The Secret Standard Gems of Oath of the Gatewatch

Posted in Top Decks on February 26, 2016

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.

Oath of the Gatewatch has been out for over a month now—but the exploration with the set is far from over.

I'm always on the lookout for sleeper cards: cards that are flying under the radar, just waiting to break out. Some more innocuous than others, they're the backbone of resurgent strategies to certainly keep your eye on.

Since the Pro Tour was Modern for Oath of the Gatewatch (and what a Pro Tour it was!), the pros didn't explore Standard quite as much—which means there's an even better chance some undiscovered technology is just waiting to rise from the depths!

So, which cards might be the sleepers?

Well, today I'm going to show off a couple of decks that feature a plethora of cards I'd be watching if I were you. So why delay? Let's hop right in to it!

The first card up on the docket: Dimensional Infiltrator!

My, my. What an unusual card this is.

Buried underneath all of those wonky words is a potential powerhouse, waiting to soar onto the scene.

Let's walk through it.

First, it's a two-mana 2/1 with flash and flying. Now, that's nothing absurd to write home about (I mean, that'd be ridiculous anyway—"Dear Mom, today I saw a Dimensional Infiltrator..."), but they're definitely very serviceable stats. It can clock in for some damage, and is one of those cards that can quickly whittle away your opponent's life without them even noticing, like some kind of boiling frog. (Well, the implied metaphor, anyway. Turns out that age-old metaphor is not actually true.)

I mean, how many games have you lost just to Snapcaster Mage beatdown? Admit it. It's happened to all of us. One moment you're at 20, and a few tempo-laden turns later you're the wrong side of a Lightning Bolt from being dead.

Okay, but the stats aren't why you're playing this. No. On top of that, you have an unusual ability. It does two things effectively:

  1. Protect itself!
  2. Exile cards from the top of your opponent's library!

Now, that first bit means this is a good repeated threat out of a tempo or midrange deck; the second means that it's good with Eldrazi Processors.

Put those two facts together and something begins to crystalize: it's time to try this card in an ingest/process Eldrazi deck. It's a perfect fit!

I would start with something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Infiltration Process

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This deck definitely comes out of nowhere to win its games. It looks like a group of relatively small Eldrazi—and yet, assuming they're harmless might be your opponent's first mistake.

Sure, you might only attack for 3 damage one turn. But then your opponent casts a spell, and you have the ammo to Ulamog's Nullifier it. Then you attack for 5. They cast a spell. You counter that one, too. Suddenly, you equip a Ghostfire Blade and swing and they're clutching their last few life points like a handbag. Tempo is certainly the plan here.

Ghostfire Blade is a real piece of the puzzle in this case, equipping for just one mana to provide +2/+2 on any of your creatures. Many games can be carried by a flier with the blade alone.

And while the Infiltrator is what caught my eye for building this deck, it's far from the only sparkling diamond you may not be playing with. Another card I'd like to call attention to here is Bearer of Silence.

This is another card I'd definitely call an unheralded gem of Oath of the Gatewatch. It's a built-in two-for-one: you get a 2/1 flying body, and they lose a creature. Gatekeeper of Malakir was a Constructed all-star, and this Eldrazi certainly has the goods to play the part.

Bearer would likely already be seeing play elsewhere if the metagame didn't have plenty of stray creatures to sacrifice around. I'd definitely keep my eye on this one going forward—and I think you'll find that it is quite effective in this deck!

Another new card here that hasn't been showcased to its full potential is Ruins of Oran-Rief.

Any land that gives you a positive effect on top of producing mana is at least worth looking at. One that affects the board permanently, even more so!

Ruins lets you pump up any colorless creature that you just played—which, in this deck, is all of them! It helps give you an even greater edge if the game happens to go long as you turn every creature you draw into a stat monster that's above the curve.

But enough about Eldrazi. How about something on the other side of the Zendikar fence? Something a little...tribal?

That's right: it's time to zoom in on Stoneforge Masterwork!

This card isn't exactly subtle about what it's trying to do. It wants to go in a deck that really focuses on one tribe of creature and then serve as a way to give a creature +4/+4 or more and kill your opponent with just a couple hits.

Now, being in Zendikar and all that, the natural thing to consider is Allies. There are plenty of them running around, after all!

However, I have something different in mind. A deck that was pretty close before Battle for Zendikar released, then was shelved for a little while—and now is poised to make a comeback!

The deck in question? Elves!

Check out this decklist:

Gavin Verhey's Flesh and Stoneforge

Download Arena Decklist

Lands, Elves, and a tribal Equipment. Now we're talking!

Elves has access to a number of cards that are widely off-limits in Standard these days. A one-drop mana producer in Gnarlroot Trapper, a strong Equipment that makes your creatures hit hard in Stoneforge Masterwork, and plenty of creatures that generate a card's worth of value—or more!

This deck can come barreling out of the gates by building wide and getting a full board quickly. Big creatures get in the way? Well, a surprise breakout card that can push it over the top is Tajuru Warcaller. It's like a repeated Overrun on a creature!

While the Warcaller triggers off of Allies, it is an Elf—and some other Elves in the deck happen to be Allies as well. For example, this little number:

This new card from Oath of the Gatewatch is an Elf powerhouse. A two-mana 2/3 with vigilance is above the curve already. It's a totally fine way to just kick off the game on turn two and begin your beatdown.

Then if you happen to flood out, late game it turns into a 4/5—which also makes your Hissing Quagmires legitimate threats! Yikes! This card can do some serious work.

Sylvan Advocate is the kind of card that isn't just for Elf decks: it's plenty good on its own! But the fact that it's an Elf kicks it up a notch even further in this strategy.

So go forth! Beat down! May the Elves find you your victory.

And with that, we find ourselves at the end of this article.

These are just two examples of decks to give a try with Oath of the Gatewatch...but that's far from all to explore! As we start to head into the mid-stride of this Standard season, there are still plenty of decks left to uncover.

I'd love to know what secret Oath of the Gatewatch tech you're playing with right now! Send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr about what you're playing with. It'd be great to see what you're doing with the set!

I'll be back next week to talk about a few different formats beyond Standard. Talk to you again then. In the meantime, have fun building with Oath of the Gatewatch!




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