t's Gate Week here on DailyMTG.com! And that can only mean one thing for ReConstructed: it's time to use all of the Gates to run the maze!
Of course, I wouldn't just choose to run the maze any normal way. Read on...
It's not just Gate Week—it's also a budget week here on ReConstructed! Fortunately, the two themes work pretty well together. The Gates are all budget-friendly, as are many of the cards that work with them. Even better, many of you likely already have a Maze's End promo from the Prerelease! If you're looking for other budget ideas, feel free to look at the end of the column for some other decklists and additional ideas.
For now, let's take a look at the deck!
I've been sent a lot of Maze's End–themed decks over the past few weeks, but none stood out to me quite as much as this very exciting version by Masato Ichimaru. Sending in his offering all the way from Japan, Masato combined a few neat elements together to create one unique and beautiful decklist.
Are you ready for this? Let's take a look:
Masato Ichimaru's Sphere of Storm
I'm eager to talk about the deck—but first, let me quickly recap my rules for working on budget decks as a refresher.
- I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and then let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.
- The one exception to the above is mana fixing. I know this will especially be a point of contention considering how sought after the Return to Ravnica block dual lands are, but the bottom line is you're going to want to have access to these lands for the next two years of Standard. They're certainly worth trading for. Fortunately, for this article you won't have to worry about it either way—we get to play with Gates!
- I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Snapcaster Mage or Geist of Saint Traft simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.
- Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rare decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.
If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at the many angles this deck is coming from.
The Battle Plan
There are a few different things going on with this deck, each of which perfectly fits together, which is what makes it so beautiful to me. It's not often you find three distinct angles of attack that all synergize together!
First, there's Maze's End. This deck's route to victory is Maze's End, and it plays all of the Gates to get there. The great thing about this win condition is it takes up very few, if any, spell slots in the deck. Sure, you have to play at least one of each Gate to make it happen, but those mostly go where your lands would normally go. (You might end up playing one or two extra lands to account for off-color Gates and so many lands entering the battlefield tapped.) That leaves the rest of your deck free to have cards that can help you achieve your Maze's End victory.
...like, for example, Sphere of Safety! This enchantment makes it difficult for a lot of aggressive decks to defeat you in short order. This gives you plenty of time to set up your Maze's End. It also means you want to play a lot of enchantments, and enchantments with low mana costs, so you can have them on the battlefield before you cast the Sphere.
And what is a combo that both involves two enchantments and likes low-mana-cost enchantments? Possibility Storm and Curse of Exhaustion!
The way this combo works is simple: first, you enchant your opponent with Curse of Exhaustion. Then, you cast Possibility Storm.
The results? Well, your opponent casts his or her first spell for the turn, then exiles it. Your opponent reveals cards until he or she finds another that shares a type... but can't cast it because he or she already cast a spell for the turn! This two-card combo locks your opponent out from casting spells. It works well with all of the low-cost enchantments as well, because if you play Possibility Storm without a Curse it means you can just try and Storm into a Curse of Exhaustion using your low-mana cards.
And all of this loops back around to Maze's End! Maze's End doesn't' require you casting any spells to win the game, meaning that while your opponent is helplessly locked out you can use your Maze's End every turn to slowly achieve victory.
On top of all that, one of my other favorite things about the Possibility Storm plus Curse of Exhaustion combo is that it doesn't accidentally kill your opponent. By that, I mean that if every game is played to its conclusion, this deck will always win with Maze's End.
That doesn't actually mean anything—but when it comes to decks like this, I'm a man of principles. If you're going to build a fun Maze's End deck and I'm going to write about it for Gate Week, it should actually win the game with Maze's End. What kind of lame, pointy-hat wizard are you if you summon a Thragtusk and accidentally kill your opponent with it before you finish the maze? No compromises with this deck—not even Crackling Perimeter or Gatekeepers.
Maze's End or bust!
Let's take a look at the deck's particulars to see which cards are fit for on our run through the maze—and which cards are a little too out of shape to stick around.
Sphere of Safety is one of the core pieces of this deck. It drastically slows down the game plan of aggressive decks, giving you the time you need to set up Maze's End. In multiples, it is especially hamstringing for beatdown decks. I definitely want to keep all four copies..
In addition to both being enchantments that go with Sphere of Safety, these two cards create a combo that gives you all the time you need to make Maze's End work out. The combo is one of the deck's many fulcrums, and I definitely want to draw it as often as possible. To this end, I'd like to up the number of Curse of Exhaustion to four copies. While Curse is fairly weak on its own, the fact that it's half of a combo piece just makes me want to find it as often as possible.
As a side note, if you have access to the fourth Possibility Storm, I would do the same with that card. Possibility Storm is actually quite interesting, as it helps you find your business enchantments and works well with otherwise unimpressive late-game Mana Blooms. (And if you Possibility Storm into a Mana Bloom, the Mana Bloom conveniently returns to your hand to Storm into something else!) I won't actually add it because I don't want to add in any extra rares, but keep this option in mind.
