Courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Art by Cliff Childs

The cards have been spoiled, the materials have been sent, and another Magic: the Gathering release event is upon us. The second set in the Return to Ravnica block, Gatecrash, hits the streets to open February, and with it comes a re-introduction of the five guilds not featured in the first set. While I maintain my allegiance to the Izzet League, I must admit some of the other guilds do hold appeal for me, and all of them warrant examination.

We’ll start with the Gruul Clans. A loose affiliation of rowdy and rather monstrous bands of warriors united under the massive cyclops Borborygmos, I think they would only be out-partied by the Rakdos. Gruul is all about big game-ending creatures, from dragons to hydras, and I feel it will pair very well with two of the guilds introduced in the previous set, Golgari and Selesnya. The new Gruul mechanic, Bloodrush, ensures that attacking creatures could always get bigger than the opponent expects. Yet, I don’t feel the Clans are for me. I like dragons and massive creatures as much as the next Planeswalker, but I also enjoy coming at my challenges from areas other than the “smash face” angle. Plus, with many saying Gruul is “the guild to beat” in Limited engagements, my inclination is to invest in another guild.

The Simic Combine feels like a cousin to the Izzet League. This may be due to many of their creatures being somewhat odd combinations, like Crocodile Frogs and Crab Sharks. But rather than Frankensteinian mad science at work, the Simic seek to bring the natural world into the cityscape of Ravnica in a way that may not be as harmonious as the Selesnya would like, but still ensures the preservation of non-constructed life. Simic creatures Evolve, growing stronger as larger ones enter the field. I can see how advantageous this could be. However, I don’t feel quite as drawn to the Combine as I am to some of the other guilds.

I’ve always been fascinated by decks that marry the colors of black and white. [mtg_card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/mtg_card] remains one of my favorite Planeswalkers. While not what I would consider my primary colors, the dichotomy of white’s ability to defend and gain life and black’s tendency to erode and corrupt is intriguing. So it is with the Orzhov Syndicate. Part church and part organized crime family, the Orzhov often make you pay for what you want. Attack an Orzhov player and you may lose all of your creatures. Attempt to damage them directly and they’ll gain life in response. The new Extort system allows an Orzhov player to supplement the cost of a spell with additional mana that not only increases their own life, but reduces that of the opponent. I feel Orzhov may be one of the most underestimated guilds in all of Ravnica, and I’m curious if I can prove it.

Slightly more prevalent than my fascination with dichotomy is my love of stealth, counter-intelligence, and espionage. Games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Thief, and Metal Gear Solid always get my attention, as has House Dimir. Ravnica’s guild of spies and assassins relies on deception and misdirection, as well as nasty tactics like milling an opponent’s library, forcing discards, and making creatures impossible to block or even target with spells. And if a Dimir agent gets a hit in on you, it could cost more than life points; Ciphers attach to creatures like enchantments but cannot be removed without removing the creature themselves, repeating their effects every time the creature does damage. My attraction to the Dimir may help explain my trepidation towards the Gruul; I prefer subtle tactics to overt ones.

Last but never least, the Boros Legion returns in Gatecrash. While the Orzhov may represent the most insidious aspects of an organized spiritual movement, the Boros are more of the fire and brimstone types, or rather fire and sword. Lead by a literal archangel and commanding an army of dedicated soldiers, Boros has just as much aggression potential as the Gruul clans. It combines the direct damage of red with the defenses and life gain of white, and Battalion allows groups of creatures working together to surge forward in battle. On top of all of that, I feel they may work quite well with Izzet. After all, Boros are all about righteous fire, and what fire burns hotter than lightning conjured by magic?

All in all, Gatecrash looks to be an exciting and flavorful set. I think I will be playing Boros in at least one release event, and if I manage to pair up with someone for Two-Headed Giant, I may choose Orzhov or Dimir. I have Standard deck ideas that include all of those three guilds… more on that next week.

If you’re playing in the Gatecrash release events, what guild have you chosen and why? If you haven’t picked one yet, don’t worry – you can learn more about them here, or even take a quiz to place you in one. Good luck!