Gates is an archetype made possible by the legality of Ravnica Allegiance. Utilizing the Gate cycle from Magic’s newest pseudoblock, Gates is a synergy laden deck with powerful payoffs, using the early turns of the game to deploy gates. With pushed midgame plays like Gates Ablaze and Guild Summit, Gates mitigates the slow nature of its mana base.
With 17-18 gates, the most crucial component of any Gates variant is having enough lands to function. With each payoff more powerful the more lands you have hitting land drops is the top priority. Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route are ways to get extra gates into play, pushing you ahead or back at parity. They also contribute to the strongest starts, as having seven lands in play on Turn 4 is often unbeatable.
There are two main variants for Gates decks — Nexus of Gates, and Midrange Gates. Nexus of Gates uses gate payoffs to churn through its deck and survive long enough to cast a large Expansion//Explosion. It can also use a midsized Hydroid Krasis to end the game quickly with just a couple of extra turns. With this focus on late game power and combo finishes, Nexus of Gates is well positioned against Esper Control and Sultai Midrange, as well as other Gates variants. It suffers against the aggressive decks, as the only interaction it plays is Gates Ablaze and other sweepers. Having a gameplan reliant on resolving Wilderness Reclamation is a precarious place to be in a metagame of Azorius and Mono Blue.
Midrange Gates uses the same core package as Nexus of Gates, but replaces Wilderness Reclamation and Nexus of Fate with aggressive creatures like Gatebreaker Ram and Gate Colossus. Adapting to weakness against aggressive decks, Midrange Gates uses its flex slots mostly for removal spells. Lava Coil or Banefire are the most common slots, interacting with the board in the early turns, but still having late game application. Removal spells are better in Midrange Gates than in Nexus of Gates as removing a blocker can be quite crucial when trying to race.
Each variant shares the same core cards. These are set up cards and payoffs that fit either a Midrange or a Control plan. Every Gates deck should play four of these cards, as Guild Summit and Gates Ablaze are the two strongest payoffs, while Circuitous Route and Plaza of Harmony are crucial for fixing the mana. With this in mind, Gates affords fourteen flexible slots, depending on which specific variant you play. Midrange Gates has more flex slots, as the core shell for that deck is eight creatures.
Nexus of Gates
This three card combo serves as the backbone for Nexus of Gates. While both variants use the early game to develop their mana and control the board, Nexus of Gates uses a combo finish to overpower the fair decks in the format. A bit vulnerable to aggressive strategies, Nexus of Gates has a more consistent wincon that does not depend on board state. Often you can win against a full board, a feat not easy to do for Midrange Gates.
Midrange Gates uses this powerhouse curve to end games, eschewing a combo finish in favor of more board control. While this contributes to a slower gameplan, the ability to mitigate bad matchups is the strength of Midrange Gates. With a flexible and consistent game plan, Midrange Gates has the most potential of any variant to attack an unprepared metagame.
With a deep sideboard and access to four colors, Gates is afforded the most customization of any deck in the format. As one of the few decks with the ability to play any top end, sideboards vary widely from player to player. Common choices are Mass Manipulation and Niv Mizzet, Parun, as these allow the deck powerful tools in grindier matchups. Niv Mizzet also gives the deck an angle of attack against control decks by presenting an uncounterable card advantage engine.
Archway Angel is perhaps the most polarizing of all payoffs, as it costs six mana for a medium body. The strength of Archway Angel lies in the ability to close the door on any deck relying on creatures. It is quite common for Archway Angel to gain 12-16 life in one turn, effectively ending the game against Mono Red or Temur Monsters. Archway Angel does little in games you are winning and costs six mana, so most of the time is relegated to the sideboard. If you are expecting mostly aggressive decks, consider playing two copies in the main deck.
With the advent of Mono Blue’s format dominance, Lava Coil is quickly becoming one of the strongest removal spells in the format. While being Sorcery speed is a liability against countermagic, the efficiency of the spell more than makes up for it. With Dive Down and Spell Pierce being the only mana positive ways to interact with Lava Coil, it can become difficult for Mono Blue to maintain enough board presence to race creatures. Lava Coil is also one of the few cheap removal spells that can kill a Tempest Djinn.
Banefire serves a similar function as Lava Coil. It removes an early threat while offering utility in the midgame. In control matchups Banefire scales with each land drop, serving as an uncounterable Gate payoff that ends the game almost immediately. In Aggro matchups, a Turn 3 Banefire can kill most one and two drops in the format. This flexibility contributes to most lists playing a couple copies of this iconic Sorcery.
The results of the recent SCG event in Dallas have shown a consolidation of the Standard format towards polarizing strategies. With Midrange and Control decks losing to Nexus of Fate, the success of Azorius Aggro and Mono Blue follows a logical progression of the format. Moving forward, Crushing Canopy, Negate, and Lava Coil are the most important cards to be maxing out on. I would expect to see more copies of these cards to interact with Mono Blue and other Nexus Decks. Below I’ve listed the two decklists I’m considering this weekend for the LCQ and RPTQ.
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