While testing for the Extended portion on Worlds, Conrad Kolos told me about an interesting deck that he ran into on Magic Online. It was another one of those Prismatic Omen/Valakut decks that enjoyed a cult following due to JWay on Magic Online, but it contained a card that I felt broke the deck wide open:
Some of you may have to look that one up â€” but those of you already paying attention are hopefully in the know. Wargate performed pretty well at Worlds, especially considering that I defeated two of them myself. I really enjoyed playing the Scapeshift deck that I did, and it just so happened that it had a good matchup against the new Japanese tech…. but the Wargate decks are just better.
For those of you who don’t know, Wargate is the only tutor in Extended that can search for Prismatic Omen and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Wargate is key because it adds a type of consistency to these decks that they didn’t have before.
Once you have Prismatic Omen and Valakut in play at the same time, things tend to end poorly for your opponent, as every land you play past the fifth nets you a Lightning Bolt or more, depending on the amount of fetchlands, ramp spells, or Valakuts you have in play.
As I see it, there are currently five versions of Wargate, although some only differ slightly from the others.
Splashes for black sideboard cards like Thoughtseize and Memoricide, both of which are outstanding in the mirror match. Makes very good use of Murmuring Bosk. Shouta Yasooka played a deck like this at Worlds.
I was enamored with this deck early on; having Bloodbraid Elf and Knight of the Reliquary seemed like it would help tough matchups like Faeries immensely. However, the drawback of having to cut Cryptic Command to fit those in (and because the mana might be too absurd) doesn’t outweigh the positives. Matchups like Five-Color Control were much worse without counterspells, as you wouldn’t be able to stop Esper Charm, Cruel Ultimatum, or their counterspells.
Initially, the Japanese played similar versions, but had things like Wall of Omens and Path to Exile maindeck, which don’t seem necessary right now. There is virtually no real beatdown deck, and the ones that do exist (like Doran and Jund) aren’t fast enough to kill you before you start Valakut-ing things down.
Leyline of Sanctity is sick in those matchups, too, since you can’t get Blightninged or Thoughtseized, preventing them from disrupting you, but also taking away any sort of reach they had. Once you have a Leyline in play, the only seemingly relevant card in their entire deck is Maelstrom Pulse.
I’m not one to latch onto a deck for any long period of time â€” so naturally I moved on, with the intention of coming back if necessary. Wargate was still intriguing, and I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the creatureless version, as those were by far the most popular online.
This is what I would play:
Against aggro decks, you should be able to stabilize the turn after you assemble Valakut plus Prismatic Omen â€” either via shooting down some of their guys, or by tapping their creatures repeatedly with Cryptic Commands while you Valakut them to death. You could sideboard Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks, or Lightning Bolt for aggressive decks â€” but until I see a need for it, you won’t see me doing any of that.
If I have Prismatic Omen, it’s rare that I simply can’t find a Valakut, or have both and wish I had a Scapeshift. I’ve had the miser’s copy in and out of the deck, but it could very easily just be another Mana Leak, See Beyond, Sun Titan, Day of Judgment, Plains, or whatever you need it to be.
Maindeck Leylines of Sanctity
- Steel Artifact
- Five-Color Control/variants
Of course there are some other decks out there, like Necrotic Ooze or Elves, but the majority of decks are severely hampered by an opposing Leyline of Sanctity. We can’t play with Sensei’s Divining Top to hide our combo pieces from discard, so we need to protect ourselves in some other way.
Some lists have more Cultivates and fewer Explores, but that seems wrong to me. I typically only want to draw one Cultivate per game, and that’s only in certain matchups. Usually, drawing one of each ramp spell is better than drawing multiples of one or the other, so I’ve been playing a careful split.
Post-sideboarding, decks like Steel Artifact will feebly try to attack you with Leonin Arbiter â€” but against them, I usually side out my non-Explore ramp spells in anticipation. Still, there isn’t a necessity for a surplus of ramp spells. In a pinch, Wargate can function as a mana fixer and accelerator, and frequently does by fetching up a Valakut.
A singleton Murmuring Bosk is great because of the fetchlands. I’d like to run a Verdant Catacombs or two, but would have to cut down on the basic count, and then risk running out of lands to fetch. Likewise, another Mystic Gate would be a nice addition, both to function as pseudo-Flooded Groves for when you have to fetch out a Murmuring Bosk early, but also to cast Day of Judgment post-board. Again, the only lands that you can cut are basics, and I don’t think you want to go below nine.
