Gatecrash Casual & Commander Review: Orzhov Syndicate

A new Magic set is about to be released. Normally, I look at all the cards in the set (and I’m still going to do that), but to start things off – I’ve got to say wow. Wizards really knocked it out of the park with Gatecrash and there really is something for every kind of player. Like with Return to Ravnica, I will be going through each of the guilds first (WBUGR), then each unaffiliated set of cards so the final review will probably be 11 parts in total!

First up is the crime syndicate masquerading as a religion: Orhovz! This white-black guild introduces a new mechanic that is beyond multiplayer friendly. Extort allows you to pay a W or B whenever you cast a spell, to drain all your opponents for 1 life and you gain one. And to make it even better, the hybrid in it doesn’t apply to color identity rules in Commander! And it doesn’t hurt that this color combination is the best when it comes to removal either.

Gatecrash Casual & Commander Review
Orzhov Syndicate | House of Dimir | Simic Combine | Gruul Clans | Boros Legion
White | Black | Blue | Green | Red | Other

Return to Ravnica Casual & Commander Reviews
Azorious Senate  | Izzet League | Cult of Rakdos | Golgari Swarm | Selesnya Conclave
White | Blue | Red | Black | Green | Gold, Artifact & Lands

Basilica Guards

While not the most exciting card, getting additional sources of extortion is a good thing. For multiplayer, the defender aspect is a plus. It holds down the ground early game and is deceptive about just how much damage it is dealing.

Blind Obedience

Kismet is a great card… to draw a lot of attention to yourself. Blind Obedience gives you a cheap way to slow the game while you whittle away at life totals, but after a turn or two stalling the board… this card becomes the clear problem.

Dutiful Thrull

A good thrull?! And a one-drop with regeneration?! In Commander, I don’t see this going places but in kitchen table 60, this could be one of the most annoying one-drops out there. If you need some quick and easy defense, this looks like it will work well – provided your mana base can support it (spoiler alert: it can thanks to Gatecrash).

Knight of Obligation

The bigger version of Basilica Guards, Knight of Obligation feels a lot better. The higher power and vigilance allows him to deal those last few points of damage, while the constantly untapped status keeps you well defended. How does this guy see?

Syndic of Tithes

The Extort-Bear! For aggressive beatdown strategies like white weenie, this card is very interesting.  My only concern is that lack of viability late game. For limited, I love him, but I don’t see his home being the kitchen table.

Basilica Screecher

Very similar to the Extort Bear in cost, this bat is a lot better. The evasion allows him to pick up equipment with ease, while slowing sucking away at your opponents’ life totals. This is the kind of power level I like seeing at common.

Crypt Ghast

A 2/2 for 4 isn’t great, even with extort. But the ability to give you, and only you, a doubling of mana (I assume you’re playing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth with him) is amazing! In Commander, this guy effectively turns all your lands into Sol Rings – think about that! Just toss in some black spells that need black mana and you got yourself a brew goin’.

Syndicate Enforcer

Oh this is awkward…  this rogue is the same price as the Crypt Ghast. I don’t see myself or anyone else playing this.

Thrull Parasite

A one-drop extort is very interesting since it allows the bleeding to start early. If Thrull Parasite was just a 1/1 for B with extort, I would still be interested. But the ability is just specialized enough to make me interested. The pairing of extort and paying life for the ability just feels right, and eating counters is one of those abilities that will keep getting better.

Alms Beast

This is weird. A beatdown beast for 4 mana is nice, but the color pairing doesn’t work for your classic group hug deck. I like the idea of this giant monster just sitting on the battlefield giving out life when needed, but I think this beast will just prolong games.

Cartel Aristocrat

This card doesn’t wow me. Sacrificing a creature for a Mother of Runes like effect would be awesome, but she only protects herself and on a 2/2, that isn’t enough. And where is Simic in that picture?

Deathpact Angel

This is a weird card. The recursive regeneration is fascinating, and requires an answer that turn. But at the end of the day, she’s just a hard to cast 5/5 flier. She’s good, but not great… but I kind of want to play around with her and populate.

Executioner’s Swing

What I like about this swing is that it doesn’t have to apply to damage dealt to you or a creature you control, so in multiplayer, there are a lot of options. But -5/-5 that is situational is tricky to make work. If indesructable creatures are a big issue, this can help, but I would almost always run Tragic Slip over this.

