Mathemagics, Part 2, Color Distribution

By Joseph Davis

Hi, I’m Joseph, and welcome back to Mathemagics. The goal of this series is to help you level up your deck building whether you’re new to the game or just trying to improve your brews. We’ll be exploring important aspects of deck design and diving very lightly into the math behind it, so you know not just how to build a deck, but why some deckbuilding choices are better than others. This week we’ll be building on last week’s article by talking about color distribution.


Last week we talked about your deck having a plan, and we’ll continue that this week. When building your deck, you will have certain spells you want access to on the turn they become available. A good example of this is Settle the Wreckage or Ritual of Soot: decks playing these sweeping cards will usually be slower and trying to halt the tide of aggro decks with one of these spells on turn 4. A card like Crackling Drake is generally not a good turn 4 play because it is often simply a 0/4 or 1/4 , so when building our mana base we will not need to be worried about having 2 red and 2 blue on turn 4.


We’ll be using the term “pip” to refer to mana symbols, so a card that costs 1G would be described as having 1 pip since you must use 1 green to cast it, while the other portion of the cost can be any color. Here are some tables:


One pip Turn 1 Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7
5 47.46% 52.41% 56.99% 61.21% 65.09% 68.65% 71.91%
6 54.14% 59.33% 64.03% 68.26% 72.07% 75.49% 78.55%
7 60.09% 65.36% 70.02% 74.14% 77.76% 80.94% 83.72%
8 65.36% 70.59% 75.11% 79.02% 82.37% 85.25% 87.71%
9 70.02% 75.11% 79.42% 83.05% 86.10% 88.66% 90.78%
Two pip Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7  
10 39.98% 46.74% 53.14% 59.13% 64.63% 69.63%  
11 45.44% 52.55% 59.13% 65.12% 70.50% 75.27%  
12 50.72% 58.02% 64.63% 70.50% 75.64% 80.07%  
13 55.76% 63.13% 69.63% 75.27% 80.07% 84.09%  
14 60.51% 67.84% 74.13% 79.44% 83.84% 87.40%  
15 64.97% 72.13% 78.13% 83.05% 86.99% 90.07%  
16 69.11% 76.02% 81.65% 86.12% 89.59% 92.16%  
Three pip Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7    
15 39.90% 48.11% 55.90% 63.05% 69.44%    
16 44.91% 53.44% 61.30% 68.31% 74.35%    
17 49.86% 58.55% 66.34% 73.04% 78.59%    
18 54.68% 63.40% 70.96% 77.22% 82.14%    
19 59.32% 67.93% 75.12% 80.82% 85.00%    
20 63.75% 72.10% 78.81% 83.84% 87.16%    
21 67.92% 75.90% 82.02% 86.26% 88.64%    


Magic is a best two out of three game, so again we are looking for our plan to work on time 66% of the time or greater. The number listed on the left is the number of sources which produce the percentages going across their row. When looking at the pip requirements, there is only a small distinction between mono and multicolored spells. For example, Merfolk Trickster costs UU (blue blue). You should have 16 blue sources to reliably cast it on turn 2. Thought Erasure costs UB (blue black). You should have 16 blue AND black sources to reliably cast it on turn 2. This does not mean you need to run 32 lands consisting of 16 islands and 16 swamps though. A Watery Grave, Drowned Catacomb, Dimir Guildgate, or Submerged Boneyard counts for both one blue source and one black source. One last note, when looking at hybrid mana costs like the Find (G/B G/B) half of Find//Finality you can count sources of either green OR black, so if you wanted to cast Find on turn 2 for some reason, you would need 16 green OR black sources to reliably cast it on time.


The overall thing to take away from this is that the earlier you need multiple colors, the fewer colors you can afford to mash together. In order to consistently cast a 3-mana card with 3 pips such as Goblin Chainwhirler, you need 21 sources of the color of that pip. This is the reason decks which use Goblin Chainwhirler, Steel Leaf Champion, or Benalish Marshall tend to be mono colored, as it is very difficult to produce the mana required to play them on time otherwise.


