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Land Searching to Make Friends and Win Games, Pt I

Maze's End

Dragon’s Maze, the final set in the hugely popular Return to Ravnica block, draws nigh. Already we’ve heard about shockland re-reprints, a guild versus guild footrace, and at least 10 new multicolor legends to fuel the Commander fire.

The prerelease for Dragon’s Maze is set for April 27-28, so be sure to check with your local store about specific times and entrance fees. The one card you know you’ll get (although you can’t play with it this time)? Maze’s End. It’s a little funny to me that the first card you get upon “entering” the Maze is, in fact, the very end of the Maze. That aside, Maze’s End is a very interesting card to touch upon, so I’m going to be covering it in a two-part article series.

Why is Maze’s End a good card to Explore (pun very intended)? First of all, it’s actually a win condition. Some things that we, the collective Johnnies of Magic, try very hard to put together have very neat effects but stop short of “End”ing the game (more pun fun!). Maze’s End says that if you do what you want it to- that is, you know, use its ability- you actually win. In fact, rather than Door to Nothingness, this means you win a multiplayer game, since the difference between “you win the game” and “target opponent loses the game” is more important when you’ve got more opponents to go through. Second, before you get around to winning, it’s actually a useful effect. Mike taught me the value of Thawing Glaciers long ago, and it’s a lesson I will never forget. Third, Stifle / Voidslime / Time Stop shenanigans aside, it’s an uncounterable effect. Fourth, it’s a land, so only specific cards will deal with it.

Maze’s End is a card.

Maze's End (non-promo)

Yeah.

I’m going to take 2 approaches to Maze’s End. The is for a Standard 60-card deck. It’s not intended to win the next Grand Prix / Open Series / Pro Tour, but it’s going to be slanted toward casual play. The second is, to little surprise I’m sure, Commander. Although the Commander deck will be more intensive than the other in terms of size, it will borrow quite a bit on the concepts we set out for the first deck. I’ll cover the Standard deck in this article, while the Commander deck will be the subject of the next article. Also, since there are almost no other known Dragon’s Maze cards spoiled as of the time I’m writing this, Maze’s End is the only card from that set. Let’s start with the most restrictive format, at least in the number of card choices: Standard.

So what does Maze’s End want to do? It’s an interesting sort of ramp effect that rewards you for playing with a diverse mana base (since you need all of the Gates) rather than a consistent one (like Valakut). You could just ignore trying to win the game with the End’s ability, but I’d feel like I was missing out on a great opportunity. If you want to run a 3-color deck and use the Maze to get out some Gates to supplement rather than control your mana base, go right ahead. I’ll be over here in crazyville, trying to make this land win me the game. So, 10 Gates, and you need one of each on the battlefield to win? It’s probably not a great idea to have a set of each, since that’s 40 cards, but using singles of any of them is just asking to get blown out by a Ghost Quarter or Frenzied Tilling. You also need a few Maze’s End, of course. Having multiple Ends isn’t a terrible thing since it allows for more activations (at 6 or more mana other than the Ends, of course) and it’s vital to find one, but is four excessive?

 

Here’s a beginning mana base, subject to revision:

Lands (23)

2: Azorius Guildgate
2: Boros Guildgate
2: Dimir Guildgate
2: Golgari Guildgate
2: Gruul Guildgate
2: Izzet Guildgate
2: Orzhov Guildgate
2: Rakdos Guildgate
2: Selesnya Guildgate
2: Simic Guildgate
3: Maze’s End

 

Wow, that’s some crazy stuff. Keep in mind that every land in the deck comes in tapped, so you’re going to be a turn behind. How do we get around this? Unfortunately, there isn’t a Rampant Growth for Gates, since Gatecreeper Vine puts them into your hand rather than onto the battlefield. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want a set of them, however.

4: Gatecreeper Vine

So what else searches for Gates? Uh, nothing. Hopefully the Vines and the Ends are enough. As far as getting further ahead, Urban Evolution works pretty well, although five mana means we wait quite a while before it helps out, and playing two in a turn is not happening. Still, it’s what we’ve got, so we need them.

