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Future Sight

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With Guilds of Ravnica sort of a disappointment for me in terms of legendary creatures that inspire new decks, and Ultimate Masters being a set full of reprints, there isn’t much new content for me to work with. I don’t want to take a week off and with the near future and recent past appearing to be dry wells, I want to look a bit farther into the future to get prepared for the next set: Ravnica Allegiance. Allegiance is going to have lockets, guildmages, and legendary creatures for the Azorius, Rakdos, Simic, Gruul, and Orzhov guilds. This means new commanders, it means new keyword abilities but it also means old keyword abilities. I’m going to look at the old abilities and how the new keyword abilities in Guilds of Ravnica mesh with the old ones to try and predict which cards we’ll want to build with in our 75% decks when Ravnica Allegiance is fully spoiled and maybe buy them now while they’re cheaper. First, let’s look at the recent past to try and predict the near future.

Guilds of Guilds of Ravnica

Some of the guild abilities in Guilds of Ravnica mesh well with the other two keyword abilities. Some were repeated and some didn’t have a lot to do with the old abilities.

Boros - Radiance / Battalion / Mentor

There is a ton of synergy between Battalion and Mentor and if you were built to take advantage of attacking early and often with enough creatures to trigger Battalion to get benefits from Frontline Medic or Legion Loyalist, buffing those smaller creatures with Mentor doesn’t suck and a few people saw benefits from upgrading their commander to Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice.

Dimir - Transmute / Cipher / Surveil

There isn’t much solidarity here between abilities. Cipher, in particular, is odd because it requires you to attack in Dimir which is typically a control color combination. Transmute and Surveil are both about card selection and filling the graveyard and if you have a third or fourth color(s) to add to the mix and take advantage of the yard, like Transmute plus Undergrowth or Surveil plus Jump-Start, you have more synergy than you do between guild abilities here. Still, card selection is important and new Dimir builders can Transmute for an Etrata that has been shuffled in, for example.

Golgari - Dredge / Scavenge / Undergrowth

This is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of predictive power. Radiance and Battalion couldn’t have been more different and I didn’t have much hope for a mechanic that lined up with either, but Mentor delighted me. Dredge and Scavenge were very synergistic and getting Undergrowth on top is a delight. It seems like guilds that are optimized for synergy in Limited have less coherence between abilities and guilds that are goodstuff guilds in formats like Commander have less synergy, which is fine. Golgari seems to buck this trend a bit and may trip me up when I try to figure out what Allegiance will bring, but I’m glad we have this cohesion and a few new good Undergrowth cards to play with for decks like Meren.

Izzet - Replicate / Overload / Jump Start

Izzet builders didn’t have much continuity to look forward to as these abilities don’t synergize very well beyond being in decks where you want to play spells. Jump-Start synergizes with Dimir’s Surveil better than it does with Overload, but builders of Izzet decks have access to a few new Jump-Start cards like Risk Factor that will play well. If the new Simic mechanic, for example, doesn’t have anything to do with +1/+1 counters directly but is at least pulling in the same direction, we could be in good shape still despite no direct synergy.

Selesnya - Convoke / Populate / Convoke

While thematically, the abilities revolve around tokens, there is some confusion. Are we going to wide or tall? Or both (you can go both and my Selesnya decks do - tall for combat and wide for Glare of Subdual on their blockers and Craterhoof purposes)? Still, they didn’t re-invent the wheel here and made sure they dealt with tokens by bringing back a fine mechanic in Convoke, which I’m happy about.

The Future?

I want to see if we can try to predict the kinds of cards we’ll likely want in the future.

Azorius - Forecast / Detain

I think Detain has a better chance than Forecast of getting re-used and I wouldn’t be that upset if it did. Detain isn’t used a ton in Commander except for people blinking Lavinia of the Tenth, which is easy to do in Azorius and is demoralizing to opponents but mana-intensive the wider they go. Forecast isn’t used much in our format - even strong cards like Proclamation of Rebirth don’t impact things much. We’re left with a few scenarios. Either they give us an ability synergistic with or similar to the previous two, they re-use Detain, or they give us a new and distinct ability. I think of all of those scenarios, something similar to Detain or at least synergistic with it is most likely given how “Azorius” rounding up and jailing offenders on the other team feels and how Boros seems to be getting in on the fun with cards like Citywide Bust, Crush Contraband, and Collar the Culprit. Is Boros taking over the policing aspect or will Azorius pull its own weight? What I do know is that “jailing” cards is a theme we see a lot in Azorious and here are some strategies that are likely to get a few new cards and maybe a new commander in Ravnica Allegiance.

