Checking In on our Guilds Predictions

October 09, 2018

Ravnica is here! Well Ravnica is back… again!  In my last article I broke down my hopes and dreams for the two latest Ravnica sets and since we are done with the Guilds of Ravnica spoilers it seems like a great time to talk about the legendaries we have so far! Today we are going to see how close I was on my predictions, talk about the guild mechanics from the set, and then take a brief look at each legendary!

For each guild I am going to break them into three categories:

Right: One of the actual cards is what I predicted

Wrong: Neither card has this prediction

Meh: A card is close to what I meant but not quite in the spirit of my prediction

With all that out of the way let's take a look at the 8 new legendary creatures from the Dimir, Selesnya, Izzet, Golgari, and Boros as well as the 2 new Planeswalkers.

House Dimir   

Predictions Checklist:

One legendary is mill based: Right

Second legendary is also mill based: Wrong (Thankfully)

Mill enables an alternate wincon: Right

One legendary creates tokens of creatures in a graveyard: Wrong

Legendary “Nightveil Specter”: Wrong

*Starts Dancing in the Street* Of all the guilds, I am most happy to be wrong about this one. Wizards has talked before about the challenge of Blue/Black creatures and I am really happy that only one legendary is mill based, though as I will get into below I don’t think Lazav is that exciting. The Dimir seem to be more about self-mill this time around which was an oversight in my predictions, though Lazav’s mill does lead to some interesting wins with cards like Phage. I still would love to see a Nightveil Specter style legendary card in the future but today is not that day.

Surveil is going to be interesting in Commander and overall I really like the mechanic, while it is interesting how close it is to Explore. I am not the first person to say that Surveil is generally better than scrying since it is typically better to put cards into your graveyard than the bottom of your library. Surveil seems like a great workhorse mechanic for graveyard decks (I know my Meren deck is excited for the mono-black cards with the mechanic).

Lazav is about what I figured we would get and that isn’t too exciting for me. I am glad he has some built-in mill with Surveil, doesn’t exile the card from your graveyard, and that he is basically the mirror of Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. I am sure I will get janked out by him at some point but overall I don’t find him that exciting for how I play Commander. Creatures with attack triggers, with a high power to mana cost ratio, or with really interesting effects like Phage the Untouchable will be right at home in this deck.

Etrata is the dream I didn’t think possible. She feels very different than the other U/B legendaries, with the closest similarities being Wrexial or Yuriko, and I love that her ability is crazy strong but kept in check by forcing her to be shuffled into the deck. I suspect that once there is an established Etrata deck she will become a “kill on sight” commander for many playgroups with cards like Helm of the Hosts being massive threats. MTG Muddstah has a great “Conquering your Commander” video on Etrata that you can check out for more ideas on how to build her!

Selesnya Conclave

Predictions Checklist:

One legendary synergizes with tokens: Right

One legendary makes tokens: Right

One legendary has convoke: Wrong

Gives spells convoke: Wrong

Triggers when creatures are tapped: Meh

Synergies with a big board: Right

Create a token that is legendary: Wrong

Guessing that tokens would be a major theme isn’t exactly a Nostradamus level prediction and the “synergizes with tokens” prediction was vague but hey I am counting it! The “Anthem” ability on Trostani checked off two boxes for me since that synergizes with tokens and with a big board. I wish we saw Convoke on one of the legendary creatures and while it was a reach, a legendary creature token would have been fun. My first “Meh” appears here. I wanted an effect here that was similar to Emmara but whenever any creature was tapped.

From a mechanical standpoint, I don’t really have anything new to say about Convoke. It is a great mechanic that has been around since the original Ravnica block. Of the new Convoke cards I think we are most likely to see March of the Multitudes showing up in decks going forward, since it is insane with what token decks already want to do, and Conclave Tribunal’s ability to be a “free” Oblivion Ring shouldn’t be overlooked.

