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99 Problems: Gatekeeping a Queen


Before we begin, I just need to let you know this one thing about the deck we're going to rebuild:

I hate Slivers.

I mean this from a Commander perspective and a Design perspective. I just don't like their design: they're very "non-Johnny" even though you think they would be. You've got all of these Slivers and you make them into whatever you want them to be. But it's not like you can build some great contraption, just a bunch of creatures that ping or grow big or whatever.

But why are we running a Sliver Commander here? Simple: I was lucky enough to pull a Sliver Queen from a Stronghold pack and I figured it would be fine for my wubrg Deck when I finally built one.

So here we are.

You obviously don't have to be running any kind of Slivers for this kind of deck, I just want to show it off. Is that a bad thing? No, but I know it makes me a little hypocritical here and I realize that. Does that make me the cool and hip dad who's self aware and self critical? Not until I turn my chair backwards, sit on it and say, "Hey, let's rap about X."

Enough self reflection, let's rebuild a deck so we can win with Maze's End.

(Intro Sequence. Theme Music: Killer Queen by Queen)

So, this deck had one previous version before this build: it was a five color "throw anything in there" deck and it was... okay? There was no theme or anything holding it together. When Maze's End came out in Dragon's Maze (Hey, this is the titular Maze), I figured it might be fun to repurpose the deck into winning with Maze's End.

For those that don't know, here's what Maze's End looks like:

Maze's End

We need 10 or more Gates to win. Awesome. How many gates with different names were there printed when Maze's End was around:



So you had to get one of each of the Gates and hope no one blows one up or, even worse, exiles it and end the effect with all of them in play. So if it wasn't the Slivers, it was the whole vulnerability the deck had that maybe made me not run the deck or even update it.

Aside: Sometimes what happens in a block is I'll want to run a Commander deck using one of the block mechanics because it looks fun. My Rafiq deck started out as an Exalted Deck, I've got a Cycling deck (as you've seen) that I cranked back up due to Amonkhet. So the deck gets built, gets played a few times, I go "that was kinda fun" then put off to the side. This was one of those decks.

Since we're returning to Ravnica and now with one whole new Gate, I figured it was time to bust this deck out again. In fact, it was the gate related cards that brought my interest back again. Before we go any further, let's take a look at what the deck looked like sitting on my shelf for a few years untouched:

Gatekeeping | Commander | Robby Rothe

Wow. Yeah, this deck needs updating by more than just one gate.

Oh, if you counted, You'll notice that the deck is at 98 cards (including Sliver Queen). The other two? An unmarked flipped over Magic card and a The Spoils Resource, both supposed to be placeholders. What they were, I'll never remember.

Let's take a look at some of the good the deck does. I had a plan for if someone tried to kill one of my gates: Crucible of Worlds and Eternal Witness. So, yay me? I did have some Sliver synergy with Sliver Queen suck as Skullclamp, Aura Shards, Barrage of Expendables, Glare of Subdual, Koskun Falls, Sigil Captain, and the other Slivers in the deck. Oh yeah, and super tutor Scapeshift (I don't think that's too much of a push of power, though I could be wrong).

Push the Sliver aspect for a moment. Let's find out how we want to run the main portion of this deck: Mana ramp or control. For me, it's an easy answer: control. You can easily run this style of deck with mana ramping and trying to get out all our Guildgates as quick as possible, but for me I've already have a few Commander decks that go with ramping such as Landfall (Damia, Sage of Stone and Borborygmos Enraged). For me, this is all about trying to get the Gates out when I can and have some fun doing it, not trying to force it by turn X.

That being said, I do have a few ways to ramp up in this version: Urban Evolution and Weathered Wayfarer. I would think both of these are going to be in this new version because such subtle ramps are fine; we're not playing the "Ramp Everything" Package of Exploration, Burgeoning, Azusa, etc.

Not only that but Maze's End can also search up Gates, which we need to have that trigger to win the game. Tutoring for lands shouldn't be too bad with a few new cards from Guilds of Ravnica and other "new" (new being new since this deck as last touched) cards. We have 11 total gates to choose from in our deck but if you noticed there were two favorites from other Commander decks and tournament tables: Thespian's Stage and Vesuva. Both of these copy lands, which funny enough we want to copy Guildgates, not something fun like Dark Depths. Why?

Maze's End only needs 10 Gates; it doesn't matter what they're named.

Since we're running a deck in a highlander format, we need 10 different Gates to trigger it. But, if we're copying a Dimir Guildgate, then that's fine for Maze's End. Note: Thespian's Stage and Vesuva do not count as Gates when you "Thawing Glaciers Tutor" for them. We're going to add in one more card that can copy lands: Mirage Mirror. It should be in almost any deck anyway.

