route is an interesting upgrade. By fetching two gates, this can help a base green deck splash almost anything.

An interesting feature of Guilds limited is how some cards push you towards drafting a pure guild deck, while others push exciting five colour ‘nonsense’ decks full of gates. This is one of my favourite gate deck cards, along with Gatekeeper Gargoyle and Rampaging Monument.

Price of Fame

Price of fame is my favourite removal spell in the set. You can get so much value from a surveil trigger in the right deck, and the cost reduction has interesting potential in standard whilst being very flavourful.

Creeping Chill

This card has serious implications for dredge in non-rotating formats, but even in a simple surveil deck it and Narcomoeba are very interesting. Cards are usually judged by how powerful and efficient they are when you cast them. These cards are ones you actively prefer not to cast. This tension makes designing a deck with them very interesting. Surveil decks also have ways to shuffle key cards back into the library, giving you the opportunity to repeatedly cast creeping chill for free.

Sunhome Stalwart

Like most good Boros cards, this isn’t complicated, it just hits hard. Mentor is at it’s most fun and flavourful when the student becomes the master. At two power, Sunholme Stalwart is not fantastic at mentoring, even if it can often attack well. Mentor onto it first, and as Goblin Chainwhirler is showing in standard, a 3/3 first-strike can be very tough to block. And as you keep attacking with it, your other creatures will start learning from the stalwart, if you haven’t already killed your opponent!

Radical Idea

Izzet are the guild of creative and unpredictable wacky geniuses. Radical idea encapsulates creativity for me. At face value it looks terrible. Two mana to cycle it, and then two mana to cycle a useless card late in the game. But include a Goblin Electromancer, combine it with more jump-start cards, and finish by enabling a payoff like Wee dragonauts and jump-start becomes a new way to play the game.

Generous Stray

The Golgari are the graveyard masters of Ravnica. This time around they really need small creatures that can happily be sacrificed to Severed Strands or trade with other creatures. Two of the best are Generous Stray and Burglar Rat leading to the ‘rats and cats’ deck in draft being a thing. Not only is this cat cute, it is exactly what their guild needs.

Rhizome Lurcher

In Ravnica sets, there are relatively few cards with each guild mechanic. The Lurcher is my favourite undergrowth card. It is simply a fatter Boneyard Wurm but it hits the sweet spot for a common.

Commons are designed to give you experience with the new mechanics in draft. The cards must be easy to get working, or everyone will hate the mechanic. This usually leads to cards whose best and worst case scenarios are close together. Rhizome Lurcher however can grow very large if cast very late in the game. This gives the card a lot more gameplay than the average common.

Piston-Fist Cyclops

Izzet decks can have a curious playstyle. They start very defensive, twiddling their thumbs, drawing cards and filling the graveyard with jump-start spells. Then out of nowhere, they attack for a million damage. Erratic Cyclops is the most dramatic example of this, but Piston-Fist Cyclops is a nice powered down variant. It fits nicely in both aggressive and controlling builds of Izzet, and is a nice call back to the classic Nivix Cyclops.

Centaur Peacemaker

This limited format really emphasises sideboarding more than an average draft format. Some cards are fantastic but only against certain guilds. Importantly you know there are only five main archetypes you may face, rather than the usual ten, making drafting for the sideboard more fruitful.

I chose Centaur Peacemaker as my example as it is great roadblock against Boros, but the life gain is actively bad for you against a slow grindy guild like Dimir or Golgari. This contrast makes evaluating cards more interesting in Guilds. Plus this is going straight in my centaur deck.

Devious Cover-Up

Normally a four mana counterspell would be unplayable. Guilds of Ravnica Limited does have some excellent aggressive decks, but lets slower decks flourish as well. The slowest way to win a game is to let your opponent deck themselves. All you need is two copies of Devious Cover-Up, and you can create a loop, meaning you can’t be milled unless your opponent has a way to interact with your library or graveyard. The flavour also works, as your opponents spells are exiled so there is no evidence left to incriminate you.