Let’s look at some decklists and discuss the construction of the archetypes:

RW Angels – Carson Lewis

5-8th Place SCG Classic – Dallas


2 Adanto Vanguard
3 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
4 Knight of Grace
4 Lyra Dawnbringer
4 Resplendent Angel
3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Tocatli Honor Guard

1 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

2 Conclave Tribunal
3 Deafening Clarion
4 History of Benalia
2 Justice Strike
2 Lightning Strike

4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Mountain
12 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Banefire
1 Ixalan’s Binding
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Rekindling Phoenix
3 Seal Away
2 Settle the Wreckage
1 Silent Gravestone
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Tocatli Honor Guard


This deck is almost a mono white deck but is splashing red for Justice Strike, Deafening Clarion, and most importantly Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. This deck’s plan is to curve out with good threats, most importantly playing Aurelia on turn 4. The Justice Strike on turn 2 and the Deafening Clarion on turn 3 are less important to the plan for the deck than consistently landing Aurelia on time, as she pumps whatever threats you have out already and adds a significant clock on the next turn when she can join the battle. Looking at our chart, they should have 13 sources of both red and white to consistently cast Aurelia on turn 4. They have 20 white sources and 12 red sources, so the deck is almost exactly where it should be mathematically but may wish to change one more Plains into a Mountain to bump their numbers slightly more into line. If the deck wanted to cast Justice Strike consistently on turn 2, it would need to climb to 16 red sources, but since Justice Strike is a late game removal card to clear out a card like Ghalta, Primal Hunger, we don’t have to worry about being able to cast it on turn 2.


Jeskai Control – Michael Hamilton

9-16th Place SCG Classic – Columbus


1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy

3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

2 Chemister’s Insight

1 Cleansing Nova

2 Deafening Clarion

2 Essence Scatter

4 Expansion // Explosion

4 Ionize

2 Justice Strike

1 Lava Coil

2 Lightning Strike

1 Negate

2 Search for Azcanta

3 Settle the Wreckage

1 Shivan Fire

1 Shock

4 Clifftop Retreat

1 Evolving Wilds

2 Field of Ruin

4 Glacial Fortress

2 Island

4 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

4 Steam Vents

3 Sulfur Falls



1 Chemister’s Insight

1 Dawn of Hope

1 Deafening Clarion

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Invoke the Divine

3 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Negate

1 Nezahal, Primal Tide

2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty

1 Shivan Fire

2 Siege-Gang Commander


Now, you might be saying, are multicolored cards always a worse choice than mono colored cards? For example, is it always harder to cast Ionize (1UR) instead of Sinister Sabotage (1UU)? The answer is: it depends. If you are playing a three (or more) color deck like this one, and especially if you have multiple cards you want to cast on the same turn, multicolored cards and dual lands can make it easier to have different plans spread across multiple cards. In this deck you want to cast Deafening Clarion (1WR) or a counterspell on turn 3, depending on what you’re playing against and what you draw. For both Sabotage and Clarion to work in this scenario you need 14 sources of each red, blue, and white to have all your options open, but for Ionize you can share dual lands when building your mana base. For example, Steam Vents counts as both a blue and a red source for Ionize AND a red source for Clarion. Likewise, Sacred Foundry counts as both a white and a red source for Clarion AND a red source for Ionize. The overlap between the two enables a more reasonable mana base for achieving the desired plan for the deck.


