Gatecrash Mechanics – A First Look

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been having a great time playing Magic with the release of Return to Ravnica. The metagame has been amazing and it allows you to run a variety of decks without worrying about if it’s the best deck or not. There’s always a chance that you can run the board at your local tournament if you pick the right type of deck on that day. Keep on brewing and keep on trying new things and you’re bound to find a new archetype to add to an already rich meta.

But enough about that. Today I’m here to talk about the 5 new mechanics for Gatecrash and how I think they will affect the MTG metagame come February 1st. The first mechanic I’ll be looking at is Dimir’s: Cipher.

Dimir – Cipher

Whispering Madness

Whispering Madness

The last mechanic of the spoilers to be revealed, could end up being the most powerful. Cipher allows you to imprint a spell onto a creature, so that whenever it attacks you can cast it for free. This ability will all depend on what type of creature you put it on. If you stick to blue and black, your options might be somewhat limited. An obvious choice for this card would be in a Hexproof deck, taking advantage of Geist of Saint Traft and especially Insivible Stalker. Another possibility is to go with fliers such as spirit tokens, and you could also use trampling creatures in a BUG deck. The mana will definitely be there after Gatecrash, but who knows how people will use this card. Esper control looks like the best option at the moment, but a Golgari/Dimir build could also be possible. We’ll have to wait and see what other cards are revealed.

Next up: Extort. 

Orzhov – Extort


Treasury Thrull

Extort isn’t a mechanic that is going to win you games fast, but it can help you out in those long, grindy games. Late in the game it could work out into you favor (especially on an enchantment), but don’t expect it to do anything early on. One benefit of extort is that it uses hybrid mana. If you’re playing more than one color this will make things easier. Again, I think an Esper (BUW) deck will be best for this effect, perhaps Esper tokens or BW Tokens. This will allow you to keep pressure on your opponent while keeping your life out of harms way from faster aggro decks. I could see JUNK (BWG) decks getting some use out of this mechanic as well, such as Golgari scavenge decks that will let you use the ability twice. With only a few cards spoiled, it’s too early to tell. As more cards are released we’ll get a better idea how to use these cards.

Next up, Simic.

Simic – Evolve

Fathom Mage

Fathom Mage

The evolve mechanic is all going to depend on what other cards come out to support it. If they are anything like this, then they are going to be worthless by the time you play them. I do want to point out that this cards says “if it has greater POWER OR TOUGHNESS” you may put a counter on it. In sealed or limited this mechanic could be fine, but in constructed I think it will see little play. Golgari and Simic seem to be a great matchup as scavenge puts counters on creatures, so if evolve sees ANY play you can bet it will be a BUG deck that takes advantage of it. Other than BUG, I can’t think of any other archetypes that will take advantage of this mechanic at the moment. But who knows, maybe there will be other good evolve cards.

Boros – Battalion

Firemane Avenger

Firemane Avenger

Battalion is my favorite out of the 5 Gatecrash mechanics so far. I’ve always placed a premium on speed at pre-releases and sealed events, but it sometimes backfires because it doesn’t give me a long game. Sealed/drafts usually run a  lot of creatures so you can be sure you that you’ll have two others to attack with the Angel. I believe that Battalion is just attacking with two other creatures, so you can be sure there will be different effects than this ‘Lightning Helix’ one. The life gain is relevant against  decks that will hit you early and hard, and the damage is also great at getting rid of problem creatures or dealing damage directly to a player. Battalion is a re-useable Searing Spear every turn, which is great if your deck isn’t running a lot of removal to begin with. I’m excited to use this card in my WR human deck, and I think it would be great when soulbounded to a Lightning Mauler. I also think there are possibilities of an Odric/Battalion deck since his ability has good synergy with Boros’ mechanic.

Depending on the Battalion effects, we could probably see it in Naya (GRW) and Bant (GUW) decks as well. This is a very aggressive ability and could easily turn the tide in a stalemate if you have the creatures to attack with. I’m looking forward to the other cards in January.

Gruul – Bloodrush



Bloodrush is going to be the nastiest of the abilities in a limited format. Limited/sealed events tend to be removal card light as it is, and if you don’t have to worry about your attacking creature getting blasted by a card then it’s easier to go all in and beef him up with Bloodrush. It can also be used defensively as sort of a Giant Growth effect. Both are effective at taking out one of your opponents creatures. Having the option to Bloodrush at an earlier point in the game means that having it in your opening hand isn’t entirely worthless. This ability will give Naya some very nasty attacks in the pre-release, and probably make it the color combination of choice of most players.

Outside of the pre-release, I think Bloodrush will see some play in constructed decks, especially Naya. RUG (red, blue, green) decks and some Jund (GBR) aggro decks could also get  some use out of Bloodrush I think.

Pre-release strength

Like I said above, I’m probably going to choose Gruul and Boros for my pre-release guilds. Creatures and removal are paramount in pre-releases, and I think Boros is going to have them in spades. Splashing in Orzhov for extra removal or added lifegain, or Gruul for more power makes RW a very strong color to use as your base.

My second favorite is Gruul. They are going to have the biggest power levels by far, but their casting costs could hold them back and make them vulnerable to faster decks. That’s why I would add Boros into the mix to give it added removal. Another option would be to add in Simic to the mix for a RUG build. Since Gruul will supply you with bigger and bigger creatures, your Simic cards will constantly be evolving, and in the late game you could have equally as big creature from both guilds, some with more interesting abilities than the other I bet.

My third favorite guild for limited is Orzhov. I’m sure it will have some good removal, and extort will let you stay in the game with life gain while you drain your opponent’s life away, but it won’t have enough to finish the job. Running Esper (UWB) probably won’t be a good idea. Control never is a good idea in limited. You’ll run out of removal and won’t have enough good creatures to stay in the game. Adding Boros for a RWB build is going to be your best bet, but it’s all going to depend on what cards you get.

After Orzhov I’d go with Dimir. The ability to cast a spell again whenever your creature deals damage could win you some games in the long run. It should also give you some added removal, but you’ll still need creatures to finish the game with. Orzhov might have some decent creatures for an Esper build, but overall I think Dimir will be lacking without good creatures. I think for the most part you’ll want to splash black into your Simic deck to have a fighting chance.

The last type I’d use in Limited is Evolve. At this point, the mechanic is too iffy to know if you’ll get any use out of it. It works as a great support mechanic, especially with Gruul in a RUG deck, but by itself I just don’t know.

And with that, my first impressions of Gatecrash come to an end. The set looks like it’s going to rip open the metagame YET AGAIN once it becomes standard legal, and with all the new shock lands, you can be sure that new decks will be popping up left and right to put them to good use. Starting in the new year we’ll begin to see larger chunks of the set, with the full spoiler list set to be released one week before the pre-release on January 21st I believe. I hope you’ll be sure to join me again in 3 weeks for the full review of each color in the Gatecrash set. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week for new info!