Celestial Colonnade is the land that I’ve added where most people have other dual lands like Seachrome Coast, Mystic Gate, or Verdant Catacombs. In some matchups, especially after sideboard, the games go very late and you end up not doing much with your mana for a few turns. Colonnade provides a great attacker and blocker, and can cut down on the work that Valakut needs to deal.
Once you introduce maindeck Leylines, a Brainstorm-type effect becomes very useful. Sometimes, your hand will get bogged down with useless combo pieces or Leylines while you’re simply searching for a land or a different combo piece.
When I say “Brainstorm,” you probably think “Jace, the Mind Sculptor.” However, the first place I go to is See Beyond. It’s been wonderful for me in other decks like Pyromancer Ascension or the Scapeshift deck that I played at Worlds. Obviously, a true Brainstorm would be much better â€” but not when it costs 2UU. Jace is just so weak against the majority of decks out there that you can expect it to die the turn you cast it well over 50% of the time.
Leyline of Sanctity helps protect Jace a little bit… but honestly, you are ignoring their creatures until turn 4 or 5, where you start Lightning Bolting things. They have free reign to kill Jace. At least when you cast See Beyond, it can be early when you’re digging for lands, and you can play another spell in the same turn.
In the Aggro Wargate version, I recommend Ponder over Preordain in that version because of the plethora of shufflers. In the controllish or combo versions, there aren’t as many fetchlands or ways to take advantage of Ponder like Bloodbraid Elf. Preordain is basically Ponder plus a shuffle, all on its own, so it should get the nod instead.
Day of Judgment is a workhorse against the various green decks and the imposter Affinity decks. Having a cheap Disenchant is integral to fighting the aforementioned “Affinity” decks and the mirror match. Oftentimes, mirror opponents will play around a potential Cryptic Command, blowing out their Prismatic Omen/Scapeshift plan â€” but if you don’t have Cryptic mana up, Nature’s Claim is going to take them by surprise.
Against Steel Artifact, Nature’s Claim can either free up a key component from Tidehollow Sculler, blow up a Tempered Steel (which will allow you to Valakut all their guys), or buy you some time so you can search for that Day of Judgment.
While it may be tempting to side in Nature’s Claim against something like Bitterblossom, you absolutely shouldn’t. Instead, you should be focused on finding and protecting a Prismatic Omen and killing them instead of controlling the game. You won’t be able to stop all of Fae’s threats, so you should focus on what matters â€” and in that matchup, what matters is reducing their life to zero.
Negates and Vendilion Cliques are for similar matchups. Both are good against Five-Color Control and the mirror, while Vendilion Clique is good against Faeries as well. Not only does it either force a counter war on their turn, but it will let you know exactly which of their tricks you have to fight through. Killing their Vendilion Cliques are also far more important than dealing them three damage.
While Negate is fine against Faeries, it isn’t something that I typically bring in. Players on Magic like Watoo and osmanozguney both play lists with only two Spellstutter Sprites, so Negate becomes a little bit better. Mana Leak is still very good because you need a way to stop Mistbind and Vendilion Clique. If you side in too many counterspells against Faeries, and they manage to resolve a threat, you’re in a lot of trouble.
I’ve tried playing a Runed Halo or Qasali Pridemage as something to tutor up with Wargate when I was in trouble, but that will very rarely win you the game. Instead, you’re simply prolonging the inevitable. In most cases, you are much better off Wargating for a Prismatic Omen or Valakut to kill their threats or kill them. It’s entirely possible that you might want a Qasali Pridemage or something similar in case the mirror starts playing maindeck Leylines… but that’s a bridge you should cross when you get there.
Masashi and Shuhei both played a transformational sideboard of Kitchen Finks, Great Sable Stag, and Wurmcoil Engine in their sideboard â€” but I feel like that’s because they didn’t know exactly what to expect. Now that the metagame is clearly defined, and the Japanese deck is well-known, the man-plan is no longer necessary.
If anything, Sun Titan is all you need. Jund will likely side out all of their removal, at which point Sun Titan returns a much-needed Prismatic Omen and then stops their team, or just kills them outright. Against Five-Color Control, much of the same thing will happen.
Faeries isn’t the best matchup, but Great Sable Stag isn’t the answer you want anyway. Stag will likely get them low enough that Valakut can finish them… but honestly, Valakut and Prismatic Omen will kill Fae on their own. Stag, however, will not. Eventually a Mutavault is going to get in the way, or the opponent will side in Wall of Tanglecord. Regardless, it’s not worth the slots.
