Giving Out Gifts

Gifts Ungiven is one of the most interesting cards in Modern that doesn’t really have a home. We’ve seen it used as a reanimation enabler and value engine in Blue-based Urzatron. We’ve seen it fuel Life from the Loam and Lingering Souls shenanigans out of Four-Color Midrange decks, combotastic Storm counts, and assemble the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combination out of control decks. Consistently, the problem with Gifts hasn’t been winning the game after it resolves, it’s been that the card is just a little too slow for the format. There currently isn’t a shell besides storm that can generate enough mana to resolve a Gifts and leverage the advantage you generate before your opponent kills you. Corbin Hosler has a variation on Gifts Rock that may change all of that:

Gifts Ungiven
At a glance, this looks like a strange mish-mash of cards. But if you start breaking things down into segments, it all starts to come together. The key idea is that you’re a Gifts decks powered by the acceleration of the Mono-Green Devotion deck. Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl can give you some truly absurd starts, such as casting Garruk Wildspeaker or Kiora, the Crashing Wave on the second turn of the game. Following this up with more mana enchantments or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can mean that you can resolve a Gifts and one of the follow-up haymakers in the same turn rather than giving your opponent an extra turn to try to kill you.

The additional upside to the inclusion of cards like Garruk is that they give you a higher density of cards that affect the board early in the game. That way, you can start playing a more traditional midrange game. Where other Gifts decks are just biding time with Lingering Souls and hoping that Knight of the Reliquarys don’t get Abrupt Decayed, your Garruks can get out of control early on, and you’re more capable of just casting large, impactful threats like Thragtusk early in the game thanks to your mana engine.

The big question then becomes this: what do you do with a resolved Gifts? The answer will typically be to find Unburial Rites and a giant monster, such as Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite against creature decks or Thragtusk if your life total is low. Empyrial Archangel and Terastodon out of the sideboard give you more options for Burn and control decks, while Iona, Shield of Emeria could be a reasonable option depending on what decks you expect to see. However, you could also use Gifts as a value engine, finding something like Thragtusk, Eternal Witness, Unburial Rites, and Primal Command. This ensures that you have multiple things to do over the next few turns, all of which will string together more life, board presence, and powerful creatures.

One thing that’s worth considering in this style of deck is a singleton Panglacial Wurm, just so that any search effect becomes a mana sink, even at instant-speed, allowing you to put a threat or a blocker into play to surprise your opponent.

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