Magic is a wonderful game and is sometimes even better than a soap opera. Just think about—in any given game there are ups and downs, twist and turns, and more often than not there is such an amazing finale that will be talked about for weeks.
After all that, you might "think how can Magic get any better (besides fixing the shuffler)?"
Well, I'll tell you…
This weekend, many exciting things are going on. Dragon Maze is becoming legal for Constructed play, Ben Lundquist is making a guest appearance on Dancing with the Stars, and StarCityGames.com is hosting their first ever Team Sealed Open in Somerset, New Jersey. Ok, I lied—two out of the three are exciting.
The Team Sealed Open will feature the full block of Return to Ravnica, making Dragon's Maze's debut in Limited as well. Now, some of you reading this may be heading to the Open, some of you may be heading to Grand Prix Providence, and some of you might not have any team events coming up in the near future. Regardless, I am going to touch upon a great way you can approach team events and my thoughts on RTR Block Limited.
I'm certain many of you are excited to start drafting with Dragon's Maze—there's lots of exciting new creatures, powerful split cards, and all the guilds coming together.
Before Dragon's Maze, everything was different. Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash were drafted separately, and it was pretty straightforward. Your options were limited, and the formats got stale quickly. However, with Dragon's Maze, the combinations are unlimited, and multicolor decks will rule the format!
When I first started playing competitive Magic in 1999, my favorite deck was PT:Junk, which was a G/W/B creature disruption deck. In 2008, when I won Grand Prix Philadelphia, it was with The Rock, which was also a G/W/B creature disruption deck. Now, we come to 2013, where my favorite Limited deck is again, you guessed it, Golgari, Selesnya, and Orzhov, or as I like to call it, Golzhovnya.
There are many reasons why I like this archetype. Over the next several paragraphs, I'm going to talk about its basic line of attack, cards in these colors that got slightly better with the addition of Dragon Maze, and cards you should be on the lookout for when drafting.
The plan behind Golzhovnya is to be able to attack from multiple angles and play the type of game that you want to play. Against some decks, you will want to play a game of attrition, which Golzhovnya plays very well. Utility creatures and two for ones like Mind Rot and Purge the Profane will allow you to have card advantage over your opponent.
Let's pause for a moment to talk about these two cards. In Return to Ravnica Draft, many people didn't give much credit to Mind Rot since most of the time it would be in the sideboard, just missing the cut of your maindeck. When Gatecrash came out, Purge the Profane also hung out in sideboard a good majority of the time at first. But after a couple of Grand Prix and more play with the format, players started to see the power of Purge the Profane.
This brings us to Dragon's Maze, where both of these cards fit perfectly into this type of deck. They fit nicely because the format isn't as fast as people think it is. In triple Gatecrash Draft, all players talked about was how fast and powerful Boros was. They said playing slow cards will lead to you dying before you ever have a chance to cast them. I felt this was not the case. Sure, sometimes your opponent would curve out, and you would be dead on turn 5. However, those games were very uncommon and could often be stopped.
Many players have a narrow-minded view of Magic, which you want to avoid. Magic is not black and white. It's black, white, and green. :)
They will say things like: "How could you think the Primordials are good? Seven mana is way too much, and you will lose before you get a chance to cast them." But I think they just aren't seeing the big picture.
This carries over to Constructed as well. Take a look at Legacy for example. People have their combo decks and say they will combo you by turn 2. Sure, they could combo you by turn 2, but it's probably not going to happen very often.
Someone who can attest to this and has the furthest thing from a narrow-minded view is Nick Spagnolo. Just look at this guy and how awesome he is!
Why is he awesome?
Because he's wearing a SCG hoodie!
Well, that, but also because he has an open mind and unique view of the format.
At the past few SCG Invitationals, Nick played both Garruk, Primal Hunter and Pack Rat in his Legacy decks. He did this because he thought hard about the format and understood how the games played out. He knew that the games would be long grinds and felt those cards were the best option to break through against the control decks.
What I'm trying to say here is play the format and don't just jump to conclusions. Think about it from an outside view and see how it goes.
With that said, now I'm going to go over the commons and uncommons you want when drafting Golzhovnya. I'll try to only talk about cards that either got better with the addition of Dragon's Maze or cards that might not be so obvious for the deck. Even though it's clear you want all the Arrests, Stab Wounds, various Guildmages, Killing Glares, Syndic of Tithes, Putrefys, and Unflinching Courages you can get your hands on, I won't go into detail about them because their power level can be seen at face value.
For Dragon's Maze, I will list some of the obvious cards just because the set is new and many players probably haven't had a chance to play with them yet. I will also explain why certain cards are important for Golzhovnya and some neat interactions between these cards.
A five mana 3/3 isn't good, but when you add on his ability, Maw of the Obzedat becomes great and is a perfect fit for this archetype. With cards like Gatecreeper Vine, Sin Collector, Eyes in the Skies, and Seller of Songbirds, you will have extra guys that you don't mind sacrificing along with extra guys that will get in for additional damage. Being able to sacrifice your creatures might come in handy as well, especially if your opponent plays a Stab Wound or One Thousand Lashes on an important creature. Another option is to sacrifice a creature with scavenge so that you can just do that on one of your creatures with evasion.
