Who’s side are you on? (A Gatecrash Pre-release primer)

The entire set of Gatecrash was spoiled Monday morning in Japan, and my friends and I have already had some time to pour over the cards. The set looks like it has some decent standard constructed cards, but for limited (sealed and booster drafts) it looks absolutely amazing in my opinion. My recurring article, “Play to your Weaknesses”, will begin posting tomorrow afternoon with the Lands and Artifacts, and after that I’ll be starting onto white. But today I wanted to go into the guilds a little bit more.

As we learned from Return to Ravnica, this prerelease will be held in the same style where each player choses a guild and gets a guild box. Inside will be 6 packs, one of which is your guild pack that is made up entirely of your guild’s associated colors.You will also be able to play with your guild’s promo card. It’s been rumored online that your BEST chances of getting a guild leader is in those Guild boxes. There is a 1 in 8 (12.5%) chance that your can get one of the Guild leaders. What I’m going to talk about today is how each guild will interact with the others such as what their weaknesses are, what colors work with theirs, and what strategies are possible. Afterwards, please vote for what your favorite guild is or which one you plan to use in the pre-release! Our first Guild today is . . .


White and Black. Life and Death. Yin and Yang. Playing with Orzhov will give you the option both of dealing death and giving life (to yourself). The guild specializes in removal spells and bleeding their opponents dry with Extort spells. If you’re playing with Orzhov and focusing on the Extort ability, fill your deck with lots of defenders, extort cards, and easy to cast spells. If you can keep the spells coming, you can drain your opponent to death. However, in a limited environment with only 40 cards in your deck (with at least 16 lands), it’s going to be tough to pull that off, even if you have tons of triggers. It’s not totally impossible, but it will depend on the cards you get from your packs.


Treasury Thrull

Treasury Thrull will be the card you will receive for choosing Orzhov, and if you are pursuing the Extort route and have enough removal to take care of your opponents bombs, this guy isn’t bad. Each time he attacks he’ll be able to bring one of your creatures back from the graveyard and you’ll be able to recycle cards for that extort trigger indefinitely. He’s not totally unplayable, but you have to protect him.

As for colors to mix with Orzhov, Boros will give your deck speed and firepower in a RWB deck. The added burn could supplement your removal nicely and give you more than enough time to burn/drain your opponent into oblivion. Esper, or BUW, is also another strategy you could use. Dimir focuses on milling players, but with the addition of blue you get access to counterpells and stall cards that can give you more time to drain away their life. Not totally unplayable. You could also play with just white and black cards, but be sure you have enough creatures to win the game.

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Obzedat, Ghost Council

If you’re lucky and get this guild leader, you’ll be in good shape. His double white/black cost might force you into two colors, but this card will be an absolute monster in limited where many of the cards that can take him out are sorcery speed. In my opinion he’s one of the best Guild Leaders. He gains you life, deals damage, and drains life.


The Boros are defenders of justice, as well as the ones who uphold the law. Red represents the burning passion they have for their jobs, as well as the flames that can turn their foes to cinder. If you choose Boros (RW), you can be sure your deck will be full of quick, overwhelming creatures. Their numbers can quickly end a game if your opponent can’t defend, and with Boros’ Battalion mechanic, the more you have the better. You’ll have access to burn spells and a creatures that work well in packs. The legion’s drawback is that later on in the game their 2/2 and 3/3 first strikers will be able to do nothing against Gruul or Simic’s massive beasts. Flying could also be a problem for them. When building with Boros, be sure to balance your deck so that you have some late game cards that can compliment your early strikers.

Foundry Champion

Foundry Champion

Foundry Champion is the card you will get if you choose to support Boros during the pre-release, and well . . . he’s subpar. Yes he can be pumped up and attack for a lot later on in the game, but his enter the battlefield ability relies heavily on your creatures still being a live. If you curve him out perfectly, this could be 5+ damage, but if you’re going against other aggressive decks, this could end up just being 1. What I DO like about him is the ability to deal that damage to a creature OR player.

With Orzhov you should be able to keep your legion of soldier’s chugging along while draining your opponent’s life on two fronts. It isn’t a bad combo, because life gain is useful in drafts, especially if it’s in the form of a creature. Since Boros is so fast, having a place to put your mana later (into extort triggers) could really give the deck the legs it needs to win a game.

The other guild that would work with Boros is Gruul, and DAMN is that combination scary. Boros’ creatures are small and fast, but Gruul’s are massive and POWERFUL. Gruul can complement a curve beautifully after Boros’ plays all it’s small creatures, and their Bloodrush mechanic coupled with a double striking creature could be a game ender. In my opinion, Naya (GWR) is going to be the most powerful combination out there. If you have the cards and mana, crush your adversaries!

