Ever since they did my boy Golos, Tireless Pilgrim dirty (okay actually he was pretty strong in a number of ways) there’s not been a good commander to run Maze’s End as a win condition.
Until Baldur’s Gate, which included 9 new Gates, 1 of each color, and then 4 colorless Gates. With the original 10 Gates and the one colorless Gate, a deck with 3 colors in its identity can now run 11 Gates.
Nine-Fingers Keene has a Gate search ability and Green, Blue, and Black color identity, which is pretty strong for a Gate deck. Simic colors let you run Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait and Tatyova, Benthic Druid, as well as ways to roll out lands faster:
- Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
- Wayward Swordtooth
- Oracle of Mul Daya
There was a Yarok, the Desecrated deck running around for a while, and it was a stax-y deck that won through the Thassa’s Oracle/Demonic Consult combo.
Stax effects that can safely be included play off the fact that Gates enter the battlefield tapped. You can share this effect with your opponents by running Root Maze and Orb of Dreams. Now everything is entering play tapped for everyone. Then we can run Amulet of Vigor so our stuff will untap when it enters tapped (please note that this is a trigger, it doesn’t come in untapped – this is important).
Should all slow your opponents down. Since the deck runs 6 sources of additional land drops, you should be much safer needing to drop additional lands, even if they are returning to your hand. And having lands pop back to your hand can re-trigger your landfall effects, such as:
- Tatyova, Benthic Druid
- Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait
- Tireless Provisioner
- Tireless Tracker
- Retreat to Coralhelm
Trigger doubling effects like
Mean that you can get even more value by dropping lands.
Finally, the way that Amulet of Vigor works, whenever a tapped permanent enters the field under your control, the Amulet untaps it. This means if you have say a Panharmonicon on the board when you play an ETB tapped land, it will untap – twice. You can allow the first untap to resolve, tap it for mana, then let it untap again.
There’s a weird interaction with one of the new Gates, Gond Gate makes Gates enter play untapped. Sometimes this is not desirable for the deck, since we want the Amulet of Vigor untap triggers. Both Root Maze and Orb of Dreams interaction with Gond Gate is timestamped based, if you play Gond Gate then Root Maze your Gates will enter tapped again.
Finally, there’s a sideline in graveyard play. Fetchlands are particularly powerful with the ability to play from your graveyard from sources such as:
If you can get additional land drops and a fetchland that you can play from your yard, you can play the fetchland over and over, fetching a land, generating 2 landfall triggers each time. You can also just kneecap another deck this way with Strip Mine or Wasteland, just destroying multiple lands per turn until your opponents don’t have any lands. I don’t really recommend leaning into this, people hate it. But mass single land destruction can be relatively brutal. A lot of EDH decks are operational with 3-4 lands, and you can get 3 or 4 land drops going a turn pretty easily and then just non-stop blow up your opponents’ lands.
Nine-Fingers Keene‘s triggered ability lets you look at the top 9 cards, then grab a Gate and put it into play, or once you have 9 Gates you get to keep all the cards. Cool. What this means is any Gate searching you are going to do on your turn you want to do after Keene attacks so that you maximize the density of Gates in your deck for Keene’s flips, so search with cards like Gatecreeper Vine in your post-combat main phase.
There are plenty of games where you won’t necessarily even need to get Keene out.
Oh, I just want to take a moment here to rant. Okay, we get it. Look at 9 cards, if you have 9 Gates you get to keep them, ward 9 life. Yeah. It’s cool. I mean it’s a joke that’s being run into the ground. Like Octavia, Living Thesis was a lot more clever, since it was 8 things with 8 in them. This is just fine, and I think indicative of a sort of lack of creativity. Granted Nine-Fingers Keene is apparently a real character that already existed in Baldur’s Gate, I just fear that we’re constantly going to see increasingly less clever iterations of repeated references to the same number, and I think it’s linked to the punishing pace of product that WotC is putting out now. Okay, rant over.
You really, really need to get Maze’s End, since it’s really the win condition of the game. And sadly, without Golos, the commander can’t fetch it or grab it. The math says, yes, thin your deck looking for Maze’s End by using Gate tutors and Nine-Fingers ability, but you have to be careful since Maze’s End enters play tapped; however you don’t have to actually grab a Gate with Maze’s End to win the game, just have 10 of them in play. Most people will see this coming though. There’s a reason the deck runs so many tutors for any land at all, both to get Maze’s End, and to leapfrog from 6 or 7 gates (not scary) up to 10. If you just tick up one Gate per turn your opponents will surely start to hammer you at 8+ Gates, so you want to put some combo pieces into place, then suddenly grab 3-4 Gates to win the game.
I still miss Golos, my boy, he coulda been a contender. But Nine-Fingers Keene is a decent replacement, and in some ways more fun, because Golos was really, really good.
If you have a different take on a gate deck, I’d love to hear it, the one that I think of sometimes is Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, though only one of the Gates is Legendary. Kenrith, or Esika or Horde of Notions could all be made to work.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the other decks in the series! If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.