BG Midrange – Maxwell Jones

1st Place SCG Classic – Dallas


3 Doom Whisperer

2 Golgari Findbroker

4 Jadelight Ranger

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Merfolk Branchwalker

3 Ravenous Chupacabra

3 Seekers’ Squire

3 Wildgrowth Walker

3 Vivien Reid

3 Vraska, Relic Seeker

2 Assassin’s Trophy

3 Find // Finality

8 Forest

4 Overgrown Tomb

7 Swamp

4 Woodland Cemetery



1 Assassin’s Trophy

2 Carnage Tyrant

3 Duress

1 Find // Finality

3 Moment of Craving

1 The Eldest Reborn

2 Vraska, Golgari Queen

2 Vraska’s Contempt


This deck is cluttered with mana symbols looking to cast powerful cards like Jadelight Ranger (2 pips, green) on turn 3 or Ravenous Chupacabra (2 pips, black), and Golgari Findbroker (4 pips, green and black) on turn 4. To be able to play these spells reliably, the deck has to stick to 2 colors, otherwise it would be impossible to get the required number of colored mana sources without playing an extraordinary amount of lands. With just 23 lands, this deck still plays 16 green sources and 15 black sources enabling it to reliably fill out the large number of color pips required from all the powerful double pipped cards.


When building your next deck, keep these principles in mind and ask yourself these questions:

1) Which of my spells do I need to cast as early as possible?

2) Are there any multicolored cards which I can substitute in to make my plans overlap better?

3) Can I achieve the number of sources I need in the number of lands I’m playing?


If you find yourself answering number 3 with “no”, you probably are trying to stretch your early color requirements too much. You should either substitute some multicolored spells in if possible, or change your plan to be less color intensive or involve fewer colors. I hope you’ve enjoyed your second lesson in Mathemagics, and I’ll be back with another one soon!

Scrubland – Episode 24 – PPTQs and DQs


Casby and James are joined by David Benamino as they discuss their Sealed PPTQ experiences, disqualifications during the finals and cheating and punishment.

Musical Selections:

Intro, Welcome, Outro: Mandy by Ratatat

Interlude: Its a Mistake by Men at Work

Contact us:

Scrubland Podcast on Facebook

@scrublandcast on Twitter

How to prep for a GP

By Myles Miller

Today’s article is going to be based around the competitive side of Magic, a little bit more than usual. I and the other Battlegrounds authors always strive to create content for players at every level, especially those looking to improve their game, but this week, I’m going to focus on a more competitive aspect of Magic: preparing to play in a Grand Prix. I’ve asked some of Richmond’s most competitive players to share their experiences and insights to help you prepare for the event, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth.

What are GPs?

The Grand Prix are Magic’s premier competitive events, and certainly the largest you can enter without requiring an invitation. I will be heading to New Jersey at the end of the month with a group of friends and teammates to play at GP New Jersey, the first Standard Grand Prix since the release of Guilds of Ravnica. Let me describe a few details about GPs, to give you an idea of how these massive events work:

  • Grand Prix are two-day events. Players compete in 8 rounds on the first day, and any player with a record of 6-2 or better (18+ match points) can compete for 7 more rounds on the second day. After 15 total rounds, the top 8 players play for the grand prize.
  • The prize payout of a Grand Prix can be quite substantial. For example, the prize payout for 1st place at Grand Prix New Jersey is $10,000. $5,000 to 2nd place, $2,500 each to 3rd and 4th, and so it goes down to 64th If a GP has over 3,000 players, the cash payouts extend down to 180th place.
  • Professional Points can be earned at GPs by players who do well enough. Pro PointsImage (1).jpg are accumulated by players with excellent records at GPs, the Pro Tour, and other major events. Earning enough Pro Points will earn you special perks, such as byes, invites to the Pro Tour, and travel reimbursement. Speaking of:
  • Players earn Planeswalker Points by playing in any official event, including your local FNM. I won’t go into detail, but every recorded match you play and every win you earn is recorded in your planeswalker point total, and players with enough points are awarded byes at major events like GPs. Certain events award extra points, but the default numbers are 3 points for a match win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. 1,300 points in the year (from the end of May to the end of May) gets you 1 bye, and 2,250+ earns 2 byes at Grand Prix events.
  • GPs are conducted at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level. This means that players are expected to know the rules and play correctly. Judges work hard to assist players with any disputes or questions. Careless mistakes will result in warnings, while serious or intentional errors can escalate to more serious penalties. Players are also required to turn in a decklist before the event starts, listing every single card in their deck and sideboard, to help prevent any cheating.

