A Flavorful Guide to the Guilds of Ravnica

Posted in Feature on October 3, 2018

By Chas Andres

Chas Andres is a freelance writer and MFA student living in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he's not at his keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find him playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

Welcome, one and all, to scenic downtown Ravnica. My name is Chas Andres, and I'll be guiding you through the streets, parks, tunnels, and canals of this bustling urban plane.

If this is your first visit to Ravnica, the sights and sounds can be overwhelming. Keeping track of all the different guilds is exhausting, especially when the road ahead is being blocked by a Wojeck Bodyguard, there's a Rosemane Centaur galloping around behind you, and a couple of Wee Dragonauts whizzing by overhead.

But don't worry—I'm here to help! Each guild on Ravnica has its own unique personality, and they're pretty easy to tell apart once you get to know them a little. So please mind the Leapfrog, step around the Steam Vents, and do your best to ensure that you are obeying all relevant Azorius statutes as I take you on a guided tour of the guilds of Ravnica.

The Izzet League

Do you love science but hate how slow and tedious it can be? Then the Izzet League is for you! Members of the blue and red–aligned Izzet value invention and discovery above all else, though they rarely have the patience for prolonged experimentation. If an Izzet mage invents a jetpack, expect them to strap it to their back, cross their fingers, and flip it on. If it succeeds—whoopee! Jetpacks for everyone! If it fails, they'll just dust themselves off, disassemble it, and start working on something else entirely.

This reckless but passionate experimentation has made the Izzet League into Ravnica's most successful civic engineers. The iconic brass boilers, roadways, and canals that crisscross Ravnica are the result of Izzet imagination and innovation. Granted, so was that day when the entire sky turned bright orange for a while, but the Izzet don't spend too much time dwelling on failure. They simply move on to their next big idea.

The Izzet League is led by the brilliant, omniscient, and incomparable dracogenius Niv-Mizzet, who in no way forced me to write an entire paragraph about how smart he is. Niv-Mizzet is one of the ten paruns who founded Ravnica's guilds ten thousand years ago, so it's remarkable that he's still in charge of the League. Members of the Izzet tend to be enamored with their draconic leader, which is why his visage is on the official Izzet seal and so many Izzet creations are named after the dragon. In return, Niv-Mizzet rewards his most accomplished subjects by allowing them to link with the Firemind and experience his own towering intellect and passion.

But while Niv-Mizzet is still the leader of the Izzet in name and spirit, he's too wrapped up in his research to run the guild's day-to-day operations right now. That task has fallen to Ral Zarek, Niv-Mizzet's viceroy, who has kept the fact that he's a Planeswalker secret from his boss. I also doubt that Niv-Mizzet would be too happy to learn that Ral Zarek is secretly working for another powerful dragon—Nicol Bolas.

The Boros Legion

Might may not always make right, but the Boros Legion certainly believes in using their strength to prevent Ravnica from becoming a chaotic and unjust place. Members of the white and red–aligned Boros value honor and glory above all else, organizing their guild in a military-style hierarchy designed to keep the peace and enforce the law.

The Boros consider themselves to be the military and peacekeeping arm of Ravnican society. If there's an uprising anywhere on Ravnica, the Boros will be there to quell the dispute. If there's a bar brawl anywhere on Ravnica . . . well, the Boros will be there to quell that, too. While many Ravnicans consider the Boros to be self-righteous and rigid, there is no denying that they provide much-needed protection for the guildless without asking for anything in return.

The Boros Legion was originally founded by Razia, a righteous and inspirational angel who was treated almost if she were a goddess by the devout members of her guild. Under Razia's leadership, the Boros Legion zealously defended justice on Ravnica for ten thousand years. Then, during Ravnica's decamillennial celebration, Razia was killed by Szadek, parun of the Dimir, during his plot to seize control of the entire plane.

These days, the angel Aurelia is the guildmaster of the Boros Legion. Unlike Razia, who liked to rule from on high, Aurelia prefers to fight alongside her subjects. She even restructured the guild's rigid hierarchy at the start of her tenure, removing the guidelines that discouraged angels from mingling with other Boros troops. Aurelia also reorganized the Boros Legion into four different theaters: one designed to fight against the Rakdos, one designed to root out the Dimir, one to work with the Izzet on the development of military technology, and one devoted solely to recruitment. So, tell me: are you righteous and brave enough to join Aurelia's army?

The Selesnya Conclave

If you find this discordant cityscape too artificial and overwhelming, you should visit the quiet confines of the Selesnya Conclave. Members of the white and green–aligned Selesnya value collectivist ideals and the natural world above all else, believing that the best path to peace and happiness is through unity, togetherness, and preservation.

Supporters of the Conclave seek to put themselves in balance with Ravnica's wildlife as well as their fellow guild-mates, privileging the communal voice over that of any individual. While a member of the Izzet might find this worldview to be incredibly stifling, members of the Conclave find purpose and fulfillment in serving a greater good.

While Selesnya seeks to achieve peace through unity, don't mistake them for pacifists. Their army may not be as disciplined as the Boros, but it is still both large and powerful. Wolves, knights, dryads, elves, elementals, and even massive armor-clad wurms fight for the utopian vision of the Conclave.

