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By: rayjinn, Hugo de Jong
Feb 12 2014 1:00pm
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Back to the drawing board: Standard - Maze's End
by rayjinn

Let me start with a confession. I haven't played any paper magic for the past few years. I have been playing online because it's easy getting my cards from MTGOtraders.com and their bots, tweaking my deck after every win and loss. It's an important fact for the things to come.

Here's another confession. A few weeks ago I made fun of a friend who played Magic Online for the first time, he was misclicking triggers, yelling at the screen "No, no, no on upkeep" and pressed the F6 on his turn when I dared him to. Mwuhahahaha... So naturally, he dared me to play a paper event to see how many mistakes I would make. "Challenge accepted" 

When I dismissed the challenge as being easy (saying I would take a Mono black devotion to the event and pull a no-brainer) suddenly all these rules started to appear out of nowhere. "It has to be a control deck", "you can't play any aggro strategies", "no netdeck"  and so on...

I had been testing a Maze's End deck online for a couple of days and it was destroying UW Control and Monoblack Devotion. I bought the deck I was playing online through a paper card dealer and it came in the mail a few days after. I felt like an idiot when I unwrapped the package and held these Magic the Gathering for the first time. Even though it was exciting to see the backside of a magic card for the first time in ages, I realised I had forgotten to order sleeves for the cards. 1-0 to you Melvin.

"Challenge accepted"

To all of you who have been playing online instead of paper for a while now, take notes!

Now I've just moved to Newcastle and decided I want to meet some like-minded people. Also this challenge had been sitting on the shelf for quite some time now and my last phone call with said friend involved him making all sorts of chicken taunts. Can't have any of that! I gathered whatever manhood was left after being "Chickenized" and went on the lookout for a venue to play at (and some sleeves obviously). 

There’s nothing better than a smell triggering a beautiful memory. For example I've had a girlfriend who at one time passed gas under the covers and the exact same smell reminded me of my grandma's house, where I would watch cartoons on the TV while the adults played cards on the dining table. A lovely memory of course. When I found a venue in Newcastle to play magic at, the persistent smell of armpit and stale air took me right back to 1995. A wonderful time when the best part of my day was opening Fourth Edition boosters. This of course, because Revised was the old stuff and we wanted the new stuff (Argghhhh..). I then knew this was the right place for me to start back into paper magic.  

Alright enough history, let's get to the deck. 


The Maze's End wins you the game by having ten Guildgates with different names on them in play when the Maze's End ability resolves. Once you have three lands and a Guildgate, you'll never have to lose another land drop, because you can search for a land on your turn and re-play Maze's End.
TIP: Keep a spare Guildgate in hand for turn ten, so you can use your maze to find the last land (The maze will be untapped and you don’t have to wait another turn for it to untap) or when you want to cast a high mana cost spell, so you don't have to maze that turn.
TIP: You don't have to actually find the 10th Guildgate to win. When you already have ten Guildgates, you just need to activate the Maze's End (,you don't even need to find a land) to win!


When looking at the decklist I can hear you think "Where are the Fogs"? Well.. there's none. A fog version of Maze's End dies to direct damage, not drawing any fogs for a turn and sometimes, makes you miss a few land-drops because you need to keep mana open instead of mazing on your turn.


The life cushion from Saruli Gatekeepers and Heroes' Reunion are the real "fogs" of the deck. With all of the removal in the deck, there are very few combat steps where a fog would give a better outcome than a lifegain spell. Gaining life has traditionally been a bad strategy in competitive magic because it changes nothing to the board state. Combining it with sweepers like Supreme Verdict, Far/Away, Merciless Eviction and Detention sphere, lifegain fills a different role. Direct damage and cards like Mutavault don't really care about sweepers or Fogs and have been the Achilles heel for this deck. Would you fog an incoming Mutavault? Instead Heroes' Reunion and Saruli Gatekeepers function as multiple preliminary counterspells, effective dealing with 2-3 spells or 3-4 combat steps. The only downside to having no Fogs main deck is that Nightveil Specter is becoming very scary on the early turns.

