The Running Man: Place your Bets now
I loved the 1987 movie “The Running Man” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. For those of you who have never seen the classic 80’s action movie staring the Governator, it’s about a man who is framed for the death of hundreds of innocent people in a dystopian future where the USA has become a Police State. While escaping from prison, he catches the eye of a the producer of the highest rated show in the world, “The Running Man”. The premise of the show is simple: Take convicts and other people in trouble with the law and give them a chance to earn their freedom by becoming a “Runner” in the Running Man. There’s a catch though. Throughout the enclosed world of the Running Man game show are “stalkers”. These stalkers are bad ass killers that are there to make sure that the Runners have no chance of earning their freedom.
In Dragon’s Maze, each guild will send their champion to finish their maze before the others do. However, who will be victorious and who will be tripped up by “stalkers”? Today I’d like to take a look at each of the guild champions and talk about who has the best chance of making it through the maze first and subsequently coming out on top at the pre-release. For those of you that don’t know, the Sealed format will be 4 packs of Dragon’s Maze, 1 pack of RTR, and 1 pack of GTC. The booster draft format will be one pack from each set. This will creature some interesting decks, and it looks like 3 colors is going to be the way to go.
Azorius – Odds 7:1
Our first contestant comes to us from the regulators and lawmakers of Ravnica, the Azorius Senate. For 5 mana you can essentially lock down your opponent for one turn, especially if you can get her into the battlefield around turn 5. We have no idea how fast the sealed/draft format will be, but she can either you buy you a turn and let you get in some free damage while you decide what to do next, or she can finish the game if you’re playing with an aggressive deck.
Although she has protection from red, I think she would be good in a UWR deck alongside some aggressive Boros soldiers. Cards like Daring Skyjek, Wojek Halbrediers, and other fast high damage cards with Lavinia would have good synergy together. I also think she would be good in a GWU bant deck along evolving Simic cards. Simic lets you constantly up the power of their cards, and at 4 power, Lavinia should do a good job of evolving them. If you have 3-4 Simic creatures in play and then drop her, you add 4 more power to an unblockable attack (unless they have a cards with casting cost of 5 or more that can block). I don’t think that black fits in well with this champion however. An Esper (BWU) deck wants to control the other play, but with the lack of control cards and a more aggressive runner, she doesn’t really have place.
What to look out for:
Black. She has protection from red which means you can’t use a Mizzium Mortars on her, but she is still succeptible to black removal cards like Orzhov Charm and Grisly Spectacle. She could also have problems against other white decks that are using Trostani’s Judgment or Angelic Edict. Livinia’s toughest match up will be against Orzhov players, but I still think she’ll have a good chance of finishing the maze first.
Boros – Odds 18:1
Our next runner comes to us from the brave Boros legions. Tajic is a 2/2 indestructible creature for 4 mana that has the neat battalion ability of becoming a 7/7 indestructible creature. However, the amount of time you’ll be able to trigger that ability is limited. He’ll shine alongside cards like Legion Loyalist and other resilient creatures, but most of the time he’ll be your shield against the masses of monsters at your door. He is strong against most removal in the RTR block, and is extremely lucky not to be in the same set at tragic slip.
Tajic could probably get a boost from Gruul cards in a GRW Naya deck, especially if he’s attacking and you bloodrush him with a card that has trample like Ghor-Clan Rampager. From a defensive perspective, Tajic would probably also be a good idea in a Borzhov (RWB) deck or a UWR tempo deck, but I think his best bet is going to be alongside his fellow Boros soliders or the beasts of Gruul.
What to look out for:
Again, black cards such as Devour Flesh and white cards that remove creatures from combat (Arrest) or the game (Angelic Edict) are going to be trouble for him. He will also have problems against trample. From a sheer finisher perspective, he doesn’t really have what it takes. There are better champions that can win the game all on their own such as . . .
Dimir – Odds 30:1
Dimir’s Champion is hard to read. He’s a 2/4 flyer for 5 mana that doesn’t have any immediate effect on the board. Dimir was the guild to stay away from in Gatecrash due to it’s lack of power, however it did have the most removal (Dimir Charm, Grisly Spectacle, Killing Glare). How will it fair in a format with Gatecrash and Ravnica to to lend it its power? You do get more access to kill spells like Ultimate Price and Devour Flesh, but will black and blue’s creatures be able to go head to head with Gruul’s huge creatures or the legion of Selesnya tokens? Playing in a format with only 17 lands in your deck means that his ability could finish off a player in 3 turns, but it all depends on your opponent not having any flyers to block with.
