Guilds of Ravnica – Limited Overview
Sadly, Guilds of Ravnica is perhaps the worst limited format in rotation currently. I think this set was a huge missed opportunity because the mechanics and flavor for each color combination is on point. It just feels like the playtesting phase didn’t do enough to iron everything out. The most glaring issue to me is you are forced pretty hard to draft the 2-color guilds. While they fixed this with Ravnica Allegiance with solid 3-color combinations and gate-themed decks, Guilds of Ravnica completely lacks these themes. Part of the reason is the three-color combinations don’t work out naturally. You have Boros and Selesnya as the primary creature-based decks and to splash a 3rd color to access you would be adding Blue and Black, respectively. The payoff just isn’t there to add those colors to creature decks. You could combine Boros and Selesnya into a RGW deck, but many of the best cards are double costed and there are almost no payoffs for playing a deck with a bunch of gates in it and you don’t want tapped lands in an aggro deck to begin with. On the other side you have Dimir as a control archetype that would need to splash Green or Red to access a second guild, which creates some really clunky combinations. While I have opened Chamber Sentry p1p1 and built some solid 4-5 color decks, I wouldn’t exactly consider that an archetype. In the end, I do not think Guilds of Ravnica will be a ‘historically’ bad limited format, we have just been spoiled lately with sets like Dominaria or even Ravnica Allegiance more recently.
What we have here is a pretty rock-paper-scissors limited environment
Aggro – Boros (RW) – Mentor Mechanic (Mentor creatures attack and provide a +1/+1 counter to a weaker creature).
Midrange – Selesnya (GW) – Convoke Mechanic (Tap your creatures as mana to play convoke spells).
Control – Dimir (UB) – Surveil Mechanic (Scry except send cards to your graveyard instead of the bottom of your library)
Combo – Izzet (UR) – Jump-start Mechanic (cast spells from graveyard by discarding a card) and Golgari (BG) – Undergrowth Mechanic (Undergrowth cards get a bonus based on the number of creatures in your graveyard).
No, Izzet and Golgari aren’t exactly ‘combo decks’ but the issue is there isn’t enough support for them in the set. Jump-start cards pay off over time but Izzet wasn’t given enough tools to stay alive or threaten the opponent enough to get that time. Golgari has some solid payoff cards for having creatures in your graveyard, but it can be tough to get them in there without giving away card advantage. Both Izzet and Golgari can be built into incredibly strong decks that can absolutely go off and win games, but their mechanics are so situational that consistency is a problem. This is the classic problem of Combo decks which is why I labelled them as such.
Ultimately we end up with a fairly cookie-cutter format that only has 3-5 playable archetypes. When compared to something like Dominaria or Ravnica Allegiance which each have 7+ playable archetypes, it is plain to see why GRN is not a great limited format. That said, let’s look at some of its key features and what they mean for the format as a whole:
- There are many Bombs – There are quite a few rares that can win games almost single-handedly. It is important to build around these when you see them so I am going to identify a few in each archetype.
- Removal is below average – This makes those bombs more powerful, creature decks stronger, and a lot of the good removal is guild-specific.
- Evasive creatures are flyers – There are a lot of flying creatures in the format, and several of them are aggro-oriented.
- Creatures are average – There are a lot of 2 mana 2/x creatures with abilities and creatures that cost a mana extra than usual but have a strong ability (draw a card, surveil, tap down creatures, etc..)
- The format is fairly fast – There are a lot of decks capable of curving out into strong creatures by 3rd or 4th turn. Even Dimir (the control archetype) has low curve uncommons that can get strong quickly and pressure their opponents.
I hope you like playing against Boros and Dimir because that will likely be ~80% of what you see on the ladder. I hope that there is some innovation this season and I get to see some interesting 3-color decks. I think there is definitely some nice interaction between the Surveil and Undergrowth mechanics, but out of 15 sealed events and 30+ drafts of Guilds I have yet to see much that breaks the mold.
In my next article I will be going through the bomb rares, key uncommons, and important commons for each Guild as well as ranking them in terms of baseline power. There are enough strong playables in every Guild that they are all viable, so please view my rankings with that in mind. What do you all think of Guilds of Ravnica? Love it – hate it – agree/disagree with my points? Let me know in the comments.