A New Frontier – Absolutely Shocking: The Impact of Guilds of Ravnica on Frontier (Part 1)
“A New Frontier” is a series of articles based around the MTG format created by Hareruya and Big Magic in Japan that uses only cards with the new border from the M15 set and onward. In these articles I plan on follow the results from tournaments, talk about viable decks in the format, as well as powerful cards. I hope to do at least an article each month with updates on the format, results, as well as the current status of its popularity. Please keep in mind that these are merely exploratory articles and that the Frontier format is still trying to find its footing. It could end up doing very well and develop a following like EDH has, or become just another footnote like Tiny Leaders.
Everybody expected Guilds of Ravnica to make an impact on the Frontier format, but nobody ever thought it would be this big. Guilds of Ravnica probably adds more cards to the format than the last few sets combined. Decks that were on the edge are now front and center, and those already strong got even better. I talked with Kevin Finkle and Matt Murday on the MTG Final Frontier podcast a few weeks ago about what cards I thought would impact the format, but I was only able to scratch the surface. There is so much more to talk about that wasn’t on the show. You can listen to part 1 and part 2 of the show here. Just how much will Frontier change? Read on to find out.
I’m back to my old style of writing the article at the start of the season, but it’s still later than I would have liked to have write it. The Untap Open had 49 players for season 7, and Hareruya will be holding 5 substantial tournaments in November, leading up to the God of Frontier event on the 18th. I’ll be talking a little bit more about new decks and my brews at a later time, so be sure to check back for updates!
Guilds of Ravnica Power Rankings in Frontier
I’ll be covering all rarities and all card types in this article, as well as the possible financial impact of GRN on Frontier cards. Just as before, I’ll be using a ranking system to categorize all of my picks. Please keep in mind I’m not talking about cards that will be only in Tier 1 or Tier 2 decks, but that could fit into a variety of strategies.
The highest level, 5 stars, are strong cards that you’ll see all around the Frontier format in various decks. These are probably 4 ofs, and will probably be the first cards to see a spike this format takes off. An example would be a creature that gains you tons of advantage or a spell that locks down an opponent for the remainder of the game like Ugin.
At 4 stars, we see cards that are still powerful but are usually confined to 1 or 2 decks. This could be a combo piece that only fits in one deck (but is incredibly powerful), or a card that can only reach it’s full potential with a deck built around it to support it. Once it gets going though it’s almost impossible to get rid of. A good example would be spells like Chord of Calling or creatures like Siege Rhino.
For 3 stars, we have cards that are showing up more in the sideboards than the main boards, but depending on the metagame they could show up and be potentially good against a large variety of decks. These are cards that could be silver bullets against certain strategies, but also be weak to other cards unintentionally. I see cards like Thalia, Heretic Cathar in this spot.
Once we get to down to 2 stars, we start to see fringe playable cards that are good in the lower tiered decks, but probably not a first choice or even the best choice for that deck. You’ll rarely see these 2 star cards played.
1 star is a card that will probably NEVER show up in the format. For the sake of time, I will be focusing mainly on 3-5 star cards and only briefly touching on 1 and 2 star cards when they become relevant.
At the end of the article I’ll also be discussing which cards in Frontier become stronger as a result of cards from Rivals of Ixalan, and I’ll speculate which archetypes will see an increase in power.
5 Star Cards
- Steam Vents
- Overgrown Tomb
- Sacred Foundry
- Temple Garden
- Watery Grave
- Assassin’s Trophy
- Thought Erasure
- Knight of Autumn
- Pelt Collector
Shock lands have made an absolutely huge impact on Frontier. Battle/Tango lands from Battle for Zendikar have all but ceased to show up in the format as the Shock Lands are the target of choice by Fetch Lands. RW, BG, and UR decks have had fast lands, pain lands, and check lands for a while now, so their mana bases won’t be affected that much, but Sacred Foundry and Steam Vents make it a lot easier to play a Jeskai archetype like control or Jeskai Tempo/Skies.
Abzan aggro and other BGW white decks benefited greatly from the reprinting of Temple Garden and Overgrown tomb as well. The mana was decent before, but now the decks can run both Wooded Foothills and Windswept Heath and find any color they want with it. This also makes it easier for the deck to rub double symbol cards like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I expect Abzan decks to resurface after a few seasons of irrelevancy, and it’s already shown up a few times in both the Untap leagues and at Hareruya.
Mardu and Grixis decks are also much easier to play now since the shocks make playing Bloodstained Mire a lot better, but we probably won’t see the full impact of Shocks on the format until the remaining 5 are printed in the next set. I’m really excited to see archetypes we haven’t seen much of before suddenly doing well because they finally have a mana base that can support them.
