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Advanced Jumpstart: The Orzhov Syndicate


The Orzhov Syndicate - a business held under the guise of a religion, ruled by ghosts and the undead. Died without clearing your debts? No excuse. You're still bound to your debts even long after your demise. All business on the plane of Ravnica is interlinked with the guild of Black and White, and so too is this week's Advanced Jumpstart.

Last week I took some time with the Azorius Senate but now it's time for us to dive right on into the second of the ten guilds of Ravnica Advanced Jumpstart packs: The Orzhov Syndicate. Like last week, we're going to be focusing on individual sets rather than picking every single Orzhov or thematically related card from the overall block (sorry Twilight Drover). Obviously, the packs in this article are just to form a baseline of ideas for how you might go about building custom Jumpstart packs of your own. Make them yours, as I've made these ones mine!

Let's dive right on in starting with the classic set of Guildpact:

The Orzhov guild in Guildpact was a bit of an oddity at times. The guild mechanic in this set - haunt - was a strange and convoluted mess of a mechanic, and Wizards has stated so themselves. This is largely due to things like memory issues and the effects themselves generally not being so great. So generally, I tried to avoid the majority of them, but a few are actually quite great. Blind Hunter is a solid attacker that can drain life even after death and Orzhov Pontiff showed up quite a bit in Modern once upon a time.

Angel of Despair
Ghost Council of Orzhova

Many of these other cards were all-stars in their time. Castigate, Mortify, Teysa, and Angel of Despair were all mind-blowing powerhouses during the original Ravnica block Standard. The cards are actually pretty fantastic even today! Mortify was recently reprinted in Ravnica Allegiance and Castigate still sees plenty of Pauper play. Angel of Despair has been retired in favor of Ashen Rider in Eternal formats these days, but it was a huge player in the Solar Flare deck of its time.

Similarly, Ghost Council of Ozhova was an absolute house in its time. While many cards since have totally outclassed it - including its Gatecrash counterpart - Ghost Dad was a really sweet deck in its time. The centerpiece was obviously the Ghost Council, but it played with a number of the Kamigawa spirits that were legal at the time, such as Thief of Hope, to slowly whittle away opponents' life totals.

Classic Ravnica block is one of my favorites of all time, and the Orzhov were a big reason for that for me. That said, let's check out how a Gatecrash/Dragon's Maze pack might look:

Orzhov in the Return to Ravnica block relied heavily on the extort mechanic. This means that when you cast a spell, you can pay a White or Black mana to drain each opponent one life. Even better, each extort ability stacks with one another, making simple bears like Syndic of Tithes a house when combined with other extort heavyweights like Blind Obedience.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Crypt Ghast

Most of the cards in this pack are honestly pretty standard Limited style cards, so there isn't too much to talk about. And I mean, what else is there really to say about the incredible cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Obzedat, Ghost Council? They both beat face and continually rip apart opponents' life totals. You can even play Sin Collector ahead of time to take any removal that might be waiting in the wings of your opponent's hand!

The really cool card here, in my opinion, is Crypt Ghast. Admittedly, when going through the cards for this set, I almost excluded the card. It's an absolute monster of a card in virtually any Mono-Black Commander deck, but with so few Swamps is it really worth it? Well, first of all there are multiple cards here with extort, and the Ghast helps pay for those costs, but that's not all! Debt to the Deathless is an excellent - if expensive - finisher, and Crypt Ghast helps pay for that handily. If worse comes to worst, you can always use the excess mana to help pay for the abilities of Vizkopa Guildmage and sap your opponent of their life faster than you might otherwise.

Now let's check out the Ravnica Allegiance pack!

I don't think I've ever talked in my articles about how much I loved Ravnica Allegiance Limited but I REALLY loved Ravnica Allegiance limited. Guilds felt somewhat ho-hum to me and a few guilds are arguably stone unplayable. Ravnica Allegiance, on the other hand, had tons of death with fantastic gameplay and plenty of solid interplay with all the guilds. And boy let me tell you I adored playing Orzhov in it.

There's just tons of great cards! Ill-Gotten Inheritance slowly drains your opponents, premium removal all-star Mortify returns, and Ethereal Absolution was nigh unbeatable. One of my personal favorites, though, was absolutely Grasping Thrull. At five mana, you'd think it wouldn't do quite enough. As it happens, the format was just slow enough that five mana for a 3/3 flier that drains your opponent felt great and was even better in multiples. While I'm trying to avoid multiples, we can instead focus on other powerful cards like Seraph of the Scales and Revive // Revenge. Have you ever cast a Revenge at full life? Let me tell you it feels incredible.

I do think of all the packs, this feels the most like a more generic Limited experiences of largely creatures and some good removal, but that's fine. Sometimes simplicity is great and I think that's what made Ravnica Allegiance such a great limited format for me. I'd like to think this pack does that experience justice and is a worthwhile addition to whatever pack you end up pairing it with.

Last but not least, let's put them all together:

This pack is just a who's who of some of the coolest and best Orzhov cards across all of the blocks. Most of these cards are ones we've already talked about in some capacity, but by and large it's all the cards you'd normally expect. Some favorites might be notably absent here, but that's generally due to considerations like mana curve and creature count.

Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Ethereal Absolution

There is, however, a really sweet interaction here that I think is worth mentioning. That's Teysa, Orzhov Scion working really well with Ethereal Absolution. Not only does the workhorse enchantment often wipe out a lot of your opponent's board, but it also fills your board up with flying tokens that are both White and Black. This means you can make three tokens, sacrifice them to Teysa to get rid of a problem creature that's not dying to Ethereal Absolution, and then you still get three White spirit tokens out of the deal.

And so that wraps up our time with the Orzhov guild! Next week I'll be tackling yet another guil- hmmm, wait, it appears there's a blank spot on the Tablet of the Guilds. Not sure what's up with that. Guess I'll have to do some sleuthing. Perhaps this is the fabled House Dimir that's spoken of only in whispers and rumors? You'll just have to check back next week and find out!

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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