Guilds of Ravnica Draft Archetypes and Strategy – Tier 2 Guilds
In these articles I will be identifying the bomb rares as well as the most important commons and uncommons for each of the five guilds present in GRN. I will be going over them from lowest to highest baseline power level. Please keep in mind that all of the guilds are viable, so if you assemble many of the cards I am highlighting here for a given guild you are going to have a very strong draft deck regardless of which guild it is. My rankings are based on how strong an archetype is on average.
5. Izzet (UR)
Even though I am ranking Izzet the lowest I do think it has incredibly high upside. The issue with Izzet is its cards are very dependent on one another, and it necessitates a deck that has a fairly equal creature to spell ratio. In limited it can be very difficult to pull off decks that don’t have many creatures. Especially against decks like Boros and Selesnya that flood the board with creatures quickly, it can be very hard as an Izzet player to survive long enough to combo off with all of your spell synergy. Because of this I tend to avoid playing Izzet unless I see certain bombs early.
All three of these rares are extremely powerful first picks. While Dream Eater can be happily slotted into Dimir, the other two require an Izzet deck. Dream Eater is also suited for Izzet because it plays well with the tempo game plan. Niv-Mizzet and Ral really exemplify what Izzet is trying to do – draw cards and deal damage with instant/sorcery synergy. Ral has a built in Beacon Bolt and is difficult for your opponent to remove as the Izzet archetype is very good at protecting Planeswalkers.
Assuming you aren’t seeing the bomb rares pack 1 pick 1, these are the cards at uncommon that might put you in Izzet. I think the most powerful is Murmuring Mystic. Not only does he shore up defenses with 5 toughness, he can single handedly win the game with his birds. This archetype is very good at casting many instants and sorceries and Mystic is the best payoff for that (besides Niv-Mizzet). After him, Crackling Drake and Wee Dragonauts are also great payoffs. I was a little skeptical on Wee Dragonauts before I drafted Izzet a few times when it was in ranked draft last, but with all of the Jump-Start cards it is really easy to trigger him for a lot of damage. I still think Crackling Drake is slightly better, but they are close. Beacon Bolt and Lava Coil are excellent removal spells (even at sorcery speed), so probably my only controversial pick here is Chemister’s Insight. While I don’t think it is great in Dimir, Insight can really be the engine an Izzet deck needs. You will often be leaving mana open on your opponents turn to tap, counter, kill, and/or draw, so Insight is a great tool to have available.
Izzet has some really great spells to cast, and Goblin Electromancer is an amazing enabler. He makes good-but-expensive spells like Hypothesizzle, Command the Storm, and Chemister’s Insight extremely mana-efficient, and allows for crazy tempo turns where you are casting several spells at once. The downside is he might as well be an enchantment, because you are only going to block with him out of necessity. The primary weakness of this deck is defending against early aggression. So, cards like Piston-Fist Cyclops and Dimir Informant are needed. Still, Izzet is a very reactive deck, and that is generally bad in limited. It just doesn’t have many good threats. Yes, some games you will drop a Crackling Drake and ride it to victory as you remove/bounce/counter everything your opponent does. In those games Izzet will feel like a Tier 1 archetype. But the problem is some games you will be stalling as you try to find your threats, and eventually Boros mentor or Selesnya convoke mechanics ramp up to threats you cannot deal with. Jump-start is a cool mechanic but it requires long games to cash in on all of its value. So, while I think this archetype is certainly playable and capable of complete blow out games, the consistency issue is a real sticking point for me which is why I have put Izzet lowest of all of the guilds.
4. Golgari (BG)
Just like Izzet, even though I am placing Golgari ‘Tier 2’ it can still come together to make an exceptional draft every once in a while. I just think on average Golgari decks are going to have a harder time being successful than a Tier 1 archetype. The primary reason for this is Golgari needs to fill its graveyard to beef up a lot of its cards, and there just aren’t enough enablers in the set. It feels like this guild is a puzzle that is missing some pieces. If there were just a couple more playables at common or uncommon that supported undergrowth I think this archetype would be Tier 1. Still, there are plenty of compelling reasons to draft Golgari as it stands.
These three are all great reasons to draft Golgari. I actually think Find // Finality is the best card here. Finality will almost always wipe the board and leave you a fatty, so that is the mode you will generally be going for but ‘Find’ is great utility to have. Vraska is an outstanding planeswalker, and similar to Ral she is difficult to remove (usually ending her first turn with 6 loyalty). While you could technically splash for Find // Finality or Vraska, Izoni is a pure Golgari card. If you are allowed to untap with him the game is usually over (assuming you had at least a couple creatures in your yard). Doom Whisperer could go here as well. Even though Surveil is a Dimir mechanic, it plays well with undergrowth, and Doom Whisperer is a bomb creature regardless of the ability.
Golgari has some really nice possibilities at uncommon as well. Glowspore Shaman is definitely my most controversial choice here, but I think the ability is really important! It is really strange to me how few enablers there are for Undergrowth in this set, and a 3/1 for 2 that adds value to many of your other key cards is a great deal if you ask me. Remember that you do not have to put a land on top, but having the option to guarantee a third land can come in handy sometimes. Golgari Findbroker, Status // Statue, and Price of Fame are still the three best cards on this list though, and should be prioritized if you see them. This set is removal-deprived overall but Golgari has access some of the best of it. Speaking of removal, Harpooner and Assassin are sweet additions as creatures/removal. Harpooner actually has quite a few 1/x flyers that he can kill for free, and Assassin automatically kills your opponent’s best creature and has enormous upside if you hit him with a pump spell.
I cannot emphasize enough how important Rhizome Lurcher is to this deck. In order to be competitive you should try to get 3. If you build a proper Golgari deck he should be coming out as a 4 mana 4/4 or 5/5 at least. As a late game top deck I have seen him get close to 10/10. Everything else is building around Lurcher. Since this set is astonishingly absent of cards dedicated to filling your graveyard, we have to be creative about getting creatures in there without losing value. The best option is ‘cantrip’ creatures like Burglar Rat or Generous Stray. They are neutral card advantage so chump blocking with them or sacrificing them to Severed Strands doesn’t lose you anything and adds to your Overgrowth. Ideally you can trade with them to gain some card advantage or get some damage in. Plan B is deathtouch creatures like Hired Poisoner or Pitiless Gorgon. The idea is you can trade them with a threat from your opponent for a net gain due to your Overgrowth payoffs. Erstwhile Trooper is Plan C I suppose. He can dump a creature directly for +2/+2, but losing a card for two extra damage is bad. Winning a combat due to his buff is the best case scenario, but you have to be careful not to walk into a 2-for-1 combat trick.
Even though I Izzet and Golgari ‘Tier 2,’ they are still viable. If you play to their strengths and draft mostly key cards there is a lot of potential. Overall they do feel a bit weaker than the other guilds, though. Their mechanics can be situational or awkward to access, and this can lead to inconsistencies that you just cannot afford. I think when you see how the other three guilds break down in my ‘Tier 1’ article I think you will see where I am coming from. Do you agree with these points, disagree, or have questions? Let me know in the comments!