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Orzhov Syndicate
Orzhov Logo
Alternative Names
Church of Deals
Lore Information
Parun Obzedat
Guild Leader

Obzedat (0-10,077 ZC)
Kaya Cassir (nominal, 10,077-c. 10,079)
Tomik Vrona (acting, 10,077-c. 10,079)

Teysa Karlov (c. 10,079-Present)
Guild Champion Teysa Karlov
Guild Hall Orzhova
Game Information
Colors {W}{B}
Mechanics Haunt
(Ravnica Allegiance)
Featured Sets
Ravnica Allegiance
Signet Flavor Text
"The form of the sigil is just as important as the sigil itself. If it's carried on a medallion, its bearer is a master. If it's tattooed on the body, its bearer is a slave." — Orzhov Signet
Scryfall Search

The Orzhov Syndicate (/ɔːrzɔːv/ OR-zov),[1] also called The Church of Deals,[2] is the white/black guild from the plane and city of Ravnica. Introduced in Guildpact[3], the guild is also featured in Gatecrash and Ravnica Allegiance.

RNA Orzhov basic lands

Orzhov basic lands from Ravnica Allegiance

Background[ | ]

The Orzhov Syndicate is the Ravnican guild of business, where the values of white and black meet and the dead exist solely as capital. Nearly every business in Ravnica ties back to the Orzhov in some way or another.

Founded on the conviction that wealth serves as power, the Orzhov orthodoxy was built upon guilt-created structures that propagate wealth. The guild is an amalgam of religion, banking, and organized crime,[4] and it contains some of Ravnica’s wealthiest and most oppressed citizens.[2] Orzhov leadership includes an extravagant hierarchy of priests, enforcers, and ghostly councilors who rule over a congregation of the guilt-bound faithful, indebted spirits, and thrull servants. All guild members must repay their debts, and membership often includes a provision of servitude beyond death. Many within the guild believe their authority is essential to Ravnica’s integrity and may seize power using unscrupulous tactics. Although most Ravnicans view the Orzhov Syndicate as corrupt, their promises of wealth, prestige, and longevity offer enticing opportunities to those in need.[4]

Their white flavor is exemplified by how they have a strong sense of tradition and community, reflected by the fact that they still partake in all of their ancient rituals and customs despite not worshiping any gods. Their public image is still important to them, despite how the citizenry is aware of their corrupt practices, leading to some superficially good deeds. It is also symbolized in how they hoard their wealth but are shown to share it with family members or close friends. Their black flavor can be seen in that they regularly deal with the dead, they never give to charity if they can help it, and continually violate the spirit of the law merely to meet their ends. The Orzhov know also how to create thrulls out of remnants of past debtors.

Hierarchy[ | ]


The Orzhov hierarchy.

The Syndicate used to be presided over by a council of ghosts, the Obzedat, in Orzhova, the Church of Deals.[5] Below the Obzedat stood the oligarchs, elite families who have belonged to the Orzhov for generations, and the pontiffs (executive managers).[6][7] Orzhov aristocrats move very slowly from magically prolonged life to semi-undeath to ghosthood.[8] Ministrants are the priests and practitioners of Orzhov's religion. This is the highest position anyone can hope to obtain without being born within the guild. On the same level stand the knights. who provide the muscle for collecting money on time and in an orderly fashion. The gray sisters were an order of robed nuns who performed the menial chores of the church, sworn to silence and recruited exclusively from deceased worshippers.[9] The lowermost position in the guild is taken by the syndics (attorneys, advisors, accountants, couriers, etc.). Borrowers are not part of the guild, but they can't escape their debt even after their death.

The Cartels[ | ]

Reporting to the Obzedat is a web of competing cartels, which are the individually operating units of the Orzhov Syndicate.[4] Each cartel claims different territories and markets across Ravnica, and each has its internal hierarchy of priests, advokists (lawmages), enforcers, and others. Each cartel is ruled by a cardinal or kingpin whose role is somewhere between gang leader, bank manager, and high priest.

Life and Death[ | ]

Full Orzhov members live longer than the average Ravnican.[10] The high-ranking members of the Orzhov use magical means known as the Orzhov Blood[11] to extend their lives, but are mutated in many ways that they pass on to their offspring. For example, one of Teysa Karlov's legs was practically useless, and therefore she was forced to use a cane since she learned to walk. Members of the Obzedat were called the Deathless, as they had managed to cheat mortality, maintaining their consciousness (and their greed) beyond the threshold of death.[4] Most of the Deathless appeared as morbidly obese high priests or nobles, but sickly, pale, and ghostly in form. They craved wealth, respect, and loyalty.

