First Pick At Oath Of The Gatewatch: Colorless And Multi-Color!

The Prerelease is in the books! We’ve had our first taste of Oath of the Gatewatch Limited! Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax finishes his breakdown of the set so you can succeed at Limited Magic in the months to follow!

It’s time to shut the door on this series. I hope that some of you used it to have greater success at your Prerelease over the weekend, and I hope even more of you will use it to win Sealed and Draft events over the coming months.

That said, we still have a few cards to go over.


While Reflector Mage is insane, I’m not seeing a lot of good things in this color combination. Blue is light on Allies for cohort and White is light on payoffs and enablers for colorless mana. White reads like a beatdown color, Blue reads like a setup color.

The three-color “colorless” deck. Kozilek’s Translator is great here, especially as it gives you a way to balance payoffs with mana that works. It’s very possible this is an eighteen-land deck just to make the mana work.

As for the uncommon, it’s great. In a x/4 format an unblockable creature is a great way to break out of stall parity, and this one has a bonus ability.

It feels like this should be a Devoid Aggro deck, but the creatures aren’t pushed enough on the low end. It really feels more like a traditional B/R deck where you play a four-power creature and kill their stuff while they can’t block and die. Just be sure to do enough early things to not die before the 4/x starts hitting, and remember that, early on, a creature that blocks and trades is basically another removal spell. This color combo is much less colorless-dependent than U/B, but you may want a decent number of sources depending on what black cards you pick up.

Flayer Drone might be the worst of the allied color cycle. It’s just above par and not game breaking. Boo.

R/G is very likely a clunky trap. Both colors are looking to take over with higher-cost effects, which leads to an overload of them. You need to lean on green heavily for your early game, and many of your third-pack options don’t play good early defense due to Landfall.

Both of the multicolored cards are solid. Four power is a great place to be, but I don’t think either of these are good enough to overcome the inherent issue with the color pairing.

Oh look, another great G/W Guildmage style effect. My starting position on Joraga Auxiliary is to first-pick it and figure out what to take over it later. Repeatedly casting Glorious Anthem is good, I hear.

It also doesn’t hurt that this is one of the better-aligned color combinations. The support to your four-power plan is in full force, and Green has the only good common token generator in Scion Summoner to ensure all your support has a home for value. This is the Saddleback Lagac theme deck. Note that it has a propensity for five-drop glut because Tajuru Pathfinder and Expedition Raptor are both so good.

Also, be ready for a mediocre third pack. White has a lot of filler in Battle for Zendikar, and Green has nothing.

I don’t want to call this a cohort deck as there isn’t a good common payoff for cohort, but the tools are all there to make the rares and uncommons work.

This is also a great deck for Unnatural Endurance. That card pairs very well with the white common three-drops with three power, allowing you to advance an aggressive stance while making good attacks. Tempo is the key.

Worth noting: you have a lot of tools to set up the lifegain payoff cards in the third pack. It’s going to take some experimenting to see if you are supposed to overvalue Ondu War Cleric and Vampire Envoy because of this, but most likely both are just good enough to begin with that you don’t have to. My guess is that leaving yourself open to getting the hookup is a good plan.

I’m not first-picking either multicolored card, but they are good if you are leaning this direction. Without any of the bonus text, Ayli is good as a 2/3 deathtouch, and Cliffhaven Vampire is a decent flier with something of a bonus.

This feels like a low-probability archetype. The commons don’t have a lot of overlap in either set, even on a low level, because black’s removal is clunky and eats into the number of fatties you can play alongside it in your deck. Green is the best color for setting up colorless mana for some of the black uncommons like Essence Depleter, but you need the uncommons and both colors open for that.

Baloth Null is insane. A 4/5 is just big in this format, and this one puts you up two cards. It’s a real payoff for being in an awkward color combo.

I’m a much bigger fan of this archetype than G/B. Cheap tappers and things that grant flying play much better with giant creatures. Loam Larva is a big part of this archetype as it fixes for colorless. The green mana production also enables Roiling Waters as a giant endgame blowout. Blue is also the best color in the third pack, which covers for the basically missing green cards.

