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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Jan 17 2019 12:00pm

There is always a short period during which people can either brew new Standard decks or wait for the first big Standard event. Another Ravnica set is coming and that means brewing time! Since there is no rotation the change of the metagame may not be extreme. It may change a lot but also it may just be a little bit different with the cards we already know still being the best.

I went through the spoiler and noticed several cards that caught my interest. They were mostly build around cards. I will talk about two decks - a Gate deck and a Wall deck.

Defender deck

Arcades, the Strategist is one of the Legendary Elder Dragons that I wanted to play one day. I didn't get to do so since I needed more similar effects like that in order to build a reasonably good constructed deck.

Ravnica Allegiance brought that card - High Alert. This makes all the defensive creatures very good attackers and allows Defenders to attack. It can also untap a creature for 4 mana, but I didn't get to use it even once. With two effects that allow Defenders to attack and deal damage based on their toughness a deck can be put together.

There are many cards with Defender in Standard and the question is which are the ones to pick for the deck. What I was looking for were cards like Wall of Blossoms, Wall of Mulch, Doorkeeper, Overgrown Battlement etc. I wanted cheap Defenders that can do something. While I did not find anything like I wanted I discovered Resolute Watchdog which can give a creature Indestructible, Portcullis Vine that can for two mana and sacrificing another Defender draw a card, Grappling Sundew that can gain Indestructible for a lot of mana and has Reach, Suspicious Bookcase that used to be one of my favorite cards in M19 limited because it makes a creature unblockable for 3 mana. This card though is not good in constructed and most probably should be replaced. My go to Wall was either Gleaming Barrier or Wall of Mist. I really wanted a mana producing Defender in the deck but all I could find was Saruli Caretaker. At first, I just thought it's really a bad card but then I realized that I'd be playing creatures that most probably won't be doing much except sit on the board so that ability might not be as bad as I originally thought. There are many other Walls or Defenders with abilities or none but these are the ones I decided to run and see if the deck can work.

In order for this deck to work I needed Arcades in 4 copies and High Alert in 4 copies. Note that the effect of the two cards is not exactly the same - High Alert affects all creatures, whereas Arcades only affects creatures with Defender.

The deck also needs removal that would allow me to get rid of cards I really couldn't leave in play. Deputy of Detention is a Detention Sphere on a stick with the exception that it only hits cards that the opponent controls which makes mirror matches less complicated. I have to admit that the card overperformed, it is really good. Incubation/Incongruity is the very first card that caught my interest when following the spoiled cards but I had no idea which deck could possibly play it. I was thinking about Simic Pod deck but this deck turned out to be a good place for it as well since it looks for Arcades or gets rid of a dangerous creature. I wish the card would also be able to find a land but I can't have it all, right? Since this deck is pretty much a bunch of commons and uncommons with 2 rares I also looked for a good card that could double as a removal spell and something that searches for Arcades, or itself would be capable of winning the game. Since I couldn't fit in another theme in the deck I thought of Vivien Reid. That card is rather expensive for the deck, but it does exactly what I need.

The deck or rather creatures in it need a little bit of protection. Deputy of Detention and Arcades are the cards that should stick in play and the best card to have around is Dive Down or Negate. I tried both but casting Negate proved to be rather difficult, the one additional mana to pay was too much. Dive Down can be easily cast early game when Saruli Caretaker is around. Against slower decks boarding in Negate is good though.

The mana base I played with was very painful since it contained a high number of shocklands. I didn't think this would be a problem since the deck runs Defenders good at blocking, but what I did not expect was that there would be aggressive decks featuring creatures with power 4 being able to have them in play very early. Rhythm of the Wild is one of the cards that allows it and Judith, the Scourge Diva was the second problematic card.

Overall the deck performed better than I expected. It could just win the game in one swing or race the aggressive decks. Playing defensively usually meant I'd lose the game. There were few cards that I was trying to run main deck. Slaughter the Strong performed well against all the Temur/RG Rhythm decks but otherwise was often a very bad draw that wasn't really helping the board state much. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive and Tower Defense on the other hand were an instant win. I thought that Tower Defense would be more of a one shot kill card but I actually used it more often in defense against aggressive decks to keep my Walls in play. Next turn I'd play Arcades or High Alert and swing back for the win. Tetsuko makes all the Defenders and Deputy unblockable which is something that came handy against the white based human decks that were flooding the board with creatures.

Gates again!

In the previous Ravnica block it was possible to play a Gate dedicated deck that featured Maze's End as the win condition. Apart from that the deck could also win thanks to Crackling Perimeter if the land win condition didn't work out. We don't have any card like that in the current Ravnica sets but there is still the possibility to build a deck that cares about Gates. I tried playing around with different versions. In the end I settled for two possible win conditions which both may be rather clunky but it still doesn't mean they don't work. The first one is big creatures. The other possibility is winning with all the lands one gets into play thanks to Sylvan Awakening.

