Standard Deck Tech: Gated Community

My recent article on the Teferiless Nexus of Fate deck went over so well that I’m back again with a new one!

When I use the word “well” what I mean is that most comments complained about the existence of Nexus of Fate itself. Some complained about the fact that the deck was positioned so badly against the new breed of burn-heavy red featuring Light Up the Stage and Skewer the Critics. And one guy messaged me to say that he had planned to run the deck at his upcoming RPTQ before it became widely known, so thanks for nothing.

The first problem can’t be helped, I’m afraid. The second problem, on the other hand, is a very practical concern and today’s deck does wonders to address the issue. So give the list down below a try, especially if you’re looking for something to play at your RPTQ!

Words of Warning

Yes, today’s deck also features a couple of Nexus of Fate, and its endgame sometimes involves chaining them. But it is not a Nexus deck, and its goal definitely isn’t to bore the opponent to death. Instead, how do you feel about using Nexus to attack twice with a 12/12+ Gatebreaker Ram?

Apropos, another warning: The deck is full of cards that don’t look like actual Constructed material. Not only is there Gatebreaker Ram, we also have Gate Colossus, Circuitous Route, Guild Summit, Gates Ablaze… and about 18 Guildgates.

When I first met an opponent who was working with all of these cards I thought I had encountered a deck that was one part budget and one part following a weird theme for the heck of it. I guess both do in fact apply, but neither is the raison d’être here. The simple truth is that the sum of the parts is greater than the parts themselves. This may sound like so much of a cliché, but it is actually quite a tall order because Guildgates basically have negative value compared to other land options in Standard. You clearly are shooting yourself in the foot by having almost all of your lands enter the battlefield tapped. As a consequence, you need to accept that you will be limping and that you will be late to many fights.

But then you more than make up for it: you get to cast a creature that often grows to double digits in power and toughness. In Gates Ablaze you get to cast Day of Judgment for a mere 3 mana, only the aforementioned Gatebreaker Ram doesn’t die to it. And you get to run the card draw engine with the absolute highest ceiling in Standard.

A final warning: The following probably isn’t tuned to perfection. Once again, I act as the official publicist for Bernhard Lehner, whose list of credentials is long and impressive. Some of his innovations I initially found more crazy than brilliant, but they grew on me, and I now consider them just as brilliant as they are crazy. I personally talked him into adding the eighteenth Guildgate and into running Shimmer of Possibility. If those choices don’t pan out, I accept full responsibility.

Needless to say, Lehner was still brewing and updating his build at the time of writing, and I met several others on Arena who were at it too. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk to them. I could only shout “Nice!” at them, like one of those talking dolls, over and over again.

Gated Community

Bernhard Lehner

Is it a combo deck? Is it a control deck? A bird, a plane, a jellyfish hydra beast? The best description may be ramp, but classifying this deck gets tricky as it draws upon various elements, and acts as a true all-rounder. We also aren’t concerned about exploiting anything, like Arena’s best-of-one format, here. The deck even comes with a tentatively penciled-in sideboard.

Likewise, the Gated Community doesn’t seem to suffer much from bad matchups. Against just about everything, I won roughly twice as many games as I lost. It was really hard to lose to any kind of creature strategy based in green. All of these creatures are larger even than Carnage Tyrant. Gates Ablaze only needs a little help to strike down any Wildgrowth Walkers that start growing wildly on curve. And even a removal suite such as a pair of Ravenous Chupacabras regrown via Find // Finality will eventually be overpowered by the deck’s card advantage. Izzet Drakes proved another very easy pairing. The dreaded Nexus deck powered by Wilderness Reclamation is the only archetype against which I believe Gated Community to be the definite underdog.

To my surprise the positive win rate even held true—especially true, I should say—in matchups versus mono-red or Rakdos Burn. Nowadays, this appears to be the most important matchup by far, and so I decided to keep track of the exact ratio of my wins and losses: a solid 20-11 so far. One time I even beat an opponent who cast three Ghitu Lavarunner, Light Up the Stage, and Wizard’s Lightning within their first three turns.

