Well It's Been Amazeing

Posted in Reconstructed on August 26, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Before Return to Ravnica rotates out of Standard, let's throw one more party for the plane, shall we?

There are a lot of good options to throw a party on Ravnica. Those Rakdos know how to have a blood-drenched good time, and the Izzet always have a new trick up their ever-expanding sleeves. Even the Dimir can party it up—they have the best nightclubs on Ravnica, of course.

But, when it comes right down to it, there's no better place to send off Ravnica than somewhere central and crucial to the plane. Somewhere where all the gates of the guilds touch.

And by that, of course I mean the Maze's End.

JT's Maze's End

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The Battle Plan

Ah, yes. Maze's End. And perhaps it's no surprise to you then that a plethora of Fogs and their brethren follow close behind. (The Maze, appropriately enough, does usually tend to be the foggiest part of Ravnica.)

Maze's End | Art by Cliff Childs

This deck plays out like a Turbo-Fog deck. By using Fog and Fog variants, it renders attacks continually useless. Combine that with card drawing and some lifegain, and you can keep safely out of reach from any aggressive assault.

This deck ultimately kills you with...Guildgates. Between Maze's End and Crackling Perimeter, your lands do most of the work here. So many control decks will have trouble fighting off this kind of assault. Against them, it's even possible to win without casting a single spell. If you are having trouble with decks like Ivan Floch's white-blue deck, this is a pretty good trump to it.

That's right: no creatures needed. This odd strategy negates attack after attack, keeping your army of Fogs loaded, and then wins with its lands. Unusual...but effective!

The key with decks like this is tuning their efficiency. What is it missing? What could it be doing better? Putting a bunch of Fogs and Maze's End into a deck is one thing, but what does it need to run optimally? Let's take a closer look!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards should stay and which ones should get lost in the maze? Let's go through this deck card by card and see!

Gatecreeper Vine

Ah, the little Vine that could! I remember I was enamored with this card all the way through development and even once the set was released. Good times.

In this deck, it primary mission is to go fetch you another of your myriad gates. The thing is, I already feel fairly confident about my ability to use other cards to secure my land drops. Once Maze's End is rolling, it's fairly easy to make sure you play a land every turn.

Instead of another way to get lands, I would rather add something to speed me up. Because of all the "enters the battlefield tapped" lands that this deck has to play, a lot of the time you're playing a turn behind. While it's certainly not the most original innovation, Sylvan Caryatid really does help out here: it blocks some pesky early creatures while accelerating you forward. I'd rather have the full boat of Caryatids.

And "Carrie" doesn't come onto the scene without at least talking about her partner in crime, Courser of Kruphix. Carrie and "Kroo" are one powerful Standard duo, the pair seeing play in most green decks—and for good reason.

Here, the lovely enchantment Centaur actually fits in extremely well. With Maze's End active, you get a lot of shuffles to look at the top of your deck to try and get it to be what you want, and activating Maze's End plus replaying it gives you 2 life per turn. One of the primary ways a Turbo-Fog-style deck can lose to aggressive decks is if it gets burned out (and boosting your life above burn range is a welcome addition). Plus, the card advantage of sifting through your lands a turn early is rather excellent as well. Another way this deck will often lose is mana flood, and this Centaur helps mitigate that as well.

Is it without risk? Well, no; playing a targetable creature turns on the myriad of potential Ultimate Prices and Doom Blades your opponent might be holding. Traditionally, Turbo-Fog draws on the strength of making all of those cards dead in your opponent's hand.

However, if it's early on and the opponent is spending time doing that and not doing something else, that's actually pretty okay. The lifegain and card quality is important enough that I'm willing to open myself up to some spot removal. Four copies it is!

Archaeomancer

This 'mancer is filling a selection role: pulling back Fogs or card drawing as necessary.

While I agree this kind of effect can be good here, Archaeomancer isn't really the card I'm looking for. At four mana, it snags me a low-relevance body and only one card back. However, there is a card in this spot that I am very excited about: Restock!

