Guildpact is the second set in Ravnica block, bringing us The Orzhov, Izzet and Gruul guilds. Or, if you prefer, the B/W, U/R and R/G color combinations. It was a fine set, especially because it deeply explored B/W. I feel that the color combination is poorly understood and rarely represented in Magic, so it's nice to see that they really set the flavor of the guild as a mobster-run church. The Izzet guild was mainly focused on copying spells, and their cards certainly represent it. U/R is a really bad color combination in practice; it's hard to make decks supporting those colors work, because Red's most powerful spells are usually one-shot sorceries and instants. Combined with Blue's card draw and counters, it can be strong, but the creatures lack the power of Black or Green. Izzet cards are mainly a curiosity; they're great in Commander, but not much else. Gruul was what really set the stage for the tournament scene, especially with RG Beats. While some pros were whiling away with complicated control decks, Mark Herberholtz combined cheap burn with mashers like Scab-Clan Mauler and A-Cabaretti Charm to win a Pro Tour in Honolulu. Gruul was the essence of fast, cheap, heavy monsters. What it lacks in depth, it made up for with cards like Rumbling Slum and Giant Solifuge. Guildpact brought the guilds' shocklands, along with a few other money cards. Let's take a look at Guildpact this week!
A plain and simple card: Vindicate with an Angel attached to it. Angel of Despair was hugely popular; it's easy to understand, and even though you might want to be doing better things by the time you have the mana to cast it, the Angel never disappoints. You can recur it with Recurring Nightmare or use reanimation to pull it out on the cheap. Angel plays well with casual cards like Astral Slide, too. Its price has fluctuated a lot, but it's always been worth a few dollars.
For seven mana, this is the kind of enchantment effect that you should get. Debtors' Knell is a fine Commander card and the threat of retrieving it with an Academy Rector is usually enough to get an opponent to look elsewhere when he attacks. It's also a prime example of a card constrained by the weird Commander rules when it comes to hybrid mana. Debtors' Knell can be played in monowhite decks, but the rules prevent us from using it that way in Commander.
Knell can pull up dudes from every graveyard, which means that it is just as damaging in control decks as in aggressive, recursive strategies. It's also unfortunate that we haven't seen this come back again; it's a casual fan favorite, as the price reflects.
B/W has some great lands for color fixing. We've got the usual filters, but there's also Tainted Field. Godless Shrine is fetchable, but it doesn't see a lot of Extended play because the color combination is pretty weak in a vacuum. I've also noticed that, since Zoo is a real thing, Extended decks are careful to manage life totals from shocklands, meaning a lot are running some mix of shocklands and filter-lands. That means there is less demand for cards like the Shrine. That said, it is a powerful land, but the market isn't exactly clamoring for them.
Gone are the days of this being an $8 card, since the Magic 2011 set reprinted it. That was wise, since this is a premiere graveyard hoser, and it wasn't right having it sit in a second set, picking up value over time as people became more desperate to have access to it. Leyline is a repeatable, sometimes-free, dominating piece of graveyard hate. It sees a lot of play in Vintage and gets some Legacy attention as well.
If you're going to bother with a UR Commander deck, it's probably either playing Jhoira or this guy. Niv is like Psychatog in that he turns drawn cards into a kill mechanism, and there's no shortage of draw spells in Commander. People also like to combine it with A-Mischievous Catgeist // A-Catlike Curiosity for a kill, though this is limited by the amount of cards you have in your library; starting at 40 life means that people have to get banged up before you attempt to kill everyone else around! Some people haven't realized that this has picked up some value and will trade this away for much less than it is worth.
Steam Vents has picked up a bit of value lately because it is used in two combination decks in Modern. I don't know if it will continue to rise, since I suspect that one or more of the elements of those decks will be banned in a few days. Outside of combo, U/R is a bad color combo, so I don't see it getting expanding Modern play. What was once an unloved shockland has picked up about $5 or more in value since the Pro Tour on the back of the two combo decks.
Stomping Ground is the basis of Zoo; get it and Temple Garden in the first two turns and you can cast all your spells and power up Wild Nacatls. It's probably the most-played shockland, from its time in Standard through its current position in Modern. Who knew that Taiga was so strong?
One of the things I noticed while going over Guildpact is that it lacks any real “power uncommons” and it also trades in very low volumes. The shocklands have dropped a few dollars from their highs only a week ago! Next week, we'll look at Dissension and the other blue guilds, a set with a few more high-dollar cards than this one!