Monday, February 11, 2013

Thoughts on Gatecrash

Gatecrash is the latest expansion for Magic: the Gathering.  It is the sequel to Return to Ravnica, which featured five guilds, each representing a different color pairing.  On the surface, Gatecrash is simply the other five guilds, but in practice, it provides a very different environment.  I found RTR to have a slower, more cerebral, environment where you would build up an insurmountable board presence through an army of tokens, or complicated tricks, or using your graveyard as a resource.  In Gatecrash you turn your dudes sideways.  A lot.  The guilds and mechanics in GC emphasize attacking with your creatures whenever possible.  The games are fast and the hits are hard.  In the games I played last night, ten point life swings were common.

Let me clarify that these opinions are based entirely on a limited and casual environment.  I draft and I play at a kitchen table.  Constructed environments like standard, modern, and vintage are intriguing, but also expensive and terrifying.  And frankly, I don’t have the cash or the nerve to compete in them.

In GC, red is king; which is nice since red so rarely gets to be king.  Gruul (red/green) and Boros (red/white) are the two most powerful guilds.  They are also the most fun that I’ve tried so far.  Gruul is a very aggressive guild that is filled with surprises.  A majority of their creatures double as pump spells for your attacking creatures.  Suddenly that 1/1 dork turns into a 10/10 with double strike and you’ve stolen the game.  It’s one of the most satisfying plays I’ve made with this set.  The Gruul also enjoy a savage tribal theme that adds a lot of flavor to a Gruul deck.

The Boros legion is the military of Ravnica.  Their strategy involves a literal army of little creatures.  As a guild, it can end games very quickly; sometimes as early as turn four.  Their mechanic encourages you to attack with at least three creatures to turn on some interesting effects like flying and double strike.  I love how this guild has made haste interesting. 

Simic (blue/green)  is a guild of scientists.  The art of this guild is some of my favorite in the set.  Their creatures are experiments often combining multiple animals into something crazy looking. (Like a shark walking on crab legs!)  Their shtick is small creatures that grow larger with every creature you play.  Even without the presence of red, Simic decks can be aggressive.  It combines the creature efficiency of green with the disruptive capabilities of blue to make an effective tempo deck.  Plus: frog alligators!

Considering the color combination, the Dimir (blue/black) would seem like a guild of heavy control, and they are; it’s just handled a little differently than usual.  Their idea of control still involves attacking with creatures.  They are a network of spies and assassins who work behind the scenes, and as such, a lot of their creatures are unblockable or difficult to block.  This plays into their mechanic, which involves replaying spells when their creatures hit the opponent.  It can be very difficult to disrupt a good Dimir deck once it gets going; furthermore, there is a mill theme at play with this guild (that I have not explored just yet).

The Orzhov (white/black) is unique in GC in that it is not inherently aggressive.  There are a lot of creatures with defender in this guild and this proficiency for blocking makes for a great counterweight to the sea of attackers.  Their mechanic involves needling you one life point at a time, and once they’ve set up their fortress, they can really grind out a game.  Their theme is maybe my favorite of all ten guilds.  They are the religious presence in Ravnica, but they are also the cruel moneylenders.  This combination of greed, piety, and elaborate costumes might be a stinging critique on organized religion, or simply the most interesting way to combine the themes of white and black; either way, the mechanic helps emphasize the idea, and it makes for some fun art.

I’ll be honest; I love Ravnica.  I missed it the first time around and I’m ecstatic to be here for the return.  Between this set and the last, there is a guild that does whatever it is you want to do in MtG.  Most would call this a multicolor block because of the focus on playing with two or more colors, but to me, it feels more like an expert level core set.  It does everything that basic magic does, but makes it interesting and exciting.  Want to make a deck with fliers?  Why not draw a card every time one of them connects.  Want to make a token?  Why not make forty.  Want to combine a Komodo Dragon with an actual dragon?  There’s a guild for that.  (Seriously, I can’t get over Simic.)  I hope we return to Ravnica again sooner rather than later.

Dan's new Deck Box: Available on his etsy shop

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