Orzhov funerals are extravagant affairs; the organizer generally understands that the deceased may make an appearance and critique their work.[10] White moonflowers and black phantom kisses are common flowers, and the decorations are colored to match. Before the funeral, the deceased's closest friends and family may privately meet with the spirit — should they choose to linger — followed by a week of viewing. Debtors are expected to attend the funeral and ceremonially reaffirm their intention to repay the deceased. Most Orzhov funerals have more debtors than mourners.[12] Pallbearer is considered an honored position in the procession, during which "Waltz for the Deathless" is traditionally played.[13]

History[ | ]

Considering the span of Ravnica’s history over millennia, it is possible that the Orzhov faith was created as a means of control from its inception. In the early days, there was true ancestor worship that slowly changed into the veneration of the ghost council.[14] However, it is likely that the Orzhov appropriated another existing religion and tailored it to their design. Little is known about Ravnica’s ancient religions, but the Nephilim are known to have played an important role.[15] While the Orzhov bear the facade of a religious group and may have been a true faith at the signing of the Guildpact, they now worship only profit and power.

Under the influence of Bolas[ | ]

To boost their declining profits in an unstable economy, the Orzhov has begun offering "protection services", promising to shield their customers both from physical harm and fiscal disaster, with the underlying threat that those who refuse to pay will become targets of Orzhov's thugs and enforcers.[6] Lately, the planeswalker Kaya has taken control as guildmaster of Orzhov after taking down the Obzedat. She has done this at the behest of Nicol Bolas, in exchange for him helping her "troubled family".[6] Despite Teysa warning against it, Kaya freed many people from the debts they owed the guild, particularly the bound ghosts. Kaya raised Orzhov's existing tithes from 10% to 40% to compensate for the losses caused by forgiving those debts, which quickly led to riots. Azorius forces quelled the immediate unrest, and Kaya brought the tithes down to 18%.

Internal struggle[ | ]

Kaya and Teysa attended the guild summit on behalf of the Orzhov and witnessed its dissolution after the murder of Isperia.[16] Afterwards, Kaya helped Ral Zarek engage the Golgari, to conquer a location that was needed for his manipulation of the Implicit Maze.[17] During the attack, she was almost killed by one of her priests who called her a traitor.[18] As he returned to Orzhova, she found that the hierarchs had pressured Teysa to arrest her. With the help of Tomik Vrona, she discovered that all the hierarchs owed debts to the true heir of Patriarch Karlov. She turned the tables, had Teysa arrested, and offered the hierarchs a deal.[19]

War of the Spark[ | ]

At some point, Kaya became aware of Bolas' treacherous nature and defected from him. In preparation of Bolas' invasion of Ravnica, Kaya joined forces with Ral Zarek. Ral activated the Interplanar Beacon to bring other planeswalkers to Ravnica for help, but it turned out that was exactly what Bolas was counting on. Once the Beacon was active, Bolas brought the Immortal Sun to Ravnica, trapping the planeswalkers there.

Kaya appealed to the Orzhov elites. Despite their disdain for her (due to her policy of forgiving debts and raising taxes), they reluctantly agreed to help her in the fight against Bolas.

After the War[ | ]

After the battle, the advokist Tomik Vrona represented the Orzhov when Niv-Mizzet convened a meeting of guild masters. With Kaya distracted, the actual power over the Syndicate fell to Matriarch Teysa Karlov and the Triumvirate, consisting of the human pontiff Armin Morov, the vampire tithe-master Slavomir Zoltan, and the angel warrior-executioner Maladola.[20]

The Living Guildpact and the other guildmasters hired Kaya to assassinate Liliana Vess as penance for previously working with Nicol Bolas. Still bound by the debt contracts she inherited from the Obzedat, Kaya contemplated declaring all those debts forgiven. But she knew that such an act would destroy the Orzhov and possibly topple Ravnica’s delicate balance of power. The contracts also prevented her from planeswalking away. However, Tomik Vrona discovered a legal loophole that allowed Kaya to temporarily transfer her Orzhov contracts and guild responsibilities to him. With Tomik now the acting guildmaster, Kaya was free to planeswalk away for short periods.

Having aligned with the Dimir guildmaster Lazav to gain ultimate power, Teysa Karlov managed to play her competitors, the members of the Triumvirate, and pit them against each other. While Kaya stayed as the nominal leader, and Tomik Vrona managed the guild daily, Teysa seemed content to be the power behind the curtain.[20] However, while Kaya was fighting in defense of the Multiverse during the Phyrexian Invasion, Teysa usurped the guild's leadership. though most guild functions continued to be handled by Tomik Vrona.[21][7]

The Phyrexian invasion and its aftermath[ | ]

The Orzhov fought just as hard as anyone else in Ravnica's defense during the Phyrexian invasion, but once the common enemy was defeated, they moved swiftly to take advantage of the ensuing chaos and uncertainty.[7] They drafted up contracts and handed out loans — all at ruinously high rates.

