Ravnica Allegiance – Limited Overview
In this article I am looking to provide a framework for understanding the (11!) possible archetypes that can be drafted in this format. I will explain that number soon.
There are some resources out there that I am assuming you have looked through already. My recommendations for getting started are looking over this article that outlines the themes of each guild and goes over the different types of cards that each guild gets a copy of (i.e. guildmages, XXYY uncommons, split cards, etc..): https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/how-play-limited/ravnica-allegiance-first-pass-limited-2019-01-22
I would also always recommend looking at LSV’s rankings for limited (and constructed) cards when the sets come out: https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/ravnica-allegiance-limited-set-review-simic-and-colorless/
Those two resources give a great overview of the format and provide a general idea about which cards are (probably) good or bad. In my article(s) I am looking to go more in depth with strategy, and help guide your choices when you are looking to take a pick and 4 cards are all rated 3.0 on LSV’s list. I will give you my impressions of all of the two color guilds, and highlight key cards at uncommon and common within each guild. Further than that, I will explore the best 3-color combinations in this format. Because each pack contains a gate land, 3-color decks are extremely viable in RA and can be outperform most 2-color combinations if the right synergies are present. Since there is a lot of ground to cover here, I am planning two additional articles that go into depth on 2-color and 3-color archetypes, respectively.
The Format and its Archetypes
Before diving into the archetypes, I want to make a few key observations about RNA:
- It is fairly Bomb heavy – some of your drafts are going to be guided by opening these.
- The creatures are Strong – this is good for midrange decks.
- Removal is fairly weak – this is a slight negative for control decks.
- The format is fairly slow – this is a slight negative for aggro decks.
- There are many flyers – so every deck needs to have a plan for facing them.
There are five obvious 2-color guilds in Ravnica Allegiance, and each has a new card mechanic associated with them. They are:
- Azorius (UW) – Mechanic: Addendum – Instant spells that gain a bonus effect when casted in the main phase.
- Gruul (GR) – Mechanic: Riot – Creatures that can enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter or haste.
- Orzhov (BW) – Mechanic: Afterlife – Creatures that drop of 1/1 flying token(s) when they die.
- Rakdos (RB) – Mechanic: Spectacle – Cards that become cheaper or add an effect if your opponent took damage that turn.
- Simic (UG) – Mechanic: Adapt – Creatures that buff themselves with +1/+1 counters.
My hot take on these guilds is that Gruul and Simic are the best, while the other three are playable and can be good with the right cards. Since your drafts are often going to be guided by bomb rares in this format, you may open this p1p1:
You should absolutely take this card. But, since this card works well for a control gameplan I would suggest adding blue so that you can pull from Azorius in addition to Orzhov. The abundance of gate lands allow for a mana base that can easily pull this off, and your deck will be much stronger than if you had stayed in just Orzhov. This brings me to the five 3-color combos. Yes, you can make more 3-color combinations but that would be unwise. The five combos I will be discussing draw from two guilds, making them much stronger than the others. It is important to understand these 3-color possibilities going into a draft since they can help you pick up good splashable cards and not waste picks on cards that are good but don’t get along with your current colors.
- Jund (RGB) – This combines Rakdos + Gruul (Red is the backbone)
- Temur (GUR) – This combines Simic + Gruul (Green is the backbone)
- Bant (WGU) – This combines Simic + Azorius (Blue is the backbone)
- Esper (UWB) – This combines Orzhov + Azorius (White is the backbone)
- Mardu (RWB) – This combines Orzhov + Rakdos (Black is the backbone)
My hot take on these is that Temur is the best, and I love drafting it. This should make sense because it is a combination of the two best 2-color archetypes. When drafting this, I will try to primarily stick to either a Simic or Gruul deck, but then splash the third color for some of the better cards from the second guild. I will go more in depth on this concept in my upcoming review of all 11 archetypes. After Temur, I think Esper and Bant are both solid, while Jund is playable. You should avoid Mardu.
So what is the 11th archetype?
Just like the 11th dimension that is necessitated in string theory, there is an 11th archetype in this format that needs to be mentioned:
This is a wild card archetype that can be arguably the most powerful in the entire format with the right payoff cards. However, it can be tough to pull off since the success of this archetype revolves around getting multiple copies of three uncommons:
Gatebreaker Ram is the most important and is a good one to first pick. I think gates work best in Gruul with at least 4 combined copies of these three cards, or in Simic to play Gateway Sneak if you don’t acquire Gates Ablaze. There are other gate cards that are decent such as Archway Angel, but Ram is better and GW decks are so Guilds of Ravnica. Gates Ablaze is awesome and well worth taking, but don’t expect it to give you a lot of x-for-1 blowouts. I think enough people have gotten burned by it in constructed at this point that they will be playing around it. That said, you can still play around it yourself creatively and it will be one of the best spells in your deck.
Stay tuned for my breakdown of each of these 11 archetypes, which will highlight important cards in each and provide some tips for gaining synergy and drafting efficiently. In a strong creature/weak removal format like this, midrange is dominant. So, the archetypes that put forth a midrange strategy like Gruul and Simic have an advantage. This doesn’t mean you can’t play aggro (rakdos can do 20 damage in a hurry with the right cards) or control (sometimes you get passed 4x lawmage’s binding), but this advice can be helpful if you aren’t sure what path to go down during a draft. Be sure to check out my twitch stream (http://twitch.tv/compulsion02) where I will demonstrate how to put this theory into practice and hopefully execute some high level drafts and limited play.