Ravnica Allegiance Guild Reviews – Orzhov, Azorius, and Esper
In these articles I will be going over the guilds of Ravnica Allegiance. Please keep in mind that this is just, like, my opinion man. But, I have done at least 30 Ravnica Allegiance drafts and achieved Mythic in limited last season while drafting it. So, I have a pretty strong understanding of the format and want to highlight some key cards in each archetype. Please also keep in mind that I am not advising you to force the certain archetypes. A strong deck with a lot of synergy is going to do way better than an average deck in a ‘better’ guild. What will be most valuable to pay attention to are the important cards for each archetype and how they work together to build a cohesive deck. One final thing, I will not be going over the rares or mythics for each guild in this article. A lot of them are bombs or good build arounds, but they don’t make or break a draft because you will only see three of them on average. If you open a rare and are wondering if it is good or not, I highly recommend you look at LSV’s limited review that I posted in the general strategy article. I will also be posting some of my 7-x decks like I did with Ixalan, and in those articles I will highlight how I built around specific rares. This set has some really interesting interactions between certain cards, and is really fun to draft and play! But, it is hard to get into all of those without having a specific deck to look at for context. And with that here we go:
On paper the afterlife mechanic seems great. In limited, it is all about gaining little advantages, and getting a 1/1 flyer out of some of your creatures when they die seems like a fantastic way to do that. The problem here is two-fold. First, the primary flavor for a lot of Orzhov and black cards in this set is sacrifice. Sacrifice is almost always bad in limited, because you are giving away card advantage when you do it. Yes, there is decent synergy between afterlife and sacrifice, because it allows you to either sac something and get a 1/1 or sac the 1/1 that you’ve already gotten from before. So, on their own these mechanics aren’t a deal breaker, you just need to make sure the supporting cards in your deck are drafted to provide synergy with these mechanics.
All of these cards are good, but not many are very exciting to me. The only one that blows me away is Mortify, which I would definitely splash for. There are some very strong enchantments in this format that you would seriously consider blowing up over a creature. If I saw mortify or a strong Orzhov rare, I would likely look to add blue/Azorius cards and make an Esper flyers/control deck. Ministrant of Obligation would fit in great in that deck. Orzhov Enforcer would be a better addition to a Rakdos deck. Bell-Haunt and the Guildmage are traps in a way. They are good, but not that good, and their mana cost (especially Bell-haunt’s) push you to draft more sub par Orzhov cards. Pontiff is solid and fits the theme, but as I said before sacrificing is generally bad in limited and he often acts like a grizzly bear.
Final payment is a ‘sacrifice’ card that is well worth playing. It loses card advantage and might get a little clunky drawing two of them, so playing one is what I would suggest. It is pretty solid though since you can give up 5 life in a pinch or even an enchantment if the situation presents itself. Ultimately you are are giving your opponent a 2-for-1 though so make sure you hit something good with it. Grasping Thrull is the best common in these colors hands down. Grotesque Demise is good in any deck playing black. Undercity Scavenger plays really well with the afterlife theme. 4 mana 5/5’s are always welcome, and scrying 2 is icing on the cake. Ill-Gotten Inheritance is a pretty controversial pick. It doesn’t belong in every deck, but fits this archetype really well.
Orzhov doesn’t have flashy creatures, so expect long games with this deck. That is why Ill-Gotten Inheritance is great here. Orzhov is really good at trading cards and gaining small advantages. This can extend games as these advantages slowly add up. But, here’s the thing. If we add blue we gain access to a few key things:
- More flyers – Cards like Chillbringer can help add legitimate threats.
- Card Draw – Being able to gain some card advantage helps mitigate the sacrifice theme that often loses it,
- Control Spells – Orzhov already plays like a control deck so we might as well add blue and give it some traditional control spells.
So, rather than playing grindy Orzhov I suggest getting some gates for an Esper Control mana base!
Azorius is all about the flyers. As always, these colors support a control archetype, but with certain cards Azorius can seriously threaten opponents in the mid game. The mechanic Addendum rewards you for playing instant spells in your main phase. To take full advantage of this I think the deck could be played as a midrange/tempo. Whether it should be played like that depends on the cards you are able to draft:
Now here are some truly strong cards! I really like playing the high alert deck. There are a lot of x/3 or x/4 flyers in blue and white, as well as cards like the 1/3 watchdog that become amazing once their toughness replaces their power. Spirit of the Spires becomes great in that deck as well. In general though the other 5 cards above are better. Angelic Exaltation is extremely powerful because it allows you to send forth a bomb creature and leave everyone else back to block. Azorius Skyguard is my favorite card in these colors. The ability may not seem like much, but taking 1 power away from all of your opponents creatures is a really big deal. Code of Constraint is a great cantrip spell and helps transform this archetype from control to tempo. The split card and guildmage for Azorius are probably the best among all of the guilds. If you are able to assemble several of these cards this guild is well worth playing, so don’t be too dissuaded by the ranking.
Arrester’s Admonition is another cantrip spell that plays into the potential tempo theme. Azorius Knight-Arbiter is an absolute beast with High Alert in play (5/5 unblockable? yes please). He is no slouch by himself either since he can always block due to vigilance. Chillbringer and Lawmage’s Binding are both excellent cards that you will always be happy to play. Senate Griffin and Sphinx’s Insight are both good, but not great. There is definitely an awesome deck to be made out of these cards.
Pretty simple – protect yourself with high toughness creatures and peck at your opponent with evasive ones. The main downside is having creatures that are mostly low in power. Yes, High Alert fixes that problem but if you don’t draw it some games (and you won’t) you are at a pretty severe disadvantage. It is important to draft decks that aren’t overly reliant on certain cards. So, there are a couple options to consider. One, you can add black and create an Esper Control deck. Or, you can add green and create a Bant Midrange deck. Both of these decks can pull the best from Azorius while Esper gets additional control elements from black/Orzhov and Bant gets beefier creatures from green/Simic. Alternatively you can stick with just Azorius, but some inconsistency is to be expected.
As I hinted at earlier in the article, this is definitely a situation where I think the combination of these two guilds is worth more than the sum of their parts. These color pairs work extremely well together to control the board and present evasive threats like flyers, Ill-gotten Inheritence, or even Guild Colossus. These colors also work really well for a milling strategy that involves adding 2-3 clear the mind to the deck to cycle your removal and prevent yourself from milling while waiting for your opponent to run out of cards. Other cards like Wall of Lost Thoughts and Thought Collapse also play well into this archetype and accelerate the milling. Check out ‘Deathsie’ on twitch for more insight into this strategy. In my opinion, a solid Esper control deck with flying threats seems to be just as solid and the games are much shorter. But, it is definitely an interesting deck and an archetype to be familiar with when you see them out in the wild.
That is all for now. Follow me on twitch to see this theory put into practice as I draft with commentary and take on the Mythic ladder.