I Got You a Gift! (From the God-Pharaoh)

Nick discusses the U/W God-Pharaoh's Gift deck, a couple different directions to take the archetype, and maybe some Emeria Shepherd's and/or Gearhulks show up to party.

Strategic Planning Artwork

There’s something lurking in the graveyard that’s about to break the format in half. I don’t think it’s completely tuned, and it may not even be in the right colors yet, but it’s there waiting. I am, of course, talking about God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

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U/W Gift by Andre Lukas, 7th place, SCG Classic Atlanta

Creatures (22)
Angel of Invention
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Champion of Wits
Mausoleum Wanderer
Minister of Inquiries
Thraben Inspector

Artifacts (7)
Gate to the Afterlife
God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Sorceries (8)
Refurbish
Strategic Planning
Lands (23)
Ipnu Rivulet
Irrigated Farmland
Island
Plains
Port Town
Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
Crook of Condemnation
Declaration in Stone
Dispel
Forsake the Worldly
Fragmentize
Linvala, the Preserver
Void Winnower

This looks to be one of the first iterations of this strategy to see some success (There was a slightly different list that took down the Magic Online Standard PTQ as well, check it out over here). The plan here is to get God-Pharaoh’s Gift (GPG or Gift from here on out) into play by either Refurbish‘ing or tutoring it with a Gate to the Afterlife.  The God-Pharaoh’s Gift is a one-card engine when you consider that many of the creatures either sacrifice for value, or you just don’t care if they die.

Each looting effect takes you one step closer to activating Gate to the Afterlife and sealing the game with insane inevitability via GPG. Once Gift is in play, Angel of Invention looks like Baneslayer Angel, Champion of Wits looks like Mulldrifter, and every little dorky creature is suddenly a huge hasty threat that provides some additional, sweet value. But as sweet as this list is, I don’t think this is GPGs final form.

[insert final form meme here]

For one, Gate to the Afterlife is a lackluster card that typically won’t affect the battlefield the turn it comes down. It’s more or less a three mana do-something-later-card.  The deck’s best draws involve self-milling into a turn 4 Refurbish, triggering Gift.

Second, I think we can do better than Angel of Invention for reanimation targets. Gearhulks are a natural fit for a Refurbish deck, and all have great enter-the-battlefield effects. I’m thinking Combustible, Cataclysmic, and Noxious Gearhulk all would be great choices. The other potential creature I had in mind was Emeria Shepherd. Turning every Plains into additional reanimation effects that can grab planeswalkers or enchantments like Cast Out seems busted.

Let’s take a gander at a UW Emeria Refurbish list first.

U/W Emeria Refurbish by Nick Peternell, HOU Standard Test Deck

Creatures (20)
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Champion of Wits
Emeria Shepherd
Glory-Bound Initiate
Sunscourge Champion
Lands (24)
Irrigated Farmland
Island
Plains
Port Town
Prairie Stream

Sorceries (8)
Refurbish
Strategic Planning

Enchantments (4)
Cast Out

Artifacts (4)
God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Like before, we’re trying to get GPG into the graveyard first. From there we reanimate Emeria Shepherd which then buys back Cast Out or anything else we’ve milled over. Sunscourge Champion and Champion of Wits are natural fits in the these Gift decks so expect to see them a lot. What I like most about UW as an Emeria deck is that the duals are mostly Plains typed so it’s very easy to trigger the Emeria Shepherd.

The one oddball is the Glory-Bound Initiate, which I included to tie up our opponents mana as well as threatening to gain some life and stave off the most aggressive starts (looking at you, Mono-Red). What this version doesn’t do as well is cast a ton of creatures that can block and interact well with an opponent. On the whole, I think this deck is better suited to a midrange meta where as the 7th place list is better slanted towards aggressiveness.

The other God Pharaoh’s Gift deck that I’m excited for is Jeskai Gift.

Jeskai Gift by Nick Peternell, HOU Standard Test Deck

Lands (24)
Inspiring Vantage
Island
Mountain
Plains
Port Town
Spirebluff Canal
Wandering Fumarole

Sorceries (16)
Cathartic Reunion
Madcap Experiment
Refurbish
Strategic Planning

Artifacts (4)
God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Creatures (16)
Sunscourge Champion
Champion of Wits
Combustible Gearhulk
Noxious Gearhulk

I’ve worked with Refurbish decks before, but never with a target as powerful as the God-Pharaoh’s Gift. While some people are fine with reanimating Thraben Inspectors, I want to hit with Gearhulks which are significantly stronger reanimation targets. As I mentioned earlier, they all have great ETB effects that either stabilize the board, or dig you deeper into the deck and closer to killing your opponents.

Here we also have four Madcap Experiment to give us some extra redundancy. Madcap is sometimes even better than Gift as far as reanimation goes because you get full size bodies as opposed to 4/4. And the Sunscourge Champion is no Champion of Wits, but in addition to being a fine reanimation target, and potential (albeit worse) discard outlet it should be OK against aggro decks.

In the Mardu Colors we have a very similar list but we can in theory cast all of it’s Gearhulks.

Mardu Refurbish by Nick Peternell, HOU Standard Test Deck

Lands (23)
Concealed Courtyard
Evolving Wilds
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Plains
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

Sorceries (19)
Cathartic Reunion
Collective Brutality
Madcap Experiment
Refurbish
Tormenting Voice

Creatures (14)
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Combustible Gearhulk
Noxious Gearhulk
Sunscourge Champion

Artifacts (4)
God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Essentially these lists are the same thing but will vary in the sideboard plans and how they approach filling the graveyards. Collective Brutality should be big game against aggressive decks, but the nature of Cathartic Reunion will make it weaker against counterspell decks.

The big takeaway here is that these decks are highly customizable and scary in power level.  I’ve heard a few pros call the Gift decks sleepers but I think the cat will soon be out of the bag (or graveyard, rather). I’d recommend putting some Crook of Condemnation in your sideboards, lest you fall prey to the next iteration of this terrifying graveyard deck.

At least this time we have something to fight back with.

Sound off in the comment section or reach out to us on Twitter/Facebook if you have any feedback! We’d love to hear it!

Nick has been playing Magic since the 2013 Core Set was released, and grinding since Return to Ravnica. He’s played on the Pro Tour and has multiple high finishes at both the Star City Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s a brewer at heart and excels most in the beginning and middle stages of a format. Finding weaknesses in the metagame and exploiting underplayed cards is just another day in the office for Nick.

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