After the first weekend I spend drafting a set, there's often something I'm so impressed with in Limited that I think it might be good in Standard. In Ravnica Allegiance, the thing that has impressed me the most by a wide margin is the uncommon guildgate payoffs:
These cards have been so good that if I have any of them in my opening hand in a deck with 10+ Gates, I usually feel like I can't lose in Limited. All of them are exceptionally pushed so I figured I should do due diligence and try to build a deck with them in Standard.
The first question was figuring out what this deck would do. Like, all these cards have a great rate, but is a sweeper, a card draw spell, and some big creatures really a gameplan? I'm currently thinking the answer is actually yes, and I started by just maximizing the payoffs and some ramp spells, and I realized that was almost a full deck. Here's what I saw as the core:
- 4 Growth Spiral
- 4 Gatebreaker Ram
- 4 Guild Summit
- 4 Gates Ablaze
- 4 Circuitous Route
- 2 Archway Angel
- 4 Gate Colossus
If I want 26 lands, that means I get eight more cards. My first thought was that, with so many lands entering the battlefield tapped, I'd be a turn behind, so I'd want some early removal to stay alive. Therefore, I started with four Lava Coils, but I found that Lava Coil didn't actually seem like a good maindeck card in this Standard format, as I played against a lot of control decks and I didn't actually need the help against most creature decks because my creatures matched up so well in combat.
The first thing I realized was that the deck was about ten times better if it drew Guild Summit, so I realized that what I wanted was Shimmer of Possibility. This is really the perfect deck for Shimmer of Possibility; the deck operates at sorcery speed, so not being an instant doesn't really matter. The fact that you want to play so many Gates and four colors makes the mana pretty tricky - especially because Plaza of Harmony is great, but doesn't give you colors you don't have - so an extra way to fix your mana is welcome, but also, the payoff cards do such wildly different things that being able to find the right one is extremely important. More importantly, they're all so high impact that you can afford to put mana into finding them.
That leaves four more cards to play with. My current thinking is that the best interaction in the format, weirdly, is Negate, even maindeck. I'm not sure if or how much interaction I want, and I probably wouldn't want more than two, but I think I like a copy or two. The other thing I want is more payoffs for having a lot of mana on the battlefield, which I think means Expansion or Hydroid Krasis so I'm currently playing a mix.
The other cards I've considered are Lava Coil, Shivan Fire, and Thrash. Lava Coil seems like the default best removal spell in a Termur base - I don't want very many sources of white mana, since I'm basically just splashing Archway Angel, so I wouldn't want to rely on it for an early removal spell - but the deck really wants to play a Gate on turn 1, a Gate on turn 2, and an untapped land on turn 3 to play a payoff card. Thich means that it's looking to play a one-mana spell and a three-mana spell, not a two-mana spell, except that Growth Spiral is an exception because with the same draw of Gate, Gate, and untapped land, you can play your untapped land on turn 2, play Growth Spiral to get your second Gate onto the battlefield, then play a three-drop on turn 3 and another Gate, so it fits as smoothly as a one-mana spell.
For removal though, it'd be great to have a one-mana spell. I'm just worried that Shivan Fire might be wrong for the format, especially if the hype about Wilderness Reclamation is even close to correct. Thrash actually plays really well in this deck because the creatures are so huge and so cheap, so it's easy to use it to kill anything, including a planeswalker. The issue is that there aren't that many creatures, so it doesn't always work, and it never works early, but if Lava Coil wasn't going to work on turn 2 because of your tapped lands anyway, that doesn't matter as much, and Threat is great to have on a removal spell if I think a lot of my opponents won't have creatures. The final (very significant) advantage of Thrash is that it doesn't require red mana, and, as I'm about to show, it's actually fairly difficult to get a lot of red sources into the deck.
So, the last question is the lands. To me, the first sixteen are easy:
I'd like more Gates than that, and at least one needs to tap for white mana. I'd ideally like at least two lands that tap for white mana so that a single Field of Ruin can't make it impossible for me to cast Archway Angel. The issue is that I'm a Simic deck splashing red and touching white, so other guildgates are pretty close to basics that enter the battlefield tapped as far as making my mana work is concerned. I'd like as many Gates as I can get away with while keeping my mana functional, however.