For just one more mana than Archaeomancer, Restock brings back an additional card—which makes all of the difference. Additionally, it can bring back anything—which means if a crucial Gate gets discarded, or you just want to reload on Courser of Kruphix, Restock can help you out there. I'd like three Restocks: the full set is going to provide too many Restock-heavy hands (and often it's a six- or seven-mana card, casting it with mana up to Fog still) but I'm happy to draw multiples over the course of the game.

Fog, Defend the Hearth, Druid's Deliverance, and Riot Control

Ah, the Fogs of the strategy.

These are crucial to the game plan, of course, but here are the questions: Do we need all of them? Are these the right ones?

Fog, the classic one of the lot, is definitely one I would like to keep. For just one mana, it shuts down an attack, prevents damage to players and Planeswalkers, and is also called Fog. (If your deck doesn't contain actual Fog, then making Fog-related jokes becomes a lot less tenable.)

After that, there's a bit of a scrum to see which sticks. Druid's Deliverance and Defend the Hearth are basically the same card in this deck (although Deliverance is just a tad better under the off chance you accidentally end up with some, say, Kraken tokens—more on that later). Riot Control has the downside of costing three mana and being white to cast but with the reasonable upside of lifegain.

I think sixteen is actually a little too high on the Fog count: you need to be doing other things early on to make all of the Fogging you're doing relevant. I'd be fine to trim down to fourteen. Additionally, after playing this kind of deck, I'd like a pair of Ætherspouts. They're a bit expensive to cast, but they also protect Planeswalkers (more foreshadowing!) and make your opponent play in fear. You know what they say: "Give a man an Ætherspouts and he'll know it exists, but destroy a man with Ætherspouts and he'll be terrified of attacking for the rest of his life."

Where I ended up is 4 Fog, 4 Druid's Deliverance, 3 Riot Control, 2 Ætherspouts, and 1 Defend the Hearth. I don't feel the need for the full boat of Riot Control because it's a bit more expensive than the others, and you do absolutely need to make sure you have enough early-game Fogs to keep things covered. That's where the single Defend the Hearth comes in. I could see playing a second if necessary, or another Riot Control in a burn-heavy format, but I'm overall happy with this mix.

Uncovered Clues

It does a good job of fitting into the Maze's End theme. However, it does a less spectacular job of fitting into the deck. Especially with more creatures than before, there are going to be better draw options than this one.

Urban Evolution

Pushing ahead to your win condition so that you don't have to wait out the maximum number of turns is important, and Urban Evolution helps with that. Netting you some cards and also being so kind as to provide an extra land drop, this kind of role is important in the deck.

And I think some other cards can provide it even better.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave is a Planeswalker who makes a big impact. In addition to shutting down individual creatures and being a bit of a fog machine herself, she can also cast Explore quite well. She's a great card to follow up with on the heels of a Courser, gaining you an extra life and giving you extra looks for a land. Her ultimate even gives you an extra way to try and navigate for a win if your Maze's End strategy is hindered somehow.

While it's important to note that only Fog and Ætherspouts protect her (although I find many opponents don't realize that) early game, she's strong on her own, and late game you can set yourself up to protect her with a Fog and she will get the job done.

Another card I'd like to add in is Sphinx's Revelation. This incredibly powerful draw spell lets you dig deep, clinching the midgame by ensuring you have whatever you need and gaining you life to push you out of burn range. (And especially Gray Merchant of Asphodel range, which is crucial.) After playing this deck with Sphinx's Revelation, it's difficult to play without it. Not only can you make the common chain of Revelation into Revelation, but Revelationing into a Restock is plenty strong as well. Adding Kiora and Sphinx's Revelation strengthens the deck even further.

I'm going to keep one Evolution because I want one more large card-drawing spell and it's a good option for that, but Kiora and Sphinx's Revelation mostly take center stage here.

Unexpected Results

How...Unexpected!

In a deck full of Fog effects, this is going to not do anything a lot of the time. While the potential of hitting a land and ramping up is nice, so often it's going to miss that I'm not particularly interested in this sort of card.

Dictate of Kruphix

In almost all Turbo-Fog decks, this would be an auto-include and a crucial piece of the machinations. Traditionally, Turbo-Fog relies on the "Howling Mines" to ensure its steady stream of Fogs keeps coming.

