The Running Man: Now Back to the Show

A few of our runners are already making their way through the maze, but not all are fairing the same. It seems like the Golgari and Gruul champions are doing well, but the Azorius champion is right behind them. The Dimir runner has been having problems making any process towards the goal, and the Boros Champion has as many successes as failures. There have been many pitfalls along the way, and the end is nowhere in sight. Five more Runners are set to start the maze: Izzet, Orzhov, Rakdos, Selesyna, and Simic. Will they be able to make up lost time and take over those already in the maze? Or will they succumb to the dangers or become forever lost?

Izzet – Odds 22:1

Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek, Izzet Paragon

Progress for the sake of progress. When asked how much power is needed for a device, the answer is always “more”. The guild of Izzet is all about building up their power to the breaking point where it can’t be held back any more, and the Izzet champion is all about power. He lets you plan your turns ahead of time by seeing what’s coming up next, and if it’s a spell you can cast it right away. As an added bonus, that spell gets cast twice. Playing black in a GBR deck? Cast a kill spell and take out two creatures. Playing white? Maybe casting an Azorius Charm to draw a card as well as to put their creature on top of their library is your thing.

Melek has some interesting applications, but there are quite a few things. First off, he’s a 2/4 for 6 mana. He won’t be coming out on the 6th turn with any consistency, and in limited formats you want to be playing as many good creatures as possible which means that you won’t be able to use his ability to copy spells that often. When he does use it it’s big though. I could see him absolutely wreaking players by fusing Split Cards and then doubling their effects. A double Breaking/Entering would mill 16 and let you put TWO of their creatures into play right away late in the game, and if that doesn’t mill them out then they are going to be in big trouble. A double Turn//Burn also wreaks havoc on your opponent’s battlefield, but this is all a big IF. You’re of course going to play him in a UWR or GBR deck, but I don’t think he’s going to be in your initial picks of cards to use. He might not be bad to fill in your last spots, but I don’t see him really effecting the battlefield too quick. Use him if you get some amazing UW, UB, or UR cards, but don’t force him into a deck.

What to look out for:

At 6 mana you’ll have to watch out for fast GR or Boros decks, and also black spells. I think Golgari and Dimir will both give Izzet problems, especially any cards with regenerate. You also have to watch out for Selesnya since their tokens can get out of control very quickly if you don’t have a Mizzium Mortars to wipe them. If you can balance your UWR/GBR deck well he has a chance to make a big impact, but otherwise I think he won’t have a big impact in Sealed.

Orzhov – Odds – 15:1

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts

In the Orzhov Syndicate, the more you pay the more power you get. Teysa just goes to show you how true that is. She is the epitome of their system. For 7 mana you get a 4/4 that can block anything and attack without tapping and taking damage, putting your opponent in a very bad position. Yes that 7 mana can be a problem, but with tons of cheap extort cards, as well as very good Boros cards that could fill in those first 6 turns, I think Teysa will see some play. If you have enough extort, letting a creature deal damage to you so she destroys it isn’t such a bad strategy.  She’ll eventually win you the game through attrition.

I like her as a finisher and think she has a good chance of reaching the end of the maze. Filling in those first 6 turns with big Orzhov blockers or fast Boros attackers would both work well in a deck with Teysa. I definitely recommend some extort with her though to ensure you can live long enough to get her into play.

What to look out for:

The only thing that is going to get rid of Teysa are burn and kill spells. Red has Mizzium Mortars (or can cast two kill spells which would  be more difficult to do), blue can return her to your hand or top of your library, black kill spells aside from Ultimate Price should do the trick as well, and of course white exiling effects will get rid of her. I think 50 percent of the time she’ll win the game for you, but the other 50% she’ll get taken out or your opponent’s deck will be too fast. Her weakest point is getting into play while there is still a chance to win the game. Make sure you have some great support cards if you choose her as your runner.

Rakdos – Odds 5:1

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

The Cult of Rakdos craves chaos and bathes in the blood of their enemies. They are mindless followers and will focus on destruction with little consideration for their own well being. Exava ranks fairly high in the cult. She is the queen of pain. For 4 mana you get a 4/4 first striking creature with haste that gives all other creatures with counters haste. This speed and power puts her in a position to overtake more than half of the runners in the maze easily, and to give others a run for their money. Your obvious choice for a deck is going to be a Rakdos one with other unleashed creatures, but considering that you’ll only get one RTR guild pack, those creatures could be few and far between. This is where the strategy for Rakdos splits off in a few directions.

With Gruul, you get a lot more power both on the ground and at instant speed with Bloodrush while attacking. Rakdos’ weak point before was the lack of a long game since their focus was to mainly attack. Playing BGR also gives you access to Golgari cards, which are great for removal as well as allowing you to put counters on creatures with Scavenge which work great with the Blood Witch’s ability.

Playing with Boros is another strategy, and it gives your plan more bodies on the ground early on as well as making Battalion attacks much deadlier with the Rakdos creatures attacking at a higher power. The problem with playing only Boros/Rakdos is that you can still find it difficult against decks with bigger creatures and lacking a way to win the late game. Orzhov gives your strategy a better balance than Boros I think. The Syndicate gives you creatures with higher toughness and extort to let you attack over and over again without having to worry about leaving creatures back to block (or whether or not to unleash your card). It will all depend on the cards you get, but don’t feel pressure to stick with one guild mechanic if you can make all 3 work.

