We are on the precipice of the highly anticipated release of Gatecrash, the second set of the wildly popular Return to Ravnica block. As usual with the release of a new set, Wizards and your local game store will be hosting Pre-release Events where you can play with the new set a week before it goes on general sale. These pre-release events are conducted in what is known as a Sealed Deck format. A good introduction to the format, as well as a basic rundown of the Gatecrash Sealed Deck environment, can be found here. In this article, I will be going into greater detail for each of Gatecrash’s guilds and their play at the event, pointing out cards to look for, either good or bad, and potential strategies you can use.
Note: Aside from the promotional cards, I will be ignoring rare cards in my analysis, since the chances of pulling and using a rare are far slimmer than a common or uncommon card.
The Orzhov Syndicate
If you choose to represent the Orzhov guild at your pre-release, you’re in for long, drawn out games where you win through incremental advantage, keeping up with the slow and steady game while your opponent runs out of steam. The Orzhov guild mechanic, Extort, will be one of your greatest assets in these long games. Extort turns any spell you cast into a life drain spell, reducing your opponent’s life total while buffering your own. Your promo card, Treasury Thrull, is a wonderful addition to this strategy.
With this card on your field, you have a great way to retrieve the cards you used in the early game to stall out your opponent. Additionally, when you recast the cards, you will have a new opportunity to use as much Extort as you can manage! With this kind of late game advantage, on top of a decent body to boot, you’ll be closing out the game in short order. As for your other 39 cards, you’ll want to prioritize creature removal, such as Executioner’s Swing (which will take out most creatures in the format, even if they are undamaged), One Thousand Lashes, Angelic Edict, and Killing Glare. Alongside the removal, use medium creatures such as Basilica Guards and Vizkopa Guildmage to keep the board clogged until you can get a critical mass of extort spells to clean up the late game.
The DImir cards in Gatecrash encourage a very hostile form of control against your opponents. They focus on unblockable or flying creatures sneaking past your opponent’s defense, taking down their life total and giving you opportunity to cast your Cipher spells again. Your goal with the Dimir guild is to cast, protect, and hit with your evasive creatures, using removal and countermagic to keep your path clear for the encoded creatures, allowing you to cast your spells again and again. You may also want to back up your control/evasion with a little bit of mill, such as your promo card, Consuming Aberration.
With this terrifying… thing… at your command, you will have a large beatstick, one which gets larger with every spell you cast, including encoded spells cast with cipher! A note: while it may be appealing, it is inadvisable to try to make milling the main win condition for your deck. Building a good mill deck is hard enough in constructed play, and in Limited, you just won’t have the speedy or powerful mill cards you need to make it work. Ideally, you should have as few pure mill cards as possible. Cards to watch for: as with the Orzhov, you’re going to want removal in your deck, such as Dinrova Horror and Killing Glare, as well as evasive creatures such as Deathcult Rogue, Cloudfin Raptor, and Keymaster Rogue.
The Gruul Clans
The Gruul guild has an incredibly simple plan: attack the opponent, and kill him as fast as possible. To this end, you’ll need to prioritize medium to large creatures. The Bloodrush ability aids you in your quest against your opponent’s life total, allowing you to buff your creatures for a nasty surprise, allowing you to take out opponent’s creatures without losing your own, or pumping more damage right in their face.
Your promo, Rubblehulk, provides a huge board presence if cast as a creature, one that becomes larger and larger as the game goes on. Its bloodrush ability can be very useful for surprising enemy creatures or damaging your opponent, but I think Rubblehulk is best played as a creature. Its power and toughness start at 6 (if you cast it as soon as possible without keyrunes), and only go up from there, putting it beyond the reach of almost all creature removal you’ll see at the pre-release. Other cards to watch for include Slaughterhorn, a good, aggressively costed early to mid-game damage source; Ground Assault, which retains its value at all points of the game for removing early blockers or late threats; and Act of Treason, a perfect tool for both removing a blocker and putting more damage on your opponent for that final blow.
The Boros Legion
The Boros Legion, like the Gruul Clans, is focused on early to mid-game beatdown. The primary difference here is that the Boros player should focus on a “weenie” strategy, using large numbers of small creatures to bum-rush your opponent to zero life. The Batallion mechanic makes this strategy a real winner. Sheer numbers will carry you to victory over your unsuspecting opponents. Your promo, Foundry Champion, fits very well with this strategy.
If you can keep your creatures massed on the field until this beast comes into play, but haven’t managed to deal a finishing blow, Foundry Champion may be just what you need to blow out those last few points of damage. Small, hard-hitting creatures like Ember Beast, Boros Elite, and Wojek Halberdiers will be your greatest assets in the race to 20 damage. Strike fast, strike hard, and show no mercy.
The Simic Combine
I’m having the most trouble pinning down what a Simic player’s game plan should be. The basics are simple: with green and blue as your primary colors, you’ll have access to extraordinary card draw and fairly costed, ever-growing creatures with Evolve. Honestly, this combination is potentially the most potent possible way to go at the prerelease. Your promo card, Fathom Mage, is an excellent example of both sides of the Simic coin.
If you can resolve and keep a Fathom Mage on the field, as well as boosting it with your creatures and your opponent’s, you’ll have a steady source of card draw and a decent body to attack with. For the rest of your cards, you’ll have to keep a careful watch on the number of creatures with Evolve vs. your other creatures. If you include too many with Evolve, you won’t be able to consistently play creatures with higher power or toughness. I can’t tell you the exact ratio, so you’ll have to use trial and error as the event drags on. Cards to keep an eye out for include Cloudfin Raptor, Slaughterhorn, Crocanura, and Drakefin Krasis.
And that rounds out the discussion of the guilds of Gatecrash! Hopefully, my analysis combined with the link to the basics of Sealed play help you in your epic battle for supremacy at your local pre-release! Leave stories of your experience, praise or complaints for my advice, and any other thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to email me at JakePPetersen@GMail.com with any other Magic related questions or comments.