Looking for a Gift in Denver

This week, I want to focus on the deck that a number of pros ended up on, Blue-Red God-Pharaoh’s Gift. I played the deck, but I’m writing this before the tournament, so I don’t know the best version of it. I know many good players have played the deck, and I want to go into some detail as to why.

The format has moved all over the place. Every deck is seeing play. I’ve played a few Leagues in the last week, and I’ve played against:

  • Mono-Red
  • Zombies
  • B/G
  • Temur
  • Temur Black
  • U/B Control
  • U/R Control
  • U/W Control
  • U/B Reanimator
  • R/B/u Zombies
  • R/B Zombies
  • R/G Ramp
  • Mardu Vehicles
  • Grixis Colossus

Basically, it’s dealer’s choice, but the big trend is that everyone is playing “fair” Magic—no one is really trying to do something out of line. No one is playing Ulamog on turn 4 anymore. No one is turn-4 combo killing you. No one is turn-5 combo killing you with New Perspectives (for the most part).

As such, this opens the door for really grindy midrange decks that can out-maneuver the control decks, and that’s where I introduce U/R God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

4 Gate to the Afterlife, 2 God-Pharaoh’s Gift

The deck doesn’t exist without this duo. These two cards are the shell—they are the pillars. The Gate allows you to cheat a bunch of mana and offers some looting to boot as you fill up your graveyard. Note that the opponent can still Abrade your Gift in your main phase before it triggers. So you’ll want to be careful when you decide to crack your Gate. Sometimes, you’ll purposefully bide your time, to make your opponent wait as well. It’s part of why this build has more lands than previous Gate decks.

But Gift allows you to do some fun things, with some sweet creatures. 4/4 menace; 6/6 lifelink, flying, vigilance; 4/4 cast a free Thoughtflare—there are some sweet things happening here, and if you enjoy long, grindy games with tons of intricate decisions, this deck is for you.

4 Minister of Inquiries, 4 Insolent Neonate

These 1-drops greatly outshine the white versions that play Thraben Inspector. Insolent Neonate may not be the most powerful card, but it allows you the flexibility to put cards into your deck you couldn’t reliably cast. It also functions well with Gate to the Afterlife. It’s a creature that dies easily, puts another creature into the graveyard with its own ability, and because it dies, you trigger the Gate and get a loot and a life! This can allow you to put three creatures into the graveyard with one card, which is what your Minister of Inquiries dreams to be much of the time as it blind mills six cards on turns 2 and 3.

4 Champion of Wits, 4 Trophy Mage

These two form the core midrange package. These creatures dig through your library, or find Gate to the Afterlife immediately. It’s also important that these are creatures. Because they’re creatures, they help meet the six-creature threshold for your Gates. Trophy Mage can fetch up Aethersphere Harvester as well, which is great against the aggressive strategies in the format.

4 Angel of Invention, 2 Cataclysmic Gearhulk

The reanimation targets! These are the heavy-hitters, and the Gearhulks are what differentiate this list from others.

The card decimates Zombies. It’s important against B/G, Temur, and Colossus decks. It breaks up these massive boards and sets up the battlefield such that your reanimation target can take over. Remember to choose your Gift as the artifact you want to keep around. I’ve seen some players space out and forget that—don’t be one of them.

The Angels are the big reason to play the deck. A 4/4 flying, vigilance, lifelink is great, but the fabricate 2 allows it to be a 6/6, and because of the Gift it attacks immediately with haste! Then, if you can pair this with a second Angel on the next turn, they’re both 7/7s thanks to their second ability (Glorious Anthem for your other creatures), and that’s 20 damage.

4 Walking Ballista, 4 Cathartic Reunion, 1 Aethersphere Harvester

The role-players: These are the remaining spells in the deck. The Reunions are there to help you fill the graveyard. The Ballistas are great as they’re a zero-mana loot with a Gate when you need it. They’re great against Red, Zombies, and planeswalkers, and it’s the only removal in the main deck. The Harvester is a nice tutor target for the Trophy Mages.

U/R God-Pharaoh’s Gift

This deck does really well against control decks by chipping away with small creatures and setting up turns where you have two spells that need to be countered. Against the aggro decks, you tread water in the early game, get a Gate on the battlefield, and use it to stabilize as you find the particular reanimation target you want to resurrect. Against the midrange decks, the games are usually grindy—you’re trying to set up spots where you can turn a Gate into a Gift, all the while trying to whittle down their offense while leaving alive enough of your creatures to loot with a Gate out. It’s really important with this deck to leverage the power of Gate, and getting the loots out of it—I really cannot stress that enough if you haven’t played this style of deck before!

I’ll be back later this week with a video series featuring the deck, and I hope to see how those playing this style of deck do well this weekend!

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