About a year ago my pal Sean had an idea for a casual constructed format we could play in our playgroup. The idea was this: The Guilds of the plane-city Ravnica battling for supremacy. The Guilds of Ravnica were stretched across the Ranica block, each having its own two-color color identity, along with a unique mechanic. They are as follows:
“Friendly” Colored Guilds (Colors adjacent on the “color wheel” that goes WUBRG)
UW- Azorious, “Forecast” (Dissention)
UB- Dimir, “Transmute” (Ravnica)
BR- Rakdos, “Hellbent” (Dissention)
RG- Gruul, “Bloodthirst” (Guildpact)
GW- Selesnya, “Convoke” (Ravnica)
“Enemy” Colored Guilds (Colors opposite on the color wheel)
RW- Boros, “Radiance” (Ravnica)
WB- Orzhov, “Haunt” (Guildpact)
BG- Golgari, “Dredge” (Ravnica)
RU- Izzet, “Replicate” (Guildpact)
GU- Simic, “Graft” (Dissention)
These Guilds aren’t tribal in the tradtional sense. Each Guild incorporates a smattering of creature types that compliment the flavor of that particular Guild. They’re all working together to forward the Guild’s agenda, for better or worse. We each picked our favorite Guild (based on our favorite Magic colors, or cool ideas we had for building) and started brewing in our heads. Over the course of about a week we laid some ground rules to keep our decks Guild-y. We wanted the decks to represent the flavor and agenda of their Guilds, so we agreed on the following rules:
1. Each Guild deck must contain a playset of it’s Guildmage. The Guildmage’s abilities should be used as a guide when brewing the deck.
2. Each Guild deck must contain a playset of the Guild’s “Karoo” (or “bounce”) lands.
3. Each Guild deck must contain 1 copy of the Guild’s “Guild Hall” (Non-basic land with an ability and the Guild’s watermark.)
4. Each Guild deck should contain as many cards with the Guild’s watermark as possible.
As with any tribal or pseudo-tribal arena, there was a Rock, Paper, Scissors component to our battles. I chose Simic, using Shorecrasher Mimic, Lorescale Coatl, and Favor of the Overbeing, allowing my Simic Guildmage to shuffle Favors and counters around as needed. This gave me and explosive beatdown start, which was good against Guilds not playing enough burn to kill my weenies while they were still weenies. I could race against Izzet’s infinite combo engine (barring some brutal Boomerangs or Gigadrowses), but I originally had a lot of trouble against Boros’s removal (and Sunforger, *shudder*), and Rakdos’s aggressive hand destruction. We had a lot of fun with the format. Some in the group built multiple Guild decks. We continued to play and tweak, but eventually stopped throwing our Guild deck boxes into our bags when we’d head to each others’ apartments. Commander and Cube drafts won out. That is, until last weekend. The old playgroup had a “dude’s weekend” planned, and I knew my friend Sean would have Simic’s old nemesis, Rakdos with him. I decided to bring my deck, and once it was in my mind again, I was back to brewing. Having just added that classic bar patron River Kelpie to my Commander deck, the value and fun of the card was fresh in my mind. I started thinking of a few ways to abuse Kelpie in my Simic deck, and my thoughts drifted to the plane of Innistrad, and the set Dark Ascension. There, I found a creature even Momir Vig would be proud of- Strangleroot Geist, and another card that made both River Kelpie and Shorecrasher Mimic part their beastly lips and sing- Tracker’s Instincts. I eventually took out the 3x Voidslime, although it pained me to do so. Voidslime is one of my favorite cards, but in an aggressive monster-beatdown, the 3-mana Counterspell/Stifle is definitely out of place. I can use the mana for more monsters. Here’s the list after the changes:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Mutants (Simic)
4 Simic Growth Chamber (Karoo)
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress (Guild Hall)
The deck performed very well. Despite playing only 22 lands, large amounts of early pressure, and often a little help from a Turn 1 Birds of Paradise allowed me to play one of the many 2-drops each turn, then power out a Selkie/Favor combo in a single turn later, or a Kelpie. The Guildmage played the exceptional role I expected him to. He can ship the +1/+1 counter off Strangleroot Geist, allowing the Geist to trigger Undying repeatedly, and the Guildmage can ship +1/+1 counters onto River Kelpie, allowing Kelpie to Persist over and over (drawing you cards). Guildmage + Lorescale Coatl + River Kelpie is just a ton of fun. One trick I never saw but still want to use is Novijen, Heart of Progress + River Kelpie. It’s a super cheap block/recursion/draw engine that optimizes my Guild Hall! The card advantage the new deck supplies often proved to be too much for the Rakdos hand destruction, while the early pressure assured that late top-decks could prove fatal. Tracker’s Instincts was particularly valuable in the matchup. Sean is our Minister of Flavor, so naturally his decks contain a bunch more of the appropriate watermark than others might. Here’s Sean’s Rakdos list:
From Hell (Rakdos)
1 Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace (Guild Hall)
4 Rakdos Carnarium (Karoo)
The few games Sean and I played was all it took to get the group back into a Guild state of mind. New talk of plans for old Guild decks arose, old talk of plans for new Guild decks arose, everyone was once again psyched about the format. And rightly so! It’s a ton of fun. Andy, another member of our playgroup went back and tweeked his already-bomby Boros list (I don’t think I’ve ever beaten it).