One difficult balancing act with a deck that has this many enchantments is finding ways to keep troublesome permanents at bay. If your opponent lands a Planeswalker that is giving you trouble, there aren't many answers you can have which are also enchantments. Oblivion Ring does this admirably, keeping everything from Liliana to Lightning Mauler at bay. I definitely want to keep all four, and would consider playing Detention Sphere as well if you have access to it.
This odd Return to Ravnica accelerator hasn't seen a lot of play—but it's a fantastic fit for a deck like this. Not only does it accelerate you into your key enchantments, not only does it fix your colors, but it's also an enchantment as well! It even has some aforementioned synergies with Possibility Storm. I'm happy to play all four.
These two cards serve a similar purpose: delaying the beatdown decks. While you're trying to get your Sphere engine online, these two cards can slow your opponent down and delay creature beatdown.
However, I'd rather have a more permanent solution to the creature problem. You can't afford to keep tapping mana to deter your opponent's threats in a deck with this much to do. Oblivion Ring is a nice start, but something else at a low mana cost that could help take out creatures would be nice.
What I'm looking for is a removal spell. There are plenty of options, from versatile cards like Far & Away and Izzet Charm to direct answers like Searing Spear. However, my solution is a simple one: Pacifism.
For two mana, it negates one of your opponent's creature threats. It sticks around on the table as an enchantment as well, enabling Sphere of Safety. Since this deck doesn't have Supreme Verdict, the only person who will be likely to get rid of that creature is your opponent. I'll play four copies of Pacifism here.
While innocuous, Abundant Growth serves a few different roles in this deck.
First, as a one-mana "cantrip" (a card with a small effect that draws you an extra card), it digs you a little deeper into your deck to find your key cards, or just the lands you need.
Second, it helps fix your colors of mana. The mana for Possibility Storm is a bit of a stretch, and Abundant Growth helps out.
Third, it's also an enchantment—and when your plan is to deploy a Sphere of Safety on the fifth turn, it's nice if you can have a handful of enchantments already on the board. For one mana and no cards, Abundant Growth adds one to your enchantment count. It does enough in this deck that I'll continue to play all four.
One huge downside to a deck that plans to win with Maze's End is that a bunch of your lands enter the battlefield tapped. As a result, your deck ends up running a turn behind your opponent's. Verdant Haven helps you recover that turn, accelerating your mana. It also helps put you out of burn range late in the game, and is an enchantment to boot! I'll keep the four.
The only other card I'd like to add is Urban Evolution. Not only does it accelerate you (and potentially get more Gates onto the battlefield!) but it helps you reload as well, digging you closer to your combo, Sphere of Safety, or even just the Maze's End you're looking for. I'd like to play three copies.
With all of those changes made, that brings the decklist to:
Gavin Verhey's Exhausting Race of Possibilities
Trying to win with Maze's End is a blast—and this deck makes it especially interesting because of the enchantment engine. If you've been trying to build up a Maze's End deck, this is a good place to start.
What would I do if I was looking to unbudgetize this deck? Three cards I would definitely consider are Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, and Sphinx's Revelation. Some additional board control leading into Sphinx's Revelation, to recover life and find whatever pieces you're missing, is something to consider. However, there really isn't a ton I would change—although it's on a budget, this deck does everything I'd like it to; there's nothing really out of reach at rare.
If you've been looking for a fun, budget deck to build up and play, give this one a try! It will no doubt surprise some of your opponents.
Looking for some budget inspiration? Take a look at some of the other decklists sent in this week!
Joseph Kuzmanovski's Bloodstorm
Devin Carter's Explode-y Science
Steven Webster's Rapid Legislature
Robin's Esper Tokens
Maciej Iwanski's Budget Fling
Matthew Krause's Spacey Zoomer
Wil Blank's Tibalt Red
Tibalt Adson's Endless Aurelia
Ryan Murphy's Dragonshifted
Andrew's Keep Cloning Cloning Cloning
David Yee's Rakdos Sligh
Damian Licznerski's Orzhov Power
Chris Koehn's Ghastly Realms
Brian Henning's Infinite Alchemical Confusion
There's my take on a budget Gate deck! Considering there were two restrictions this week, let's try a restrictionless Standard challenge for our next go at Standard.
Deadline: Sunday, May 26, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (You do not need to adhere to the specific numbers below, but it's just how a general decklist should look when laid out.)
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
Which deck will be featured? That's up to you! Send me your favorite Standard deck, and I'll pick one to write about! Now that the new Standard format is starting to take shape, what will rise to the top? We'll find out!
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on this article, feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums and I'll be sure to take a look. It's always great to hear from you!
I'll be back next week with a look at Modern during Modern Masters preview week. Until then, have fun running the maze!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.