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.
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.
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.
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.
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!