One possible solution to this problem is to play Open the Gates. This is very good at setting up a hand that has two Gates and a basic so that it can play a 4/4 Gatebreaker Ram or a Guild Summit on turn 3. On turn 1 you play a Gate, then on turn 2 you cast Open the Gates and find a Gate if you're missing that or a basic if you're missing that, and play another Gate, then on turn 3 you play your untapped land. The problem is that outside of your opening hand, Open the Gates either costs one more mana than drawing a Gate or finds a basic and then counts as one less Gate you have for the rest of the game. It's also horrible to hit off Growth Spiral if you didn't have a land in your hand already.
So I want blue and green mana on turn 2, ideally, but it's better to be missing green than missing blue because I can cast Shimmer of Possibility to find a green source fairly reliably if I have to. I think this means I'd ideally like at least fourteen lands that tap for green and fifteen lands that tap for blue (counting Plaza of Harmony as neither, of course). I also want an absolute minimum of one Forest and one Island in my deck. It would also be nice to have kind of as many red sources as I can get away with. So where does that leave me? I can fill all those requirements in 25 lands:
- 4 Simic Guildgate
- 4 Gruul Guildgate
- 4 Izzet Guildgate
- 4 Plaza of Harmony
- 4 Breeding Pool
- 1 Island
- 1 Forest
- 1 Azorius Guildgate
- 1 Selesnya Guildgate
- 1 Steam Vents
That leaves me with some options for the 26th land: First, I could play a spell instead. However, this is pretty greedy, especially because I'd really like another red source, but that theoretically might just mean I find a land off Shimmer of Possibility more often. I could play Hydroid Krasis over Explosion and play one Adventurous Impulse as kind of a bad Shimmer of Possibility, in that it doesn't find the most important cards, but it does find some really great cards and it fits into the curve better, plus it helps with the red source issue. Alternatively, I could play a Mountain, or a Stomping Ground, or a Boros Guildgate. Finally, if I want to maximize red sources, I could drop a Breeding Pool and add a Steam Vents and a Stomping Ground. I like the idea of a fifteenth guildgate, but Boros Guildgate is a really horrible land, so I think I like either the above 25 lands and an Adventurous Impulse or this:
This sideboard is intended to respect aggressive/burn decks, Wilderness Reclamation decks, and control decks as the top concerns of the format. I think Wilderness Reclamation decks are extremely scary for this kind of deck, since they go way over the top of my deck that's generally trying to go over the top of other people, but I think backing the pressure of Gatebreaker Ram with Negate and Cindervines offers a fighting chance against those decks.
Crushing Canopy is a concession from the four Cindervines both to respect the fact that I'm a little light on red mana and also to answer Niv-Mizzet, Parun and opposing Drakes or Angels--not that I think Angles are a significant concern for this deck. I'd like a little more threat diversity in the sideboard, like another Hydroid Krasis or Carnage Tyrant, or even Niv-Mizzet Parun - easily castable after I've resolved Circuitous Route - but I think these cards are more important, though I could likely shave a removal spell or something.
If I'm willing to make the concession and play Open the Gates - replacing lands and transforming my manabase - I would get more red sources, which is nice, but more importantly, I could consider sideboarding a black Gate and Unmoored Ego. I think this would be a desperation move that I'd hope to avoid, because I think it makes the deck considerably worse overall, but it's something to keep in mind.
The other direction I could see going with this deck is trimming the Gate payoffs back a little to incorporate Wilderness Reclamation and, more importantly, Nexus of Fate. I don't think this is worth doing, but if Wilderness Reclamation is as busted as people think, I could be wrong:
Here, instead of using Shimmer of Possibility to find Guild Summit, we just get Explosion as an additional reward for having a lot of mana, which we can accomplish with either or both of Circuitous Route or Wilderness Reclamation. These two spells work extremely well in conjunction, and if we just ramp into Nexus of Fate, that will probably kill them with an extra attack from Gatebreaker Ram or just generate enough value to justify itself with Guild Summit.
Expansion itself also offers significant counterplay against control decks, both adding an instant-speed threat and a counterspell that can only counter their counterspells.
I've played with the first deck, with Shimmer of Possibilities, and I've been pretty happy with how it's played. I haven't played the second deck with Nexus of Fate, but I can believe that it could be better, but it's also possible that the truth is somewhere in the middle and that the solution is to cut Hydroid Krasis and Negates and just play four Expansion and Shimmer, not bother with Nexus of Fate, and maybe find room for one Wilderness Reclamation, even if it's only good with Expansion just because it's so good there.
Long story short, Gates look to be for real.