Selesnya was founded by Mat'Selesnya, an elemental fusion who currently lives deep inside Vitu-Ghazi, the world tree. Members of the Conclave believe Mat'Selesnya to be the voice of nature itself, and they will do whatever they can to serve her desires. Mat'Selesnya used to communicate with the other members of her guild through a chorus of dryads, but that connection was lost when Szadek attacked the Conclave during Ravnica's decamillennial.

Mat'Selesnya currently speaks through Trostani, a fusion of three Dryads who each represent a different key Selesnyan value: Life, Order, and Harmony. But as discord grows between them, the future of the Conclave seems murkier than ever. Will their vision of a Ravnica that is at harmony with itself as well as the natural world ever come to pass? Can Selesnya even remain unified as one vibrant voice during a time of such upheaval on Ravnica?

The Golgari Swarm

While most Ravnicans prefer not to think about icky things like mortality and decay, the Golgari Swarm embraces this messy and endless cycle of creation and destruction. In fact, members of the black and green–aligned Golgari value the balance between life and death above all else.

Members of the Swarm mostly live underground, dwelling in Ravnica's forgotten and unwanted places, foraging for refuse and discarded treasures from the world above. They are also talented farmers, providing Ravnica with the vast majority of its food production. The Golgari are the largest guild on Ravnica—in large part because of their love of reanimation magic, which they use quite liberally. To the Golgari, power is both incremental and inevitable. The more things die, the more the Golgari Swarm grows.

Svogthir, the "god-zombie," was the original founder of the Golgari. He was a powerful necromancer-turned-lich who ruled the Swarm for thousands of years before being overthrown by a group of powerful Gorgons known as the Sisters of Stone Death. Svogthir managed to escape and overthrow the sisters, eventually taking over the reanimated corpse of Savra, who had betrayed him before herself being betrayed by Szadek. While his new body was destroyed when Project Kraj went haywire back at the end of Dissension, it's possible that his spirit has found a way to survive. Death is rarely final for a member of the Golgari Swarm.

The Golgari are currently being led by Vraska, who got the job as part of the deal she made with Nicol Bolas when she agreed to recover the Immortal Sun for him on Ixalan. Vraska was a passionate voice for the gorgons, the most downtrodden members of the Golgari, and she blamed Jarad, the Swarm's previous leader, for her people's plight. Bolas told Vraska where Jarad was being imprisoned, and Vraska used that information to take him out and gain control of the Golgari. Of course, Nicol Bolas doesn't know about her relationship with Jace or the fact that the mind-mage hid Vraska's memories of Bolas's treachery deep within her mind, ready to be unleashed at the right moment . . .

House Dimir

Are you already an agent of House Dimir? I have no way of knowing for sure, so I'll speak carefully. Dimir is built on a network of secrets and backroom deals, and it can count Ravnica's best spies and assassins among its ranks. Members of the blue and black–aligned Dimir value deception and manipulation above all else, and the guild's secrecy was so important to its founders that it was even codified into the original guildpact. For ten thousand years, House Dimir was only known through rumors and whispers.

Even today, most members of House Dimir know very little about the guild and its leadership. All pertinent information about House Dimir is on a strict need-to-know basis, even for those who serve it with unflinching loyalty. Those who don't serve the Dimir may still believe that the guild's existence is either a silly rumor or a dangerous conspiracy theory. Even those who hire the Dimir to ferry secrets or handle delicate matters discretely may not actually know who they're working with.

The psychic vampire Szadek was the original founder of House Dimir, and his network of spies and operatives attempted to take control of Ravnica on the plane's decamillennial. While his plan ultimately failed, Szadek's actions lead to massive upheaval and the dissolution of the original guildpact. Although Szadek was arrested by the Boros and executed by the Azorius, it's quite possible that he still exists as a Spirit and continues to influence the current operations of the Dimir.

Regardless, Lazav is the current guildmaster of House Dimir. He's a powerful shapeshifter who uses spycraft and a web of loyal agents to consolidate power and ferret out anyone who opposes his guild. Recently, Lazav's sources have uncovered that a powerful outside influence (hmm . . . who could it be?) has begun to take over several of the other guilds. As power-hungry and Machiavellian as the Dimir have proven to be in the past, Lazav is determined not to let this outsider's plan come to fruition.

And That's Just the First Five Guilds

Please join me for the second half of our tour once Ravnica Allegiance comes out early next year, when we'll explore the Orzhov Syndicate, Simic Combine, Azorius Senate, Cult of Rakdos, and Gruul Clans. Have you ever seen a toad grafted with crab claws? Or a three-day party that only ended when one of the guests blew up the building? Or an entire city block come to life and start crushing its enemies? Just you wait.

Ravnica might seem vast and dizzying at first, but the plane has it all. Are you going to help the Izzet achieve new scientific breakthroughs, find valor among the Boros, commune with nature in the Selesnya Conclave, explore undeath with the Golgari, or [REDACTED] for the [REDACTED]? Be sure to check out Guilds of Ravnica, which will be available around the world beginning October 5!

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