Bring out your BREAD! Bring out your BREAD! For those familiar with traditional MTG Limited strategy, you’ve probably heard of the acronym “BREAD.” For those unfamiliar with the term, BREAD stands for Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, and Dregs. This is an easy way to remember what cards should take priority in a draft or sealed deck, or at least, it used to be.
Some of you may exclaim, “BREAD’s not quite dead yet!” While this may be true, BREAD’s not fooling anyone – it’ll be stone dead in a moment. With the introduction of Guilds of Ravnica, Wizards of the Coast has taken steps towards a new age of Magic: the Gathering. For years, various Magic players have complained that while creatures have slowly gotten stronger and stronger, other spells have stayed at roughly the same power level.
For evidence of this creature-focused power creep, we only need to look to Modern, where entire decks have emerged based on recent powerful creatures. Humans, Spirits, and even Hollow One decks did not exist a couple of years ago because many of their defining creatures did not yet exist. On the other hand, many of the most powerful interactive spells are the same spells that have been around for a decade or longer including Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Cryptic Command, and Thoughtsieze.
Recently, however, we’ve begun to see a resurgence of new, powerful spells printed. We got a taste of powerful modal spells reminiscent of the Lorwyn cycle of commands in Dragons of Tarkir. More recently, Fatal Push from Aether Revolt stunned players as it reshaped Modern’s cheap removal suite. With Guilds of Ravnica, Assassin’s Trophy promises to make a lasting impact on every format it’s legal in.
All of these format-defining spells get their start in Limited. As the tradition of creatures trumping spells begins to end in constructed formats, similar trends appear in Limited decks. Guilds of Ravnica has been a tough nut to crack because it seems that the “B” has fallen off of the BREAD system for the format. In past sets, at least half of the mythics, rares, and even an uncommon or two could be considered Bombs. No longer. I count only eight cards, mostly mythics, in the entire set that I consider to be noticeably better than the best common removal spell from each color. That isn’t even considering the better uncommon removal if you’re in the appropriate colors.
Not only are these common removal spells all excellent, but there are also multiple other serviceable removal spells at common and uncommon in every color. Beyond the fact that removal is both good and plentiful in Guilds of Ravnica Limited, the format breaks some other long-held convictions. For example, 1-drops should rarely, if ever, be played in Limited. Now, a piddly 1/1 flyer for 1 (and let’s toss lifelink on there for good measure) is one of the most sought-after cards for two distinct guilds! Now, Healer’s Hawk stands out primarily because it synergizes well with both the Mentor and Convoke mechanics.
Another trend that threatens to break the BREAD mold is a sort of “raising of the bar” when it comes to the power level of commons. In Guilds of Ravnica, there are almost no Dregs, or cards that are worse than every other available card. Don’t take the previous statement to mean that certain cards aren’t worse than others – there will always be cards that are preferable in certain decks, but there are close to zero unplayable cards in the set. For almost every card you have in your sideboard in GRN Limited, there is a conceivable reason that you might want to bring it in after game 1.
With few Dregs left in the format, this creates gifts and problems for players of all skill levels. First, new players benefit because they are much less likely to lose because they put a bad card in their deck. Unfortunately, those same players may suffer because it isn’t obvious which cards are worse than the others, and they may find themselves unable to cut any cards. Running more than 40 cards in a Limited deck is a common pitfall for new players which can often be corrected with study and practice in card evaluation over time. More experienced players may find themselves losing more often to new players who “got lucky” because they curved out or simply played reasonable cards throughout the game. Additionally, drafting has become harder because it’s more difficult to tell when certain colors are being cut off because the cards coming around are still reasonable.
Keeping all of these details in mind, I encourage you to approach Guilds of Ravnica Limited differently than you’ve approached Limited formats in the past. Instead of relying on BREAD, think more about BRECFST (breakfast). Bombs still matter, but they’re less common, so don’t assume you can safely first pick whatever rare or mythic you open. Removal is key and should be picked highly. Evasion can still win games if your opponent doesn’t have appropriate removal. Curve Filler is important to playing spells that impact the battlefield at every stage of the game. Sideboard cards give you game against whatever strange decks you may encounter from your opponents – use them to your advantage. Finally, Trash is much less common than it used to be, but sometimes it’s worth taking in a draft to communicate to your neighbors that you’re in that color.
Bombs. Removal. Evasion. Curve Filler. Sideboard. Trash.
With that, good luck to you in all of your Guilds of Ravnica endeavors, and may your packs be filled with efficient removal. Before you leave, don’t forget your BRECFST!