Azor's Gateway in Standard
Chrstian Seibold has been interested in Azor's Gateway since it was first spoiled. Filtering and a game-ending land is a potent combination, but Abrade was the card's natural enemy. Well Abrade is no more and Christian is back with his version of Gateway Control. If you're interested in awesome control brews, this is the deck for you!
Since Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun was spoiled, I've wanted to find a home for it. Half a year ago, I tested a blue-black control deck for a standard GP, which played 4 copies of Azor's Gateway. The deck performed really well in mirror matches, as they usually had no answers for the gateway, but every red deck played Abrade, which was problematic. Nevertheless, I realized that card selection combined with a five-turn clock had to be a good magic card and as soon as Abrade rotated out, I planned on giving the card another chance. Back then, I mostly finished games with Sanctum of the Sun casting multiple copies of Torrential Gearhulk or with many activations of The Scarab God. These cards are gone, but Expansion // Explosion is a new, great mana sink.
|27Lands||11Other Permanents||22Other Spells|
|4Glacial Fortress||3Seal Away||3Chemister's Insight|
|5Island||4Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||4Expansion // Explosion|
|4Meandering River||4Azor's Gateway // Sanctum of the Sun||2Justice Strike|
|3Plains||2Settle the Wreckage|
|3Sacred Foundry||4Sinister Sabotage|
|4Sulfur Falls||4Deafening Clarion|
|1Cleansing Nova||1Disdainful Stroke||2Essence Scatter|
|4History of Benalia||1Invoke the Divine||3Lyra Dawnbringer|
|2Negate||1Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
This cheap artifact is probably your best card in your deck, even though you're playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Against slower decks, an early Azor's Gateway wins you the game on the spot. When you are not pressured, you have enough time to get your five activations and win with tons of mana, which you can use for a big Explosion, but also for multiple Chemister's Insight, removal spells or Teferi. Since Abrade is gone, there aren't many cards capable of dealing with Azor's Gateway. One such card is Assassin's Trophy, which is a good removal spell but your opponent usually does not want to cast it early, because ramping is great in your deck, especially into Teferi. Casting the removal spell later on Azor's Gateway is risky, because you've got counterspells in your deck.
Basically, Azor's Gateway is great most of the time, but there are a couple of exceptions. The first one is fast decks which leave you no time or mana to activate Azor's Gateway often enough to get value. Against those deck, you'll probably side it out and bring in cards that are good against Aggro like Lyra Dawnrbinger. The second problematic matchup is when your opponent plays Knight of Autumn, which is the best answer for Azor's Gateway, since it has no drawback like Assassin's Trophy and even gives your opponent a 2/1 body. Right now, there aren't too many decks which play Knight of Autumn, so I'm not very concerned about that and I am not too scared about playing against aggressive decks, since sometimes you just win by casting Deafening Clarion and, additionally, you have a good sideboard against those decks.
I probably don't have to explain why I'm playing the full playset of the best card in Standard right now.
Playing 4 Deafening Clarion is very necessary for defeating aggressive decks. Often enough, your find yourself far behind on turn 3, especially on the draw. If your opponent is playing red and curves out with Legion Warboss, an early mass removal is the best answer to buy enough time to control the game. Copying Deafening Clarion with Expansion is a common play to get rid of bigger creatures. Settle the Wreckage is another tool which helps you to stay alive against aggro decks but can sometimes be too slow and your opponent can play around it. Nevertheless, it's still important to have more than 4 cards to stop early aggression and playing 2 Settle the Wreckage help with that. Most of the time Seal Away and Justice Strike perform the same purpose and both cost two mana, which is essential for a turn five Teferi play with backup. You will find scenarios where Seal Away is better, especially against resilient creatures like Rekindling Phoenix, but also Justice Strike has its advantages, for example against creatures with Vigilance or when you copy it with Expansion. Thus, the 3 - 2 split.
While your counterspells are pretty good at countering opposing threats like planeswalkers, they also function also as protection for Gateway or Teferi. Stopping an opponent's Assassin's Trophy on your Gateway makes sure your dream of flipping does not end up in ruins. Sinister Sabotage is just a great counterspell, since surveil 1 is very valuable, especially if you hit a Chemister's Insight. Syncopate is good as it can counter something on turn 2, but it's also your only one-drop, which is relevant for ensuring Gateway flips after five activations regularly.
Chemister's Insight is a very good replacement to Glimmer of Genius. Of course, there are games where you won't have time to use Jump-Start or even to cast it normally, but when you can cast both sides of it, it is very, very good. Discarding a card to Jump-Start is not a big deal, since usually you either have too many lands or too many removal spells in your hand anyway. I could even see playing four copies, but the metagame is full of aggressive decks right now, so playing three copies feels correct. Expansion // Explosion is an interesting split card. Obviously your main goal is to cast Explosion with a flipped Gateway, but you do not always get there. I casted Expansion more often than I thought I would, for example copying Justice Strike or Deafening Clarion, but also copying opposing removal spells like Assassin's Trophy or counterspells came up quite often. Even without a flipped Gateway, Explosion can be valuable if X is 3 or higher. Playing 4 Copies of your finisher sounds like a lot, but you really want to have one in your hand once Azor's Gateway flips and you can loot the extra copies before it flips, which is relevant because it counts as a six mana spell.
While I have a good feeling about the main deck, the sideboard is still in flux. It is still pretty early in the new Standard format and, as a result, there is a lot of deck variety, making it difficult to build a great sideboard. I have been happy with Disdainful Stroke so far and want to make room for another copy. It is just a perfect sideboard card against midrange or control, because it counters any important threat. Also, playing two Negates is essential for every blue deck to fight mirror matches. I board in Essence Scatter a lot, which doesn't necessarily mean it should be in the main, but does make it worth considering, given the prevalence of creature decks in the field. Lyra Dawnbringer is a perfect card in the sideboard because opposing decks will sideboard their creature removal out and, against many decks, Lyra Dawnbringer is a huge threat. History of Benalia is also pretty good for pressuring the opponent when they lack removal. Legion Warboss could fit this role, too. Cleansing Nova, Invoke the Divine, and Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin all have been fine so far and are decent at one because you usually do not want to draw them in multiples.
I highly recommend trying this deck out. It's a lot of fun but is also very competitive.
Thanks for reading,
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