Cardsmith Blog

CCC: Ranking the Guilds of Ravnica

Ravnica, the Multiverse’s biggest city. Full to bursting with people and planeswalkers alike, all under the palm of the guilds. Ten great institutions representing the 10 two-color combinations available in Magic. I’ve talked about the guilds in the past, specifically about how the Simic and its abilities really only favor the Green side of its Blue/Green combination. So, what about the other guilds? How do they rank when it comes to their mechanics flavor and function? Well today we’re gonna answer that with this guide to Ravnica. I’ll be ranking each guild, from 1-10 based on which one’s mechanics fit both the flavor of the guild and the actual game mechanics present in Magic. Let’s get started.

Counting Down the Top 10

10. Simic Combine

Mechanics: Graft, Evolve, Adapt
I’ve already gone over the Simic but as a quick recap. None of these abilities feel at all Blue and all deal with +1/+1 counters which Blue doesn’t really have access to. On a flavor level they're fine, but I honestly feel like Mutate fits better as a Simic mechanic than any of their actual ones.

9. House Dimir

Mechanics: Transmute, Cipher, Surveil
Oh Dimir mechanics, what the hell are you? Transmute is really cool gameplay-wise and arguably has some of that sweet Dimir spy flavor of gathering intel. It also fits nice in both Blue and Black. Similarly, Surveil is amazing on all fronts. While Transmute is only arguably flavorful, Surveil is a knockout mix of flavor and function, fitting cozily between Black and Blue while having the best spy flavor yet! Then you have Cipher. I don’t even know where to start here. The mechanic is cool, but it’s needlessly complicated and doesn’t really fit the flavor of Dimir or the functionality of Black and Blue. The failure of Cipher and the borderline nature of Transmute are what land Dimir the number 9 spot.

8. Gruul Clans

Mechanics: Bloodthirst, Bloodrush, Riot
The Gruul are an interesting case with none of their abilities feeling super out of place in the Gruul guild but they do seem out of their colors. Riot is fine, but the real offenders are Bloodrush and Bloodthirst. Both of these abilities just don’t really feel like Gruul mechanics, in fact both fit more at home in a Black/Red color pie. Similar to the Simic neglecting Blue, Green just doesn’t feel represented in either of these mechanics. Riot however fits perfectly on all axises so that earns it the 8 spot.

7. Azorius Senate

Mechanics: Forecast, Detain, Addendum
Good news, Azorius, you’re where things start to get better. Addendum and Detain are great mechanics for the law-loving guild, fitting both the colors well on top of the flavor win. Each mechanic represents the two sides of the guild, the lawmakers and the arresters. And then there’s the odd one out, Forecast. It’s a good mechanic that fits in the colors but honestly, what the heck does the Azorius have to do with the weather? It’s just a weird one that doesn’t fit in my opinion.

6. Boros Legion

Mechanics: Radiance, Battalion, Mentor
Boros is a little bit more clear cut. Similar to the Azorius it has two mechanics that fit and one that doesn’t. Battalion and Mentor are great fits here, each really giving off the vibes of an army of soldiers. Radiance however, doesn’t really fit at all. Arguably it shows how the soldiers work together but that’s not a super defensible case. The only reason the Azorius ranked lower is Forecast makes even less sense than Radiance.

5. Cult of Rakdos

Mechanics: Hellbent, Unleash, Spectacle
Alright! Half way through, this is where things started to get hard. See all three Rakdos mechanics actually fit the guild pretty well. The reason why it scores the fifth spot is because of Unleash, even though it fits the colors pretty well. Of the guild mechanics remaining it fits the guild the least well. Unleash is a mechanic that would fit just as well in the Gruul Clans as it would in Rakdos.

4. Izzet League

Mechanics: Replicate, Overload, Jump-Start
Although all Izzet mechanics all work pretty well, it scores fourth because, in my opinion, Overload is really the only interesting one. Replicate as a mechanic is cool, but the cards that have it are nothing special and Jump-Start is just a tweaked version of Flashback.

3. Orzhov Syndicate

Mechanics: Haunt, Extort, Afterlife
The Orzhov are pretty great when it comes to mechanics, they get points off though because of Haunt. Similar to Cipher, Haunt is complicated and only sort of fits the Orzhov. It’s a mechanic that feels more at home on Innistrad. But with the ghostly themes of the Orzhov, it still fits more than a lot of other mechanics, getting the Orzhov the bronze.

