Commander Deck Of The Week: Sultai Gates With Archelos, Lagoon Mystic

Who wants to untap some Gates and end Commander games with Maze’s End? Bennie Smith shares his Archelos, Lagoon Mystic deck with a baked-in alternate win condition.

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic, illustrated by Dan Scott

As 2022 winds down, I think we’ve got to acknowledge what an incredibly potent set Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate was for the format we all love. While much maligned when it comes to “value,” there is no doubt that the set brought a slew of amazing new designs that boosted existing strategies while also spawning a bunch of brand-new ones. I personally built eight brand-new decks in paper from the set.  One card that I found intriguing was Nine-Fingers Keene, a Sultai commander that wants you to play Gates.

Nine-Fingers Keene

Building a Gates deck in Commander typically meant you had to run all five colors just to have enough Gates to make it feasible, but Baldur’s Gate brought enough new Gates to the mix that, yes, you can have enough Gates in your deck to make Maze’s End a viable win condition.

Maze’s End

A New Leader

The more I thought about Nine-Fingers Keene, the less I wanted it as the commander for a Gates deck. Menace and its ward ability seemed insufficient to count on Keene surviving long enough to attack and get past blockers, unless you really loaded up slots with cards to protect Keene and give it more evasion. The late-game “draw nine” potential was tempting, but I wanted my commander to be more impactful in the early game.  So my mind turned to another legend that might be a better fit: Archelos, Lagoon Mystic!

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic

The problem with a Gate deck, on top of the mana constrictions of a three-color deck, is that so many of your lands enter the battlefield tapped. Archelos quite nicely fixes that problem!  Of course, a lot of people play Archelos as a lockdown piece, forcing all of your opponents’ permanents to enter the battlefield tapped, but I figure if I just leave Archelos untapped for most of the game, it will provide enough benefit for my opponents that it might not eat as much removal as it otherwise would. Taking away the tapped drawback of my Gates and other lands seems well worth making the swap away from Keene.

Let’s dig into what I’ve got in the deck!

Special Gates

Baldur's Gate Basilisk Gate Gond Gate Heap Gate

I love these special new Gates, especially Baldur’s Gate, since it can potentially give you a huge infusion of mana in the mid-game. I also love Basilisk Gate, which can make an attacking creature quite threatening. Gond Gate does a really nice impression of Reflecting Pool while keeping your Gate count high, and Heap Gate lets you turn extra mana into Treasure tokens for a later big turn.

Other Gates

Black Dragon Gate Manor Gate Sea Gate Gateway Plaza Golgari Guildgate Simic Guildgate Dimir Guildgate

I’ve rounded out the Gate list with all the other Gates I can run within my color identity, which adds up to a total of twelve, easily enough to make Maze’s End a legit win condition and for Keene to be a late-game bomb.

Gates Matter

Maze's End Nine-Fingers Keene Guild Summit Gatebreaker Ram Saruli Gatekeepers Gateway Sneak Gate Colossus Glaive of the Guildpact Open the Gates Way of the Thief District Guide Gatecreeper Vine Gateway Shade Gatekeeper Gargoyle

These are the reasons for building the deck.  Outside of Maze’s End and Keene, we have Guild Summit and Gatebreaker Ram as the powerhouse Gate cards. Gate Colossus hits hard too, and once you reach three Gates, it’s very reasonable for five or less mana. Glaive of the Guildpact is expensive to equip, but if you can attach it to Gatebreaker Ram, you’re seriously cooking with gas. Way of the Thief is a little sketchy, since it offers up a two-for-one trade for an opponent’s removal spell, but if the coast is clear – or if I have some countermagic in hand – it can be worth putting it onto a threatening creature for one or two attack steps.

Enters the Battlefield Tapped

Amulet of Vigor Scaretiller Tiller Engine Worn Powerstone

Amulet of Vigor and Tiller Engine offer some redundancy to Archelos’s ability to let you use Gates and other lands the turn they enter the battlefield.  They do work slightly differently, by untapping the tapped land rather than letting them enter the battlefield untapped. 