The life gain from Plaza of Harmony, Gift of Paradise, and Hydroid Krasis later on really does add up, and sometimes Negate soaks up a crucial 3 points as well. The more creature-heavy draws can be blown out by a timely Gates Ablaze, and a mix will often be brickwalled by an early Gatebreaker Ram followed by Gate Colossus. These two don’t give the red mage a lot of time to coax a deadly spike of flame from their last dying embers either.

In fact, the creatures with Gate in their name are responsible for so many incidental wins, I’d strongly advise not to disregard them as something cute. I know what you’re thinking because I thought it myself: You’re looking at these Limited all-stars and you want to cut them, or at least cut down on their number.

Gatebreaker RamGate Colossus - Foil Magic League Promo

Don’t. Don’t miss out on free wins. Sometimes the opponent won’t have the removal or will have the removal but not the time. Many were the players who lost a full turn because they had to cast a pair of Lava Coils or who lost their dreadful Ixalan’s Binding to something so easy to replace as a creature.

It’s no coincidence that smart hosts organize summits in remote locations, far from the action. This allows the delegates the peace and quiet to come up with a resolution, or five, and the same applies to Guild Summit. Guild Summit is the most broken of the Gate beneficiaries and the biggest pull to run as many of these lands as possible. In an average game, it is well possible to draw ten to twenty extra cards with one to two copies of the enchantment.

Guild SummitGates Ablaze

Some opponents require an early Gates Ablaze, especially White Weenie. But other than that, the single most crucial component to the deck functioning is Guild Summit. The importance of the blue and the red payoffs were also the main argument when I advocated the inclusion of Shimmer of Possibility.

Of course, the ideal opening sequence is Simic Guildgate into Opt into Gruul Guildgate into Plaza of Harmony, plus some 3-casting-cost spell. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and then Shimmer of Possibility, or Growth Spiral, is a great way to make up for lost time. Come to that, Growth Spiral is actually the best reason ever to play an untapped land on turn 2, although this itself is rare.

Growth SpiralCircuitous Route

Between Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route, the deck will often drop a lot of lands onto the battlefield quickly. Guild Summit turns these into extra draws automatically. But when there’s a Mountain of lands with no Summit in sight, then Hydroid Krasis acts as the understudy closest to the preferred prima donna. The metaphor doesn’t work perfectly, I’m afraid, because the Krasis’s main goal in such situations is to find and to get Guild Summit onto the stage, but there you go.

Finally, Negate may look like a weird choice for a deck that’s often this tight on mana. In truth, though, this is what gives the nod to the sleek option. In theory, it would be nice to have access to a problem solver that works after the fact. In practice, it is essential to be able to stop things on the cheap. In a way, Negate, which regularly negates a spell that costs twice as much mana or more, is another one of the deck’s semi-Time Walks, along with Growth Spiral. They are needed because Gated Community begins every game on the backfoot.

This, more than anything else, is what holds the strategy back. In some games, you simply won’t be able to cast anything relevant until turn 4. Other times, you’ll deal with color screw or just plain-old regular screw. One can even be Gate-screwed, hard as it may be to believe.

In my one-hundred percent objective opinion, it would be fair if you could at least run seven copies of Simic Guildgate, up to four each per artwork. Unfortunately, not even on Arena, where the deckbuilder shows the two separately, does this work. I checked.

Final word of advice: When your opponent casts Nexus of Fate and you have your own Nexus—never respond! Let your opponent’s Nexus resolve, which slots an extra turn into the turn cycle for them, and then cast your own, which works out to you getting the next turn. This even works when there are a bunch of their extra turns still waiting in line for their, for lack of a better word, turn. The last extra turn created is always the first extra turn to happen. Then ram 20 points worth of Gatebreaker Ram into their face and celebrate by dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Which, for them, there won’t be.

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