When going through the cards on Magic Online I noticed that there are many cards that check Gate count. Two of them are creatures. Remember Gatekeeper Gargoyle? In Ravnica Allegiance there are better creatures - Gate Colossus and Gatebreaker Ram which can be huge creatures. Gatebreaker Ram gets +1/+1 for each Gate under your control and if you control 2 or more Gates which in this case should be always, it gets Vigilance and Trample. The Colossus costs 8 mana and is 8/8 creature. It costs 1 less to cast for each Gate under your control. It can't be blocked by creatures with power 2 and less and it can be recurred! Whenever a Gate comes into play under your control you can return the card on the top of your library. At first I thought that creature is not good enough since there is no good way how to ramp Gates or draw cards but I was very wrong about that. All the cards are actually there, it just took me a long time to find them.

There is no Urban Evolution like last time but there are two cards that can be played instead. Guild Summit is a fun card that can draw tremendous amount of cards no matter if you play it on turn 3 and ramp a bit next turn or if you cast this later in the game and tap all your other Gates to draw cards.

The other card will most probably be called the Simic Explore even though the card is different in all the ways it can. It's name is Growth Spiral. First of all, it is an instant which can be relevant post board mostly. The other thing is it does not allow you to play additional land but directly puts it into play (makes sense since it's an instant, it is good to keep this in mind though).

Circuitous Route is one of the ramp spells. For 3G you can look for up two basic land cards and/or Gate cards and put them into play tapped. While this is no Skyshroud Claim this card does exactly what the deck needs - it finds Gates and puts them into play. There is also Elvish Rejuvenator which can put any land into play and can later chump block.

Now you probably wonder how this deck can stay alive? Well, the previous Gate deck was pretty much a Fog deck that included Wrath of God effects. This one has an access to Wrath effects as well but the deck would profit better from a board wipe that doesn't kill its own win conditions. There is a Gate matters board wipe - Gates Ablaze - that can usually wipe the board and keep the Colossi or Rams around. Apart from global removal I also have Lava Coil in the deck which deals with annoying Phoenixes and Prime Speaker Vannifar that has to immediately leave the table.

If winning with creatures won't be enough the deck could possibly support a mill subtheme (or the other way round). There is Patient Rebuilding which is a card I really love but thought it would be totally unplayable in any constructed deck. With Ravnica Allegiance though there is a possibility to play mono blue mill deck with Drowned Secrets and Psychic Corrosion being the base of the deck. While Drowned Secrets is too narrow for the Gate deck, Psychic Corrosion is not. This deck can draw an insane amount of cards and thus this could work, coupled with an ongoing effect of Patient Rebuilding this could be the way how to win against control decks. This takes a lot of slots main deck or in the sideboard and that is why I looked for another card to solve my 'alternative win condition problem'. At first I swapped some Guildgates and put white in the deck and introduced Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Since I often had like 10-14 lands in play I thought of Nexus of Fate. When I did that though I started to feel that the Gates deck is not a great place for these cards and was tempted to build a Bant Nexus/Turbo fog deck (it works). After trying to tell my more competitive part of me to shut up I came back to the Gates deck to give it another chance. There had to be a card that could win the game using just lands and wouldn't take too many slots? And then I remembered that not so long time ago I sold all copies of Sylvan Awakening for a surprisingly high price. I realized that this could be the card I was looking for.


As for the mana base. At first I started with all Gates. They all come into play tapped though meaning that plays on turn 3 and 4 need to wait a turn. Plaza of Harmony is a card that not only gives any color you need (usually) but also comes into play untapped. Since this is the card you want to play on turn 3 or 4 there are usually two gates around already meaning you also gain 3 life of it. 4 copies of a land that comes into play untapped wasn't enough and that is why I added 4 shock lands as well. After I did these changes I stopped being behind and could finally play the spells on turns I needed.

Compared to the Defender deck this deck performed way worse even though it could still win matches. It allowed me to see what problems there are and what cards I was missing. Thanks to that I decided to try out Mono Blue Mill built on the already mentioned enchantments (the new format seems very fast so this deck is just not good enough) and Bant Turbofog (which even made me snap buy Nexus of Fate). Both of these decks performed better than any iteration of my Gates deck. Since the deck I was struggling the most against was Temur Rhythm I also tried to put something like that together. The deck could gain a huge card advantage and board presence and I have to admit I was very surprised to how well the deck worked. It reminded me of how Birthing Pod seemed unfair and I have the feeling that Prime Speaker Vannifar will be featured in a good Standard deck. It was very difficult to interact with the deck and even if I managed to hit it with a Wrath effect there were still some Growth-Chamber Guardians around to make me cry a turn later. Temur ramp seems to be good too if one doesn't want to rely on Rhythm of the Wild.

The decks featured in this article are nowhere close to a competitive level but I had fun with them and they reminded me how much I loved brewing decks during this time when one wasn't running into the same deck over and over again.

Thank you for reading, hope you can also brew some decks and have fun with the new cards. There are many awesome and very powerful cards in Ravnica Allegiance.
S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)