Guilds of Ravnica Set Review – Guildless (Pt.1)

The Guilds and Guildless of Ravnica

Hello everyone and welcome back to EDHREC’s series of review articles! It feels like Commander 2018 had barely passed before news and spoilers from Guilds of Ravnica started to pour in. I won’t complain, since we’ve gotten a wealth of new cards and legends. Whether you are part of the Swarm, the League, the Conclave, the House, or the Legion, there was something for you this set. The consensus among the EDHREC writers seems to be that the cards destined to be part of the 99 really shone brightest this time around, but there is still excitement for the new legends for many of the guilds.

For this review, I will be covering white, blue, and black cards that are not a “true member” of the guilds. What does that mean? Basically, if it has a watermark, it won’t be in this review! Simple enough. I’ll be covering the cards that I think that are the most likely to see play in the format, so without further delay, let’s get to the cards!


Citywide Bust

Slaughter the Strong this is not, but I’m not sure it needs to be. Three-mana Wraths are always eye-opening, but I would need to do some research to determine how often this will be relevant. I could see this fitting in decks that plan to win with smaller creatures or that are filled with small utility creatures, but four toughness is a tough cutoff. It is able to kill half of the available commanders in the game, but that also means it misses half of them. However, that could be a boon. Overall, I think this is going to be a very polarizing Wrath, and its home will be both meta and deck dependent.


Crush Contraband

Return to Dust and Forsake the Worldly currently see play in over 27,000 and 1,500 decks, respectively, and I think Crush Contraband compares favorably to both of them. I think it’ll end up in fewer decks than Forsake, let alone Return to Dust, but I think that will be because of visibility rather than viability. At worst, this card is a more expensive Forsake the Worldly, and at best, it is a better Return to Dust.

While there is some variance to what it will be most often, I foresee this being able to exile two targets more often than not. It’s essentially a guarantee that this will be able to exile an artifact due to the prevalence of mana rocks in the format, and with powerful and prevalent enchantments like Phyrexian Arena, Rhystic Study, and Sylvan Library roaming around in the format, this will likely punch above its weight-class. I’m excited to try this out, and I would urge you to at least try this over Return to Dust and Forsake the Worldly for a few games.


Dawn of Hope

Normally, the splashiest and most exciting cards within the set are spoiled within the first week of spoilers, and during the second week we see a dip in excitement. However, Guilds of Ravnica takes a step back from that, as Dawn of Hope earns its name. As one of the last five rares revealed during spoiler season, I think its name fits very well. Now what about the card itself? On the surface, we have a few things that should raise some eyebrows.

Whenever you gain life, you may pay {2}. If you do, draw a card.

This is the type of conditional draw that white is used to getting, as we’ve seen with Mentor of the Meek. Mentor currently is played in 13,500 decks, and I think that is appropriate for what it does. While this does cost more mana to draw, I don’t think that’s going to be too much of a hurdle. That does stifle its power, but I don’t think that will be an issue. However, unlike Mentor, not only does this card fuel itself with its lifelinking tokens, but it is also one mana cheaper and is a more resilient card type; this will likely stay on the board until an enchantment sweeper is played.

{3}{W}: Create a 1/1 white Soldier creature token with lifelink.

The other strong comparison for this card is Mobilization. Appearing in 2,300 decks, this three-mana enchantment is able to produce a larger density of tokens if we’re looking for sheer volume. However, I don’t necessarily mind the cost difference in abilities because of the combination of the aforementioned lifelink tokens and draw ability. While vigilance makes it easier to swing and survive on the retaliation, lifelink also helps to buffer us against aggression as well. Let’s not forget that the tokens only have vigilance as long as Mobilization is around.

Now that we’ve talked about the individual abilities, let’s look at this enchantment as a whole. It has two abilities that have very similar peers with Mentor of the Meek and Mobilization. However, each of those abilities are more expensive to use. With these detractions being said, this card costs one mana less than both of those cards, and it comes with both of those abilities. I am very excited for this card, and I could see it being an archetype staple in the future.


