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Commander Precon Upgrade Guide: Lord 'Windgates' Runs The Maze

Updated: Jan 15

You've seen Lord Windgrace. But do you know the tale of Lord Windgates?

June 2022: Battle for Baldur's gate was released. The set was hotly anticipated but ultimately failed to excite players long-term. While the set missed out on some money cards, and the overall excitement of the original Commander Legends, it caught my eye because of one thing—the lands.


Battle for Baldur's Gate introduced a whole slew of “Gates.” I saw them and I knew something exciting was now possible! For those of you in the know, the original Ravnica introduced the Gate land type. Pretty simple in concept, a dual land that taps for two colors, and it comes with an extra type associated to allow for some space for fun designs.



Of particular note is Maze's End. The difficulty with Maze's End is prior to Baldur's Gate there were only 10 gates, so you had to play five colors to even have a chance of this silly win condition.


Now, that all changes. We can play as little as three colors and still win with Maze's End. I believe a natural fit for a controlling land matters style deck is Lord Windgrace!



This deck was originally built as part of a precon league run by a local Magic club. The rules were simple:

  • Week 1: Unmodified Precon

  • Week 2: +€15 (~$16) of upgrades

  • Week 3: +€30 (~$32) of upgrades (€45 altogether)

  • Week 4: +€60 (~$64) of upgrades (€105 altogether)

Budget rules aside, any regular precon from the Commander catalog was up for grabs. This league was run in August 2022. This gave six or so years of precons to choose from. Today I would like to run you through the Lord Windgrace Gates deck I built for that event.


If you have that old precon lying around, or similar cards, I believe you can take my upgrades and build an awesome deck. The deck ended up coming second in the league, losing only to Henzie "Toolbox" Torre.



Budget EDH: Why Gates?


Before getting into the deck, we need to ask, why this strategy? Firstly, the deck sits in a funny place thanks to the social contract players often have. At lower power levels, this deck can go undetected and unstopped, as many players simply will not have the land destruction in their deck to deal with your gates. At higher power, people are more focused on destroying things like Cabal Coffers.


Secondly, gates provide excellent fixing, especially when it comes to the new gates from Baldur's Gate, mitigating their downsides. Lastly, it's just kinda silly. The deck plays its own game. Your aim is to control the board, outlast your opponents and eventually find your win. Your focus is very different from the other players.


Now let us introduce the gates that make this deck tick. Firstly, we have the four Ravnica gates. Golgari, Gruul, and Rakdos Guildgate all tap for their respective colors. Similarly, Gateway Plaza will enter tapped and will sacrifice itself unless you pay one mana, but it taps for any color to make up for that. Plain and simple, these give you colors, nothing too flashy.



Next up we have the Baldur's Gate “choose gates.” Cliffgate, Black Dragon Gate, and Manor Gate enter tapped and ask you to pick a color. These lands tap for their respective colors, and the color you selected.



Baldur's Gate also included several utility gates that offer minor effects, but they're gates, so we play them! This includes Heap Gate which lets you tap for colorless, filter mana, or create treasures. Basilisk Gate on the other hand is a gate with an offensive ability to buff a creature with +X/+X where X is the number of gates you control. This can be very effective if a game goes long, and you need a beater.


Outside Baldur's Gate, we also have Thran Portal from Dominaria United. This is a gate that can enter untapped. When it enters the battlefield, you choose a basic land type, Thran Portal is that type. This is great fixing in a pinch and can guarantee it is always the color you need when you play it.



Now let's get to the MVPs. These two gates are the real thing that makes this deck tick. First up is Gond Gate. Early game, if you can search for a gate this is the one you want 99% of the time. In this deck, Gond Gate functions as an Amulet of Vigor, letting you play gates as if they were original dual lands.


I cannot stress enough how this card turns this strategy from a joke to outright excellent. Especially in budget leagues where people are less concerned about their mana base Gond Gate puts you head and shoulders above the competition.


The other key piece for us is Baldur's Gate. The namesake of the set, this card definitely deserves the accolade. For two mana you can tap Baldur's Gate to add X mana of any color where X is the number of gates you control. This is a mini Cabal Coffers in this deck! Unlike Coffers, Baldur's Gate also taps for a colorless pinch, just in case you don't have a critical mass of gates yet!



The last major land to consider is not itself a gate, but it does care about them. Maze's End is our wincon. It enters tapped, and for three mana lets us “Return Maze’s End to its owner’s hand: Search your library for a Gate card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle. If you control ten or more Gates with different names, you win the game.” This pulls double duty, as even if we cannot win on the spot, we can simply search for another gate to get us closer.


Upgrade Round #1 (€15 or $16)


Starting off with the first round of upgrades, we have 22 cards added to the mix. Thirteen of those cards are the gates themselves, and Maze's End mentioned prior. Besides the gates, we also include several cards that search up gates or non-basic lands. This includes Circuitous Route, Tempt with Discovery, and Explore the Underdark to get gates directly into play. On the other hand, for less mana, you can have gates added to your hand with Open the Gates, Gatecreeper Vine, and District Guide.