"Where are the fogs?"

Nightveil Specter
" Game over? "

The removal package and the mana base have been the biggest puzzle for me when building the deck. Because Guildgates come into play tapped, a lot of people playing Maze's End decks include non-guild lands to make certain plays on set turns. The better choice however is to completely give up that turn four Supreme Verdict and add spells to delay the need for it as well. The boogeyman in the format that can actually hurt our deck is Nightveil Specter. Its triggered ability can in theory find a singleton gate disabling the Maze's End win condition. Other maze decks have adapted and started playing two of each gate. But really, how do they get the right mana for their spells? I've walked the path of having two of each Guildgate and didn't like it, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver got the best of me a few games. Lately I also have been seeing an increase in people playing Jace, Memory Adept aka "big Jace". That's not going to get any less with Phenax, God of Deception in the new set. So you are basically packing answers for all of them or accepting the fact that you aren't going to win every game through Maze's End. We have seven main deck answers to a turn three Specter: Abrupt Decay, Far/Away, Azorius Charm and even four more in the form of Detention Sphere on the play. To ensure we can win through the loss of a Guildgate, we'll play two main deck Crackling Perimeter. This turns our lands into fireballs which deals with the previously mentioned troublesome planeswalkers as well as the player behind them.


Azorius Guildgate Simic Guildgate Selesnya Guildgate

The mana base was a big part of the puzzle in getting this deck to work. Normally you'd make your mana base after you selected your spells and make a few concessions here and there if your mana can't handle it. In a Maze's End deck you have to work the other way around and be able to go back if you feel uncomfortable with the spells or lands you've put together. I will admit that I had a lot of better red cards in the deck than I’m currently playing. Mizzium Mortars, Magma Jet on turn two to scry and Anger of the Gods to deal with the overflow of Nightveil Specter and Pack Rats Come on, Activate that Mutavault to save your rats, I dare you! Some have actually done it you know. When the red cards were in the deck, I often had access to better mana if I scryed a Magma Jet on my turn three upkeep, but in the end I realised that playing four main colors (to support two red mana) was too much for the deck. I cut the Anger of the Gods first and in the end cut even more of the red to get the mana symbols towards other colors.


I would have loved to be able to play Underworld Connections alongside Heroes' Reunions and draw two each turn, but Divination took that spot due to easier mana and drawing actual cards two turns faster. Read the bones is even slightly better than Divination, but once again, your mana should be consistent and it was easier to steer the mana symbols towards blue and cast that Detention Sphere and Supreme Verdict on time.



If you look at the mana base you will see four copies of Simic, Selesnya and Azorius Guildgate. Do not take this as an invitation to have multiple of them in play as this hurts your speed of winning. The four copies merely secure you drawing them early and begin to answer threats on time. It is important that you never play a duplicate Guildgate if you have the option of playing one that's not in play yet. This allows you to win on turn ten.


Practice the order of mana you want to have before putting Guildgates in play. Do you need a Supreme Verdict on turn five, start with white mana producing gates first and check your two and three mana spells to stop early aggression until then. I've gone as far as to play Dimir Guildgate and a turn two Golgari Guildgate to be able to play Abrupt Decay on turn three, only to follow it up with two white mana producing lands to cast Supreme Verdict.


Enough about the deck, back to our story....

This is what I needed to bring home to get rid of the chicken taunts.

Today was judgment day, armed with a nearly complete deck I showed up at the venue early. The store owner had promised me there would be people in the hours before the event started and that I would be able to trade for last minute additions. Maybe he didn't know, or maybe he lied, but for a few hours I have been staring at empty tables only to have an employee end my misery and introducing me to the hydra challenge. (A sort of solitaire game where you play against a deck of magic cards that interact with your deck). It was just half an hour before the event started when I gazed into the first trade binder. True story!

