agic isn't just a game of math skills, measured odds and draft orders - it's a game of reality-bending planeswalkers clobbering each other with the most devious spells they can muster. The Standard and Ravnica-Guildpact-Dissension
draft portions of Day One showed off some of Magic's flavor in resounding fashion, conjuring up decklists, board-states and improvised-yet-vicious combos to tickle the Vorthos-minded.
Standard is not a realm of quiet, well-mannered discussions right now. When the premium mana resources and anti-personnel repertoire of Ravnica Block's guilds face off with a legendary suite of creatures hailing from Kamigawa, it's going to come to blows.
The guilds have combined in unnatural cabals. There's a breed of black-white-blue control deck that stalls with Court Hussar, ramps with a pile of signets, controls the board with Wrath, then goes for the jugular with high-end threats like Kokusho, Yosei and Angel of Despair. This deck's mana base is as uneasy as any alliance between the Dimir, Orzhov and Azorius should be, but the power of the collected weaponry is undeniable. That's what you get when the Guildpact rips down the center, people.
Speaking of the forces of law, big mana has also been seen in cahoots with the Boros Legion. The Urzatron was seen Friday supporting a particularly Kamigawa-flavored, red-white monster base of Ryusei, Yosei, Godo, Bandit Warlord, Tatsumasa, Dragon's Fang and Genju of the Fields. Consider how many activations you could get out of white Genju with an active set of Urza's lands, tutored up courtesy of a first-turn Weathered Wayfarer. What does the Boros guild actually contribute here? A set of Boros Signets and a hard-hitting surprise in the form of Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion.
The Izzet have their fair share of the limelight Friday, and have shown off what mad creativity can do when backed by powerful acceleration. There is of course Heartbeat's ominous "Gigadrowse all your permanents during your upkeep" trick - a shoulder-slumping maneuver to be sure. But how about pooling eight mana to Mimeofacture your Hound of Konda (getting a second copy, killing it) and your Paladin en-Vec (getting a second copy, neutralizing it), leaving a sympathetic Keiga free to rule the skies?
The Simic Combine has also been in full force on Day One, their mutated and grafted creatures seemingly squarely at odds with the law-droners of the Azorius Senate despite sharing a color. The followers of Momir Vig may know something about staying on the correct side of threat/answer theory; one mage was seen waltzing a squad of blue-green minions backed by Plaxcaster Frogling right through the defenses of an Azorius control mage, two Condemns and a counterspell left uncast.
Three rounds of draft on the plane of Ravnica followed the Standard portion, where interactions of guilds and the guildless created some jaw-dropping board states. A heated Orzhov grudge match matched a pair of Belfry Spirits against an even more batty opponent cranking bat tokens out of his Skeletal Vampire.
One mage sported a kind of Rakdos theme deck, showing a scary board of Demon's Jester and two Rakdos Ickspitters, with a Rakdos Guildmage not even bothering to be summoned. When he got in there with a Gruul Scrapper as well, his opponent's sad Harrier Griffin didn't find many good targets to tap down.
Some sickening Simic Guildmagery was in play at another table, moving an Ocular Halo (a.k.a. Smarty Pants) from one minion to another for an archmage-worthy card-drawing combo. Evidence suggested that earlier attempts to break up this combo had been countered by the Simic's favorite see-through plasm-pet, Plaxmanta. Elsewhere, green-blue mages cheered as Simic Ragworm picked up a Sword of the Paruns (look it up), suddenly invalidating any opponent's ability to do combat math, ever.
Flavor goobs, rejoice - flavor power is alive at well even at the top tables of the National Championships. To all the Vorthos-Spikes out there, I leave you with the nicely appropriate flavor text from Hatching Plans:
So wondrous to behold, so delicate and finely crafted -- and yet, such a pleasure to smash.