Top 10 Guilds of Ravnica Cards

If Jace is the face of Magic: the Gathering, then the city-plane of Ravnica is its home, despite what veterans of the game may argue. The third and triumphant return to the familiar setting was destined to be a success from the get-go, but it seems that Wizards have outdone themselves this time. Not only does Guilds of Ravnica feel like the two blocks that came before it, but it exemplifies some of the most interests aspects of Magic’s design: the color wheel. Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite cards from the set for both constructed and limited in no particular order.

10. Disinformation Campaign

Although the theme of Ravnica heavily implies that players should choose a side and stick with a particular guild, I’ve always found myself drawn to each color combination individually, depending on my mood. Of all of Ravnica’s guilds, however, Dimir is easily my least favorite. Like most Magic players, I love the color blue only through the lens of what it can do for me as a player. Playing against a blue mage, on the other hand, can be a daunting, often frustrating experience. Add in a little black mana and the Dimir’s newest mechanic, surveil, and you’ve got a recipe for a one-sided match.
Disinformation Campaign is a perfect example of the kind of grindy, resource denial strategy that Dimir is known for. It can take a bit to get going (keeping in mind that you need to survive until turn 4-5 in the first place), but once you start your “lock”, it can be difficult for an opponent to escape your grasps. Is it fun to play without any cards while your opponent has a full hand of 7? Hell no. Is it fun to keep your opponent from playing cards while you durdle around doing nothing, confident that you’ll win by turn 34 eventually? Hell yes! Welcome to the paradox that is blue mana.

9. Sunholme Stalwart

Although it’s become almost the norm as of late, a 2/2 creature for two mana with upside is never going to be a bad card in limited. It could even see play in constructed as a curve filler for a Boros or white weenie strategy. The first strike allows you to attack much more freely, and therefore trigger Mentor on your weaker attacking creatures, but also provides a strong defensive line for the investment as well. Boros Challenger may end up being a better card, but at [W/R] it’s a little more restrictive for my tastes.

8. Murmuring Mystic

Monastery Mentor, this card is not. But with a thicc behind (remember that 4 damage is the magic number for this set) and a potentially game-ending ability tacked on, I don’t know if this mystic needs to be. Murmuring Mystic blocks for days and can completely shut down certain wienie strategies, but should only really be considered if you have enough instants and sorceries to trigger the activated ability. Once you’ve mucked up ground combat enough and have an army of flying illusionary birds at your disposal, it shouldn’t take much to finish off your opponent in limited, even if this creature doesn’t see much play in constructed due to its {3U} mana cost.

7. Thoughtbound Phantasm

Remember when I said that Dimir wasn’t really my thing before Guilds of Ravnica? Well, here’s the third Dimir card to hit this list. At 1 mana, you can’t really go wrong with a 2/2 with defender in blue. Once you start surveilling, this little guy can become a destructive force, often swinging in for 5+ damage as soon as turn 3 or 4. That’s one helluva investment, even if you don’t particularly like the more durdly strategy of Dimir. I’ve won enough matches by playing one of these guys on turn one and another on turn two, followed by a surveil spell, to know that Thoughtbound Phantasm has legs in limited and (at least casual) constructed.

6. Creeping Chill

Another Dimir card? How dare you, you might say. Here me out! While Creeping Chill works very well with surveil, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is strictly a Dimir card. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s more of a Golgari card in practice. For 4 mana, dealing 3 damage and healing for 3 isn’t a great rate. For the low-low cost of milling yourself (or being milled by an opponent), you can play this spell for free and, since it’s a triggered ability, it will resolve unattested in limited and standard. While this seems like a great way to keep yourself alive while also milling through your deck, I’m much more interested in developing a black/red burn strategy, utilizing surveil and self-milling, to surprise my opponents with free, uncounterable lightning helixes.

5. Erratic Cyclops

While the price may be limiting, Erratic Cyclops is a ticking time bomb waiting for you to play a big, disruptive spell to provide the gas it needs to smash into your opponent’s health total. With a big butt, it’s not going to die anytime soon, which may provide you enough time to cast your spells and swing in for lethal before your opponent knows what hit em’. Maybe I have a thing for big blockers that eventually smack my opponent for a billion. Who knows?

4. Lava Coil

Whenever a graveyard set releases, it’s good practice to look through the red instants and sorceries for the keyword “exile.” If you find one cheap enough, that deals with enough corner cases, you may be onto something. At 2 mana for 4 damage and an exile clause, Lava Coil checks all the boxes for a limited all-star removal spell. Having a toughness of 5 or greater is a clue that any specific creature will survive longer than most, simply because it won’t die immediately to Lava Coil. These kinds of format warping removal spells are important to keep in mind when drafting, but will also see plenty of sideboard play in Standard to deny graveyard strategies and keep the board clean of those pesky creatures your opponent controls.

3. Risk Factor

I’m a huge fan of the punisher mechanic (i.e. cards that offer your opponent a choice, rather than yourself), but Wizards has proven in the past that punisher-styled cards can be very hit or miss. The general rule of thumb is that if your opponent has a choice, they will always choose the option that is worse for you. Why pay mana for the worst possible iteration of a card when you could just play blue and win the game like a normal person? Well, Risk Factor has the answer: what if both options were great? Ding your opponent for 4 or draw 3 cards! Who could ask for more? For 3 mana at Instant speed, that’s a deal either way you slice it. Now, any seasoned player will see this as {2R} → Deal 4 damage to target player, because allowing a burn deck to draw 3 cards could be much more deadly, but when your opponent is at 4 life, what choice do they really have? Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

2. Pelt Collector

Historically, the problem with 1 mana creatures is that they often do not offer enough value to compensate for them taking up a card slot in your deck, unless you specifically aim to play a lot of them early and win before your opponent can offer a rebuttal. Pelt Collector flips this on its head by offering early game potential without the normal late-game uselessness aftertaste. Even on turn 4 or 5, Pelt Collector can still come onto the battlefield and grow into a relevant size quickly enough, as long as other creatures are dying.
Protip: When evaluating new Magic cards, look for those that benefit you for what some describe as “playing the game of Magic.” That means, if a card offers benefits for behavior that you would be performing anyway (creatures dying, spells going to the graveyard, lands being played/tapped, etc) then it’s not actually much of a hoop to jump through in the first place.

1. Hypothesizzle

In a game where card advantage and value are key, flexibility quickly becomes a commodity. Hypothesizzle lets you draw two cards for five mana. At that rate, it’s a pretty bad Divination. What Divination can’t do, however, is allow you to deal 4 damage to a creature for the cost of a nonland card in your hand. Now, five mana to deal 4 damage to a creature and draw a card isn’t actually that bad. Factor in that the nonland card you discard could have been otherwise useless in your hand (too much mana, too conditional for the situation, etc), meaning that the cost could potentially be very low. While this is just a common in the set (when did commons get so complicated?), it’s also a great example of how deceiving some card designs can be. On its face, Hypothesizzle looks like a bad card draw spell, but in reality, it’s a good removal spell that can also act like a bad Divination if you don’t have a target. Now that’s cooking with gas.

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