Against the majority of matchups, I will recommend bringing in the fourth Leyline, which will undoubtedly lead many of you to question why I don’t just play all four maindeck. Three still gives you a solid shot to have one in your opener, and I would recommend siding in the fourth just to give yourself the highest possible chance of having one in your opener.
There are still some decks out there where you don’t want an opening hand with a Leyline â€” and against most decks, you don’t want to draw an opener with two of them. See Beyond certainly helps in that regard, but it’s still a large concern. I would expect most disruption like Thoughtseize and Duress to come in from the sideboard of black decks, which makes Leyline far more important games two and three than in game one.
It’s fine if you don’t have a Leyline in game one against a deck like Faeries. There’s no need to aggressively mulligan or anything. However, when you do have one, you’ll have a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling when you know that you won’t ever be Thoughtseized, Mistbinded, or Vendilioned. It does sort of suck knowing that they can Vendilion away their own Thoughtseize that was previously stranded, but oh well.
Typically, if I have two Leylines in my opener, I’ll only put one into play, especially if I have a See Beyond to shuffle away the extra. Most decks either can’t remove Leyline, can’t waste time removing it, or can only remove it with Maelstrom Pulse.
Anyway, the Day of Judgment is clearly no good. The Scapeshift isn’t necessary, as Prismatic Omen will almost always kill them on its own. Rampant Growth is almost always worse than Explore, and I have to cut something, so it’s going to be a ramp spell.
Step one is to resolve a Prismatic Omen. Step two is kill them with Valakut. In the meantime, try not to die.
Honestly, Faeries seems like it should be more difficult than it actually is, but my opponents haven’t been putting up much of a fight. Some draw two Tectonic Edges and manage to win those games, but most don’t have Edges and have no real way to fight Prismatic Omen.
You need to play tight, though. Every land drop you make counts, both in staying even with them on mana and making the correct ones, and you have to plan your turns well in advance. Eventually, you will fight a mini-counterwar or two, and hopefully you end up coming out on top.
I would like to say that nothing they can play in their main phase scares me, but unfortunately, Glen Elendra Archmage exists. While that one will typically give you problems, I did manage to trick one of my opponents. He had a blue mana open; I already had Prismatic Omen and Valakut, but I needed another land to kill him, and drew Wargate.
Any self-respecting magician would counter the Wargate for zero, so I cast it for two just to see what would happen. Somewhat surprisingly, he let it resolve, presumably since I already had an Omen in play, but I searched up another Valakut and killed him.
Granted, this wasn’t against Faeries, but the point still remains. If there are strange cards in your deck, see if you can do things that will test your opponents’ knowledge. X being zero or two was the exact same thing that turn, so I decided to take my chance at tricking him, and it worked!
Aside from Glen Elendra Archmage, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is somewhat scary, as it will continually fill their hand with counters, sort of like Archmage. Still, it will usually leave them pretty vulnerable for a turn, and hopefully you can capitalize on that.
Leaving mana open to bluff Mana Leak for their four-drop is often more important than anything else. Sure, sometimes they might just run a Jace out there, and you’ll wish you’d cast that Rampant Growth â€” but oftentimes, it won’t matter, and that Jace or Archmage will rot in their hand. You may even draw into an answer by the time they finally play it, or simply kill them in the meantime.
Maindecked Leylines should give you the edge here, as outside of Cryptic Command, most opponents will have no way to remove them.
Post-board, Leylines get a lot worse, as you should have different, better answers to Prismatic Omen, like Nature’s Claim. Oftentimes they will move in on Scapeshift plus Prismatic Omen if you only have one mana open, at which point, you can really blow them out with your Disenchant.
I’ve found that the Leylines post-board are fairly weak. You’ll virtually mulligan to five or six when you put a Leyline or two into play, and they’ll sit around and do nothing while they find their answers and kill you. Much like Wargating for a removal spell or Runed Halo, it’s simply prolonging the inevitable, and doesn’t set you up to win yourself.
It depends on your opponent as to whether or not you keep in Leylines. If they have the old Masashi/Shuhei list, they probably don’t have outs to Leyline outside of Cryptic, but they might bring in the ole man-plan against you. Clearly that’s feeble at best â€” but if someone is piloting a month-old stock list, chances are they have no idea how to sideboard with it as well.
