60 to 100 – Progenitus, the Gatekeeper

(Circuitous Route | Art by Milivoj Ćeran)

A Gateway Commander

Welcome yet again to another fantabulous edition of 60 to 100! Every week we break down a deck from a 60-card format and bring it into our 100-card format known as Commander. This week we have plenty to talk about, as Ravnica Allegiance finally entered into the wilderness known as the Standard format. The set certainly didn’t disappoint. Decks all over featured some fresh new tech, whether it was Light Up the Stage setting the mono-red decks ablaze, or the new big baddie of the format, Hydroid Krasis, drawing all the cards and bashing face.

This week I want to give a shout-out to one of the most unique decks from the Star City Games Open from release weekend. I wrote off many of these decks for Commander and had little expectation to see them show up in Standard as well, but here we are! Let’s talk about this deck:


Yes, someone is loving the new assortment of “Gates matter” cards. Circuitous Route, as it turns out, is just a better Explosive Vegetation, and Wilderness Reclamation is more wild than we thought. It’s pretty neat to see, actually; I’m not usually one for weird and janky-looking 60-card decks, but this one tiptoes on a line just off the beaten path, and wanders right into the realm of being the real deal.


The Backbone

The biggest challenge we face here is finding a way to make some of these “Gates matter” cards worth the hassle. In a 60-card format – and more importantly, a format that is not singleton – you can stick 14 Gate cards into a deck with forty fewer cards. The odds of drawing enough Gates to make your payoffs worthwhile is exceptionally high, because 14 out of 60 cards is nearly 25% of the deck. In Commander, we’re a little hamstrung, because we only have access to 11 different Gates in a pile of 99 cards, which is only 10% of the deck. There’s a real needle-in-a-haystack- conundrum there, so we’ll need to go out of our way a bit more to get them out.

If you haven’t read one of Andrew Cumming’s articles where he talks about constructing a 5-color manabase (on a budget no less!) then I’d strong suggest checking that out. I’ll be taking a few notes from him, especially since he toys with an idea that I think we can lean on here: Maze’s End decks. As much as I love to keep a Commander deck at fewer colors, here it hurts us since we’re trying to build a deck centered around a very finite resource. Subtracting one color means losing four different Gates, which not only shuts off a backup win condition in Maze’s End but also makes it harder to pull off a big Gates Ablaze, which has a load of potential to clean up the board in this deck.


Transition

Now that we know the obstacles we need to work around, we can focus back on some of the fun we get from our Standard deck. If you watched the event coverage of the Star City Games tournament, you saw some of these cards interacting quite nicely together. One of my favorites was Explosion, fueled from a Wilderness Reclamation untap trigger. This by itself is a neat and powerful interaction, so you can imagine my head exploding when it was fueled by a flipped Primal Wellspring. There was another explosion… in my head!

A powerful interaction just begging to be explored some more are enchantment-based ramp effects like Market Festival and Gift of Paradise. Making our lands tap for extra mana, then being able to double them up thanks to Wilderness Reclamation seems like a great way to power up a mana sink or fire off some oversized X-spells at instant speed. Not only is Explosion extra potent with this synergy, but singular draw and burn spells like Sphinx’s Revelation and Fall of the Titans are also intriguing enough to get some attention.


A More Advanced Way to Build

A favorite feature of mine that I have long advocated as an undersold tool at EDHREC is the ability to dig into specific cards and see what folks are playing next to them. EDHREC doesn’t just show you info about specific commanders and the cards they like to run, remember. Any card you click on will show you its most popular commanders, but also the most popular cards played alongside it int he 99. It sounds like an obvious tool, but a lot of folks forget how useful this can be. When we go to check out any cards that interact specifically with Maze’s End it helps open up a wide range of cards from the last time we returned to Ravnica and the first time we got to check out Guildgates.

Using this nifty trick, and combined with Advanced Filters, we’re able to parse through the better options for the deck’s commander as well. Looking at the top commanders for a Maze’s End deck we see pretty much every five-color legendary creature you can imagine. There’s a chance to play they biggest crybaby of them all, Child of Alara, all the way down to Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. While I hardly think Najeela’s Warrior synergy will help us out here, Child of Alara doesn’t really excite me either. Instead of dragging the game out for even longer than we could, the second choice of Progenitus seems like a nice alternate win-condition to our otherwise…alternate win-condition deck.


Making Gates Matter

Before Guilds of Ravnica came out, one of the biggest pitfalls to building a Gates deck was simply that there wasn’t enough support for it, nor a good enough payoff beyond Maze’s End to make the deck very good. Because I’m so good at being wrong, we now have had two consecutive sets in Standard that wanted nothing more than to change my stance on Gates decks. Like the previously menitoned Circuitous Route being a wonderful ramp spell in general, it combines with Open the Gates to make for a pretty good sub-package to seek out the lands you haven’t yet drawn to quickly hit your much-needed critical mass of Gates.

A few great utility spells were added to the repertoire in Ravnica Allegiance as well. Gates Ablaze gives access to a boardwipe that scales incredibly well compared to previous set-specific mechanics like Radiant Flames tried to do back in the Battle for Zendikar days. Another great card that slots into every Gates deck is Guild Summit, which can act as a large draw spell and even sustain you as the game progresses by sneaking in a few extra cards over many turns. If creatures are you flavor, Gatebreaker Ram becomes a solid, sizable beater quite quickly in this type of deck as well. Wizards of the Coast continues to make great new additions regardless of playstyle for all these deck styles and I am fully on board with the design direction that they are taking.

Progenitus, the Gatekeeper

Commander (1)
Creatures (11)
Instants (12)
Sorceries (18)
Enchantments (7)
Artifacts (11)
Lands (40)

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The deck might look a little all over the place, but it has many of the same elements as our original 60. We get a bunch of lands with specific payoffs, and in the meantime, inundate our opposition with X spells from all that mana! Expansion // Explosion is joined by tons of fun spells, like Sphinx’s Revelation and Electrodominance.

Since we need a specific subset of cards to really make our payoffs work, we’ve included quite a few different ways to fetch specific lands, like Ulvenwald Hydra or Realms Uncharted. Needing specific lands to work isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does mean that we can occasionally be a little vulnerable to land destruction. This makes recursion engines like Ramunap Excavator or Life from the Loam extra important for the deck. Even if someone happens to Armageddon the table, we’re not completely hosed, just set back. On the plus side, that also makes Guild Summit is even better.

If Gates aren’t really your thing, you could take this deck the way of the 5-color Landfall deck. If you’ve played Modern for a while, you’ll remember the decks with Plated Geopede and Steppe Lynx of old. This would be a completely different shift in the deck compared to the value-oriented Gates deck, but a large core of the deck would apply, including Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Wayward Swordtooth, and Mina and Denn, Wildborn. Growth Spiral does a pretty good impersonation of a redundant copy of Swell of Growth if you have lots of Landfall creatures. Whichever way you want to take the deck, there are plenty of options out there!

And with that, I’m done for the week. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying some of these new Standard decks out there and are getting some inspiration for your own Commander crossovers. Are there any strategies you’d try to make room for in the 100-card version of the deck? Let me know in the comments below! We’ll see you next time!

Selesnya, Naya, Temur, Ink-Treader...whatever you want to call it. Matt knows a good creature-combo deck when he sees it. He is the only EDHREC writer that was sad to see Leovold go. Outside of EDH plays Legacy and Modern and got his first career Pro Point at GP Louisville. Matt lives in Colorado with his Greatest of Danes, Moose and no cats because cats are terrible.