A bit of a pet card in the mix here is Kura, the Boundless Sky. I really enjoy this card for its death trigger and deathtouch just in case I need to block a scary threat.



The only card in this upgrade that might raise some eyebrows is Realms Uncharted. As this event took place in the EU, this card fits my budget as it is only around five euros, but it is around ten dollars in the U.S.


If this one is a bit out of your budget in your part of the world, consider another non-basic land search, such as Reap and Sow or Sylvan Scrying. However, if you can stretch for Realms, I would highly recommend it.



The deck in this state will play pretty similar to the precon just with the added fun of gates. Your aim will be to assemble your gates as soon as possible. This deck came with several board wipes, making it more than manageable for you to keep the game under control when playing with other low-power/precon-level decks. There is also a decent amount of removal in the deck, which will enable you to cast Windgrace and keep him around for several turns.


If you are following along with the original precon I would recommend cutting the reanimator package from the original deck to make room for these cards. This includes cards like Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, Charnelhorde Wurm, and Moldgraf Monstrosity.


Upgrade Round #2 (€30 or $32)


Jumping up to €30 lets us stretch our legs, get some flashier effects, and bolster our removal. First up, we add a dredge package. This includes Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug, and Golgari-Grave Troll. All three of these are awesome ways of filling up our graveyard. The aim here is to put gates into our graveyard and then get them back with Lord Windgrace. We can also leverage Ramunap Excavator as a budget Crucible of Worlds to continue pulling cards out of the grave. Then to cap it off, we have Splendid Reclamation to get back all of our lands on mass. This is particularly potent if we can get some of our key gates into play.



With all these lands, we also need ways to play them. Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul Daya, and The Gitrog Monster all let us play extra lands. This includes lands from the grave if we have Ramunap in play. Gitrog also plays very nicely with the previously mentioned dredge cards, and Titania, Protector of Argoth, gives us access to tokens, card draw, and multiple lands per turn.



The Gitrog Monster is also known for incredibly powerful combos. One of the big enablers of this is Dakmor Salvage. This land has dredge two. With this, we can set up a situation where we mill huge chunks of our own deck. For example, let's say we go to the end step with Gitrog in play and eight cards in hand, one of which is Dakmor Salvage. We discard Dakmor in the end step, Gitrog sees that land hit the grave, and wants us to draw a card. Instead of drawing a card, we decide to use Dakmor Salvage's dredge ability, so we mill two and put Dakmor back in hand. We are back where we started with eight cards in hand, so we must discard them again. Repeat this until your graveyard is as full as you like!


There are many complex combos that can be pulled off with this, and I will leave that up to the folks at the Gitrog cEDH community. For this deck, we will keep it dead simple. Either, you will mill until you see a bunch of good lands in your grave that you can eventually replay. Or option two, you can play Syr Konrad the Grim and mill your entire deck and kill everyone in the process. What makes this combo even better is thanks to Gaea's Blessing, we can shuffle our graveyard back into our deck, allowing us to loop through our deck multiple times as long as we don't draw Gaea's Blessing during that process.



If you really like the sound of this combo line then you can also consider putting the original Eldrazi titans in your deck as they will shuffle your graveyard no matter what. The titans were unfortunately out of budget for this deck, and personally, I didn't want to go all-out combo on this build. Again, I will leave that to the cEDH community. Gitrog Monster is a powerful commander in its own right.


Let us know if you'd like to see brew of The Gitrog Monster in another article!



The next couple of upgrades are all purely in the removal category. While I previously praised this deck for its removal suite, some of them are quite weak. These cards are one-for-one upgrades. This includes Chaos Warp, Tibalt's Trickery, and Nature's Claim for some all-around solid catch-all interaction. Nothing too deep to explain here, just some classic staples.



The last card to shout out is an old-school piece of pillow fort decks, Glacial Chasm. This land has a lot of text. First up, it has a cumulative upkeep of two life. Secondly, when it enters we must sacrifice a land, and finally, we cannot attack. That is a lot of downsides. The upside is huge, however, all damage dealt to you is reduced to 0. That's combat, burn spells and damage combos. Short of loss of life effects such as Sanguine Bond, you will be near untouchable. The best part is, the cumulative upkeep is basically redundant as you can simply not pay it, then replay Glacial Chasm using Windgrace, or Ramunap. This card will let you stall out the game until you have your gates ready to go.



As with the €15 upgrades, it might not nicely translate to your market. If you are strict on a $30 upgrade, consider dropping Azusa, Lost but Seeking. She is good, but for $8, it's a bit pricey. Consider another ramp spell that grabs non-basic lands, or Mina and Denn, Wildborn, or Druid Class.



At this point, the deck will play noticeably differently from the precon. You will be focusing on filling your graveyard faster, and dropping more lands per turn, as well as pushing a little bit on that pillow fort angle thanks to the Glacial Chasm, and the added removal.


