Gideon. Better Gideon. More different Gideon. Oath of Gideon. Cards that work with Gideon. Am I talking about the first few pages of my trade binder, Brad Nelson's entirely serious Premium article that is not in any way satire, or Standard for the next few months?
I'm not the person to tell you that Wizards messed up. I like to give the benefit of any possible doubt, and so far there are a bunch of people with Pro Tour Top 8s who have played the upcoming Standard format...and nobody else has. Granted, the format looks very different from what they expected during development with the entire Battle for Zendikar block still being legal, but surely that isn't cause for concern? There couldn't be anything there to worry about, right?
Mono-Gideon in Standard
In case you've been living under a rock (because, let's be honest, nothing beats rock when you're hiding), this week brought with it the preview of yet another powerful (in theory, at least) incarnation of Gideon which has people proclaiming everything from the end of times to sheer joy at the printing of such a reasonably-powered planeswalker.
I don't know about you, but I am going to play the ever-loving heck out of this card in at least Standard and Modern, and it might sneak into Legacy too. The suite of abilities is unusual for Gideon (except the “turn into a creature to punch you” part), but far from bad at the price point. The real eye-opener of course is that emblem, which might be blinding some people but is very powerful regardless. “You can't lose and the opponent can't win” has been seen before on Platinum Angel, but the text seems redundant in Standard: you already can't lose if you control a Gideon. That said, with the number of huge hits Gideon has had, it should not be surprising that he's gone platinum.
Is this card good? I feel like it's right on the verge of a major breakthrough, so you should probably pick them up while you still can...play them in Standard. Remember that Amonkhet was designed and developed with this card being out of Standard, which probably means that there are cards that interact very favorably with it or other cards from the Battle for Zendikar block. Gideon of the Trials and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are natural friends that even curve into each other. It's already notoriously difficult in Standard to remove a planeswalker, and if failing to do so literally means you cannot win, I will be doing my utmost to play them. All of them. To be honest, this card should already be the first one down on most white decklists you brew, and any other deck you can think of has to be able to handle turn 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Easier said than done, of course.
Then there's Gideon, Martial Paragon.
Of the four Planeswalker Deck planeswalkers we have seen until now, none has really made the cut to constructed playability.
Gideon, Martial Paragon is going to be the one that breaks that streak.
The five mana cost is less scary than the six mana we usually see, and the abilities are all relevant. Sure the ultimate might be a little unimpressive, but it probably wins the game. This version is without question the least impressive of the three to which we have access, but in a deck that always wants one in play I cannot imagine not martial-ling up at least a couple.
OK, brilliant jokes aside, this is the excuse I needed to play a white-based planeswalker control deck. A combination of point removal and sweepers will help keep creatures away from our life-saving planeswalkers (of which we are probably playing ten and might go up to twelve...), which incidentally can also win us the game. Oath of Gideon is not only a flavor win but also protects our planeswalkers, so it's definitely finding a home. Stasis Snare and new hotness Cast Out are also worthy inclusions, along with Fumigate and maybe even Immolating Glare.
One concern is that we are still vulnerable to death by a million angry Cats. In case it is not evident how that works, the combo player can just attack whichever Gideon we have with enough token copies to kill it and then fling the rest at our faces. In the event that we have not found Authority of the Consuls to protect us, I have a possible solution. How would you like to get back a Gideon at instant speed? Emeria Shepherd is another pet card of mine (there are so many...) that I have not yet been able to play reliably. This might just be the deck for it, as we can use Evolving Wilds to fetch up a Plains and reanimate a Gideon mid-combat. Mmm, that's some value.
With two different cycles of lands in the format with basic land types, we can afford to add a second color without hurting our ability to play Emeria Shepherd. Green offers us Splendid Reclamation, Ajani Unyielding, Seasons Past, and very little in terms of removal. On the other hand, blue gives us card draw, countermagic, Dovin Baan, and even less in terms of removal. Playing both is possible but perhaps not desirable.
