I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty excited about the new draft format after Dragon’s Maze gets released.
While I haven’t played a game of it, and you almost certainly haven’t either, there are a few things we know and a few nuggets of information we can pull from what we know about the last RGD draft format. While Return to Ravnica block draft is likely very different than last Ravnica block, and the cards are certainly on a very different power level, a few details will likely remain the same.
What we can learn from previous multicolor draft formats:
The first Ravnica block existed in a different time. It was printed in an age when anyone could happily power out seven and eight mana bombs on the back of bouncelands and signets without much threat of punishment from fast aggressive decks in the format. For those of us who like to durdle, this draft format was bliss.
The cards in Return to Ravnica block, however, seem to provide much more balance between aggro and control, and one will likely be able to draft either archtype. In triple RTR draft, a fast Rakdos deck could easily take down an 8-4, and some Selesnya decks were not far behind. The Boros and Gruul guilds from triple Gatecrash draft are similarly aggressive. This will form the basis of an interesting tension between hyper-aggressive Jund or Naya decks and slow, do-nothing decks that just want to play Cluestones and removal spells.
In the first Ravnica block (and in Invasion block draft, for that matter), you almost always drafted at least three colors. Frequently, you hoped to be solidly in a guild and just splash powerful cards from a third color, but you had plenty of drafts where you had to pick mana-fixing higher than normal to avoid a 6-6-6 manabase. I believe that this truth will remain in GDR draft.
It’s also interesting to note that cards will be available for any 3-color combination in each of the three packs. This was not the case in the first Ravnica block. The Selesnya guild, which was a powerhouse in RRR draft, got the shaft in RGD draft because there was no third color you could play to get meaningful cards in the second and third packs. If you tried GWU, you got no cards from the Gruul, Orzhov, or Izzet guilds in Guildpact. If you went with GWR or GWB, you received no help from the Rakdos, Simic, or Azorius guilds in the Dissension pack. For this reason, starting off in Selesnya in RGD draft was not generally a winning strategy. Wizards seems to have greatly improved upon the design from the first Ravnica block by releasing the first two sets in five-guild chunks. Regardless of what three color combination you are playing, there is at least one guild for you in each of the three packs.
While the Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash draft formats were both very good, and there are many powerful synergies between commons and uncommons within each of these sets, it is obvious that R&D also made sure to include cards from Gatecrash to play well with cards from Return to Ravnica and vice versa. Because some of these might not immediately be apparent, I want to look at some cards, mechanics, and guild pairings that work well together between the two sets.
Selesnya with Boros
Gatecrash provides a few additional token makers in the common slot, which is excellent. In particular, Knight Watch, which was largely featured as a late game Battalion enabler fits great in a Populate deck, and Beckon Apparition, which you formerly never wanted to play, can at least produce a Lantern Kami that you can start multiplying. At the uncommon slot, Miming Slime and Urbis Protector can create decently large tokens for Populating as well, with Rapid Hybridization deserving an honorable mention.
Massive Raid can reward you for flooding the field with Bird and Centaur tokens, and in general, the Battalion mechanic works well with the Populate mechanic, making Naya a natural fit. Some of the creatures with Battalion in Gatecrash are fine men but do not fit into the aggressive Boros shell, such as Nav Squad Commandos. These may fit well into a Naya deck with a populate subtheme.
Combining Selesnya with Boros means that your third guild will be Gruul, which also fits in well with the aggressive theme. The red Bloodrush cards didn’t mind making their way into Boros decks in triple Gatecrash draft, and now that you’ll likely be in three colors anyway, you won’t mind having some of the better green Bloodrush creatures. Chorus of Might also seems right at home in a deck utilizing both the Battalion and Populate mechanics.
Common Bond, which was already a very good combat trick, can work very well with the evolve creatures that grant a benefit to creatures bearing +1/+1 counters, such as Crowned Ceratok and Sapphire Drake.
