After a summer in Australia and a brief jaunt across the U.S. for Mythic Championship Cleveland and MagicFest Los Angeles, it was good to get back to my adopted hometown of Glasgow. There, I stayed with two friends—MC Top 16 competitor Dani “Salt Lord” Anderson, and another bloke who goes by the name of “Stabby.” Peak Glasgow.
Anyway, one evening when I was kicking around ideas for the next Arena Boys video, Dani and I got chatting—he was interested in getting Scapeshift to work in Standard, and pitched the idea of combining it with The Mending of Dominaria to get all the sacrificed lands back. What was the payoff? How about Guild Summit, which triggers every time a Gate enters the battlefield (from anywhere)? Quickly realizing that we had something going, we fired up the bellows to heat up this spicy brew we’d started to concoct.
After deciding the “perfect” curve was Growth Spiral into Guild Summit into Mending into Scapeshift into Sylvan Awakening, we adapted the old Gates shell to suit this new purpose. Gone were the proactive cards like Gatebreaker Ram and Gate Colossus—we were in a whole new world of go big or go home.
4 Azorius Guildgate 4 Selesnya Guildgate 4 Izzet Guildgate 4 Gruul Guildgate 4 Simic Guildgate 4 Plaza of Harmony 1 Island 1 Forest 1 Zacama, Primal Calamity 1 Archway Angel 4 Gates Ablaze 4 Lava Coil 4 Growth Spiral 4 Guild Summit 4 Scapeshift 4 Circuitous Route 3 The Mending of Dominaria 1 Crucible of Worlds 1 Banefire 1 Sylvan Awakening 1 Mass Manipulation 1 Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar
Much of the above deck list will be familiar not only to fans of Arena Boys, but also to those familiar with the “traditional” Gates deck. A Gates-focused mana base in conjunction with powerful payoff cards such as Guild Summit and Gates Ablaze is further bolstered with ramp spells such as Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route. Where we start to go off-plan is when the Scapeshift package comes in.
The Mending of Dominaria is a weird choice when we’re playing only three creatures (one of which already has a recursion ability built-in), but its final chapter is bonkers with Scapeshift, returning all the sacrificed lands. With a Guild Summit out you can expect to draw a ton of cards, but even without a Summit the sheer mana advantage you’ll have will propel you toward victory.
How? With some of the huge top-end cards in the list. The best mana sink in Standard is, of course, Zacama, but if you despise fun and want to take a much more direct and less scenic route to victory, you can instead play Banefire. Multani will readily one-shot opponents post-Scapeshift/Mending, but the headline act here is Sylvan Awakening. Cracking in with 20 or so indestructible 2/2s is an exceptionally sweet way to end the game.
Finally, we actually get to play a little bit of utility in this list. Lava Coil, Banefire, Mass Manipulation, and Archway Angel all cover different angles, with Lava Coil being a nice, flexible answer to everything from Goblin Chainwhirler to Crackling Drake. On Arena Boys we often irresponsibly bin interaction to maximize sweetness, so it’s nice to be able to have both here!
Generally speaking, you want your first few turns to follow the same pattern. Set up by ramping a little, deploying a Guild Summit, and managing the board with red cards. In a perfect world, you play Mending first, then Scapeshift on the the Mending’s second chapter, so as to be ready to hustle and bustle for chapter three.
Of course, it’s not always as simple as that. Guild Summit is a critical card for this deck to have any staying power at all—you really want a nice full hand at all times—and as a result the games with and without the Summit are night and day. Even if your hand looks a little clunky, if it has three lands and Guild Summit, you might end up being in a good spot given how many cards you’re then likely to draw.
This will be obvious to anyone who has played with Scapeshift before, but remember to tap all the lands you intend to sacrifice so that you have mana left over post-Scapeshift. This is especially important when you have Guild Summit out, as you may draw a cheap card like Growth Spiral or Lava Coil that you can then cast after the Scapeshift has resolved.
If you need extra life, you can do a little reverse-Valakut trick and Scapeshift for two Gates and as many Plazas as you have left. Just remember to get two Gates that provide all four colors. For example, Gruul plus Azorius, to ensure your Plazas then create all your colors. Remember, too, that Mending’s third chapter will often gain you a little bit of life by bringing back more Plazas, and that you can bounce Plazas with a dead Multani to buffer your life total further.
With enough lands out you can cast Sylvan Awakening, other stuff, and then Zacama to still attack with all your lands once they’ve untapped. Zacama can also be useful to blow up your own Guild Summits if you’re afraid of decking. As you saw in the video, I did exactly this at one point (but that was mainly to manage the stress of drawing half a million cards all at once).
Finally, remember that with three copies of The Mending of Dominaria you should—theoretically—never mill out. This is obviously subject to opposing disruption, but does provide a level of inevitability. Of course, by that stage you should be able to one-shot them with Banefire or Multani, but if worst comes to worst, you can hopefully mitigate the odds of getting decked thanks to Mending.
There isn’t a huge amount of tweaking and tuning that can be done with this list. The mana base isn’t particularly changeable, and the Gate-based core can’t really be edited too heavily without undoing a lot of what the deck seeks to accomplish. The flex slots, however, are definitely up for grabs.
4 Azorius Guildgate 4 Selesnya Guildgate 4 Izzet Guildgate 4 Gruul Guildgate 4 Simic Guildgate 2 Breeding Pool 4 Plaza of Harmony 2 Archway Angel 1 Zacama, Primal Calamity 1 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar 4 Gates Ablaze 4 Lava Coil 4 Growth Spiral 4 Guild Summit 4 Circuitous Route 3 The Mending of Dominaria 3 Scapeshift 2 Sylvan Awakening 1 Ixalan’s Binding 1 Banefire
Breeding Pool replaces both basics for a few reasons. The biggest one is that any Gate plus Breeding Pool allows for a turn-2 Growth Spiral, whereas with an Island or Forest it’s much less certain. The second reason is this deck is designed to play one turn off the pace, and doesn’t mind playing taplands. Plus, with so much incidental life gain, 2 extra damage often isn’t the end of the world.
A playset of Scapeshift isn’t necessary, and I should have looked before I leaped and burnt four mythic wildcards on it. Oops. Similarly, Crucible of Worlds just doesn’t do all that much, especially with The Mending of Dominaria flying around. We’re also cutting Mass Manipulation (buy your cards from ChannelFireball.com) for a second Sylvan Awakening to end games faster.
This deck is already pretty well set-up against aggro, so perhaps the second Archway Angel is overkill, but there are good reasons to include another copy. Firstly, this deck should win given enough time, and so gaining 20-or-so life with another Angel buys a huge amount of time. Secondly, a 3/4 flyer is a respectable threat and will force an answer from controlling decks. Thirdly, it’s another creature for the first two triggers of The Mending of Dominaria.
I’d like to include more interaction, and so I’m going to try Ixalan’s Binding. It’s slow and clunky, but serves a useful purpose against planeswalkers and huge threats like Crackling Drake or Lyra Dawnbringer. It might be better as a Shivan Fire, but I think it’s worth trying out.
That’s it for this week—the Arena Boys will be back with another ridiculous deck next week. In the meantime, if you’ve got a deck list to submit to us, please get in touch on Twitter. We can be reached @thearenaboys!