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Budget Magic: Four-Color Gates (Standard, Magic Online)


Puiznu, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Ravnica Allegiance is finally here, which means it's time to kick off our exploration of our new Standard format! Today, we're playing one of the most unique and sweetest budget options for Ravnica Allegiance Standard: Four-Color Guildgates! Ravnica Allegiance brought with it several new payoffs for overloading our deck with Guildgates, along with one of the best ramp finishers in Hydroid Krasis. Does this mean it's finally time for Gates to shine in Standard? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

One quick note before getting to the videos: as you can probably see, Four-Color Gates is way over budget at $137. It was under $100 when I recorded the videos a few days ago, but since then, Hydroid Krasis nearly doubled in price, which is why the deck is more expensive than I'd like. Thankfully, there are even cheaper ways to play Guildgates in tribal, which we'll talk about during our ultra-budget section! Anyway, to the video!

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Budget Magic: Four-Color Gates (Standard)

The Deck

Four-Color Gates is basically a ramp deck but with a twist: our deck is overflowing with Gates, so we can take advantage of some really powerful Gates-matter payoffs. Since we're playing a Gate deck, we should probably start by talking about the lands and then move on to our Gate payoffs and utility cards.

The Gates

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The core of our deck is 15 gates. While many are just the normal guild-based Gates that fix our mana at the cost of entering the battlefield tapped, one of the biggest reasons that Gate-tribal is viable in Ravnica Allegiance Standard is the combo of Gateway Plaza and Plaza of Harmony. Together, these cards give us eight five-color lands, which allows us to cast pretty much anything we'd like. More importantly, Plaza of Harmony is key to staying alive against aggressive decks. While gaining three life might not sound like much, it's enough to cancel out a Lightning Strike or Skewer the Critics. Plus, Plaza of Harmony enters the battlefield untapped, which is really important since one of the biggest drawbacks of playing a deck with 15 Gates is that most of our lands enter the battlefield tapped, which forces us to play off-curve and can be especially punishing against aggro. Thanks to Plaza of Harmony and a few basic lands, we can try to play our tapped Gates on turns where we can afford a tapped land and then hold our untapped lands for when it's extremely important that we cast something on-curve.

Gate Payoffs

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Guild Summit has been around in Standard for a while but is much better with all 10 Guildgates in the format along with Plaza of Harmony. The enchantment doesn't look like much at first glance, but with 15 Gates in our deck, we're usually drawing an extra card each turn once it hits the battlefield and more once we draw into our second and third copies of Guild Summit. In fact, once our deck gets going, the bigger concern is that we might draw too many cards, as silly as that sounds. Since Guild Summit isn't a "may" ability, we sometimes need to avoid playing the third copy or risk decking ourselves as we make our land drops. 

In general, we try to get Guild Summit onto the battlefield as quickly as possible to start drawing extra cards, but there is some upside in the late game as well, since we can tap all of our extra Gates when Guild Summit enters the battlefield to refill our hand right away. While this aspect of Guild Summit isn't especially efficient, it is a nice upside if we have nothing better to do with our mana. 

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Gates Ablaze might be the biggest reason that Four-Color Gates feels like a legitimate deck in Ravnica Allegiance Standard. In the early game, it's basically an Anger of the Gods, sweeping away a bunch of small creatures against aggro decks. More importantly, Gates Ablaze scales to the late game, when it turns into a Toxic Deluge that doesn't cost us any life, killing everything for just three mana and taking down really annoying threats like Carnage Tyrant. While the drawback is that we need to play a bunch of Gates in our deck to make Gates Ablaze work, in our 15-Gate deck, Gates Ablaze is the best sweeper in Standard.

Finishers

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The other new Gate payoff from Ravnica Allegiance is Gatebreaker Ram, and the three-drop is pretty absurd in our deck. If we can play Gates on our first two turns, it comes into play as a 4/4 with vigilance and trample. As the game goes along, it often grows to 10 or more power, making it a surprisingly strong finisher. Trample makes it difficult for decks with small creatures to keep it at bay, while vigilance allows us to play offense and defense, smashing in for huge attacks but still having a blocker back on defense to keep our life total high. The other exciting part of Gatebreaker Ram is that it scales along with Gates Ablaze, so our sweeper will never kill it. This means that in the late game, when we have a couple of Gatebreaker Rams on the battlefield, we can often wipe our opponent's board with Gates Ablaze and immediately win the game by attacking with the biggest Sheep in Magic.

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Our second finisher is Hydroid Krasis, which doesn't really care about Gates specifically but is extremely powerful in any ramp deck, giving us a massive, evasive body that also refills our hand and gains us some life to stabilize against aggro. Thanks to cards like Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route, it's pretty easy to cast a 6/6 Hydroid Krasis by Turn 4, which is a lot for some decks to deal with. Meanwhile, the card draw of Hydroid Krasis helps our deck spiral out of control, finding us more Gates to draw us more cards with Guild Summit, and also grow our Gates Ablaze and Gatebreaker Ram. The only downside of Hydroid Krasis is that it recently spiked in price, although the good news is that you can easily replace it with Gate Colossus and the deck will work just fine. While losing the card draw and lifegain hurts, Gate Colossus is often an even bigger threat, and the fact it keeps coming back from our graveyard as we play Gates means that our opponent needs very specific removal (like Vraska's Contempt) to deal with it permanently. Basically, while Hydroid Krasis is great in our deck, its recent price spike has pushed it out of the budget range, but thankfully we have a solid substitute that's super cheap.