Dimir with Golgari
Speaking of +1/+1 counters, the Scavenge mechanic may make the mill aspect of Dimir playable, provided you start milling yourself! Many of the Scavenge creatures from Return to Ravnica have pretty high costs associated with Scavenging, but a few (Sewer Shambler and Sluiceway Scorpion come to mind) have pretty aggressively costed abilities from the graveyard. This could make Dimir cards like Coerced Confession and Sage’s Row Denizen playable in such a way as to gain an incremental advantage. Coerced Confession in particular seems to reward having a bunch of Scavenge creatures in your deck, and it is playable whether you’re in the Dimir guild or not.
If you’re playing Dimir and Golgari together, you also pick up the Simic guild. As mentioned above, giving your creatures +1/+1 counters plays well with Crowned Ceratok and Sapphire Drake. I imagine a decent number of Dreg Manglers are going to be Scavenged to give a creature flying or trample in addition to the power/toughness bonus.
While we’re on the topic of Dimir, the strategy of milling one’s opponent also picks up some hits from the Return to Ravnica pack. Doorkeeper, Chronic Flooding, Psychic Spiral, and Crosstown Courier didn’t really have the support they needed in triple Return to Ravnica draft, but it’s possible that they could contribute heavily to a Dimir mill deck, which people will likely still try to play every once in a while, and will likely still be unplayable (…but hey, you’ve got to try, right? (No, you probably don’t.)).
In triple Return to Ravnica draft, UW flyers was a respectable archtype, headlined by the 2/3 Sunspire Griffin in the common slot. Adding black to the mix means we pick up some reasonable flyers from Gatecrash, such as Nightveil Spector and Kingpin’s Pet, and the Orzhov and Dimir guild mechanics can contribute heavily to this kind of strategy for different reasons. Extort can help lock up the game once the early game is passed, you have gotten in some damage, and you need to keep some of your guys back to block their creatures which may be overtaking yours, and the Cipher mechanic obviously works well with evasive creatures. I for one cannot wait to stick a Hands of Binding or Shadow Slice on a Sunspire Griffin!
Adding Smite and all of the good black removal to the mix can be a welcome addition as well, since this kind of deck can at times have difficulty with an opponent’s ground-based creatures which tend to be larger than Blue and White’s flying creatures in the later parts of the game. Playing Keymaster Rogue as a fairly aggressive evasive creature can also be good here, and the tempo loss of having to return a creature to your hand can be negated by return cheap Detain creatures. Value!
The most aggressive guild from Return to Ravnica has a few awkward pairings in terms of other guilds that it matches up with well. Splashing blue gives you Dimir cards which almost uniformly play poorly with a fast aggressive plan, although you do still have the ability to splash Chemister’s Trick or Teleportal to make sure your guys can get in for the last few points of damage. While splashing white gives you access to the Boros Legion, it also puts you into Orzhov, and the slow, grindy BW cards don’t really belong in a Rakdos deck either. Splashing green seems like a real possibility, since both the Gruul and Golgari guilds have aggressive components.
Since the guilds from Gatecrash do not add much to the typical Rakdos deck, and because having good mana is so important to quick decks in draft, it’s possible that a good Rakdos deck will require a player to pick up good cards in the first and third packs and just meander through the second pack taking red Bloodrush guys and mono-color removal. This might not be the worst plan considering how good Skinbrand Goblin and Mugging would be in a Rakdos deck, not to mention the fact that Shadow Slice goes late in Gatecrash and seems much more at home in a Rakdos deck than in Orzhov or Dimir.
Maybe there is room to play a two color deck after all.
While it remains to be seen which archtypes will rise to the forefront of this draft format, there are some very clear directions that one may take certain guilds, and it’ll be interesting to see which cards end up getting played with the draft archtypes we’re already familiar with from RRR and GGG drafting. The impact of the cards in the Dragon’s Maze pack is not fully known, and the commons that come to be accepted high picks will greatly set the tone for the rest of the draft.
In any case, theory can only take you so far. The set is practically upon us, and it’s time to go draft.Share this article