Let's take a look at some of the new cards, which are the catalyst for this deck needing a refresh:

Circuitous Route - A "Strictly better" Explosive Vegetation. This is huge in our deck because it can go grab two Gates and put them onto the battlefield. Sure, this is ramp, but you're not trying to push this out on turn two or three (I mean, great if you do, but let's not be too hasty).

District Guide - Another, larger, Gatecreeper Vine. If you want to blink it or return it to your hand, then by all means do so. Play Gatecreeper Vine on turn two, or three if you've played a Gate already, District Guide on turn four, Circuitous Route turn six? Not the fastest way to get there.

Gateway Plaza - The 11th Gate. It enters the battlefield tapped and costs you a mana. But, it's the 11th Gate. Not all of them can be winners.

Glaive of the Guildpact - Here's option two if you can't pull up Maze's End or something has gone awry. Just slap this on your Sliver Queen and you've got a huge Commander who has to be blocked by two or more creatures; which means even if they can throw a token in front of it, they have to throw two. It fits flavorfully because obviously there's better equipment out there.

Guild Summit - This single card changes the deck. Not only do you get a chance to draw cards when it enters the battlefield, but it can draw cards for each Gate you play. You're going to be playing more than 11 Gates. How?

Trade Routes

One of my favorite pet cards in Commander. While used in the Landfall deck (for obvious reasons), a chance to pay 1, return a Gate to your hand and play it again to draw a card is pretty nice. With Guild Summit, the deck can become grindy and go for the long game route.

There were some Gate related cards that weren't added the first time around.

Crackling Perimeter - Gives you something to do at the end of your opponent's turn. It keeps opponent's honest but don't get too greedy with it or otherwise players will focus their attention to you. Hits all opponents, which is great.

Hold the Gates - Helps protect your creatures from sweepers that deal damage. With enough Gates out it will make opponents think twice about attacking you. Always fun to watch your opponent sigh when they use enchantment removal on this card.

Saruli Gatekeepers - Gaining 7 life is nothing to sneeze at, even when you start out with 40 life. Blink it and you can start stabilizing from a quick assault.

Let's add a couple of other cards in the deck to make it function for the long game. Let's add in a few more Wrath effects (just keep the board clear of those pesky creatures). By including pillow fort cards like Propaganda and Ghostly Prison to go along with Koskun Falls we can make attacking into you a huge mana sink. Great. I'm leaving out perennial most hated card in Commander Rhystic Study since you don't want to make other people know you're there by constantly asking them if they want to pay the 1 mana. I've known players who turn on Rhystic Study's owner so they can stop asking that question. Though we are keeping Cyclonic Rift because, yeah we want that.

What about the Slivers? What can we do to make them, well, palatable to run in the deck. Here's our current list:

Darkheart Sliver - Sac to gain life

Harmonic Sliver - ETB to be a mini Aura Shards

Manaweft Sliver - Tap to add mana

Necrotic Sliver - Sac to Vindicate

Victual Sliver - Sac to gain life

Since I know we can get Slivers with Sliver Queen and Hivestone, let's see what other Slivers might actually be good in here (We don't need to separate ways to sacrifice to gain life).

Cautery Sliver - Can sacrifice and Ping for 1

Constructing Sliver - Banishing Light

Dormant Sliver - ETB to draw

Homing Sliver - Silvercycling

Mnemonic Sliver - Sac to draw cards

Telekinetic Sliver - Tap to tap a permanent

Sliver Hive - Not a Sliver but can create Slivers.

As you can see, the Slivers I chose don't pump up or do anything on attacking. In fact, Dormant Sliver give them defender. And here's where we get to the catch 22 of this deck: If people see you playing a Sliver Commander, they're going to go after you first since they figure you're going to overrun them with Slivers. That's not the goal (though I guess it's a completely viable way of going with Option 3 in this deck). It's not like Sliver Overlord which is THE Sliver Commander (It has 3 times more decks on EDH than Sliver Queen). If this Sliver Queen plan doesn't work because you're the target of hate, then you'll need to pivot.

So where do we stand? Well, this Gate theme is rather tame. I only have a few cards that go with it and I'm hoping that they next two sets in this block have more gates (though I imagine Gateway Plaza will be reprinted in Ravnica Allegiance). Slivers might look like more of a put together theme than 11 lands and will draw the hate from the table. Is this deck even worth it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

At the moment it's what I have. I doubt I'll get a chance to play it much since now and Ravnica Allegiance so this is obviously not its final form. All I can hope is some more Gate related cards and hope that Nicol Bolas has some evil plan with the Gates in the Spring 2019 set.

Gatekeeping v2 | Commander | Robby Rothe

Some mileage will vary. If you don't like a certain path, always feel free to change it yourself.

Join me next week when I take a look at one of the new Commanders of Guilds of Ravnica and starting a deck from scratch. And I'll do my best to avoid Doubling Season, but I can't make any promises. Until then, be good to each other.

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