Ravnica Allegiance – Playing To your Weaknesses – Azorius, Simic, Gruul

NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)

As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. The system is as follows:

  • 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
  • 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact. Probably filler to finish up your limited deck or needs synergy to be playable.
  • 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback. A good 2nd to 5th pick in draft.
  • 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo. Usually a first pick in draft.
  • 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage. “Windmill slam” first pick in limited.

 

It took a little bit longer than I would have liked to get this article out, but better late than never. I’ve been playing a lot of draft and some sealed on MTG Arena, not to mention building some limited decks in paper with friends since release. I think I have a pretty good handle on how good the multicolor cards are, but there might be some you might disagree with. I’ve purposely kept myself from reading any of the other professional limited articles to test how good my evaluations have become. Let’s see how they match up.

 

Azorius

 

 

Azorius’ power has always stemmed from it’s flyers. Sphinx, birds, and flying Knights have been a staple of the Guild, and Ravnica Allegiance gives us quite a few playables in Azorius’ colors. Senate Griffin Gives us a decent body that scrys when you it enters the battlefield. The 2 toughness makes it a poor match up against a deck heavy with Orzhov spirits, but aside from that it should provide you with good air support.

Sphinx of New Phrav gives you a little more power for the same cost, and also lets you be defensive while being on the attack as well. The ability to protect itself from kill spells for a few turns until your opponent can pay the mana is also useful. It will match up poorly against other UW decks, but should be good against Orzhov and Rakdos.

Azorius Skyguard is better than most people think. It absolutely shuts down Orzhov tokens, and is great in mirror matches. The 6 mana is a little high, but I think it’s totally worth it. I played 2 in an Esper limited deck and made it almost impossible for my opponents to block or attack.

Senate Griffin – RATING: 2.5 Stars

Sphinx of New Phrav – RATING: 3 Stars

Azorius Skyguard – RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Azorius Knight-Arbiter

Azorius Knight-Arbiter might not be aggressive as the flyers, but it’s got a great body for blocking and also hits for 2 unblockable damage each turn. Good target for enchantments or other combat tricks that can increase his power. If you’re building an evasion heavy deck with lots of flyers and don’t have many good finishers in other colors then definitely play this. I don’t think it will always make the cut in a 3 color deck with good beaters though.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

Senate Guildmage

What I like so much about this Guildmage is the ease of use. It only costs one mana to gain 2 life or to loot a card away. Solid roleplayer in an Azorius limited deck.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

Depose:Deploy

Talk about a great tempo card. On one side you get a tap effect that cantrips, and on the other end you get to put 2 flyers into play and then gain life to offset any you might have lost. Great as both an aggressive and defensive card. I think I would take this early in draft as it’s a great card. I like it in Esper especially due to being able to get all those Spirit tokens into play then gaining a ton of life.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Lawmage's Binding

 

Azorious has always had impressive enchantments, and giving an Arrest affect Flash is pretty good for a common. Both pseudo removal and a tempo effect. Can really screw with your opponent if multiples.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

 

Simic

 

 

I already talked about how much I liked Adapt creatures in green and blue, and the multicolor offerings helped to cement Simic as one of my favorite Guilds to play in RNA limited. You’re telling me I can play tempo, big beaters, draw cards, and counter spells I don’t like? Sign me up! Aeromunculus is a cheap flyer that is hard to kill due to it’s stats and Scuttlegator is huge wall that stops almost all other finishers and becomes a huge one on its own when you pay 8 mana (great with the green Troll that gives creatures with counters on it trample).

My favorite is Sharktocrab though. It’s a great beater that’s well costed, and that Sleep ability makes it incredibly valuable in limited. I would definitely splash green in an Azorius or blue in a Gruul deck to play this guy. High pick in limited.

Aeromunculus – RATING: 3 Stars

Scuttlegator – RATING: 2.5 Stars

Sharktocrab – RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

 

Another thing I like about Simic cards is that they let you move counters around so you can reset any special Adapt abilities like Sharktocrab’s and use them over and over again. Galloping Lizrog is incredibly scary in a devoted Simic or Gruul deck with lots of Riot effects. Taking even one counter off a creature makes him a formidable 5/5 trampler, and taking 2 makes him a scary 7/7 finisher with trample. High pick for Temur/Simic players in limited. Probably going to go higher in packs 2 or 3 than in pack 1.

Combine Guildmage is a limited roleplayer in Simic decks, helping you to pump up those creatures that don’t have ways to get counters on them, and reseting Adapt effects as well. It can also be good late game in helping you to make your weaker creatures slightly stronger. If you were to be playing a Bant deck that puts Thopter tokens into play with Deploy, Combine Guildmage could help them to enter as 2/2 flyers. It’s probably going to be best in a Simic deck though.

