The Best Guilds/Cards in RNA Draft (According to Grand Prix Strasbourg Data)

At Grand Prix Strasbourg, 311 players made it to the Booster Draft rounds, although less than two-thirds of them were still in the running for a Top 8 berth by that point in the tournament. In this article, I want to look at their winning decks and identify trends among them. Thanks to the European GP coverage team, i.e., Frank Karsten, for getting me most of those lists. For the rest, special thanks to 3-0 Drafters Malo Willefert and Harm-Joost Van Kuijk, who gave me detailed info on their decks themselves.

First though, I’d like to take a moment to draw attention to a positive development regarding Limited on MTG Arena: the program gives a much better approximation of a real Ravnica Allegiance Draft than it did for the previous set. In Guilds of Ravnica, the bots famously undervalued Selesnya, to the point where the set’s worst guild in real life became the best guild to draft on Arena. I always suspected there may have been a connection between the skewed bot preferences and the actual lopsided power distribution. At least it would make sense that an imbalance in the source material resulted in further imbalance down the line online.

The new set now supports the hypothesis in its own way, because both aspects look different. I couldn’t find a similar exploit with the bot behavior in Ravnica Allegiance Draft. And the set exhibits a more evenly tuned color balance in tabletop tournaments too.

Let’s get to it and substantiate this last claim with numbers, shall we?

3-0 Records per Guild

The following isn’t a huge sample. But it is the largest—largely complete—set of comparable data available. It is possible to draw some conclusions too, and I will. Here’s the breakdown of which guild supplied the most people with a perfect record at GP Strasbourg’s top tables on Sunday morning:

  • 5* players went 3-0 with Rakdos as their main guild.
  • 5 players went 3-0 with Orzhov as their main guild.
  • 4 players went 3-0 with Azorius as their main guild.
  • 4 players went 3-0 with Simic as their main guild.
  • 3 players went 3-0 with Gruul as their main guild.
  • 3 players went 3-0 with a deck too colorful to have a main guild.
  • *1 player’s deck list went missing in the tournament’s aftermath and I wasn’t able to reach him for comment either. According to an opponent, “he was on Rakdos or Mardu.”

At the Mythic Championship, many top players decided that it was best to avoid red in general and Rakdos specifically, even at huge costs. The above list now suggests something else with regard to Rakdos, or more accurately one of two things, or possibly three. At first glance, Rakdos doesn’t look to be so weak after all. An alternative interpretation is that the few players who were willing to draft the guild reaped disproportionate rewards. Most likely the truth consists of some combination of Rakdos being reasonably fine and stronger still when underdrafted. Either way, it was a smart move to combine black with red in this field.

With Orzhov next in line, this makes black the most successful color for the second set in a row. Clearly we see Bolas’s influence at work.

The other red guild, Gruul, indeed did poorly by the stats above, though one should note that the multicolor decks featured a sizable Gruul contribution, and one of the Simic lists featured a red splash as well. This, in turn, raises the question where I drew the line between multicolor decks and guild decks splashing. I took my lead from the 3-0 decks themselves. 21 decks splashed between zero and four cards. Three decks included seven or more spells that required another color or colors. There was no in-between, so I used this naturally occurring gap as the cutoff.

Well, if Gruul isn’t a total stinker either, then what is? The answer is that no guild is really bad this time around, which is exactly the point I made earlier. The color balance on this screen falls within a very tight margin of error. For added perspective, recall that the last time I performed this particular exercise the gamut ran from nine 3-0 decks in Golgari to Selesnya’s meager two. That was a wide range. This is a close cluster.

Most Common Cards in 24 Undefeated Decks

Not all of this is meaningful information. Many of these cards are so obviously strong that it isn’t surprising to find them high up on a best-of list. But some placements are notable, especially relative to each other.

For instance, most everyone whose opinion I heard or read seemed to be in agreement that Chillbringer generally is a stronger card than Arrester’s Admonition. Why the latter weighed in at double the number of copies here than the former, thus, can only have one reason: all blue drafters picked Chillbringer aggressively, while the most successful of them valued Arrester’s Admonition not more highly than Chillbringer but more highly than their fellow blue drafters. Without a doubt, the same explanation applies to the difference between Grotesque Demise and Dead Revels.

Gruul Guildgate’s position matches what I wrote about Gruul cards often making their way into decks that aren’t base-Gruul. Also notable is that the grindy Orzhov game plan lends itself best to the use of a Locket. Combined, these 3-0 decks contained five Orzhov Locket but a sum total of zero Simic Locket and only one each of the others.

Finally, I’d like to highlight the uncommons that managed to make it onto the list: six each of Cult Guildmage, Gatebreaker Ram, and Mortify, as well as five Biogenic Upgrade, Depose // Deploy, Pteramander, and Vindictive Vampire. At four copies, one could find Essence Capture, Forbidding Spirit, Rakdos Firewheeler, and Sentinel’s Mark. The most common rares, meanwhile, were Electrodominance, Rix Maadi Reveler, and Thrash // Threat with three copies each.

Let’s look at the different color combinations one by one.

Cult Culmination

The average 3-0 Rakdos deck contained 17 lands and 14.8 creatures, including 1.8 for 1 mana and 4.2 for 2 mana. These were the most played cards, listed here with the average number per deck:

You may have seen Pascal Vieren’s special. He was responsible for the Orzhov Guildgate mention above all by himself. In general, decks based in black and red used the fewest Guildgates. One could find more Rakdos Guildgate outside of Rakdos than within. For a more characteristically aggressive version, check out the following:

3-0 Rakdos

Raphaël Lévy

8 Mountain
8 Swamp
2 Spear Spewer
1 Thirsting Shade
1 Tin Street Dodger
1 Footlight Fiend
1 Cult Guildmage
1 Fireblade Artist
2 Rakdos Trumpeter
1 Smelt-Ward Ignus
2 Burning-Tree Vandal
1 Rakdos Roustabout
1 Spikewheel Acrobat
1 Blade Juggler
2 Rakdos Firewheeler
1 Scorchmark
1 Bedevil
1 Theater of Horrors
2 Skewer the Critics
1 Carnival/Carnage
1 Dead Revels

Syndicate Synopsis

The average 3-0 Orzhov deck also contained 17 lands and 14.8 creatures, although with a higher curve. 6.2 creatures per deck cost 4+ mana. Another notable difference was that decks based in black and white stayed in black and white, no splash in sight.

