ello, and welcome to Gate Week! I'm going all-out for this celebration of the Gate subtype, with fifty-two Gates between two decks. In fact, there is only one land present that is not a Gate: Maze's End.
Maze's End | Art by Cliff Childs
Ten Out of Ten
Several people have inquired about a dedicated Maze's End deck, so I decided to create one. I've seen Maze's End in two decks to date: As a primary win condition alongside Door to Nothingness in a Fog deck, and as an alternate win condition in a five-color Sliver Overlord Commander deck. However, this is the Johnny column, so I'll be taking a more combo-oriented route with the deck. Maze's End requires you to have one of each of the ten Guildgates on the battlefield. Fortunately, you don't have to have gotten all of those with Maze's End. Playing them from your hand is just fine, as long as you use Maze's End once you have at least nine of them to activate the game-winning ability.
There are a lot of great ways to dump Gates onto the battlefield quickly. Summer Bloom is one of the best, letting you immediately drop three lands into the battlefield. That can get you halfway to your goal of ten Gates as soon as turn three. Azusa costs one more mana but allows you to play two extra lands every turn. Even if you don't have three lands in your hand, she allows you to activate Maze's End and play it again immediately without skipping your regular land drop for the turn.
Oracle of Mul Daya also lets you play an extra land each turn, with the added benefit of allowing you to play lands from the top of your library. With a deck that's more than half land, this is like drawing two extra cards per turn much of the time. Explore is another great card from Zendikar block, not only allowing you an extra land drop but replacing itself with another card. Even if you don't have another land in your hand, there's a better than 50/50 chance you'll find one off that draw.
Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map can be used to find Maze's End or one of the Gates you don't have yet, getting you closer to victory. Finally, Moment's Peace can buy you two turns to win the game when your opponent manages to put lethal damage on the board.
Hold the Gates is an oft-overlooked card from Gatecrash that I've been quite enamored with since its release. Vigilance and a potentially huge amount of extra toughness are a surefire recipe for winning combat. When the card was first released, I examined a deck that took advantage of its interaction with small creatures with deathtouch. This time, I'll be taking a more aggressive approach.
Last week, I used Mannichi, the Fevered Dream to turn Goblin Caves into something a bit more useful. My man Mannichi is back again, making Hold the Gates give all our creatures +1/+0 for each Gate instead. Doran, the Siege Tower will also make an appearance, making high-toughness creatures deal huge damage as well.
Now, for some creatures. Mannichi is going to make the new toughness of our creatures pretty small, so we'll need something to combat that. Double strike is my favorite creature keyword, and it works quite well here. Although a 1/5 with double strike may not be very threatening, a 5/1 certainly is.
Fencing Ace is the basic cheap double-striker. No frills, but it is easy to cast. Boros Swiftblade gives you an extra toughness, effectively an extra power in this deck, but it does require you to have red mana as well as white. Viashino Slaughtermaster is just a red Fencing Ace most of the time, but if you do happen to have a black and a green mana you're not using, you can give it +1/+1 until end of turn. That boost may seem small, but it's twice as significant on a creature with double strike. While initially I looked at creatures with other abilities, like Skyhunter Skirmisher's flying and Hound of Griselbrand's undying, the double colored mana turned me away. I'd hate to be stuck with those in hand and no Chromatic Lantern to make casting them possible. Marisi's Twinclaws costs twice as much mana as the other creatures in the deck at four, but it's reasonably easy to cast thanks to hybrid, and even without Hold the Gates, Mannichi and Doran can turn it into a four-power creature with double strike.
Idyllic Tutor and Enlightened Tutor make sure you can find Hold the Gates every game, since it's so crucial to this deck's plan of attack. Last but not least, Chromatic Lantern can help you get the four colors of mana this deck can require at one time or another.
An A-maze-ing Battle
The time has come to toss these competitors into the arena and see who earns the right to be champion of the Gates. Will this be the end for Maze's End, or will it manage to break its opponent's hold? Let's find out.
The End started off with Gruul Guildgate, and Gates of Wrath played one from Boros. An Expedition Map and another Gate followed for The End, and Gates of Wrath played another Gate and cast Enlightened Tutor, finding Hold the Gates. The End cast Explore and played two more Gates, and Gates of Wrath cast Boros Swiftblade and passed the turn.
The End cast another Explore, sacrificed Expedition Map to find Maze's End, and played it along with another Gate before ending the turn. Gates of Wrath cast Hold the Gates, and Boros Swiftblade attacked for 2. It then passed the turn. Maze's End searched up a Guildgate, and another Explore allowed The End to replay Maze's End as well as another Gate. Gates of Wrath attacked for 2 and cast another Swiftblade before passing the turn..
The End cast Sylvan Scrying, played the eighth Gate and passed the turn. Gates of Wrath played a Gate, cast Doran, the Siege Tower, and attacked for 32. The End survived thanks to Moment's Peace, then played the ninth Gate and searched up the final one with Maze's End to win the game.
Each side played a Gate and passed, then The End cast an Expedition Map on turn two. Gates of Wrath cast Viashino Slaughtermaster and ended the turn. The End cast Summer Bloom and played four Gates before passing the turn. Gates of Wrath cast Chromatic Lantern and attacked for 2 with the Slaughtermaster. It then ended the turn.
The End cast Azusa, Lost but Seeking, then sacrificed Expedition Map to find Maze's End and played it along with another Gate. The End passed the turn, and Gates of Wrath attacked for 2 with the Slaughtermaster. It then cast Fencing Ace and Boros Swiftblade and passed the turn. The End searched for a Gate with Maze's End, replayed it, and passed the turn.
Gates of Wrath cast Hold the Gates and another Viashino Slaughtermaster, then attacked for 6, dropping The End to 10 life. The End searched up another Gate and passed the turn. Gates of Wrath cast a second Hold the Gates and attacked for 10, pumping up one of the Slaughtermasters. The End cast Moment's Peace to survive another turn.
Maze's End searched up another Gate, and Gates of Wrath cast Mannichi, the Fevered Dream, activated it and attacking for 88 damage. Moment's Peace flashed back to stop the damage, and Maze's End searched up the Ninth Guildgate. However, another 88 damage came crashing in the following turn, and The End couldn't find a Moment's Peace.
Both decks played Gates and passed the turn until The End cast Sylvan Scrying on turn three to find Maze's End. Gates of Wrath cast Viashino Slaughtermaster before ending the turn, and The End cast Azusa, Lost but Seeking, playing Maze's End and two other Gates.
Gates of Wrath cast Doran, the Siege Tower and attacked for 2. It ended the turn, and The End cast Explore, played three Guildgates, then activated Maze's End and replayed it. Gates of Wrath played a Guildgate and cast Hold the Gates. Doran attacked for 9, and Viashino Slaughtermaster attacked for 10. The latter was blocked by Azusa, and The End dropped to 9 life. The End cast Expedition Map, sacrificing it to search up ninth Guildgate, and Maze's End found up the final one to win the game.
Next week is Modern Masters Week here on DailyMTG and I'll be brewing up some Modern-legal combo decks to take for a spin. If you're a fan of the format, be sure to check back then for some fun ideas that you can take to your local Modern tournament. See ya!
Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.