I’ve played my fair share of Guilds of Ravnica Limited in preparation for the upcoming Pro Tour and the Team Grand Prix in Denver. I’ve learned a fair bit about the format, and disagree with a lot of strong players on a number of cards. Generally, disagreements of this magnitude mean that my results suffer, but not this time.
So I’ve decided to share some of my takes on the format, and which cards my peers are underrating or overrating. I’ll start with the 10 overrated cards, and next time I’ll cover the 10 most underrated cards.
10) Sprouting Renewal
Now this is not a high pick card and I don’t think people take it too highly too often, but I do see this card in way too many decks. There are almost no concerning artifacts in the format, and a lot of the enchantments are rares or removal spells like Luminous Bonds or Capture Sphere. Sprouting Renewal, when cast as a creature, is extremely low impact and inefficient. In almost any deck I’d rather maindeck a Crushing Canopy than Sprouting Renewal because the upside is so much higher as an instant that can also kill high impact commons and uncommons.
9) Muse Drake
This is an odd one to include, as it’s totally fine, and actually plays well into what I think this format is about: value. Muse Drake can be an effective blocker against other flying creatures and smaller ground creatures, but where Muse Drake falls short is in its high casting cost and inability to close the game.
Despite some players liking Dimir decks and Izzet decks with higher creature counts, generally defined as Izzet aggro and Dimir aggro, I find that all of my blue decks have an average of about nine or ten creatures, often less. Blue in Guilds of Ravnica has such good spells, and so many of them, that I think tapping out for a mediocre, smallish creature is generally a mistake. Muse Drake may produce value, but it’s undersized for its spot on the curve, and competes in mana cost with cards such as Artful Takedown and Capture Sphere, which play so well with all of the counterspells in the format.
Muse Drake almost never makes the main deck of my Draft decks, and I generally side it in against Boros decks with 2-power flyers. I’ll get more into that later.
8) Siege Wurm
Siege Wurm can be a proxy for any big expensive convoke threat. There are quite a few of them. Siege Wurm can be a fine top-end card, and I play it sometimes, but at the beginning of the format people were taking this much more highly than they should have been. This is replaceable top end—don’t let the keyword convoke fool you. Selesnya certainly plays a card like this better than Golgari, despite both playing a lot of creatures—Golgari wants to win by creating value, not by jamming big creatures. The problem with big threats that don’t provide value is that they are weak to counterspells and the mountain of removal in this format. Taking a turn off from attacking to get your Siege Wurm countered or killed by a Command the Storm, Deadly Visit, or Price of Fame is not where you want to be. The biggest upside of Siege Wurm is the fact that it has trample, which can be leveraged in some games. Just don’t go taking it it too highly. I’d suggest speculating on a gold card in pack 1 and letting a single copy of Siege Wurm you might play fall into your lap.
7) Rosemane Centaur
Don’t get me wrong—Rosemane Centaur is much better than Siege Wurm, and a reasonably good card. I will almost always play it in my Selesnya decks, but Rosemane Centaur is not a strong enough signal or card to want to move into Selesnya for. It’s shut off by Wall of Mist, Hired Poisoner, and Pitiless Gorgon, as well as most removal. In Guilds of Ravnica Draft, follow the common removal and strong uncommons (and of course rares) as a signal that a color is open, not medium to slightly stronger common creatures that provide no value. Rosemane Centaur is fine, but not a reason to be Selesnya and to build around it with a bunch of small, low-impact creatures.
6) Rhizome Lurcher
This card falls into a similar category as Rosemane Centaur. It’s fine, and I play it a lot. My biggest problem with Rhizome Lurcher is that it’s very hit or miss. Sometimes I need a reasonably sized creature on turn 4 or 5 but haven’t been able to get a creature into the graveyard because my draw hasn’t allowed me to. Other times, it’s reasonably sized but can’t break through on the ground without trample. It’s the best common payoff for undergrowth, but it’s been unimpressive to me, and not really how I see Golgari playing out. Golgari is a grindy guild that uses removal to take care of problematic creatures and finds value with uncommons and rares. People are often skeptical of the strategy of letting rares and uncommons win your games because it doesn’t always happen, but we live in a time when the uncommons and rares are simply much better than the commons (for the most part). Decks with all commons generally won’t be very successful.