Anyway, if they are reaching for a fat stack of sideboard cards, expect Kitchen Finks, Leylines, Disenchants, or combination thereof. Overall, I wouldn’t be worried enough about creatures to side in Day of Judgments. If they are only siding in a couple cards, most likely Negate, Vendilion Clique, or Jace, then Leylines are relatively solid.
If we’re on Magic Online and I’m in the dark, I typically go with this:
Should they be a very proficient player, you can oftentimes cut Mana Leak entirely. Were they in your deck instead, they would simply rot in your hand.
If you want to keep in Leylines, I suggest this:
Cutting some ramp spells definitely sucks, but if you ever draw a Cultivate, you should have plenty of lands to work with. Honestly, the games aren’t over quickly most of the time, as there’s a beautiful dance of mana management, dodging counterspells, and playing around the hate. With all that in consideration, spending cards for quick acceleration yields few benefits.
Do nothing. No, seriously, do nothing. Ramp a little bit if you must, but be careful not to get double Esper Charmed out of the game. They will be saving those for your Omens, or on the off chance that they get to Mind Twist your hand away. Feel free to skip some land drops if they aren’t necessary.
Eventually, they will be forced to start hammering you with threats, assuming they don’t play anything clever like Vendilion Clique. At that point, you can typically Mana Leak their resistance and kill them in one turn with multiple Valakuts or Scapeshift.
Post-board, this matchup doesn’t get a whole lot easier for them â€” although they could have a lot of hate like Thoughtseize, Vendilion Clique, Runed Halo, or even their own Leylines of Sanctity. If there were any matchup where having a tutorable (via Wargate) Disenchant would be handy, it would be this one, if only because of Sun Titan.
Once you play a few games of this matchup, you’ll realize exactly how resilient Wargate is. They should have it all: The clock, the disruption, the fat, nearly-impossible-to-Bolt-away creatures. But basically none of it matters.
Leyline kolds eight of their spells, they can’t kill Prismatic Omen, and once you Valakut or Day of Judgment their threats, they have no reach. If you were going in blind, you might think Steel has the advantage, but that is nowhere close to the truth.
Mana Leak is often poor, especially on the draw, as you need to tap out every turn to get your engine online. Sometimes you can miss your land drop with Explore, but that’s worth the risk of getting Rampant Growth stranded in your hand because of their Leonin Arbiter.
Truthfully, the artifact aficionados out there could probably turn this matchup around with some proper sideboarding â€” but they are currently fighting the battle all wrong.
As a fair warning, I played a game against this deck where I got so focused on killing all of their creatures, I missed an on-the-board kill. Just so you’re always aware, sometimes racing is the better option. (To be fair, once I killed all of their guys, they couldn’t win anyway, but still.)
As always, the matchup against the Rock deck in the format depends heavily on how much they want to hate you out. Cards like Blightning, Anathemancer, and Thoughtseize are all good, but only when you don’t start the game with a Leyline in play. Maelstrom Pulse and the speed of their clock is typically all that matters â€” although if they decide to play with dead cards like Terminate and Volcanic Fallout, that doesn’t hurt either.
Mana Leak is usually good, but sometimes I keep in Day of Judgment. For some reason, no one wants to play Sprouting Thrinax, so Jund, which used to be good against removal spells, now just bends over to them. Keep in mind that some builds (at least on Magic Online) are playing Demigod of Revenge, so you may want to focus on racing them rather than keeping their creatures in check. Demigods also make the Day of Judgment plan fairly worthless.
This matchup is like Jund, except usually easier. Day of Judgment is a blowout every time, and they have no reach.
With Day in the deck, the games are going to go longer, and Mana Leak is going to be dead faster, so I see no use for it. There is nothing that you want to counter anyway. If Doran players get smart and start running Gaddock Teeg â€” which is
against Wargate â€” then you may need to keep Mana Leak or adopt some other sort of removal spell.
At one point, I coached up-and-comer Julian Booher through an 8-0 streak in various Magic Online queues. Wargate is that good, at least right now, and because of maindeck Leylines, but that could all change in a few weeks.
On the surface, it seems like a fragile combo deck, and that is somewhat true, but not to the extent that people believe. Once the ambitious deckbuilders of the world figure out exactly what needs to be done to truly put the screws to Wargate, I will probably put down the deck. However, I don’t see any reason to play anything else right now.