Combine Guildmage – RATING: 2.5 Stars

Galloping Lizrog – RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Frilled Mystic

 

I’m not usually one to play counterspells in limited, but if you put it on a body heck yeah I will. Hard to cast in Bant or Temur, but definitely playable. If you’re heavy in blue and green this should be a super high pick in draft.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

 

Applied Biomancy is a great tempo effect at common that can easily get you a two for one when attacking. Incubation/Incongruity is a little bit harder to evaluate, but I still think it’s a great uncommon card. On one side it helps you to keep the pressure on your opponent by digging to find you a creature, and on the other end it gets rid of a dangerous finisher your opponent is playing. Rather a 3/3 vanilla creature than a 5/5 flyer with trample right?

Applied Biomancy – RATING: 3 Stars

Incubation/Incongruity – RATING: 3 stars

 

 

Gruul

 

Rhythm of the Wild

 

One of the strongest cards in Ravnica Allegiance limited has to be Rhythm of the Wild. Giving all of your creatures haste or a +1/+1 counter is absolutely worth a splash into red or green. The can’t be countered ability isn’t as important in sealed or draft, but still good to have. There also isn’t a lot of great instant speed removal, so having this in your deck almost assures that you’re getting some damage in. I especially like it in Temur decks as it allows creatures with special Adapt abilities to activate them as soon as they enter play. High draft pick. 

RATING: 4 Stars

 

 

Gruul has really got the fighting spirit in RNA. There were some good ones in green, and Savage Smash isn’t bad either. The +2/+2 bonus almost assures that the creature you target will survive the fight, and if your opponent doesn’t have anything to stop that creature you can hit for quite a lot of damage. Colossus also hits quite hard and is probably more useful than Collision in a pinch, but it’s good to have a way to deal with Angels and Griffins just in case. 

Savage Smash – RATING: 3 Stars

Collision/Colossus – RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

Frenzied Arynx

I’m actually surprised at the level of power of this common. You can get a 4/4 trampler rather early in the game, and late game it packs quite a punch. Wouldn’t be ashamed to have 2-3 of these in my limited Gruul or Temur deck. 

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Sunder Shaman

There aren’t too many artifacts or enchantments that you’d need to protect yourself against, but having the ability to destroy one whenever you damage an opponent is convenient. What makes this a great beater is the fact that it can only be blocked by one creature. There is no way your opponent will be able to trade multiple chump blockers to kill it. If your opponent doesn’t put their own beater/finisher in its path, you’re going to devour their creatures one by one. Good with combat tricks like Colossus as well. 

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Bolrac-Clan Crusher

Good body, better ability. Great card in both Gruul decks with a lot of Riot affects and also as a splash in Simic. Being able to use Bolrac-Clan Crusher along with Galloping Lizrog makes the Temur combination in limited extremely powerful. High draft pick in packs 2 and 3, but I don’t think it would be wrong to take it pick 3 or 4 in the first pack either. 

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

 

Nothing special about Rubble Slinger other than it’s a good limited role player to stop all of those 1/1 spirit tokens from Afterlife effects. If you don’t have Slinger or the 3/5 spider in green Gruul is going to get in trouble in those long games where your opponent picks away at your life total in the air. Not as necessary in a Temur build though thanks to blue flyers. 

I’m honestly surprised at how useful Clan Guildmage is. If you flood out, Clan Guildmage will provide you with a steady stream of beaters to block or attack with, and if you’re playing an aggressive deck it removes their best blocker each turn. Quite versatile. 

Clan Guildmage – RATING: 3 Stars

Rubble Slinger – RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

 

Other Cards that Will See Play

 

  • Zhur-Taa Goblin (2.5) – A 2/2 with haste for 2 mana or a 3/3 for 2 mana is great for aggressive decks. Great for mostly Gruul decks.
  • Sphinx’s Insight (2) – Drawing cards at instant is always good. I guess I’ve just become used to seeing this effect at 4 mana so I don’t find it special in limited. 
  • Rubblebelt Runner (2) – Good filler for Gruul decks. Fits on the curve well. 
  • High Alert (2) – I’m sure there is a defender deck out there somewhere. Fun to build around in draft I bet. 
  • Gyre Engineer (2) – Great for Adapt heavy Simic decks. Not excited about a 3 mana 1/1 though, even if it makes 2 mana. 
  • Growth Spiral (2) – It’s ramp and a cantrip, but I don’t know how good this will be in limited. 

 

Coming Up Next

 

I appreciate you sticking with me as I work my way through a busy schedule and get distracted by more exciting prospects such as MTG Arena and my Untap leagues. I still have one more article to write but not sure when it will be out. The optimist in me says it will be out by the weekend, but I can’t say for sure. Orzhov, Rakdos, and the remainder of cards will be in the next one. How good is the removal in BW and BR? Check in next time to find out. 

 

 

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