Building Blocks: Crashing Gates

I was a giant fan of Innistrad Block Constructed, with the myriad of strategies that were all pretty much viable. However, with Return to Ravnica, the Angel of Serenity control decks (UW and UWG) made the Block environment feel extremely repetitive and boring. It really felt like half a block instead of just a single set because there weren’t enough cards to support each of the five different strategies the different guilds pulled you in. Thankfully, with Gatecrash on the way, I think the format will shape up and be healthier.


Angel of Serenity (and to a lesser extent Sphinx’s Revelation) rules the format. The current best deck, Azorius, simply stalls with Detention Sphere and Supreme Verdict until it can play an Angel of Serenity. It then casts Revelation in the time it takes for the opponent to deal with the Angel in order to find another one, then the second Angel makes a loop so the Azorius player can’t ever be Angel-less, and it gets very hard to win from a point where you cannot keep creatures on the board. Currently, the deck’s “worst” matchup is Rakdos, simply because Rakdos has draws that allow it to win before the Azorius deck can exert control. Now, Rakdos is very inconsistent, and didn’t really have the tools to combat Azorius since it had no accompanying aggressive guilds in Return to Ravnica – every other guild was grindy to win games; not aggressive.

Enter Boros and Gruul. Red guilds not named Izzet *love* to beat down. This format really needs an aggressive deck to keep control decks in check. Now with Boros and Gruul on the horizon, Angel of Serenity might just end up being an uncastable 7-drop that you stare at in your hand while dying to various Ghul-Clan Rampager-pumped weenies.

There are a couple ways to build an aggressive deck. The first is traditional Rakdos, but with new all-star Firefist Striker. But other than the Striker, Rakdos doesn’t really gain anything, so let’s talk about the new guilds.

I think Boros has enough tools on its own to exist as the format’s weenie deck. Adding green to the deck for Gruul and Selesnya cards makes your deck more mid-range, and while that’s not a bad thing, it leaves a lot of strength on the bench in the form of the weenies you won’t use.

I’m not sure this is the ideal build – the lack of Ash Zealot or Sunhome Guildmage to trigger surprise Battalion may be foolish – but it looks good enough to me on first glance. A fine place to start, a weenie rush deck with a couple of Aurelia-based cards to close off games – the Fury to lock down their turn, and the Angel herself to quickly finish them off.

Keeping with the aggressive drive, mono-red looks pretty viable to me, mainly because of this number:

Burning-Tree Emissary was featured in one of Saito’s recent standard decks in order to power out Flinthoof Boar on Turn 2 and still get a free 2/2. While you may not be able to have Flinthoof Boar in RTR Block, the free 2/2 aspect may be good enough if you can engineer your deck to need damage more than cards.

This also gives me an avenue to try out Domri Rade, a card that I’m not quite sure what to make of. It gives fairly reliable utility for a creature deck, though I suspect it’s more at home in the more Naya midrange decks than this weenie red deck I have here. I just wanted a bit of card advantage and a little bit of removal, and Domri provides both for a relatively cheap cost. Sure, I’ll likely have to trade a creature at some point to push through some more damage in order to use Domri’s fight ability, but isn’t Burning-Tree Emissary a free creature anyway?


We’ve talked about the red guilds pretty in depth at this point, but not really about Simic. I like the Simic guild. Simic is all about tempo, about slowly accruing advantages while amassing an unassailable board state. You just keep pumping out creatures, and each of your other creatures gets bigger. Unlike the red guilds, the Simic creature strategy isn’t nearly as fast, but it has a lot more inevitability thanks to its blue side – it can deal with a recovered opponent a lot better with cards like Jace, Architect of Thought and Prime Speaker Zegana.

Mystic Genesis may turn out to be my favorite card in this deck – a counterspell that makes a creature that can make all your other creatures larger. I would likely have either Ooze Flux or Zameck Guildmage in the sideboard for grindy matchups (such as vs. Golgari) where you would want to do things during a board stall, and +1/+1 counters seem like the perfect resource. Hands of Binding is mostly a tool to push through extra damage, but I’m not sure how good it is rather than something like Cyclonic Rift, so there are only two of them for now.

Master Biomancer is an incredible card, and how you will likely win most of your games. Playing huge creature turn after turn after turn is very hard to deal with, even if Biomancer himself isn’t really a true Collective Blessing effect.

While I’m sure Naya will be the traditional colors to shove Domri into, I wanted to see how a RUG approach would work, because blue is always better.

While it would be very easy to just shove in 4 Jace to play alongside Domri (and would probably be very effective), I wanted to give Domri the best possible chance of drawing a creature each turn. That said, this deck didn’t really turn out the way I thought it would. It kind of just looks like the Simic deck with some Ghor-Clan Rampagers. However, Greenside Watcher is an interesting card. I wonder if it’s possible to build a sort of RUG Ramp/Control deck.

