Oath of the Gatewatch 2HG “Hidden” Gems

This guide shows which Oath cards become better in Two-Headed Giant and which don’t. If you’re playing in a 2HG prerelease these are the cards to pay special attention to! This set is unique in that it has been made with 2HG in mind, so there are a lot of gems, including three of the new mechanics. Although with those being developed for 2HG, they can’t really be called “hidden” gems.

You can also (re)read the slightly updated Battle for Zendikar’s Hidden Gems. And if you want to know more about the rules interactions, check out the 2HG Release Notes for Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar.

For the TL;DR version you can skip to the TOP 20 list at the end!


GENERAL NOTES

Prerelease pools

  • Power level: A prerelease 2HG pool consists of two regular prerelease pools, so decks have higher card quality than other 2HG sealed events, and a much higher quality than normal sealed decks. A solid filler card that always makes the cut in regular limited or in regular 2HG sealed might be too weak for the 2HG prerelease.
  • Synergy: The larger pool also means decks can be more focused on synergy rather than the goodstuff decks that usually dominate sealed. Processors, colorless, Allies and lifegain benefit the most from this.
  • Situational Answers: Color hosers, plummet effects and naturalize effects are usually not maindeckable, but with two opponents there’s a better chance they will hit something relevant most of the time. Depending on their individual power level such cards might be worth running.

Oath of the Gatewatch

  • Eldrazi Scions: Oath has much fewer Scion makers, especially at the lower rarities where Scion Summoner is basically the only solid one. That means X/1 creatures are more playable now. However, at the 2HG prerelease, there are still four packs of Battle opened per team, plus you’re facing two opponents seeing 20 cards together in the first few turns. The chance that there’s a random Scion blocker lying around is much higher than at the regular Oath prerelease, so adjust your evaluation of X/1s accordingly for this format.

SURGE

The mechanic that’s most blatantly made to work better in 2HG by explicitly mentioning “teammate”. Many of these cards are bonkers because the Surge condition is so easily met. This ability is in Blue and Red. Here are the mythics and rares to look out for:

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  • Fall of the Titans allows you to dump all your mana into it rather than having to use some on another spell, making it a very efficient double removal spell or a very dangerous game-ender that goes to the face twice.
  • Tyrant of Valakut is a 5-power flyer and a removal spell on turn 5.
  • Crush of Tentacles is an 8/8 on turn 5 that clears the board. It works best if your teammate enables Surge with a cheap spell so he or she can replay something right away, in true Surge spirit. Be aware of Murk Strider and Clutch of Currents.

Next up; the best commons and uncommons with Surge:

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  • Boulder Salvo is an efficient removal spell for 2 mana that will be relevant at any point in the game.
  • Jwar Isle Avenger is a 3/3 flyer on turn 3. Being a common, expect this card to dominate a lot of the early game skies at the prerelease.

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These are the surge cards that are merely okay or situational. Cuttable if they don’t line up with your strategy or curve.

  • Goblin Freerunner on turn 2 is a beating, but your teammate having a play on turn 2 is not a guarantee. Menace is also less good in 2HG, because it’s much more likely there are two good blockers, so this one falls off later on. It is a scary Support target though.
  • It’s nice that Comparative Analysis can target your teammate if he or she has screw/flood problems. But if your teammate wants the option to cast the freshly draw spells you can’t Surge. And being an instant is less relevant for Surge in 2HG, as your teammate is not likely to have an instant as well. And even if you Surge, you’re still paying Divination mana.
  • Cheap cards like Containment Membrane, Grip of the Roil and Reckless Bushwhacker don’t improve all that much in 2HG. They’re at their best when you can cast a second spell yourself anyway. Play the Membrane if both of your decks are very defensive. Grip is more flexible but will only be worth it if you have two very aggressive decks. Bushwhacker is also only worth it if you’re really aggressive, and as an X/1 it has the Scion problem to boot.

