Prerelease is a magical time of year, and luckily for Magic players, this magical time doesn’t happen once, but four times!

Brian Holland

by Aaron Graham

2019 has kicked off with a bang, with Ravnica Allegiance taking the spotlight from Guilds of Ravnica, with five new guilds in combat until War of the Spark hits shelves in April.

Prerelease is always a particularly challenging format. The Prerelease Sealed format for Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance included a Guild Booster with only cards of your guild in the pack, which helped players build their Sealed Decks with a strong base of on-colour cards. This led to a lot of very powerful decks which opened more cards that fit their strategy, but also a lot of mediocre decks which didn’t open the support for their Guild Booster.

Sealed format with a Guild Booster is Prerelease specific, so if you’re practicing for a competitive Sealed event (like Grand Prix Sydney in February 2019), it is best to not look at results, but rather what individual cards and synergies worked over Prerelease weekend. 

Ravnica is always based around the guilds, and draft in Guilds of Ravnica was very heavily so. Will Ravnica Allegiance be the same? Let’s look at how each panned out at the Prerelease.

SIMIC

Simic is a very interesting guild- with the large creatures of Green and the trickiness of blue, their mechanic Adapt helps by being able to be activated at any time, with some creature-interaction spells in between!

Blue and Green are generally colours that struggle to deal with opponent's creatures. In this set there is very little ‘hard’ removal, but you have some powerful cards like Applied Biomancy to pull double duty buffing your creature and bouncing one of your opponent's.

Aeromunculus and Sharktocrab really show off the power of the Simic creatures at Common and Uncommon. Both of them have quite a good power/toughness for their cost, and with their Adapt ability they are often the largest creature on the ground or air. Make sure to only activate them when you're sure that your opponent doesn't have something to deal with them immediately.

Dan R. was lucky enough to pull a Growth-Chamber Guardian in his second Prerelease, but not lucky enough to open two copies! This creature looks unassuming but is incredibly efficient for it’s cost, coming down as a 2/2 on turn 2, then attacking for 4 after adapting on turn 3. While nothing spectacular without multiple copies, this card will win every game of Limited in which your opponent stumbles.

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GRUUL

Red and Green share a fondness for attacking with large creatures, so is this any different for Gruul in Ravnica Allegiance? Not really!

The Gruul mechanic Riot gives you a choice when creatures enter the battlefield- Haste or a +1/+1 counter. Make sure you only choose Haste when you really need to push some damage, or get an attack trigger. The +1/+1 counter is obviously more useful long-term, and has many synergies in the set (crossing over with some Simic Green cards).

Rhythm of the Wild is surely going to be one of the most sought-after uncommons for Limited, as it gives each of your creatures Riot, and your Gruul cards DOUBLE RIOT. Frenzied Arynx is going to be one of the best commons with Riot, and you’ll hopefully end up with more than one in your deck when you draft.

In terms of removal and our common spotlight- Gruul has access to not one but TWO great fight cards at common in the set. Titanic Brawl and Savage Smash are going to fit right in with your beefy creatures.

Gruul's Clan Guildmage does a couple great aggressive things too- stopping creatures from blocking and turning your lands temporarily into big creatures! Both of these abilities align with Gruul’s focus on attacking.

Tate was lucky enough to get a whole bunch of synergy in his Gruul pack, including multiple copies of Savage Smash and a Clan Guildmage.

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AZORIUS

One of the best ways to prepare for draft is to check out your guild's powerful gold cards, and what sort of strategy is Azorius looking like? Unsurprisingly; stalling out the game, drawing cards and killing your opponent with flying creatures- exemplified in cards like Warrant // Warden.

Senate Guildmage is another good example- gaining you life in a pinch, but mainly filtering through your lands and bad cards to make sure you're drawing gas.

Azorius’ mechanic Addendum is a pretty straightforward - it's always on an Instant or Flash spell, and gives you a small bonus for casting it on your turn! Sentinel's Mark pulls double duty, to surprise your opponent mid-attacks, or main-phase casting it if you need to swing a race in your favour.

And our gold common highlight is one of the best removal spells in the set- Lawmage's Binding. Giving Luminous Bonds flash AND shutting down activated abilities on Adapt creatures or Guildmages means you'll want to play every copy of this you get!

Sarah played Lawmage’s Binding at the Prerelease, but also the super busted Mythic Rare Angel of Grace. This card is one of the swingiest in the set, bringing you back from the brink TWICE in one game potentially!

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ORZHOV

At Prerelease weekend, Orzhov looked like one of the most well-rounded Guilds.

With black and white having premium removal, and also having creatures that turn into 1/1s with Flying with the Afterlife mechanic, Orzhov seemed a great place to start. In practice, it was the best performing Guild of the weekend due to the amount of fantastic uncommons and rares that didn’t even need to synergise with their Guild to be good.

Jacob was incredibly fortunate to be able to play with Ethereal Absolution- already touted as one of the best cards in the entire set. The card reads a little anemically for 6 mana, but as soon as it hits the board and grows your team and shrinks your opponent’s, you’ll understand it’s power. And that’s not including the ability to make 1/1s (really, 2/2s) for each card in your opponent’s graveyard. I will personally be praying for this one to be in my pool at Grand Prix Sydney.

Another surprising card on the weekend was Ill-Gotten Inheritance. Reminding us of the Orzhov mechanic Extort from Gatecrash, this drains your opponent for 1 in your upkeep, then pops for another drain of 4, for a 6 mana payment. Great as a way to stall out the game behind some Deathtouch creatures, or as the curve-topper in an aggressive deck, this is a way to make sure your Orzhov deck seals the deal.

Orzhov’s Afterlife creatures each turn into potent threats, with cards like Knight of the Last Breath and Debtor’s Transport all representing ways to make sure you seal up the late game. In the early portion of the game, you’ll want to aggressively trade off Afterlife creatures in order to peck away at your opponent with your 1/1 Flying Spirits. Later you’ll want to block something large with your Afterlife creature and finish your opponent off with the Spirits.

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RAKDOS

And finally, Rakdos! This Red-Black Guild is aggressive beyond belief, even paying you for your aggression with Spectacle. Spectacle is an alternate cost, generally cheaper, for your Rakdos spells, and often grants a bonus for paying their Spectacle cost.

My best results over the weekend and Arena so far have been with Rakdos, as they present a coherent game plan and lots of ways to push damage in the late game.

Footlight Fiend and Bladebrand are a fantastic little combo you can set up with only commons- and I saw it happen multiple times over the weekend! Giving your Footlight Fiend Deathtouch before damage is dealt pulls double duty, as it kills the thing it was blocking, AND the extra damage kills whatever creature it targets! This is an easy way to kill 2 of your opponent’s creatures for 3 mana total, plus you draw a card from Bladebrand!

Another common that shone for me, and Danny here, was Dead Revels. Pulling off the Spectacle cost on this later in the game lets you rebuy evasive threats from your graveyard, or potentially some utility creatures. This felt like a necessary -if unexciting- card in Rakdos as your threats start to get outclassed very quickly. This allows trading off Deathtouch and aggressive creatures and buying them back when you need them!

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Danny was convinced Immolation Shaman was the lizard’s knees, but I wasn’t sure. A Rakdos-themed rare with 1/3 stats isn’t anything to write home about, and a 5 mana activated ability is just asking for a removal spell in response! Danny was convinced it had done work for him, attacking for 1 every now and then and punishing your opponent for activating Adapt abilities or Guildmages before taking over the late game.

Ravnica Allegiance comes out tomorrow, and you’ll want to make sure you have your eyes on the new Draft and Standard formats at your local Good Games store!

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