This deck probably needs Master Biomancer in it somewhere, just so excess Gyre Sages can be used more easily to pump up Clan Defiance (the main win condition with the deck after your giant legendary creatures don’t kill them). Looks like a pretty fun deck to jam a few games with, but definitely not competitive enough to play.


Mainly, I’ve been talking nonstop about the three creature-based guilds in Gatecrash. What about Dimir and Orzhov? Obviously, these guilds do not want particularly to play with creatures. Unfortunately, they are also by far the worst guilds in the set.

Dimir is completely unplayable. The guild’s indecision about what exactly it wants to do creates a state in which there are not enough cards for either strategy. You have very few creatures that are good enough to encode cipher spells onto, and even then there are very few cipher spells that aren’t completely horribly overcosted. The mill strategy also doesn’t work, because you have no reliable way of keeping the mill up (like Sands of Delirium). All of the mill cards are one-time spells, unless you mention the two cipher milling spells – Paranoid Delusions and Whispering Madness. However, if your plan is to mill them out with cipher cards, there’s a fair chance the creature you are using to cast these cipher spells will kill them far before decking them does.

Dimir brings almost nothing to Block Constructed. The most playable card in the guild is Watery Grave, and then Dimir Guildgate. Okay, that’s not really fair. Nightveil Specter looks interesting. Though it will likely not go into pure Dimir decks, it looks like an interesting tool in the control mirror. I expect to see it a bit in sideboards.

Orzhov is much trickier to judge. Its main mechanic, extort, is primarily on limited-fodder creatures that aren’t playable in a constructed environment. And while you can build a deck to eke out a win via Blind Obedience, I don’t see that happening in a format full of Sphinx’s Revelations. Instead, Orzhov brings two cards to the table – Obzedat, Ghost Council and Merciless Eviction. And, unfortunately, neither of these cards is strong enough to go into an ‘Orzhov deck’. Instead, they’ll be shoehorned into Azorius – Obzedat as an unwrathable, un-Sphereable finisher, and Merciless Eviction as a sideboard card to take out any troublesome board states – Angel of Serenity loops, tons of Keyrunes, planeswalker battles, etc. It’s a very versatile Wrath, and control decks love both versatility and Wraths.
Control decks don’t benefit greatly from Gatecrash, and that’s just fine by me. Control has been king for too long this Block Constructed season. I’m ready for a change.

So get in a beatdown mindset. It’s time to crash some gates.

Lee McLeod
@leemcleo on Twitter
Gard on MTGO

  1. Hey Lee,

    I getting into block since RTR and I have been absorbing as much as I can from these articles. I really like your articles.

    I have one request/suggestion. On the RTR preview you did and cards you were interested in you never posted a videos of the deck. Can you post videos of these decks and refer back to this article on the strengths and weaknesses of the cards you highlight here.

    I think it would give regular readers a clear picture of deckbuilding, card evaluation, and how the theory works in practice.

    One again love this stuff keep up the good work.

    My Username is GoodHunting on MTGO so hit me up if you are around.

  2. How do you determine “azorius” to be the best deck? (it’s not even a deck, it’s a guild).

    The best dake is either BR Zombies or something like Naya midrange. I haven’t seen this “azorius” deck top 8 any GPs, let alone win one.

  3. Saying control is pretty dead really isn’t an accurate statement, in my opinion the control deck will switch to esper,it gets Dimir charm to counter those pesky rakdos’s returns it gets orzhov charms to deal with creatures, it also gets Ghost dads which is better then armada wurm.

  4. I agree that control isn’t dead at all. Just because mono blue control and blue white control isn’t something we are seeing often in the current meta, doesn’t mean that other forms of control aren’t thriving. Five color control has made top lists quite a few times, and cards that allow the player to control the tempo of the game and always have an answer, such as snapcaster mage, and sphyx’s revelation, are very popular, as are the many forms of field wipe which are a form of control.

  5. @Troy: The reason I’m hesitant to actually film very rough decklists is that while you can learn a lot, you usually only get to play two rounds and nearly always lose (losing is the best way to test things). I try to look around at the lists taht are doing well and display them, because they are at least tested. Sometimes I try my own thing out (did not due this too much in RTR), but only after I’ve already tested it quite a bit. I’ll probably do this more going forward since the card pool has expanded.

    @Marsh and Sokolva: I didn’t say control was dead. I said it was not by and far the best thing you can be doing now, because aggressive decks get better with Gatecrash. Also, Sokolva, this article is about Block Constructed, so there is no Snapcaster Mage.

  6. Lee, it might be disheartening to see all these commenters that apparently didn’t even read the article. But I for one am a big fan of block and your articles, and I cant wait to see some videos with GTC cards. Keep it up, man.

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