Completely in line with popular belief, Maze’s End isn’t a deck archetype you play because you like combos. You don’t play it because you enjoy manafixing or bad weather or invalidating twenty cards out of your opponent’s deck.
You play Maze’s End because you’re an inhuman monster.
Your opponents come thinking you will engage in clashes of spells and creatures with them. They expect anything will happen for the next forty minutes. They are wrong. They will struggle with burn and Pithing Needle. They will figure you will run out of fog effects eventually. They will feel the horror of watching you untap with eight gates on the field. Failing that, a fair few will concede out of boredom.
I won’t lie, this deck is not tier 1. It stands no chance of beating what is currently regarded as the best (and thus most netdecked) deck in Standard: Burn, of pretty much any type or variety. That being said, it performs fairly well against a lot of other archetypes, if you know what you are doing. While the strategy is not complex on top, you have to gauge what removal you have (because it ain’t much), time fogs correctly, and sacrifice a goat every half hour to keep the enemy’s hand clear of burn.
You will be tossing away a lot of cards, but as mentioned, your adversary will not be able to use that many cards either, since you run a glorious two creatures. Don’t phase out during sideboarding: The most enjoyable part of the game is hearing your opponent sigh when she realises there are not enough sideboard cards to replace the removal in her deck.
Not only that, but you can buy the entire deck sans D-Sphere and Supreme Verdict for less than your local event’s entry fee. And hey, there is ALWAYS someone who has spare Verdicts and Spheres you can borrow. They are not Brushwaggs, every non-cheapskate player has them.
Basically, it will come down to these points:
- Don’t fog if it won’t kill you. Fog if it will. “Oh no, I’m about to take eight damage and go down to three!” you might say. Who cares! You’re still alive, and your opponent is mono-blue! What are they going to do, throw insults at you for 3 damage? Is that really worth preserving over flashing out Dictate of Kruphix and ensuring you don’t run out of gas? Keep in mind, the attacks will only get stronger, so each time you fog a non-lethal attack, you risk dying on the next one instead of being able to tank it. Of course, when playing against opponents with mountains:
- Know the enemy deck. Avoid burn range. Boros Charm hurts, and it’s unfortunately very popular right now. Even a simple double Lightning Strike can mean your untimely demise, as can a Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Count damage and keep away from either’s range. Just because your opponent did not play any such tools for five turns now does not mean he does not have them, as they would be saved for the final, inevitable blow.
- You are still a control deck. Act like it. There is a reason why we bring Supreme Verdicts and Detention Spheres, and it’s not (just) so we can talk down on our enemies with our supreme authoritah. If something on the other side of the board threatens to make problems, take it away from them instead of ignoring it. A Verdict is, at least, a free fog for the following turn, often more.
- Rainbow Deck Wins, but only with the proper mana. All your lands tap for two colours, and getting all five is… easy. Despite that, watch what lands you drop, what you fetch, and what you need. Since you don’t have Worldknit available, our deck is focused on three colours, but you must make sure to meet these. As a general ordering, you want: 1. Access to green mana. 2. Access to white mana. 3. Double blue (ideally achieved by dropping one of the holy trinity of Simic, Azorius, Selesnya gate on your first and/or second turn). 4. Double white. 5. Whatever else you need, hunting for ten unique names. Note that it’s is only very rarely correct to play two of the same land if you have any alternatives. You are trying to get somewhere, after all.
Toraka’s Maze’s End (Standard)
- 4 Detention Sphere
- 4 Fog
- 4 Druid’s Deliverance
- 2 Defend the Hearth
- 4 Riot Control
- 4 Supreme Verdict
- 4 Heroes’ Reunion
- 4 Dictate of Kruphix
- 1 Crackling Perimeter
- 2 Gatecreeper Vine
- 1 Merciless Eviction
- 4 Maze’s End
- 3 Simic and Azorius Guildgate
- 2 of every other Gate.
- 1 Slaughter Games
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 2 Crackling Perimeter
- 2 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Dispel
- 1 Essence Scatter
- 1 Deicide
- 1 Wear and Tear
- 1 Banishing Light
- 2 Abrupt Decay
If there is a thing on the other side that needs gone, it gets gone, even if it brings all of its homies. It might as well be called Oblivion Ring (PS: Screw You, Pack Rat), but the Ring was never bad and a deck that only seeks to slow the opponent down can make good use of it. You can replace this with Banishing Light if you must (because how often did D-Sphere score a multi-kill, realistically speaking?) except that the Sphere is slightly better in Control matchups of all things, when you care more about their things being gone than breaking the opposing Spheres. (Remember, it cannot hit other copies of itself.)