To not put Assassin’s Trophy at 5 Stars is ludicrous. We’ve really only seen it in Abzan decks so far (and it’s become their best removal), but its implications on the other GB/x archetypes are going to be huge. GB Delirium, Sultai Control, and Jund decks have a lot to gain with this card. No longer do these decks need to devote slots in their deck to dedicated removal for such and such card. It makes every match up better and lets these archetypes focus on what they do best. Saheeli Combo? Forgot about it. Teferi in control? Pfft. Trophy hasn’t shown up that much yet, but its well on its way to becoming a staple in the format.
Thank god this isn’t mono-colored, because Thought Erasure is Frontier’s Thoughtseize. This card is deceivingly powerful and I had the misfortune of running into it in my first two matches of the season 7 Untap Open. My slower BW Angels deck getting hit by 3 Thought Erasures in a row was absolutely punishing. UB decks were already rather strong thanks to cards like Fatal Push and The Scarab God, but this card takes the decks to a whole new level. They still have to worry about hyper aggressive decks like mono red Wizard burn, but this card will pre-upon midrange and control decks all day long. Huge improvement for all UB/x control and midrange decks. I expect Grixis and Sultai to get a lot better in the coming months.
Abzan might be back thanks to the shocklands, but green/white aggro got a huge bump from both of these cards. Pelt Collector has shown up a lot quite a bit in the new Untap League lists. Aside from GW aggro, Pelt Collector seems like a great fit for Hardened Scales decks, and could also end up being good in green based stompy decks. Knight of Autumn, on the other hand, has been nothing short of amazing in both the sideboards and decks it’s been in. It’s a staple of every GW deck, and with the resurgence of Abzan, I expect it to become even more popular. Both are also under 3 mana which make them prime targets for Collected Company as well. As far as tribal strategies are concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Knight of Autumn show up in a History of Benalia Knight deck or Pelt Collector appear in a Warrior or elf deck either.
4 Star Cards
- Sinister Sabotage
- Risk Factor
- March of the Multitudes
- Thief of Sanity
- Arclight Phoenix
I expect this card to be great in control decks. Sinister Sabotage has already proven itself to be better than Disallow in Frontier, mostly because the Surveil mechanic works great with Delve cards like Dig Through Time. Surveil in general should make some waves and supercharge graveyard based interactions.
I don’t know if it will make the cut for the traditional Atarka Red strategy, but Risk Factor give decks like UR Burn, mono red burn, and any other direct damage strategy a little more reach. I especially like it in UR Thermo-Alchemist burn, which has been getting better and better direct damage cards.
Green/White tokens has been looking for a card like this to become relevant again, and March might just be what its needed to become competitive. There are already tons of great token makers in white such as Secure the Waste and Raise the Alarm, but you could effectively double them thanks to the convoke cost. Let’s say we cast Legion’s Landing turn 1, into a Saproling Migration turn 2, and then cast a Raise the Alarm on turn 3. By this point we’d be able to cast March for X=3, but the later you play it the more devastating it becomes. If you were to play a Sram’s Expertise turn 4 playing a free Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, at the end of that turn you could play March for X=6 (if you include a Nissa Plant). It’s an exponential threat.
Aside from the creepy art, this card legit scares me in Frontier. Esper Vehicles/Flyers has shown up multiple times in the top 8 and top 16 of past Untap Frontier leagues, and UB Midrange has become more popular both online and at Hareruya. It’s effectively a reusable Gonti, Lord of Luxury except that it also can mill you to death. This card is my pick for sleeper hit of the set.
There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding Arclight Phoenix in both standard and modern, so it’s only a matter of time until it makes its way into Frontier. It can fit in dredge, as well as in a spell heavy deck, so I could see it finding a place in decks like UR Prowess/Wizards, Mono red burn, and possibly even UR Tutelage as an undying effect that works well with cards like Cathartic Reunion. I haven’t seen it show up in the format yet, but it should be here by next season, I’m certain of it.
Coming Up Next
Sorry I couldn’t fit everything in this article. Is there a card missing that you think should be here? Or do you have any comments about what I talked about in today’s article? By all means leave a comment below, or wait until the next article drops to see what was on the rest of the list and my reasoning as to why it wasn’t higher.
Like what you see? Want to learn more about Frontier? Then I totally recommend checking out the Frontier tab on my blog to read through all of the information I’ve collected on the format since it started. You can also listen to me on the MTG Final Frontier podcast along with Kevin Finkle and others!
As always thanks of reading and supporting the Frontier format! I hope you enjoy brewing and playing it as much as I do. If you can’t play it at your local game shop, remember you can always join the discord Frontier channel to chat about it, as well as play it on Untap, Cockatrice, or Xmage! We look forward to having you join the community!