Divine Visitation

I’m sure there will be some cynical people who will doubt this card and call it a “do-nothing” or “win-more” enchantment, and I think that would be a short-sighted view. The most played cards in token decks according to EDHREC are Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession which are just as “do-nothing” as Divine Visitation. With that said, why is it going to be so good? Frankly, because turning all of our tokens into Serra Angel is just good. Let’s look at the most played token producers under the EDHREC Token Theme page:

The vast majority of token producers on this page make vanilla 1/1s or similarly small tokens. Saprolings, Soldiers, Plants, all of them receive a massive upgrade with Divine Visitation on the board. There’s an argument that there’s a slight downside to losing the Plant type to take advantage of Avenger of Zendikar’s ability, but I think that upside is moot in a deck that is focused on tokens rather than lands. Even when we look at the most common token producers for large tokens, we can see that those tend to max out at 4/4. Rampaging Baloths’ tokens gain flying and vigilance, which is incredible, and even when we’d produce regular Angel tokens they at least gain vigilance. This card will be a staple in token decks going forward, and I’m sure it will earn its early reputation easily.


Haazda Marshal

This probably won’t end up seeing play in EDH if I’m being completely honest, but I do like it as a one-drop. During return sets, Wizards likes to makes at least a few cards that call back to old mechanics; for example, Bane of Bala Ged in Battle for Zendikar was a throwback to the Annihilator mechanic in Rise of the Eldrazi. This is an obvious callback to Battalion. Whether a one mana 1/1 is good enough for your deck is likely very deck dependent, but I at least like the potential to create additional tokens just for doing what aggressive decks want to do. If we look in Boros colors, cards like Break Through the Line could ensure its survival, but the payoff likely isn’t worth the effort.


Drowned Secrets

Add this to the list of cards that is neat, but I’m not sure will have a home in EDH. This is mainly intriguing because of the low cost to put the enchantment into play, but the effect matches the cost as well and reads as very low-powered and underwhelming. If we’re going with mill as our game plan, we have better options. Sphinx’s Tutelage and Psychic Corrosion accomplish this at a faster and easier rate. I think where this would shine most is a self-mill shell, but even then that seems slow and low-impact. If I had to guess, this seems like it is designed to be a build-around for Limited, as Jump-Start helps to accelerate the mill plan. However, what’s good in Limited doesn’t necessarily translate to other formats.


Murmuring Mystic

Hello, Talrand, Sky Summoner, meet your long-lost cousin, Young Birdomancer. Murmuring Mystic will find homes in spellslinger decks just like Talrand, Young Pyromancer, and Docent of Perfection. That much is fairly obvious. For legends, Talrand currently has 1,200 decks on the site as a commander, and he is included in another 7,000 in the 99. Pyromancer and Docent are included in around 5,000 decks each as well. I expect this card to see roughly equal amounts of play once it has been out long enough. Despite those cards’ longstanding status in Magic, this card actually manages to compare favorably. Talrand will be the most common comparison, since they are the same mana cost. However, Talrand isn’t the clear winner. Despite making smaller tokens than Talrand, the Mystic has a better defensive body and comes with all of the upsides of not being a legend itself.


Omnispell Adept

“Spellvish Piper” is now a card to be aware of. When revealed, this was actually a fairly polarizing card, on both ends of the extremes. On one hand, many recognized the power of its ability immediately. Being able cast something like Expropriate or Time Stretch for a measly three mana is crazy! On the other side of the argument are those who recognized how quickly this will be removed from the table and how much of a target it is; it costs a combined eight mana before it gets the ball rolling, and that’s not nothing. This is a classic discussion in EDH: do we evaluate a card’s potential, or what it offers as soon as it comes down? Do we judge a card by its ceiling or its floor? Both sides have merit, and I’m not going to say one is more correct than the other. I lean more towards the conservative “high-floor” side of the argument, but at the same time, I’ve played enough games to know that sometimes opponents don’t have removal. It happens.

However, despite my leanings, I’m confident that Omnispell Adept will appear in fewer decks than Elvish Piper, who sits at 5,000 decks at the moment. Since we’re going to want to save as much mana as possible if we’re cheating cards into play, three mana is a steep initial cost for the Adept, especially compared to Piper’s single-mana ability. An added detriment to the cost is that it limits the number of spells that we’re actually able to generate savings from. How often will Omnispell Adept be on the field and not actually be able to make a serious impact? That’s a question to consider before including it in a deck, but if you’re able to positively answer that question, give it a try!

