Days of Future Future: Oath of the Gatewatch

Posted in Latest Developments on February 19, 2016

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

It's time once again for Days of Future Future, the time when I revisit some of our Future Future League Standard testing, focusing on cards from Oath of the Gatewatch.

As always when reading a Future Future League article, keep in mind that many of these decks are not tuned. They are also full of cards that were stronger than they are now, and often are missing real-world cards that were changed later in development. They are also reacting to a slightly different metagame than what the real world has come up with, so don't expect to take these decklists to your local tournament and demolish everyone. The goal of every deck isn't to be the strongest deck in the environment, it's to try and learn something. While we do occasionally hold tournaments that give us an idea of what the strongest deck is, we have found that getting a feel for what is possible and how good the individual cards are leads to a better Standard environment. If a deck looks like it is missing a card, it may very well be! In many cases, these decks—and some pieces they were missing—were the motivation for us to tweak or add a card to a set.

I'm sharing these decks to help give some insights into what we were thinking, and maybe show off some cool cards that haven't made it into the real world just yet. This isn't an exhaustive list of all of the decks we were playing, but rather a peek at some of the decks that I have something interesting to say about. I hope you enjoy this trip down my memory lane.

Getting a Handle on Beatdown

Aggro. Good old aggro. As a general rule, aggro decks are some of the easiest to build, because their game plan is so proactive, as opposed to reactive like a control deck. We don't always get these right, but they are a great point to start as a benchmark. Much like how in the real world the aggro decks show up early and then other decks figure out how to deal with them, we often start off with strong aggro decks then spend a few weeks figuring out how to make the other decks work.

Atarka Red

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We got a lot of things right on this version as compared to the real world, but we were not playing the Become Immense/Temur Battle Rage combo the real world has currently been focusing on. Even with that difference, this ended up as a great baseline deck for the format.

We had a lot more kinds of aggro decks than just the Atarka's Command type of deck. We also had various versions of black-red aggro that focused on colorless cards and Ghostfire Blade.

Black-Red Eldrazi

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We want more decks than just burn decks, though. We also like to have decks that feature aggressive strategies, but that use disruption instead of burn to close games out. They are generally weaker against the more hyper-aggressive decks, but stronger against control and ramp decks.

While this deck never quite worked, it was a fun diversion from the regular play patterns.

Aggressive Disruption

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It wasn't just decks with Processors, however. We also had decks that looked much more like traditional decks, in this case a blue-red deck focused around colorless-matters.

Blue-Red Devoid

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This combination of Brutal Expulsion to keep people from casting their big spells and burn to deal with blockers let this deck win with powerful haymakers.

Revisiting the Classics

When we move to a new FFL period, the first thing we do is take our old decks and make a few updates to see how the new cards may play into the old decks.

Eldrazi Displacer is a powerful card in a deck that can take advantage of repeated enters-the-battlefield effects, in this case Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc, while using the Displacer to deal with opposing tokens and Hangarback Walkers.

Abzan Eldrazi

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Our version of the Nantuko Husk deck is different than the real world. We were much less ambitious with our mana base, focusing on the deck being about a ton of value rather than Rally the Ancestors. I am pretty sure the real world got this one more correct than we did, but it provided a good baseline and informed us that we should print cards such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Flaying Tendrils to deal with decks like this.

Black-Green Sacrifice

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Our baseline for a control deck was Esper Dragons, a deck we identified as not getting a ton of stuff from Oath of the Gatewatch; it mostly got some more versatile removal. It may not be revolutionary, but having decks like this is important to keeping our FFL metagame as accurate as possible.

Esper Dragons Control

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Believe in Big Things

If there is one thing that Zendikar is about, it's Eldrazi—and we had a number of decks focused on ramping into big Eldrazi. See the Unwritten and Nissa's Revelation were our weapons of choice to get more value than just casting a big Eldrazi. The red in this version allows for some huge power against aggro decks, with both Dragonlord Atarka and Kozilek's Return.

Red-Green Ramp

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By removing red mana from the equation and just using colorless mana cards, we could play some Wastes and reliably use Ruin in Their Wake to speed up the ramp, and get to casting big spells as soon as possible.

Green Colorless Ramp

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It wasn't all about just ramping out Eldrazi, however. Chandra, Flamecaller (much like Elspeth, Sun's Champion before her) is one of the strongest six-drops that you can ramp to in Standard. To take advantage of her, we made ramp decks trying to use a turn-two mana creature, followed by Kiora, Master of the Depths and a turn-four Chandra. Two planeswalkers in play on turn four is nothing to sneeze at, though the deck was far more vulnerable to mana problems than the other ramp decks.

Temur Ramp

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Finally, we had ramp decks that didn't even use any non-colorless mana. There were a ton of very powerful colorless-producing lands that allowed this deck to have reasonably large creatures, while also being able to follow up with powerful effects from its lands.

Colorless Ramp

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Off the Wall

Of course, we need to try more than just the ol' tried and true. We also try things a little more crazy and off the beaten path. While these individual decks have a low chance of being a "real" deck in Standard, we like to take enough shots at making sure they have the cards available to work in certain metagames to ensure that a few of them will.

The first deck involves Starfield of Nyx and returning the Oaths, all of which have powerful ETB effects. This one just focuses on white-blue, but could easily be made with green to get some more card advantage.

White-Blue Starfield Control

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The Oaths also led to the much-expected Superfriends deck—a deck that attempted to use a lot of the Oaths to maximize the use of all of the most powerful planeswalkers in Standard.


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Finally, we also had a number of decks trying out the surge mechanic, getting as much use out of it (and Jori En, Ruin Diver) as possible. The below list admittedly had some cards change, so the curve isn't quite the same—but it provided the ability to get pretty far ahead if left to its own devices for a turn or two.

Blue-Red Surge

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That's it for this week. Next week I'll be talking a bit about some of the challenges of working with the two-block model and what we learned from Oath of the Gatewatch.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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