Tuesday, 31 January 2017
The Top 10 Guilds
With there only being 10 guilds this is just me rating the colour pairings. This will specifically relate to an unpowered midrange cube like the MODO legacy cube. While planning this I realised quite how significantly the ordering here changes as you switch between legacy and vintage styles. I will try and state for each how it would look for the vintage cube rather than do another article for that.
Boros doesn't shift much as you change between powered and unpowered cubes. It is in the lower regions for both. It isn't because Boros is weak so much as it is because it is highly linear and typically outperformed by mono versions of what Boros decks try and do. Sure, you can make a very solid Boros aggro deck but that is it. There isn't much at all the draws me into this colour combination, it is more the case of being forced into it as you find the one you are in to not be deep enough. You can do Boros midrange and control decks but these are typically incredibly polar and will fold to all manner of things easily. I don't like drafting a deck that is pretty cold to something as common as a counterspell and that is what most non-aggro Boros decks seem to be.
Rakdos has always been a viable yet awkward pairing. Half their stuff works really well together and the other half doesn't at all. What falls in which half depends on what you are doing but still, it is never obvious or easy building a Rakdos deck. It doesn't necessarily offer the most powerful archetypes but it has way more viable options than people tend to realise. You can do a selection of Reanimate / Sneak Attack style cheat things into play deck in Rakdos and that is great. You can do several builds of aggressive decks. The midrange and control options are also there and while along similar lines to what Boros can do they are much more viable due to black discard effects. In a powered cube Rakdos would move up a couple of slots. This is down to Rakdos containing black and that blue and black are significantly the best colours in a powered cube setting. Rakdos is likely the second weakest of the guilds that contain blue or black in them when a powered cube.
Selesnya has all the most robust and powerful creatures. If you go Selesnya you can expect to survive most aggressive strategies. Selesnya is great for controlling the board but it is incredibly weak at dealing with spells. No matter how you build your Selesnya deck, if your opponent can cast a good Upheaval you are dead and there is nothing you can do about it. In a midrange cube you can fairly well expect to win the board and ignore the spells and broadly be fine. In a powered cube this is fatal. You are not quick enough to outpace broken things and as such Selesnya has to resort to heavy disruption, generally aimed at mana bases, so as to compete with most powered decks, any sort of combo deck or any deck trying to do overpowered things. Hate bears and what I fondly call ErnieGeddon decks are the more common styles of Selesnya in more powerful settings so as to have some game against that power. As it does these things so well it is probably the best of the non-Dimir colours guilds in a powered cube but that only gets you to 8th on that list.
Quite the oddball color pairing. Easily number one in a powered cube as you get to have both the most broken colours! In an unpowered cube things like Yawmoth's Will and Dark Ritual do a lot less and you don't have the actual blue power to carry you either. A little like Rakdos there are some areas where the colours complement each other well and there are some others where they really don't. Countermagic and discard work towards the same end. A blend of the two can be nice but you don't need to and so you are overloading on an area you are already fine at. Black has removal and blue doesn't and that is great but it is only for creatures. They both fail at dealing with artifacts and enchantments and that is an issue, especially when you want to go control. They also struggle a bit with life gain which is an important control tool. The control option in Dimir is great but you do have to make sure you have covered your weak spots which is far less the case when you are Izzet or Azorius control. Dimir is also pretty weak as an aggressive deck, they have poor one and two drop dorks. A couple of supremely good gold cards carry this colour pairing pretty hard. Unless I have Baleful Strix or Ashiok I am not excited about going Dimir in a midrange cube.
Likely the weakest of the guilds with blue or black in them for the powered cube and as such would drop a couple of slots. Five through seven on this list were all a pretty close call. Ultimately I felt Orzhov was the best of the three as it is the most rounded and solid. You never get a bad Orzov deck, you get loads of clunky ones but they are still competitive. You can do anything from very aggressive to midrange to control. One of the best non-blue control option that there is. You can also very effectively range from even split to heavy on one colour and splashing the other more so than with the other guilds. You can deal with everything, you have great permanent removal, great mass removal, mana disruption, hand disruption, card advantage, great threats all across the curve and you even have access to a smattering of ramp and countermagic should you wish. Diverse and solid.
