Undervalued Picks in Gatecrash

As Gatecrash develops into a Limited format, it continues to distinguish itself from its predecessor both in terms of its speed, the size of its creatures, and the tricks used in combat. However, one feature does separate these two sets, and that is the importance of making each pick—especially the final picks of a Draft—count. In triple-RTR, it was easy to wheel passable combat tricks such as Downsize or relatively good bodies such as Cobblebrute—or even an off-color Guildgate. Gatecrash, by contrast, seems to lack those good late Draft picks that RTR had in spades, making your final picks even more important. However, there are a couple cards that many players seem to undervalue that could make good additions to your deck.

Disciple of the Old Ways

Disciple of the Old Ways is a card that can play multiple roles in several decks, and it adds something to the game because of its ability. The Disciple’s first strike ability is actually an incredible asset to what would normally be a Grizzly Bears. In his recent article, Wizards’s Limited Information columnist Marshal Sutcliffe mentions threat-of-activation abilities: abilities that force your opponent to either make a bad block or let you get in for damage and build up your board. For Simic decks, the Disciple is good early drop. A 2/2 body in Gatecrash is pretty respectable, and Simic often lacks early-game creatures to hold off assaults from aggressive decks. In conjunction with +1/+1 counters and the ability to pay the cost of the ability, Disciple becomes a late-game threat. This creature really shines in Gruul, where it works to fill the curve, and in conjunction with bloodrush, Disciple can beat almost any creature.

Massive Raid

Conditional removal usually teeters somewhere between occasionally useful and nigh unplayable; however, Massive Raid has continually proven itself to be impressive. On average, the spell will do anywhere from 3 to 4 points of damage at instant speed, making it equivalent to Annihilating Fire in terms of how useful it is as a removal. Even when the spell can only hit for 1 to 2 points of damage, it still can easily kill the majority of the creatures in the format (fifty-seven creatures in the set have 1 or 2 base toughness). Where this card really shines, however, is in decks that are driven by a critical mass of creatures—rather than in decks that feature a small number of creatures and combat tricks. In an interview during Grand Prix Charlotte, Patrick Sullivan talked about Massive Raid. While he said the card underperforms in decks with a small numbers of creatures, the spell can be particularly devastating for those R/W decks that have a huge quantity of creatures to really generate the maximum impact from the spell. Sullivan wound up playing two copies of Massive Raid in his Boros deck in day two of the Grand Prix.

Disciple of the Old Ways
Massive Raid

Shadow Slice

A few other figures in the Magic world have already mentioned how deceptively powerful this card is (such as Vito Gesualdi of DraftMagic.com fame), but it is a card that deserves to be mentioned. Of all the cipher cards in Gatecrash, with the exception of Stolen Identity, Shadow Slice can end the game the fastest. If my opponent has any evasive creature such as Deathcult Rogue or Keymaster Rogue or even a flyer that I can’t block, and he casts Shadow Slice, I either have to answer it immediately or risk losing. Assuming I have no answer to a Shadow Slice or the subsequent recast of the card, my opponent has the ability to do 7 to 9 points of damage on the opening attack and anywhere from 4 to 7 for each subsequent attack. This is the card that makes the Dimir archetype something to fear.

Riot Gear

In Gatecrash, a premium is put on aggressive creatures and on getting the extra mile out of the creatures you have. In this format, Riot Gear acts very much like Trusty Machete did in Zendikar Draft, giving your small creatures the ability to swing without dying and giving you a way to capitalize on small, aggressive creatures into the late game. The extra 2 points of toughness are incredibly important for aggressive decks, helping to give fragile battalion creatures the ability to continually survive and letting Boros and Gruul decks (which often have trouble if they flood or if the game goes long) a way to punch through.

Shadow Slice
Riot Gear

Leyline Phantom

Leyline Phantom is the kind of card that can deceive players about its true potential. In most formats, being forced to leave the battlefield after an attack or block would make for a terrible creature. However, much like anything in life or Magic, the Phantom’s usefulness depends on context. A 5/5 for 5 mana is something that blue doesn’t traditionally have, which makes the card useful already. Furthermore, a 5/5 in a format rife with small creatures means the Phantom easily trades with every creature from Gutter Skulk to Deathpact Angel. However, the Phantom truly shines in a dedicated Simic deck. The Phantom swings in and forces the opponent to either lose a creature or take 5 damage; then, the Phantom comes down again and evolves every other creature on the board. During Pro Tour Gatecrash, Magic Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz was interviewed while piloting a Simic deck to a winning record. One of the cards Mowshowitz mentioned specifically was Leyline Phantom. He called the card “essential” to the Simic deck and actually encouraged main-decking two Phantoms, especially over other 5-cost cards such as Adaptive Snapjaw.

Guardian of the Gateless

There are very few 5-drops worth playing in a format as fast as Gatecrash. With 2-drops, 1- to 4-mana removal spells, and a plethora of combat tricks (and that’s without counting the bloodrush cards), it’s hard to justify paying for expensive spells. However, Guardian of the Gateless is a huge exception. A 3/3 flying body for 5 mana is more than okay in a Limited environment, and the Guardian’s ability to block multiple creatures and grow bigger on the block is surprisingly relevant. For Boros decks, the Guardian is the best 5-drop creature you could want, with a strong power, evasion, and a durable body to trigger battalion. For an Orzhov deck, it offers a way to hack through the weak flyers of the set while simultaneously holding off difficult-to-block creatures such as Drakewing Krasis.

Metropolis Sprite

One of the best 2-drops in Gatecrash, the Sprite synergizes with a ton of cards in the set. For Simic decks, Metropolis Sprite is an excellent second-turn play, evolving early plays such as Experiment One, Cloudfin Raptor, and Shambleshark. If you manage to put multiple +1/+1 counters on the Sprite, it quickly becomes the equivalent of a flying Frostburn Weird, switching between delivering massive swings and providing a large, flying blocker. In a recent interview with Nate Price, Conley Woods mentioned the Sprite as an integral part of Dimir decks. Woods mentioned that the Sprite plays two important roles. The Sprite pulls double-duty in a Dimir deck. For dedicated cipher decks, Metropolis Sprite carries integral cipher cards such as Shadow Slice and Hands of Binding. Woods also mentions that the card is incredibly important to the Dimir deck because of the need for early plays. Metropolis Sprite easily trades for cheap, low-toughness, aggressive creatures such as Skinbrand Goblin. In addition to providing an early first line of defense, the Sprite helps Dimir decks get the most out of any extort cards they manage to draft (Woods mentions Basilica Screecher in particular) to help give the Dimir staying power in the early game.

Leyline Phantom
Guardian of the Gateless
Metropolis Sprite

So, there you have it: several cards that are sure to get you your bang for your buck when it comes to drafting—and they won’t cost you high picks to do it. Remember that Gatecrash is a set full of aggressive creatures and places a premium on tight curves and efficiency. Any card that can have an impact on the board, help you survive those early stages, or give you multiple options is a card worth drafting even if the pick may seem counterintuitive. I hope these cards will provide some benefit for you and your strategies. Good luck, and as always: Never lose your focus, always be efficient, and crush aggressively!

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