At Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, we had two decks we knew were really strong in Mono-Red and B/G Delirium. These decks ended up meeting in the finals in the hands of PV and Sam Pardee. I took it upon myself to work on the Gift decks because I thought the strategy was strong and offered a ton of options. In the end, I had about 100 different drafts of various ideas, but none stood out to me as being far better than any others. My last version, which I considered playing in the PT, featured Walking Ballistas and Thought-Knot Seers in a U/W shell, but I didn’t have enough time to finalize anything.
While I was preparing for Grand Prix Denver, I saw a list similar to the one I had brewed up during the PT being streamed by Brennan DeCandio. I told him some of the changes I would make to the deck that I was absolutely sure were correct (such as playing Aether Hub in your deck that needs few colored sources multiple times and can make use of energy), and some I felt strongly about without as much conviction. He adopted some and not others, but I went back to work on my pet project.
This is much more of a Gate to the Afterlife deck than it is anything else. You want to maximize your number of Gates, your ways to find it, and your ways to get enough creatures into the graveyard to make sure you can activate it. This allows you to get a God-Pharaoh’s Gift earlier and more consistently than any other deck.
The addition of red gives you access to Insolent Neonate. This is a great card in the deck when paired with Gate to the Afterlife. In the end, you really are playing a Gate deck, looking to both find and trigger it to get your Gift ASAP. Neonate digs, puts multiple creatures into the graveyard, and can give you a loot and life with a Gate in play. It’ll even sneak in some damage, and having menace on a creature you Gift back can be great.
The only other red card to make the main deck is Cathartic Reunion, but it gives your deck some velocity and consistency that many other lists lack. This is yet another way to get creatures into your graveyard while digging to find your Gates. It also allows you to play a slightly lower land count, although you do need enough to cast your 3-drops consistently on 3 and still make land drops when you need to. It gives you additional flood protection, of which this deck has plenty.
Minister of Inquiries and Champion of Wits are the solid creatures this deck needs to function. They count as creatures in the graveyard and get you stocked up to activate the Gate as early as possible. Champion provides flood protection and a common Gift target, as drawing 4 and discarding 2 will help you find the creatures you need or another Gate to end the game.
Angel of Invention is the best creature to bring back. Brennan played all 4 in his original version, without a single way to produce white mana. It’s my opinion that not having Aether Hubs would just be a massive mistake, but I also added Inspiring Vantage to add white mana in the late game. This is not your plan A, but it’s a valuable plan B. I think it’s wrong to play tapped lands like Wandering Fumarole that you rarely want to activate, so replacing lands that enter the battlefield tapped late anyway was completely fine.
This also allowed me to play a couple copies of Cataclysmic Gearhulk. Getting an early Gift into play is great, but it’s not always enough. A 6/6 flying vigilance, lifelink Angel will usually stabilize, but what if it’s not, or they have removal for it? Gearhulk can cut down on the board dramatically, which is crucial in many matchups. It can also be hard cast to give you a bunch of Gate triggers and make sure you can go get your Gift.
Trophy Mage is there to get you more copies of Gate. Some people tried Pilgrim’s Eye, Filigree Familiar, and Aethersphere Harvester to get with the Trophy Mage. This is a trap. Don’t fall for it. Those cards are bad. Don’t even sideboard them.
Finally, there’s Glint-Nest Crane. This is a tough one because there aren’t a ton of artifacts and the card isn’t especially powerful. I still want copies because putting 4 non-Gate cards on the bottom of your deck is totally fine, and it’s quite good against Mono-Red as an early blocker. Cutting this card will absolutely make your red matchup quite a bit worse, so be aware of that going in, and feel free to shave copies if red isn’t popular.
In the end, there were so many people playing versions of this deck on Magic Online and at the GP that I thought people might be prepared for it, and I audibled to a deck that I thought was totally busted for the metagame (and it was). The Jeskai Gift deck I worked on had a ton of success, however, and is likely a great choice to consider going forward. Here’s the list I nearly registered for GP Denver: