Interview: PoY Luis Salvatto’s Impression of “Guilds of Ravnica”


By: Shin Tomizawa
Translated by: Daniel Pham

The heated race for the title of the 2017-2018 season’s Player of the Year (PoY), ultimately ended in a 2-way tie for the second time in Magic’s history. The two finalists will battle it out in the playoff of the century with all eyes on them!

Among them, one of the two PoY candidates is none other than Pro Tour Lantern Control (also known as Rivals of Ixalan) winner, and Hareruya Latin team member, Luis Salvatto.

As well, Luis Salvatto is known for being a limited master, and unfortunately in last years race for Limited Master, he was unable to catch Elias Watsfeldt for the title and finished in 2nd place.

This time with all the excitement and build up surrounding the PoY race, I was able to get Luis Salvatto’s impressions for the new limited format with “Guilds of Ravnica.”

Luis Salvatto

Luis Salvatto

Regarding the Intense Pro Point Race

— “You were able to secure a Pro Tour win, Team Series win, and are tied for 1st in the PoY race, making this an amazing season for you. I’m sure you’ve been hearing this a lot but congratulations again!”

Luis: “It still makes me happy no matter how many times I hear it. Thank you.”

— “I’d like to get your impressions regarding last season, in particular winning a Pro Tour and the PoY leader race.”

Luis: “Regarding the Pro Tour win, I didn’t think I was going to win the Pro Tour going into it, so you could say that the result being as unexpected as it was definitely amplied the happiness and joy that it filled me with. I got the decklist from one of my friends and I am truly gratefuly to him for that, as it is definitely something I will never forget for the rest of my life.”

Luis: “Concerning the PoY race, this was definitely a huge turning point for me. Together with winning a Pro Tour, this was an opportunity for me to achieve a huge milestone in my career. I’m thinking that it might even be possible to be considered for the Hall of Fame too.”

— “Around when did you start to become aware and concerning yourself with acquiring the PoY title?”

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

Luis: “I began noticing the potential to win the title after my 6th place finish in Minneapolis at Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary. While annually, the PoY race lasted until the final Pro Tour of the season, this time around it was from Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary to the World Championships, which gave us a little more time to acquire points. I thought it was definitely possible with the 1 point change to the Grand Prix cap.”

— “When did you actually feel like you were able to catchup in the race?”

Luis: “Actually I didn’t really know at all right until the end. While I kept on my path, as expected getting results wasn’t easy and I started losing patience around the middle of August.”

(*Luis played in each week’s Grand Prix between August 3rd’s Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary and September 15th’s Grand Prix Stockholm.)

— “Acquiring enough Pro Points in such a short time frame must have definitely put you under a lot of pressure. Were you able to keep a regular heartbeat through all that?”

Luis: “It was definitely hard to remain calm, especially when you feel the pressure of not getting any Pro Points. If I think back to it now, it definitely had an impact on the way I was playing. However, I was doing my best to stay calm and relaxed at all times. Travelling all the time is also quite tough too. Through this experience however, I strongly feel that I was able to train and control my nerves. However, I didn’t take the approach to change my routines or anything.”

— “Preparing for the World Championships and travelling to Grand Prix at the same time must have been very tough. How were you able to do it all?”

Luis: “The base for my Constructed practice is definitely Magic Online as many would expect. However I guess the biggest emphasis for me was the practice I got through drafting with my friends. While Contructed doesn’t really change on Magic Online, when it comes to drafting, Magic Online’s league format have slightly different rules, and it may not be the best testing for limited. Although it is hard to get 7 other skilled players together, I very much wanted to practice and improve my drafting skills for the Dominaria portion of the World Championships.”

— “Thank you very much. So could you give us your impression of your playoff opponent Seth Manfield?”

Luis: “He’s a very strong player. Among current active players, I doubt there is anyone better than him. Although we don’t yet know what the format of the playoff will be, make no mistake, it will definitely be a tough battle for sure. But that doesn’t mean I’m not confident. I feel that this year’s me has grown to around the same level. It should definitely be a good match. It shouldn’t be surprising regardless of who wins.”

Impressions of “Guilds of Ravnica” from the Team Series

— “To change the topic, the finals of the Team Series featured a limited format using “Guilds of Ravnica” right? While it is unfortunate that you came so close yet lose, you were able to play this format before everyone else in the world. As Hareruya Latin, please tell us what strategies did you come up with and what did you learn from it? For example, are there any strengths for certain guilds?”

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

Luis: “To me, my initial impression is that Dimir is probably the easiest to play. There are a lot of good commons, and the “Surveil” mechanic is very good. It’s like a bonus you get for just casting your already good spells.”

— “So conversely, are there any guilds you don’t like playing?”

Luis: “If we compare it to other guilds, Golgari seems like one of the harder ones to build around. There aren’t many decently playable cards at common, and if you want a deck with an above average power level, you want to have a lot of uncommon or higher rarity cards. Otherwise I realize that other guilds can have good decks built around their commons.”

