Last week I mentioned that I gave up on building a Maze's End deck for a number of reasons. There are quite a few notable weaknesses with the deck, not the least of which being that you probably want to be 2-3 colors with Guildgates spanning every color. My largest concern had to do with Acidic Slime or Nephalia Drownyard knocking one of your gates out and making it literally impossible to win. Or so I thought.
A few days ago I was playing a two-man when my opponent lead on Selesnya Guildgate and played a turn two Elixir of Immortality. Apparently this card is Standard legal. I don't think that it solves the Acidic Slime problem by any stretch of the imagination, but it's about as good as we're going to get when it comes to cards which combat Nephalia Drownyard.
Sadly this only addresses one of the deck's major problems. Acidic Slime is likely to beat the deck on the fact that it's LD alone, and I'm still not convinced that Maze's End can realistically beat a Sire of Insanity, but for today I'm going to ignore those problems. I've been chatting with Chris Kronenberger quite a bit lately and his fire to do something different reignited something in me that makes me want to jam a hopeless deck just to say that I did. Now, I'm not as much of a dreamer as Chris (he wants to play Talrand, Sky Summoner in Legacy...) but chatting with somebody with a different perspective than you can often be quite refreshing. If he's that willing to lose in Legacy, I should be at least as willing to lose in Standard.
After spending some time tweaking decklists and playing two-mans I've landed on the version of Maze's End that I would play, were I so inclined. Testing has been very minimal and my endgame for this deck is probably just FNMs, but if you've ever enjoyed a turbo-fog type strategy then this might be your new Standard pony:
As a quick note, I'm very far from 100% on this manabase. I haven't really had mana issues with the deck but I think this is more indicative of minimal testing than anything else. I've shifted around the two drop slot quite a bit and I'm uncertain if I've fully adapted to what is in the list at this point. Initially the deck was dramatically more green and the need for green mana early was much higher. At this stage green has become the splash color and I really don't know how many of the duals need to produce green mana, so definitely feel free to mess with that.
Anyhow, let's get down to brass tacks. The fogs, the wraths, the big draw spells are pretty well non-negotiable staples. For the most part divergences in the deck deal with which early drops you want to play and whether or not you want to play alternate win conditions.
The utility of this one is fairly self-explanatory. It's really about as good as cheap card draw gets in this format. Splitting the draws, as we all know, makes it play particularly well with Terminus. From my testing I've been much happier with these card drawing spells than I have with spells that produce mana or find lands, as it takes actually drawing your wraths to enable you to win games.
Augur of Bolas
I initially had Gatecreeper Vine in this slot, but with a 28 land deck I really wasn't struggling to make land drops. As I stated on Think Twice you need to find your actual spells if you want to win games, and Augur digs you three deeper towards doing so. He's right at home in such a spell-heavy deck.
Feeling of Dread
I initially included Feeling of Dread in the deck for synergy with Mulch, but have kept it in even since cutting the self-mill plan. I prefer it to something like Moonmist because barring Lingering Souls decks or some flavor of Garruk you generally only need to deal with two-ish creatures. In the scenarios where Feeling does all the work of a fog it also has the benefit of being able to do what it does twice, which is a pretty big deal when your deck spends most of its time doing nothing. It is absolutely weaker against hexproof creatures, but I would hope that our 8 wraths can carry their weight in that matchup.
Elixir of Immortality
More often than not, five life is less than a fog will gain you. Elixir is also a miss for Augur. That said, it's going to be our only maindeck way to beat having our gates destroyed/milled. The card is a far cry from impressive, but it has a relevant job and I don't believe there to be better options. If only Life from the Loam were legal... And on that note, I would love Exploration (even just Explore!, but now I'm getting sidetracked.
Rampant Growth and Chromatic Lantern
Initially I thought that a deck that was trying to activate a four mana ability every turn would want some sort of mana acceleration, but upon testing this theory I found that this just lead to having too many cards in the deck that were just mana. Drawing extra cards and hitting land drops naturally has worked out dramatically better in my testing. Even with the acceleration the deck doesn't really win any faster. Just drawing and playing gates does as much towards winning the game as activating Maze's End does, and even on the turns when we do activate Maze Fog and Feeling of Dread come at very cheap rates. I haven't ever found myself wanting for these cards.
I was pretty excited about Mulch when I first included it in the deck. It helps find Maze's End and any Think Twice or Feeling of Dread milled is a nice bonus. In practice I wasn't ever really missing land drops, I was rarely getting this self-mill value and it had the same problem that Farseek did in terms of leaving the deck too mana-heavy.
Have I ever told you about how this deck doesn't need just a bunch of mana effects? The worst thing about Gatecreeper Vine is that is plays completely abysmally once you have a Maze's End. Would you rather tutor up your land drop using one of your spell slots or one of your land slots? And it just sucks at blocking. I'd probably play Wall of Blossoms, but Wall of Blossoms this is not.
Azorius Charm/Renounce the Guilds/ Literal any Spot Removal
These sorts of cards are simply off-plan. We want all of our interactive spells to be able to deal with our opponents entire team so that we can use our excess mana (in the case of fog) to activate Maze's End or leave our opponent with nothing attacking us (in the case of wraths) to buy time and generate more mana in a technical sense. Playing catchup with removal makes winning with Maze's End infinitely more difficult than just fogging when your opponent gets rolling.
Crackling Perimeter and Other Alternate Win Conditions
I've run into a few people battling versions of this deck with Crackling Perimeter and I've been wholly underwhelmed. It loses to Acidic Slime all the same as Maze's End, is extremely prohibitive to your mana production and is your single source of damage. Not to mention that barring them being destroyed redundant copies are stone blanks. It is a cute answer to Planeswalkers, but it just doesn't jive well with anything else in the deck.
I'm really not sure what other alternate win conditions one would want to include in this deck, but Maze's End is likely going to be far more difficult for opponents to interact with than any other option which will serve to dilute the [car]Maze's End[/card] plan.
I'm not expecting this deck to be the new hotness in Standard. Further, I don't expect the majority of players to even enjoy playing this type of Magic, but it has been a fun change of pace for me. Outside of being pretty freakin' cold to Acidic Slime and Sire of Insanity the deck has been surprisingly competitive. I 100% recommend it for something like an FNM and if I were going to an SCG Open soon I'd probably rather sleeve this up for a 10 round event than actually slog with through it all with something more conventional. PTQs are a different animal, and unless you think you've solved the Acidic Slime problem I wouldn't be at all surprised to lose to that card at least once per event.
Thanks for reading.
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