Grand Prix are massive events, and held all over the world, all year long. Players who are serious about competing at this level will travel far and wide to play in any GP they can. If you wait for a Grand Prix to come to you, you’ll miss out on a lot of events. I personally have driven as far as Providence, Rhode Island and Orlando, Florida to play in a Grand Prix, and plenty of others in Richmond alone have traveled much farther than that. Because of the level of competition and the travel that’s usually required, there are a few ways you can prepare. Let’s hear from some of the more competitive local players and how they prepare for this level of competition.

Choose your weapon!

Q: How do you prepare for a Grand Prix? In terms of choosing a deck, practicing, etc?

Daniel D’Amato: I decide a deck two weeks out, test sideboarded games especially, and consider different flex spots in the mainboard to finalize a list 1 week in advance.

Charles League: I try to read articles to find out what the top decks are. I’ll watch event roe-91-training-grounds.jpgcoverage, specifically of players who I respect playing those decks. If time permits, I play online in competitive leagues.

Orlando Lucas: Set up a testing group 3-4 days a week, play online, and read up on everything and watch streams.

Wyatt Plott: Get a lot of reps in with the deck I want to play, and play it online to get more matches in. Play in person and just do post-sideboard games to find a good plan for the expected metagame. Read articles to see what other people might be playing: don’t necessarily copy the lists but update them.

Pierson Geyer: I try to play in a weekday and weekend event to get some real practice in. Experience and performance are both important, so it helps to get a feel for your deck. I don’t recommend entirely online testing, because the human face-to-face aspect of the game in an important one. I also try to read an article or two about the format: knowing what other decks are out there will help you prepare.

Q: Travelling and logistics are also important. What do you recommend for getting to the event, and how can you be on top of your game throughout the weekend?

David Beniamino: Find someone else to do the driving. Get your own bed at the hotel, a restless night is not worth it. Make sure you know where to park and how much it will cost, so you’re not late. Play throughout the year to earn byes, they can make all the difference at a Grand Prix.

Andrew Black: Pack deodorant, book your travel ahead of time, drink water, and get Image (2).jpgplenty of sleep.

Adam Bialkowski: Never expect to win. Focus on one round at a time and try to have fun! GPs are like mini vacations.

Wyatt Plott: Travel with friends to help with the strain of driving long hours, and travel with people that have similar goals for the event.

Orlando Lucas: Bring water and stay around friends so that you’re not stressed out during the tournament.

Pierson Geyer: Getting your transportation, lodging, and budget figured out helps reduce stress, and getting a good night’s sleep is vital to performing well. I usually keep some protein bars in my bag to keep my energy up. Having a plan lets you keep your mental endurance over a full day of 8 rounds.

Daniel D’Amato: During the tournament I’m drinking water, walking around, and staying focused between rounds.


End Step

Each one of these players from RVA or the VA Beach area has several Grand Prix under their belt (a few even appearing in Pro Tours!), so they really know their stuff when it comes to competitive events. Whether you’ve been to a few GPs or would like to try one out the next time we have one nearby, these insights will go a long way towards helping you prepare for your next competitive event! While this article focuses on the main event, there’s plenty to do at a Grand Prix besides compete. Starting in 2019, these events will be referred to as MagicFest, a name meant to more completely describe the experience. MagicFests will include premier events such as a Grand Prix, but the weekend contains so much more than that: card vendors, cosplayers, casual and competitive events in all formats. You don’t have to be on the hunt for Pro Points to attend a Grand Prix weekend, there’s something for everyone to be found in the event hall which makes for an incredible experience. Have any habits or practices of your own you’d like to share? Further questions about GPs or competitive events? As always, drop a comment below or on Facebook, or come visit Battlegrounds anytime.