— “What are is your impression of each of the keyword mechacnics?”

Luis: “Personally, the one I’m most interested in is the Boros mechanic, “Mentor”. This ability is so powerful and can easily end games in many cases. While the offensively sided ability to put +1/+1 counters is rather limiting, it makes 《Healer's Hawk》 worth playing. Also as I said before “Surveil” has left a good impression on me. And I’m sure you know that “Jump-start” can turn your left over lands into spells right?”

Parhelion PatrolDeadly VisitRadical Idea

Luis: “On the other hand, my initial impression for “Convoke” is that it is hard to use as it’s hard to get enough tokens to make it effective. Finally there’s “Undergrowth,” but I find it’s just too hard to build a deck around this ability. If you compare it to other mechanics that are based on putting creatures in the graveyard, it takes a lot of work to pull off and there aren’t any cards that can do it easily.”

— “I see. In the case of Team Sealed, how would you recommend splitting the guilds between 3 people?”

Luis: “Although I have only played with the set a few times including my practice, so of course my opinion is quite tentative for the moment, but I would suggest to first look and focus on Boros and Dimir. Then if the left over green can pair with the white to make a Selesnya deck, it’s an easy card pool to play with. It’s also fine to splash black here as well. Also Dimir splashing Red or Green for powerful multicolor Golgari or Izzet cards seems pretty standard as well. Conversely, in this current set, I would advise against building around guilds color pairs like UG or RB that aren’t yet featured. This is unless you are lucky enough to have enough single color cards from common to rare, which is probably not often the case.”

— “I see. So you have a bit of a prejudice against Golgari it seems. If you absolutely have to build around GB, which direction would you take the deck in?”

Pitiless GorgonPiston-Fist Cyclops

Luis: “It would have to be a midrange deck. You would be playing important common cards like 《Pitiless Gorgon》 to help stall the board.”

— “What do you think of the speed of the games in this limited environment? Should you be leaning or gearing towards fast or slow games?”

Luis: “This will depend on the guild. Boros has a lot of cards that help them be offensive quickly, while Dimir in most cases, ends up the type of deck that buys as much time as possible and then finally wins. In terms of fast decks, the synergy built around Izzet’s creatures and spells, and how it makes use of the order and way cards are played, makes it a very powerful tempo-aggro style archetype. 《Piston-Fist Cyclops》 is going to be your bread and butter for this deck.”

— “What are the important creatures around the 2 mana cost?”

Hired Poisoner

Luis: “In the case of Boros, this is a very important mana cost range that is often quite full, as you are focused around playing early threats in the early turns and curving out. But concerning other guilds, you have 《Hired Poisoner》 at common which causes a lot of bored stalls, but since most cheap creatures can’t stop creatures with flying, you don’t have to play them unconditionally. When you play against Boros, in order to catchup to Boros’ speed and buy time, you can bring them in, but otherwise they are of relatively low importance.”

— “What do you think of the playability of the guild “lockets?” Despite having the ability to draw cards, are mana artifacts playable in the first place?”

Boros LocketDimir LocketGolgari Locket
Izzet LocketSelesnya Locket

Luis: “You can play them in slower decks like Dimir, Izzet or Golgari. It won’t make or break your decks, but they aren’t as good as some might expect.”

— “Regarding combat tricks, in this limited environment, is there a unique way to play them and is there a certain number of them you should play?”

Luis: “There not that impressive when it comes to Selesnya. However the Boros ones are definitely very playable. The reason for this is because of “Mentor” which makes your opponent respond with removal but may be afraid of an instant speed trick, which seems to be a frequently occuring dilemna.”

— “Lastly, excluding Mythics, what are the best Rares and Commons in the set?”

Venerated LoxodonQuasiduplicateArtful Takedown

Luis: “Is 《Doom Whisperer》 Mythic? In that case I’m torn between 《Venerated Loxodon》 or 《Quasiduplicate》. Both have the ability to end games, and in addition to being hard to deal with, they’re not very expensive either. For common, 《Artful Takedown》. You can use it normally as just an instant speed removal spell, but if you use while on the offensive you can practically get a 2 for 1 for it, and that can win games all on its own.”

— “Thank you very much. For the Japanese players that read this article, myself included, I believe that this will help deepen our understanding of the new limited environment!”

Although the format for the PoY race playoff has yet to be decided, it seems that Seth Manfield has already suggested to Wizards that they do a Winston Draft. Luis Salvatto expects that it will be done in at least 2 different formats.

Luis Salvatto

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

It’s still uncertain how the playoff for the PoY race will playout when compared to the first one 8 years ago in 2010, or who will win it. One this is for certain, it will definitely be the center of attention for fans of Pro Magic.

And again I would like to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to Luis, who generously shared his thoughts and valuable information such as the strengths of each guild and what rares to use.