Lavinia Lockdown: Lavinia is good at the helm of her own deck or in other decks that either are or contain Azorius such as Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician or Brago, King Eternal. I would expect a Guild Kit to contain a few cheap ways to get some mileage out of Lavinia but the cheap ways are mostly in Innistrad block or they’re Mistmeadow Witch so you may have to buy everything except Ghostway, which I think is a possible Guild Kit reprint.

Shopping List - Deadeye Navigator, Mistmeadow Witch, Eldrazi Displacer, Panharmonicon, Flickerform

Sphinxes: Sphinx decks, whether tribal or not, have no shortage of big, dumb, expensive creatures. If I knew more about lore, I’d be able to tell you what I thought Azor appearing in Ixalan meant for Ravnica but I don’t so I can’t. I think I read that Assassin's Trophy depicts Isperia being killed by Vraska so I don’t expect a new Isperia card in the set, so it’s hard to guess whether we’ll get a new Sphinx.

Shopping List - Urza's Incubator (if tribal), Sapphire Medallion, Herald's Horn, Gravitational Shift - also check out this page on EDHREC.

Taxation as a form of representation: Grand Arbiter decks are pretty annoying to play against and with Augustin dead and Return to Ravnica focusing more on the three pillars of Azor, I expect one of Isperia’s advisors could give us a similar effect to Augustin, or at least give us some new Enchantments or Sorceries for the deck.

Shopping List - Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Spelltithe Enforcer (Guild Kit?), Baral, Chief of Compliance, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

This isn’t the most 75% deck ever made but it might be with a new commander I can’t anticipate.

Top 5 Azorius-themed cards for a 75% deck

  1. Venser, the Sojourner
  2. Bribery
  3. Austere Command
  4. Hindering Light
  5. Lavinia of the Tenth

Gruul - Bloodthirst / Bloodrush

I don’t think either of these abilities is all that likely or unlikely to be re-used and it likely doesn’t matter either way. Bloodrush is a bit of a Bizarro Jump-Start but I don’t like discarding gas as much as I like re-buying spells with extra basics. There are 6 Gruul clans and the leaders challenge each other for supremacy and we haven’t seen much from two of the clans, Bolrac or Slizt. Slizt clan members are sneaky and use stealth to their advantage and we could see a Slizt leader in the new set which gives us new possibilities, a new ability, and maybe some sneaky gruul creatures. I also expect a bit of status quo, which is fine because Gruul does a lot well already.

Lands Matter: Gruul is very good at getting lands out, making use of them and getting them back from the graveyard. I don’t expect a third Borborygmos card but I do expect some good land synergies and will be surprised and saddened if we don’t get some new gas for those decks.

Shopping List - Life from the Loam (Wait for UMA to bring the price back down), Splendid Reclamation, Mina and Denn, Wildborn, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul Daya, Boundless Realms, Turntimber Sower.

Big Mana: There is no better ramp combination than Mana Flare meets Heartbeat of Spring. Big mana, no whammies decks are bound to have some decent top-end spells to help spend your mana and maybe, if we’re lucky, a new ramp spell that could be as popular as Cultivate or Farseek are now. If you have never built a deck like this, it’s very likely that you’re about to get a great excuse with a new commander or a few new staples.

Shopping List - Every hydra, Zendikar Resurgent, Hangarback Walker, Walking Ballista, Comet Storm, Strength of the Tajuru, Subterranean Tremors, Genesis Wave

Draggro: Dragons are not confined to Gruul but Gruul has a good combination of easy ramp, abundant mana for firebreathing and good Dragon commanders like Xenagos, God of Revels. I wouldn’t rule out a good dragon in the new set and maybe even more of an impetus to build the deck.

Shopping List - Etali, Primal Storm, Somberwald Sage/Shaman of Forgotten Ways, Bear Umbra (For the Hellkite Charger combo or just general value), Vizier of the Menagerie, also check out this page on EDHREC.

Top 5 Gruul-Themed cards for a 75% deck

  1. Rishkar's Expertise
  2. Boundless Realms
  3. Xenagos, God of Revels
  4. Perilous Forays
  5. Ramunap Excavator

Orzhov - Haunt / Extort

Haunt was a decent, but confusing mechanic and Extort was fairly miserable in Limited which makes me think both are basically ruled out but I could be wrong. I think we’ll get something new and similar to Extort but which is less irritating for Limited. I expect a good removal spell or two and maybe a sweeper. I don’t expect the mechanic to impact Commander a ton, although Extort was a welcome addition.

