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Gatecrash First Impressions (Review) January 21, 2013

Posted by James in : all, reviews, previews , trackback

I am mainly happy with Return to Ravnica and it is one of the better sets from recent history. Innistrad was also quite good. I expect Gatecrash to continue this trend. It really is part of Return to Ravnica and it could be considered to be the other half of the set insofar as it’s just the other five guilds we haven’t seen yet. (Although I don’t see any rares as good as Angel of Revelation.) What I want to focus on here is what I think of the new guilds and their main mechanics.

Simic

Simic (blue/green) has a mechanic called “evolve.” If a creature enters the battlefield with greater power or toughness, put a +1/+1 counter on it. This reminds me of Allies, but to get them bigger you have to “curve out.” You want to keep playing creatures that are bigger. However, there’s also a lot of Simic creatures with high power or toughness to help your creatures keep evolving.

Evolve all by itself is weak, but you can certainly build around it. A deck full of evolving creatures can become scary quickly. This is why it’s my favorite new guild. Take a look at Cloudfin Raptor, a mere common:

cloudfin raptor

It might not look like much. If it’s the only creature you play, it’s horrible. If you play another creature, it will likely be a 1/2 — still not great. But if you keep playing creatures and curve out, this thing can end the game very quickly. That’s how we should be looking at creatures with Evolve. Many of them will generally be weaker than creatures usually are, but they can get good when we build around them.

Gruul

Gruul has the “bloodrush” keyword. That pretty much doesn’t mean anything, but every card with this mechanic has some type of combat trick that makes a creature bigger until end of turn. Take a look at Ghor-Clan Rampager:

ghor-clan ramager

Ghor-Clan Rampager is a decent creature. A 4/4 trampling creature for four mana is good. But having the bloodrush ability is also good. If this was an instant for RG that gave a creature +4/+4 and trample until end of turn, that would be a decent card. Being able to choose between these two options makes the card even better. And gruul has tons of creatures with bloodrush, so the opponent will never feel safe blocking any of the creatures in a gruul deck.

Orzhov

Orzhov (white/black) has extortion — whenever you cast a spell, you can pay W or B to gain 1 life and cause each opponent to lose a life. That is a lot of life to be gained or lost if the game goes on long enough, and you can do it multiple times if you have multiple permanents with extortion. Take a look at Kingpin’s Pet:

kingpin's pet

Kingpin’s Pet is Wind Drake, but it also has extortion. It’s a half-decent card without that ability, but extortion is what makes the card pretty good. Of course, you will want to build around the mechanic. Having lots of cards with extortion and lots of ways to delay the game (with creatures that are good at blocking) can help.

Boros

Boros (white/red) has a battalion mechanic that triggers whenever the creature with it attacks with two other creatures. Take a look at Ordruun Veteran:

odruun veteran

Ordruun Veteran is a horrible 3/1 creature that’s very delicate unless you can get more creatures that can attack with it. If the opponent plays large creatures that get in your way, then you are screwed. If the opponent kills your other creatures, you are also screwed. I am not impressed with this mechanic. The other common/uncommon creatures with battalion are no better than Ordruun Veteran.

This mechanic reminds me of Goblin Flunkies — a creature that is often terrible, but can occasionally be decent. If battalion was just a bonus on a creature that’s already good, that would be fine. But the creatures with this mechanic tend to be quite bad.

I suspect that Boros is not quite the worse guild in the block, but it seems like it’s the most popular guild based on what guild I’ve seen people choose when preregistereding for the prerelease tournament.

Dimir

Dimir (blue/black) has the cipher mechanic, which is similar to imprint. Or like a creature enchantment with an enters the battlefield effect. Take a look at Call of the Nightwing:

call of the nightwing

Every single spell with cipher requires you to deal combat damage to a player with a creature. That’s not necessarily easy to do, so you need evasion. Invisible Stalker will be no where to be found in limited events, so you will generally have to rely on using fliers. I am not a fan of creature enchantments because the opponent will just have to kill your creature to ruin your plans, and the spells with cipher are not strong. This is one of the strongest you could hope to get in a limited event (that’s not a rare). For this reason I think that Dimir is clearly the weakest of the guilds by a large margin.

Dimir is also good at milling (putting cards from libraries into graveyards). However, being good at doing two things is generally a bad thing. It means Dimir will want to with using two different win conditions and using two different strategies. That can make it all the more difficult to get either win condition to work out. Milling is pretty much just worthless if you can’t win with it, and cipher will be pretty much worthless if you can’t draw a creature with evasion.

Comments»

1. Michael - January 21, 2013

last word…you mean evasion, not invasion.

I think people want to play boros so they can aggro out. Paired with Gruul for combat tricks, you should be able to get battalion to work a fair number of times.

Either that, or they just want a bunch of Boros Charms

2. James - January 21, 2013

Sure, people might get battalion to work sometimes. Just like Goblin Flunkies works sometimes. Still not very good.