God-Pharoah’s Gift is one of the most flavorful cards from Amonkhet, letting you raise an army of Eternals every combat step. It was also very successful in the standard format which forced some decks to play graveyard hate in respect to its power if left unanswered.
There are two ways to build the deck, one was to use a creature-heavy deck and trigger Gate to the Afterlife and fetch GPG. The other way to build the deck is to run GPG and cheat it into play with Refurbish.
I think the better and more stable way to build a GPG deck is to play Gate to the Afterlife and incorporate ways to get creatures into the graveyard from everywhere and fetch GPG. Why I believe this is the better approach is because cheating GPG with Refurbish is useless if you don’t have any targets in the graveyard to eternalize. Gate also lets you take GPGs from the graveyard and put it back into play helping you recover if your GPG gets destroyed.
The most famous GPG builds are the straight UB, UW and Esper. UB was made famous by professional MTG player and brewer Conley Woods. Basically he chose to use Marionette Master as the win condition by ditching it into the graveyard with Champion of Wits, and reanimating it with GPG and then sac a bunch of treasures, servos to a Metatalwork Colossus in the bin.
The more stable version that’s not as explosive was the Esper or UW which calmly sets up the board using Minister of Inquiries to mill himself and hopefully hit a GPG and then cheating it into play with Refurbish and swing in with a 6/6 fling, vigilance, lifelink Angel of Invention.
Both builds were very successful and remains to be a powerhouse in standard especially against decks that don’t prepare graveyard hate or are not in the colors that ways to remove artifacts.
A friend of mine reminded me of a possible Jeskai build that uses Cathartic Reunion to ditch creatures into the graveyard, draw into Refurbish and reliably get the engine out fast. Red also provides solid removal to help the deck stay alive against very aggressive decks.
Apart from Cathartic Reunion, we actually have access to very cheap creatures that die naturally to trigger Gate to the Afterlife without a sacrifice engine or mana investment.
Bomat Courier not only discards our hand and fill up the graveyard very quickly but it also helps us draw into the pieces we need and can self destruct to trigger Gate’s loot effect. Same goes for Fanatical Firebrand which can come down and sacrifice itself to kill a Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Champion of Wits, Earthshaker Khenra, Toolcraft Exemplar and many more. Then of course Walking Ballista is the absolute free loot card thanks to its XX mana cost.
The card that glues the GPG archetype together is really Champion of Wits. A creature that loots you two cards is really the best card to cast on turn 3, making sure you draw your lands and throw away creatures to meet the 6-dude condition for Gate. The eternalize on this card is pure gas whether you pay for it or cheat it with GPG.
Go look for Combat Celebrant in your bulk pile or sift through player’s binders for a cheap copy of this card because finally, this 4/1 Relentless Assault on a stick will shine!
Successfully ditching Combat Celebrant to the graveyard for GPG to reanimate does many things:
- It makes it into a 4/4 instead of a 4/1 which makes it survive more removals.
- It gives it haste.
- It allows you exert it on the first attack, giving you another combat step.
- The additional combat step gives you an additional GPG trigger since it kicks in at the beginning of combat.
- If you have another copy of Combat Celebrant in the bin then you can do this step again and keep eternalizing and attacking, denying your opponent any opportunity to recover.
Trophy Mage will serve as your 5th-nth copy of Gate to the Afterlife. The success and failure of this deck relies on drawing Gate because without it’s effect, your creatures are sub par compared to the other creatures in the format.
We will play Spell Pierce in the main because I just want the confidence that we have some ways to deal with a game breaking Settle the Wreckage, Ixalan’s Binding or whatever the opponents have that can screw up our game like Approach of the Second Suns.
So here’s my Izzet GPG decklist:
4 Bomat Courier
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Walking Ballista
4 Minister of Inquiries
4 Champion of Wits
4 Combat Celebrant
2 Trophy Mage
4 Cathartic Reunion
4 Gate to the Afterlife
2 God-Pharaoh’s Gift
4 Aether Hub
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Ipnu Rivulet
3 Essence Scatter
2 Jace’s Defeat
2 Sweltering Suns
2 Chandra’s Defeat
3 Saheeli Rai
If truly needed, we can slow our game down and be somewhat control-ish to adjust our pace towards the opponent. Essence Scatter and Abrade comes in against aggressive decks that curve early. Essence Scatter remains useful late game to catch Scarab Gods, Hazorets, Rekindling Phoenixes and the likes. Abrade is both anti creature and anti vehicle which is nice. Lastly we have Chandra’s Defeat, it’s super handy against RDW and RB Aggro because it can deal with Chandra herself and loots us for incidental synergy.
Sweltering Suns comes in against go-wide strategies which is not good for us. It’s absolutely disgusting to have our 4/4 haste creatures get blocked by cats, servos and vampires. Sweltering Suns does a great job clearing the board and we don’t mind losing our own creatures because we can just get them back, bigger and stronger.
I like that we can play both defeats in our colors. Jace’s Defeat can be very relevant in certain narrow match-ups like UB control, UW Approach, Merfolks, and Sultai Counters. It hits stuff that Negates can’t like Scarab God, Kumena, Whirler Virtuso. It’s basically an extra Essence Scatter or Negate against blue decks.
The last slots in the sideboard is for Rekindling Phoenix. Hear me out before you call me crazy. This is my hypothetical justification. Essentially the Phoenix provides us the following:
- Recurring threat in attrition match-ups.
- Triggers Gate to the Afterlife multiple times and we still end up getting it back.
- Eternalized Phoenixes still leave the 0/1 elemental token behind which can be used later to bring back Phoenixes that were 2-for-1’ed by the opponent.
- Decent clock and has haste which joins the red zone together with the creature we eternalized for the turn.
It’s quite funny to have a card in the sideboard that’s more expensive that almost the entire deck but it’s truly a great surprise against decks that don’t have many removal.
That’s it for now and I hope you enjoy the content I dish out in the blog.
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