Lifegain: Orzhov is the premier lifegain guild and the Black helps the White quite a bit, especially by turning excess life into cards or by draining their life and making it your own. I have to imagine lifegain will feature in new Orzhov cards considering how greedy the guild and its members are.

Shopping List - Dawn of Hope, Aetherflux Reservoir, Divinity of Pride, Erebos, God of the Dead, Serra Ascendant, Beacon of Immortality, Karlov of the Ghost Council

Spirits: Orzhov, since the days of haunt, has made us a lot of 1/1 spirits with flying and this mechanic has a lot of support. It’s ideal in Limited formats like Cube where you can support it easily with cards that are good in non-Orzhov decks and Lingering Souls can shine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few new cards for this sort of deck.

Shopping List - Ravos, Soultender, Skullclamp, Anointed Procession, Blood Artist/Zulaport Cutthroat, Suture Priest, Dictate of Erebos

Top 5 Orzhov-themed cards for a 75% deck

  1. Crypt Ghast
  2. Blind Obedience
  3. Black Market
  4. Exsanguinate
  5. Merciless Eviction

Rakdos - Hellbent / Unleash

These two abilities don’t really synergize much except in that you’re incentivized to dump your hand and play stuff on curve, gaining speed at the expense of being able to defend yourself. Rakdos was killed but returned and I don’t know enough lore to know whether we expect a new guild leader. I don’t know if any of the cultists who ate Lizolda will feature, or Exava will be back, or what. Rakdos decks have a tendency to win through attrition and Faustian bargains with huge demons.

Grenzo: Grenzo is a very popular deck and some of Rakdos’ creatures tend to be small but quick and fierce and fun to recur. If you haven’t built a Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck, it’s fun.

Shopping List - Goblin Cratermaker, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed (Wait for UMA to drop the price), Heartstone, Murderous Redcap, Zealous Conscripts/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Mad Auntie, Metallic Mimic.

Top 5 Rakdos-Themed cards for a 75% deck

  1. Master of Cruelties
  2. Sower of Discord
  3. Xantcha, Sleeper Agent
  4. Vial Smasher the Fierce
  5. Rakdos Charm

Simic - Graft / Evolve

These keyword abilities jive pretty well and I’m not going to be surprised to see one reused or a new one that deals with +1/+1 counters concocted. I think Simic decks tend to end up ug goodstuff and I would like to see a commander that encourages you to do something other than “ramp and control the board then win easily” which is how Simic has felt lately. I liked Simic back when it was unplayable during original Ravnica Standard and now it feels like I’m rooting for a team that’s part Yankees, part Patriots, part “bet they don’t pass line when you play Craps with friends and high fiving the dealer when they crap out.”

Simic is good, almost too good, but it’s rarely cards from Ravnica sets that make it this way. I’d like to see something akin to Voidslime and/or Plasm Capture and I’d like to see a variant of Simic Manipulator that was easier to use in Commander.

Draw your whole deck: Whether it’s Tatyova, Edric, or Kydele and Thrasios, Simic decks tend to be the “Laboratory Maniac” color combination. I don’t want to encourage this sort of building, per se, but I bet we get some cards to support it in the new set and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about them even though this isn’t a particularly 75% way to build.

Shopping List - Laboratory Maniac, Thrasios, Triton Hero, Blue Sun's Zenith, Arcanis the Omnipotent, some friends to replace the ones you’re going to lose.

Counters: I wish my Vorel deck were better and I wish I had an original idea for Ezuri that was better than just taking infinite turns. The truth is, the best “counters” deck is probably Atraxa but I don’t want to get into that mess. My Vorel deck might be more fun if I could use Helix Pinnacle more easily, but alas, I have to target more “fair” permanents like Champion of Lambholt and Master Biomancer. Counters are fun whether you’re Kraj, Vorel, or Ezuri and Simic has the goods.

Shopping List - Doubling Season, Vorel of the Hull Clade (for all of them), Champion of Lambholt, Gyre Sage, Simic Manipulator, Darksteel Reactor, Hardened Scales, Kalonian Hydra, Sage of Hours, Spike Weaver, Hangarback Walker, Mycoloth.

Top 5 Simic-Themed cards for a 75% deck

  1. Prime Speaker Zegana
  2. Simic Manipulator
  3. Gyre Sage
  4. Plasm Capture
  5. Mystic Snake

That does it for me! This went long and I won’t try to read the tea leaves again like this unless you really want me to. No decklist this week, but I’ll try and make it up to you next week with two. Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!