Now that the dust has settled a bit on Return to Ravnica, speculation is slowly turning towards Gatecrash, the second set in the new Ravnica block.
The first five guilds got new abilities, and while some interact nicely with the original set (Dredge and Scavenge, Populate and Convoke), others seem to have started from scratch (Replicate vs Overload, Forecast vs Detain).
In effect, Wizards has the choice: build on the past, or reinvent the remaining five guilds.
I’ve gone to great lengths to consider the flavor and mechanics of each of the remaining groups (Simic, Boros, Gruul, Orzhov, Dimir), and have designed two abilities for each. They’re in keeping with the lore of these guilds, plus they’re crafted to be both useful and balanced outside of the Ravnica block. Sure, it’s all supposition, but hey, you never know if Wizards R&D is reading, right?
In Ravnica, the Simic ability Graft allowed players to move +1/+1 counters to new creatures as they came into play. In effect, power slowly moved from early creatures to late game bombs.
While it had a cool, survival of the fittest feeling, it also meant players ended up with too many +1/+1 eggs in one basket, so to speak.
Triggered ability: Evolution (X)
Whenever you cast a spell with the same mana cost as this creature, put X +1/+1 counters on it.
Adaptive Cytoplast (1UG) Creature – Ooze, 3/2:Evolution 1
Instead of elevating a single new creature to perfection, Evolution would offer your earlier played threats to adapt and improve. Creatures with Evolution would “learn” from your spells, as long as they shared a mana affinity with the monster itself. Playing a second Adaptive Cytoplast would make the first one a 4/3. Playing another spell that costs 1UG would boost both Cytoplasts.
Note that the mana cost must be identical, not just the converted mana cost. This would keep the mechanic more closely tied to Simic biotech.
Static ability: Root
If this card would be exiled or moved to a hand or library, it stays on the battlefield instead.
Deepwater Refuge (1UG) Enchantment: Creatures you control have Root as long as you control two Forests and two Islands.
If there’s one thing blue and green share, it’s their aversion to other people messing with their stuff… that’s why Shroud and Hexproof are so common among these colors. But frequently, untargeted effects ruin the Simic plan, too. All those carefully accumulated counters are flushed when someone’s mean enough to play Evacuation or Terminus! Root tethers your permanents to the board, protecting them from unnatural interference (but not normal death).
Let’s face it: Radiance was a stupid mechanic for Boros. Granting boons and debuffs based on colors is boring and, worse yet, ineffective, since you didn’t really want to catch your own creatures in the crossfire in a mirror match.
Plus, it doesn’t really have anything to do with red or white whatsoever. Here are two much better concepts for Gatecrash.
Conditional ability: Glory
If you have more life than each opponent, the listed effect occurs.
Press the Advantage (X1WR) Instant: Creatures you control get +X/+0 until end of turn. Glory – Creatures you control also gain lifelink until end of turn.
White is great at gaining life and preventing damage. Red’s adept at burning face and blasting through defense. With either color, you’re likely to gain an early hitpoint lead, so why not see some real benefit to it? Glory gives your games more momentum in the same way the Boros Legion feeds off its fanatical military devotion. Of course, you can’t always be ahead, so the mechanic runs out of steam when you do. In effect: no guts, no Glory.
Triggered ability: Veteran (X)
Whenever this creature attacks, it gets +X/+0 until end of turn. Whenever this creature blocks, it gets +0/+X until end of turn.
Military Muse (2WWR) Creature – Angel, 3/3: Flying, First Strike, Veteran 2
It’s not called the Boros Legion for nothing. Everyone in this red/white guild is an army aficionado with a penchant for pounding on enemies. Over the years, the ones that survive battle have learned a trick or two. Or three. Or X. Veteran makes creatures better at attacking when they’re attacking, better at blocking when they’re blocking, and boring when they’re not in the red zone where they should be.
Like the Incredible Hulk, the Gruul enjoy a good frenzy whenever possible. If there’s something to beat up or eat, they do it. If something stands in their way of fighting or feasting, it gets wrecked.
The Bloodthirst mechanic from the original Ravnica perfectly reflected this, as it empowered creatures who had picked up the scent of blood in the air.
Triggered ability: Smash (X)
Whenever this creature attacks, you may sacrifice a land. If you do, this creature deals X damage to target creature or player.