These cards we should consider the most usual suspects:

Note how neatly the two black guilds share their removal. Rakdos wants to clear small stuff out of the way with Grotesque Demise, while Orzhov is fine spending 6 mana on Consign to the Pit. A sample list:

3-0 Orzhov

Marcus Hensing

8 Plains
9 Swamp
1 Basilica Bell-Haunt
2 Carrion Imp
1 Grasping Thrull
1 Impassioned Orator
2 Imperious Oligarch
1 Orzhov Enforcer
1 Orzhov Racketeers
1 Sphinx of the Guildpact
1 Syndicate Messenger
1 Tenth District Veteran
1 Undercity Scavenger
1 Vizkopa Vampire
1 Arrester's Zeal
1 Bedeck/Bedazzle
1 Bladebrand
1 Consign to the Pit
1 Dead Revels
1 Final Payment
1 Orzhov Locket
1 Revival/Revenge
1 Unbreakable Formation

Senate Sentiments

The average 3-0 Azorius deck contained the fewest lands—16.5 lands—as well as the fewest creatures—11.75. The following cards made up the biggest share of the decks:

Azorius is the home for counterspells. Along with a copy of Quench in half of the decks, these 3-0 players ran an average of two counters per deck. For example:

3-0 Azorius

Nils Gutierrez Von Porat

1 Hallowed Fountain
8 Island
7 Plains
2 Concordia Pegasus
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Faerie Duelist
2 Pteramander
1 Senate Courier
1 Skitter Eel
2 Sphinx of New Prahv
1 Syndicate Messenger
1 Windstorm Drake
1 Essence Capture
1 Arrester's Admonition
1 Azorius Locket
1 Lawmage's Binding
1 Sentinel's Mark
1 Shimmer of Possibility
1 Sphinx's Insight
2 Summary Judgment
1 Thought Collapse
1 Warrant/Warden
1 Quench

Simic Similarities

Simic had 16.75 lands as well as 15.5 creatures on average, and the most common cards were:

This list is shorter than the others because the successful Simic decks didn’t actually look that similar. A case in point would be the following, which somehow managed to fit Get the Point into the same 40 as Frilled Mystic:

3-0 Simic

Frederic Monange

1 Gateway Plaza
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Rakdos Guildgate
6 Forest
6 Island
2 Mountain
2 Aeromunculus
1 Bolrac-Clan Crusher
1 Frilled Mystic
1 Galloping Lizrog
1 Gate Colossus
1 Growth-Chamber Guardian
1 Persistent Petitioners
1 Sage's Row Savant
1 Saruli Caretaker
1 Sauroform Hybrid
1 Sharktocrab
1 Skitter Eel
2 Steeple Creeper
1 Sylvan Brushstrider
1 Wrecking Beast
1 Applied Biomancy
1 Collision/Colossus
1 Get the Point
1 Open the Gates
1 Rhythm of the Wild
1 Quench

Gruul Gruel

Successful Gruul decks worked with surprisingly few creatures, only 13.33 on average, although the average creature was of course bigger than elsewhere. You’ll also find a rare token producer pretty high on the list of most common cards:

Gruul decks didn’t splash, except for the odd activation of Steeple Creeper:

3-0 Gruul

Laurent Bailly

1 Breeding Pool
2 Gruul Guildgate
7 Forest
7 Mountain
1 Clan Guildmage
2 Frenzied Arynx
2 Gravel-Hide Goblin
2 Rampaging Rendhorn
1 Rubble Slinger
1 Rubblebelt Runner
1 Sauroform Hybrid
2 Steeple Creeper
1 Sunder Shaman
1 Wrecking Beast
1 Biogenic Upgrade
1 Domri, Chaos Bringer
1 Flames of the Raze-Boar
3 Savage Smash
2 Scorchmark
1 Skewer the Critics

Guildgate Guide

At long last we come to the real multicolor madness. On average, these three 3-0 decks contained 14.67 creatures and 17 lands including 6.33 Gates. The list of most played cards shows how firmly the archetype is rooted in Simic/Gruul territory.

None of the successful examples went beyond 4 colors. With barely two-and-a-half cards outside of Temur, the following was in fact the most colorful of the trio:

3-0 Gate Deck

Adria Sole Sala

1 Gateway Plaza
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Plaza of Harmony
3 Rakdos Guildgate
5 Forest
1 Simic Guildgate
4 Island
1 Mountain
1 Aeromunculus
1 Benthic Biomancer
1 Blade Juggler
1 Burning-Tree Vandal
1 Chillbringer
1 Clan Guildmage
1 Gatebreaker Ram
1 Gateway Sneak
1 Mammoth Spider
1 Rix Maadi Reveler
1 Rumbling Ruin
1 Wrecking Beast
1 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
1 Zhur-Taa Goblin
1 Applied Biomancy
1 Arrester's Admonition
1 Gates Ablaze
1 Ill-Gotten Inheritance
1 Open the Gates
1 Savage Smash
1 Stony Strength
1 Storm Strike
1 Quench


Magic the Gathering Ravnica Allegiance Infographic
Click to enlarge.


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