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Playing Standard Four-Color Gates

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This Standard format is still developing and with it there are lots of awesome archetypes to explore. Of all the new decks to be exploring in this format there is one that has really caught my eye above others - Four-Color Gates. A variation of this archetype finished in the Top 32 of SCG Indy last weekend and since then I have played it a few different times on stream to success.

Let’s take a look at my current Four-Color Gates decklist before we dive into the details:


If I was forced to categorize this deck into Aggro-Midrange-Control it would definitely fall on the controlling side of this scale. That being said - if we get more specific this deck is more accurately a ramp or “big mana” deck. For those new to Magic this means that this deck is playing cards that allow us to get ahead on mana in order to play powerful cards very quickly:

Growth Spiral
Circuitous Route

Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route are the way in which we get ahead on mana. Route especially allows us to get lots of gates into play ASAP - while also fixing any colors we might be missing. Our best starts are the ones that involve one copy of each of these cards - letting us curve Spiral on turn two into Route on turn three.

What are we doing with this pile of mana you ask? Well a few things! First things first - once we have spent a bunch of cards putting lands into play we need a way to refill our hand. Thankfully we have a few great methods of doing this:

Expansion // Explosion

Hydroid Krasis
Guild Summit

Hydroid Krasis fits well into a bunch of different places this season - but this is likely the best deck at abusing this busted creature. It is not abnormal to be casting Krasis with X being in the double digits and filling our hand back up from nothing. In addition to giving us more action to play the following turn - Krasis also puts a fast clock into play.

Expansion // Explosion is a very flexible card in this deck. Game 1 against Control decks it can be used to copy their counter spells to resolve important threats. When we are looking for more mana it is not uncommon to copy our Route to go find four additional lands. Explosion is also quite powerful in a deck that gets as much mana as we do. In addition to being a bit of burn to kill small creatures or finish off planeswalkers - it is often just a Fireball effect to end the game on the spot. I have both killed and decked my opponent with Explosion in this deck. Also keep in mind that if a lethal Explosion would cause you to deck out - you can simply target your opponent with the draw part of the card as well.

Guild Summit is one of the big draws to playing this archetype though. This uniquely powerful draw engine is one of the methods through which we make up for the fact that so many of our lands come into play tapped. One of the reasons this card is so powerful is that it does not care about the timing at which it comes into play. Already have a bunch of Gates in play? Jam Summit and tap them to draw a bunch of cards. Have Summit on turn three? Cast it right away and draw extra cards for every Gate you play afterward!

Past our card advantage we also have a selection of cards that simply help us end the game quickly:

Gatebreaker Ram
Gate Colossus
Mass Manipulation

I have been consistently impressed with Gatebreaker Ram. If this is our first play on turn three after two gates - we get a 4/4 Vigilance, Trample creature for just three mana. One that scales up even larger as we play more lands out. The Ram plays both offense and defense at the same time against smaller creature decks like Red and White aggro, while also providing a pretty quick clock against Control and Combo.

Gate Colossus is a card that gets exceptionally silly as we scale into the late game. It is not uncommon for this card to cost literally zero mana - often allowing us to drop multiple 8/8s into play for free after we draw a bunch of cards with one of our card advantage pieces listed above. Past becoming cheap as the game goes long - Gate Colossus is also a recursive threat that scales as the game goes long. It is important to note that if you have a Guild Summit in play - you can stack your triggers when playing a gate so Colossus goes on top of our deck and then we draw. If you are on Arena you will need to enable manually stacking triggers under gameplay options to let you do this.

Mass Manipulation is probably the best card in our deck against the midrange decks in the format such as Sultai. With our ramp especially it is not unreasonable to get to eight lands to steal two cards. That being said - there are also many games where Manipulation is just six mana steal target planeswalker to great effect. Because Manipulation requires four Blue mana we always want to be sure we are fetching up enough Blue sources when we are playing Route.

Finally we have a selection of cards that help us not die in the early game so we can live to play all of our sweet payoffs:

Gates Ablaze
Archway Angel
Plaza of Harmony

Gates Ablaze is the glue that holds this archetype together against opposing aggressive decks. Having a sweeper that deals two damage on turn three gives us a chance against even the most aggressive decks. The fact that in the late game Blaze scales up as well gives it a lot of play against midrange as well.

Archway Angel is our tool that slams shut the door after we have held of any initial onslaught. On turns 5-6 this Angel often gains 6+ life, while in the late game she will boost you well into the double digits.

Plaza of Harmony is a card that serves to make up a lot of the tempo we lose in the first couple turns playing tapped lands against aggro. Effectively starting the game at 23, or 26, life means that aggro decks need to work much harder to end the game while we get setup.

Sideboarding and Playing the Deck

The following is how I would sideboard with the above 4 Color Gates list against some of the common archetypes in this format:

VS Sultai Midrange

In:

Out:

We change little here because this matchup tends to be good for us. The games we lose in this matchup tend to be the ones where they have an aggressive start, while we fail to resolve Gates Ablaze. Once we get our mana setup via ramp spells our top end tends to quickly bury the opponent in card advantage thanks to our various bombs. Mass Manipulation resolving for three or more generally ends the game on the spot - especially if it takes a planeswalker.

VS Esper Control

In:

Out:

This matchup is close, often hinging on if we can resolve one of our key piece of card advantage. Hydroid Krasis is our most important card due to the fact that it always draws cards even if it does not resolve. After this one, resolving a large Guild Summit can also be key to winning the game.

VS Red Aggro

In:

Out:

This matchup is very easy if we see our key cards - which makes mulliganing import. An early Gates Ablaze, followed up by an Archway Angel is often unbeatable. Past these Gatebreaker Ram is also fantastic in this matchup, because not only does it play defense well, but it also closes games out quickly. Also keep in mind that Deafening Clarion has the “hidden” mode of giving our creatures lifelink - which can get us out of burn range with our larger threats.

VS White Aggro

In:

Out:

This matchup is similar to Mono-Red, but instead of worrying about reach, we need to worry about counter spells. This means do not get greedy with your sweepers - play them early and take your two for ones where you can get them.

VS Mono-Blue

In:

Out:

Like many of Mono-Blue’s matchups, this one varies in difficulty depending on if they can stick a Curious Obsession or not. One thing to keep in mind in this matchup is that a Krasis for even just two can often be enough to keep them from attacking. Another is that Crushing Canopy can kill Obsessions directly - which is useful if it is on a ground creature or if you expect a Dive Down. Lastly - don’t forget that Expansion can be used to copy their own counterspell back at them.

VS Nexus

In:

Out:

This matchup can be hard - especially Game 1 when we have little interaction. Post board we get counterspells and methods of interacting with Enchantments to help slow them down, while our Rams and Colossus try to close out the game.

VS Izzet Drakes

In:

Out:

This matchup is hard because their creatures tend to be large and they have Dive Down to insulate them against Gates Ablaze.

VS the Mirror

In:

Out:

The mirror is weird. Sometimes it ends quickly on the back of multiple Rams, other times it comes to someone literally getting decked out by a copy of Explosion. Don’t forget you expansion key ramp cards such as Route and Spiral.

Wrapping Up

This is easily one of my favorite decks in Standard right now and easily the best “Timmy” deck Magic has had in Standard in some time. If you are someone who enjoys ramping up and casting big spells this is definitely the Standard deck for you this season.