Limited play is what first attracted me to organized Magic: The Gathering events. The same suspense, excitement, and fresh-pack smell that I experienced at the Innistrad Prerelease in 2011 lingers in the air for each new set release. Guilds of Ravnica gives you a brand new chance to experience just such an event!
Today I’ll be discussing Guilds of Ravnica (abbreviated GRN) cards in the context of Limited formats. If you’re more of a Constructed enthusiast, check out my previous article, Evaluating Cards During Spoiler Season for Constructed Formats.
The first thing you should know when evaluating for a Limited format is that commons and uncommons are everything. I won’t be discussing rares and mythics because you’re unlikely to see a specific rare or mythic in any given Limited event. Don’t get me wrong, rares and mythics can have a huge impact, but it’s the commons and uncommons that determine most Limited games. With that said, only about half of the 259 cards from Guilds of Ravnica have been officially spoiled as of this writing.
For those unfamiliar with Limited, Sealed Deck and Booster Draft are the two most common ways to play Limited. You can find more information about how to play these formats online or by visiting your local gaming store. Prerelease Weekend, on September 29-30, is a perfect time to learn how to play Sealed Deck with the brand new GRN cards!
The Basics of GRN Limited
Ravnica is a land governed by ten guilds, with each guild representing one of the two-color combinations in Magic. Five guilds will be represented in the Guilds of Ravnica set, and each has its own mechanic that will offer a unique advantage in GRN Limited. Key cards will be displayed for each guild, but remember that many cards have yet to be spoiled.
Selesnya Guild (Green-White) historically has played a go-wide strategy with a lot of tokens. With GRN, Selesnya does not disappoint. Convoke is the only returning mechanic, but it has played well in green-white in the past. Convoke allows you to tap creatures, even those that are summoning sick, to help pay for spells with the Convoke keyword. This is a potent form of cost-reduction for spells that seem to be overcosted at first glance. In Limited, it should be safe to assume that you’ll have at least two to three creatures available to help pay for a large convoke spell. Evaluate convoke spells accordingly. Additionally, it may be beneficial to avoid trading creatures in the early turns if you are running convoke spells with large mana costs.
Dimir Guild (Blue-Black) typically has a spy theme with abilities that manipulate libraries or benefit evasive creatures. Dimir’s mechanic in GRN, Surveil, gives you control over your own library and graveyard. Surveil functions similarly to the Scry mechanic, but instead of having the option to put the card, or cards, on the bottom of your library, you may put it into your graveyard. Players that build a Dimir deck should be able to count on drawing the better cards in their deck more often because they will be able to Surveil to them. Also, Surveil should play well with Undergrowth and Jump-Start – more on this later.
Boros Guild (Red-White) is all about aggression. Past Boros mechanics have always encouraged attacking, and Mentor does the same. When a creature with Mentor attacks, you may put a +1/+1 counter on another attacking creature with less power. Frequently, this will mean that Boros will have the largest creatures on the battlefield, and should be able to break through stalled boards. Pump effects that enhance a creature’s power will be important to Boros, as they will allow a creature with Mentor to continue pumping the smaller creatures on your side of the board. Playing against Boros, it will be important to trade with Mentor creatures in combat as quickly and often as possible.
Golgari Guild (Green-Black) has always cared about the graveyard. In GRN, the Undergrowth keyword asks players to care about the number of dead creatures in your graveyard. Cards with Undergrowth may grow bigger with more creatures in your graveyard, or spells may become more potent. Over the course of a Limited game, dead creatures will naturally end up in the graveyard. However, cards that put additional cards into your graveyard, like Glowspore Shaman, can supercharge your Undergrowth spells.
Izzet Guild (Blue-Red) cares about spells. Lots and lots of spells. Jump-start is reminiscent of Flashback in that it allows you to cast a spell with Jump-start from your graveyard, but also requires you to discard a card in addition to paying the mana cost. These sort of discard-a-card-for-a-benefit effects are very helpful in Limited, as they help mitigate mana flood in the late game by discarding your extra lands.
In addition to guild-related cards with their associated mechanics, there will be guildgates, lockets, guildmages, and gold cards that are all important to building a cohesive deck. These cards are often pushed by the WOTC game designers to be good, so find them and use them often if they’re in your chosen colors! The guildgates and lockets will help smooth out your mana, which is immensely important for sets like GRN with heavy multi-color themes. The guildmages and accompanying gold cards are designed to synergize with the main goals of their associated guild. These mana-fixers and gold cards are often more valuable to your deck than other cards in a single color.
Sealed Deck, or simply Sealed, is played by opening six new packs and crafting a 40-card minimum deck from those cards plus any basic lands you may need. The GRN Prerelease events will all be Sealed Deck events with five randomized GRN packs plus one semi-random pack with only cards that match your selected guild. That’s right! You get to pick your favorite of the five guilds in GRN, and one of your packs will contain only cards that match that guild.
For newer Sealed deck players, I encourage you to stick to your chosen guild’s colors, although the temptation to play a third, fourth, or all five colors may be strong. Although there is additional color-fixing for other colors, your deck will be much more consistent if you stick to two colors.
The speed of Sealed means that you should evaluate cards with a late game plan in mind. Sealed decks are often slower than Booster Draft decks, so don’t be afraid to include a couple of high-cost cards that are extra powerful. The one exception in GRN may be Boros decks, but even those will need ways to close out a long game. Plan accordingly.
Booster Draft, or just Draft, is played with each player receiving three randomized packs, opening one at a time, selecting a single card, then passing the remaining cards on to the next player. This process is repeated until you have finished selecting cards one-by-one from all three packs you received. You then build a 40-card minimum deck from the cards you drafted plus any basic lands you may need.
Booster Draft frequently results in a faster gameplay experience than Sealed Deck, as you’re able to create a much more focused deck. To achieve this, focus on taking only cards that will fit your final deck throughout the entire draft. Pick payoff cards that play well with your chosen guild’s strategy, and prioritize cards that enable strong plays with the other cards you already have. I won’t delve into draft pick orders or detailed strategies today, but there are plenty of great resources on the internet if you want to learn more.
Things to be aware of before drafting are synergies. While GRN has not been fully spoiled, we can draw some conclusions about synergies based on the mechanics and some key cards that have already been spoiled. For example, Surveil cards will play well with Undergrowth cards, as Surveil will give you the opportunity to put extra creatures into the graveyard ahead of schedule. Additionally, Surveil cards can give you the opportunity to put more Jump-start cards directly into your graveyard, which should give you more spell casting options later in the game. Although Mentor doesn’t directly synergize with Convoke, the presence of the two mechanics means that there will be cards that produce multiple small creatures. It’s important to identify these overlapping strategies, as you can either combine multiple strategies together or draft those cards that overlap before other drafters can.
Wrapping Up & Unwrapping Packs
Spoiler season is well underway now. If you haven’t seen them already, you can find GRN card previews on Wizards of the Coast’s website. You can also find the latest spoilers by following various MTG celebrities, content creators, and Wizards of the Coast employees on social media.
As your Mentor, I challenge you to Surveil the remaining spoilers, and try to identify the best enablers and payoffs for each guild before your first Limited event. Knowing what to look for before you start will give you a huge Jump-start over your opponents. Convoke with your friends, and see if you can pull some hidden gems from the Undergrowth of the Guilds of Ravnica!
Finally, I look forward to seeing the new cards, and you, in stores for Prerelease Weekend. Rip open some fresh packs of Guilds of Ravnica with me on September 29-30!