Call me cautiously optimistic about its impact.


Burglar Rat

As Donald Miner pointed out to us writers, this is the cheapest asymmetrical discard effect that has been printed on a creature. That alone seems good enough to at least give it a look. While aggressive discard decks aren’t that common, our Discard Theme Page shows that there are still a substantial 1,870 discard decks on EDHREC. There’s not much else to say about this card. It’s simple and it’s efficient. It will have a home as a stax piece with Meren, in black-based blink decks like Aminatou, the Fateshifter, and dedicated discard decks like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.


Gruesome Menagerie

While I’ll miss the original translated version’s name of “Macabre Hatchery”, Gruesome Menagerie remains a strange and unique card. Normally for five mana we would reanimate something in the higher weight classes, but this gives us a way to reanimate multiple smaller bodies. It’s kinda like a Frankenstein child of Protean Hulk and Seasons’ Past (and yes I know that’s not the best comparison.) Additionally, this along with Connive//Concoct are reanimation spells that use the “choose” wording rather than targeting, which adds a few wrinkles to how it will play out. However, despite its fairly innocuous text, I know there has to be a combination of creatures where Buried Alive and this create a game-winning combo. I don’t personally know what that combo is off the top of my head, but I will laugh and enjoy it if I ever run into it. I’m not sure if Gruesome Menagerie will end up being more fun than good, but regardless I’m excited to see it in action.


Midnight Reaper

Hello, beautiful. This isn’t an “exciting” card in the same vein that Divine Visitation is, but this is still a card that I want to own a handful of. For me, this is going to replace Grim Haruspex in just about every deck I run it. Being able to draw a card off of itself is such a massive upgrade that I won’t mind the damage; black is used to that anyways. This is a slam dunk in basically every Zombie deck, and it also has a second relevant tribal type as well. This card is just good, plain and simple. The Haruspex is currently in 7,300 decks, and I think that is an easily attainable bar for this card moving forward.


Plaguecrafter

Move over Fleshbag Marauder and Merciless Executioner, there’s a new King of Edicts in town. All right, that is slightly overblown, but Plaguecrafter is just that good. Despite just championing the relevance of Midnight Reaper’s typing, I think Plaguecrafter is still much better once we look beyond that. It has better stats, it can hit planeswalkers, and if our opponent doesn’t control a creature we still get value by stripping a card out of their hand.

Looking at the data, its obvious that Plaguecrafter will be a new staple through and through. Fleshbag Marauder currently is in 17,000 decks, and Merciless Executioner is in 8,600 decks. Plaguecrafter should eventually end up between those two over time, and it shouldn’t be a surprise when it does. However, despite Plaguecrafter being a better Executioner/Marauder in the majority of cases, its not going to push them out of their decks. More likely is that all three will likely end up in the same decks together, which will be a bad time for those of us facing them down.


Honorable Mentions

Hunted Witness is a modified version of Doomed Traveler, a card that currently only appears in 834 decks. I think if you’re looking for this effect, it will be fine, but it’s nothing noteworthy. Almost the exactly same thing can be said for Sworn Companions and Midnight Haunting. If you value the lifelink over flying or the difference in creature type, this will be good for you, but Haunting only sees play just over 600 decks, and I don’t think a keyword or tribal swap will elicit a greater number of decks. Bounty Agent is cute and somewhat versatile, but I think the combination of needing to tap, needing to be committed to the board, and having a limitation of targeting a subset of legendary permanents really doesn’t help its case. I think you’d be better off playing most any other removal spell.

Consume the Meek is currently only played in over 700 decks, and I don’t think a mana reduction is going to help Ritual of Soot that much. This card strikes me as a sweeper aimed towards Standard, and it will likely be consigned to that format during its lifetime.


Guild Summit

That’s it for my guildless white, blue, and black review! I think we have a lot to be excited for in this set, and this should bode well looking forward to Ravnica Allegiance. So what cards are you most excited to include from this set of spoilers? Are there any replacements or new brews that these inspire you to make? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64