Guilds of Ravnica (GRN) is fully spoiled! If you haven’t seen the full set, check it out on the Wizards of the Coast website. I am thrilled to be back on the plane of Ravnica where multicolor cards thrive, and the streets are filled with Wurms, Giants, and Fungus Zombies?! Oh my.
Today I’ll be reviewing my top picks for each color and each color combination for Limited and Constructed. Of course, playing with these cards will be the true test of their viability, but I want to give you some insight into how I plan to approach the new set.
Tim’s Top Picks for Limited
As discussed in my previous article, Limited games are generally decided by commons and uncommons. However, for the sake of being complete, and in order to initiate a pick order for GRN Booster Draft, I will present my top picks from each rarity: common, uncommon, rare, and mythic. Of note, there are very few mythics to choose from, but I will outline when each will be at its best. Besides raw power, I have also considered the versatility of the cards, the initial Limited environment, and relevance to other top cards.
Parhelion Patrol checks all of the boxes for GRN Limited – it’s evasive, has a decent body for its cost, vigilance allows it to convoke a spell post-combat, and it even has mentor to grow your smaller creatures! Conclave Tribunal is one of the best removal spells in GRN with convoke giving it a flexible cast cost. Dawn of Hope, if left unchecked, will win countless games of Limited, and there’s not a lot of enchantment removal at common in this set. Divine Visitation is a great card, but you really want a minimum of six token producers in your Limited deck before you play it.
Watcher in the Mist is a sizable flyer that gives you value immediately as it enters the battlefield, and will easily win games where your opponent can’t answer the flying body. Chemister’s Insight will leave you up two cards after you jump-start it, and the importance of it being instant speed cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, there is not much depth in the blue rares, but Quasiduplicate will frequently win games of limited after you copy your best creature not once, but twice. Dream Eater is a fantastic card which should always gain some value for you, but it could have easily been a rare.
Severed Strands may be a controversial pick here, but having the text “destroy target creature” on a 2-mana common spell has historically been very good. You will often have expendable creatures, or even creatures you want to die, and the life gain will be relevant in games of Limited. Price of Fame, at uncommon, is my pick for the best removal spell in GRN due to its instant speed, potential cost reduction, and additional value with Surveil 2. Wraths are always good in Limited, although Ritual of Soot‘s restriction to creatures CMC 3 or less means that it won’t always be a blowout. Doom Whisperer is insane! The rate of a flying, trampling 6/6 for five mana is already ridiculously good, and it even has upside with a repeatable Surveil 2 ability.
Direct Current offers a repeatable removal spell as well as late-game reach to burn your opponent for the last few points of damage. However, Wojek Bodygaurd may be the more important common to dedicated Boros decks. Lava Coil offers a very efficient removal spell that will kill most creatures in GRN, and the exile clause will occasionally be relevant. Legion Warboss, backed by removal and pump spells can easily win a game of Limited by itself. Arclight Phoenix is a reasonable flyer, although it will be rare to bring it back from the graveyard more than once during a Limited game.
Fortunately, green in Guilds of Ravnica still means big creatures, so Prey Upon is still a great removal spell for only one mana. Affectionate Indrik is both a big green creature and a fight spell! Besides winning my vote for best flavor in the set, the Affectionate Indrik is also a great card to splash green for. Beast Whisperer is fantastic, as it rewards you for doing exactly what green wants to do – cast more creature spells! Nullhide Ferox will win most games that you play it on turn four. Pay attention to your deckbuilding when playing Nullhide Ferox, as it prevents you from casting non-creature spells, but remember that you can always use its 2-mana ability to turn off that clause in a pinch.
Rosemane Centaur provides a solid 4/4 body that will frequently come out on turn 4, and vigilance lets it contribute to convoke spells post-combat. Conclave Cavalier offers the same body as Rosemane Centaur but leaves behind two vigilant 2/2s even after your opponent deals with it. Camaraderie is several effects that Selesnya wants wrapped into one card. It should regularly draw you 3+ cards, gain a few life, and potentially break a board stall wide open. March of the Multitudes is the one card I expect will cause the most severe blowouts in GRN Limited, entirely due to its instant speed.