The strange collection of abilities on Trostani kind of reminds me of Dragonlord Dromoka; some of the abilities make sense but most of the time is just kind of there.  Trostani’s first two abilities are great together, 5 power and 8 toughness for five mana isn’t insane but since we can use Trostani to boost our army we don’t have to worry about having her down before other creatures, unlike the first Trostani that wanted to be on the battlefield before other creatures. A deck around this Trostani could use a bunch of other anthem effects, like Collective Blessing, and would be bananas with Divine Visitation turning the soldiers into angels.

This Emmera isn’t nearly as bad as the old one and it is going to exist in an interesting space. My initial thought was that she was just bad but after looking around Gatherer I noticed that she goes infinite with Blasting Station and Thornbite Staff (which I am sure someone else had already figured out). I don’t think this combo is really enough to make her playable over the other token generals but it is still a combo that works when she is in the 99 of a deck if we ever wanted to go that way.  

Izzet League

Predictions Checklist:

Niv-Mizzet is #1:  Right

Card Draw on Niv-Mizzet from mana and not tapping: Meh

Ral Zarek instead of a second “legendary”:  Right

Ral Zarek give an extra turn not tied to coin-flipping: Wrong

No “Ral Zarek can be your Commander” even though it would have been awesome:  Right

From a predictions standpoint this guild has the best average, though a lot of the predictions would have been shocking if they were different. I’ll talk more about the specific card in a second but I think it is hilarious that while we have seen all the other guild leaders require less of their specific colors of mana to cast, Niv-Mizzet has a crazy mana cost. I wish we had seen Ral Zarek take an extra turn since the first one didn’t really have anything to do with spell-slinging. My “Meh” for this category comes from the fact that “a player [casting] an instant or sorcery spell” is spending mana to draw a card but that isn’t really what I meant when I put the article together so that doesn’t fully count as a Right for me .

I am not really sure how to feel about Jump-start in Commander. I could see the ability to pitch a land in the late game to cast a card from our graveyard being good but so far I haven’t really seen any Jump-start spells that seem game breaking for Commander. Quasiduplicate is the most interesting Jump-start card for me though it doesn’t seem that much better than the other clone effects. If Beacon Bolt could hit players it would be really interesting but alas it doesn’t.

This third Niv-Mizzet is probably my favorite of the bunch. The mana cost is prohibitive for sure but overall I really like the card. This Niv-Mizzet, like Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, combos with Curiosity effects which will always be a treat when playing against the deck. I like that since he can’t be countered the Parun should always draw you at least one card since it will draw off the other players casting board wipes, and draw off you countering those board wipes.  

Our new Ral Zarek follows the tried and true “Planeswalker Formula” where their “+” is a variation on drawing a card, their “-” destroys a creature, and their ultimate sets you up to win the game. Wizards didn’t graced us with “Ral, Izzet Viceroy can be your Commander” so we will probably not see a ton of him in Commander since Planeswalkers don’t see a ton of play outside of “Superfriends” decks. Ral is able to ultimate right away with Deepglow Skate and Doubling Season which is always nice.

Golgari Swarm

Predictions Checklist:

Vraska Planeswalker as Guild Leader: Right

Vraska is BBGG: Wrong

Vraska is similar to Vraska, Relic Seeker: Meh

One legendary rewards creatures being in the graveyard: Right

Sacrifice Synergies: Right

“Sacrifice Another Creature to put +1/+1 Counters on Your Creatures”: Wrong

I am not nearly as hyped for Vraska, Golgari Queen as I had hoped. She is indeed in the spot of guild leader, though I think it is interesting that Izoni is the one that follows the mana cost trend from previous guild leaders. When I guessed that the legendary creature would reward creatures being in the graveyard, I didn’t think that it would actually have Undergrowth and that it would have an awesome sacrifice ability. We didn’t see Vraska costing BBGG or a sacrifice ability that pumps on either of these cards. As I was putting this together I realized that what I meant with “similar to Vraska, Relic Seeker” was really vague so I included it as a Meh. I miss the token generation of Relic Seeker but overall the similarities are still there.    

