This is a Gifts deck I whipped up in an effort to achieve a good balance and make a strong control archetype. Below, I'll break down the deck to the best of my ability, as well as provide a short blurb on what Gifts is, if you don't already know. I'd suggest looking it up if you haven't heard of it. It's not mainstream, but it's pretty neat and fun... if hard to pilot.

Lesson One: What is Gifts?

"Gifts" decks are heavy control-oriented decks that revolve around using the card Gifts Ungiven to assemble a theoretical answer to anything your opponent puts out, while stalling long enough to either reanimate/hard cast Iona, Shield of Emeria or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, or ping your opponent to death with man-lands such as Celestial Colonnade.

"What is reanimation doing in a control deck?", you might ask. Well, the reasoning behind this strategy mostly revolves around the fact that you can use Gifts Ungiven as a "double Entomb" by abusing the fact that you don't technically have to pick 4 cards. However, no matter how many cards you pick, your opponent must force you to discard 2. Hence, the synergy between Gifts Ungiven and Unburial Rites.

Now, the minutiae involved regarding the card Gifts Ungiven lends this deck much more of a 'recursion-control' flavor, with cards such as Life from the Loam (remember, Gifts can fetch lands!) and Snapcaster Mage seeing great use, here.

I could go on, but I would suggest you read a Gifts primer if you really want to know the full story, as they put it better than I ever could. Instead, I'm just gonna take you through my choices of control/various odd cards, etc.

Lesson Two: Card Choices

This section will be split up into sub-sections determined by role, for ease of use.


Damnation: The best boardwipe for this deck, as it is in the deck's most sought-after color: Black. The reason this is the case is that we -really- want to hit double black early on for a potentially backbreaking Liliana OTV, and it's difficult to both do that and get, say, double white for wrath of god. You'll notice that I do have WoG in my sideboard, so it isn't impossible; it's a thing... just a more difficult thing. Why no Supreme Verdict? Well, as much as not being able to be countered is a big deal, it's mana cost is quite prohibitive, color wise.

Budget Alternatives: Day of Judgment

Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek: These two cards serve the same function- that of allowing me to interact with my opponent's hand. Such interactions are key for the Bloom Titan and Tron matchups, as they often play threats that dodge most of my removal. It's always good to have some hand disruption mainboard, but Thoughtseize's loss of life can be very relevant in 4 Color Gifts, due to the amount of damage that we already take from shocks and fetches.

Budget Alternatives: Despise, Duress

Maelstrom Pulse: The fact that this is a sorcery keeps this spell in check, but it is one of the few cards on this list that can wipe out any permanent- extremely important for things like Planeswalkers.

Budget Alternatives Putrefy (sorta) Hero's Downfall (kinda) Sultai Charm (-ish). It's very difficult to replace Pulse- no other card will give you quite what it does. It's not that expensive, so at least there's that.

Dismember: Dismember is one of the most flavorful black cards ever printed, in my opinion. Spend life to put hurt on your foes. In this deck, it functions as Path number 4, hitting things that Abrupt Decay can't. It's fairly rare that you'll be facing an indestructible threat (Darksteel Citadel Affinity brews are probably the only place you'll find the keyword in competitive play), but this still hits Rhino, Tasigur, and has that added bonus of negating that keyword, so to speak. In this deck, your life total is largely irrelevant, as it wins by locking your opponent out of actions or board presence. However, this will often times come out in game 2 vs. aggro decks for a more functional option.

Raven's Crime: This was not grouped with Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek for the simple reason that it fulfills a different purpose. Namely, that of mass discard. It is part of a 'gifts package' that is Life from the Loam + Raven's Crime + X land + Y land. This package allows you to potentially negate an opponent's card advantage and force them to 'mass discard' their threats. Very useful, and not quite the same thing as TZ or IoK. It deserves it's own slot.

Budget Alternatives: I'm pretty sure this thing is less than a dollar. There aren't any alternatives.

Abrupt Decay: The best reason to splash green that any deck was ever given, (sans Goyf) it's 'restriction' isn't really that much of a restriction at all in a turn 4 format. It's uncounterable, and very few things escape it. It is lackluster in the Tron matchup, but is otherwise a house.

Budget alternatives: This card isn't cheap, but there is no alternative to what this card does. No other removal spell even comes close to it's level of efficiency.