There are many like it, but this one is excellent at what it does. This deck is always short on mana, so an option to not die for a turn comes cheap at one mana. If you choose to run any planeswalkers (more on that later) this will also save them as well as yourself, though no other fog variants will. Keep that in mind.
Defend the Hearth
And Fog #9–10.
Looking at this on paper, it’s easy to call this Fog #11–14, but it does so much more. In fact, it would probably be the last fog I would cut from the deck. (Not that you should run less than this many, anyway.) It stops attackers, neutralises burn and abilities (!!!), and usually nets you at least 5 life in the meantime. Lifegain is easy to look down upon until you stabilise at 7 life yet again and live in constant fear of the Boros Charm.
“I make dead people.” Creepy card. No one likes to hang out with it. An opponent who knows your deck will stay careful of the Verdict and apply just enough pressure to force you into fogging, but really, who does that.* One way or another, they have to spend some time rebuilding and that’s usually good for you. There are few matchups where murdering everything will not help you, and pushing your point with uncounterability is awesomeness on top.
Early in the game, you may be hit for 3–4, if that. So why let mana or fogs go to waste when you could instead nullify the first few turns of aggression until you are set up? Ideally, this deck wants to tank attacks for a turn so you can play the next card in the list, and there is nothing better for the job than this. Not to mention that it will push you out of burn range if you were ever in it. Either your opponents overextend into Verdict or this becomes a lategame fog that you can play ahead of time. I put this into the deck expecting greatness, and I was surprised still with its effectiveness.
Dictate of Kruphix
Some evil tongues may call Maze’s End a Solitaire deck. Yeah, that’s kinda true. So how would you like to draw two cards a turn with no drawback! Having just one of these beauties out solves all the issues you ever dreamt of about running out of fogs. It also gives you a very good chance to topdeck multiple gates you still need, freeing up your mana. Due to the nature of this deck’s mana base, you can also cast this during your upkeep on your fourth turn, though I would not advise doing so other than as a move of desperation; You will be exposed while your opponent immediately draws more pressure, though you will technically draw more during the game by doing so.
Don’t take this out of the mainboard. No, really, do not. This clocks opponents at supreme speed with whatever mana you have left over for whenever the Maze’s End plan doesn’t work. You should be able to find the few matchups where this does not perform as well (namely, decks with a lot of lifegain) by yourself. Again, know your enemy! Whether you punish your opponent for bringing themselves down to low life totals with Shocklands and other life payments (which is surprisingly common especially if they do not know you have Perimeter) or for just taking too long to win, this card will help you pull victories out of nowhere. It also deletes opposing planeswalkers out of existence if you need.
I often want to toss this one, but then again it’s just so very useful! Fixing your mana can be vital early in the game or late (pulling out the ninth gate before Maze’s End fetches the tenth) and he can often absorb most, if not all, of the force of an attack. Do not be afraid to chump early with this little buddy, before your enemy musters Trample or bounces Searing Blood off of him. Or gets bored enough to use a Doom Blade on it, whatever you find. Then again, they may be looking for exactly something like this to use Searing Blood, so it may be right to board this out counterintuitively, if only for its big brother Courser of Kruphix. You can also take it out entirely in favour of yet more fogs, depending on your local metagame.
A word aside on this card: A lot of people will advise you to fetch every turn with the End, at all costs. With the advent of Dictate of Kruphix, this is unnecessary. Play fresh Gates from your hand and free up mana to do things. It is good to keep one gate in hand to allow yourself to win a turn faster, but the others can be used for freedom when possible. It is the difference between a Verdict on turn 5 and one on turn 9. Which would you choose?
You have lands, they tap for mana, blah blah. The most important thing is knowing what lands to play. In order to fit mana demands, we run an additonal copy of both Simic and Azorius Gates. I find that it very well fits colours and provides the right land ratio. I also dislike the idea of playing basic lands; Sure they put you a turn ahead in mana, but they also put you a turn behind on actually winning the game. Dictate of Kruphix fills that need very well by allowing you to play lands instead of fetching them.
As the first of our sideboard options, this is in the list for about the sole purpose of annihilating Gary, the Merchant of Asphodel. I never yet ran into a deck that used him, but it is there ready. There are no real combos in the format right now that I know of, but should any arise, this is there to cover you.