Pass Turn.

Mathemagics, Part 1

by: Joseph Davis

Hi, I’m Joseph, and welcome to Mathemagics. The goal of this series is to help you level up your deck building whether you’re new to the game or just trying to improve your brews. We’ll be exploring important aspects of deck design and diving very lightly into the math behind it, so you know not just how to build a deck, but why some deckbuilding choices are better than others. First up is a classic question: how many lands should you play?


There are two important points to consider when thinking about how many lands to put in your deck. First, what is the critical number of lands to be able to reliably make a drop each turn? Your deck has a plan and some part of that plan needs to happen on time. Figure out which turn is the most mission critical to arrive at successfully, whether you only need 3 lands to play every card in your deck or you want to cast some more expensive spells. Second, what is the minimum number of lands possible to play in your deck so that you reliably hit that number? Lands are the worst draw late in the game, so you don’t want to play too many or else you’ll run out of good things to do.


As a very brief aside in case you want to follow along, we’ll be using a mathematical formula to help figure out how many lands we’ll draw on average for each turn from turn one to turn seven. This formula is called hypergeometric distribution. Here is a big chart which I’ll explain below:


Land count Turn 1 Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7
20 95.17% 82.42% 63.75% 43.91% 26.87% 14.28% 5.76%
21 96.02% 84.96% 67.92% 48.77% 31.28% 17.44% 7.34%
22 96.73% 87.22% 71.81% 53.53% 35.82% 20.84% 9.11%
23 97.33% 89.22% 75.40% 58.13% 40.39% 24.41% 11.03%
24 97.84% 90.96% 78.68% 62.50% 44.91% 28.06% 13.05%
25 98.26% 92.47% 81.63% 66.58% 49.29% 31.69% 15.10%
26 98.61% 93.76% 84.24% 70.33% 53.41% 35.21% 17.12%
27 98.89% 94.86% 86.53% 73.69% 57.19% 38.49% 19.04%
28 99.13% 95.78% 88.49% 76.62% 60.55% 41.44% 20.77%
29 99.32% 96.54% 90.13% 79.09% 63.40% 43.94% 22.24%
30 99.47% 97.16% 91.44% 81.06% 65.66% 45.93% 23.40%


Magic is a game which is played best 2 games out of 3. Because of this, any plan which works less than 66% of the time is not a good idea, since you want to be winning 2/3 of your games. This applies to lands more than anything, so for whatever critical turn is most important, you should plan to arrive at it on curve at least 66% of the time. Let’s go through some examples with up-and-coming archetypes in Standard:


Steam-kin Aggro

Marc Kaake – 4th place, SCG Standard Classic, Columbus OH

4x Fanatical Firebrand                        Sideboard:

4x Ghitu Lavarunner                           2x Banefire

4x Goblin Chainwhirler                       3x Diamond Mare

4x Runaway Steam-Kin                      3x Fight with Fire

4x Viashino Pyromancer                    3x Lava Coil

3x Experimental Frenzy                      3x Legion Warboss

4x Lightning Strike                              1x Shivan Fire

3x Risk Factor

4x Shock

4x Wizard’s Lightning

22x Mountain


This aggressive strategy relies on playing aggressively on turns 1, 2, and 3 – playing out hasty creatures or deploying burn spells to clear the path or deal damage to the opponent. A big tempo swing usually comes on turn 3, when Goblin Chainwhirler hits the battlefield, clearing the way of tokens and pushing through an extra point of damage on the opposing player and any planeswalkers they’ve played. The deck does not have any real acceleration to it and relies heavily on hitting its land drops naturally but cannot afford to draw too many or it will lose tempo and putter out. According to our chart, this deck should be playing 21 lands since it cannot accelerate itself ahead of the normal behavior of drawing 1 card and playing 1 land per turn.


