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Budget Magic: Spelunking Gates

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! As you probably know by now, I love Gates. It's one of my all-time favorite budget archetypes, and we've played it a few times in the past in various formats. Well, today, Gates returns because it got a massive addition in Lost Caverns of Ixalan in Spelunking, which might just be the best card in the entire deck! Why is Spelunking such a big deal in Gates? How good is Gates in current Historic? Let's get to the video and find out! But first, a quick reminder that if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Budget Magic: My Gates Are Spelunky

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The Deck

I'm not going to do a full write-up on Gates—we played the deck for Budget Magic a few months ago and used it to hit Mythic. The game plan and most of the cards are the same, so check out that article if you want a full breakdown of the archetype. Instead, I want to focus on a huge new addition to the deck, the reason we are revisiting the archetype today, the card that just might make Gates the literal best deck in Historic: Spelunking!

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When Spelunking was first spoiled, my initial thought was that the enchantment would be a huge addition to Gates. After all, the main drawback of the deck is that nearly all of its lands come into play tapped. Spelunking solves this problem by itself, turning our janky mana base into a super-powerful one, all while being another ramp spell thanks to the extra land drop it offers. Basically, Spelunking is Explore—already a staple in Gates—for one more mana but with this incredibly massive upside of making all of our Gates come into play untapped.

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While Spelunking does do all those things, after playing the deck a bunch, I realized it's actually way, way better than I thought. Not only does it fix our tapped land problem and ramp us, but it also actually supercharges the deck by making it at least a turn (and often multiple turns) faster than it was a month ago. While I'm still calling the deck Gates, in reality, the current build is really Maze's End combo, with a play pattern that is much more like Modern Amulet Titan than that of a more traditional Gates deck that looks to win by beating down with Gatebreaker Ram (which isn't even in the main deck anymore) or Gate Colossus

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So, why is Spelunking so absurdly strong in Gates? Well, the first thing I overlooked about the card is that it doesn't just make the lands we play from our hand come into play untapped; it makes all of our lands come into play untapped, which allows for some pretty busted plays with Circuitous Route and Primeval Titan. On level one, Spelunking essentially reduces the cost of these cards—we pay four mana for Circuitous Route or six for Primeval Titan but immediately get two mana back since the lands they tutor up come into play untapped. But it's even better than that. We can use either of these cards to tutor up Baldur's Gate—which is essentially Cabal Coffers for Gates—to make an absurd amount of mana. With a Spelunking on the battlefield, we can make a bunch of mana with Baldur's Gate, tutor up another copy, legend rule away the tapped one, and make a bunch more mana to have a massive turn where we dump our hand. You know how Mono-Green Devotion is so devastating because they can play multiple copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in one turn to make oodles of mana? Well, now Gates can essentially do the same thing.

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The other busted thing Spelunking does is let Maze's End come into play untapped. Normally, you have to play Maze's End, hope to survive a turn, and then use it to win the game. But with a Spelunking on the battlefield, we can simply ramp a bunch of Gates into play, drop Maze's End, and win the game on the spot. Most alt-win conditions in Magic have a timing restriction where you need to wait until your next upkeep to win the game, which entering the battlefield tapped more or less did for Maze's End. Only the strongest alt-win conditions (like Thassa's Oracle) win the game immediately. Now, thanks to Spelunking, Maze's End is on this very short list. 

The end result is that Gates with Spelunking might actually just be broken, not "good for a budget deck" broken but "best deck in the format" broken. So far with the deck, I've played 20 matches and won 16, giving us a ridiculous 80% match-win percentage. While I haven't quite hit Mythic yet, I'm most of the way through Diamond. But by the time you read this, odds are that Mythic has been achieved. The only losses for the deck came against super-fast aggro, which isn't an unwinnable matchup but does put a lot of pressure on hitting a Gates Ablaze early in the game to stabilize the board. Otherwise, I think Gates beats basically everything. If yotur looking for a budget deck that's not just super fun and super cheap but also might actually be one of the (if not the) best decks in the entire format, give Spelunking Gates a shot. The deck is pretty absurd!


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

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