Bow of Nylea
It’s slow, but if you can get it going and survive the turn of dropping it, you stand a reasonable chance to survive even against fire-flingy opponents. Also offers the possibility to snipe tiny fliers and shuffle spent fog effects back into your library. It is a lost cause to fight against burn, but it gives you a bit more of a chance, especially when you are just trying to survive and race them with a Perimeter.
What stands above. For the cases when you need more of them.
Courser of Kruphix
It is a horse. In a deck that revolves around a maze. It is quite amazing in its ability to hold off aggressive creatures, hard. Too bad that we do not play notable creatures mainboard, period. Almost as a side effect, it gives you a fair amount of life and whenever you play the top card of your library, that card leaves the top of your library. You always draw the top card. Get my point? A final rules tip: If you have both a Dictate and this out, you are required to reveal each card you draw no matter how you do it.
Intended to fight off Skullcracks, these little beauties will deny a lot of things out of your opponent, ranging between counterspells, burn (it’s still 4 points of reach less!), to Sphinx’s Revelation. It does everything! However, using it requires your opponent to have targets worthy of this, so it’s better suited as a sidegrade. Bring in against burny or countery opponents.
I may have known ahead of time that I was going to face opposition that sideboarded Ruric Thar. Really, this is as flexible of a sideboard slot as it gets. Like with Dispel, the look on the control player’s face when the funny little Maze’s End speedbump says no to the Aetherling is priceless. I had forgotten how grim they can be when you whoop them.
I hate Thassa. I hate Blue Devotion and everyone that endorses it. Whether or not it slays any divinities, it’s still an instant speed Revoke Existence. Don’t forget that. Use it against decks relying on assistance from beyond, or those who like enchantments a bit too much. (Read: Control. You will have enough slots open from boarding out fogs.)
Wear and Tear
LOL, you expected Pithing Needle to save you! Oh, and kill your enchantment dude over there.
Bring in when tempo allows it. That is to say, not against aggressive opponents. Another piece of spot removal is always great.
Speaking of which. I recall a wise woman once saying that nothing that costs more than 3 mana is tournament viable.** This murders everything that is tournament viable, by conclusion. That plus saying no to counters can be the cutting edge in a battle of boredom decks.
Some cards could have made it in, but didn’t. Let’s look at some popular alternate choices and why you should (not) consider them
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
She is a trap, this girl is. She seems really great for everything we are trying to accomplish, but believe me, she is not. You will be struggling to find a safe space to drop her against aggro, and control decks will have long since entered Monopoly mode so you have little hopes of getting her onto the field. Then, of course, it is also an ordeal to actually let her stay around for long enough to give you the alternate win condition you seek. Also, only Fog itself protects her, the other fog spells will just let her die. I’d rather not bank on my opponent not to know that. I made every effort to fit her in, but she does not.
Expensive! No board impact! Sucky! You won’t get me to recommend this card at all. Again, Dictate of Kruphix does everything this does, and five open mana is definitely the time when you want to fetch lands with the End, not bank on finding new ones while spending all your fog mana. Oh right, fog mana. So realistically, you will be playing this when you have seven mana, on turn eight. With Maze’s End, you will already have six gates. Your opponent’s attacks will be lethal no doubt, and you will be hoping to find two new gates since hitting ME on the same turn is insanity. (If you have ten lands, why have you not already won?) I have done the math, and nine point six percent are not enough to put this in my deck.
A poor and Irish man’s Supreme Verdict. A fine replacement for budget, really, especially if your meta contains a lot of hastey creatures. (Your opponent won’t have mana to recast her things.) However, I would only recommend this card to fill out the playset of Verdicts, or perhaps up to 5 at most. You don’t exactly care where their creatures go, but as they say, “There’s no solution to a problem like killing stuff.”
A Verdict during the enemy combat sounds great, until they pull Rootborn Defenses or Boros Charm and you feel kind of dumb. No, this actually happened, though not to me. Its main purpose in decks like these is to accelerate an Urban Evolution. Well without one piece of the combo, what use is the second?
If you want to quadruple this deck’s price, go ahead. Okay, it’s not that much, but still an unnecessary investment. Like with other draw spells, my verdict is: “Dictate of Kruphix does it better.” And yes maybe I will marry that card. The point being, you are not exactly gifted with spare mana, and by the time this is worth casting, you usually have better things to do with it.
*Aware opponents are the biggest danger Maze’s End faces. Such an opponent playing around everything I could do was my one lost match out of a recent four-round event with this deck. Well, and getting Thoughseized three times helps as well.
**It may have been me. I don’t remember.