Mono Green Stompy

William McDonald – Top 32, SCG Team Open, Columbus OH

2x Ghalta, Primal Hunger                   Sideboard:

4x Jadelight Ranger                            2x Carnage Tyrant

1x Kraul Harpooner                            2x Deathgorge Scavenger

4x Llanowar Elves                              2x Kraul Harpooner

4x Merfolk Branchwalker                   4x Prey Upon

4x Nullhide Ferox                               3x Thrashing Brontodon

4x Pelt Collector                                 2x Vivien Reid

4x Steel Leaf Champion

2x Territorial Allosaurus

4x Thorn Lieutenant

1x Thrashing Brontodon

3x Vine Mare

23x Forest


This deck is built around curving into big nasty hexproof threats and the key number for this deck is 4. At 4 mana they can cast both Vine Mare and Nullhide Ferox to curve out into Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Looking back at the table above, you’ll see this deck will want to end up at 25 lands so that it can reliably hit these threats on time. Green has the ability to play creatures which accelerate their mana curve though. Playing Llanowar Elves is about half as good as playing a forest, since it does add an extra mana source, but it has summoning sickness and dies to removal. Because of this we can treat a deck with 4 copies of Llanowar Elves as needing 2 fewer lands to really work well. You will find mono green decks playing 23 lands comfortably due to the presence of Llanowar Elves, plus any other creatures with Explore that will help smooth their draws, such as Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger.


Esper Control

Orlando Lucas

Top 16 – SCG Standard Classic, Columbus, OH

1x Chromium, the Mutable                             4x Glacial Fortress

4x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria                          4x Island

3x Cast Down                                                 4x Isolated Chapel

4x Chemister’s Insight                                    1x Plains

1x Disdainful Stroke                                       3x Swamp

2x Essence Scatter                                        4x Watery Grave

3x Moment of Craving                                    Sideboard:

3x Ritual of Soot                                             1x Arguel’s Blood Fast

2x Search for Azcanta                                    2x Disdainful Stroke

4x Sinister Sabotage                                       2x Duress

3x Syncopate                                                  2x Fungal Infection

3x Vraska’s Contempt                                    2x Invoke the Divine

4x Drowned Catacomb                                   1x Negate

2x Evolving Wilds                                            1x Ritual of Soot

1x Field of Ruin                                               2x The Eldest Reborn

2x Vona, Butcher of Magan


The control deck in the new meta, piloted to great success by a local player from the VA beach area, looks like it will be an Esper (blue white black) deck featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria plus a lot of counterspells and removal spells. This deck relies very heavily on hitting a sweeper (Ritual of Soot) or removal (Vraska’s Contempt) in order to avoid dying. They also have very powerful threats and board control to take control of the game on turn 5 (Teferi, Vona). This deck needs to reach turn 5 on time so it can deploy stabilizers such as Teferi or Ritual of Soot. Running the math as shown in the table above would suggest this deck should be playing 30 lands! The trick that blue decks have up their sleeve is that they can draw extra cards and get ahead of the curve with extra chances to draw a land. Cards like Chemister’s Insight and Search for Azcanta will usually end up drawing the equivalent of 2 extra cards by turn 5. If we count Chemister’s Insight, Search for Azcanta, and Sinister Sabotage (all with effects that let us look at extra cards and find lands) as 1/3 of a land drop, similar to how I mentioned Llanowar Elves is equivalent to ½ a land drop, we can safely run 27 lands in a deck like this one.


When building your next deck, keep these principles in mind, and ask yourself these questions:

1) What is the critical turn I need to hit (3, 4, 5)?

2) Do I have any mana acceleration (mana creatures, artifacts which tap for mana)?

3) Do I have any ways to draw extra cards or filter what I draw (surveil, explore, card draw spells)?