I think Mirko’s appearances are going to be few and far between. He’ll be the last card players will put into their deck, especially if the format continues to be focused on hard hitting, aggressive creatures. I don’t want to knock Dimir down though, but I think buy themselves they won’t stand a chance. Izzet seems to have gotten some great cards in Dragon’s Maze, and I think Dimir’s new cards will supplement it well in this new limited format. Burning, milling, and destroying things gives you multiple win conditions, and Izzet’s more powerful creatures are great targets for Cipher cards like Binding Grasp. Dimir has their spot, but I don’t think they’ll be winning any contests.
What to look out for:
Being a slow card in slow colors, he might be too little too late. His 2 power won’t be killing too many players, his body won’t be able to deal with other 4 and 5 drops in the format, and you’ll also have to watch out for things like Mizzium Mortars. Gruul, Selesnya, and Boros will be Dimir’s weakest match ups, so if you must use Dimir because of the cards you pulled, it’s going to be absolutely necessary to play a third color (I’m recommending red for Grixis, but green for a BUG build might be possible too since it will give you access to bigger creatures).
Golgari – Odds 5:2
Born in the dregs of Ravnica, Varolz was raised in the filth of the sewers. There he learned to use any and all resources he had at his disposal. For 3 mana, you get the ultimate recycler. He blocks, he attacks, he takes the scraps from monsters in your graveyard to make both himself and other creatures bigger . . . this guy is the type of warrior you want leading your army. He’s also incredibly hard to kill barring exiling effects such as Detention Sphere or a Putrefy since you can sacrifice a creature to regenerate him at any time. With most sealed decks running 12-15 creatures, you’ll get plenty of use out of him and those creatures that sacrifice their lives for the greater good.
Varolz will be amazing in a BGR build with Bloodrush cards as well as other Golgari cards filling in your 23 slots, but don’t count out Selesnya and Simic cards being a good fit with Valroz either. Simic gives you more card draw as well as large creatures, while GW gives you piles of token creatures as well as cards to amplify your power. I don’t know how well Dimir will work with him, but it might be worth a shot if you have the right cards so I wouldn’t count it out.
What to look out for:
White cards. Yes you’ll have to look out for “can not regenerate” cards like Putrefy that can effectively destroy Valroz, but cards like Detention Sphere, Mass Eviction, and Angelic Edict (for starters) will totally disregard his second ability. Rest in Peace could also really hurt your game plan, but thankfully it’s a rare so you won’t see too many of those in play against him. Valroz might not be the best runner, but he’s definitely in the top 3 I think.
Gruul – Odds 3:1
He’s large and he carries a BIIIIIIG stick. I think many people are betting on Ruric Thar to win it all. He’s absolutely massive at 6/6, and also has vigilance and reach which means his “drawback” of having to attack each turn isn’t a drawback at all. He’ll pound your opponent into oblivion in a few turns, and he’ll severely punish those non creature decks like Dimir, Orzhov, and Izzet. He’ll also be really bad for token heavy GW decks. Sure you can cast an Azorious Charm or Selesnya Charm to get rid of him, but you’re still going to take 6 damage for doing so. Gruul (GR) was the go to guild in Gatecrash, leading aggressive Naya decks(GRW), so you can expect the Guild to continue pounding away at your opponent in Dragon’s Maze as well.
You’ll want to make sure that you’re using him in a creature heavy deck such as GR or GRW aggro. Putting him in a Jund deck with black kill spells or a RUG deck with counterspells or other removal would be a bad idea. He’s the biggest and the baddest of all the Champions of Ravnica and I think he has one the best chance of winning it all. Keep an eye out on him, and make sure that you stay out of his way if he comes towards you.
What to look out for:
Well, he can be killed, he can be exiled, he can be Arrested, etc . . . but the thing is that you’re opponent is going to take 6 damage no matter way as long as he’s on the battlefield. The best way to get rid of him is to not let him get into the battlefield at all. Take care of the other player before they get to 6 mana, counter Ruric, take out their red or green source to slow down the warrior getting out . . . do whatever you can or you’re going to feel his axe early and often for 6 points.
We’ll be Back after these messages from our sponsors . . .
I’m going to take a break and let these first 5 Guild Champions sink in, but be sure to check back in a few days for the rest of the list. Before I go though, I gotta ask “Who loves you and who do you love?”. . . Who will be your champion?