Murders at Karlov Manor cards have now been legal on Magic Online for over 24 hours, and the new set is already starting to make its mark in Modern. Recently, we talked about the presence of Surveil Lands and their effect on decks like Temur Crashing Footfalls. Today, we are going to focus on a card that got a lot of hype during spoiler season and its role in another well-established archetype.
The card in question is Leyline of the Guildpact and the deck is Domain Zoo. A Domain Zoo decklist with Leyline already went 4-0 in a Magic Online Modern Preliminary event, showing off its prowess. It may seem a bit strange to see Leyline in a deck that was already playing five colors and had little problem assembling the requisite colors of mana. However, Leyline plays an important role in a variety of matchups. Before we discuss exactly what makes Leyline so strong, it’s important to first look at the supporting cast that reward you for playing five colors.
The general goal behind this archetype is to assemble all five different basic Land types among your Lands within the first couple turns of the game. This allows you to play a bunch of extremely powerful cards that either become stronger or more efficient depending on the number of basic Land types among Lands you control.
First, let’s go over the cards that become stronger. At the top of the list, we have Territorial Kavu. Kavu does an excellent Tarmogoyf impression from the old days as a big, beefy body for only two-mana, so long as you put in the work. Luckily, with the slew of Fetchlands, Shocklands and Triomes in the deck, making Kavu a 5/5 isn’t tough. Nishoba Brawler is another strong threat, though its three toughness does make it a little more vulnerable to cards like Lightning Bolt.
Lastly, we have Tribal Flames. In conjunction with large attackers, Tribal Flames threatens to end the game in short order. Even if your opponent stabilizes the board and removes your large threats, a couple copies of Tribal Flames each dealing five damage to the opponent can steal games rather easily.
Now, for the cards that get cheaper for each basic Land type among Lands you control. Scion of Draco is an excellent Flying threat that can be cast as early as turn two. It works great in conjunction with your other threats as well, giving Kavu First Strike and Trample, for instance. Leyline Binding, in a similar manner, can reliably be cast on turn two in this deck, helping to answer any problematic non-Land permanent your opponent could play.
Leyline of the Guildpact’s Role
Speaking of Leyline Binding and Scion of Draco, the presence of both of these cards help make Leyline of the Guildpact a rather interesting inclusion. In the context of Leyline Binding, if you begin the game with Leyline of the Guildpact in play, you are able to play Leyline Binding on turn one. This isn’t a huge difference in many games but is a great option to have in a format where one-drops like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer can singlehandedly take over the game.
Where things really get out of control is when you have access to both Leyline and Scion of Draco. Scion of Draco provides specific benefits to each Creature you control based on their color combinations. Given that Scion of Draco is a colorless Creature, these upgrades typically only affect your other Creatures. However, Leyline’s ability to make all of your non-Land permanents all colors turns Scion of Draco into a one card wrecking machine.
First of all, Scion gains Hexproof in this situation. This alone is devastating, especially in matchups where your opponent can’t remove Leyline. For example, a resolved Scion against Izzet Murktide may end the game in conjunction with Leyline. Outside of an enormous copy of Murktide Regent or a timely Brazen Borrower being able to bounce Leyline, Scion will take over the gamer as a 4/4 with Flying, Lifelink, Hexproof, and more.
Even in situations where you don’t have access to Scion or Binding, Leyline still has some uses. Against burn, it allows you to grab basic Lands with your Fetchlands instead of Shocklands or Triomes to both preserve your life total and develop your board in a timely manner. Ironically, you don’t even need to use your Fetch Lands if you don’t want to!
Similarly, you can get basic Lands to help beat Blood Moon. Blood Moon is a very strong card against this archetype, but if you control Leyline and a couple basic Lands, the card is much less problematic.
This is because you will still have access to all colors of mana since your basic Lands will be able to tap for any color with Leyline in play. This decklist utilizes three basic Lands, which is more than normal but helps your Fetchlands reliably find basic Lands in these situations.
Maintaining an Aggressive Stance
One of the clear downsides to running Leyline, though, is that the card does very little on its own. If you mulligan and don’t have the tools to maximize it, it isn’t the strongest card. Additionally, it is a very poor topdeck. Luckily, this deck does a decent job mitigating these weaknesses. First and foremost, this deck is quite aggressively slanted. This can help make up for the fact that playing Leyline technically puts you down on overall resources in a deck that lacks card advantage to begin with.
Cards like Ragavan and Wild Nacatl pressure the opponent almost immediately, pairing nicely with your massive turn two plays. Meanwhile, Territorial Kavu’s ability to rummage cards away when it attacks means that you can discard excess copies of Leyline you may have drawn and convert them into more impactful spells.
Add in a copy or two of Tribal Flames, and your opponent is in for a world of hurt if they can’t remove your threats on curve. This deck even makes use of Stubborn Denial to help you protect your enormous threats and close the game in an efficient way.
Strengths and Weaknesses
This strategy has a lot going for it and the presence of Leyline has helped shore up a few popular matchups. If you can assemble the combo of Leyline and Scion against Izzet Murktide or Temur Crashing Footfalls, your opponent will be in for a rough outing. Having a 4/4 with Hexproof, Lifelink, and First Strike matches up quite nicely against 4/4 Rhino tokens, as well as Delirious copies of Dragon’s Rage Channeler that are now forced to attack.
Still, in games where you don’t resolve Scion, Leyline may not pull its weight. Being able to pitch it to Kavu is nice, but you won’t always have that option. In matchups where your opponent can interact with your threats cheaply, such as against multi-color Omnath, Locus of Creation shells, it can be difficult to stick one of your high-power beaters.
That being said, not everyone is playing cards like Leyline Binding or Solitude to remove your Creatures. Both Scion and Kavu match up perfectly against a lot of damage-based removal like Lightning Bolt. Playing Leyline over additional copies of Stubborn Denial and other flex slots like Prismatic Ending is a tradeoff, but the upside is certainly there. Only time will tell if Leyline is the real deal here but keep an eye out for this shell if you plan to play Modern in the coming weeks.