As the Ravnica Allegiance previews keep rolling in we’ve seen a bunch of awesome new things; new guild mechanics, new takes on old planeswalkers, new guild leaders, throwbacks, high profile reprints, new dual land art and more. There’s no doubt that Standard is awesome right now and Ravnica Allegiance looks like it is going to keep that ball rolling.
Today I’m here to tell you to forget all that for a moment, because the best card in the set is a Grizzly Bears.
That’s right, a Grizzly Bears.
Not a cool multicolored planeswalker or guild leader. Not a wild new split card. Not some new pushed mythic.
Well... I guess technically it’s an Elf Crab Warrior, but... wait what the hell is an Elf Crab Warrior?
Growth-Chamber Guardian is the best card in Ravnica Allegiance.
Rarely do we see a card that can do almost everything for such a low cost - Growth-Chamber Guardian is the complete package.
It’s cheap. The barrier for entry into Standard decklists shrinks the farther down the mana curve you go. Being a 4-drop or a 5-drop in a world full of awesome four and 5-drops can make it very hard to break through into decklists. When it comes to one and 2-drops however, there’s quite the demand. We’ve been playing Merfolk Branchwalker in our Standard decks for god’s sake!
It’s card advantage. Not only are two mana cards desirable, ones that generate card advantage are often format-defining. Looking for a few examples? How about Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, Squadron Hawk, etc. Like Squadron Hawk, Growth-Chamber Guardian is eventually capable of being four cards.
It’s a threat. Unlike Squadron Hawk slowly pecking somebody to death however, Growth-Chamber Guardian can actually kill someone fairly quickly. Being a 2/2 for two mana is the baseline, but being a 4/4 is no joke. With enough time and mana, your initial two mana investment can pan out into four 4/4s. That is an absurd amout of output for only one card.
It’s also important to understand the effect the adept ability has on the game even when you aren’t activating it. The threat of activation makes blocking much more difficult for your opponent, and once they don’t block you are free to use your mana on other things. And if they do block? Free card advantage!
Imagine this simple scenario:
You play Growth-Chamber Guardian on turn two.
Your opponent plays a Merfolk Branchwalker on their turn two, putting on a +1/+1 counter from explore.
You untap, play your third land, and attack.
Can your opponent ever block here? If they block, you get to adapt to grow your Growth-Chamber Guardian, get a new Growth-Chamber Guardian, and kill their Merfolk Branchwalker for only three mana - an excellent turn three.
Adapt has the same sort of effect on instants you play as well. You can leave mana open for a removal spell or counterspell and if you don’t need it can adapt at the end of your opponents turn. This sort of flexibility is awesome, as it also allows you to play around your opponent’s removal spells and activate at just the right time. If adept was sorcery speed it would be very unimpressive.
But that’s not all!
Growth-Chamber Guardian doesn’t care about how it gets its +1/+1 counters, just that it does. This means we can trigger the search ability in other ways, without paying the three mana for adapt. There are a number of good options for doing this in Standard, but the most exciting is another Ravnica Allegiance card from the Simic’s Gruul neighbors:
With a Rhythm of the Wild in play, you can play Growth-Chamber Guardian for two mana, choose to riot a +1/+1 counter onto it, and then go get another one! That’s eight mana for four 3/3s, broken up as you choose. You can also just give the later ones haste if you’ve got the spare mana and then adapt them the old fashioned way. This is card advantage not usually seen in Gruul, giving an aggressive deck a very powerful card advantage engine that plays perfectly with cards they already want to play.
All of this from a 2-drop!
With Llanowar Elves available to cast Rhythm of the Wild on turn two as well as big fatties like Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Steel Leaf Champion, Nullhide Ferox, Rekindling Phoenix, and Carnage Tyrant all in the format, a Gruul “Fires” deck seems very possible.
It looks innocent, but adding some value onto Essence Scatter (already a good card) is excellent. Pumping up one of your creatures is great, making this card an easy slot in to Mono-Blue Aggro, but gets even more exciting when the +1/+1 counter is doing more than just making your creature bigger.
Enter Growth-Chamber Guardian.
Remember what we were saying about being able to play adapt at instant speed being awesome? Growth-Chamber Guardian plays great with counterspells, acting like a sort of odd Tarmogoyf/Azure Mage hybrid that can both make card advantage and kill your opponent. Add this with other Simic cards that care about counters as well as the new Mystic Snake update Frilled Mystic and there may be some sort of cool Simic Tempo deck out there as well.
Speaking of guild team ups, the Boros mentor mechanic also plays great with Growth-Chamber Guardian.
With mana bases getting much better now having access to the full sets of Shock lands and Buddy lands, the idea of playing three color decks starts to get much more palatable. Naya has a lot of great aggressive options, with Growth-Chamber Guardian fitting perfectly on curve with Tajic, Legion's Edge for an awesome turn three.
Naya decks are often built as sort of “good stuff” decks, and there’s a lot of good stuff to go around. Growth-Chamber Guardian filling out the early parts of the curve while still being relevant later in the game and providing card advantage Naya doesn’t usually get while also synergizing well is great.
Or maybe Red isn’t necessary?
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants seems custom fit for Growth-Chamber Guardian. The +1 ability gives it the counters it so desperately craves, while Growth-Chamber Guardian keeps the creatures coming for Ajani to give counters to. And if they are able to kill your Growth-Chamber Guardian before you’re able to get the chain going? Ajani can bring it right back!
Aggressive Selesnya decks are another guild that doesn’t really get good card advantage, making Growth-Chamber Guardian yet another good fit.
Of course, Growth-Chamber Guardian can also just stay home with its Simic friends too.
Simic is always hugely predicated on +1/+1 counter synergies, pushing Hadana's Climb right back into relevance. Hadana's Climb curves perfectly with Growth-Chamber Guardian, and if you follow up with Zegana, Utopian Speaker that’s a hell of a curve.
It’s hard to know exactly what a Simic +1/+1 counter deck is going to look like without seeing the full set, but it’s quite the start. There’s also no reason that you can’t splash another color in there as well!
Bursting With Possibilities
All this excitement for a Grizzly Bears?
Growth-Chamber Guardian is the truth. The card is individually powerful, doing pretty much all you can ask of a two-drop, while also synergizing with a handful of other great cards in Standard. That’s a pretty awesome recipe for success.
We’ve hardly scratched the surface today with the possibilities that Growth-Chamber Guardian has in Standard, but there’s no doubt it’s going to be a format defining card. Start brewing with it now and make sure you’re not left behind!