Exploring Oath Of The Gatewatch: Green And Colorless!

You want more Oath of the Gatewatch Standard goodness for #SCGATL? Patrick Chapin is ready! Colorless promises to be a huge part of the deal, and The Innovator is ready to roll them out!

Green is a pretty important color in Oath of the Gatewatch.

Well, “green,” anyway, since some of the best green stuff has the special ability “isn’t green.”

That said, colorless is a pretty good color, too…

Today, I’d like to take a look at the Oath of the Gatewatch cards that require green mana to cast, as well as the spells that don’t require any colored mana at all. We started off with white on Monday, which sort of necessarily brushed up against some cards from the other colors. As always, our focus is on figuring out how to use the new cards, rather than dismissing them.

The most obvious place to start, in green, is with some sort of Eldrazi Ramp deck. After all, green-based Eldrazi Ramp was already a Tier 1 strategy, and to say it gained some new tools would be an understatement.

Kozilek is a messed up Magic card.

It’s not just that a 12/12 that requires two creatures to block and can counter spells for zero mana pretty easily is a big threat… And it is…

…It’s that even if somehow that’s not enough, you get to fill your hand up to seven just for casting Kozilek, regards of counterspells or removal.

That Kozilek costs two explicitly colorless mana to cast isn’t much of a drawback, since anyone getting up to ten mana is usually pretty capable of producing some amount of colorless. A Shrine of the Forsaken Gods does it all by itself.

Kozilek doesn’t just obsolete Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, though. They both cost ten and are incredible, but Ulamog impacts a very different axis. Ulamog isn’t as slam-dunk when you are winning as Kozilek, but it can be a bigger deal when you’re losing. Exiling two permanents is big, and the attack trigger on the indestructible Ulamog is serious business. Generally speaking, Kozilek has a lot more power, but it is clumsy and weird. Ulamog, on the other hand, is precision. He gives you the exact sort of thing you are looking for, just with a lot less overall power than Kozilek.

I like a mix of both, particularly when you have Sanctum of Ugin to help go find the one that’s better from a given position. I very much like having at least two of each, but if we wanted a fifth, my first instinct is to make it a Kozilek.

Here’s a possible home for Kozilek:

We were already used to splashing red for a three-mana “deal two damage to all creatures” card, so Kozilek’s Return is a pretty clear upgrade.

Being an instant is a big deal, but then we also get an uncounterable, free sweeper for five damage the turn we drop something bigger. It may seem like, “well, we just dropped an Eldrazi, do we need the help?” The thing is, you do. It’s not like an Eldrazi is just automatically game over. Drawing a new hand with Kozilek is awesome, but it’s even better if you also killed your opponent’s Siege Rhino. It’s kind of amusing that Kozilek can actually discard Kozilek’s Return to counter a three-cost spell, and then when you untap and drop Ulamog, you get to sweep the board, too.

Okay, at that point, you might already be doing pretty well…

Of course, it’s not just the ten-drops that trigger the return. World Breaker is a versatile seven drop that actually does a lot of different jobs, not to mention threatening to trigger Kozilek’s Return earlier than expected.

World Breaker is a lot more than just a 5/7 for seven. To begin with, you get an uncounterable Creeping Mold just for casting it… Well, actually, it’s better than that, since World Breaker exiles its target. Exile whichever land you want, and now your Oblivion Sower can steal it! World Breaker triggering Sanctum of Ugin is kind of interesting in a Ramp showdown, since you can exile one of their lands and then search up another World Breaker to ensure they can’t get going.

World Breaker also has reach, which is a big deal for Eldrazi Ramp decks that otherwise have a real shortage of anti-flying options. Yes, once you get to ten mana, you can Ulamog away most things, but there is a real vulnerability in the turns prior to that. For instance, just look how annoying Inverter of Truth can be for an Eldrazi Ramp deck.

Because it’s a 6/6, Kozilek’s Return won’t kill it. Because it’s colorless, Ugin can’t exile it. Because it flies, next to nothing in our deck can block it. Because it costs just four mana, Ulamog has little hope of showing up in time to save us. Who cares that Inverter of Truth might make them die in five turns? Ulamog was going to do that, anyway.

Sure, we could play another Dragonlord Atarka, which could theoretically block, but even Dragonlord Atarka’s five-damage ability doesn’t kill the Inverter and the Dragonlord is a bit less appealing now that we have Kozilek’s Return (although still a good option). The point, though, is that a 5/7 reach is respectable, under the circumstances.

Of course, World Breaker has one more little trick: the recursion. In long, drawn-out attrition battles, World Breaker keeps coming back and helps ensure that we never run out of gas. The thing that keeps me from playing too many, though, is that Dragonlord Atarka and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon have such better rates. We really are just prioritizing triggering Kozilek’s Return and Sanctum of Ugin (as well as having a choice Sanctum tutor target).

