Oath of the Gatewatch Draft Archetypes: UR and UG

Welcome back to the wrap up of the Oath of the Gatewatch draft archetypes. If you missed any, you can find them in my past articles.


Previous archetype: Midrange Devoid

Now: Devoid/Surge

Key Cards

This suite of cards tell a story all their own. Cultivator Drone works as a nice enabler for all of them and weaves together devoid and surge synergies. It may look strange at first, but if you can manage to cast a colorless spell with the Drone, then you’ll usually be able to pay a few more mana for your surge card of choice. Before, UR was very one dimensional in that it cared solely about colorless triggers. Kozilek’s Sentinel bridged the gap from the early to midgame, and provided an early attacker that helped stabilize versus early aggression. Now you have to choose a direction for your deck and then choose the right supporting cast. There are UR decks that focus solely on devoid, but also the rare all-in surge decks trying to maximize payoff cards like Pyromancer’s Assault.

Setting yourself up for pack 3 is extremely important in UR because that’s where a lot of your payoff lies. The all-stars like Eldrazi Skyspawner and Vile Aggregate are waiting in the wings, and while those cards will always be good, they get a lot better if you manage to prioritize a devoid strategy in the first two packs. Of course, you can always revert back to a classic midrange strategy less focuses on synergy that utilizes reasonable cards like Wave-Wing Elemental and Shatterskull Recruit to good effect, but overall, a synergistic UR deck performs far better than one without direction.

Sequencing is more important with this deck than almost any other. Surge requires that you use your mana at the right points, or you won’t get the discounted price. Luckily, casting your most expensive spell is still usually correct. This should be obvious, but there can be tricky situations which may arise. Say you draw a Dimensional Infiltrator on turn 3 and are excited to cast it so you can start attacking right away. You don’t play the Cultivator Drone in your hand since it’s worse on board. Next turn, you draw Jwar Isle Avenger and now you can’t cast the Infiltrator and Avenger on turn 4. What a disaster! Just be cognizant of your curve and cards you can possibly draw when playing with surge cards.

Most Improved from Battle for Zendikar

All of these cards were reasonable before, but get even better since they’re great with surge. Tide Drifter and Kozilek’s Sentinel help hold the ground versus the multitude of X/3s in the format, and Adverse Conditions is a particularly nice combo with Containment Membrane.

Biggest Losers from Battle for Zendikar

Processor Assault was sometimes a reasonable payoff for UR even though it was often hard to get enough ingesters to turn it on. That’s become even more difficult now, making the card almost unplayable in UR decks. Molten Nursery suffers from UR’s split focus in Oath of the Gatewatch and, while playable, isn’t quite as good as it was in the past. Cryptic Cruiser follows a similar path, and is only a card you want when you need a Hill Giant.


Previous archetype: Converge

Now: Choose your own adventure

Key Cards

I tried to assemble a list of cards that made sense together and I have to admit that it was difficult. UG is always the problem child for Limited, and this time is no different. There are powerful spells in both colors, but I’ve said it before and I think it’s true again that you want to be UG when those specific colors are open in your seat. Void Grafter is a good card and works well in the deck, but what direction does it push you in? I see no cohesive theme here, and converge was a loose definition of UG before since that deck just tried to play whatever good cards it could get its hands on.

Gravity Negator is at its best here since giving flying to giant green monsters is a good way to win quickly, but that means focusing on colorless mana, which many other drafters care about as well. Once again you have to decide whether picking lands is worth it, or if you should ditch that entirely and focus more on quality spells that stand on their own. If a deck ends up heavy blue with a bunch of colorless mana and Cultivator Drones, and touches green for finishers, I can see colorless matters as a more reasonable option.

The biggest problem I see with UG and colorless in the archetype is that pack 3 is going to be a giant disappointment. Green was clearly bad in Battle for Zendikar, but I can’t see wanting Wastes and Tajuru Stalwart in the same deck. Green’s strength in Battle for Zendikar is also Ally-based, and blue in both sets is focused on Eldrazi. Thus, the themes from the colors are a complete mismatch. One approach that could work is to take fixing in the Oath of the Gatewatch packs (the multicolor uncommon lands, Holdout Settlement, and to a lesser extent Unknown Shores) and then grab all the good converge cards in Battle for Zendikar. The main problem I see with that is that converge payoffs are at higher rarities. Sure, Exert Influence and Woodland Wanderer are amazing cards, but those go in any deck, and getting late Roilmage’s Tricks and Brilliant Spectrums that no one else wants isn’t something I’m excited about. Though I do admit I like a good draw 4 discard 2 more than most.

If you’re determined to draft UG because it’s very open in your seat, I wish you the best of luck. Choose your own adventure and let me know how that worked out for you in the comments.

Most Improved from Battle for Zendikar

Well, the good news is that green is more playable now. Both Brood Monitor and Plated Crusher were good cards without a home before. I am more interested in trample if I have access to instant-speed tricks, and bounce works perfectly with the Crusher. Void Attendant is more speculative, but combining it with Thought Harvester sounds pretty nice.

Biggest Losers from Battle for Zendikar

I think converge just isn’t UG’s strength anymore, though Skyrider Elf will still always be a good card in a UG deck. In some number of drafts, the UG deck will be converge focused, which clearly makes all these cards better.

That wraps up my initial review of the Oath of the Gatewatch draft archetypes! I know I’ll be looking back on them in the future with a more informed opinion, which should lead to some interesting reevaluations. I don’t currently have a power ranking for the archetypes since I haven’t drafted enough to know what’s best, but I’m excited to find out what works and what doesn’t so that I can share that with you as the Oath of the Gatewatch draft metagame evolves.


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