Gates revisited: Revenge of the Ram
The original title for this article was “A love letter to the most hated deck in Gentry” and dealt with metagame decisions regarding how to build your Gates deck. Things like how to beat the hate cards and the mirror matchup. Since then, Gates Ablaze and Guild Summit were up-shifted to rare to address these issues, releasing the vice-like grip it had on the metagame. The fantastic aspect of this is that we get to start brewing again !
Let me be clear, I loved the Gates deck, but these changes were absolutely necessary. If anyone disagrees, please talk to me about it, because I believe I can address your concerns.
Let’s get into the meat of the article, the future of the deck! I’ll go over 2 different possible builds, a control build focussing on not dying and winning through an inevitable endgame, and a proactive one focussing on closing out the game quickly with raw power.. We’ll start off with the control-based version.
Firstly, we’ll need to determine which colours the deck wants to be. I believe blue and black are the strongest control colours right now and I definitely want green for Growth Spiral, so to me the most important question is if red still warrants an inclusion, now that we’re no longer running 4 Gates Ablaze. Let’s take a look at the red cards that I would consider for the deck:
- Gates Ablaze
It surely feels bad to have to spend a rare on this card after playing it as an uncommon, but it will still be a 3 mana almost unconditional board wipe, so I still consider it a likely include
- Scorching Dragonfire
Absolutely fantastic piece of removal that hits planeswalkers, that even exiles whatever it kills. With the upcoming Escape mechanic this could be very relevant
- Flame Sweep
3 mana instant speed 2-damage wipe is solid, but gets overshadowed by Cry of the Carnarium for me, since exile is already relevant with Cauldron Familiar and again, Escape coming up, I believe the exile cause is crucial.
Aaand, that’s about it. I’m not taking any (actual) rares into account, since Sultai has plenty of amazing rares to pick from. Because of this, and colour constraints of the cards I’ll be talking about below, I’m not too excited about keeping in the red.
So we’re in Sultai! Let’s take a look at the uncommons I want to play.
Gatebreaker Ram / Gate Colossus
These friendly giants are your bread and butter when it comes to winning on board. With a potential curve of T3 5/5 Vigilance, Trample into T4 8/8 recurring threat that can’t be chump-blocked threatens a very quick kill if left unchecked. Aside from that, in the lategame these cards are either huge or free, respectively.
Gate Colossus is more geared towards control decks. Once control is firmly established, you can cast it for free to keep all your counter mana open and get to keep recurring it, through any non-exile removal spell.
Gatebreaker Ram always costs 3, meaning in a control mirror you start any potential counter wars at a mana disadvantage. However, at the very late stages of the game it will provide a 2-turn clock, versus the 3-turn clock of a Colossus. It is also the bread and butter of the proactive deck, where you will want to run this out early and start beating down.
Cry of the Carnarium
Back in the old days, before the power of Gates Ablaze, 1BB for -2/-2 to all creatures were always played in control decks. It helps dealing with most of the go wide decks, since x/3 creatures are generally slow enough to be picked off by our spot removal and it even exiles everything that went to the graveyard before it to circumvent sacrificing the recurring creatures.
Chemister’s Insight/Into the Story
You’re run of the mill card draw, I think a 2-1 split is about where I want to be, but that might change depending on how quickly opponents get to 7 cards in their bin.
Fantastic bit of early game removal, but a difficult mana cost to combine with Growth Spiral.
I really want this card to be good, but I feel that, with Murder and Spark Harvest at common, 4-mana uncommon removal is just not quite there, even with the ramp attached
It’s a new card, so this is speculation, but to me this looks like a better Thought Erasure, a card I would always want to play in a control deck.
Alright, let’s take a look at my first version of Sultai Gates Control:
The commons are straightforward, but very variable. 4 Growth Spiral, a bunch of removal and counterspells. Exactly which removal and counters you want will vary heavily on your playstyle, the meta, and further testing. I feel 12 Gates is just too few to have reliably payoff, so I included 2 off-color ones. And who knows, someone might even play around Gates Ablaze!
Time to take a look at a proactive Gates build. I call it Jund, but we’re definitely playing 4 colours. This deck still plays red since we’ll need more efficient small removals as we’re not playing any board wipes and we can’t cut blue since Growth Spiral is just too powerful. Let’s have a look at some uncommons that weren’t yet mentioned above
- Savvy Hunter
We’re trying to be on the attack, and I really want to try to make this lovely huntress work. It is very possible that dying to Scorching Dragonfire makes this card not good enough in a deck that doesn’t make Food in any other way. If this does turn out to be the case, I’d likely replace it with Gate Colossus or the following card.
- Thrashing Brontodon
Spoiler alert: This card doesn’t make the final cut right now. If x/3 ends up being to vulnerable for this deck it might end up in it, or if enchantment removal proves more valuable than I give it credit for right now.
We’re going for the Jund flavor, so discard and sacrifice effects are right on theme. This also is just a solid card and is likely to be a strong play against the resurgent control decks.
Let’s take a look at the not-quite-finished product:
In classic Jund fashion, we’ve got a proactive gameplan with Grazer en Spiral to get extra Gates into play, to land a t3 or t4 huge Ram (or, as my partners and I started calling it Tramogoyf) backed up with removal and discard spells. It’s possible we need to shave some other cards to fit in Duress, for the dream turn 4 play of Duress into Ram, but we’ll need further testing to determine that.
Theros: Beyond Death
I haven’t fully excavated the possibilities in THB to be adding to the Gates decks, Mire’s Grasp seems like an OK Scorching Dragonfire replacement for the non-red decks, Agonizing Demise is a card I absolutely want to play as it seems super-strong.
There’s a thousand different ways to work with the Gates core that I haven’t addressed, so I encourage you, if you like the core of my lists but not the full product, to make your own! There is no right answer regarding the perfect shell right now, but the core is still amazingly strong.
That’s all from me today, as always please let me know your opinions, I’m convinced discussing strategy with other players is the single best way to grow as a player. Enjoy the Theros: Beyond Death release and I hope to see you at a Gentry event soon!