For Zendikar!

Posted in Ways to Play on January 19, 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.

Friends, allies, countrymen—lend me your ears!

The Eldrazi situation on Zendikar has grown even more dire. A second Eldrazi titan rumbled—quite literally—onto the scene. With both Ulamog and now Kozilek around, Zendikar is on the verge of destruction. The Ceaseless Hunger and the Great Distortion have Zendikar firmly in their tentacles. Some, like Adam Styborski, have even begun to defect onto their side.

All will be lost. That is, unless we can stop them.

You are part of the last line of defense. Get ready, Planeswalker. Take your oath. Because it's time to retake this world.

Call the Gatewatch | Art by Yefim Kligerman

All right. So we want to take down the Eldrazi. Easier said than done.

Where do we start?

Well, there are two different paths you can walk down—nay, that you must walk down. It's a bit of a two-pronged attack: From one angle, the Allies attack and muster the full brunt of their force. That weakens the Eldrazi. Then, once their proverbial shields are down, the Gatewatch—the team of Gideon, Jace, Chandra, and Nissa—can channel all of their power to blow up those Eldrazi once and for all.

To follow suit, today we're going to take a look at two new Standard decks: one fueled by Allies and the other all about the Gatewatch coming together. Oh, and to make it even more exciting, I'm going to be using the opposite of those nasty colorless Eldrazi: five colors! It's high time for all the colors to band together to take these horrors down.

Ready? Let's hop right into it!

The Axis of Allies

When Battle for Zendikar was released, Allies were one of the clear decks to try. People have been trying to make it work ever since—and with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch, the other half of the Ally puzzle is finally here!

There are a lot of different ways you can make an Ally deck in Standard. You can pick two colors and try and beat your opponent down quickly. You can play an aggressive rally game or, thanks to Oath of the Gatewatch, a longer cohort game.

But I want to try something different. Something that really encompasses the multifaceted nature of the Allies. Something that shows off how all of Zendikar's mana is truly backing these fighters with everything it has.

Enter: General Tazri.

A creature that searches for any creature in your deck and puts it straight into your hand is baseline powerful. We print very few "tutors" (search effects that put cards into your hand) these days, and to find one this efficient is a rarity.

But Tazri is more than just that; it's the whole package that makes the card so enticing. If you do have access to all five colors of mana—relatively easy, given the current mana bases in Standard—then that other ability is a complete game ender. Giving your entire team +3/+3 (or more!) can push you through to victory early—or just let you recover from a tight spot. While normally a huge concern with playing a deck like Allies is having your board swept, Tazri singlehandedly helps you rebuild: you get to go find an Ally (that's presumably at least one other color), which will help you set up your assault again.

Oh, and did I mention you can Tazri for Tazri? While you won't want to cast the second right away—legendary rule!—it is insurance in case you think they may have a removal spell or are about to sweep the board. Cast it and see: either they don't wipe the board and you activate the WUBRG ability and potentially win, or they do and you have your backup army in your hand. It puts you in a great position either way!

Let's take a look at what exactly I'm talking about here:

Gavin Verhey's Five-Color Allies

Download Arena Decklist

Bam! This deck can play all kinds of different game plans.

Sometimes, you'll come out of the gate swinging. Curve an Expedition Envoy into a Sylvan Advocate into a Skyrider Elf backed up by Dromoka's Command or Gideon and your opponent will no doubt be on the back foot. But other times, you can play a more midrange strategy: Gideon churns out tokens, Beastcaller Savant ramps you into Tazri to find your Drana's Chosen...and then, once you've built up enough, with one Tazri activation your opponent goes down for the count!

There are definitely other ways you can go with this strategy. You could push for the token route with Unified Front—a card that is quite potent when backed up by a Warcaller or a Tazri. Gideon ain't got nothing on that kind of damage explosion!

Or, going down another route, you could put Bring to Light to good use here. Assuming you can get all five colors by turn five, it's functionally a Tazri—that can also go find a bevy of one-ofs such as Tajuru Warcaller, Resolute Blademaster, or even Planar Outburst if the situation calls for it!

If you've been looking to sign up for an Ally deck, this is definitely a place to start.

Okay, so you've used this Ally deck to bash some Eldrazi noggins in. That means it's time for step two of our plan: planeswalkers!

Your Oath, Your Victory

The namesakes of Oath of the Gatewatch are quite the front-line cards.

The four Oaths are a cycle of enchantments that improve your planeswalkers by being on the battlefield, meaning there's never been a more supported opportunity to make your Superfriends deck—or, should I say your Gatewatch deck!

Let's take a look:

Gavin Verhey's Five-Color Gatewatch Control

Download Arena Decklist

Playing all five colors of planeswalkers is a cinch thanks to Oath of Nissa, letting people into the Gatewatch easy-peasy. Sorin and Sarkhan might not be Gatewatch members—but hey, they can get in the club too, thanks to Nissa! There's no Jace; I considered Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but decided I'd rather make removal spells weak in my opponent's hand and not give them a vital target to take out—but there is his Oath. That counts, right?

If you've never played a deck like this before, first of all: it's an absolute blast! There are so many planeswalker abilities to use every turn!

But as far as the strategy goes, the idea is that planeswalkers are fundamentally inevitability machines. If left unchecked, they will win you the game. You just need to protect them and you should be set.

Between an array of token creation and some cheap board sweepers, this deck is all about keeping your planeswalkers safe. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar gets the ball rolling by pumping out 0/1 chump blockers every turn—all while building up to a threatening ultimate ability. Board-clearing cards like Radiant Flames help keep pressure off of your planeswalkers early as well. Once you have a couple planeswalkers in play and active, it's going to be difficult for your opponent to keep up.

So go ahead and take your Oath—and give this deck a spin!

United We Stand

Eldrazi got you down? Those are two takes on decks to harness Zendikar's might and fight back the scourge! And if you do it right, you should be able to go right under the Eldrazi threat and get the engines on these two decks rolling before Ulamog and Kozilek's gang even know what hit them. The might of our flesh and stone shall take down these sinewy beasts from the Blind Eternities—I have a good feeling about this one.

May the odds truly be ever in your favor.

I hope you enjoyed these fresh takes on Standard! I always love hearing from all of you out there what you thought, so feel free to contact me! You can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with a look at building decks with an eye toward multiplayer Magic. Whether you're a fan of Commander, Star, or just a plain ol' free-for-all brawl, you'll want to check it out.

Have fun this Oath of the Gatewatch Release Week, and talk with you again soon!




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