The Ravnica block has given us guilds for each color combination, and though we are well into the next block, I feel an important part of what Ravnica has to offer the casual player has been overlooked. Ravnica gave us guilds of each two color combination and today I'd like to discuss what I call 'guildsplash', or adding (splashing) a guild's color combination to a deck where the main color is not either of the guild's colors.
Monocolor decks are very powerful in casual play for a few reasons- sideboards tend to be few and far between, and playing with the same deck for more than one game in a row isn't exactly as usual as in other formats either. Therefore, unless an opponent has your particular color hate maindecked for some random reason, you will be able to rely on that monocolor deck to have a more consistent mana base than multicolor decks, and having the advantage of mana consistency over an opponent who has a two or three color deck can be the difference between defeat and victory.
But, of course, monocolored decks are but one way to build a deck, and it can be monotonous, even boring, to be ever casting the same color spells and never attempt the more complex interactions of cards in different colors. I feel it safe to say that the daring deck designer in each of us yearns to have a multicolor deck that can be as (if not more) consistent when compared
with our opponent's monocolored decks.
Here's where the casual element of Ravnica guilds really shines through. In giving us the Signets and Karoo lands (the nickname for common lands in the Ravnica block which provide both colors of a particular guild), the designers of magic have enabled three color decks to be more viable and consistent than ever. These artifacts and lands are permanents that provide the mana colors of the guild. They stay on the board turn after turn, allow reliable access to the mana colors of that guild, and don't necessarily force a guild's colors to dominate the rest of the deck. I have built several decks using this strategy and I'd like to share some of my builds with you. First off, I'd like to present something I call Necra-Selesnya... a black deck with a heavy Selesnya guildsplash.
This deck is specifically designed to have creatures that both survive damage from Pestilence and Crypt Rats, and trigger Necra Sanctuary's ability during the upkeep. The interaction between Pestilence and Phytohydra is what inspired me to build this deck, since I had a set of four Phytohydras soon after Ravnica was released and plenty of Pestilence cards still lying around from days of yore, back when C.O.P.-Black was its best friend. Whenever I activate the abilities of Crypt Rats or Pestilence with a Phytohydra in play, the Phytohydra gets bigger and my opponent's life total got smaller- good times. Pestilence can kill almost anything but it needs at least one creature to stay in play or the plague ends, and Phytohydra not only stays in play, but it gets stronger!
Armadillo Cloak is an all-star creature enchantment, being ranked one of the top 10 Auras ever printed. It gives that huge Phytohydra trample and helps me gain back life lost from Pestilence effects. Then I looked at what happened when my Crypt Rats got enchanted with Armadillo Cloak and my head just about exploded. a 3/3 trampler with a built in pestilence ability and whenever that creature deals damage, to anything, including itself, I gained that much life! Anytime I activate it, even in a duel with no other creatures on the board, I'll gain that much life since I'm losing that much but dealing that same amount to my Crypt Rats and my opponent, thereby gaining it back twice over. If there are other creatures in play or other opponents, I can gain X life, where X is the amount of black mana used to activate the Crypt Rats times the number of creatures or opponents damaged this way beyond the first, including the Crypt Rats themselves. If I only deal two damage to everything per activation, the rats can survive to do it again and again. Once Crypt Rats gets two Armadillo Cloaks on it, it can survive four damage to everything damageable per activation and gain me X times two life! The sheer power of this repeatable lifegain and global damage combo is enough to tip many games in my favor.
The Llanowar Knights and Mystic Enforcers were a perfect fit, as with protection from black they would avoid all the Pestilence/Crypt Rats damage going around, not to mention protecting them from opposing Putrefy and Mortify spells. They also help in keeping Pestilence on the board as long as they live, and could swing in for a big attack after the opponent's board had been cleared, as well as triggering Necra Sanctuary during the upkeep. Watchwolf is a great card all around, and looks especially stylish with a Armadillo Cloak on it, swinging fast for 5 trample damage with that Spirit Link lifegain effect as the icing on the cake. A Selesnya colors deck without black could have the Watchwolf and Armadillo Cloak beatdowns going a turn or two earlier, but it probably couldn't have the Crypt Rats and Armadillo Cloak combo going in the same deck, and it wouldn't have a 'guildsplash', which is the point of this particular article.