4: Urban Evolution
4: Unexpected Results

Now, let’s start thinking about what we’re doing when we aren’t… huh? What’s that? There’s another card in the deck? How did that get there?

How… unexpected.

Well, Unexpected Results is far from the most reliable spell. The requirement to shuffle before revealing the card means that (for decks with more than one card in them) stacking the top cards ahead of time won’t help. You’re completely at the mercy of a combination of statistics and luck. So why play this card? Simple. It does exactly what we want it to do, all of the time, if we build the deck right. The deck wants its lands out, and this is cheaper than Urban Evolution. If we get a land, then we can repeat the process later. The key is just making sure that the spells in the deck are also as close to always being a good thing to cast as possible. So far, we either get a land (good, arguably even if it’s one we already have, although the chances of that are pretty small), a Gatecreeper Vine (and another Gate), an Urban Evolution (much better at four mana than three), or another bite at the Unexpected apple. So far so good.

What Unexpected Results means is that we can’t rely on situational cards (Zombie Apocalypse) or cards that don’t work at Sorcery speed (Fog, Dissipate) too much. This doesn’t mean that we can’t

4: Snapcaster Mage

run them at all… hey! Silly flash mage. Well, Mr. Flashback does have a place here, since we’re running a couple of important Sorceries. Getting back to the point, notwithstanding any more interruptions?

Good. Unexpected Results also means that we will probably up the land count a bit. Plus, since the mana base is almost all Gates, let’s add another 2/1 for two to the party, shall we? Greenside Watcher can untap most of the lands in the deck, giving it a much-needed speed boost. The fact that every land comes in tapped is not to be underestimated, so more non-land mana sources are welcome. I considered Chromatic Lantern or Keyrunes, but having something to cast on the second turn would be nice.

+2 Simic Guildgate
4: Greenside Watcher
4: Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2: Mana Bloom

Now, about this time you should be asking yourself how you’re going to stay alive to win. After all, it’s not like the opponent(s) are going to not see this coming and just leave you alone. We probably need some sweepers to deal with the opponent’s threats. Access to every color means that you can tailor the removal suite to your own tastes and metagame. The ones I’m going with account for most of the problems we might see from opponent’s creatures. I’ve selected a spread of effects rather than going all-in on just wrath effects or just omni-bounce to keep the deck unpredictable.

2: Supreme Verdict
2: Terminus
3: Cyclonic Rift

Finally, I knew that I wanted to include either Temporal Mastery or Sphinx’s Revelation. Both have their merits as the “big spell” of the deck. Mastery nets you a whole turn, getting you at least one card (and one land drop!) but has no interaction with Snapcaster Mage. Revelation refills your hand and helps against aggressive decks (as if you didn’t know what it did by now) but fails to impress with Unexpected Results. Ultimately, I’m going with the Mastery, but I would strongly consider either (or both) in a slightly modified version of the deck.

2: Temporal Mastery

 

Here’s the completed deck:

Lands (25)

2: Azorius Guildgate
2: Boros Guildgate
2: Dimir Guildgate
2: Golgari Guildgate
2: Gruul Guildgate
2: Izzet Guildgate
2: Orzhov Guildgate
2: Rakdos Guildgate
2: Selesnya Guildgate
4: Simic Guildgate
3: Maze’s End

Creatures (16)

4: Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4: Gatecreeper Vine
4: Greenside Watcher
4: Snapcaster Mage

Non-Creature Spells (19)

2: Mana Bloom
4: Urban Evolution
4: Unexpected Results
3: Cyclonic Rift
2: Supreme Verdict
2: Terminus
2: Temporal Mastery

 

So there you have it, one conceptual take on the Maze’s End deck for Standard. Next time, we’ll be looking at the far more expansive format of Commander. See you then!

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One Comment

  1. April 18, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    So I’m actually going to be putting a variant of this together to have fun with my uber-casual group at my college! Will come back w/ results!

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