Last week I got to take part in the M20 Early Access Preview Event on Magic Arena, and it was a blast. Getting to try out the new set before almost everyone else, see what the new cards are capable of, and trying out new brews was a real privilege. Some of the decks I got to try during my streams where fun and silly. Others were, shall we say, less than stellar in their performance. However, there was one deck that exceeded all my expectations and proved to be pretty powerful and a heck of a lot of fun to play. Its a deck that has become my default ladder climber and one I’ll probably be playing until rotation. That deck is Zombie Gate.
This deck came about while I was trying to brew around with the new land, Field of the Dead, and Scapeshift. At first, I tried building a more traditional Sultai control shell, with the Scapeshift/Field of the Dead combo as a finisher alongside Dread Presence. Unfortunately, this initial build didn’t really come together. Most of the time I would only have four to five lands when I needed to Scapeshift, and although I got to drain things a ton with Dread Presence, Field of the Dead just felt like a dead card.
I needed a way to ramp up and get seven to nine lands on the battlefield before I could cast Scapeshift in order to get the most out of the combo. So, I went back to the drawing board, and came across some inspiration. My beloved Gate deck could (and usually does) get to around eight lands as early as turn four, and makes use of a variety of differently named lands due to it being a four-colour deck. So, could I use the Gate deck as a base for this two-card combo? And more importantly, could I get it to work consistently?
Well, after some testing both during and after the stream, I am happy to announce that the deck doesn’t only work, but it does so with a startling amount of efficiency. In fact, the deck is not only capable of forcing a concession by placing upwards of thirty-three zombies on the battlefield, but it can win just as easily by dropping two or three 8/8’s down in a single turn. What’s more, the deck only runs seven Rares and four Mythics, so if you have a few spare wildcards to spend, this just might be the deck for you.
The deck starts out with the basic Gates package. Playsets of Growth Spiral and Circuitous Route work as our ramp package and help us speed towards our minimum requirement of seven lands. Gates Ablaze helps us keep control of the board until our army of the dead arrive, while Guild Summit gives us unparalleled levels of card draw. Gatebreaker Ram and Gate Colossus provide the muscle of the deck, and Archway Angel works to keep our life total high against aggro decks.
In terms of lands, the deck runs playsets of Simic Guildgate, Gruul Guildgate, Izzet Guildgate, and Plaza of Harmony, as well as single copies of Selesnya Guildgate, Rakdos Guildgate, Azorius Guildgate, Boros Guildgate, and Golgari Guildgate, as well as a single Forest and Island. So, that makes the base of the deck – reasonably normal, right? But now we come to the fun stuff – the Scapeshift combo.
Much like the modern Valakut deck, Scapeshift makes use of the fact that the lands it fetches all come in at the same time and check for each other when they do. What that means is that if you were to cast Scapeshift and sac seven lands, you could go and get one Simic Guildgate, Gruul Guildgate, Izzet Guildgate, and Plaza of Harmony, as well as a Field of the Dead and two other differently named lands, you would end up gaining three life and putting seven zombies into play. If you were to do the same play with eight lands, you could get two copies of Field of the Dead and net sixteen zombies, and so on.
So including a playset of Scapeshift is a must, but how many Field of the Dead should we run? We want to maximise the number of zombies we can produce, but we don’t really want to be stuck with a bunch of colourless tap lands. In the end, I settled on three copies, which I feel is the right number for the deck. For the final four cards in the list we are left with a bit of a choice. During the stream I tried the new Elvish Reclaimer, which in theory could help us fix our mana base when needed, but apart from the ability to get a Field of the Dead on command, the card felt a little lacklustre. I’ve also tried Opt and Open the Gates in this slot, and to be honest both do a decent job of finding the lands we need. In the end, I settled on Open the Gates, but you are free to try out anything you like in this slot.
4 Gatebreaker Ram
4 Gate Colossus
2 Archway Angel
4 Open the Gates
4 Growth Spiral
4 Gates Ablaze
4 Circuitous Route
4 Guild Summit
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Golgari Guildgate
4 Gruul Guildgate
4 Izzet Guildgate
4 Plaza of Harmony
1 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
3 Field of the Dead
And there you have it, Zombie Gate for M20 Standard. The deck has been serving me well on the best of one ladder, and I’m going to be working on a sideboard for when I’m wanting to move it on to best of three. If you have any ideas about what you would run in the board, why not let us know about it in the comments below. While you’re there, you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.
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