Terrarion is great as an enabler of the deck's mana color requirements in that it both fixes mana into green and white for Selesnya color spells and can turn Selesnya color mana or colorless mana into black mana, fueling the Crypt Rats and Pestilence. It does it's job supplementing the 'guildsplash' amazingly well, often times guaranteeing a Llanowar Knight or Watchwolf on turn two. The replacement draw effect helps out a lot, and the artifact going to the graveyard after only one use is even less of a loss than it normally would be, due to the threshold abilities of Mystic Enforcer and Nantuko Monastery.
There's a lot going on in the deck, but the pieces all seem to fit together nicely and the deck wins quite a bit both in duels and group games. The only reason that the deck is viable is due to the Signets, Karoo lands and Tarrarions providing that green and white color fix. The pair of new Saltcrusted Steppes from Time Spiral recently replaced two swamps and have yet to prove their strength, but I suspect they will help in this deck quite a bit, though they might overlap with the Karoos or detract from the power of Crypt Rats and Pestilence too much, in which case the Swamps will return soon. Even when those Selesnya color-fixers don't show up right away, the
singular Crypt Rats or Pestilence can keep many opponents from over-committing with creature threats.
The next guildsplashed deck I'd like to write about is a green creature-enchantment deck with a small Boros splash. I just call the deck Bramble Elemental.guess why. Here's the list.
4xFists of Ironwood
The slight Boros splash is used with only two cards- Flickerform and Galvanic Arc, who perform amazing feats together. When a creature (even a deceptively lowly Llanowar Elf) is enchanted by both, and enough white mana is available to activate the Flickerform, the creature becomes a repeatable Lighting Bolt on a stick. In fact, I find Llanowar Elf to be a superb target for the two auras, since it is almost always the first creature on the table, it can tap for mana to play the enchantment that's targeting it, and most opponents will hesitate at using targeted removal spells on such a small creature so early in the game. Every creature card in the deck is meant to be enchanted and enchanted until it's an unstoppable monster. The Carven Caryatid with a Galvanic Arc and a Flickerform on it turns into a repeatable card draw engine plus Lighting Bolt engine with defender that can chump block all day long, and the Bramble Elemental with those same enchantments becomes a Lightning Bolt engine on a 4/4 beatstick that can stack first strike damage before flickering out, and whenever it comes back into play from flickerville it makes (at least) four 1/1 Saproling tokens.
Wurmweaver Coil is at the top of the mana curve and is a huge threat coming down on turn 5 after a turn 4 Bramble Elemental. hooray for Llanowar Elves mana acceleration! The Llanowar Elves also help ensure that there's enough green mana sources around to activate the Wurmweaver Coil's ability and put a 6/6 Wurm token into play should the enchantment or the creature it's on be removed. Silhana Ledgewalker is one of the best new common elves printed, and one of the reasons for this is that it provides an excellent target for Auras because it is cast in the early turns and is extremely difficult for your opponent to remove or block.
Eternal Witness is another all-around fantastic card that makes creature enchantments and the creatures themselves return again and again to give your opponent headaches. The Eternal Witness also combos nicely with the Wurmweaver Coil, providing for a multitude of 6/6 Wurm tokens and huge enchanted attackers. The real advantage to Eternal Witness, though, is getting a Flickerform on it, so it is able to return a card from graveyard to hand each turn, and if that card is Wurmweaver Coil, the 6/6 Wurm tokens can just keep coming. Once there are sufficient white mana sources available for it's activation, Flickerform can do acrobatic feats in a deck with so many comes-into-play abilities among creatures and enchantments alike- not only saving creatures and enchantments from trips to the graveyard but also bringing them back again and again to deal direct damage, draw cards, return other cards from the grave, and generate Saproling and Wurm tokens (which can also be enchanted in a pinch, though I would recommend any of the other auras over the Flickerform when enchanting tokens).
