Hey folks. Today while draft practicing on bestiaire, I began reflecting on which keyrunes had made the largest impact in limited. This is important, as with the coming of Dragon’s Maze, all of the keyrunes will be on the table (and potentially in your deck). So which keyrunes have made the largest impact thusfar, and which should you be picking the highest while drafting?“Which is your favorite?”
10 – Simic Keyrune
There is no question in my mind that out of the cycle, Simic Keyrune is by far the worst. The value of Jade Idol, Chromatic Idol, etc. was their resistance to creature removal. Instead of providing an active benefit, Hexproof makes the cards value redundant and is more useful when paired with Dimir’s cipher mechanic- too bad Dimir Keyrune’s built-in unblockability is way better!
Nor is 2/3 crab what Simic decks look for, especially if it takes up a valuable 3 drop spot (and failing to evolve your creatures once resolving). I’d rather a Drakewing Krasis any day in this slot.
9 – Boros Keyrune
Certain archetypes can’t afford a turn 3 keyrune. Unfortunately, the most successful iterations of the Limited Boros deck fit this archetype.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Boros Keyrune finds success in tricolor Borzhov and Naya decks packing pump. As I mentioned earlier, one of my dream plays is swinging with Boros Keyrune and then bloodrushing either Skarrg Goliath or Rubblehulk for 20. Yeah. You heard me.
“Yes, it most certainly is.”
8 – Gruul Keyrune
Boom. Come on, Gatecrash. That’s three Keyrunes in a row now in the bottom 5.
It’s no secret that the artifacts in GTC were markedly worse than those in RTR. Gatecrash is a format ruled by bears, lowering the value of a 3/2 creature that will not become active before turn 4. Of course this is nitpicking, since they main function of the Keyrune is to ramp you to 5 mana on turn 4.
Trample is what makes the Gruul Keyrune shine – bloodrushing onto this Keyrune can be explosively detrimental to your opponents life total. However, were it Skarrg Goliath that I intended to bloodrush, i’d much rather cast it onto the Boros Keyrune than onto Gruul.
7 – Izzet Keyrune
Ahhh, the pseudo looter. The value of this card has either been epic (in the Stealer of Secrets/Teleportal deck, for instance), or humdrummingly pitiful. Izzet was a deck that thrived under the early protection of Frostburn Weird’s huge ass – following up a T2 weird with this Keyrune was a legitimate play. The problem with the card is it doesn’t help you come back from behind. While filtering your draws is a huge benefit, its lack of versatility combined with the creature’s pitiful 2/1 body means that Niv Mizzet’s Keyrune can score no higher than 7th in our Top 10.
6 – Selesnya Keyrune
Dare to Compare? The 3/3’s of Ravnica!”
Vanilla as they come, Watchwolf (or Call of the Conclave, for that matter) have never sucked. Especially in RTR where the base creature size to contend with was a 3/3. Selesnya Keyrune was never a bad pick. My guess is that it will actually become better after Dragon’s Maze (Unlike Gruul’s keyrune) because it wins against all the Zendikar-esque 2/x creatures for 2cmc in Gatecrash. Plus, Selesnya was arguably the strongest guild in Return to Ravnica: why not Courser’s Accord on turn 5?
5 – Orzhov Keyrune
Scroll down: time for some Q & A about this card.
Q: Do Corpse Blockade and Basilica Guards blow your mind?
Q: When Gatecrash was spoiled, would you have guessed that these would be Super Effective in limited?
Q: Are they actually?
Q: Will they be relevant, come Dragon’s Maze?
A: Most definitely.
We should have known that. Especially since the entire discussion around RTR was the base creature size being a 3/3 token. And what has all the Gatecrash discussion been about? Why, Zendikar (of course, I mean the deluge of 2/1’s for 2, and the possibility of extraordinarily fast tempo decks). These 1/4’s come out early and effectively neutralize attacks with their huge asses, while the fact that they have dangerous damage dealing sources (deathtouch and extort, + their 1 power) make them incredibly useful, just like another friend proved to us in RTR, after a couple weeks of early neglection.
Obviously the Orzhov Keyrune matches the other early 1/4’s in terms of it’s power and toughness, but it’s most important aspect is in the role it plays in it’s namesake deck. While Borzhov has become such a Tier 1 strategy because it successfully combined Boros’s early aggro with the long-game inevitability of extort, meaning that opponents were always left off-balance and behind, Orzhov’s keyrune (while nothing flashy or mindblowing) fits Orzhov’s turtle archetype perfectly. The facts are: it cushions – netting you little gains in life while providing extra mana for extorting, it is impervious to all removal (but for instant speed, like Grisly Spectacle and Homing Lightning, and it shrugs off RTR’s Annihilating Fire), and it has the 4-butt, meaning it can take on Selesnya’s centaurs. The longevity the card provides is definitely reason enough to squeeze Obzedat’s thrull firmly into the Top 5 of our countdown. Expect to see this maindecked often in RGD2.