Undergrowth is a really cool mechanic but maybe I am biased because of how well it fits with my Meren decklist. Secrets of the Mausoleum is one of the the standout cards because it turns out there are a ton of good black cards in Commander and being able to tutor for them during our opponent's turn is obviously strong. I also really like Hatchery Spider in a deck with many green permanents.

I think Vraska, Golgari Queen is on the weaker side of the “Planeswalker Formula”. Having to sacrifice a permanent to draw a card and gain a life could be rough, unless she is in a token deck. The converted mana cost restriction on her “-3” isn’t the end of the world but it is an obvious downside in a format about casting big spells. Permanents like Search for Azcanta and Sol Ring are great targets for her “-3” but it basically reads “destroy a permanent your opponent doesn’t really need”. Vraska’s ultimate is good so there is that, especially when combined with trample or unblockable creatures.

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is a really interesting commander that I think has one fatal flaw: there are other good Black/Green graveyard commanders, namely Meren and Jarad. For the sacrifice theme there is a good argument as to whether you want her as the commander because of the built in sacrifice outlet or in the 99 with a card like Mazierek as the head. On her own merits I like Izoni’s ability to make an army everytime she enters the battlefield and keep our hand full of cards whenever there is a board wipe. We could maybe see Izoni at the head of a go wide Golgari deck but I am not sure that is the case. Izoni has a lot of value but unfortunately I don’t think that is enough value to dethrone the other Commanders in her colors.  

Boros Legion

Predictions Checklist:

Boros angel planeswalker joins the Gatewatch: Wrong (But there is still time)

One legendary has “Flying, Vigilance, and Haste”: Right (Over half right so I’m counting it)

One legendary has a combat focused ability: Right

One legendary gives creatures indestructible: Meh

One legendary pumps all creatures when they attack: Wrong

One legendary provides card advantage: Wrong

For the last guild from this set I come out on the “slightly worse than OK” side of things. Aurelia is still a legendary creature and traded Haste for Trample and Tajic kind of gives our creatures indestructible but not enough that I feel like I can fully count it. It turns out the Boros like combat so that is an obvious Right for me. Aurelia is able to pump two different creatures between mentor and her ability but if two is “all of our creatures” we aren’t doing Boros right. Both of these legendaries unfortunately do what Boros has always done and that means that we are still missing a good card advantage commander in Red/White.

Mentor seems like a fun ability to have but I don’t think it is strong enough to see much play in Commander. I am sure some new cards that happen to have Mentor will find their way into decks, like Legion Warboss and Goblin Banneret, but won’t see play because of Mentor.

Aurelia seems like she will be really good in Brawl and Standard but I can’t really see her having a large enough effect to be played a ton in Commander. She could end up with a niche, like a better Anax and Cymede, but I doubt she will surpass Aurelia, the Warleader as the biggest Red/White Commander. I do really like Aurelia as part of the 99 of Red/White/X decks since the ability to give your commander Trample and Vigilance is really good; she pairs nice with Ruhan and most of the Naya commanders.

Tajic, and all his shiny armor, also seems to be just a little shy of what I would consider “great in Commander”. If he gave himself protection from noncombat damage he could lead to some fun decks kind of like Zurgo Helmsmasher but since he only protects our other creatures we have to give him indestructible and at that point we might as well board wipe. I like Tajic’s Haste/Mentor combo because you can get a little bit more damage out of nowhere and equipment cards, especially Hero’s Blade, synergize really well.     

Final Thought

Right 13 Wrong 12 Meh 4

So overall I think I did pretty well considering this was my first prediction article. While I do feel that a lot of my correct predictions were on the more obvious side, I am really surprised at how much some cards, specifically Izoni, were really close to what I was calling for. From a set perspective I think many of the new legends are interesting but I could see a lot of the people who join the format playing them shifting to some of the other legends in those colors. I am really excited for us to get to see the rest of the legends in the next set when we will have a follow up to this article to see how I did!