I was talking with one of my friends at GP Providence about the viability of gates in EDH. I was getting super excited, talking about my idea for a five-color Commander deck that made best use of Maze’s End. The card is awesome, and as I don’t play block it seemed like I’d never get a chance to use it, but its Commander utility is somewhat hindered by the absence of four-color generals. Now, I know some people were holding out hope they would show up this time around, because of Ravnica Prime’s infamous Nephilim cycle, but it’s just not going to happen. Unfortunately, it means that a Maze’s End deck basically has to be five color, since the drop from ten gates to three gates in a tricolor deck is a steep one. Which is not to say Maze’s End is unplayable in a three-color deck; it still taps for mana and tutors up other lands, which is a solid enough ability, and you might get the chance to mise out a victory or two if you add Herald of Leshrac into the mix.

But enough about that! I set out to make this deck, and as of now I’ve come very close to succeeding in my endeavor. Initially I thought about adding in all the “gates matter” cards, down to the somewhat less than stellar Armory Guard and Gateway Shade. This plan quickly went by the wayside, when I noticed my EDH deck was looking more like a draft deck. A bad draft deck. But! Going through this step gave me another idea to focus my building, and it was such an amazing idea that I immediately took to it and started planning it out. What was the idea?

Standard Commander deck. It’s the dream, building a deck that uses only somewhat recent cards and still manages to be competitive, and I’ve been trying to crack this nut since the start of New Ravnica. The large number of new generals should have theoretically made the challenge more achievable, but I found my inspiration running dry the more I tried to live the dream in a two color deck. See, there are a lot of quality EDH cards in the mix right now, but when you’re limited to a single guild you get a sharp drop in quality.

And then Modern Masters came on the scene and reprinted Progenitus. Now, I know technically Modern Masters isn’t a “Standard” set, but it’s been put out in the last year and I tapped its resources but lightly. Since I had some of the (needed) enablers from Modern Masters into the mix, I felt comfortable cutting Innistrad block from my pool of available build cards and just starting with M13. There were some hard losses from this decision, as I love Increasing Ambition and had a neat Mulldrifter idea to abuse with Conjurer’s Closet, but it provided me with some needed focus and I set to work on my build.

My initial thought was that I’d just slam the ten guild leaders, ten maze runners, ten charms, ten guildmages, 15 split cards, and all the higher-quality “gates matter” cards into a deck and call it a day, but I quickly saw my error. First off, those alone were almost 60 cards, and with a deck like this I was going to want a lot of land. But, more importantly, building a five-color deck that doesn’t immediately fall on its own sword requires something I was missing in my count: fixing.

Luckily I was starting with M13, since that allowed me to bring in the Ravnica shocklands while having the good enablers to search them up, but I also got Kodama’s Reach and Search for Tomorrow to keep my deck spitting out basics. Chromatic Lantern is a huge help, and Gilded Lotus is quite versatile… but before I knew it, I was at 99 cards in my deck before even adding the all-important lands to the chaotic mess.

So I had to make some cuts. The first thing I did hurt. I started breaking up cycles. Slowly I carved away all my guildmages, until I was left with just the disgusting-in-multiplayer Vizkopa Guildmage. My gatekeepers were the next to have their merry band broken up, since Sunspire Gatekeeper seemed particularly weak in the Commander format. I did keep the other four though, since even gaining seven life is nothing to sneeze at in EDH.* With my Mulldrifters melting away, card inclusions like Species Gorger and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, started to make less sense. I tried to keep cards with split purpose, like Zhur-Taa Druid, but ended up cutting the fairly similar Lobber Crew despite it being a solid wall against aggro.

This went on for longer than it should have. The closer I get to completing a deck, the harder I find the cuts. You are probably the same way, since it’s a fairly common issue for deck-builders to have, or so I hear! I ended up stalling out at 66 cards, which is at least four more than I wanted to have in the deck, and unlike some other formats I can’t exactly just add in extra lands. So here’s the sketch, as I have it so far, minus the basic lands that will eventually round out the numbers.