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Banefire is just a one-of, but thanks to Guild Summit and Hydroid Krasis, we draw so many cards that we'll find it eventually. Then, thanks to all of our ramp, we can usually just kill the opponent on the spot by throwing 10 or more uncounterable damage at their face. Otherwise, Banefire doubles down as slightly inefficient removal for the early game while we are looking to get our powerful Gates-matter engine online.

Ramp

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Considering that the main plan of our deck is to get as many Gates onto the battlefield as possible, having some ramp is essential. Growth Spiral allows us to put an extra land on the battlefield, which is especially helpful considering how many of our lands come into play tapped, while also drawing us an extra card along the way to keep us digging for our payoffs and even more Gates. On the other hand, Circuitous Route is pretty insane in our deck, since it can tutor two Gates directly onto the battlefield, which means along with ramping us into our big late-game plays like Banefire and Hydroid Krasis, it's growing our Gatebreaker Ram and Gates Ablaze, while also drawing us two extra cards if we have a Guild Summit on the battlefield. This helps to keep it relevant in the late game when we already have enough mana, when ramp spells are often dead draws off the top of our deck. Finally, District Guide doesn't actually ramp us, but it does make sure that we are hitting all of our land drops while also adding a chump-blocking body in the early game as we are waiting to get our Gate plan online.

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our deck are Lava Coil and Shimmer of Possibility. Lava Coil gives us some removal for the early game, and exiling rather than killing the creature can be a nice upside against some threats. Meanwhile, Shimmer of Possibility digs four cards deep to find our important Gate payoffs, which is pretty helpful. One of the risks of our deck is that we draw all ramp but don't find our finishers like Guild Summit and Hydroid Krasis, and Shimmer of Possibility pretty much fixes this issue all by itself.

Wrap-Up

Four-Color Gates were great. We ended up 5-0 in our video matches (there was one extra match that we lost to Wilderness Reclamation, making us 5-1 overall) and beat a lot of presumably top-tier decks along the way. While playing a bunch of Gates looks weird, the payoffs are surprisingly effective. Gates Ablaze beats creature decks all by itself, and thanks to Guild Summit, we can typically outdraw control. If we happen to run into midrange, our Hydroid Krasises are often bigger thanks to our ramp, while Gatebreaker Ram is a sneaky all-star, often being the biggest creature on the battlefield and demanding a removal spell right away. As a result, it really feels like Four-Color Gates can compete with most of the decks in Standard.

As far as changes to make to the budget build, in general, I'm pretty happy with how it played. The one big issue is the Hydroid Krasis price spike pushing the deck beyond our normal budget. As such, we'll probably have to make do with a combination of Gate Colossus and perhaps a main-deck Archway Angel or two as finishers. The other fun aspect of Four-Color Gates is that since we're playing so much ramp and our mana is so good thanks to Gateway Plaza and Plaza of Harmony, there is plenty of room for customization. Everything from Nexus of Fate to Mass Manipulation could potentially work as finishers, not to mention Dinosaurs like Zacama, Primal Calamity. It's also worth mentioning that Four-Color Gates is extremely budget-friendly on Magic Arena, even with Hydroid Krasis, with just four mythics and five rares in the main deck. It seems like a decent option if you want a sweet deck but don't have a lot of wildcards to spend.

All in all, Four-Color Gates felt solid. It's possible that a Gates-matter deck actually ends up in the top tier of the format, and even if it doesn't, there's little doubt that Gates is one of the best budget options (behind Mono-Red Burn, most likely) in the format, since the deck naturally avoid one of the biggest current budget issues: the cost of the shock-land mana base. If you like drawing your deck and casting big, flashy, undercosted finishers, give it a shot. It's a blast to play and shockingly competitive!

Getting Four-Color Gates into the ultra-budget range is pretty easy. Just cutting Hydroid Krasis and replacing it with Gate Colossus drops the deck's price down near $40, and with a couple of other small changes (like replacing Banefire with Archway Angel and Knight of Autumn with Centaur Peacemaker in the sideboard), we can get the deck down to around $25. More importantly, these changes don't hurt the deck all that much. While Krasis is great and Knight of Autumn is one of the best sideboard cards in Standard, the deck is more than playable with the changes. Unlike most ultra-budget builds, which I wouldn't want to play in a tournament, I'd be more than happy to play ultra-budget Four-Color Gates at FNM, and I'd expect to win some matches along the way. The Gates-matter payoffs are that good.

Non-Budget Four-Color Gates

The build that we played in the videos is essentially a non-budget build (especially considering the Hydroid Krasis price spike). Gates just happen to be really cheap, even in their optimal form. If you're looking for another build, here's an $86 (mostly thanks to a few shock lands in the mana base) build of the Gate deck that recently went 5-0 in a Magic Online league. Rather than relying on Hydroid Krasis, the deck uses Gate Colossus to finish the game along with Expansion // Explosion for even more damage!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.

 


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