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A Neatly Wrapped Gift

God-Pharaoh's Gift
While my last Team Event wasn’t stellar, I had a ton of fun. If you were watching coverage, you may have noticed Kevin played a Temur Energy strategy which didn’t pan out too well. I’m not going to even begin to list that deck because it’s not great and you shouldn’t play it. There was a Temur Monsters deck on camera that was base rg but had counterspells in the sideboard that I think is a better starting place if you’re interested in playing those colors.

Based on the results of this weekend, I am quite enthused with new Standard. There were so many variations of so many different decks and not one really jumped out as above the pack in terms of numbers. Mardu looks to be the best deck heading in; A consistent aggro deck that packs a hard punch. Even during testing games the deck had some games that were over one turn four or five. That is an impressive stat, and Mardu is one of the premier aggro decks in the format, boasting both consistency and an ability to fly over the ground battles the deck is primed to stay toward the top of standings. The bg Constrictor deck didn’t look super impressive and I think a major reason is the removal of Lay of the Land from the deck. With no Traverse the Ulvenwald or Attune with Aether, the deck just feels like it needs more to go right with it to function. There’s a lot of synergy involved which is always a bonus but the games feel too lopsided one way or the other, and, even in the games you’re ahead, it doesn’t feel great.

The deck I’m interested to try the most though is a God-Pharaoh's Gift Variant. While I think wu is very strong, I also believe control decks might have picked up this last weekend so I wanted to lend my sideboard to be better at beating those decks. Black offers the great options of both Hostage Taker and Ravenous Chupacabra at the 4-drop slot in addition to Fatal Push and Duress.


Ravenous Chupacabra
Gift decks last season struggled a bit against Attune with Aether decks. While there was some success, it was very mild and tamed. Now that Energy decks don’t exist in the same state as before, there’s more room to explore other decks and Gift seems extraordinarily powerful. One of the reasons I prefer the Esper version is even if your graveyard is attacked you’re still a fine midrange decks. Angel of Invention continues to be a powerful force, and Gifting it back into play ends most games quickly. For the aggro decks in the format a six to twelve point life swing can mean the game is effectively over.

The Scarab God is easily the toughest card to beat, so against those decks we have to try and get online before The Scarab God does. While it is possible to fight through The Scarab God the Gift deck doesn’t really play the kind of removal needed to be able to keep up or fight through it. Banking on Hostage Taker or Chupacabra to deal with The Scarab God is a losing proposition. Post board, I’ve added the best removal spell in Standard in Vraska's Contempt. Not only is it fantastic for beating The Scarab God its uses go far beyond that. Taking a look at some of the creatures that have been popping up, the exile clause is becoming more and more useful. Rekindling Phoenix looked fantastic and I fully expect that card to become a staple in Standard moving forward. On occasion Gift can be a little slow out of the gate and can be taken for a ride on the Chandra Carousel. This can apply to other Walkers as well and playing Vraska's Contempt gives us some out to the two cards that really matter the most.

The end game for Gift is nothing short of impressive, but can be hard to get there. Many times playing it safe will be the right call over trying to combo out. You’re going to win a long game against almost every non-Scarab God draw so there’s no reason not to take it slow when possible. You see so many cards each game that you can afford to keep some hands that might not look like much. You’ll end up tearing through your deck. While hands with Gate to the Afterlife are going to be much better, the 2-drops are fantastic at helping cycle and fix draws toward your goal. There is a tension with holding lands as you want to get to at least seven to be able to cast God-Pharaoh's Gift and Eternalize Champion of Wits but it’s also important to keep some fodder in your hand to discard to Champion of Wits early while being able to cast your spells. It’s important to ensure you have two White mana available, as casting an Angel is going to be important to give you time toward your end game.

Abrade is a tough one to beat, but Gate to the Afterlife can nab you Gifts from the yard. For this next couple of weeks ,I think Gift is prime to play until players start adding graveyard hate. As I mentioned earlier the Gift deck is extremely powerful with a backup plan of being an alright Esper Midrange deck. Walking Ballista continues to shine as a great mana sink and as a way to cash in with Gate to the Afterlife.

The deck has been a blast to play and I’m looking forward to the rest of Standard. This past weekend, I got to play another team event with Dave Long and his brother Rob Long. Both of them are picking solid deck choices and I feel great about our chances. Either way I was excited about this weekend and not just because of a team event. I also have some great news.

Introducing Team Sigil

New to the SCG Tour is Team Sigil. Sponsored by http://sigilplatform.com we will be the first team to be funded by cryptocurrency. The team consists of myself as team captain, Kazu Negri, Jake Tilk, and Ben Nikolich. You may recall some of these names for their success on the SCG Tour in the past and Jake for Top 16ing back to back Grand Prixs before Ramunap Ruins got banned. Our goal is try and compete with the rest of the teams on the Tour and make a name for ourselves. We’re excited and ready to perform and we hope to see everyone at events. Be sure to check out our team twitter @TeamSigil and also follow our sponsor over at @sigilplatform. I know we will be getting into streaming soon, so be sure to keep an eye for those updates and join to be a part of our giveaways and to have a great time.


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