Guilds of Ravnica spoiler season has finally begun! We often can’t assess the Limited format until we have seen the full spoiler, because common and uncommons drive the metagame but tend not to make splashy spoilers. So far we’ve gotten a decent number of basic guild cards, which makes sense because Ravnica sets have so many specific mechanics to explain. Even so, we don’t know what curves will look like, or which tricks or situational spells will prove especially powerful.

So for now, I am focusing on specific cards that caught my eye. Sometimes, that’s because the card strikes me as powerful in Limited. But others pose fun questions even if they are not high impact.

As a Dimir mage, that’s where I always look first. Of course, the Dimir have not been spoiled too heavily so far. That’s on point flavor-wise, as we tend to keep our cards hidden. But also, Dimir decks tend to be less straightforward in Limited, where you can’t always rely on playing a very long controlling game. How do you cobble together a midrange victory with tricky small creatures and probably some mediocre milling effects? That’s a fun puzzle, but one that has to wait for the set to release.

That said, Whisper Agent looks awesome. I was a fan of Hired Blade in Core Set 2019 draft, even though it’s not a great card. Flash creatures are always useful in decks full of reactive spells, and this time we get a nice surveil trigger tacked on. The double-hybrid mana cost is actually a benefit: Dimir decks will have no trouble casting this, but it might discourage five-color drafters from picking it highly. I expect to end up taking a lot of these over the next few months.

Transguild Promenade was one of the best cards in Return to Ravnica full-block draft. It appeared in Gatecrash, which on its own was too fast for a very slow five-color land. But once you mixed up all the colors and guilds, you were more than happy to lose a couple mana for a turn to set up all sorts of splashes and greediness. Unless Guilds of Ravnica draft is super fast, Gateway Plaza will be quite strong. Early indications are that Wizards designed the draft environment to support multiple multicolor drafters in addition to dedicated guild decks.

I’m not sure why they decided to make a new version of this card, in addition to Transguild Promenade and Rupture Spire. I guess they needed a flavor update, or wanted to add another useful cheap land to the Commander metagame. Those motivations don’t matter for Limited, but note that they also made it a Gate. That’s a big upgrade for Limited! We’ve already seen a few spoiled cards that reward having Gates, and the new version of Borderland Ranger can tutor this up.

Who doesn’t love a giant hexproof beater? These sorts of cards tend to be great in Limited—think Plated Crusher and Scaled Behemoth. My personal favorite was Striped Riverwinder, which got the nice bonus of cycling for a single blue mana. Arboretum Elemental instead gets convoke, which helps offset it’s bloated nine-mana cost. Most of the time, you will be able to cast this for six or seven mana, though it is a brutal topdeck on an empty board with eight lands. I’m guessing most green decks will have extra creatures on board, however, and this could come down on turn five.

Beyond the tricky mana cost, this 7/5 hexproof will probably be weaker than Scaled Behemoth. You have to kill this by blocking, and five toughness is easier to beat than seven. You’re going to lose two creatures blocking Arboretum Elemental, but Scaled Behemoth usually took three or more. This thing also doesn’t have trample, so it can be chumped most of the time. That said, you will lose to it and feel bad.

Holy converted mana costs! People are speculating that new Niv-Mizzet presages a return to Theros and the devotion mechanic. Maybe. I think they just wanted to make him really hard to cast so he could be filled to the brim with value. All versions of Niv-Mizzet draw cards and ping damage, in addition to being a big flying threat. This one looks very strong, as neither of its bonus abilities require mana or tapping. And you can’t counter Niv-Mizzet, Parun. That’s a real bonus.

But can you cast this card in Limited? A dedicated Izzet deck should be able to produce three of each color, but even then it’s hard to ensure an even distribution on curve. Mana fixing won’t help much, since you need six dedicated sources. He does give Izzet guild decks more reasons to stock up on Izzet Guildgates, which provide flexibility to cast him on curve. And yet, I suspect many will die with this card stuck in their hands as they draw a fifth or sixth island with only two red sources in play.

Zach Barash has created an entire cottage industry here at Hipsters of the Coast evaluating common removal spells. I will leave the details to him, but Deadly Visit looks especially powerful. The common black hard removal spell can cost between four and six mana depending on the set, and usually gets a small bonus tacked on. This time, the bonus is huge. Surveil 2 is probably worth a full card, and I’ll happily pay five mana to get that plus hard removal. Compare Deadly Visit to Sip of Hemlock.

Will five mana be too slow? I sure hope not.

“Destroy target colorless nonland permanent” has to be some of the stupidest rules text I’ve seen in a while. Are you supposed to play this off your opponent’s Show and Tell to kill Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Or like, play this in Modern burn sideboards to attack through Thought-Knot Seer? Sure, I guess.

In Guilds of Ravnica Limited, however, Goblin Cratermaker is a bear with nice upside. You usually trade 2/2s off for each other in combat. This ability lets you pick your trade, which is nice, and will often take out a troublesome utility creature that never sees combat. If we have another cycle of 2/2 guildmages, Goblin Cratermaker could be a premium card. And I guess it can destroy the next card, too.

The most annoying card to play with online is back! Niv-Mizzet, Parun is no sweat to cast when all your lands are five-color lands—unless you lack dexterity with your electronic cursor and keep clicking the wrong colors of mana. Chromatic Lantern is a cool card that enables plenty of shenanigans in Limited when you are lucky enough to have one in play. It is also a welcome Commander reprint and provides some reliable value from the rare slot for your redrafts and Italian games.

Is Healer’s Hawk good? Suntail Hawk is not, but lifelink has subtle strength in Limited. Orzhov is usually the guild engaged in lifegain shenanigans, and they don’t show up in Guilds of Ravnica. But Selesnya wants bodies to convoke with and Boros needs one-power creatures to mentor. An evasive one-drop with a good ability is the perfect card for mentor, and the cost of tapping it to convoke instead of attack is not too high.

I predict Healer’s Hawk will be a strong common, the sort you desperately pick first in pack three to lower your curve. I hope there are some solid blockers with reach.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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