The classic control pairing and these days a fine tempo shell or Opposition deck. Azorius has the best defensive tools. It has everything you need for a control deck and it has good redundancy on these things. There are a couple of good black mass removal effects. Azorius has substantially more. I think nothing sums up the difference between Azorius control versus Dimir control better than the difference between Absorb and Undermine. On theme and well suited cards trump the more powerful card. White supplements blue really well. It has great removal for all the things and great dorks all along the curve which are the two things blue is weak at. White also does lifegain which blue doesn't bother with. Blue on the other hand has very good interaction with spells and great card advantage which are the failings of white. A pretty ideal match in terms of the colour pie. The reason this is lowish on the list despite all my praises is that the control options which are its best options are those that are hardest to pull off in a midrange meta. Azorius is very near the top of the pile in the powered cube as being a rounded control deck is that much more effective. When everyone is curving out high powered, resilient threats each turn the control decks struggle a lot more. Azorius has found a lot of strength in a selection of more tempo driven decks. It has evasion, good tempo, removal, value and trickery. They can even house Opposition better than most other colour pairings these days. The Azorius tempo decks are a little more midrange than the more typical Izzet ones but they play out fairly similarly in a lot of ways.
Golgari has to be the deepest of the Guilds. There are just so many cards that seem playable when you are black and green. There are a huge number of good black green gold cards too. These colours compliment each other perfectly. Black kills creatures and disrupts things in hand, green deals with other permanents and provides a great early game with ramp and solid dorks. You can go aggressive, midrange or control with Golgari and you can also do a loads of combo or synergy driven things too. Both black and green do a lot of interacting with the graveyard. Golgari does fall off quite a lot in a powered cube. The ramp it offers feels limp in comparison to artifact ramp and it is in general a little on the fair side of whatever it is trying to do to compete with the diverse and broken things on the go. One of the things I like so much about Golgari decks is that you can cover every base you might want to and you have so many playables. These facts combine to give you vast building options and ways to fine tune your list to cope well with the meta. You get a lot of very close games with Golgari decks and that is very rewarding too. Not a reason it is high on the list but none the less a credit to the guild!
Izzet is probably number two on both lists. It has all the best artifact synergy cards and some great combo options which propel it in a powered cube, not to mention the blue power. In a midrange cube it still has lots to offer. You can play aggressively or you can go Izzet control. Plenty of quirky and combo options are still available without the power as well. Red supports blue well giving good early removal and tempo. The one thing you can't really do with an Izzet deck is a midrange deck. The nature of the cards you use means that most Izzet decks will be able to adopt the role of the aggressor or the control player. As such the Izzet player has no need of a midrange option. The closest one could get to a midrange Izzet deck would be with average CMC. The control options are in the 1.5+ region and the aggro decks try and stick around the 1.0 area and so a midrange deck would just be one with an average CMC of about 1.3 or a total CMC across the whole deck of about 50 - 55. It would use much the same cards as the control or the aggro lists! It would still be able to switch from aggro to control as the situation commanded. Snapcaster Mage, Lightning Bolt and Brainstorm are all top rate cards however you might class your Izzet deck. Even a load of the combo decks will want these things! Few other guilds have so many of the individual colours cards being playable in the majority of the two colour options.
It felt a bit weird sticking Gruul at the top of the pile but it does seem to deserve it in the midrange cube. In a powered cube Gruul is pretty near the bottom of the pile, likely 9th so actually as big of a swing for Simic just in the other direction! This is because it is vulnerable to the sorts of things that scale well with the power. Synergy is all in the powered cube but tempo rules in midrange. Without the power green offers the best ramp on offer and red remains the best tempo colour. A Gruul deck can make massive and powerful threats quickly on almost any scale of game. Two of the tier one archetypes, zoo and Gr ramp, are in Gruul colours. A green splash in RDW is very appealing and on paper looks like the best version of RDW which is another very top tier cube archetype. Jund is very solid in cube and incorporates Gruul. You can even do some Gruul based combo decks, perhaps cheating in big things without using ramp or abusing land effects. Green and red are the best performing colours in the midrange cube and they go together really nicely as well. Being made up of the best parts and having the highest number of tier one archetypes using your colours should be pretty convincing as to why it has the number one slot. Gruul decks may not be the most exotic, they may not be the most complex or even what some players find fun to play but that wasn't the list criteria. I am looking at best and by any measure I can think Gruul comes out on top of this list. If you open a pack and the pick options are exactly the 10 original dual lands I think your EV is best in an unpowered cube if you take the Taiga. I also think for a format of equally skilled players the Taiga pick would also represent the biggest gap in EV between the next pick land in line. The Volcanic Island pick scales a little better with player skill than the Taiga but I doubt it is by enough to make it the correct pick even if you are Jon Finkel. I am also under no illusion that Mr Finkel would ever pick a non-blue option over a blue one in a cube setting regardless of how correct he believed it to be!