Hooray, Guilds of Ravnica is here to save us.
Multicolored mana means all sorts of wonderful midrange piles can exist.
And the rotation nuked the best red cards from orbit.
Goblin Chainwhirler might even be a niche card that has a minor impact on the format.
Today I get to be the fun police, which may be one of my favorite jobs.
It is very likely, if not almost assured, that Goblin Chainwhirler is still very playable in Guilds of Ravnica Standard. If anything the format is actually structured to make it even easier for it to be one of the best cards.
Mana In Twos and Threes
The core of my discussion today is just a history lesson. Let's step back six years.
Return to Ravnica Standard featured the exact lands for mana as Guilds of Ravnica will: shocklands and checklands. Again, we only get five shocklands to start that bridge a full color wheel. Structurally this is an identical starting point.
To reiterate what Patrick Chapin brought up last week , the following three color combinations have two shocklands and will be the obvious choices for good mana. They all have a central color that somewhat matters for early plays and double single color requirements that I'll also call out.
Naya, centered in white.
Grixis, centered in blue.
Sultai, centered in black.
Jeskai, centered in red.
Abzan, centered in green.
These decks will be good, but they aren't quite what they were in Return to Ravnica Standard.
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 3 Borderland Ranger
- 2 Centaur Healer
- 3 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 4 Thragtusk
One of the defining aspects of Return to Ravnica Standard was the bleed from three colors to four-ish in a lot of cases. The stock Bant Control deck splashed Nephalia Drownyard as the mirror breaker. Base Abzan or Bant midrange just had Huntmaster of the Fells because the card was great.
That format was full of convenient splash tools that made it easy to stitch these monstrosities together.
We don't have many of those in 2018, or the ones we have are way worse. Cavern of Souls was a card you played anyways in Abzan, so if you could name Humans to splash Huntmaster of the Fells you were set. You don't play Unclaimed Territory incidentally, and there isn't a convenient Humans theme backbone that covers a huge chunk of incidental creatures. We might want to play Dinosaurs, but Thunderherd Migration can find shocklands like Farseek.
Guilds of Ravnica may have a good five-color fixer, but I'm expecting way more Rakdos Keyrune-style cards that just layer on the same trio mana. Right now you are leaning hard on Gift of Paradise to spread your colors, which probably means a Nexus of Fate shell defaults to Sultai splash Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Jeskai, or or some weird off brand fixing setup.
The format also lacks the drive to find some weird fourth color game-breaker. There isn't a Thragtusk with Restoration Angel forcing people to figure out how to win games where both players gain 30 life. There is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria that forces you down proactive routes to prevent it from establishing.
By the way, did you catch my color combinations? Jeskai is the only color trio that spans Azorius for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and is based in red. Two great tastes that taste great together… for you. Horrible for everyone who wanted to play cool new stuff. Triple red is a stretch, but one I assume is worth trying for. Add Rekindling Phoenix and you have a format where dominating rares and mythics are in a pile waiting to happen.
I will say that with just Glacial Fortress to bridge the two, casting double white and double blue spells on time is ambitious. You also get too many free red sources to not play double red cards. I would aim for Cleansing Nova and Syncopate, or some red sweeper and Sinister Sabotage, but not Cleansing Nova and Sinister Sabotage.
But this isn't even the real reason The Chainwhirler is going to still take your match points.
Two Color Aggro Kills Everyone
So I showed you a bunch of super sweet decks.
You want to know what the actual most successful deck in Return to Ravnica Standard was? With multiple Grand Prix wins and months as the deck to beat?
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 3 Hellrider
- 4 Knight of Infamy
- 3 Thundermaw Hellkite
Yes that's a Cavern of Souls there, but for this deck's purposes of smashing your opponent's face in I could see Unclaimed Territory doing the same job of getting you to seventeen second color sources.
Yes, friends don't let friends play Cinder Barrens, but hear me out. Let's think through what this means for our mana.
Without playing Golgari Guildgate and Foul Orchard in your deck you aren't getting to enough sources to cast a double black spell, and trying to play eight tapped lands for two color mana is full on capitalized Yikes. Thirteen sources is enough for the Lightning Strike or Cast Down bracket of spells that are good whenever you get to it.
To play a double colored creature spell you want to lean on Unclaimed Territory, which requires some alignment of early drop creature types. Fortunately the good triple cost three-drops are a Human, a Goblin, and an Elf, which aside from being an okay start to an adventuring party are well-supported types for early drops. You might even be able to play off of the Knight or Warrior types in white or red.
So, we know this configuration is going to work. Let's make some very early sketches of what our decks might look like.
Green first, just to give you a small break from Goblins.
- 2 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 4 Thorn Lieutenant
- 3 Thrashing Brontodon
- 3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
With Llanowar Elves as the only one-drop, you can afford some Selesnya Guildgate nonsense early on the curve. You were probably going to want Conclave Tribunal over the black option of Cast Down, so Emmara, Soul of the Accord also being an Elf with is pure gravy for the white splash.
I'm shorting myself off the full sixteen white sources as I'm unconvinced I want Lyra Dawnbringer maindeck, but if that changes you should go up those counts accordingly. The Shalai, Voice of Plenty pairing alone might be enough to play Baneslayer Angel 2018, so who knows.