That's another thing you'll have to worry about when playing paper. There are no bots around and finding the cards you need takes time. So I started offering my left nut (left and right) for certain cards, but found out that naming flat prices worked better. I overpayed for a few Far/Away and bought the precon with Lavinia of the Tenth on the front. Sure enough one of the boosters had another Far/Away. Refunds anyone?

The event started after I'd playtested a bit against a "Junk" deck. Don't get me wrong the deck was really good, but the name 'Junk" comes from the colors BWG. Just to clarify on that. When round one started I went through my usual routine of introducing myself and stating that I was playing magic for the first time. Usually no one buys it, but playing a Guildgate on turn one just gives you that little bit of extra credibility. It's just for laughs and kicks really and the disappointment on faces when you do make that strong instant speed play is priceless.

Round one UW:
Jace, Architect of Thought Elspeth, Sun's Champion Detention Sphere Sphinx's Revelation + Pithing Needle

I sat across a player with a WU control deck who played his deck perfectly on both games, Game one the deck faces no resistance and I Maze for the win. Game two was like squeezing water out of a rock and we fought over nearly every permanent in the UW deck. A Sin Collector did a lot of damage and prevented opposing Jace, Architect of Thought from going -2. When he did have a Mutavault to protect it, a nightmare unveiled for him. The Jace sitting at two loyalty was hit by Catch/Release for just "the catch part".  The loyalty went to zero as I flipped through the following three cards: Izzet Charm, Negate, and Detention Sphere. In this game my opponent did have Pithing Needle for Maze's End, but I Abrupt decayed it at nine gates and activated Maze's End for the win.

Round two Esper Control - hatebrew?
Elspeth, Sun's Champion Sphinx's Revelation Jace, Memory Adept Duress + Sin Collector and Blood Baron of Vizkopa

Game one I cast Divination on turn four and get caught by a main deck Jace, Memory Adept. After losing thirty cards (thank you red tapped land) and my main win condition, I stick a Crackling Perimeter, deal with the Jace and start to ping my opponent every turn tapping my Guildgates.

Game two is no different, but now I'm actually fighting him off with Gainsay and Negates. Go go Crackling Perimeter!

Round three Simic Aggro
Prophet of Kruphix Cloudfin Raptor Experiment One Elusive Krasis Master Biomancer

I haven't played against this deck before but it did come out of the gates really quick on both games. It also ran into Supreme Verdict, Detention Spheres and got sent Far/Away before getting a Merciless Eviction. On game two he tries for an early Master Biomancer which would have killed me had I not had a Gainsay. This apparently made him realize that he's fighting counterspells, because he resolves a Prophet of Kruphix and announces a stop on my upkeep to flash in creatures, emptying his hand. My Supreme Verdict didn't mind and I Maze's Ended the game.


Did you see what happened there? Apparently three rounds of 2-0 are not enough to secure 1st place and I was never going to hear the end of this by my "Chickenizer". There was only one thing left to do and that was to convince the guy who sat on first position to play a round four. We didn't know what the other was playing, but we both put our rewards in the middle for the victor. A sort of classic ante game. The shopkeeper upped the ante by another release foil and it was time to battle!

It turns out he was Mono Red, Argggghhh!
Rakdos Cackler Ash Zealot Boros Reckoner Chandra's Phoenix Fanatic of Mogis Mutavault and lots of direct damage spells.

Game one I stumble on mana forcing me to play duplicate gates and he gets a victory through a Mutavault and a burn spell.

Game two sees the first lifegain spell in the match on turn nine after a few board wipes. It's enough to get to ten gates and claim victory.

Game three was an absolute slaughter, He gets the nut draw, but my removal stops him, After two Saruli Gatekeepers, he's close to conceding. An end of turn Heroes' Reunion gets the actual concession and moral tournament victory.

I'm freed from the chicken taunts and earned forgiveness for my mockery on his play mistakes earlier on.

