Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon
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Commander and Change: General Tazri


Yeah... we're back on Ravnica.

We're gonna do Maze's End.

Maze's End

Any card which says "you win the game" is worth a second look. I mean, no fuss, no muss, just win. So way back in 2015, at the end of my first series for CoolStuffInc, we built our first Maze's End deck. We put in the Maze's End pieces plus a few ways to search them up, then leaned hard on Allies as a five-color tribe to keep us alive, apply some pressure, and keep the attention off the ticking clock of the land combo. The deck actually works; I own that deck, in that iteration, in real life, and play it. I've won with Maze's End and I've won with Allies, both randomly attacking and going off with Conspiracy on the battlefield.

But then Battle for Zendikar came out, and we got more Allies, plus a bunch more abilities on Allies, and we got a much-needed five-color Ally general in General Tazri. So we rebuilt the deck, upping the average converted mana cost and the power level. We were still building budget decks back then, so we eschewed Fetch/Shock landbases for the comes-into-play-tapped tri-lands along with our Gates, but it works. It's not overly powerful, but it's explosive, fun, and the interactions are always a hoot, plus it wins in so many wild ways no one is ever quite sure what to prepare for. Do they search up a Ghost Quarter for one of your Gates? Sudden Death to kill that Turntimber Ranger? Or Counterspell for that Rite of Replication?

Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance haven't brought us any more new Allies, but they've brought something new: Gate tribal. There is a common cycle of creatures which care if you have two or more Gates on the battlefield, plus a few other creatures that have some other effect like gaining two life for each Gate you control and the like. There are also a few more things that actually search for Gates, which is excellent, and we got another Gate. This last one is particularly important, because while we can run cards like Grim Discovery to get back a land which has been hit with a Decimate or whatever, having only ten and exactly ten Gates while needing exactly ten Gates was always risky. It's not a lot, but one more is a bit of insurance against potential land destruction ruining our fun.

General Tazri Maze's End | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Guild Summit
I considered every single new Gate-matters card. The problem is, most of them are pretty terrible in Commander, with limited or weak effects. Opal Lake Gatekeepers can stay because it's a blocker who replaces itself, and that's often worth the price of admission. Gateway Sneak also gains us cards just for searching out our Gates. Archway Angel is here more because late in the game she can gain us 20 life, which may be just enough to keep us alive to pull off our combo. We're also holding on to Garrison Sergeant, mostly because Double Strike is so cool, and gets even cooler when we stick a Glaive of the Guildpact on him. Gatebreaker Ram is similarly huge, and stupid cheap for what will often be a 6/6 or 8/8 in our deck. Otherwise, though, nah. Most of them are not strong enough.

We get some other effects. Hold the Gates affects all our creatures, so our Allies get the benefit of our Gates. Guild Summit can draw us a new grip (easily replacing Mulldrifter) and keep the cards flowing as we play more Gates. Way of the Thief would be great on a Gateway Sneak. Of course, Gateway Plaza, our new Gate, is here, as is Plaza of Harmony, which is not a Gate but does all the colors and probably gains us a little life on the way. Gates Ablaze will more often than not be a Wrath of God in our deck.

But what's really helpful are the cards which search out Gates. It used to be we had to hope to find Gatecreeper Vine, or use one of the cards which could also find Maze's End, like Crop Rotation. Now, we get District Guide, Circuitous Route, and Open the Gates to join our deck, and all of them search out a Gate.

Without a budget to contend with, we've also added in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, who has wanted to be here since he was printed, and Tempt with Discovery, which will at least get us one land we need and, if we get lucky with a table which doesn't know what we're doing, could get us the entire suite of Gates plus Maze's End and just win us the game.

We've given up a lot of our answers to fit this much fun in. The deck used to run Merciless Eviction and Duneblast as catch-all answers; both are now out, hoping increasing the speed will lower the need for sweepers. We've also not got a ton of point removal; Reclamation Sage can stay, because he's still amazing on a Mimic Vat, but otherwise we're going to have to rely on our Allies' strange ways of killing creatures and getting rid of problems.

Venser, the Sojourner
Venser, the Sojourner probably wants to be here. Flickering our Allies in and out is very powerful. Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers was in till the very last cut; even without a way to sacrifice the target, Threaten effects are very strong in Commander where creature quality is often so high. It can be used to remove a blocker or just beef up an alpha strike, and this deck wants to be attacking. Also, Ramunap Excavator (and its mechanical big sibling, Crucible of Worlds) are probably necessary with a playgroup that is diligent about targeted land destruction; if everyone in your pod is running Strip Mine, a few extra ways to get back lands might be important.

It's worth it to go back and check out the previous two articles; there are interactions still here I didn't go over because they're in there. However, some of you may have noticed today's deck wasn't "Convertible Commander," but rather "Commander and Change." The second Maze's End deck was during the time I was writing Commander and Change, and I thought it'd be fun to revisit that style a little, just for this article and the next. Then, worry not - we'll be back to our regularly scheduled Convertible Commander.

Also, I'd like to point out we didn't upgrade the mana base, just added the two new Gate-related lands. After multiple games with some version of this mana base, it really doesn't need upgrading. If you want to spend the money for Fetches and Shocks, or even just slow Fetches and other duals with basic land types, that's fine, but the deck doesn't need it. Even with that mana base it won't possibly stand up to a deck anyway, so why bother? Put the money somewhere else that can compete on that level and keep this for lower-key games.

On that note, this is a great first deck. You get a bunch of lands that fix all different color combinations, so you'll have those in your collection. Nothing in it is too expensive, but you can use some of the stuff you just drafted and run the Gate-matters dudes in place of some of the more expensive cards, then upgrade as you get the chance, budget, and trade opportunities. Pretty much any Ally will do good work in this deck, too, so if someone has some old Battle for Zendikar or even original Zendikar cards kicking around and they're willing to slide them to you or trade for cheap, that'll give you a bunch of pieces to get started. Plus it's fun and can actually compete at a table as long as the decks aren't really degenerate.

Did I miss any important Allies? Or cut something I shouldn't have? Please let me know in the comments!

And please tune in a couple of weeks from today, as we look at Maze's End in a whole new light.

Thanks for reading.