Guardian of the Guildpact
Ravnica Block is one of the most beloved times in recent Magic. It helped usher in a new window of Magic goodliness where multicolor cards, powerful lands, and competitive deck diversity all popped simultaneously.
I enjoyed living through that time, actively drafting, collecting, and building decks in any colors I desired. I don’t know if that’s what it felt like for casual players during Invasion Block, but if it was I can see why gold was held back so long for just the right treatment in Ravnica.
One of the interesting features during the time was that due to the upward power pull of gold – it is still considered a drawback to cost two or more colors comparative to just one – monocolored cards too received a noticeable bump. Dark Confidant, Doubling Season, Warp World, Protean Hulk, and many more cards of one color from that block have gone on to make waves in casual and competitive environments.
This even reached down to the common level where little gems like this were able to exist:
Guardian of the Guildpact is a clear example of how robust the multicolor focus was even in Limited. This guy was strong in Draft and Sealed, but there were plenty of gold options floating around to handle it. Many of the removal spells one gleefully packed in decks were gold. Generally, this guy’s ability was annoying rather than game ending. An abundance of answers existed.
Out of that block’s Limited context, “protection from monocolored” is absurd. The vast majority of spells in Magic are monocolored. Even if you factor in artifacts and artifact removal – only of which a handful of those rare cards can actually kill this outright – the odds of this guy being at least a pain is still extremely good.
Two Roads Diverged in a Wood
Most cubes are pulled in two different directions and make a hard choice to follow one or the other:
- Increase multicolor card count due to the average power level of gold being higher than monocolored
- Decrease the multicolor card count due to consistency and archetype shaping requiring more monocolored or artifact options
Essentially, most “Dragon” style cube pack an abundance of multicolor, rewarding playing with the best mana bases and most powerful (and mana-intensive/expensive) cards in any and every color. The prevailing theory for more “traditional” cubes is to eschew liberal use of gold and maximize along individual colors and associated artifacts. Amplifying one generally means reducing the other.
Each approach has benefits and drawbacks, a discussion of which exceeds the goal here today. The point here is that while I originally constructed with multicolor in mind, I’ve since refined the cube to more traditional standards.
Put more bluntly: Guardian of the Guildpact has effective “protection from most of the cube” and is a devil to deal with. While three toughness is at the Lightning Bolt threshold, it doesn’t apply here as none of the usual burn spells work. Neither does black and white removal, blue bounce, or green tokens.
And if you’re not running something like Rhox Brute, most of the gold creatures will fail to kill through that higher toughness. While some of the recent changes I’ve made to my cube included adding a few more artifact creatures with enough power to hit hard, it didn’t change how much you can leverage a little 2/3 for four mana.
Perhaps “abuse” is best substituted for “leverage” here.
The general feeling around protection as a keyword is that it’s defensive. The word “protection” itself makes this implicit in word association. But the real gem hidden here with Guardian of the Guildpact is that “protection from most of the cube” can also be read as “nigh unblockable” as well.
Your defensive pin that stops the other deck cold also happens to be viable target for equipment or Armadillo Cloak to become your finisher. I’ve done both and either way it’s sick. The urgency on killing a frustrating wall – that can’t even block most evasive creatures – is much lower than a 4/5 that completely ignores almost all of the usual answers and blockers.
Protection is often seen as a narrow effect in cube. This is, of course, generally true. Protection from red is only as valuable as the odds of regularly playing a red deck and landing it early enough in a game for it to matter. To put this in perspective on our Guardian however, adding protection from “color a” and “color b” (through something like Sword of Fire and Ice) is staggeringly powerful, and has impacted every competitive constructed format from Eternal to Block.
This meager common is as close to “protection from every color” as it gets at that rarity, and it shows every time it hits the battlefield. It’s close to first pick priority in most packs, and becomes an auto-draft as soon as white is a solid color for you. I have even splashed white for a little removal and this guy.
Play him every time. He’s worth it.