The Forge (Boros)
4 Boros Garrison (Karoo)
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion (Guild Hall)
The purpose of Andy’s Boros list is pretty simple: abuse Sunforger in the worst ways possible. The deck follows a trend that other, more competitive decks have started: cutting Stoneforge Mystic. With 4 Sunforgers and the Puresteel cantrips, Stoneforge Mystic just isn’t needed. You have Flayer Husk, Champion of the Parish, and Boros Guildmage applying early pressure, and then the Sunforger fun begins. If Puresteel Paladin is out, Sunforger draws a card. If you have Metalcraft, it equips for 0 mana. Regardless of either of these things, you can pay a red and a white mana, unequip it, and get one of your 9 broken instants that cost 4 mana or less, and cast it for free. This ability can be brutal. The package includes removal, protection, burn, creature theft, and combat tricks. All at instant speed, all for just a red and a white mana. Powerful stuff. A few things are included in his list to “turn on” Metalcraft for Puresteel Paladin. The most obvious examples are the Artifact Lands- Ancient Den and Great Furnace. Flayer Husk does double duty as a creature and a piece of equipment, helping with Metalcraft as well as drawing a card with Puresteel Paladin’s ability for 1 mana later in the game. The cantrip for 1 mana is also the reasoning behind including Silver-Inlaid Dagger, along with the power boost. And everyone on the team benefits from the extra boost the Dagger gives to Humans. Once again this Guild deck is all about synergies. Speaking of synergies, Josh’s aforementioned Izzet list adapts a combo from days of Standard past, and polishes it up to battle once again, for Guild and country. Here it is:
Steampunk Combo (Izzet)
1 Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind (Guild Hall)
4 Izzet Boilerwork (Karoo)
Unlike Novijen, Heart of Progress’s synergy in my Simic deck, Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind does almost nothing in Josh’s Izzet build. Likewise, the Izzet Boilerworks doesn’t do him any favors. These required inclusions are merely a delay for the combo, giving the opponent a at least a fighting chance. As having double blue is a necessity, Cascade Bluffs does far more work for Josh’s list than Flooded Grove does in mine. The combo goes like this: cast Ideas Unbound or Lava Spike with Desperate Ritual in hand, and Izzet Guildmage in play. Paying the (1)R “Splice into Arcane” cost and revealing it, splice Desperate Ritual into the spell. On the stack, you now have a spell that will add three mana. With that spliced spell on the stack, you cast the same Desperate Ritual to add R R R to your mana pool. Allowing Desperate Ritual to resolve, you pay that mana to activate Izzet Guildmage’s ability that reads “2(R): Copy target sorcery spell you control with converted mana cost 2 or less.”. This makes a copy of the spliced spell that’s still on the stack, either “Draw 3 cards, discard three cards at the end of your turn. Add R R R to your mana pool.” or “Deal 3 damage to target player. Add R R R to your mana pool.” You then allow the copy of the spliced spell to resolve, drawing the cards or, ideally, dealing 3 damage, and adding R R R to your mana pool. You then pay that R R R mana to the Guildmage’s ability, copying the original spliced spell still on the stack. This process can be repeated infinitely, either dealing lethal damage by copying Lava Spike, or drawing enough of your library to find a Lava Spike (be careful not to draw more cards than are in your library), and repeat the process. Pretty cool, right? This Guild is a big threat in our battles. It’s disruption in the form of Boomerang, Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze and Muddle the Mixture can stop an early onslaught of beaters, providing what every discerning mage requires- time to think. My straight-forward mutant beats strategy needs a fast start to keep the Izzet mages on their heels, but the hammers of the Boros Forge can pound through.
This is a format we love. It’s the joy of “Tribal”, without limiting yourself to one creature type. But it’s not Legacy, or Standard, or even the Standard or Block constructed of it’s own time. It is it’s own strange format, evolving with new sets, but very much attempting to keep the spirit of the Guildpact alive. Best of all, there are 10 distinct flavorful Guilds to choose from! We’re far from exhausting the possibilities. Does this sound like a good time to you? Go make your own! Battle your friends, or find me and battle Teenage Mutant Ninja Mutants. Better yet, think of your own format, with the groupings of cards you love! There are so many great cards that are begging to be put in a deck. Go brew with your friends!
Find me on Twitter- @MIRTHxCRISIS