Gruul Gatecrasher (GGRR) Creature – Ogre, 4/4: Haste, Smash 2
Some clans just want to watch the world burn. Gruul is one of the only “guilds” uninterested in maintaining the city’s status quo, and Smash reflects that. Gruul creatures will lay waste to buildings to get damage through, even if it’s not a long term strategy. This ability synergizes well with Bloodthirst, guaranteeing an opponent gets hurt despite having ample defenses.
Triggered ability: Rampage (X)
Whenever this creature becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn for each creature blocking it beyond the first.
Gorilla Pillagers (3GG) Creature – Ape Berserker, 4/5: Trample, Rampage 3
Rampage was a keyword ability from Magic’s earlier years and, quite frankly, it sucked. Or rather, it didn’t suck, but the creatures associated with it were hugely underpowered. With a more balanced concept of what Rampage can and can’t do, Gruul cards have the potential to make blocking a very painful experience.
Prime examples of puppetry and plutocracy, the Orzhov Syndicate ruled over life and death. Haunt reflected the church’s hold over the spiritual realm, but there was little in the Ravnica block that demonstrated the guild’s corrupt system of canonization.
These proposed mechanics show off Orzhov’s predisposition for playing favorites.
Triggered ability: Ascend
When this would die, you may pay its Ascend cost. If you do, it instead becoems an enchantment. It loses Ascend.
Skulking Sycophant (1WB) Creature – Human, 1/3: At the beginning of your upkeep, gain 2 life. Ascend – WWBB
The entire idea of Ascend is to give your creatures (at least, the ones worthy of your mana) the option to become part of the Orzhov Ghost Council. Not everyone is deserving of this recognition, so Ascend costs are generally high. However, once your servants have paid their dues (in death and in mana), they can retain their influence in a less corporeal form. As enchantments, they’ll still keep their abilities, they just won’t be able to fight for the church directly. Amen.
New counters: Debt
Creatures with Debt counters cannot attack or use activated abilities. At the end of each of their controllers’ turns, remove one Debt counter from each permanent that player controls.
Involuntary Donations (3WB) Sorcery: Put two Debt counters on each creature.
Indentured Deacon (WBB) Creature – Vampire, 3/4: Flying, Deathtouch, Lifelink. Indentured Deacon comes into play with three Debt counters.
While some are chosen by the Ghost Council to join the elect, most members of the church are wracked by monetary and spiritual obligations to the guild’s hierarchy. Debt tokens symbolize the impotence of low-ranking members, as well as anyone in Ravnican society this cult sets is eyes on. Debt counters can also be used, as seen in the second example, to slip an undercosted creature into play. He’ll still be around to protect you and the guild, but won’t be unshackled until he’s paid off his dues. Then, it’s party time.
Fueled by secrets and home to limitless information, House Dimir is composed of spies, assassins, and data brokers who enjoy controlling things from the shadows.
The guild’s Transmute ability allowed them to put intelligence to good use, cycling spells for options better suited to the situation at hand. Of course, the more information, the better… right?
Keyword action: Pry (X)
Target opponent may reveal X cards from his or her hand and the top X cards of his or her library to you. If he or she does not, draw a card.
Minute Mindhacker (UB) Creature – Insect, 1/1: Meticulous Mindhacker is unblockable. Whenevever Minute Mindhacker deals combat damage to an opponent, Pry 4.
Running an espionage organization from behind the veil of secrecy is great and all, but planning and plotting are difficult if you don’t know what you’re up against. With Pry, your opponent will have to choose between giving you classified information or letting you accumulate card advantage. Note that your enemy doesn’t get to see their upcoming plays, only you do.
Keyword action: Blackmail
Name a nonland card. Until your next turn, whenever a player plays the named card, he or she discards a card.
Scandal-Ridden Dossier (3) Artifact – Equipment, Attach (1UB): Equipped creature gains “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, Blackmail.”
So, you’ve scryed, pried, and stolen every bit and byte of info in your opponent’s deck. But what can you do with all that information? The world’s criminal organizations would suggest Blackmail as a viable option. House Dimir doesn’t have the authority or means to prevent secrets from getting out, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make tattlers pay a price. Blackmail rewards you for guessing or knowing what your enemies are up to. And it forces them to choose between playing into your hands and coughing up the cards.
What do you think?
Of course, all this is speculation, and it’s only a matter of time until the real Gatecrash guild abilities are revealed. What do you think Wizards will implement for each of these five clans? And how will they tie into the original keyword abilities, if at all?