Guilds of Ravnica ranked Draft went back up again last week and it’ll be with us until March 1st. For many readers, ranked Draft is where they spend most of their time (and gems!), so let’s have a look at the best things to keep in mind while playing Guilds this week and beyond.
5. You should draft that 5 drop
Playing the latest set, we’ve been very comfortable not just with the amount of CMC 5 creatures in our packs, but with the relative playability of most of them. Whilst drafting Allegiance, we’ve had the luxury of choosing from such all stars as Chillbringer, Grasping Thrull, Trollbred Guardian, Windstorm Drake, and Azorius Knight-Arbiter, with the perfectly serviceable Mammoth Spider, Rampaging Rendhorn, and Blade Juggler also being available, with the latter being a fine card even when cast for the full 5 mana. There’s a handful of other replacement-level cards to choose from, particularly if you’ve drafted a deck that wants them (such as Humongulus in the High Alert build). A lot of the power in these cards also comes from their relative splashability, with Grapsing Thrull being the hardest to cast but still being very easy to fit into an Esper, Mardu, or Gates deck.
Going back to Guilds, the spicier cards on offer are less diverse, with Watcher in the Mist and Rosemane Centaur being the only serviceable offerings. I wouldn’t be unhappy playing Kraul Foragers, Hellkite Whelp, and Douser of Lights, but when you compare them to what’s on offer in Allegiance, they look particularly anemic. It’s worth noting too that both Watcher in the Mist and Rosemane Centaur are very much Dimir/Izzet and Selesnya cards, so splashing them is generally difficult.
In short: if you see a Watcher in the Mist, you probably want to be taking it if you’re at all likely to be playing blue.
4. Lifegain isn’t as plentiful
In Allegiance, incidental lifegain is everywhere in the Esper spectrum, and much of it is splashable. You can sometimes afford to play slower games and block a little less, and resolving an Archway Angel can completely change the games in which you do; even Sylvan Brushstrider is begrudgingly playable for this reason. Back in Guilds, lifegain is less common but a little more focused. The fact that it tends to come in ‘chunks’ like Centaur Peacemaker, Severed Strands, or Integrity // Intervention, and is commonly telegraphed (e.g. Whispering Snitch or Healer’s Hawk), means that combat math can be easier to predict, and knowing when to go all in and finish off an opponent is a lot easier. Don’t be afraid to trade off your creatures – your life total is more relevant.
3. Playing three colours is rarely where you want to be
Most of the time when drafting Allegiance, I’m happy to pick on-colour gates when the packs don’t excite me. Back in Guilds, it’s usually better to just take some curve-filler for your guild. Whilst it can be attractive to go for the powerful Grixis deck, it’s often more correct to commit to Dimir or Izzet and not take the risk of ending up with too many spells you can’t cast. Curving out is much more important, and the cards in Guilds are arguably more mana-intensive. On top of that, the synergies in Guilds feel a lot more pronounced, with mechanics like Surveil only truly shining with a critical mass of payoffs and enablers.
2. Two drops are way more relevant…
…even if only for the fact that it’s possible to 7-0 with a Boros deck that curves out at 3 to 4 mana. Whether you’re drafting this deck and taking every copy of Wojek Bodyguard and Fresh-faced Recruit you see, or you’re going up against it and need something to trade with said creatures, you’ll find that you don’t have the luxury of playing a gate on turn 1 and 2 and slow rolling your way into the game. I discussed in my first impressions of Allegiance that there was a 33% higher chance to open a 3 drop in a pack of Guilds, and with the boogeyman of the format being boros, you’re encouraged to lower your curve compared to an average Allegiance deck so that you don’t just get run over.
1. The Gates deck just isn’t as good
In your first drafts of Guilds hot off of Allegiance, you are going to be over-drafting gates. I took way too many for my Izzet-splash-White deck, and even though my mana was good enough to cast my Crackling Drake or my Integrity // Intervention on turn 4, not being able to curve out was costing me big time and I was in far worse shape than I should have been. If you’re taking any of the CCDD cards (which are overall stronger than the ones in Allegiance), then taking some on-colour gates is definitely good, but otherwise they aren’t as valuable as before.
As well as picking Gates less, you should also cool off on the “Gates matters” deck. The Gargoyle is reasonable, and Glaive of the Guildpact can do a tonne of work when picked up by Soldier tokens or Healer’s Hawk, but I’ve never been high on Guild Summit, and having to dip into the Golgari/Sultai portion of the colour pie is nowhere near as rewarding as being Temur or Jund in Allegiance.
Oh, and if you are gunning for Mythic and want to try forcing Boros to get there, just remember that even with multiples of Boros Challenger and Swiftblade Vindicator it’s still never correct to play Gates when your deck hinges on turns 1-3.
Guilds of Ravnica will be available to draft on Magic: the Gathering Arena in the Ranked Draft queue until March 1st, and will likely be available again in the future. In March we can look forward to Ixalan block draft (Rivals of Ixalan x2 and Ixalan x1) and more Ravnica Allegiance – stay tuned too for the Pandemonium event!
I really enjoy talking about Limited Magic in general, so if you want to discuss a card or a deck with me, please get in touch on Twitter @TheKristenEmily, or leave a comment below.