2. Golgari Swarm

Mechanics: Dredge, Scavenge, Undergrowth
The Golgari really earned the Silver. All their mechanics completely fit the guild’s flavor and it’s colors. However it gets 2nd because they’re also all kind of boring. Just like the Izzet, the mechanics here lend to very linear types of strategies. Still, the second best mechanics in all of Ravnica ain’t too bad!

1. Selesnya Conclave

Mechanics: Convoke, Populate
I mean, it wasn’t even close. The Selesnya only have two mechanics but Jesus do they work. Convoke is wonderful for a guild that’s all about working together and Populate makes so much sense considering their themes of community! Both mechanics also feel right at home in Green and White, making the Selesnya fit all the criteria.

That’s all for this month. If you have any thoughts on the Ravnican guilds and their mechanics I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You can also find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at As always this has been East2West with Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), I'll see you guys on the battlefield.
Aug 17, 2020 by East2West

The 3rd Annual Artful August

The 3rd Annual MTGCardsmith Artful August!!

Artful August has returned, just in time for our third annual Artwork Contest!

As in past years, we're looking for your Original Custom Artwork Cards to help us celebrate the month of August! Show us what you've created for this years challenge! We've added more prizes and that means more opportunities to win! And just like last year, we're going to dedicate the Featured Space to Custom Art cards and Featured Cardsmiths!

The creator of nearly 500 cards, ArmisJoe is known for making realistic and interesting cards. We wanted to showcase a few of the wonderful creations from our first Featured Cardsmith of August, so take a minute and check out these cards!

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Yesterday is one of those Cardsmiths who doesn't come around too often, but whenever they do, we find ourselves intrigued with the cards and the non-traditional artwork chosen to go on some of them. See for yourself why we feel this Cardsmith is worth checking out!

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Each month we're excited to highlight just a couple of Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Jul 31, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

CCC: Gladiator

I know I don’t have to tell you how difficult it has been to play Magic the Gathering lately. A lot of my close friends have been taking a break from the game until the quarantine lifts where they live. Arena is there of course, but it’s not the savior we all hoped it would be. Sure, it’s fine if you’re into Standard or Brawl, but it’s a limited place to play. Originally, I didn’t think that anything could make me want to use Arena more. Yet, it sort of sits there on my desktop. Then along came Benjamin Wheeler of LRR (LoadingReadyRun) fame. For this month’s topic, I want to talk about a format I’ve personally been having a lot of fun with -- and the only reason I still have Arena downloaded -- Gladiator.

Gladiator is a 100-card MTG Arena singleton format that uses the entire Arena database as it’s card pool. There is a banned list, but it’s literally just Oko, Thief of Crowns. This makes the format super open, a brewer’s paradise. Gladiator also has a very active and friendly community and even a Discord server that I’ll link below. There’s not much else to go over when it comes to rules so I’d like to show off the decks I’ve been playing. They’re perfect examples of how open the format truly is.

Bloody Esper Humans

“Humans” is kind of my pet deck. I try to force it in all 1v1 formats I play (Aside from Canadian Highlander.) I’ll be the first to admit, the deck’s transition to Gladiator isn’t perfect, but it’s far from bad. “Bloody Humans” can hold its own against a lot of the more popular decks (Except for pod, it’s difficult to win that matchup without a Settle the Wreckage). It’s a fun, removal heavy, tribal-themed, mid-range deck that I’ve had a blast with.

Temur Not Enough Wildcards

Temur NEW was birthed from the fact that I didn’t have enough wildcards to finish the 4C Spellslinger deck. I realized I could tweak it, retool it with what I did have, and see what happened. This led to cutting White and adding in cards such as Quirion Dryad and Sprite Dragon. The end result is a very smooth feeling deck that can play both an aggressive creature game and a longterm spell-based plan.

Traditional Green

Traditional Green was made because personally, I hate crafting lands with wildcards. I know it’s necessary but it just feels so wrong to waste valuable Rare wildcards on lands. Traditional Green is a basic, mono-green deck that does all the basic Green things. Play creatures, buff ‘em, and get them in your enemy’s face! It’s simple, it works, and there are hundreds of ways to build the deck, so feel free to tweak and experiment. This list is a little rare heavy, but like I said, there are a bunch of ways to build the deck, this is just the way I like it.