Aurelia, the Warleader

Aurelia, the Warleader

Talk about a game ender. If you pull Aurelia in your guild pack, your opponent can pretty much kiss the match goodbye. Evasion, haste, and vigilance. You also get to attack twice each turn (if one isn’t enough). Playing her requires some strategy of course. You don’t want to use her when your opponent has plenty of blockers, but right after an attack when your opponent has tapped out, Aurelia spells D-O-O-M.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Shark Crabs . . . . wait what? I’m starting to wonder who is the madder scientist these days, Izzet or Simic. The green and blue guild has more than their fair share of strange creature types, and if you choose to use Simic, you can be sure you’ll have more than a few evolving mutants. Simic strategies might seem slow at first, but their creatures can suddenly become monsters. What makes them more dangerous than Gruul’s beasts is that it’s not just one creature you have to worry about, it’s all of them.

Fathom Mage

Fathom Mage

This is the promo card for Simic. I don’t like this card at all. Four mana for a 1/1, even if you get to draw a card, doesn’t seem like that good of a value for me. You’re not getting any benefit from it until turn 5, and even then it’s not a beast for that 4 mana, it will only be a 2/2. I think Simic’s promo card is one of the worse, so if you do end up going with Simic, I hope you have a plan for her. She could act as a compliment to a mainly Gruul deck, drawing you cards later on in the game, but . . . I don’t know.

If you decide to run a RUG deck with your Simic cards, your creatures will be the biggest on the block. If you can work out a good curve, using the weaker, evolving Simic cards and then leading into the bigger Gruul creature cards later on, you can have an army of monsters that can block anything and deal a whole lot of damage. Mixing in blue and red with this green will also give you access to counter spells, flying, and burn spells. It will depend on what you get, but I think Simic might be as good as Naya in limited. The main difference will be that RUG will have a more devastating late game while GWR will be able to hit fast and very hard.

Your other choice of deck is a BUG deck, mixing in Dimir cards with Simic. I don’t know if this color combination will work as well. Dimir will give you access to more removal cards, as well as milling spells, but then your strategy will split in two. Half of it will be attacking with weak creatures, while the other half will be milling your opponent or destroying their creatures. With a divided strategy, I don’t think you’ll have the finishing power with either.  It might be better just running a straight Simic deck if you don’t have the red cards to fill out a RUG deck.

Prime Speaker Zegana

Prime Speaker Zegana

However, Simic’s guild leader is simply amazing. Let’s say you just put in a 5/5 creature the past turn for 5 mana. On turn 6 you drop Zegana and she comes into play with 5 +1/+1 counters on it and draws your 6 cards. This effect is almost as powerful as Sphinx’s Revelation (minus the life gain), and you can be sure this card will have a place in Bant decks in standard afterwards.


Stomp. Smash. Splinter. Destroy. This is the Gruul’s mantra. Their clan members are just as wild and vicious as the creatures they use. Going Gruul means that above all else, you crave raw power and seek to use that brute strength to crush your opponent. While not too fast out of the gate, the RG strategy has a very strong mid and late game, and their overwhelming power leaks out from time to time in the new mechanic Bloodrush, which lets you discard a card after paying it’s Bloodrush cost to boost another attacking creature’s power. This makes every creature in a Gruul deck a threat, and each card in hand a bruising power bonus. I hope you know how to dodge, because it’s only going to take a few hits from this guild to turn you into a mangled mess on the other side of the table.



Rubblehulk is a pretty straightforward card. You can cast it for 6 mana and you’ll have at least a 6/6 creature, or you can discard it for a +X/+X bonus. Early on that bonus might not be much, but later on when your opponent is within lethal damage range, you can end the game with just 3 mana and discarding him. Out of all of the promos, this has the most applications in the pre-release. It’s a great late game card and will be difficult to take out without a removal dedicated deck.

With Boros, Gruul decks become incredibly dangerous Naya (GWR) decks where letting a solitary 1/1 double striking soldier deal damage to you could mean the end of the game from a well played Bloodrush. Gruul not only gives Boros the ability to end the game early, but it also gives them a late game, unleashing massive monsters long after the legion of soldiers and angels has expended all of their energy. It’s a good combo to use, especially if you get the right cards to fill out your curve.