Progenitus, Standard-Style

General (1)

Creatures (23)
Arbor Elf
Greenside Watcher
Gatecreeper Vine
Zhur-Taa Druid
Vizkopa Guildmage
Opal Lake Gatekeepers
Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers
Saruli Gatekeepers
Lavinia of the Tenth
Consuming Aberration
Mercurial Chemister
Progenitor Mimic
Aurelia, the Warleader
Prime Speaker Zegana
Gruul Ragebeast
Trostani's Summoner
Luminate Primordial
Diluvian Primordial
Sepulchral Primordial
Molten Primordial
Sylvan Primordial

Mana Stuff (12)
Prophetic Prism
Chromatic Lantern
Search for Tomorrow
Kodama's Reach
Verdant Haven
Ranger's Path
Seek the Horizon
Liliana of the Dark Realms
Gilded Lotus
Urban Evolution
Mana Bloom

Charms (10)
Azorius Charm
Boros Charm
Dimir Charm
Golgari Charm
Gruul Charm
Izzet Charm
Orzhov Charm
Rakdos Charm
Selesnya Charm
Simic Charm

Draw (4)
Underworld Connections
Jace, Memory Adept
Staff of Nin
Deadbridge Chant

Other Spells (5)
Supreme Verdict
Merciless Eviction
Diabolic Revelation
Clan Defiance
Debt to the Deathless

Split Cards (10)
Beck // Call
Breaking // Entering
Catch // Release
Flesh // Blood
Ready // Willing
Down // Dirty
Far // Away
Toil // Trouble
Turn // Burn
Wear // Tear

Gates Matter (2)
Crackling Perimeter
Hold the Gates

Gates (11)
Maze's End
Azorius Guildgate
Boros Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Gruul Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Selesnya Guildgate
Simic Guildgate

Shocks (10)
Blood Crypt
Breeding Pool
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Watery Grave

Misc. Land (5)
Reliquary Tower
Rogue's Passage
Thespian's Stage
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse

I hope my goals here are clear, now that you can see the list I am working with. I am short on creatures, I know, but I didn’t really see a good solution to fixing it without cutting into the ten charms and ten split cards I ended up keeping… and I wanted to keep as much of those cycles intact because I think the way this deck wins is by staying versatile. It doesn’t have the power of some of the older heavy hitters, and for this reason I need to be packing a lot of different solutions to different problems. If I did have to cut from those 20 cards, though, I think Down // Dirty and Rakdos Charm would be the first two to go… but I don’t want to go that route! Rakdos Charm is important because it’s literally the only graveyard removal I ended up running (Rest in Peace borks too much of my own gameplan), and Down // Dirty not only helps me reuse some of my powerful cards, but it gives me some minor hand disruption I might need in a pinch.

So I’m stumped! Cutting Aurelia, the Warleader takes away one of my victory conditions (and she seems brutal with Hold the Gates). Getting rid of Trostani’s Summoner might make more sense now that I’ve moved away from my plan to flicker Mulldrifters, but it’s still an army in a can, which is something I can see myself needing. But this is my process. When I set out to make this deck I kinda thought it might end up being a Slivers deck (I miss my Sliver Queen, even though her Sliver Overlord tends to be the general of that abomination), but when you play around with an idea you often end up in new places.

And I know, I wasn’t as perfect as I wanted to be regarding cost. The general I used is worth a few bucks, the lands all still carry price tags, and even a couple of creatures are worth more than I’d like. But I did keep from adding in the Sword of Fire and Ice or the Sword of Light and Shadow, even though they’d be great force multipliers for my otherwise underwhelming bodies. I didn’t stuff the deck full of the sweet utility cards like Path to Exile and Electrolyze. I tried to keep things simple, even if my path lead me to include EDH finishers like Consuming Abberation or cards that are good in the clutch like Mercurial Chemister. If you want a deck to be competitive, you often need to seed it with cards that can stand on their own two feet, and these guys deliver.

I’ll keep you updated as to how it plays when I finish it. But in the meantime, as always, I hope this is of some value, and feel free to add your voice to the comments or Facebook. I haven’t been able to be as active a respondent as I would like, but I still do read what y’all post and I’m always delighted to hear different perspectives on how I approach the game.

*There’s a discussion to be had at some point about the importance of lifegain in EDH, since many people overlook it. The truth is that 40 life seems like more than it actually is, and if you don’t have any way to reverse the ratchet, you’re going to end up in a dangerous position fairly quickly.

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