Deck Guide: UW God-Pharaoh's Gift

Introduction


This deck is only a combo short of connecting everything I love about Magic: The Gathering. It includes digging through your deck like a squirrel on speed, some of the coolest creatures and spells in standard, and naturally, reanimation. It's the deck I will most likely ride to Master rank this "season".

The Decklist



Sideboard (15)
2 Baffling End
1 Ixalan's Binding
4 Negate
2 Regal Caracal
2 Settle the Wreckage
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Search for Azcanta

: 5     : 24     : 23     : 8    





The term “toolbox” gets thrown around quite a lot these days, but UW God-Pharaoh's Gift really is one. The goal of the deck is to fill its graveyard with creature spells and God-Pharaoh’s Gift as quickly as possible, then use Refurbish to cheat the artifact into play early and well… go to town?

While that is rather simple on paper, the deck is incredibly rewarding to play. One must at all times make sure to keep their life total somewhat safe, whilst using the unholy fuckload of ways to dig through their deck and find what they’re looking for.

Although the deck doesn’t really play a whole lot of removal or counterspells, it is at its core a control deck and should be played as such, the exception being games against other actual control decks, but you know what? We’ll cover that in just a bit. I’ve played this deck almost exclusively since the first day of the Kaladesh patch and it’s really been performing well for me. I’ve managed to finish eight consecutive 5-x runs in competitive constructed, losing only 4 series in the process. A lot of the strength of the deck comes from people being unfamiliar with it, but it is in the end a very solid performer and above all else - fun. I mean let’s be honest, what’s more fun than flinging an army of zombie angels into people’s faces?



Strengths


The biggest advantage this deck has relative to the other meta lists is its relative obscurity. While some light’s been shed on it through Reddit and Twitch, it’s probably still the least played t2 deck of the format. The fact it’s built in the Azorius colours gives it access to the best sideboard cards in the game, and its ability to dig through the deck effortlessly makes it easy to find threats and answers when we need them. Although somewhat draw dependant, the deck is fast and powerful, has amazing stabilizers in form of life regain and Fumigate, and is able to play the long game when it needs to.

Weaknesses


All that being said, there is a reason why I don’t consider the deck to be top tier, and no it’s not simply the fact it doesn’t run red. According to our statistics, red-based aggro decks currently take up roughly 44% of ranked games and nearly 50% of Competitive Constructed. Abrade is therefore a major pain in the ass for us to deal with. When hard-cast, our Angel of Invention, not unlike some of our other creatures, simply folds to Goblin Chainwhirler and other red removal, and to top it all off, since we run very few creatures, the games against The Scarab God decks can be as fun as a urinary tract infection.



Why not UR?


I suppose at least those of you that have followed pre-Dominaria standard in one way or another know how strong the Izzet version of God-Pharaoh’s Gift was back in pre-Whirler days. The deck functioned as a very fast beatdown that ended games with a chain of Combat Celebrants reanimated with God-Pharaoh’s gift. I suppose the answer to any “Why not…” question these days is Goblin Chainwhirler, and the answer fits here as well. With the abundance of x/1’s in the original UR deck, Chainwhirler just demolishes it.

Cards


The Diggers
These cards help us dig through our deck, simultaneously filling our graveyard and drawing us the oh-so-needed life gain and removal. Champion of Wits doubles up as a card draw engine and can apply significant pressure in the control matchup. Make sure to note its synergy with the anthem effect provided by Angel of Innovation.


The Toolbox
The angels and the Champion are quite literally our life savers. They provide us with large blockers, lifelink, and Shalai is an excellent way to protect the board against the pesky Settle the Wreckage while protecting our face from the direct damage spells so very adored by our red foes. Angel of Invention is a great stabilizer as it can heal us for 6 and snipe a planeswalker the turn we resurrect it, and Lyra is an all around excellent blocker. Make sure to take advantage of Sunscourge Champion’s eternalize ability, that allows us to discard a GPG that would otherwise stink up our hand.


The Removal
There’s really not much to be said about it. Fumigate is an excellent board reset that allows us to establish a dominant board position, while the others are various exile effects that help us deal with large, evasive, or indestructible creatures/permanents.


The Reanimation
These two cards single handedly make the deck. God-Pharaoh's Gift is a 7 CMC artifact that allows us to exile a creature from our graveyard and create an exact copy of it on the battlefield, except it’s a black zombie with haste and a 4/4 body (the CMC of the creature carries over). Refurbish on the other hand is how we reanimate our reanimation engine on turn four.