Although the Bramble Elemental deck's Boros guildsplash is very minor (8 mana sources for 8 cards with Boros color requirements) when compared with the Necra-Selesnya deck's heavy Selesnya guildsplash (14 mana sources for 22 cards with Selesnya color requirements), but both decks rely on the colors splashed into it from a guild to augment and enhance the strategy behind the main color. In the Necra-Selesnya deck, this means surviving Pestilence and Crypt Rats effects by gaining life and keeping big green and white creatures on the board to trigger Necra Sanctuary and attack with once the opponent's board is clear. In the Bramble Elemental deck, this means that the green creatures become not only aggressive attackers, but also repeatable combo engines for a variety of effects. I should put in a word of warning here.even though both decks can get huge power boosts from their guildsplashes, getting cut off from the guild's colors of mana can result in many dead cards in hand and even game loss. I stand by my statement that three-color decks are much more viable with a guildsplash, but they are not completely without risk for that extra power, and mana-screw happens, even in monocolor.
Another ting I'd like to mention about guildsplashing is the element of surprise. On the brighter side of mana-screw, if your guild colors don't show up on the board right away (by choice or not), an unsuspecting opponent could easily guess that you are playing a monocolor deck and make critical play errors based on this lack of information, such as destroying a basic land instead of a Karoo land, cycling away an artifact destruction spell before they see a Signet, or assuming that you don't have access to off-color effects. A good example of the latter would be when the Bramble Elemental deck has to wait a while for the Boros colors to come around. It's playing like a normal green deck and then, seemingly out of nowhere, direct damage starts raining down all over from Galvanic Arcs and comes-into-play combos start happening with Flickerform.
One last deck that I will use to showcase the power of the guildsplash is a blue deck with an Orzhov splash. This deck, unlike the previous two, is much less susceptible to being cut off from its guild colors due to blue's ability to change land types. Remember earlier in the article where I was mentioning random maindeck color hate? I give you. Bad Karma.
1xZur the Enchanter
Warning- this deck is mean, or so I've been told, in that it is not fun for your opponent to play against because it prevents them from interacting much. The idea behind this deck is to force the opponent to have nothing but Swamps as lands, and to then lay down Karma after Karma and tap Stern Judge a few times, all the while avoiding having any Swamps in play on friendly territory during the upkeep step. The Reef Shaman and Dream Thrush have staring roles on both the defensive and the offensive, since they can fix early Islands into momentary Plains or Swamps to cast early white or black spells without ever committing to having Plains or the dreaded Swamps in play permanently. Later in the game they can tap in response to the opponent's upkeep to change any of the opponent's lands (that aren't enchanted yet) into Swamps before Karma triggers. Oftentimes, changing all an opponent's lands to Swamps during each of their turns when they aren't playing black is enough to force a concession, and even if they are playing a monoblack deck they may concede the game in the face of the maindecked sets of Stern Judge and Karma. However, sometimes the stubborn opponent will wait it out and attempt to draw out of the quagmire they were put into.
Copy Enchantment is fantastic in keeping an opponent's lands Swamps, especially when it copies Tainted Well and draws another card to replace itself in the process, but the real target for it to copy is, of course, Karma. Zur the Enchanter has a comfy home in the deck since it has many cheap enchantment spells and fulfills all of his color requirements, and Zur can tutor for Copy Enchantment when Karma is already in play to double up on the Karma for next to nothing. The Moor Fiends just have great art (sorry Bog Wraith), and allow the deck to get some harder hitting attacks in, which makes Zur less lonely in the red zone. Even the Dream Thrushes can be effective attackers in the late game once the opponent's lands have all been changed to Swamps with enchantments and Reef Shamans. A possible change to the deck I've considered is to drop the Moor Fiends altogether and add another copy of Zur the Enchanter and two Magewright's Stones. The amount of creature tapping that happens in this deck is mind-boggling, and Stern Judge would be even more of a ridiculous bomb with two or three activations per turn. The single reason I haven't already done this is the current casual local metagame among friends who like Pyroclasm too much.
So there you have it- my more successful experiments with guildsplashing. I hope that this article has given you a few ideas of your own, as there are so many three-color possibilities along this route. how about a white deck with a Rakdos guildsplash? Maybe a red deck with a Simic guildsplash? See what three-color adventures await you, and have fun with your own unique
For the Love of the Game, From the Casual Fringe,