Sin Collector fits nicely into the two for one themed deck we having going here. Although Sin Collector's body is a bit weak in the power and toughness categories, the ability is very powerful since if timed correctly you will completely ruin your opponent's game plan. Maybe your opponent was setting up a game-changing effect like a Supreme Verdict or an overloaded Mizzium Mortars. Or maybe they were going to blow you out in combat with a Rootborn Defenses or Common Bond. Not anymore!
The best thing about Sin Collector is that it will do its work and then can be sacrificed to cards like the aforementioned Maw of the Obzedat to pump your team or a timely Launch Party to take out one of your opponent's best creatures.
Tithe Drinker is kind of a no-brainer here, but I just want to stress how important and powerful the extort mechanic really is. In a deck that is built to be full of two for ones, having the ability to gain back the life from damage you might have taken early in the game is unbelievable. This ensures that you will be able to survive long enough to cast your game-changing expensive spells.
Rot Farm Skelton is a very powerful creature. It enables you to fill your graveyard up with scavenge creatures and adds to the two for one theme that Golzhovnya has. In most games, Rot Farm Skeleton will trade with one of your opponent's creatures and then come back for more within the next two. Keep in mind that Wildwood Rebirth and Treasure Find also become slightly better than they were before due to the Skeleton's unique recursion element giving them more targets. And if things work out perfectly, Immortal Servitude (a card that was picked very late in Gatecrash Limited) can be a game-ender.
Another creature without the greatest body for its cost. However, having deathtouch, five toughness, and a game-changing ability makes up for it! Between scavenge, evolve, and cards such as Common Bond, you will have an excess of counters that will turn into weapons to dominate the board.
Both of their values depend on the number of Gates you have in your deck. But if you plan on triggering them often enough, gaining seven life or giving -2/-2 to another creature is super powerful. At worst, they're still decent bodies that block most ground guys in the format.
This is on the weaker side of removal spells, but you can pick this up super late in a draft. And in Golzhovnya, you have to be able to kill small utility creatures such as Guildmages and extort creatures. It does combo nicely with cards such as Rot Farm Skelton, Grisly Salvage, and Balustrade Spy, as you can target yourself to put a land into your graveyard.
Thrashing Mossdog is exactly the type of support creature you're looking for in Golzhovnya. He blocks flyers, is able to trade well as a four mana 3/3, and comes back for more as a late game scavenge creature.
Besides those cards, any of the Guildgates and all the split cards will be nice additions to your deck.
Rust Scarab was already a maindeck card, but now having this effect is more important than ever. With cards such as Stab Wound, One Thousand Lashes, Arrest, Pursuit of Flight, Unflinching Courage, and all the artifact mana, being able to remove them at instant speed can lead to a blowout.
Crowned Ceratok becomes better because of both unleash and scavenge as they give you more of an opportunity to have creatures with +1/+1 counters under your control.
Greenside Watcher gets a little better since you will be aiming to get more Guildgates for your deck. It also combos nicely if you happen to pick up either a Security Blockade or Underworld Connections during the Return to Ravnica portion of the draft. Hold the Gates also falls under this.
Return to Ravnica
With more sacrifice effects and the importance of having Guildgates, Gatecreeper's stock goes way up. A 0/2 body never looked so good!
Since the format slowed down a decent amount, being able to play slower five-drop creatures is more of a reality. The Ooze is able to break through board stalls, get you value from some of your other creatures, and does a nice job getting rid of an annoying enchantments like Stab Wound and One Thousand Lashes.
Harmonize was a bomb in Limited. Now, this is not as good as Harmonize, but it serves its purpose well by assuring that you will be able to play out your big spells later on in the game. Besides, if you end up with a Seek the Horizon and a few off-color Guildgates, splashing a fourth or fifth color for a powerful spell is not out of the question.
In a slower format, the board tends to get bogged down. Being able to remove a utility creature is important. Just like Drown in Filth, in slow, long games any removal spell tends to become more important. This one just so happens to pump your creature as well.
Remember, this is just a primer of RTR Block Limited. Team Limited will follow many of these card evaluations. Besides reading articles and practicing with the new cards, being confident and comfortable with your teammates is very important. A positive attitude will go a long way since it is likely you or your teammates will make at least one a costly error. Instead of getting down on your teammates, encouraging them for your next round might ensure better play.
Before I go, I saw that many of you read my article last week about my Grixis deck. Michael Jacob took it to a 4-0 finish in a Daily Event on his stream. He made a few changes, and with those in mind and Dragon's Maze becoming legal, here is the list I suggest you play in any Standard tournament this weekend:
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tannon Grace and Eric Kreiter for their insights as well. Follow me on Twitter @gfabs5, and if you have any questions, post them in the comments.
Keep it tight-
I can't tell you since they'll kick me out if I do.