If we just want a bunch of big bodies to Kozilek’s Return early and often, Deceiver of Form is a lot bigger and has an ability that can win the game out of nowhere. That said, it’s a very clunky and blunt instrument.

A little draw smoothing helps a lot. This lets us draw Shrine of the Forsaken Gods more often, while also helping us find our ten-mana Eldrazi when we already have plenty of mana. This list is generally about 97% to hit at least one creature, planeswalker, or land when it plays Oath of Nissa, and 76% to hit two or more. We’re even over 30% to flip a full three. It’s particularly nice for ensuring we hit our land drops early, since even if we see no land in the top three, we have a fresh card on top of our deck (as opposed to three non-land cards in a row, like we used to have).

This build also attempts to leverage Evolving Wilds and Wastes to build a Rampant Growth out of Ruin in Their Wake.

With four Evolving Wilds and two Wastes, we’re already over 54% to have a Wastes turn 1, not to mention Oath of Nissa finding one. This means our Ruin in Their Wake is a Rampant Growth more often than not, in a format that is used to dealing with that sort of effect costing three mana. Even if we don’t already have a Wastes, Ruin in Their Wake can find one so that the second one is powered up, as can Explosive Vegetation.

Even if we use our Evolving Wilds to find Wastes for our Ruin in Their Wake on turn 2, we can still do things like turn 3 Pulse of Murasa, gaining six and getting back our Evolving Wilds. We can even play the Wilds that same turn and go find the Mountain.

This card is so underrated. Seriously, gaining six life at instant speed is often going to be better than drawing a card. Getting back a creature or a land of your choice is also often going to be better than drawing a card. Early on, need more mana? Get back a fetchland. Later, need a threat? Get back your best creature. Already played both Ulamogs? Get one back. Since it can target opponents, you could even get to weird corner cases where you counter someone’s Necromantic Summons.

Remember Renewed Faith? It was often right to just cast it for six life. Imagine getting to draw a card on top of that, and with selection! Cycling Renewed Faith was sweet and a mana cheaper, but that’s just two life, not six. There are all sorts of decks that might be possible when fueled with such a powerful lifegain and graveyard recursion card. Not to get too far from the Eldrazi Ramp stuff, but just brainstorming:

Pulse of Murasa is an awesome spell to cast off of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and an awesome way to get your Jace back if your opponent kills him. Den Protector goes even a step further with its recursive capabilities when paired with Pulse. You can Den Protector back the Pulse, and then if they ever kill the Protector, run the rebuys again.

Since Pulse is an instant, you can always just cash it in later if stuff goes south in a hurry. Just think how awesome it will be to respond to your opponent’s Kolaghan’s Command, making you discard a card and take two. You can just get back a card to discard while gaining six and pulling ahead. Even if they just surprise you with a Become Immense out of nowhere, it’s nice to be able to gain a bunch of life and stay in the game.

Nissa is a cool one, since the early Nissa can help set you up. Later, once you’ve got plenty of mana, you can Pulse your Nissa back, cast it, and play the Forest you find as your seventh land, flipping her. Similarly, you might discard a Dragonlord Silumgar to your Jace early and later get back the Dragonlord at an opportune moment.

Getting back lands is more than just recycling fetchlands, too (although that does help). After all, creature-lands can die in combat. It’s just sweet that when you need mana, it can get you more. When you need threats, it can get you more. When you are losing, it gives you six life while progressing your game plan. When you are winning, it helps snowball an advantage while removing counterplay.

Verdict: Staple(!) and one of the most underrated cards in the set.

Jumping back to the Eldrazi, I wonder what else we might be able to do with Wastes. For instance:

Is this real life?

Umm, what?! This card is bananers. Like, seriously, they let just anyone get five-power haste creatures for five with multiple upsides? What happened to Stormbreath Dragon being a prestigious threat?

Verdict: A defining threat in multiple formats!

Okay, I guess R&D is serious about this whole “Eldrazi” thing. It’s a 4/4 Vendilion Clique, but they don’t even get the replacement card unless they can kill the Seer (which is far from a given). Yes, you can’t hit yourself, and it doesn’t have flash, but it’s freaking colorless discard, not to mention exiling the card for processing. Tidehollow Sculler was a very potent card and Thought-Knot Seer is better.

Verdict: Cross-format all-star.

The hits keep coming for the Eldrazi, as Matter Reshaper is a great way to bridge the first few turns. A three-power creature that draws a card when it dies would already be attractive, but Matter Reshaper can sort of give us a Black Lotus (when we reveal another Matter Reshaper) or a Mox (when we reveal a land, which then goes straight into play, ramping us into Reality Smasher). Let’s put it this way. Matter Reshaper isn’t the least Bloodbraidy of the bunch…

If we commit to an all-basic land manabase, Walker of the Wastes is a 9/9 trampler (or bigger) for five mana, which is definitely something. Having all colorless lands isn’t the end of the world, since “colorless” is basically a color now and has plenty of spell-like abilities.

