Gatewatch, Assemble.

It’s no secret – Planeswalkers are some of the most powerful cards in all of Magic. Whether they are creating tokens, destroying permanents, or giving you card advantage, these powerful mages have been a key part of many decks ever since they made their debut in Lorwyn block. Since then, the concept of building decks around several of these powerhouses has been at the forefront of many brewers’ minds. Affectionately known as “superfriends”, these decks focus on midrange and control strategies, using strong creatures and removal spells to stabilise the board before using their Planeswalkers to power home to a decisive win.

With superfriends making some impact in the new Standard, I began to look into which other decks could make waves in the near future. So let’s see what we can come up with.

With Friends like Mardu

During the last Pro Tour, Lukas Blohon managed to fight off stiff competition from the likes of Owen Turtenwald and LSV to be crowned Pro Tour Eldritch Moon champion, with his Black/White Control deck. Whilst not a pure superfriends deck, it did make use of Liliana, the Last Hope, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and Sorin, Grim Nemesis to power away in the late game; then hiding in the sideboard there was also a playset of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. While this deck has some great creature removal, it can struggle to close the game out due to the lack of direct damage. What better way to burn our opponent than with a little red mana?

Planeswalker (12)
 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Nahiri, the Harbinger
 Ob Nixilis Reignited
 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
 Chandra, Flamecaller
 Liliana, the Last Hope

Creatures (3)
 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
 Dragonlord Kolaghan

Sorcery (10)
 Declaration in Stone
 Radiant Flames
 Read the Bones
 Painful Truths
 Languish
 Planar Outburst
Instant (6)
 Anguished Unmaking
 Ultimate Price
 Grasp of Darkness
 Blessed Alliance

Enchantments (3)
 Oath of Liliana
 Oath of Gideon
 Oath of Chandra

Land (26)
 Evolving Wilds
 Smoldering Marsh
 Battlefield Forge
 Shambling Vent
 Needle Spires
 Caves of Koilos
 Swamp
 Plains
 Mountain
Sideboard (15)
 Transgress the Mind
 Read the Bones
 Dark Petition
 Infinite Obliteration
 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
 Radiant Flames
 Crumble to Dust
 Duress
 Linvala, the Preserver
 Descend Upon the Sinful
 Orbs of Warding
 Ruinous Path

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Since we now have access to red, we can welcome Nahiri, the Harbinger and Chandra, Flamecaller to the fold. Nahiri gives us card draw and removal, wrapped up in a nice little bow. But it’s her final ability that gives us the real meat to our strategy, fetching us out one of our Goblin Dark-Dwellers. One of the main issues with control, is that it can burn through all your removal, leaving you valuable to a severe face beating. Goblin Dark-Dwellers allows you to not only reuse one of your key pieces of removal, but places a 4/4 beat stick to force through some manage damage. Lilana’s second ability can also bring Dark-Dwellers back out of the graveyard for another use.

Chandra, Flamecaller on the other hand does pretty much everything we could want. Her plus ability allows us to force through some major damage, giving us another win condition. Her second ability gives us great card advantage, allowing us to pitch useless cards in the late game, to draw into either more removal, or a second win condition. And when you absolutely, positively, need to clear the board, Chandra’s ultimate can sweep away most medium size threats.

We have also added all three Oaths in our colours. Chandra’s comes in attached to a creature targeting Bolt, then 2 damage to our opponent each end step a Planeswalker is played. Liliana’s give us removal then free Zombies each time we play a Planeswalker. Gideon’s gives us an Ally, then makes each of our Planeswalkers enter with an additional Loyalty, which gives us just a little extra damage protection.

Also, since we are running three colours, we would be remiss if we didn’t include Painful Truths and Radiant Flames. These cards are some of our big pay-offs for being daring enough to add a third colour at the same time as being in black and red. Radiant Flames can wipe a board a turn before your opponent was expecting that Languish, and Painful Truths giving us 3 cards can really pull us ahead. We don’t want to include too many copies of Painful Truths in this deck though – while the raw card advantage is great, it can’t be re-cast with Goblin Dark-Dwellers like Read the Bones can.