The Boros commons don’t stand out much, but they are good role players. Skynight Legionnaire is a good evasive threat and should play well with the larger mentor creatures. At first glance, GRN Limited should be slow enough for even Boros to cast a 6-drop. With that in mind, Swathcutter Giant is the perfect curve topper for a Boros deck, as it kills several creatures as well as 1/1 tokens just by attacking. Response and Resurgence is a great modal spell. The removal side will kill most creatures in combat, and Resurgence will kill opponents out of nowhere when they thought they still had another turn to race you. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is another great Aurelia and is the premier Mentor enabler for Boros.
Hypothesizzle is a great common, replacing itself and providing removal at instant speed, plus I will never grow tired of saying “Hypothesizzle” in GRN Limited. The “discard a nonland card” clause is unfortunate, as you can’t get value from an extra land, but it should play well with Jump-start spells. Speaking of Jump-start, Beacon Bolt should be a top-notch removal spell for Izzet Limited decks. Expansion and Explosion gives us a great late-game card (Explosion) with some situational use in the early game (Expansion). Ral, Izzet Viceroy shows the strength of planeswalkers in Limited, as he offers repeatable card draw with a high starting loyalty plus removal when you need it.
Artful Takedown is a solid removal spell and will be a great draw whether you’re ahead or behind in a game. Nightveil Predator, backed by all of the removal in black and blue, should be almost impossible for opponents to kill and will frequently serve as your Dimir win condition. Etrata, the Silencer functions as a slow, but powerful removal spell. In GRN Limited with Surveil cards, it shouldn’t be difficult to surveil through your deck to find her after she shuffles back in. Lazav, the Multifarious is a reasonable 2-drop, but becomes increasingly deadly as the game plays out, functioning as a reanimation spell for the best creature in your graveyard.
Sometimes, Undercity Uprising will function as an expensive Severed Strands, but it can also force unfavorable chumps blocks from your opponent during a stalled board. While all of the guildmages are good for their respective guilds, Swarm Guildmage grabs the top Golgari uncommon slot because a single activation of its first ability will often win games. Ochran Assassin is a close second to Swarm Guildmage, but the Assassin is far more situational. Assassin’s Trophy – have you read the card yet? Do it! Assassin’s Trophy is great, and instant speed unconditional removal is invaluable in Magic. Underrealm Lich beats out Vraska, Golgari Queen as the best Golgari mythic because it’s so good on its own. Vraska requires some specific deckbuilding, and her removal ability won’t always get the job done. It’s important to note that Underrealm Lich’s first ability replaces any draws you may make, so you can’t lose the game for drawing from an empty library while the Lich is still in play.
Tim’s Top Picks for Standard
The following cards, one for each color and one for each guild, are the GRN cards I expect to have the greatest impact on Standard. This includes cards that will warp the Standard environment around them as well as cards that will play an important supporting role in one or more Standard decks. Some of these cards will also have an impact on other Constructed formats, and I will call those out when applicable.
Doom Whisperer is too good of a rate with a repeatable, abusable ability to not see play in Standard. I don’t know what shell Doom Whisperer will fit into – probably an all-in graveyard deck or just a green-black Rock deck – but it will flample its way into Standard somehow.
Runner-up: Price of Fame
Tajic, Legion’s Edge offers the hasty mentor that Boros needs to be competitive in Standard. Additionally, Tajic is a human with the uniquely powerful ability to prevent noncombat damage, which makes it a natural addition to the Modern Humans deck.
There aren’t a ton of new toys for Dimir, but Thought Erasure hits a broad enough swath of cards that it should be good enough in Standard, especially if there are a lot of midrange and control decks.
Is anyone really surprised? Assassin’s Trophy is the chase rare from Guilds of Ravnica, and I can’t imagine another rare unseating it. Cheap, instant-speed, unrestricted removal is incredibly powerful in every format. The key to playing with Assassin’s Trophy will be judging whether the removal is worth the basic land you give to the opponent, which will usually be an easy decision. Additionally, if Assassins Trophy sees a lot of play in Standard, I expect players to transition away from expensive permanents that don’t grant advantage immediately. Standard has already been trending this way, but Assassin’s Trophy only furthers the issue.