Overall, Gladiator is a format that already is amazing and will only get better with time. It’s the perfect format to take advantage of Arena’s environment and it’s been one of the most fun things I’ve been able to do with Magic over this quarantine. I cannot recommend it enough.

If you have any sweet Gladiator: Arena Singleton decklists flying around your head or you just want to chat, hit me up in the comments below. You can find me on twitter @East2Westmtg or email me at As always this has been East2West with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.

Discord Link

Gladiator official website
Jul 15, 2020 by East2West

Jul 15, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon

Creating MTG Card Art

Let's get stARTed!!

Faiths_Guide has offered to give all of us aspiring artists some advice and inspiration for Artful August, so let's not waste any more time!

Advice and General Good Practice for Creating MtG Card Art

There is no strict set of rules to creating MtG artwork, but a good first step is to decide what kind of card you're making. Most of us are inclined to focus on creature cards because that tends to be the most straight forward, conceptually. My advice would be to follow that inclination as people generally have the strongest connection to creatures (more than lands, enchantments, instants, etc.) and I'm going to proceed under that "creature card" assumption. If you decide to go with another card type most of these steps will still apply, but I recommend researching existing art to see what other artists have done. Landscapes, objects, and scenes require very different approaches than creatures.

Decide what kind of creature (or scene) you are going for: Human, Sliver, Dragon? Make some tiny sketches of your creature to get a good idea of its proportions and maybe play around with some poses that you like. Getting comfortable with your subject will make the actual act of creating the final piece more enjoyable and improve your result.

In general, MtG card art has a 3x4 landscape ratio. This is very important for you to think about when you proceed to placing your creature(s) in a scene. It is generally good practice to make a couple very small practice sketches with the correct ratio to get an idea of what you want to capture and work on composition. MtG art ends up being very small in the end anyway, so it is important for the artwork to read well at very small sizes so that anyone that looks at it will recognize exactly what you created. On creature cards you want to have the creature(s) take up a large portion of the image so that they can be seen easily. Don't worry about details at this stage. Details might separate good art from bad, but no amount of small details will save a piece that wasn't laid out well. Focus on big shapes and forms.

To get the most positive reaction from other's that see your work, it helps to build in some kind of narrative through surrounding scenery, expression, or activity for your creature(s). This is something that could/should be thought about while working on "thumbnail" sketches in the previous step.

Now's the time to take your most refined thumbnails and sketches and turn them into a finished piece. If you've got your own favorite style of art it's a good idea to stick with it even if it doesn't really match MtG's style because you'll be more comfortable with it and your final piece will reflect that. Otherwise, imitate the style of some of your favorite artists from the game to render your piece. Try to make important parts of your image pop from their surroundings with a lot of contrast. Simple lighting and obvious contrast are best for art pieces that will be displayed as small as MtG cards' are.

Don't overwork your art. If working digitally, zoom in and out while you work and flip your canvas often. If working traditionally look from close and far away and also in a mirror. The benefit is that you'll notice mistakes faster when you keep seeing your artwork in different ways.

Remember to have fun because you can usually see if the artist did or didn't.

Special thanks to Faiths_Guide for his ongoing support to Artful August and the Cardsmith Community!

Resources are available!

Not everyone has Photoshop, but there are other resources available to you. If you use DeviantArt, they have a free drawing platform called Muro. To use it, just sign in and then click "Submit". A link below will show up for Muro!

Working on an ipad or an iphone? Procreate is available for a small $10 or $5 fee

In addition to Muro, Deviant Art also has a multitude of professional tutorials available.

Here is one you might enjoy!

We've given you a few resources above, but if you know of some we missed or have any you want to share, make sure to drop by the forums to let everyone in on your secrets!

Check out this month's two featured Cardsmiths... Usaername & SteampunkDragon!

We've been enjoying Usaername's cards since 2016 and if you've spent any time over there, you'll notice that he has recently become a stalwart on the Official MTGCardsmith Discord channel, offering advice and merriment alike! We think you'll enjoy looking at Usaername's cards just as much as we do so go check them out!

SteampunkDragon is one of the Cardsmiths that we think has flown under the radar for too long. Since 2017, SteampunkDragon has been making his own cards, making a few custom mechanics and all that while helping other Cardsmiths fill out their sets! If you haven't favorited a bunch of his stuff yet, go check out his cards and make sure you do!

Each month we're excited to highlight a few Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!

Jul 02, 2020 by Corwinnn, & Tomigon
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