Gatecrash Limited has been a very mixed bag for me so far. Almost every person I have talked to has passionately stated that the best way to win right now is to be as aggressive as possible. Whether it is the Boros win condition of having three creatures attacking or the Dimir win condition of ciphering a Hands of Binding, there are such huge tempo swings available in the format that it seems extremely hard to find an incentive to do anything but turn creatures sideways.
Never Pass Prophetic Prism
For the last few weeks, I've forced Five-Color Control every time I've drafted Gatecrash, and I've won more than I have playing any other format. I have beaten the Boros nut draw by chaining Devour Flesh, Ground Assault, and Angelic Edict. I have cast Gruul Ragebeast on turn 4. I have had a 12/12 flyer in play…and I lost that game.
All this is possible because of the power of Prophetic Prism. If you want to make this deck work, the first thing you need to know is this: Prophetic Prism is the absolute nuts. You want it more than that Obzedat, Ghost Council you just opened. You most likely want it more than that Homing Lightning you were just passed. In fact, I have a list of cards I will first pick over Prophetic Prism, and it is only five cards long (for the record: Assemble the Legion, Merciless Eviction, Clan Defiance, Soul Ransom, and Aurelia's Fury).
Let me explain how this is possible.
- Our fixers are not vulnerable to removal. This is huge. Axebane Guardian might be described as "sweet" by just about anyone you ask, but it often will get hit by a removal spell right before its crucial turn. In fact, many of my opponents have sided out their removal against this deck since it rarely hits anything important.
- We have two cards that make all five colors. One is colorless, so we don't need to play excessive amounts of green.
- Greenside Watcher enables the most broken play we can make: untapping a Guildgate enchanted with a Verdant Haven. With a perfect draw, we can actually make nine mana on turn 4 (turn 1 Guildgate, turn 2 basic land and Greenside Watcher, turn 3 basic land, Verdant Haven on Guildgate, untap it, and then play another Greenside Watcher)
Why would I want to draft Five-Color Control?
I can give a strong argument for playing this archetype simply based on this fact:
There are more insanely powerful openings in this format than in almost any format in recent memory.
In an average draft, we might run into:
- Gift of Orzhova on a 2/2 on turn 3.
- Madcap Skills on a Spire Tracer on turn 2.
- Boros Elite, Experiment One, or Cloudfin Raptor on turn 1 followed by creatures every turn.
To be able to beat these insane openings, we want to run the absolute highest possible amount of spot removal, blockers with four or more toughness, and bounce spells. In Five-Color Control, we are going to have access to all of these things in abundance.
Be Aggro's Worst Nightmare
How do I crush drafts so easily with this deck? It certainly help that my matchup against aggressive decks is off the charts. Cards such as Frilled Oculus, Basilica Guards, and Corpse Blockade are all hard to beat for most decks in this format. In particular, Frilled Oculus is easily the best creature in this spot since the little Homunculus can shut down almost every creature in the format.
Our larger strategy against Boros, Dimir, and fast Gruul is to make it to the midgame with a high enough life total for our fatties to turn the game around. I want to be able to trade one-for-one for the first three or four turns of the game. At that point, we are hugely favored to win with our pile of 7/6 and 5/4 creatures. This means that we value cards like Ground Assault and Devour Flesh over Angelic Edict and Debtor's Pulpit. When a pick comes down to two different removal spells, I will almost always take the one that costs less.
Be the Ramp Deck against Control
Our macro strategy against control is to firmly place ourselves in the beatdown role. The decks I want to do this against are slow Dimir, Orzhov, and usually the mirror. Your Greenside Watchers become Rampant Growths and your Verdant Havens become Ranger's Paths. I try to sideboard up to at least seven creatures which will win the game if left unchecked. It is extraordinarily rare that your opponent will draw seven removal spells, and if they do, your 1/3s and 3/5s should go the distance.
The reason I want to be on the offensive against these decks is because they often will have many threats which you cannot answer efficiently. Having to spend a removal spell on every extort creature and every creature with evasion will run our deck out of gas very quickly. To combat this, we need to constrain their resources as much as possible in the midgame. If they cannot afford to extort you and are playing removal instead of threats, we are probably winning the game. Use your cards to dictate the tempo rather than letting them control the pace of the game.
Priorities and Pick Order
Since we have two different game plans, we need our deck to follow some guidelines. I use this shell as a guideline for my drafts:
My pick order for these slots is this:
1. Bombs. Since I probably couldn't convince you to pass that Clan Defiance anyway.
Signals and Variation
Since I started writing this article, this archetype has blown up a bit, so now we have to be able to recognize when this archetype is open at a table. The main signal I like is if I am able to table at least two Guildgates or Verdant Havens in pack 1. Since everyone likes a Prophetic Prism, getting one late usually only means that the pack was very good, not necessarily that this archetype is open. A good signal to know that Five-Color Control is not open is if you don't see any Greenside Watchers later in packs since the card is not a very high pick in any archetype but this one.
Travis Woo wrote a very interesting article on his version of this archetype. He tries to play the deck as much more of a green ramp deck with lots of splash colors, aiming to win by achieving a resource advantage on turns 4 and 5. This is generally a higher risk, higher reward plan—and is incredibly fun to play. The primary differences between our strategies comes down to one pick: Verdant Haven vs. Prophetic Prism. Power vs. consistency. Since his deck is forced into a very green mana base, Travis's deck has a hard time casting Grisly Spectacle or paying for multiple extort triggers. This means that our matchup against ultra-aggressive Boros decks and tons-of-removal Orzhov decks will be significantly better.
Some Sample Drafts
This was one of my first drafts with the archetype, and I most likely built it wrong by putting the third Verdant Haven in the board. I was able to 2-1 this draft, losing only to a great Boros deck.
This was a 3-0 deck also. I was passed the Clan Defiance pick 3 in pack 3, which was a huge gift.
Thanks for your time, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!
- Daniel Vinson
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