The Top 5 Guilds of Ravnica Cards for Modern
- Legends Warehouse News
- 16 Oct, 2018
Guilds of Ravnica has had a tremendous impact on Magic so far. From completely dictating how the top tier of Standard has shifted post-rotation to introducing some incredibly powerful Commander cards, there’s no doubt that Guilds has warped the way people are playing Magic. But what about Modern? Modern has typically been the baseline for true tournament playable cards for a number of sets now. New cards breaking into Modern are usually a pretty big deal because the power level required to do so is naturally higher than Standard, and while new cards can combo with older Legacy staples, there are enough checks and balances to keep them under control. Modern is sort of the wild west of formats, where anything is viable without a card like Force of Will to keep things in check, cards have to be much more powerful to break out because they have to keep up the pace. With the release of Guilds of Ravnica, we have seen over the past two weeks that not only have some of these new cards broken into Modern, they’ve kicked down the door and made themselves at home.
Control decks in Modern have been on the upswing lately. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria gave UW and Jeskai decks the shot in the arm they needed to actually close out games in a reasonable timeframe (by control’s standard). However, for all the power Teferi gives control, it still hasn’t been enough to handle some of the faster aggro decks. With Hardened Scales and RB Vengevine speeding up the format significantly, it’s quite often that a control player won’t live long enough to cast Teferi, or even Supreme Verdict for that matter. Deafening Clarion gives Jeskai control a sweeper a full turn earlier than normal, and while a simple Pyroclasm would normally suffice, Deafening Clarion’s second mode gives Jeskai control a second avenue of winning the game with the addition of Monastery Mentor. Triggering prowess, making tokens, and giving them all lifelink can break aggro games in your favour. As well, the added threats make it easier to fend off opposing UW control decks since you have an actual clock, so I can see this adjustment causing an upswing in Jeskai being the control deck of choice for quite some time.
One of the trickiest parts of running a non-combo Collected Company deck is that you only have so many slots to work with. A deck like Hate Bears only has so many slots available, so often when building your deck you have to make difficult decisions about what effects to include. Do I cut Kitchen Finks for Reclamation Sage? Do I run Loxodon Smiter to pressure slower decks? Thankfully, Knight of Autumn has a whopping three different modes to give it the flexibility to open up these decks. By covering multiple bases either by gaining life, blowing up an artifact or enchantment, or just getting beefy, Knight of Autumn is effectively the previous three creatures in one, thus freeing space up to include more metagame silver bullets in your 75 so you can lock down a wider variety of matchups.
If there had to be a definitive “sleeper” card in Guilds of Ravnica, I’d bet the farm on that card being Risk Factor. This new and improved Browbeat removes some of the worst features of its predecessor, such as being a sorcery or only getting to cast it once, and turns into a seriously powerful threat in aggressive decks. The biggest dangers of playing a Burn deck in Modern are running out of gas and flooding out, so Risk Factor does a tremendous job of neutralizing these weaknesses. Getting an opponent down to less than eight life by turn three is fairly easy to do with these decks, so by the time you have mana to cast Risk Factor it will often read “draw three cards on your opponent’s end step”. This will often draw you into the last points of burn you need to win the game, and even if your opponent decides to eat the four damage, that’s still a damage-to-mana ratio on par with OG Modern staple Flames of the Blood Hand. While I probably wouldn’t run more than two copies in the maindeck, Risk Factor is poised to give Burn decks that little extra push to keep up with the newer aggro archetypes that have taken its place.
While it seems odd that I’d put Assassin’s Trophy, arguably the most hyped card in the entire set, in second place, I do so with a good reason. I preface this by saying Assassin’s Trophy is probably the best removal spell ever printed. An instant-speed two mana Vindicate is a huge deal, and Path to Exile has proven time and again that giving the opponent a basic land often doesn’t matter. However, what’s holding Assassin’s Trophy back so much is that, frankly, BG decks are in an awkward spot in Modern. At their core, they’re piles of removal and discard with a couple value creatures thrown in to close out games, so does anything actually change when Assassin’s Trophy is thrown in the mix? All most Jund decks have done to accommodate Trophy is cut back on the counts for their other removal spells to make room. The creatures are the same, the lands are the same. All that’s different is now they can keep Tron off seven mana on turn 3 while giving them the Forest to cast Sylvan Scrying for the turn 4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Don’t get me wrong, Assassin’s Trophy is a fantastic card, and any deck running those colours should be running it, but as far as the “most impactful Modern card” goes, it’s still edged out by a certain innocuous uncommon.
Look at Creeping Chill. Does anything about this scream “Modern playable” to you? Does anything scream “Constructed playable”? If you answered no to either of these questions then congratulations, you are a normal human being with feelings and loved ones and a soul. For us Dredge players, this card is manna from heaven, a sip of water after weeks in the desert, finding $20 under the couch when you’re looking for a peanut. This took Dredge from tier 3 after the re-banning of Golgari Grave-Troll to the tier 1 menace we’ve seen all over Magic Online.
While a four mana Lightning Helix seems innocent enough on the surface, the way Dredge has used this card is downright evil. Because Creeping Chill can be used for free when it’s milled, aggressively dredging can net you up to twelve free damage when you flip them into your graveyard. Unlike Legacy, there’s no big Dread Return finish for Modern Dredge so it relies on attacking and chipping away at the opponent’s life total. Hitting even just two Creeping Chills in a game can be enough to give your Bloodghast haste, or even punch in those last few points of damage for the win. Furthermore, Creeping Chill actually has a triggered ability, so when you mill one you don’t even cast it. This means your opponent can’t even counter it! On top of all that, gaining a potential twelve life in a game suddenly gives Dredge a ton of game against aggro decks like Burn which used to be a bit of a headache.
The sheer amount of free value you get out of Creeping Chill is ridiculous, and it can seriously speed up your clock when you’re pressuring your opponent. The second I heard rumours of this deck being a thing among my fellow Dredge fanatics, I started trading for my set so I could test it out myself. I’m overjoyed to say that Creeping Chill is every bit as powerful as I had heard, easily putting away games I had no business winning. For example, on of the first matches I got to test was against Grixis Death’s Shadow, and I managed to win both games without actually attacking. I simply waited for my opponent to drop their life total low enough to get a decently sized Death’s Shadow, then I started aggressively milling myself. I dug nearly two thirds of my deck to trigger all four copies, dealing the lethal amount of damage without lifting a finger. Other notable wins included burning out a Tron player after they resolved a Wurmcoil Engine on turn 4 that I couldn't attack through, and milling one off of a Shriekhorn in response to a Boros Charm to gain enough life to survive and counterattack for lethal. The versatility of this card coupled with the sheer speed you can deck yourself with Dredge has made this draft chaff into a serious contender, rocketing Dredge into the position of the most successful combo deck of the season so far.
It’s hard to deny the impact Guilds of Ravnica has had on Modern. With roleplaying cards in control, aggro, midrange, and combo, cards from this set have influenced every facet of the format. Guilds of Ravnica has breathed new life into strategies that were left behind and even introduced some tools to help combat the top contenders in the format. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this set, and I hope that this trend continues as more people try out new Guilds cards. Who knows what the next big thing to hit Modern will be, but I’m eagerly waiting to see how much more this set will influence the format.