Well, I'm going to let you in on a secret. This deck isn't really Turbo-Fog, regardless of the fact that I've been calling it that to appease my own egomania of making Fog references at every turn. (And nothing is more important than my own egomania.)

This is a strange kind of Fog deck—one that is content chaining Fogs for eight turns in a row and casting Sphinx's Revelation over and over again, until eventually you win from Maze's End. Your methods to keep the Fogs coming is elsewhere and, unlike many Turbo-Fog decks, you have no grand ambitions of decking your opponent. This is a more proactive strategy than that.

Although it's certainly not what you would expect, I'm actually going to cut the Dictate here. I don't need my opponent drawing more cards that could bail him or her out when I already have many tools that make sure my card quality is sound.

Crackling Perimeter

One of the main advantages of using Maze's End as a win condition at all is that you can play zero actual win conditions that eat up your spell slots. As a result, playing Crackling Perimeter actually defeats a bit of the point of jumping through all of those hoops instead of just playing a normal Turbo-Fog deck with a pair of Ætherlings or something. And yes, occasionally Ashiok will show up and completely ruin your day by nabbing all of your Gates and you will have to try to somehow miraculously set up a Kiora ultimate, but I'm willing to take that problem (which can be sideboarded against) in exchange for having a clean main deck.

And speaking of clean main decks, something I'd like to go through and do is reduce each Guildgate to one copy. You'll still have plenty of Gates flowing about, and having the option to put some more lands into play untapped is very useful. Yes, Ashiok is a problem. I'm willing to admit that and move on, instead of crossing my fingers and hoping my opponents don't hit two of the same Guildgate with Ashiok. I'd also like a couple more lands, especially now with Gatecreeper Vine gone.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Ravnica Has Been A-maze-ing

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This deck is pretty well set up against burn and a lot of aggressive decks. I'd be sure to watch out for Planeswalker ultimates, though, as you don't have many good answers for them. If you're concerned about that, you could always try playing some copies of Dissolve, Detention Sphere, and/or Cyclonic Rift as solutions.

If you're looking for a wild deck to go out to FNM with for the next few weeks, this is a fun option. Fog only tends to be viable when the card pool is this large, so it might be a while until you see this kind of deck again—have fun!

Honorable Mentions

Fog not quite your kind of card, but still looking for something to carry out of Ravnica with a bang? Try working with one of these!

Keisuke Onoyama's Gamble Bomb

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Qoarl's Calling the Visionary

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Kento Hatao's Jarad, the Catapult

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POSValkir's Wasting Madness

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Toyoharu Sonohara's Master of Infinite

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Van Mamokhan's Simic Aggro

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Mike Everett's Exava Beats

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Zack Reph's Infinite Genius

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Hayashi Tezzo's Crucible of Firemind

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Hoser2's Soldiers of the Tenth

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Yvo Warners's One Last Epic Experiment

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Jon Mathison's Sac 'Em 'n Snack 'Em: WBG Aristocrats

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Shota Sugawara's Beck! Beck! Beck!

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MacSquizzy's Waste No Madness

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Takahiro Machida's 5-Damage Festival

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Out of the City, into the Wilds

That last decklist there brought a smile to my face: Havoc Festival—my first card—premiered in Return to Ravnica and now it is about to rotate out of Standard! I guess that's a sign I've officially been at this a while.

But Khans of Tarkir block still has plenty more exciting pieces (some of which are my handiwork!) to unfurl that I'm just as excited about. I'm thrilled to be able to show you a card from the block (and from my clan!) next week.

There's no challenge this week, as we wait for Tarkir to descend upon us. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or comments on this article (or anything, really), feel free to send them my way, either as a tweet or a question on my Tumblr, and I'll be sure to take a look.

If you're at PAX this weekend, be sure to come check out the Magic booth—and the Khans of Tarkir activities that will grant you entrance into the fabled Magic PAX party! There's one station for each clan, each complete with its own challenge for you to overcome to gain its favor. I'll be manning the Sultai station—if you're there, feel free to come and say hi! Or, if that doesn't work out, just find me at the party once you're awash in the light of all the revealed Khans of Tar