5) Dimir Spybug
This is a great card, but I realized recently that I’m taking it too highly for how I draft Dimir. I generally draft a controlling Dimir deck without too many creatures that trigger Dimir Spybug. Dimir Spybug wants to be cast early, otherwise it fails to close or block well. This is the kind of card that’s perfect for “Dimir Aggro” but I don’t find myself wanting to spend early picks on creatures that are higher variance. Early in the format, I used to take Dimir Spybug over Artful Takedown or Deadly Visit, and while I can see that being correct with context sometimes, I’m much more likely to take the good common removal now. Dimir Spybug isn’t bad, but I’ve noticed that it isn’t always a good card in my best Dimir decks.
4) Healer’s Hawk
Time to ruffle some feathers. Healer’s Hawk is one of the most overrated commons I’ve seen in recent memory. While it’s definitely a good card in decks high on mentor and other ways to increase its power (Maniacal Rage, Ironshell Beetle), I still think the strategies that involve Healer’s Hawk are high variance and exploitable. I’ve always found relying on playing a 1-drop and curving out smoothly overrated in Limited because those decks have a very difficult time recovering once they fall behind. 1-mana cards are generally very poor later in the game. Generally, I’m able to ignore the Hawk for a while and focus on the rest of the creatures until I eventually have an advantage and let the Boros deck flood out while I’m spending more mana than they are over the course of the game.
I’m almost never trying to race in this format. I try to slowly grind out my opponent, choke them out with value, and find any way to kill them I can. Boros decks happen to be easier to close out because they’re lower on removal than control decks so you don’t need to have too many big win conditions, unless their life total gets so high you end up decking yourself.
While Healer’s Hawk is a fine card in Boros, I’m never taking it early, and I draft around it because I think there are better ways to get percentage points in Draft. I’ve heard many people refer to Healer’s Hawk as the best white common, which I disagree with, and I don’t really think it matters in the context of a Guilds format, especially where the spells are so much more powerful than the creatures.
3) Notion Rain
Notion Rain fits into my plan of grinding out opponents and creating value. My biggest problem with Notion Rain is its diminishing returns. Paying 2 life is a compounding downside. Drawing cards and milling yourself also has diminishing returns in a format where people reach the bottom of their decks fairly often. I like having the first copy of Notion Rain, but I do see people taking it too highly, then ending up with two or three and not wanting more than the first.
2) Sonic Assault
Never has a card gone from underrated to overrated so fast in my book. Sonic Assault is a fine card. I play it when I need a card in control sometimes because having some reach is generally better than a bad creature in these decks, especially when you have multiple Hypothesizzle you want to discard a jump-start spell to. There are spells-matter cards, and it can effectively gain you some life. The problem I have with Sonic Assault is that people are taking it way too early and using it as a reason to put way too many creatures in their Izzet decks. Izzet aggro is a thing, but in my opinion, Izzet control is the superior archetype.
Izzet has such a good base of removal and card draw that it rarely floods, so it can really pummel other decks by having more spells and trading card-for-card. Jump-start cards like Radical Idea and Direct Current at common allow you to trade one-for-one once, and then trade in a land. Sonic Burst trades resources for damage. This has a much higher fail rate in my experience because you have issues when you fall behind. I play Sonic Assault and have drafted decent Izzet aggro decks, but my best Izzet decks are filled with Radical Ideas, Direct Currents, and Hypothesizzles, not Sonic Assaults, Maximize Altitudes, Maximize Velocities, and Leapfrogs.
Boros, in my opinion, is the third best guild. Maybe even fourth, which is what I think a lot of people rank the guild at. That said, I think it’s closer to Golgari (the third or fourth best) than it is to Dimir or Izzet. It’s extremely one-dimensional, and I hate pinning myself into an archetype that can’t play a long game when there are plenty of tools to play a long game in this format. It makes opening hands, having early plays, and the correct mana too important, which is an added element of variance that can be avoided by playing a slower archetype with individually more powerful cards.
Check back later in the week for my top underrated cards. I’ve had a ton of success in Guilds of Ravnica playing long, grindy games with a lot of removal and countermagic while my opponent tries to rush me with creatures. In Guilds of Ravnica, the spells are actually better than the creatures for the most part, and I’ve had a lot of success noticing and leveraging that information to my advantage. Hopefully you will too.