The Lands
The two dual lands are rather obvious; we want to avoid color screws and though taplands are generally not great, Farmlands have cycling on them, allowing us to trade them for deck thinning and dig deeper into our deck. Ipnu Rivulet is another way to fill our graveyard with cold bodies for Gift to bring back to life, and finally, Hostile Desert is an incredible man-land that omnomnoms the lands in the graveyard (yeah, think about that for awhile, we bury our lands), and gives us another way to pressure our opponents.


The Sideboard
We’re in blue and white, our sideboard options are nearly limitless. We’ll be talking more specifically about what, where, and how much to change in the gameplay section below, but with little tweaks, our gameplan can transform into one of a control or beatdown list on a spot. Keep in mind these are my preferences and the sideboard and the sideboard plan might look slightly or even completely different for other players.


Gameplay


Mulligan
Interestingly enough, this is one of the decks where I feel comfortable breaking my own #1 Magic rule: Never keep 2 landers. The reason is simple, between the million ways to dig for our lands and a relatively low curve, 2 lands are a rather decent starting point. These are the few general tips about starting hands you might want to consider:

  • - Keep two landers with spells that let you dig for more
  • - Mulligan away hands with no early game plays
  • - Mulligan away hands with no ways to dig and discard
  • - Beware of color screws - All the dig in the world isn’t helping you if you can’t cast it


General Gameplay
The basic gameplay of this deck is relatively simple. Dig, set up GPG, don’t die. Once GPG is on board you will gain a shit ton of momentum and will generally stabilize unless your opponent’s board is too wide - Fumigate should help with that. Getting God-Pharaoh's Gift removed might seem like a tragedy, but it’s generally not horrible. In games 2 and 3, we tend to push the more beatdown-y sideboard plan, not relying on the GPG as much as we normally do in game 1. We often see our opponents hold mana and answers ready to counter our lord and saviour’s ancient eternalizing closet of blue liquid. (seriously, what is that thing?)

A lot of players are afraid they will mill away all their Refurbishes through the use of Ministers and Ipnu Rivulets, but the odds of that are astronomical, and it’s the correct play to take 9/10 times. Most of the games will come down to the age old question; are we the beatdown or the control? It’s essential to play and sideboard accordingly.

Aggro


We’re always the control in this case. Our goal is to endure the early game punishment and stabilize through Fumigate or GPG. Our game 1 is generally better, especially on the play but it can become difficult after sideboarding. You will notice a large portion of it is aimed to deal with specific Aggro Matchups. In red-based aggro decks, make sure to sideboard according to threats you see (e.g. Don’t take out Thopter Arrest if the opponent runs Heart of Kiran or Rekindling Phoenix). GB constrictor and Mono-Green matchups will often come down to whether you draw into your board wipe or not, while red-based aggro revolves around our early game chumps, and GPG vs Abrade in the mid game.

Midrange


These are our best matchups. They tend to be too slow to threaten us with a quick death, and don’t run enough answers to efficiently trade with the gazillion threats we throw at them. Our biggest issues are removal spells that can deal with our GPG ( Abrade, Cast Out, Ixalan’s Binding…), so we generally assume the role of a control deck in these matchups. Naturally sideboarding should be matchup specific, but as a rule of thumb, we will try to protect our assets post-sideboard.



Control


Our control matchups are very weird. We generally assume the role of the beatdown, but we still need to protect our threats and our engine, while continuing to dig for threats. As such, games against control are some of the most interesting and at the same time most frustrating we’ll be facing. UW is in general the easiest (or maybe the least difficult) of the three most popular, while Esper and UB both threaten with The Scarab God, who is just a major pain in the ass. Not only are our ways of dealing with him rather limited, the purple bug steals our corpses from the graveyard, which are limited at best post sideboard. Against UW make sure to play as aggressively as possible early game to put pressure on the opponents, while playing around Fumigate/ Settle the Wreckage. Save the Negates for Teferi or to resolve GPGGPG, and don’t let them exile your sneks.

Against UB/Esper, the game plan is similar; our attacks are generally safer and we can play a tad more aggressively, but the looming threat of The Scarab God is… Unnerving. Ixalan’s Binding is the perfect answer to it, but the other exile enchantments will help as well. Make sure the game doesn’t drag out too long and keep an eye out for Torrential Gearhulk.

On the play and on the draw

Conclusion


I hope this guide serves you well. UW God-Pharaoh’s Gift won’t be topping the popularity charts anytime soon, and that’s only for the best. The deck is fun, interesting, and if I haven’t expressed it enough already, thrives on the relative obscurity of a lower than 3% meta share. If you want to zombify angels and shove em in people’s face this is the deck for you.

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