Eldrazi Mimic loves Walker of the Wastes, where suddenly our two-drop is attacking for nine or more out of nowhere. Even when we don’t draw our 9/9, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are aggressive threats that can really make Eldrazi Mimic hit hard. Remember, if you Spatial Contortion your Reality Smasher in response to the Mimic copy, you end up with two eight-power creatures attacking that turn!

An enormous body has some appeal, particularly if a lot of our opponents are just trying to race us by dropping a Reality Smasher or something. In general, though, I think we’re better off spreading our power out across all the awesome lands we could be playing instead of all basics. Besides, that’s a lot of five-drops.

Instead, I’m thinking more like:

Why bother playing zero colors? Because look at our lands! We can get away with playing 27 land in an aggro deck, but we basically can’t flood out. All of our lands do stuff!

Sea Gate Wreckage is just more powerful than the other lands, so it’s got that going for it. It gives us power exactly where we want it. Awesome card. It even comes into play untapped…

Another card that gives us what we want and helps pay us off for going to all the trouble. That it enters the battlefield tapped is a real cost, though, so edge to Sea Gate Wreckage. That said, a zero-color deck trivially plays the full eight. Remember to get extra value out of Eldrazi Mimic by getting the counter in response to the Mimic trigger!

The whole tapped thing starts to add up, so maybe we’re supposed to trim one for another Shrine of the Forsaken Gods or something, but I don’t hate aiming high on this one to start. While blue decks will generally want to copy Dig Through Time when they play Mirrorpool, we’re mostly looking to copy our threats (and at instant speed).

Copy a Thought-Knot Seer during their draw step? Sorry about that whammy…

Copy a Reality Smasher during your precombat main phase? Well, I guess this leaves us enough time to go to the concession stand!

Note: making the token at instant speed powers up our Eldrazi Mimic!

All this said, there’s nothing wrong with just cashing it in for a second Spatial Contortion when you need to kill both Mantis Riders.

● Quality removal for cheap

● Kills Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

● Can give us a surprise three damage out of nowhere on our Reality Smasher (or six, when we have an Eldrazi Mimic and seven mana)

● Stops people from exiling our Matter Reshaper or Hangarback Walker

● Can be quality removal, depending on what people play

● Kills Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Exiles, so good against Ojutai’s Command or Kolaghan’s Command

● Combines with Spatial Contortion to kill a huge range of threats, like Anafenza, the Foremost

● Counters Explosive Vegetation and Nissa’s Pilgrimage

● Also counters Crux of Fate and Planar Outburst

● Can surprise produce a blocker or an attacker to pick up all these Ghostfire Blades and attack

● Can be a surprise mana accelerator, letting us Reality Smasher a turn early

A lot weirder of a card and less obviously right in the format, but it’s nice to have interaction despite the lack of colored mana. That said, what if we didn’t stick to zero colors?

You can potentially splash any color with Eldrazi and get something out of it. With green, we gain Oath of Nissa (finding more Sea Gate Wreckages and Ruins of Oran-Rief, not to mention Reality Smasher), as well as a couple more Eldrazi.

This isn’t the most breathtaking rate, but at least it’s a convenient size and cost. It is nice that we can pump it in response to a Mimic trigger for some extra stats.

Okay, now we’re talking. A 3/3 flash is already not embarrassing, and this ability can be huge against sweepers. That it’s a colorless creature we can play at instant speed makes Eldrazi Mimic a scarier threat whenever we have three mana showing.

While green has a few cards to add to the mix, I don’t think I like it as much as just playing zero colors. We can try other colors or more colors. Because the Eldrazi are just weird like that, let’s jump up to two plus zero:

Adding blue to the mix really pushes the flash aspect of the deck to the limits.

To start with, a 2/4 flash body is going to eat more than its fair share of creatures, like Zurgo Bellstriker and Gideon tokens (as would Vile Redeemer), but that it’s a 2/4 actually makes it a lot harder to deal with. It can neither be Fiery Impulsed nor Abzan Charmed. It’s also nice that our Eldrazi Mimic has more than one trick and size it can become for instant-speed transformation.

Void Grafter is more than just a 2/4 flash, however. Giving a creature hexproof? That is a very non-trivial ability. Just imagine anyone targeting Thought-Knot Seer, ever? I mean, for a good time, walk through what happens when they target Reality Smasher

Flying is a nice dimension to add to our strategy, but the Infiltrator is capable of more. The blinking ability is somewhat reminiscent of Frenetic Efreet (though it could also be a source of processor fuel if we were leaning a little more Blight Herder or whatever). The body may not seem like a combo with Eldrazi Mimic, but Ruins of Oran-Rief can change that.

