The Gateway To Control

Everyone prepare: the control decks are coming! Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren has his eye on an enabler that will spell doom for your Standard and Modern dominance at SCG Dallas! Is this card the real deal?

First of all, some quick thoughts on the bannings in Standard. As you no
doubt already know:

Rogue Refiner is banned.

Attune with Aether is banned.

Ramunap Ruins is banned.

Rampaging Ferocidon is banned.

Wow. I think Rogue Refiner and Attune with Aether were already on
everyone’s radar, but four bans is a bunch of bans! That makes

the most cards banned in Standard at once since 2005 and the Affinity

and nine bannings in Standard in the last year.

The only ban that truly surprises me is Rampaging Ferocidon. The other
three seem fine and necessary, but Rampaging Ferodicon seems tacked on,
much like how Reflector Mage felt to me with the Emrakul, the Promised End
and Smuggler’s Copter bans. A three mana 3/3 does not seem scary,
especially in a world when control decks are looking to make a comeback.

Standard is starting to feel like a horror movie that’s just starting to
ramp up and kill off all the main characters. My guess is the murderer is
either Torrential Gearhulk or The Scarab God.

These bans are kind of interesting since they happened in a format where
the oppressive best decks were only slightly favored against the field and
haven’t even been dominating for that long. The Standard metagame these
days compared to the days of Caw-Blade felt like a quick stroll in the park
compared to what felt like eternity playing Stoneforge Mystic mirrors. The
action to correct Standard has clearly been picking up speed to
aggressively correct the metagame and make it healthier, which is a good
thing. A mistake is a mistake.

These bans should help change the shape of Standard a great deal, for the
better–fingers crossed–and before, this Standard was not enjoyable to
play. So we got that going for us.

Mostly though, I’m ready to move on. If you’ve been following Standard for
the last year you’ve been through a lot of bannings. I have ban fatigue. I
can only hope that this isn’t the life we must expect to be living from now
on over and over, ban after ban after ban. It’s getting to be like

Groundhog Day


Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

With all that in mind, let’s move on with life and start with the hoping
for the best part.

The bright side is we have a shiny new Standard format and a bunch of new
tools from Rivals of Ixalan to play with! I am excited to play
some Standard again!

Today I’ll be focusing on one of those new cards: Azor’s Gateway! I’ll be
sharing my thoughts on it as well as some brews with it for the new
Standard and Modern.

I initially overlooked Azor’s Gateway as “oh, this is the set’s janky combo
artifact that will never end up working,” but upon more reflection my
opinion has changed.

Now I’m wondering if Azor’s Gateway is the best card in Rivals of Ixalan.

The loot effect is quite nice. You draw first and then get to choose what
to exile. Simple and solid. It’s essentially Desolate Lighthouse, but it
only costs one mana to activate, which is nothing to sneeze at. It does
cost a card and two mana to play in the first place though.

So the loot effect is nice, similar to Search for Azcanta, but it’s
probably not worth it on its own. The real appeal is Sanctum of the Sun.

So how do we transform it?

Azor’s Gateway is surprisingly easy to transform. All you need is enough
time and the right deck. Just make sure you have some varying casting costs
and hopefully some nice cards to loot into to help you survive. You don’t
need that many different casting costs since land counts as zero, but you
can’t really stick it in an aggro deck that has a curve topping out at

Keep in mind you don’t have to aggressively try and flip Azor’s Gateway
since if you hit a glut of land or haven’t found a mana sink, you can just
keep looting every turn and exiling useless cards and lands.

Another bonus is that Azor’s Gateway untaps when it transforms into Sanctum
of the Sun, giving you immediate use. It also generously gains you five
life, which means you’re likely getting at minimum six mana if you happened
to be at one, and probably a lot more.

Then all you need is some way to use that mana, making it ideally suited
for a control or combo deck. You don’t have to win the game on the spot, as
enough card draw or something along those lines would work as well.

Keep in mind Azor’s Gateway is legendary, but you can just loot away extra
copies or cast your second copy once you have Sanctum of the Sun.

So what are some decks that would like Azor’s Gateway?

I expect control decks to be the biggest ban beneficiaries.

I think Search for Azcanta is going to be one of the best cards in the
format, if not the best, so if Azor’s Gateway can compare it’ll be
pretty dang good too. They both work alongside each other nicely as well in
the late game, since Sanctum of the Sun gives you plenty of mana, and
Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin finds you plenty of good stuff to cast but is very

Another benefit is that Abrade should theoretically be less prevalent as
well, considering all four cards banned were mostly run in Abrade decks.
Even if your opponent does Abrade a Gateway, you’re still probably coming
out ahead, since you get to loot first if you have a spare mana.

Torrential Gearhulk and Approach of the Second Sun are going to be winning
a lot more games in the upcoming format, so it’s nice they work well with
both sides of Azor’s Gateway. You can loot away extra copies in the early
game or cast them with Sanctum of the Sun in the late game.

What else can you do with Azor’s Gateway? Cycle everything! Drake Haven and
Abandoned Sarcophagus are both nearly unbeatable in a deck full of cycling
cards as long as you have enough mana. If only there were a way to generate
tons of mana…

Farm works nicely with Azor’s Gateway since it counts as having six
converted mana cost when exiled with Azor’s Gateway, and it’s easy to go to
Market with all that sweet sweet mana once you flip Azor’s Gateway.

Those are some options for Standard, but does Azor’s Gateway have a chance
in Modern as well?

In the market for hard casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Gotcha covered.

Jeskai Breach works especially well with Azor’s Gateway. Not only is the
loot effect excellent at finding your combo and getting rid of redundant
copies, you also have access to a bunch of different casting costs to help
flip Gateway faster.

Once you do flip Gateway, ideally, you just cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn;
if not, you have plenty of mana sinks in the form of Cryptic Command,
Snapcaster Mage, and Sphinx’s Revelation. There’s also a sneaky copy of Cut
as well, since you can Flashback Ribbons for a lot once you flip Gateway.
If you’re looking to cut your opponent’s life into pieces, this shouldn’t
be your last resort, especially in any Standard decks running red and
Azor’s Gateway.

Here we have pretty “regular” U/W Control and are using Azor’s Gateway.
Similar to Search for Azcanta, it takes a bit more work to flip but should
have a much bigger impact if it does. It’s easy just adding a copy of each
to the main deck to get value from non-creature sources of card selection.

Sphinx’s Revelation is going to be the main attraction for all the mana you
get with a flipped Azor’s Gateway, especially since you’ll be able to add
even more mana the next turn with all that life you gained. You can also
just play a bunch of spells, activate multiple Celestial Colonnades, or you
can live the dream of bouncing Snapcaster Mage with Cryptic Command to draw
a card, hopefully multiple times in a row.

That’s it for today! Do you agree with my assessment that we’ll be soon
accepting our new Azorius overlords thanks to Azor’s Gateway? I certainly
hope so.