Aware of how unfavorably these predatory practices would be viewed, the Orzhov also sought to soften public perception by commissioning several prominent works of rebuilding and restoration at their own expense.[7] Some of these, like the curation and restoration of artifacts for the newly constructed Museum of Ravnica, were well received. Others, like the construction of Plaza Karlov and Karlov Manor, were seen as little more than a gross flaunting of wealth. The Izzet were notably loaned rebuilding funds on extremely favorable terms, thanks to the relationship between Tomik and Ral Zarek.

Murders at Karlov Manor[ | ]

While celebrating the plane's recovery from the Invasion, Teysa and the city were confronted by a string of murders and attempted murders.[22] Teysa was a victim of the murders, later revealed to have been orchestrated by Trostani, but returned as a ghost days later to organize a new ghost council and continue her leadership of the guild.[13]

In the game[ | ]

Guild mechanics[ | ]

Guildpact: Haunt[ | ]

The Orzhov game mechanic is "haunt": when a card with haunt is put into a graveyard, it is removed from the game "haunting" a creature. When that creature is put into the graveyard, the controller of the card with the haunt effect gets the card's effect a second time.[23]

Gatecrash: Extort[ | ]

The Orzhov game mechanic in Gatecrash is Extort, which, in the reminder text, reads "Whenever you cast a spell, you may pay {W/B}. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total life lost this way."[24][25]

Ravnica Allegiance: Afterlife[ | ]

The Orzhov game mechanic in Ravnica Allegiance is Afterlife X. When a creature card with Afterlife dies, the controller creates that number of 1/1 white and black Spirit creature tokens with flying equal to the value of X.

Creature types[ | ]

Species and races[ | ]

Species and races associated with the Orzhov Syndicate include:

Classes[ | ]

Notable members[ | ]

  • The Triumvirate
  • Gallery[ | ]

    References[ | ]

    1. Wizards of the Coast (March 31, 2015). "Here's a pronunciation guide for some of the names that were requested earlier today.". The Official Magic: The Gathering Tumblr. Tumblr.
    2. a b Guildpact Player's Guide (2006). Wizards of the Coast.
    3. Rei Nakazawa (January 9, 2006). "Signing Onto the Guildpact".
    4. a b c d The Magic Creative Team (December 12, 2012). "Planeswalker’s Guide to Gatecrash: Part 2".
    5. Magic Arcana (March 27, 2006). "Guildpact style guide: Orzhov". Wizards of the Coast.
    6. a b c d James Wyatt (January 2019). "The Art of Magic: The Gathering - Ravnica" . Wizards of the Coast
    7. a b c d Emily Teng (February 1, 2024). "Planeswalker's Guide to Murders at Karlov Manor". Wizards of the Coast.
    8. Wizards of the Coast (February, 2006). "Ask Wizards - February, 2006". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on January 20, 2022.
    9. Django Wexler (June, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Five. Del Rey.
    10. a b Seanan McGuire (January 15, 2024). "Episode 7: Rot Before Recovery". Wizards of the Coast.
    11. Guildpact (novel), Chapter 2
    12. Seanan McGuire (January 15, 2024). "Rot Before Recovery, the DVD extras". Seanan McGuire.
    13. a b Seanan McGuire (January 18, 2024). "Episode 10: Roots of Decay". Wizards of the Coast.
    14. Cory J. Herndon (February 10, 2006). "Ask the author(s)"
    15. Wizards of the Coast (May, 2006). "Ask Wizards - May, 2006". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on April 14, 2021.
    16. Django Wexler (August 14, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Ten.
    17. Django Wexler (August 28, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Twelve.
    18. Django Wexler (September 11, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Fourteen.
    19. a b c d e Django Wexler (September 18, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Fifteen.
    20. a b Greg Weisman (November 2019). "War of the Spark: Forsaken." Del Rey.
    21. Seanan McGuire (December 10, 2023). "Murder at Karlov Manor - Episode 1: Ghost of Our Past". Wizards of the Coast.
    22. Adam Styborski (December 5, 2023). "A First Look at Murders at Karlov Manor". Wizards of the Coast.
    23. Aaron Forsythe (March 31, 2006). "Losing My Religion". Wizards of the Coast.
    24. Mark Rosewater (March 25, 2013). "Designing for Orzhov". Wizards of the Coast.
    25. Billy Moreno (March 29, 2013). "Developing Orzhov". Wizards of the Coast.
    26. Magic Arcana (March 30, 2006). "Sketches: Blind Hunter". Wizards of the Coast.
    27. Magic Arcana (March 23, 2006). "The Orzhov Soldier". Wizards of the Coast.

    External links[ | ]