You other choice with Gruul is Simic, and as I stated before this is just plain scary. There are no tiny Gruul creatures, which means that each time you play one all of those Simic creatures will grow in size. If you’re not careful against this matchup you could find yourself outclasses and out matched. Use evasion such as flying and unblockable creatures to race your opponent. In all likeliness you’ll be playing defense, so the longer you wait the more trouble you’ll be in. If you’re playing this combo, just keep the creatures coming and attack, attack, attack.

Borborygmos Enraged

Borborygmos Enraged

This guy might be too much too late in a limited game where you’re only playing 17 land. Yes he will end the game for you, but by turn 8 you might already be dead. If you’re able to use Keyrunes and other mana acceleration it’s possible to cheat him out a little earlier, but before that time be sure you have plenty of other creatures to block and stall until he stomps his way onto the battlefield. Not the best Guild Leader, but not bad either.


We finally reach our last guild: Dimir. The Guild of assassinations and secrecy. Everybody and anybody can be part of their organization, you never know. The blue and black guild is rich with removal. It can kill, counter, and mill its way to victory. Milling usually isn’t a viable strategy in limited, but in Gatecrash there are quite a few cards capable of doing so. Don’t get me wrong, milling in a sealed or booster draft is an awesome strategy. Your opponent only has 33 cards in their library after drawing their initial 7, and if you can mill them fast enough your opponent can run out of cards to draw before your life reaches 0. All in all, there are over 10 decent mill effects in Gatecrash, and if you can stay in the game long enough to use them all, victory is assured. I’ll talk  more about milling as a strategy in my “Playing to your Weaknesses” article this week before the prerelease. Before then, look at Dimir’s millbug.

Consuming Abberation

Consuming Abberation

This card can get crazy really quick. If you’ve been milling your opponent or making them use their cards, by your 5th turn he could already be a formidable creature. His ability mills at least one card each time you play a spell and it acts as a two for one.  Not only does he get a boost of power, but he also puts your opponent on a clock if their library is getting low. Both him and Gruul’s Rubblehulk are solid creatures for promos, and either would be a good finisher if your card pool ends up being rather weak. 

As I stated earlier, Orzhov and Dimir would make an awesome combination. Both have tons of removal spells, but when you add in Dimir you also get counterspells, card draw, and ways to stall the game until your mill or drain strategy gains enough steam to finish your opponent. Extort is just what you need to keep the game going long enough to get it to work. Be careful not to load up on too much control and not have any creatures to finish off your opponent with. During any sealed event, creatures are going to be your most consistent form of damage. Build that defense up, then pick off your threats one by one until there’s nothing left. 

The other possibility is a BUG deck with Simic. There are some decent spells from the Simic guild, but the creatures you put into the deck might be waiting a while to evolve if you’re just playing Dimir creatures. Yes they’ll have awesome abilities and you’ll be able to draw a lot more cards with a BUG mix (the best reason for playing with Simic), but if you’re going up a deck of Gruul fatties, you could get yourself into trouble rather quick. It will all depend on your card pool, so if it looks possible don’t toss it out just because I said so. 

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind

Oooooooooo. I just got shivers. Did somebody pass behind me? Lazav, the guild leader of Dimir. I don’t know how good he’ll be in standard, but in limited he’ll be almost unstoppable. There is A LOT of removal in Gatecrash, but most of it targets a creature (Clan Defiance, Aurelia’s Fury, etc). The only mass removal we get is Merciless Eviction, and you probably won’t see too much of that. If you’re playing against a player and mill their biggest creature, Lazav suddenly becomes that creature, ALONG with hexproof. Sure your opponent might be able to chump block for a few turns but it will be futile unless they get the Glaring Spotlight. With his double black/blue cost, he’ll be tough to cast in a 3 color deck, but if you end up getting a Realmwright for mana fixing there’s nothing stopping him coming out on turn 4.

Final Thoughts

There are only 4 days until the pre-release and I must apologize again for starting on the Play to your Weakness articles so late. If I had to rank the guilds by themselves, I’d rank them like this:

  1. Gruul
  2. Simic
  3. Orzhov
  4. Boros
  5. Dimir

If I were to rank the power of the combinations in a limited match up, I think it would be greatly different:

  1. RUG (Simic/Gruul)
  2. Naya (GRW – Gruul/Boros)
  3. Esper (WUB – Orzhov/Dimir)
  4. BRW (Orzhov/Boros)
  5. BUG (Simic/Dimir)

There are a plenty of strategies you can use during sealed and booster drafts, but it will all depend on which cards you get. Once the packs are open and the cards are on the table, take a look at them and then ask yourself:

Who’s side are you on?