The Gate deck existed in Guilds of Ravnica, but it wasn't anything special. Here's what that set had to offer:
These cards were good, but just like the Gate deck, nothing special. You needed a lot of Gates to play them, and they were rarely the best cards in your deck. It could happen, but it wasn't a common occurrence.
Ravnica Allegiance is an entirely different story.
Each one of these cards are better than what Guilds of Ravnica had to offer by a noticeable margin. With only a couple Gates in your deck, Gatebreaker Ram, Gateway Sneak, and Archway Angel are playable. And if you have a good chunk of Gates in your deck, each of these cards has the potential to be a bomb.
You heard me right. A bomb.
What does this mean for the Gate deck in Ravnica Allegiance?
- It's much more powerful than in Guilds of Ravnica.
- It doesn't manifest as "the Gate deck" as often as you think.
That second point may sound confusing. How does "the Gate deck" not "manifest as the Gate deck"? That doesn't make sense.
It has to do with the following observations from above:
- These cards are playable without an abundance of Gates.
- They have the potential to be bombs.
This means that it's often correct to take cards like Archway Angel and Gate Colossus early. It's not too hard to pick up around four Gates, and so the downside of speculating is a reasonable playable and the upside of speculating is a bomb. Let's do some math approximations.
There are 80 uncommons in the set. 24 packs are opened, each with three uncommons. Approximately one in six packs have a foil, which means there will be approximately four foils in the draft. The probability of any given uncommon being in the draft is 90%. With five Gates-matter cards, there should be between four and five of them opened in any given draft. Sometimes there'll be less, sometimes more, but the important observation is that they'll almost always be there in multiples.
Because these cards are high picks, it's very rare that all the Gates-matters cards end up in the same person's hands. Usually two or three people in the pod will play some half off-color Gates to improve the power level of their cards like Gatebreaker Ram. With this incentive to play more Gates, the incentive to splash is increased. A pod will often have multiple three-color decks that play extra Gates for a card or two but wouldn't identify as "the Gate deck." A true Gate deck that snaps up all the Gates-matter cards does happen and is very powerful but not in every pod because of this.
One of the awesome parts of this Draft format is that when you draft the Gates-matter cards just because they're good, you open up the door to draft "the Gate deck" if the opportunity presents itself without taking a large risk.
Okay, I get that I can't always just draft the Gate deck, but when I can draft it, what do I do?
At the Grand Prix this past weekend, I heard a lot of players say they were avoiding "the Gate deck" because it has so much going on that they weren't sure they'd make the right picks, especially without the ability to look at the cards previously taken.
When drafting this deck, you need to know your base colors as soon as possible. If one of these colors is green, you can take Open the Gates, but otherwise you can't. You can play double off-color Gates to facilitate splashes, but you don't want to play double off-color Lockets since you'll never be able to crack them. The power level of this deck is through the roof, so you need to prioritize mana for consistency. This makes Gateway Plaza one of the best commons for the deck.
After you have your base color, you'll get an idea of what splashes are easier. Each guild has one color it struggles to splash thanks to the Gates it has available. Simic has access to Azorius Guildgate and Gruul Guildgate. This means a base Simic Gate deck will struggle to splash black cards. It doesn't mean you can't, but be careful. Here's my first draft deck from the GP:
This deck felt fantastic. I went 2-1, but the loss was a good and close match. I played Mortify because I needed more removal, but it was difficult to cast because two of my black sources were also tied to white sources. I also had a Theater of Horrors I couldn't play. Be aware of which color is hard to splash from your base color and take cards accordingly.
The last aspect of the mana is the number of Gates. Once you have six Gates, all the Gates-matter cards become quite good, but they only behave at bomb-tier once you have more than eight. And you can go up to fourteen Gates before you stop. That might sound crazy, but the cards are so powerful that the taplands don't matter as much as you would think. Once you have that many Gates, your base-color doesn't matter as much anymore. Your basics should be a Mountain, Forest, and Island in order to play Gateway Sneak, Gates Ablaze, and Gatebreaker Ram on time. But note that the I-have-all-the-Gates-and-my-colors-don't-matter version is very uncommon.
Not the Mana
Honestly, after you figure out your base color and properly prioritize your mana, the rest is fairly simple. You take Gates over anything replacement level, never pass any of the Gates-matter cards, and just make sure you have enough removal. Keep taking Gates and the best cards in the pack.
There are a bunch of versions of this deck, mostly because your base guild will determine most cards you end up playing. Orzhov will gum up the ground with afterlife creatures. Gruul and Simic will have more above-rate creatures. Rakdos will have a ton of removal, although this is the least common guild for the Gate deck. And Azorius will either be a fliers deck or a Dovin's Acuity and Clear the Mind deck - note that this deck works very well within the Gates archetype because Clear the Mind shuffling back Gates Ablaze is a big game.
Don't be intimidated by the Gates deck. It's not that different from other archetypes out there. Just make sure you understand your manabase and snap up those Gates-matter cards!