From there, start at 21, 25, or 30 lands and then fill that many lands or land effects. Mana accelerants should count for half of a land per copy, and card draw should count as a third of a land, since they do not replace lands directly but rather increase your likelihood of drawing them. If you have cards which draw you lands directly, or directly put lands into play, consider what mana level you need to hit to reliably play them and avoid going below that number. For instance, if you have 4 District Guides in your deck, you should still not go below 21 lands, since you’ll need to hit 3 to use the Guides themselves. I hope you’ve enjoyed your first lesson in Mathemagics, I’ll be back with more soon!


10 Cards To Play at the PPTQ

By Myles Miller

This article drops the day before Guilds of Ravnica officially releases, and I don’t know about you but I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the new set. I hope you got the chance to get out and play in at least one prerelease event and play with some awesome new Ravnica cards, but if not I’ve got some great news for you! This Saturday, Battlegrounds will be continuing their tradition of hosting the season’s first PPTQ, where competitors will play some Guilds of Ravnica sealed format at the first official event using the newest set.

For those of you unfamiliar, PPTQ is an acronym: Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. The winner of this event receives an invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifer, which sends a few top-performing players to Magic’s biggest stage: the Pro Tour. With a prize like that, you’ll probably find most of Richmond’s best players at this event, and if you’ve been looking for a chance to upgrade from FNM and take a step into the deep end of competitive Magic, this is exactly the event you want to play in.

This event, as I said, will be Guilds of Ravnica sealed. If you got the chance to play at prerelease, you’ve already gotten some experience building sealed decks with these new cards. But regardless, this article is to help you prepare to bring your best game to the tournament. I’m not going to talk about the big powerhouse cards in this set: mythic rare cards will usually overpower any game in which they’re played, rare cards are typically very strong and help you decide which colors to use when building your deck, and even most uncommons in this set are extremely powerful and will help you decide which guild is the strongest in your sealed pool. That being said, you can’t build an entire deck out of rares and uncommons. You’ve got to include some commons, the meat-and-potatoes of any sealed deck. In this article, I want to point out some of the more useful commons that you might hope to see in your packs: these will help you flesh out your deck and make it all come together. I’m going to highlight one card from each color and one card from each guild that will help you put together a full 40 card deck and go toe-to-toe with the competition. Let’s get started.





Parhelion Patrol is a really strong common in white for a variety of reasons. It’s got flying, which makes it hard to block, so it’ll be able to chip in a fair amount of damage over your opponent’s blockers. Vigilance means Parhelion Patrol can both attack and block, or even be used for the convoke mechanic after attacking. And finally, it’s got the new keyword Mentor, which lets you make a smaller creature a bit bigger. A lot of cards in this new set create 1/1 tokens with lifelink, and you know what’s better than a 1/1 with lifelink? A 2/2 with lifelink. Fly to victory, and train your army while you’re at it.



After playing a couple games at prerelease this weekend, I can say with some confidence that if you’re in a blue deck of any kind, you want as many of this card as you can find. A 3/4 creature with flying is no joke, and it’ll even make sure the next one or two cards you draw are cards you actually want to draw. If you’re playing Dimir, you’ll likely have other cards that care about Surveil, or if you’re playing Izzet you might not mind putting a card with Jump-Start into your graveyard to use later on. Your opponent will feel like they’re trapped in the art of this card when this is staring them down from your battlefield.





            The actual best black common is Deadly Visit, but taking up space on this page to tell you to play a powerful removal spell seems like a waste. So instead, let’s talk about a less obvious choice: Moodmark Painter. This is a 4 mana 2/3, similar to the stats you get on Parhelion Patrol, but Moodmark Painter itself doesn’t have flying or any other evasion. Instead, you’re giving a significant boost to a threat you already have in play, pumping up it’s power based on how many creatures you have in your graveyard, and granting menace to push that damage through. In a typical limited game, Undergrowth usually comes out to about 2 or 3, and with menace added you can either force damage through to your opponent, or take multiple blockers off your opponent’s board.