For everyone still reading, I hope you've enjoyed this as it can be quite personal at times. Feel free to take the Maze's End deck for a spin, it's surprisingly good and has very little weaknesses. The difficulty of the deck is quite high though, so I can suggest playing it until you run out of coffee before taking it into large events. 

Until next time, thanks for reading "Back to the drawing board" 

Rayjinn on MTGO


Congrats on your unusual win. by Paul Leicht at Wed, 02/12/2014 - 17:00
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Congrats on your unusual win. Most players go for the split rather than challenge the other undefeated player an an All-in gamble. It seems your metagaming with life gain was the key to winning the final match after all. I am not a fan of Maze's end as too many people bring it to JuFF thinking it is a perfectly "casual" deck. And it is except they usually bring the Turbo Fog variant which is as boring as hell to win through. I like the changes you've made.

To be fair JuFF deck strengths vary quite a bit from raw beginner to pt level and all points between. The Maze's End deck is on par with the other 13 or so top decks (because there is no more tier system) and it seems your tweaks took advantage of a nice hole in the metagame. Also nice job standing up for chickens everyhere. That sort of bullying shouldn't be tolerated. :p

Thx Paul by rayjinn at Wed, 02/12/2014 - 19:28
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Thx Paul,

Wouldn't call this version a Maze's End deck, it's more of a 5color control deck to play with an uncounterable win condition.

The fog decks I don't get, because they lose to ALOT of things. This seems the only reasonable thing to do.

If anyone else out there's getting bullied with chicken sounds, I'll happily defend your honor any day :)

Fogs... :) by The D.K. at Thu, 02/13/2014 - 17:30
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Sorry, guys. I prefer the Fog variant. :P I feel that Hugo gives the deck a much worse rap than it deserves.

I am one of those people in the JuFF room slinging the Fogs. While I will certainly agree that straight burn laughs at Fogs, it has a tremendous win ability against practically every over deck out there. And often times, I feel that the players themselves are what make Fog not so fun to play against.

I've played against it a few times with my WW deck, and too often, it's just Fog after Fog after Fog while they sit at 20 life, eventually run out of Fogs, and start to die. A good Fog player fogs only when necessary and makes it feel less like they're just playing solitaire.

Something about board wipes makes them much less annoying than Fogs, and often leads to players thanking me for NOT Fogging them to death, although I certainly had the ability to.

Also, maindeck Crackling Perimeter. People love dying to Crackling Perimeter.

Fog definitely means that by Paul Leicht at Thu, 02/13/2014 - 20:00
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Fog definitely means that people need to design their decks with more than just the red line as their win con. But we knew that already. Too many ways to stall out combat to be assured it will get there 100% or even 75% of the time. In fact my favorite decks tend to be ones that win out of nowhere with no possibility of reprisal or turn around by my foes.

I ended up taking the Fog by arekdahl at Fri, 02/14/2014 - 08:53
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I ended up taking the Fog variant (See my article from earlier this week for a decklist) to a Daily on MTGO last night and went 3-1. D.K is spot on about Fogging only when necessary. Some decks require fogging nearly every combat (Mono-red, some mono-black variants with Gary), others you can hold Fogs until you get down to even 10 or so life.

My question to you is how you feel about the two lifegain spells in the deck and which you feel is better. Currently I run Saruli Gatekeepers but have been thinking about switching to the Heroe's Reunion. The Gatekeepers give that nice 2/4 body as a blocker which is huge against mono-red. On the other hand, a lot of decks have dead removal cards sitting in hand and this gives them a target plus it costs two mana more, which is HUGE in any version of this deck.

I've been happy with the gatekeepers, I'm just trying to streamline the deck a bit. I like Heroes Reunion, but the only way I'd be able to fit it into my list is to cut the gatekeerers.

Either or by rayjinn at Fri, 02/14/2014 - 09:34
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It wouldn't make sense running lifegain in the fog decks, because you lleave the creatures on the field. It does give you a cushion against gary, but since you don't wipe their devotion it will not help all that much, same for the red decks, fanatic of mogis will do 7 or more against fog decks.