What to watch out for:

Gruul, Simic, and Selesnya could be problems for Exava. Each of those guilds has superior creatures to Rakdos, especially if they drop them on the battlefield early. Selesnya has tokens that can team up on your opponent, and Gruul’s Bloodrush can easily turn the table in a race to reduce life totals. Simic, on the other hand, has quite a few flying creatures such as Cloudfin Raptor that can whittle away at an opponent while putting up a wall of creatures for defense on the ground. You also have to watch out for Azorius’ tempo game. Having your attackers returned to your hand or library can give your opponent just the time they need to lock you down and to win the game themselves.

Selesnya – Odds 20:1

Emmara Tandris

Emmara Tandris

Selesnya sees beauty in abundance, and they are ever straining to hear the word of the World Spirit. They build their armies from nature and attack in such numbers as to overwhelm their enemies. If you do decide to go with Selesnya as your guild, you better be prepared to go all in. While Emmara is a decent finsher (a 5/7 body is pretty good, and she outclasses the other runners in sheer power), her lack of any beneficial abilities in sealed tournaments make her somehwhat underwhelming. Realistically, you can expect 3-4 token making cards in sealed, and if you’re lucky a few cards that populate. Emmara would be great in a deck alongside Trostani, Voice of the Conclave, but in a the 7 casting cost spot I’d much rather have Trostani’s Summoner. The Summoner gives you 10 power on the battlefield in 4 creatures when you play it, and if you can blink her or return her to your hand (with Azorious or Simic) she becomes even more useful. However, as a 5/7 that makes token creatures nigh indestructible, she probably won’t see too much play in straight token decks. Yes she’ll be in a deck as a finisher in one of the last spots in your sealed deck, but you won’t be counting on her doing you much good on the battlefield.

There’s still hope for Ms. Tandris though. She performs very well with Simic in a GWU deck, especially if you have Beck//Call to draw tons of cards and put creatures into play. With cards like the Selesnya guildmage at uncommon, there is a good chance you will be able to populate your creatures, but don’t count on it. Boros, with all of their soldier token producers (Sunhome Guildmage, Assemble the Legion), might be an unlikely but possible strong ally for Selesnya. They’ll be able to create a steady stream of tokens for you, as well as boosting their power and effectiveness thanks to Battalion effects. I don’t see Orzhov being much help to Emmara though, and Golgari is another ally that won’t be incredibly helpful at boosting the Conclave’s power.

What to look out for:

Azorius and Izzet, especially board wipes like Supreme Verdict and overloaded Mizzium Mortars. Perhaps you have a Rootborn Defense, which would save you (barring it isn’t countered), or a Golgari Charm to regenerate . . . well, you also have to look out for cards like an overloaded Cyclonic Rift which would totally wreck a token strategy. Legion Loyalist in a Gruul deck would also be bad news for Selesnya since his battalion ability is (your creatures can’t be blocked by tokens). These cards are rares and you’ll probably see less of them than other spells, but you shouldn’t get over confident in a token strategy. Always be on your guard and prepare for the worse case scenario if you’re playing against a blue deck. GWR or GWU decks have a chance in sealed if you can get your hands on some good cards.

Simic – Odds 11:1

Vorel of the Hull Clade

Vorel of the Hull Clade

Always evolving, always adapting, the Simic are always seeking ways to make themselves better. I actually think that their champion has a good chance of making it to the end of the maze. In a one-on-one fight against the other runners he’s going to lose, but he is by far the best team player of them all, especially in Simic. Putting evolving creatures into play, planeswalkers, heck even with scavenged body parts, Vorel gives them all a boost. He’s got a decent body to block with on turn 3, and his toughness should evolve anything you put out before that.

I believe that Golgari is going to work the best with Vorel in sealed events. Scavenge will already make your creatures formidable, but with Vorel there to continue making them even bigger threats along with your other evolving cards, you’ll be unstoppable. However, outside of a BUG combo deck, he tends to lose his usefulness. Gruul gives you more power and bigger creatures to evolve with, but outside of the new Savageborn Hydra there are few ways to use his ability. Azorius gives you fun ways to win with cards like Azor’s Elocutors (if you get one), but that most likely isn’t going to happen and Vorel will be nothing more than a vanilla 1/4 creature. The same can be said with Dimir as their companion. Choosing Vorel as your champion can pay off big or be totally worthless depending on the cards you get.

What to look out for:

Without creatures he’s nothing more than a 1/4 blocker, and at 1/4 he won’t be getting bigger himself unless you have some Ivy Lane Denizens throwing counters on him (great combo by the way). This means he’ll have trouble staying alive against decks with bigger creatures like Gruul, and board wipes from Izzet or Azorius cards will make him totally worthless. Of course black and white will have their removal as well he’ll have to worry about, but I think first and foremost you need to protect your army if you’re going to play with him.

All Bets Are Off

And with Simic my “run down” of the runner’s is complete. I have high hopes for Gruul and Golgari doing well at the pre-release, but I think that Azorius and Rakdos will surprise some people as well. After that it will become a free for all and who reaches the end of the maze will be anyone’s guess.

By now the full spoiler should be out, which means that you’ll be seeing my limited articles “Play to your Weakness” really soon to help with the pre-release. Are their any cards you’re excited about? Can you think of any new combos with the new cards that nobody else has though of yet? If so, I’d like to hear about them! Be sure to read my articles as I post them and leave some feedback. Thanks for reading!

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