Void Grafter is a fine card, but just a 2/4 isn’t that exciting. It’s efficient and does something, but once it’s cast it’s just a 2/4 with no abilities. If I’m in the colors it’s obviously making the cut, but I’m not taking it before being fairly confident it makes my deck.

Neither of the multicolored cards is great in Limited where decks typically have curves, and I’m not sure the color combination is either. Blue is light on Allies to enable the good red cohort commons, and there aren’t good payoffs for surge. If you get two surge mythics or rares you can build the cantrip-heavy deck, but I’m not impressed with the other offerings.

This is probably the best surge deck, mostly because Goblin Freerunner rewards you for setting up a double creature play on turn 4. That means an aggressive color with Support most likely, and that’s White’s calling card. There isn’t a lot of synergy going on past that, just a lot of good classic R/W attacking action.

Weapons Trainer reads so insane, but the support isn’t there. If I had multiple copies of this card I might trick myself into playing a Hedron Blade or Bone Saw, but with just one I’m not quite there yet.

Second Pick at Battle For Zendikar – Multicolored

If it says Converge or Processor, it is worse. Grovetender Druids and Munda, Ambush Leader are also worse as the decks they supported are worse (Ally-Tokens and any deck with Resolute Blademaster, respectively). Otherwise, all the multicolored cards have been pushed for playability as ways to make you play the colors.

Colorless Nonartifact


Warden of Geometries Kozilek's Pathfinder

Warden of Geometries is way more exciting than Hedron Crawler in U/B as I don’t want to invest a full card into a 0/1 to activate my abilities, where as in G/B I would rather have Hedron Crawler to ramp into 5/4s and 6/5s.

Kozilek’s Pathfinder is a fine-sized six-drop. The whole six-drop thing limits it, but don’t forget you sometimes just want a big beefy idiot in your B/W deck.


Walker of the Wastes Spatial Contortion Warping Wail

Remember the whole ~5 Wastes per draft math from Ruin in Their Wake? Walker of the Wastes is not getting huge. On a good day it’s a 6/6 trample for five. If you are in the market for a decent five-drop and have five or more colorless sources, this isn’t bad, but don’t get aggressive taking it thinking you will have a 7/7 or 8/8.

Spatial Contortion is a very splashable removal spell. I’ve splashed a lot of Lightning Strikes and Last Gasp-style effects over the years. If you are leaning colorless at all, you want this.

Warping Wail has a lot of text for not a lot of effect. The best case is a bad Negate when most Colorless decks will have Blue mana.



Endbringer Reality Smasher Thought-Knot Seer


Deceiver of Form Matter Reshaper


Eldrazi Mimic Kozilek, the Great Distortion

I’m taking any of the Great rares here first pick. They are all so absurdly ahead of the curve or board-dominating that I’m going out of my way to make it work.

The Good rares are strong, but not worth committing to a half color for. Deceiver of Form might even be worse as it’s kinda below par for a seven-drop against removal. Matter Reshaper is fine, but the 3/2 body gets outclassed quickly and casting it on time is difficult.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion doesn’t fit as well in this set as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger did in Battle for Zendikar, as the amount of free mana has dropped a bunch. I’m also pretty sure you aren’t 96% to win when you cast it the way you are when you play “indestructible, kill two things, kill you in one attack regardless of blockers.”

Eldrazi Mimic is a mediocre two-drop that might become a decent two-drop. I’m almost ready to call it a red card because that color just wants the creature the most. Just be aware that you can Flowstone pump a Maw of Kozilek in response to Eldrazi Mimic’s trigger to change the size it copies.

Second Pick at Battle for Zendikar: Eldrazi, Artifacts, and Lands

This is the big question mark to me that might shift the entire format. Ruin Processor and Eldrazi Devastator are out-of-scale for Oath of the Gatewatch. My first guess is that the improved removal and reduced mana ramp will mean they become even less exciting, but there’s a chance that they just dominate games because nothing else can break the flat card sizing. This may be even truer for the uncommon Eldrazi, which are clearly way more pushed. Titan’s Presence is the exception here, which loses out on massive things to turn it from Complete Disregard into Murder.