Path to Exile: Speaking of efficiency, there are very few downsides to one of the most efficient removal spells in the entire game. It notably hits Siege Rhino, Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Restoration Angel, things out of reach of Abrupt Decay, and is extremely effective vs. graveyard strategies.

Budget Alternatives: Reality Shift does something similar, but with a far bigger upside to your opponent, much of the time. There is also Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light, but those tend not to be as efficient, for obvious reasons.

Slaughter Pact: This removal spell is a great way to take your opponents by surprise, and absolutely screws Twin if they play into it. Thumbs up, +1, would play again.

Budget Alternatives: X removal spell, basically. It won't do what this one does, but it'll fill up a slot. This is basically Doom Blade with more utility.

Liliana of the Veil: Provides removal and utility in hand disruption. Her +1 can actually be used as an advantage, allowing you to discard an unwanted Elesh Norn or Iona into the grave for reanimation.

Budget Alternatives: None. If you do not have at least 3 Liliana of the veil, you will find it extremely difficult for your deck to function. She is a cornerstone of the archtype.

Engineered Explosives: Not quite a board wipe, but potentially an extremely effective way of resetting the board. Has notable synergy with Academy Ruins.

Budget alternative: I don't think this is a particularly expensive piece, but it is not 100% required for the list. Something like Drown in Sorrow, or a bit of removal would be something to replace it with, if you want.


Tasigur, the Golden Fang: A recent addition to this list as a 1-of, Tasigur is an absolute house. Abzan decks play him as Goyf number 5-6, but he works extremely well in Gifts as both a beater and a way to recur advantage, something that this deck loves doing.

Budget Alternatives: Eternal Witness. Sure, she isn't as powerful or as bombastic as Tasigur, but she gets the job done. Unfortunately, she lacks the body of the badass Sultai leader. Grave Titan has the body if that's what you need, but lacks the utility. See the problem here? Both are good in their roles, however, and are a bit more budget-appropriate.

Snapcaster Mage: A nice body, and recursive abilities. He's an extra copy of any spell that you've already played, which is great not only because we get more value out of our removal, but the spells in our sideboard are much more effective. I AM CURRENTLY TRYING OUT CUTTING THE SNAPPIES FOR THE NEWLY MINTED JACE, VRYN'S PRODIGY

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  : This guy just oozes value. He's extremely good in this deck as he fulfills multiple roles. He gets the cards you want in the graveyard, turning dead opening cards like Iona or Elesh Norn into value. He flashes back relevant SB cards and removal spells (albiet not at instant speed, but we can't have everything) and blunts aggro with his +.

Budget Alternatives: None, I'm afraid. Unfortunately, this will continue crop up as we go through the list, as there are just some cards that have are unique in what they provide. Some of those cards are luckily cheap, like Raven's Crime, but others can be wallet-breakers. Snappy is one of those.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite/Iona, Shield of Emeria: The traditional win condition for Gifts decks, no true list is complete without this dynamic duo somewhere in their 75. Elesh Norn is an absolute house against so many decks, and pumps your spirit tokens as well. Iona usually takes care of the matchups that Elesh Norn flails in. A bit on the expensive side, but hey, you pay a price for excellence.

Budget Alternatives: While there is no creature that does what Elesh Norn can do, there are alternative win conditions available to you. Griselbrand is a popular pick, as is Sphinx of the Steel Wind and in some cases, Empyrial Archangel can lock your opponents out of the game completely.

Birds of Paradise: The boid be great at mana fixing, and ramping into a poss. T2 Liliana OTV. Great stuff. Makes my mana curve a lot easier.

Batterskull: It's a win-condition, a valuable source of lifegain, and extremely difficult to remove. I have put it under 'creatures' because it functions as one, so nyeh. Has notable synergy with Academy Ruins, and can lead to the rarely used but available "artifact package", which is 'Academy Ruins + Batterskull + Life from the Loam + either X land, or Engineered Explosives.'

Budget alternatives: Wurmcoil Engine got much cheaper when it was reprinted in C14, and it fulfills a similar purpose.



Updates Add

-2 Snapcaster Mage

+2 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip

I'm trying out this change, as Jace manages to fulfill multiple roles, whereas Snapcaster Mage is much more narrow. I'm not sure how much I like Jace as more than a 2 of, as Liliana of the Veil is the card that he'd bump heads with as an argument for cutting, but I'm certainly willing to try him out as a 2 of, and so should you!

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