Lands Matter

Tireless Tracker Tatyova, Benthic Druid Augur of Autumn

Since we care about putting Gates onto the battlefield, I did want to include some cards that care about lands hitting the battlefield.  Tireless Tracker has long been a great card for this, generating Clues and potentially growing to threatening size.  Tatyova, Benthic Druid is an absurdly powerful card in any deck like this.  I’ve also included Augur of Autumn as a way to make land drops from the top of my library and eventually get to cast creature spells too.

Card Draw

Skullclamp The Reality Chip Eternal Witness Timeless Witness Guardian Project Dig Up Seasons Past Sapling of Colfenor Hydroid Krasis Mulldrifter Gretchen Titchwillow Joint Exploration

I want to see a lot of my deck as I assemble more and more Gates, and this color combination has plenty of ways to draw cards. While I’ve got a lot of the usual suspects, I wanted to point out two cards in particular: Dig Up and Seasons Past. I just recently started adding these two cards to my decks that can run them as a powerful late-game engine; first, you cast Dig Up early to make sure you make your land drops, and then later cast Seasons Past, making sure to pick Dig Up as your one-mana card.  Then you can cast Dig Up, paying its cleave ability to search up Seasons Past from your library; rinse and repeat!


Reality Shift Ravenform Callidus Assassin Return to Nature Haywire Mite Trygon Predator Damnation

The Sultai color combination has a lot of great removal options, and I’ve squeezed in some here.  I was particularly excited to recently add Callidus Assassin from Warhammer 40,000, an exciting Clone effect attached to a removal spell.  I really love copying cards my opponents are playing, since it scales so well with the power level my pod is playing at.  I’m also over the moon with Haywire Mite, a fantastic, efficient removal option for noncreature artifacts or enchantments.


Alchemist's Refuge Bojuka Bog Negate Warkite Marauder Tamiyo's Safekeeping

When compiling this list, it made me realize I’ve only got one counterspell in the deck, Negate!  Makes me think I might need to tweak that a bit; I don’t typically run a ton of countermagic in my blue decks, but I do like to have around three to keep people honest.

I’ve long been a big fan of Warkite Marauder; I love how it can take down nearly any big bad creature on the battlefield and make it easy to remove.

Other Creatures

Reassembling Skeleton Prosperous Innkeeper Coiling Oracle Baleful Strix Llanowar Visionary Elder Gargaroth Brokkos, Apex of Forever Old One Eye

Beyond the Gate-themed creatures, I’ve rounded out the creature slots with a “greatest hits” approach—if it makes me happy, it’s in!  Brokkos, Apex of Forever is a fun card that can seriously upgrade any small creature to make it threatening in a hurry—such as the aforementioned Warkite Marauder!  And if the creature is destroyed, you can mutate it again from the graveyard.  Old One Eye is another gem from Warhammer 40,000, putting eleven power worth of trampling beatdown across two bodies, and if it gets destroyed, you can bring it back from the graveyard by discarding two cards that aren’t as useful as eleven power worth of trampling beatdown.

Mana Ramp

Blighted Woodland Sol Ring Arcane Signet Three Visits Reclusive Taxidermist Urborg Elf Greenside Watcher Kiora's Follower Navigation Orb Circuitous Route Relic of Legends

I’m playing a fair amount of mana ramp in the deck, with Kiora’s Follower doing a pretty good impression of a mana creature when it’s not untapping another permanent you need untapped. I love that we’ve got the new Navigation Orb to go with old-school Circuitous Route to go search up whatever particular Gate card is needed right now.

Tapped Lands

Opulent Palace Path of Ancestry Zagoth Triome Temple of Malady Temple of Mystery Temple of Deceit Fetid Pools Field of the Dead

Lastly, I’d like to point out some of the other lands that enter the battlefield tapped if it weren’t for Archelos’s ability; these are all incredibly playable, but having them enter the battlefield untapped is rather bonkers.  Oh, and check out the cheeky Field of the Dead; considering how many lands with different names I’m running, it should be able to generate random Zombie tokens on a regular basis.

The Deck

Okay, here is the full decklist:

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 12-23-2022
Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

What must-have cards might I have missed including in Archelos, Lagoon Mystic’s Gate deck?  Any nice tech cards that can round out the list?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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