Ravnica's Maze Runners and the Amazing Maze's End

Posted in Event Coverage on May 17, 2013

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Can one guild truly claim supremacy of the Return to Ravnica Block Constructed format? While all ten guilds of Ravnica put forth their champions to run the Implicit Maze, three stood out as powerful options for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze.

Lavinia of the Tenth leads for the Azorius, and looked to appear in white-blue inclusive decks such as Luis Scott-Vargas's Esper Control. Lavina's penchant for delivering justice is evident with both protection from red, making her immune to powerful removal like Dreadbore and Mizzium Mortars, and her sweeping detain effect upon opponents' permanents. "Lavinia's really good out of a green-white deck because they tend to get into board stalls against green-black or other green-white decks, and obviously she's very good against Mono-Red," Luis said. "I almost included it in the main of a Bant deck. Basically, for all the creature matchups it's really good."

Lavinia of the Tenth
Luis Scott-Vargas loves Lavinia of the Tenth's protection from key removal spells and her ability to immediately end games during green-white board stall matchups.

Varolz, the Scar-Striped isn't like Lavinia. A brutal fighter from the Golgari, Varolz is a cornerstone to aggressive black-green decks, such as Brian Kibler's Junk Aggro. Varolz's ability to regenerate allows him to shrug off powerful removal, and turning every creature into the graveyard into permanent +1/+1 counters ensures the next creature is always a threat. His power piqued the interest of at least one team. "Around 40% of the team is playing Varolz," Josh Utter-Leyton, from team ChannelFireball, said. "It makes all of your creatures giant monsters. The built-in Wrath protection..." referring to this block's take on Wrath of God, Supreme Verdict, "...is huge. It lets you play a big threat that's hard to deal with."

Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Josh Utter-Leyton's opinions on Varolz, the Scar-Striped are high. It's efficient, it dodges removal such as Supreme Verdict with regeneration, and its use of the graveyard makes the legendary creature an immediate threat.

"It's a tailor-made Constructed card," Ben Stark, also from team ChannelFireball, said. "It can't be killed, lives through Wrath, it works your graveyard -- I think the second you see this card you're thinking 'This is a good card. This is a Constructed card.'. It's just the perfect Constructed card."

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch may look similar to the Golgari Warrior Varolz, but she's a very different maze runner. The Rakdos guild mechanic, unleash, is undeniably an offensive ability, allowing creatures to enter the battlefield unable to block but empowered for attacking. Exava grants every unleashed creature haste, giving them a chance to attack before removal like Supreme Verdict or Mizzium Mortars can clear them away, while providing a sizable body with first strike as well.

Darwin Kastle, a Pro Tour Hall of Fame member who collaborated with fellow member and friend Rob Dougherty, explained. "I'm trying to play a relatively aggressive deck that has those colors, and she is obviously a good aggressive creature. I'm worried about a lot of decks with Supreme Verdict. I like being able to hit before they can deal with it with their sorcery-speed removal, and I like being able to follow up them sweeping the board with hitting them."

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch lets you get immediate damage out of your creatures, and her haste makes sure some work is done in case your opponent does have an answer to the Rakdos creature.

But being aggressive with her alone wasn't enough for Darwin. "If I have her in play I can play Lotleth Troll, discard a creature card, and immediately attack with it," he said. "If I have two creatures in my hand, I can play the evolve dude then the other creature and attack with the evolve creature. Don't get me wrong: I have a lot more options at four mana in my deck. I've got Deadbridge Goliath. I've got Corpsejack Menace. Exava was the last card added to my deck; I just felt I needed more haste. If I've got Corpsejack Menace in play, she comes in as a 5/5 and evolves most of my guys anyway."

Of course, all of these guild heroes are vying for victory at Maze's End, the namesake card for the completion of the Implicit Maze. What these runners may not yet know is that the End itself is a potent tool for victory. Denniz Rachid, and several more players from Sweden, used a Block Constructed deck that's a control-combo deck relying on Maze's End and a bevy of tools to disrupt anyone attempting to outrun it.

Maze's End
While many have allied themselves with a maze runner or two, Denniz Rachid and a number of players from Team Sweden chose to pilot the Maze's End deck through this weekend. Why settle for one guild when you can have all ten?

Why would you tap into the power of all ten Guildgates and go straight to the goal? As Rachid explained, "I believe it beats the slow decks. I believe most people will try to beat the fast decks, and end up being midrange or control decks. I'm trying to beat what beats the fast decks. The Maze's End deck is not great against Mono-Red or Green-White, but it's very good against Esper Control. That was my metagame call."

What's the most important thing to know about building a Maze's End deck? "The most important thing is to play more than ten," Swedish player Elias Watsfeldt, one of the designers of the deck on the team, explained that you need multiple copies of each gate. "Otherwise, they can bring in Nightveil Specter and remove your win condition."

Will one of Ravnica's champions step forward to claim victory, or will the wielder of Maze's End control the destiny of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze? It's a puzzle the players will fight to figure out.

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