Upgrade Round #3 (€60 or $64)


Finally, we come to the final spurt of upgrades. Here we really started to flex that extra budget, We grabbed several pricey cards here that really let the deck breathe.


The most important card of the bunch is Amulet of Vigor. This is functionally a copy of Gond Gate for us, as it allows our gates to enter untapped. This aids us, as any effect that lets us search for a land but it "enters the battlefield tapped" is now nullified. We can cast other key cards like Scapeshift, or Reshape the Earth for profit! Those two large land tutors are amazing in this deck. They get multiple gates and really let us embrace the power of cards like Baldur's Gate.



With all these lands, it is just as important to benefit from land drops. Omnath, Locus of Rage, Tireless Tracker, and Scute Swarm. In the case of Omnath and Scute, we are producing tokens that can swing in and close out a game just in case the gate plan doesn't work out. Meanwhile, the Tracker lets us create clues to generate card draw.



More good stuff for the deck comes in the form of Life from the Loam. This card does it all. Mill cards, and then get them back. This is a lovely little cycle of synergy that lets you dig deep and get back what you want.



The last card I want to shout out is another pillow-fort all-star, Constant Mists. For two mana you get an instant that prevents all combat damage this turn. It also has a buyback cost of sacrificing a land. In this deck, Constant Mists will simply lock out combat strategies. This spell will also draw you cards with the likes of Gitrog Monster. Additionally, unlike Glacial Chasm, this can come out as a surprise and ruin an opponent who thinks they have you on the ropes.



Once again, due to the price variance between when this deck was originally built, I suggest cutting Amulet of Vigor if it does not fit your budget. I think it is excellent, but thanks to Gond Gate we already have some coverage for this effect.


At this point, the deck will be performing the role of a midrange combo deck. You will be relying on effects protecting you and your board while also aggressively searching for your gates, and controlling the board. There will be very few precon cards left in the deck at this point.


Weaknesses

Naturally, no deck is perfect. The gate focus is awesome, and it is a lot of fun to pull it off. Unfortunately, sometimes that is not going to happen. The deck will struggle if the opponent has ample land destruction to keep you in check. Even worse than land destruction, cards like Back to Basics and Blood Moon absolutely hose our deck as we run so few basics.



Another real issue for us is if our gates get exiled somehow. This could happen if we put too many gates in the graveyard and our opponent plays Bojuka Bog before we can get them back. In this situation, we need to be able to pivot to another win condition. The Gitrog Monster is a great option here and can act as a second commander if the deck allows for it, especially if you want to go deeper on that combo line. Alternatively, we can go good old-fashioned beat down with Omnath, Locus of Rage. Ideally, we would like it not to come to that. There are 12 gates in the deck, try not to lose more than two to exile.



The last place where we fall down can be against combo decks. If an opponent is simply able to combo off faster than us, we need to be able to respond. Our only real answer here is Tibalt's Trickery. If you find yourself in a combo meta, consider cards like Pyroblast. You can also find out more Jund counterspells in our article on non-blue counterspells here! Currently, I run just Tibalt's Trickery as a hard spell-based combo is not something I have had to worry about in my meta.



Where Do We Go Now?

I hope you've enjoyed the budget brew, but what if you want to go beyond? Thankfully, Lord Windgrace is a much-beloved commander with a huge number of decks around him. If you have a couple of dollars burning a hole in your pocket, consider these cards to take this to the next level!


Brothers War gave us Rootpath Purifier. This turns all your basic land tutors into gate tutors. This is an easy inclusion as it makes finding those key gates so much easier. If you prefer playing lands from your grave instead of your deck, definitely pick up a Crucible of Worlds to give some redundancy for Ramunap Excavator.



It's a bit of an obvious point, but as this is a budget deck, we are missing several tutors. Being able to get cards like Gitrog Monster, or Azusa really makes the difference between games. If you can splash for Worldly Tutor, Demonic Tutor, or Green Sun's Zenith, definitely do so.



Lastly, given we are able to get out huge amounts of lands, and vast amounts of mana thanks to Baldur's Gate you may want to consider some X spells to close out games. Effects like Torment of Hailfire, Finale of Devastation, or Exsanguinate.



Conclusion

With that, I hope you've enjoyed this little look at Lord Windgates. The deck is a lot of fun to play. We didn't go through every card in the deck so be sure to check out the decklist and try a couple of sample hands yourself.


The play style itself is unique and rewards you for trying to go for the win when you can. As you can see from the upgrade path, the deck can be built on a budget but also has plenty of room to grow with you, your budget, and your archetypes. The gates package itself is the core here. From there you can do your own thing.



Perhaps if you like the reanimator gameplay, go with it, and scrap my pillow-fort-style deck. This is a really open build and gives you a wide breadth of options.


Have you played Lord Windgrace in the past? Let us know what you thought of our take on it! Give the gates a try and make a crash on your next game night.


You can find the decklist here!




 

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