Sadly, the rare Eldrazi are mostly dedicated big-mana things, which doesn’t have a lot of support in Oath of the Gatewatch. I’ll still play Oblivion Sower for sizing, but Desolation Twin is about 0% to make the cut now. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is still unbeatable if you can cast it, but I don’t think that is reliable.

Moving on to artifacts and lands:


Bone Saw Hedron Crawler Seer's Lantern

Wastes Wastes Crumbling Vestige Holdout Settlement Unknown Shores

Now we get to the real answer to a question this set asks. How many colorless sources are there? Can we make the mana we want?

Five common lands. Three common colorless cards in Hedron Crawler, Seer’s Lantern (which is likely very good in a blocking set), and Warden of Geometries. Adding Loam Larva (assuming you find one Wastes), Kozilek’s Translator, and Cultivator Done, that’s 11 total commons that are repeatable sources of colorless mana. That alone is 26.7 sources per draft, and fudging in Battle for Zendikar and higher rarities, I would expect around 3.5-4 sources per player. If you want to cast colorless cards, you can.

It just costs you draft picks.

That may be the biggest argument against green decks that splash colorless. You want to maximize your first and second packs for Green cards, but you have too many lands and artifacts to pick. That may also apply to all the colorless decks, as there aren’t really common enablers or payoffs in the last pack.

Worth noting: picking Wastes has a higher correlation to being Green than any other color so you can Loam Larva for it. Of course, B/U decks may just take whatever they find, so it’s still a bit of a race to find them.

Also, please don’t play Bone Saw. It is not a card worth of value.


Chitinous Cloak Strider Harness

Meandering River Submerged Boneyard Cinder Barrens Timber Gorge Tranquil Expanse

Chitinous Cloak is the good equipment I’ve been building to discussing this whole time. It’s clunky, but it pumps a fair amount which matters in a flat format. Strider Harness costs too much up front, unfortunately.

The lands are whatever. Take them if you are on color. Sadly, they don’t support two of the color pairs I’ve pegged as being colorless decks: G/B and G/U. When adding virtual mana sources via fixing, doubling up on your color is a big deal when trying to stretch to “three colors.”



Hissing Quagmire Needle Spires Wandering Fumarole Mirrorpool Ruins of Oran-Rief Sea Gate Wreckage


Captain's Claws Stoneforge Masterwork Corrupted Crossroads

There aren’t any game-breaking lands, as is usual, just a lot of solid ones. I might be willing to first-pick Mirrorpool and Sea Gate Wreckage might pay off in the end, but the rest are just good if you are in postion for them.

Captain’s Claws is close to a no-go. It’s relatively easy to brick a 1/1 each turn, making the card into an expensive Bone Saw. There is some snowballing blowout potential with tricks, though, so if your deck is very proactive you may want it.

Stoneforge Masterwork may be better than I’m giving it credit for, but I’m assuming it’s just a card that requires too many creatures in play.

Second Pick at Battle for Zendikar – Lands and Artifacts

All the non-rare lands got better here. The Blighted lands and Spawning Bed are “fixers,” and the common lands aren’t competing with each other for enters-the-battlefield-tapped slots. Not a lot to say here. This wasn’t a big category before and it still isn’t.

Overall Takeaways:

Oath of the Gatewatch isn’t a big synergy set. There are a lot of traps, much like Magic Origins.

There is enough colorless mana to go around, but it’s typically going to be a splash or solid splash just based on there not being spells for it.

Green got good, but Battle for Zendikar got worse than the previous baseline of “really bad.” Blue, on the other hand, is no longer insane. Black and red are both still good, and white is still average.

Again, this is traditional Magic. Take the efficient cards, the ones that break open boards, and good removal and card advantage. If you go down a theme rabbit hole, it’s very possible you are just getting cute and not drafting a reliable deck.