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A Friendly Abzantage

Green/White Tokens was one of the top decks in Shadows Over Innistrad Standard, using a mass of pumped up creature tokens to overwhelm opponents. Although this tactic was very successful, it sometimes struggled to remove certain threats such as powerful artifacts and other Planeswalkers. Luckily, Standard has one of the best catch-all removal spells in the form of Anguished Unmaking. For only three mana and three life, this spell can remove any non-land threat from the game. Not to mention that by running black mana, we gain access to one of my favourite Planeswalkers – the brooding vampire, Sorin, Grim Nemesis.

Planeswalker (10)
 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
 Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Creatures (14)
 Sylvan Advocate
 Hangarback Walker
 Deathcap Cultivator
 Selfless Spirit
 Archangel Avacyn

Enchantments (4)
 Oath of Nissa
Instant (6)
 Anguished Unmaking
 Dromoka's Command

Land (26)
 Evolving Wilds
 Canopy Vista
 Fortified Village
 Shambling Vent
 Hissing Quagmire
 Westvale Abbey
 Swamp
 Plains
 Forest
Sideboard (15)
 Tragic Arrogance
 Secure the Wastes
 Den Protector
 Hallowed Moonlight
 Display of Dominance
 Quarantine Field
 Oath of Liliana

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Not only does Sorin provide card draw with his first ability, he can provide some major damage if you draw an Archangel Avacyn or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with it. He can also provide removal and life-gain with his second ability, and adds to the go-wide strategy by creating even more tokens with his ultimate. These lifelinking vampires are rarely 1/1s thanks to Gideon and Nissa, and will often close out the game if you aren’t already far enough ahead at that point.

Eldritch Moon also gives us another key piece to this strategy, in the form of Selfless Spirit. This little 2/1 flyer provides us with one thing tokens really need – protection from sweepers. Although we can’t avoid Languish, we can keep our board alive after our opponent flashes back Kozilek’s Return, or even after transforming our own Archangel Avacyn, just by sacrificing one cheap creature. Not a bad trade off if you ask me.

Although not something that I’ve slotted into the above decks, we’ve also been given a couple of cards in the last few sets which could help out with getting the Planeswalkers onto the battlefield – Call the Gatewatch and Deploy the Gatewatch. While I love the idea of a Collected Company for Planeswalkers, I think it may skew the deck design too much to guarantee getting a good return on the mana investment for Deploy the Gatewatch. Perhaps the consistency of a card like Profound Journey is better in a more drawn out game to fetch the right answers. Your opponent could answer your Gideon once, but what about the same copy of Gideon a second or third time? This plan relies on you having plenty of planeswalkers though, as well as your opponent killing them in the first place!

Call the Gatewatch might just be the middle ground between these two options, and it lets you get away with running fewer Planeswalkers overall. Do you desperately need that Chandra to wipe the board clean, or maybe just find that singleton copy of Nahiri to remove a problem enchantment? Call the Gatewatch can fit into any situation and lets you run one-of Planeswalkers just for their utility if necessary.

Although there have been Bant and Esper superfriends decks cropping up, the Khans of Tarkir wedges seem to be easier to build manabases for than the shards from the Alara block, as they benefit from the ‘painland’ cycle in Magic Origins. Without this, it seems difficult to guarantee hitting the colours you need with any guarantee of your lands coming in untapped at critical moments. The wedges also grant you two different creature-lands each, which can sometimes be a great alternative win condition and a way to maintain a board presence after using your own Wrath of God effects. As 3 colour decks can be a stretch in the current Standard format anyway, this is something to keep in mind when coming up with your own Planeswalker themed decks.

And there you have it. But don’t take my word for it, why not try brewing your own superfriends deck. Maybe Temur is your thing, or Esper is your preference. Let me know what brews you have come up with.

https://i2.wp.com/az877203.vo.msecnd.net/imageuploads/imageuploads/98f39b14-0368-4926-aa7e-6a02139d6ed9.jpg?resize=624%2C375&ssl=1

 

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