It's also possible (though painful and unpleasant to consider) that we want to eschew the Emeria Shepherd plan and just go harder on the control aspect. That likely leads us to black, which is the most flexible I can remember it being for removal at all points on the curve. We have discard in Harsh Scrutiny and Transgress the Mind; spot removal in Fatal Push, Anguished Unmaking, and Grasp of Darkness; small sweepers in Yahenni's Expertise (which can get us a free Gideon of the Trials) and Flaying Tendrils; and two top-notch planeswalkers in Ob Nixilis Reignited and Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Oath of Liliana is very strong, especially in combination with all the other removal. Versions of this deck have been around for a while, and some have had a light green splash for an extra card off Painful Truths and Ajani Unyielding at the top of the curve.
Black would also give us access to one of my favorite cards in the set: Liliana, Death's Majesty. Although we want to guard against overloading our five-drop slot, I am absolutely in love with this card. Oath of Liliana into Liliana, Death's Majesty gives us two Zombies to protect her. The -3 ability might not be especially relevant in this deck...unless we decide to go with the Emeria Shepherd plan. We could also look at Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet as an option. The biggest thing I am missing is a way to recur noncreature permanents, which right now is limited to green.
Mono-Gideon in Modern
The first thing I thought of when seeing Gideon of the Trials was that Sun Titan loves it. The Emeria Control deck is something I wrote about over a year ago as a way to counteract the Eldrazi Menace. It has seen numerous upgrades since, not least of which was the addition of Saheeli Rai as a way to go infinite. The deck excels at keeping opposing creatures at bay, trading and chump blocking constantly until the unassailable value engine is in place. Adding Gideon of the Trials to that mix is an exciting proposition that provides us a resilient win condition, a way to survive against combo decks, and a way to slow down the likes of Griselbrand that might otherwise prove difficult.
Although our new Gideon isn't at his most powerful in Modern, the emblem gains some traction with the addition of Gideon Jura, a card notoriously hard to beat and remove for some decks. Traditionally that version of Gideon has been played in control shells, mostly U/W and W/R. Todd Stevens, for example, was a big fan of this archetype:
Every now and then I thoroughly enjoy playing a prison deck just to mess with people. Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon do an excellent job at keeping permanents off the battlefield...except for yours, that is. Anything that does slip through can generally be taken out by our sweepers. Adding Gideon of the Trials to this list as a one- or two-of doesn't seem difficult, and I could even see an argument for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as well. Protect this house!
Sticking with a similar theme, I have long been a fan of the W/R Enchantment Prison decks that run Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety along with Blood Moon, Journey to Nowhere, and Banishing Light to stay alive while winning the game with Gideon Jura, Assemble the Legion, or Sigil of the Empty Throne. Again, with attacking being so difficult against the deck, we see a place where a Gideon of the Trials emblem could be potentially crippling.
Several people have already talked about the applications of Gideon of the Trials both in and against Ad Nauseam decks. In the deck, it doubles as an extra Phyrexian Unlife effect that enables you to draw your deck and another way to win the game. On the other hand, it is very hard for Ad Nauseam to beat the card in Game 1, as their win condition, Lightning Storm, cannot split its damage between a player and a planeswalker like Grapeshot can. With Ad Nauseam being a popular choice in the format right now for those looking for a combo deck, this might be a great place to be.
There is of course another Gideon available to us in Modern: Kytheon, Hero of Akros.
The young version of Gideon is at his best in an aggressive deck, and unfortunately many of the others do not really fit in that sort of strategy. As Gideon of the Trials lacks any ability to buff your team, I cannot really endorse adding him to that sort of deck.
That's all we have for this week, folks. As always...what's that? I forgot one? No, I'm pretty sure I didn't. There is no other Gideon. It's a figment of your imagination. Now stop interrupting.
As always, thanks for stopping by. Next time out I will have a full set list to drool over, which of course means a whole load of brews. Until next time...Brew On!