Gatecrash previews are in full swing! We’ve had some awesome spoilers so far, and have finally been reintroduced to the five remaining guilds. So you’re probably either loving or hating this right now.
…why you’d be hating it, I have no idea. But it’s the internet. I know your kind. If you haven’t found something to like about one of the ten guilds by now…seriously? I think you’re playing the wrong game.
We’ve seen help for control, aggro, midrange, and combo decks through Return to Ravnica, some sleeper hits (*coughPackRatcough*) to keep you guessing, and fancy new mechanics of for each of the guilds. The mechanics have certainly served to add not only interesting gameplay, but also a bit more character to the guilds, allowing for an even more personal touch to guild-alignment and deck-building.
So what’s Gatecrash bringing to the table?
Evolve (Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature has greater power or toughness than this creature, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature.)
Simic’s evolve was the first mechanic spoiled, and comes to us from the Great Designer Search 2, actually. Last time we were on Ravnica, Simic used graft – a similar but more confusing ability, I think – so they’re sticking with the +1/+1 counters, which totally fits with the guild. Particularly in the case of Fathom Mage, we simultaneously see physical and mental growth, clearly indicative of blue and green.
With evolve, you have the chance to control the board early. To really take advantage of it, getting evolve creatures out early to generate those counters with other less-impressive drops will probably be key. (And remember that it’s either power OR toughness that has to be greater than the evolve creature’s – so use that to your advantage.) And timing, too. When you play your giant creatures is probably going to depend as much on what else you have in your hand as what your opponent has on the board. I’m gonna guess that the blue here is going to be playing with all those pesky counters (as we’ve seen on Simic Fluxmage), and irritating the hell out of me, I’m sure.
Overall, seems dangerous, but it’s going to require some careful planning. Perfect fit for Simic.
Bloodrush – (Cost), Discard (card): Target attacking creature gets +X/+Y until end of turn. (Where X is card’s power, Y is card’s toughness. Paraphrasing, of course.)
I was a big fan of R/G early on in my Magic obsession, so I was pretty excited to see what they came up with for Gruul here, and bloodrush didn’t disappoint. Different from Gruul’s old bloodthirst in mechanics, but not in flavor, bloodrush is brutal. It’s about beating your opponent down now now NOW, at the risk of losing something in the future – that sounds pretty red, right? The green of course comes into play when those sacrifices your crazy red side is making directly benefit your creatures, allowing you to stomp all over your opponents with glee. It’s a little chaotic, but that’s kind of Gruul’s thing.
At instant speed and essentially uncounterable, bloodrush is going to let you keep things fast, which is probably ideal if you’re going to be dumping creatures constantly. It seems Gruul will allow for some flexibility, letting you decide if you want to go straight for face-smashing, or sit back and get the board where you want it first. It’s like green’s sensibilities pulls back red’s craziness just a bit. Regardless, the combat tricks are sure to frustrate blue – which makes me a happy girl. Lots of action, clear intentions to go for the win, and a love for gigantic creatures. I’ll take it.
(Add to this new planeswalker Domri Rade‘s ultimate and suddenly Gruul’s power makes me want to vomit a little.)
Battalion – Whenever (creature) and at least two other creatures attacks, (something crazy happens).
Ugh. This. This is going to be dangerous. W/R is one of those combos I don’t play much, but once I do I remember exactly how insane it can be. Battalion feels like it’s going to remind me of that more than I’d like it to. I’ll take a stab in the dark and say Boros is going to do some token creation to boost this ability, or it’ll at least exploit white’s natural tendency to crank out soldiers like they’re going out of style. (Because obviously what we need is more white soldier decks. Awesome.)
Similar to radiance in that it has that team-player-type feel to it, battalion forces you to depend on numbers if you want to be as powerful as possible. Of course you have to be smart about it; just because you have three creatures doesn’t always mean you should attack. If you’ve only got some 1/1 soldiers, do you attack just to do the extra damage, risking losing all of them and the ability to have battalion trigger next turn? Or do you sit back and wait to have some big-hitters to lead the pack? (You know, like Gideon, Champion of Justice.) Playing against Boros is sure to keep you on your toes; red’s penchant for haste is going to almost guarantee that battalion will always be a possibility. I’m interested to see what other boosts this mechanic’s going to give.
(Also, if you were wondering if my hatred of angels has quelled at all, the answer is Aurelia, the Warleader. So no. Thank you for asking.)
Extort (Whenever you cast a spell, you may pay . If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain that much life.)
Admittedly, I had to read this ability a few times before I really got it and then saw its potential. It’s definitely playing off the flavor of W/B with it’s focus on the benefitting the group. …ok, so “groupmind” isn’t necessarily what pops into your head when you think black, but realistically, black’s all about caring about yourself. And when you’re part of Orzhov, that you suddenly becomes the group you’re a part of. So you’ve got these two colors, all about religion and power and sacrifice (of yourself or others, incidentally), and it chooses to make others pay for what they themselves are doing. Fair, right? To Orzhov it is. Because if you’re not with them, you’re against them.
I had plans to make a W/B deck during the Innistrad block and never got around to it, but seeing Orzhov spoilers is definitely making me bump that up on my list. (Especially because the plan was to make it a deck where I sacrifice angels to demons, so fuck you, Aurelia. I like Deathpact Angel better anyway.) As it stands, extort looks to be most effective in multiplayer games, which is good for me as that’s mainly what I play. That drain not only stacks for every permanent with extort (if you can pay the tax for each) but also sucks life from every opponent. Sounds fabulous.
Built for the long game, extort is kind of the unexpected favorite for me right now. I’m interested to see if we find this popping up on permanents other than creatures.
Cipher (Then you may exile this spell card encoded on a creature you control. Whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, its controller may cast a copy of the encoded card without paying its mana cost.)
And finally, the most confusing freaking keyword that I can recall in recent memory, right at home in Dimir. Almost reminiscent of Orzhov’s haunt, cipher lets you reuse spells and be all tricky-like, making it typically blue and kind of scary to me. The second a stupidly powerful mill spell that I’m SURE we’ll see in this set gets encoded onto a flying creature and I’m stuck looking at my board full of rats that (as you can imagine) aren’t the best at blocking flying, a tableflip might be involved. You’ve been warned.
You have to be kind of calculating and otherwise sneaky to make this as broken as it has the potential to be. Use your flying, unblockable, and intimidate creatures and you’ll be able to create a really dynamic relationship between your offense and defense. (And you might want to think about buying up those Tormented Souls, Invisible Stalkers, and Geist of Saint Trafts.) But even if those plans don’t work out, the benefit to cipher is that you still have a spell, even if you only get to use it once. So if you can build a powerful, effective deck that happens to have a lot of flying in it, adding some cards with cipher in can’t hurt. Odds are they’re gonna hit at some point and you’ll get the option of a free spell if things work out.
Really, I like this. And it’s a great fit for what’s supposed to be the secretive guild that leaves no trace of their actions behind – the flavor is perfect.
Of course we’re still in the very very early stages of spoilers, so we’ll see how these pan out. I expected to want to play Dimir this time around, but I should have guessed that its naturally convoluted nature would leave me a little less intrigued – it’s just not my play style. Orzhov stays my front-runner with Gruul a close second.