If you do run fogs, focus on getting to your win quicker. Too bad the fogs don't protect the planeswalkers, otherwise Ral zarek and maybe even Kiora could help you.

The entire reason why i cut fogs and upped removal is the danger of leaving certain permanents on the field. Magic is no longer a game of just attacking with creatures so a linear gameplan to counter that will not be enough.

I wonder if there is a viable by Paul Leicht at Fri, 02/14/2014 - 17:00
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I wonder if there is a viable variant using Gary and Underworld connections. And to answer my own question, no there isn't.

I tried something like:
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Rakdos Guildgate
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Detention Sphere
3 Blind Obedience
3 Azorius Charm
3 Crackling Perimeter
4 Maze's End
3 Izzet Guildgate
2 Simic Guildgate
2 Gruul Guildgate
2 Merciless Eviction
4 Dimir Guildgate
2 Boros Guildgate
2 Golgari Guildgate
2 Orzhov Guildgate
2 Far/Away
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Azorius Guildgate
2 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Underworld Connections

thinking with a good draw you get underworld connections after perimeter or obedience and then two turns later gary. But as it turns out your opponent will a) concede to perimeter, b) kill you with weenies before you see 3 lands c) play one monster at a time when you draw all your removal and then kill you when you run out d) win while you pick off some of their creatures.

At no time will you a) draw the perfect hand, b) get an opponent who isn't playing aggro weenie burn of some kind, c) play gary to effect d) have a good/fun game.

So nevermind that idea.

I certainly don't run as much by arekdahl at Fri, 02/14/2014 - 17:21
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I certainly don't run as much removal as your variant, but the removal I do run is probably key to the deck. While I do run 16 fogs, they are generally to fog the combat steps between board wipes.

If you look at my list, I run similar mass removal as your deck.
4x Supreme Verdict
2x Merciless Eviction

I run one less detention sphere at 3x, but I do run 2x Ratchet Bomb main and 2x in the side.

Maybe my build is different from other fog decks you have seen. Your removal spell count is higher at 20 (if you count both charms) but with me running 13 removal spells maindeck, I don't leave creatures on the board as much as you might think.

I do plan on running Kiora. I know Fog itself protects planeswalkers due to how it is worded. Kiora protects itself in some fashion as well.

Paul is right by rayjinn at Fri, 02/14/2014 - 20:56
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The blind obidience has been in the deck since the article went up and the saruli gatekeepers are now 3x sideboard with 4 heroes reunion main, the extra life from blind obidience is huge, and tapped stormbreath dragons, hydras and whatnot too. Also i dropped the red, save for 4 gates and 2 perimeter and dipped into black, great minds think alike right paul?

the current list im playing is:

2 Crackling Perimeter
1 Izzet Guildgate
4 Heroes' Reunion
1 Rakdos Guildgate
2 Simic Guildgate
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Detention Sphere
2 Azorius Charm
4 Divination
4 Dimir Guildgate
1 Boros Guildgate
3 Thoughtseize
4 Maze's End
1 Gruul Guildgate
3 Far/Away
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Merciless Eviction
3 Golgari Guildgate
2 Blind Obedience
4 Supreme Verdict

1 Merciless Eviction
4 Gainsay
3 Saruli Gatekeepers
2 Negate
2 Hero's Downfall
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Slaughter Games

The divination still wins matches, and a lack of targets for their removal is just gravy. Read the bones might be the next thing ill add, since i'd play 7 Divination if i could and RTB diggs even a little bit deeper.

Hehe nice, though Id be by Paul Leicht at Sat, 02/15/2014 - 06:34
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Hehe nice, though Id be careful of too many RTB since it can put you within lethal range at the wrong time vs some decks.

By the way I was tinkering with a build AJ_Impy made for Tribal Wars using Maze's End and came up with something somewhat fun (aMazing Elves) and interesting. Not as cool as his though: Mass Destroying/Exiling Humans + guildgates ftw.