High Priest of Penance

I can’t wait to slap a Darksteel Plate on this and go to town. This card is basically Vindicate on legs and I’m sure you can figure out a way to boost its toughness…

Kingpin’s Pet

Is Basilica Screecher worth paying an extra W to get one extra power? Probably not. Does your thrull deck need evasion? Probably!

Merciless Eviction

If you like utility in your board sweepers, this is pure perfection! Being able to exile all creatures, artifacts, enchantments or planeswalkers is amazing and helps shut down all the different combo decks that turtle in the corner. Get a copy or two of this, it will be used for years to come.

Obzedat, Ghost Council

The first Ghost Council got ruined by the removal of damage-on-the-stack, so Obzedat is in an interesting place. The casting cost is painful, and the abilities just aren’t that exciting. The slow siphoning of life is great thematically, but his self-flicker clause is finicky and seems a bit weird. Yes, he’s protected against sorcery removal… but in a game with three or more opponents, the one place I don’t want my 5/5 is exiled. Plus exiling your commander feels very, very wrong.

One Thousand Lashes

I think Magic is beginning to lose focus on what makes something magical. First Stab Wound and now just a whipping? Jokes aside, this is a great piece of creature removal! Pillory of the Sleepless is still a staple at my table for being both a kill card and creature removal, and One Thousand Lashes will fill the same spot. But removing activated abilities (including mana abilities) is what makes me very, very interested in playing with this piece of removal.

Orzhov Charm

The Guild Charms may be my favorite cycle of cards in a long, long time and Orzhov Charm keeps the cycle looking great. Bouncing a creature you control and all auras on it is a neat ability (though not very black or white in my opinion), while unconditional creature destruction is always appreciated. The reanimate clause is interesting, especially for a combo deck that has plenty of reasons to be recursive. When it comes to Charms, Orzhov is great on the offense, the defense and afterwards. If you’re playing black-white and running creatures, consider this.

Purge the Profane

This feels like a kicked Mind Rot. It also feels like a card I will never play.

Treasury Thrull

I love extort, but usually on smaller creatures. But you aren’t playing this guy for extort (or to round out your thrull deck), you’re playing this card for consecutive graveyard recursion! Returning a nonland, nonplaneswalker permanent when it just attacks is stupidly good – especially in singleton formats! Add in the fact that you’ll be able to extort each time you cast, and you’ve got a card who you won’t build around but will gladly be in a supportive role.

Vizkopa Confessor

While exiling a card from your opponent’s hand can be powerful, it certainly isn’t worth paying five mana – and only getting a 1/3! At five mana, I expect my cards to drastically change the game, not just annoying one person at the table. I don’t even care that he has extort.

Vizkopa Guildmage

The guildmages are almost as much fun as the charms in RtR block. Vizkopa Guildmage is a terrifying card for multiplayer. The lifelink ability is perfect for diplomatic games, since lifelink can swing combat and save a dying player. The second ability though turns a single round of combat into a devastating attack that will end games.

Beckon Apparition

If graveyard recursion is a problem, this is a cheap way to fix it.

Gift of the Orzhov

Hands down the prettiest art in the set, the stained glass wings are just gorgeous! As an aura, the combination of lifelink, flying and +1/+1 isn’t the most exciting but the hybrid cost makes it very interesting in mono-white or mono-black decks. It isn’t great though, but I can’t wait to see it in foil.

Immortal Servitude

This is the kind of card is exactly what I hate playing against on turn 20. It’s good, but thankfully it’s hybrid so they have to be playing black and white in Commander, right?

Orzhov Keyrune

Mana fixing, thrulls and a great blocker? I like rocks!

Godless Shrine

If you are playing black and white, you should be playing this. Seriously.

Orzhov Guildgate

Of the guildgates, I drastically prefer the enemy color ones. Orzhov Guildgate gives budget players a great way to mana fix their different decks, like when you can’t get your hands on Godless Shrines.

Top 5 Orzhov Syndicate Cards for Casual & Commander

5. Vizkopa Guildmage

4. High Priest of Penance

3. Crypt Ghast

2. Orzhov Charm

1. Merciless Eviction

Gatecrash Casual & Commander Review
Orzhov Syndicate | House of Dimir | Simic Combine | Gruul Clans | Boros Legion
White | Black | Blue | Green | Red | Other

Return to Ravnica Casual & Commander Reviews
Azorious Senate  | Izzet League | Cult of Rakdos | Golgari Swarm | Selesnya Conclave
White | Blue | Red | Black | Green | Gold, Artifact & Lands

 

Gatecrash Casual & Commander Review: Orzhov Syndicate