It’s not a breathtaking rate or anything, but it is the right cost, considering we’re also representing Vile Redeemer and Void Grafter. It’s also nice that we can cast it off our Corrupted Crossroads.

While we’ve got mana-fixing to spare, let’s add another color!

It might be a mistake not to play Vile Aggregate, but there are so many attractive threes, you gotta draw the line somewhere. Besides, we’re not really taking advantage of the exiling ability, nor filling the board with tokens.

This card just seems great to me. You don’t have to throw in all that much for me to be in for a 3/1 haste for three. The option to buy an Act of Treason for just two more mana and no more cards? Hell yes!

Not sure if serious….?

Well, if I were serious, we’d cut straight to the chase, jam a white not-white card in there, and figure out which manabase is better between something closer to:

1 Crumbling Vestige

4 Corrupted Crossroads

4 Shivan Reef

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Caves of Koilos

4 Battlefield Forge

Or something more like:

4 Evolving Wilds

4 Corrupted Crossroads

4 Crumbling Vestige

1 Ruins of Oran-Rief

1 Sea Gate Wreckage

1 Shivan Reef

1 Battlefield Forge

1 Caves of Koilos

1 Llanowar Wastes

1 Yavimaya Coast

1 Plains

1 Island

1 Swamp

1 Mountain

1 Forest

1 Wastes

Okay, what about mixing in some Dragons?

Dude, slow down. How about an Abzan list?

Put me down for ready to put down some junk, err, Abzan.

Not every new deck needs to reinvent the wheel. That said, there are a lot of exciting cards to try in Abzan (given that it’s just “good cards in three of the six colors”).

Ever since the rotation of Fleecemane Lion, Abzan’s been a little short in the two-drop department. Enter Sylvan Advocate:

We’d never pay two mana for a little vigilance creature, but the option to upgrade for free on turn 6 adds a lot to the deal. Once we get out of the early turns, our two-drops are usually pretty weak, but Sylvan Advocate is a Siege Rhino-sized threat.

It’d normally have a mild vulnerability to Ultimate Price, but the world is changing and a lot of Ultimate Prices will become Grasp of Darknesses (which the Advocate conveniently dodges, when large).

Tip: If your opponent tries to Abzan Charm your 4/5 Sylvan Advocate, sacrifice your Windswept Heath and fail to find, dropping your land count to five!

Okay, I’ll give you that one.

Elemental Uprising might actually just be the next Dromoka’s Command (which is incidentally worse now, because of the various Oaths). What I mean is that it’s an extremely versatile card that seems underrated but will be adopted quickly once people try it.

Assuming it’s good?

Well yeah, but it’s gotta be at least decent, right? I mean, I get that this type of effect isn’t usually good, but this one is more than a little pushed comparatively.

To start with, it’s a very respectable removal spell. Turn 2 Jace? Use two of your lands to turn the third into an attacker Jace must block.

What about a turn 4 Gideon? Well, in the end step take out the token, untap, and now you’re sending four damage with haste into the planeswalker.

In addition to fight creatures (both as a surprise blocker and a surprise attacker with Lure) and planeswalkers, Elemental Uprising is also just another form of reach to add to the Siege Rhino plan. It’s also a good time when targeting a Shambling Vent they blocked with their Shambling Vent

Quick Hits:

Quite a bit more rate than Call the Scions, but quite a bit less than Catacomb Sifter.

Put this little guy alongside Embodiment of Fury and you’ve got a fun combo deck we’ll be talking about on Friday…

Ambitious. I like that about you.

I knew Sylvan Ranger. This, my friends, is no Sylvan Ranger. I appreciate the extra toughness, but not nearly as much as I’d appreciate a draw step.

I don’t know that we’d never want to get a couple of these going, but it sounds worse than Grovewarden of Murasa.

A potential sideboard card in Eternal formats, where casting costs are sometimes lower than average and you really appreciate one-mana solutions to things. That said, Nature’s Claim is really stiff competition.

Okay, I appreciate the whole cantrip aspect, I really do. Maybe you can even get creative with some Herald of the Pantheon and Starfield of Nyx-type of time. Seriously, though, look man; you don’t need to solve every problem. Sometimes the solution is to just kill your opponent.

“If you’re 50 gold short for an item, destroy the enemy nexus.”

Fine card, but it really is mostly just the whole “tokens” thing, which we discussed at length Monday.

Eh, maybe, but that’s a lot of work and there’s a lot of exile.

If you want another Ally, sure. If you just want to do this to do it, you’d better be really big on the land-drop aspect. I’m not overly optimistic.

Could a card be more poorly positioned in Constructed?

Okay, back to the lab for more brewing. I’ll be back Friday with the rest of the colors (or what’s left of them, given the whole Kozilek/Ulamog situation)…

See you then!