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We’ve already looked at a creature with Mentor, but hey it’s a really good mechanic in an aggressive limited deck. Most of the cards with Mentor printed on them have the notable downside of having a low toughness, making them easy to block and kill when they attack. Wojek Bodyguard is one of the few creatures that gets around that: with a solid statline of 3/3, this soldier will be able to survive combat, as well as put counters on most of the rest of your creatures. It’s dangerous to go alone, take this! No, really, take this with you, he’s scared to attack by himself.




Convoke is the only guild mechanic making a repeat performance in Guilds of Ravnica, and that’s because we already know it’s sweet. If you’re building a Selesnya deck, you’re going to be using your creatures to call out some huge threats way earlier than your opponent. I mean, look at this Siege Wurm, he’s huge! This is a really solid card for any green deck: a 5/5 body paired with trample is already a solid threat. Pair it with convoke, allowing you to cast this card as early as turn 4? Seems like a pretty good way to win a game of Magic.


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The Boros Legion is the guild of aggression, and uses the keyword Mentor. A Boros deck is going to come right out the gates swinging, looking to hit your opponents hard and fast, and use the Mentor ability to make your threats, well, more threatening. Skyknight Legionnaire is exactly the kind of card you want for an aggressive start. Flying makes it hard to block, haste lets it come across the battlefield right away, and 2 power is a fair amount of damage, but still low enough to be able to benefit from your other creatures with Mentor. Be on the lookout for these if you’re trying to build a Boros deck. Otherwise be prepared to deal with them.





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I had initially picked Artful Takedown as my spotlight card for House Dimir, and that card is still one of my favorite combat tricks in the set. But this card impressed me quite a bit in prerelease games, enough to put it to the top of the list. Whisper Agent is everything you want in a Dimir deck. It’s got flash, so you can surprise your opponent with an unexpected blocker or get a Surveil trigger at any time. Having the option to Surveil on your opponent’s turn will work very well with other cards that care about when you do it, and can also just make sure your next draw will be useful to you. Besides, 3 mana for a 3/2 isn’t a bad rate in this format. Don’t let this secret agent catch you off guard.



Why is this card a common? I don’t know. When I was looking for an Izzet card to spotlight, I initially passed over Sonic Assault simply because I could have sworn it was an uncommon. This card exemplifies everything the Izzet League wants to accomplish in a game. It can get a blocker out of the way, it can stop a creature from attacking you, it deals direct damage to your opponent, you can cast it at any time, and it’s got Jump-Start. In a guild that cares about casting instants and sorceries and excels at chipping away at your opponent’s life total, Sonic Assult is the real deal. Plus, look at that sweet art. It probably makes for a great foil.



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The Golgari Swarm believes in the power of the circle of life. “The dead gain new purpose here.” says the flavor text on our next spotlight card, and boy do the Golgari mean it. Undergrowth gives a benefit to your spells that grows with the number of creatures in your graveyard, and Rhizome Lurcher is a perfect example. I mentioned previously that you can typically expect an Undergrowth value of 2 or 3 when casting Moodmark Painter. If that’s true, you can probably expect your Rhizome Lurcher to be a 5/5 or larger by the time you play it. For only 4 mana, you can get quite a large body, and get some revenge for the creatures your opponent already destroyed.



The Selesnya Conclave works in harmony to achieve great things. In the case of prerelease weekend, what they achieved was winning a lot of games with the help of this card. Rosemane Centaur is certainly a very solid creature, a 4/4 that can attack AND block makes combat difficult for your opponent. Not to mention this card has the same benefit as the several other creatures in Guilds of Ravnica that have vigilance: they can attack and then be used to convoke out a new threat in your second main phase. Any deck including green and white will be happy to include Rosemane Centaur and stomp out the competition.




Which guild are you looking forward to representing at the PPTQ this weekend? Did you pull off any awesome plays at the prerelease? Do you have any other questions about PPTQs and how they work? Drop a comment here, or on Facebook, or drop by the store anytime. See you on the battlefield this weekend!