4 – Dimir Keyrune
On paper, Azorius and Dimir both have Keyrunes that appear strikingly similar. Both are plopped onto a slightly fragile 2/2 body, and both have evasion. However, the roles filled by each are very different.
Flying v.s. Unblockable. Detain v.s. Cipher. Keywords v.s. Keywords.
Put yourself in the minds of R&D when they created these. Many of the Keyrunes were built to enable guild abilities: this is obvious with Dimir’s Keyrune and Cipher because it triggers every time
The card truly gets its value from the impossibility of combat and spell interaction. In a format where much of the premium removal is in combat tricks (Giant Growth was never better than it was in RTR Limited), Dimir’s Keyrune may rule supreme for its unstoppable destructive capability once Ciphered. It cannot be Mugged, it cannot be Smited, it cannot face Angelic Ediction (I know that isn’t a real word, deal with it). In fact, the only thing it really can be done in by in Gatecrash are cards like Grisly Spectacle, Devour Flesh, Homing Lightning, and Killing Glare – three of which you should be running if you’re playing Black, and 2 of which are uncommon.
But what about RTR?
Arrest? Soul Tithe? Paralyzing Grasp? Assassin’s Strike? Psssssh. There, the only things causing worry in common are Annihilating Fire (duh) and Trostani’s Judgment.
As far as Flying goes, its conditional evasion. It affords you an opportunity to block other fliers, making it slightly more versatile. And while it is their versatility that makes Keyrunes so valuable, becoming a Jack-Of-All-Trades does not allow you to master one. Dimir Keyrune exemplifies precisely what the Cipher tech desires, while providing protection for your investment during your opponent’s Main Phases.
However, the Magic community have largely eschewed Dimir strategy as being Tier 2. I wholeheartedly disagree with this as an improper assessment of the guild’s viability. The Dimir deck is not Tier 2. Blue and Black, as colors in GTC, are – they are not deep enough to support as many drafters as Green, Red and White, meaning that the Dimir Keyrune finds less use, and misses out on the top 3 spots in our countdown.
3 – Azorius Keyrune
Remember your first time drafting? I do. Two of the most valuable pieces of draft strategy I ever received were taught to me on my very first foray. I share them with you now:
Draft as much removal as you can.
When in doubt, just draft U/W fliers.
Whoever told me that, you were, and always have been, right on the money. Yes, it may sometimes not be a tier 1 deck, but for the most part, a decently drafted low cost U/W Skies will earn you a 2-1 record… at worst. So now you ask: why is the Keyrune relevant? Well, after the format becomes RGD (again) in May, U/W will once again become truly viable and synergistic. Cards like Daring Skyjek, Cloudfin Raptor, and even Drakewing Krasis will pair with U/W cards from Return to Ravnica like Azorius Keyrune, Sunspire Griffin, Lyev Skyknight and Skymark Roc, to make a brutally evasive deck. Another 2/2 Flier that can only be hit with instant speed removal will be well valued.
2 – Golgari Keyrune
Well, we’ve broken into the top 2. Here is a bulleted list of the Perks and Twerks of the Golgari Artifact.
All decks would love access to more mana.
Scavenge is especially mana-intensive
Deathtouch is ridiculously relevant at answering large bombs
Deathtouch is ridiculously relevant in coercing your opponents not to block
Deathtouch offers your opponents the opportunity to make combat mistakes
… It has Deathtouch. Trades up or down, its all about value-town with this.
1 – Rakdos Keyrune
Rakdos Keyrune is the exact opposite of Dimir Keyrune. And much to the Devil’s chagrin, the two will almost certainly never meet in combat. Which is exactly what the controller of the Rakdos Keyrune will want to do. It wins exchanges with nearly everything in this format (with perhaps the exception of the 1/4 crowd), and is effective on offense or defense. In case you’ve been living on the moon for the past 20 years, First Strike is one of the best keywords in Magic. Centaurs fear it. Aggressive soldiers cringe. And pump spells become ever the more effective during exchanges. Pump (like Martial Glory) + First Strike/Double Strike is extremely powerful in both RTR (with Splatter Thug, Ethereal Armor, and Fencing Ace), and in GTC (with Viashino Shanktail, Wrecking Ogre, Boros Keyrune, and Boros Charm). Unlike Boros Keyrune, this Black/Red artifact comes packed with a very serious 3 power, requiring no additional pump to be perceived as a legitimate threat.
Defense is also to be considered. The Unleash Mechanic has sometimes left Rakdos decks at a disadvantage when it comes to midgame, as early B/R creatures do tend to become outclassed. First Strikers, like Rakdos Keyrune and Splatter Thug, have been effectively mitigating the midgame threat since September 2012, trading up in combat, if they end up trading at all. Don’t forget the added bonus of being able to tap for mana while on the defense! Paired with pump spells and in color with some of the best C/U instant speed removal in the format (Annihilating Fire and Homing Lightning), Rakdos Keyrune will continue to thrive through Dragon’s Maze, leaving no question that this 3/1 Devil has earned the top spot on our list.