Teshar is the easier one to answer: I don't want to junk up my deck with historic spells, but it's possible you want to be recurring Steel Leaf Champion or Benalish Marshal by casting Shanna, Sisay's Legacy, Shalai, or Emmara.
Dryad Greenseeker depends more on the other Selesnya cards. There's a weird window where other cards are printed that promote a longer game strategy or provide grindy mana sinks like Shalai, Voice of Plenty where more long-term card advantage is great. But those cards also can't be good enough to just solo a game Glorybringer style, or otherwise you would just play Druid of the Cowl and slam them. It's in the sideboard as a stallbreaker, but that might just be good enough to start.
And now right back to our regular Chainwhirler-focused publication.
If you paid close attention I also barely lowered the curve and cut Field of Ruin, thank you very much.
The actual issue is I have no idea what white or blue card I would even add. None of the creatures are appealing. I don't want to play Boros Guildgate or only nine white sources, so I have no clue how to connect Skirk Prospector and Conclave Tribunal.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I was notoriously into Pyreheart Wolf, Hellrider, and 23 basic Mountain last Ravnica journey, and I can get behind bringing that jam back to punish all the people who decide to show up with stupid Golgari Guildgate just like last time. But you should at least try the new cool stuff before moving to that. Plus the creature types for Unclaimed Territory line up a little better than turn 1 Vampire into turn 2 Human did for Cavern of Souls.
I'll also condition this mono-color love all with a "yet". We have almost an entire Guilds of Ravnica of multicolored cards to come.
Negate should be obvious. Where the Selesnya Steel Leaf Champion decks have Vivien Reid to fight Cleansing Nova and Shalai, Voice of Plenty for Settle the Wreckage, red has neither effect. Negate does the trick.
Warkite Marauder is a bit of an old trick stolen from Rivals of Ixalan Standard, specifically U/R God-Pharaoh's Gift. It plus a pinger lets you take out larger creatures, and I expect that combination to be a key part in letting these decks break through something like a three mana 5/4 with the loss of Cut and Unlicensed Disintegration.
Okay, maybe we should try this out. A little less Goblin flavor, but still battling hard.
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 4 Goblin Motivator
- 4 Legion Warboss
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Viashino Pyromancer
- 4 Warkite Marauder
One thing I'm staying away from in these decks is bad creature type themes. I have serious doubts that even with all of Guilds of Ravnica any of the non-Goblin themes get to critical mass to a point I actually want to draw the worst Pirate or Wizard in my deck. I'm fine playing Wizard's Lightning to nug people and maybe draw it with Viashino Pyromancer or randomly getting to cast both Warkite Marauder and Fanatical Firebrand off Unclaimed Territory on Pirate.
On this note, I have my eye on Dismissive Pyromancer. The card is an acceptable Wizard for Wizard's Lightning and just does a million semi-grindy things. If I was looking at Dryad Greenseeker there's no chance I can dismiss this card.
Fight with Fire is another card that could easily jump up to maindeck consideration. The early Dominaria Standard play of lighting a Lyra Dawnbringer on fire could be really important, or just killing Steel Leaf Champion. There aren't quite the tools to get to nine mana on your own, but if just one good card advantage engine on top of Chart a Course and their Settle the Wreckages gets printed taking ten damage to the face might become normal for the format.
Before anyone suggests it, I'm pretty sure The Flame of Keld is a trash Magic card. Come back to me if it turns out you can just cast three one-drops and not be embarrassed by a two-drop, or if you aren't just bricked by a good four or five-drop the way you were pre-rotation and we might have a Tom Ross style brew going. Until then don't play a card that asks you to pay mana now for an advantage tomorrow that might just not matter as your opponent has time to take your battlefield apart first.
And I do mean one-drops you can cast, because having Daring Buccaneer in your hand still means you are a coin flip to cast it for one.
Closing Thoughts on Mana
I think the first question on a lot of people's minds is going to be why this mana doesn't support a pure two color aggro or just low curve deck? Why am I making base one color, splash another the default?
How many untapped green sources do you need for Llanowar Elves on turn 1? Let's say you split your mana with a clean four Temple Garden, four Sunpetal Grove, and eight of each basic land. That's twelve sources. A quarter of the time you won't have the land on turn 1. That's not great.
So you can't reliably play one-drops on turn 1 with split mana.
Once we accept our fate of not casting Llanowar Elves on turn 1, why aren't we just playing a three-color deck? If you just turn some Plains into Isolated Chapel, some Forests into Woodland Cemetery and Overgrown Tomb and call it a day, it isn't actually hitting your main Selesnya manabase counts. You just get ten to twelve black sources at the cost of not being as good at playing one-drops, which was already something you didn't do well.
So, if you are playing a split two-color deck, you may as well go for three colors; and if you are playing a two-color deck that wants a one-drop you want to go hard on one color and splash the other.
That doesn't mean I don't expect Legion's Landing and Song of Freyalise to team up, but more that Legion's Landing is a better second spell on turn 3 or 4 than it is a one-drop. A card that is fine on turn 1, but still a solid one mana spell later is going to fit much better in these split color decks than a turn 1 must-cast like Llanowar Elves.
Half of the struggle in a multicolored format is figuring out how to actually cast the best cards. I have no doubt Goblin Chainwhirler is among those, but I'm waiting with bated breath to see what cards from Guilds of Ravnica join it in the upper echelons of new Standard.