Then we get to the Surge stinker:

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  • Even in 2HG Surging Overwhelming Denial will be a challenge. You’d much rather pay 1 more for the unconditional Void Shatter with Processor benefits.

COLORLESS MANA

While you can add any number of the five regular basic lands to your deck, you only get to play the Wastes that you opened in limited. In normal sealed this limits how much colorless sources you can run but with twice as many cards you’re much more likely to have as many as you want to play.

Next to that, you also get much more colorless payoff cards that incentivize you for playing colorless mana. It’s possible that with the right pool one of the decks could be a “monocolor colorless deck” with all the strong colorless cards as the base, and enough cards in one normal color to fill out the rest.

Black seems to benefit the most from a high amount of colorless sources. White doesn’t have any colorless requirements at all at common or uncommon. Here are the cards that get significantly better with multiple colorless sources:

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SUPPORT

Support was also made to work better in 2HG, making it more likely that you can Support the maximum number of creatures and that the counters get on creatures where they matter. Support works especially well with evasive abilities such as flying and menace.

This ability is mainly in white and green with a guest appearance in blue and red. Here’s the rare:

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  • 6 is such a huge number that it’s still possible that you won’t get to Support for the full amount, but you have to be very far behind for Gladehart Cavalry not to dominate. Be aware that the second ability still only triggers for your creatures, so you should be selfish when you have a choice between two creatures with comparable impact.

As for the best of the commons and uncommons with Support:

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  • Relief Captain is the best of the bunch and the only card besides the rare to Support for more than 2, giving you 6/5 in stats for 4 mana. In a regular limited game you’ll rarely be able to play this on turn 4 and make full use of the ability, but in 2HG this might completely wreck opponents when you’re curving out. Imagine a turn 3 Jwar Isle Avenger into this!
  • Joraga Auxiliary requires specific board states in a duel to be really good. You need to have relevant targets on the board and the time to activate the ability. In 2HG, your teammate can keep casting relevant creatures while you keep buffing them.
  • Nissa’s Judgment is just good on its own and actually not that much improved in 2HG. It remains conditional because only your own creatures deal damage, not any creatures from your teammate that you support, so you need to have the relevant creatures yourself.

The rest of the Support cards are okay or situational. All of these are better in 2HG but at the prerelease they’re cuttable depending on your strategy:

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  • Shoulder to Shoulder is a very okay card.
  • Press into Service has a little more staying power than your average treason effect, which gives it a little more flexibility than being only good at getting through the final points. A treason effect could also work well with the BMana_G sacrifce theme, but 5 mana makes it tougher to also have mana left for a sacrifice outlet.
  • The instants, Lead by Example and Unity of Purpose, get the added value that the chance of a double blowout is higher in 2HG because there’s twice the amount of potential attackers and blockers. Still situational though.
    Make sure to play around this yourself as well. Don’t make two blocks that could be blown out by a surprise Support 2 (or a Tandem Tactics) if you can avoid it!
    Unity of Purpose could get added value from Cohort, but blue doesn’t have any Cohort and this card doesn’t untap your teammate’s creatures that you Support.
  • Saddleback Lagac and Expedition Raptor are a far cry from the cost-efficiency of Relief Captain when Supporting for the full value. They’re also not allies, which is very relevant in these colors. Saddleback Lagac has the additional problem of being brick-walled by Eldrazi Scions.

OTHER KINDS OF SUPPORT

Besides Support itself there are other ways to help your teammate in this set. There are some cards that might normally only affect yourself but target any player here.

Affects teammate

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  • Roiling Waters has the same benefit in that your teammate could cast those cards right away to make use of the tempo swing. It does get worse if you have to bounce one creature from each opponent, as they’ll both be recast next turn instead of taking two turns.
  • Comparative Analysis has been discussed already.
  • Pulse of Murasa has that same benefit as well, but this doesn’t enough for its cost; the two effects are both situational.

Affects teammate’s creatures

These target creatures without mentioning “you control” and therefore can help your teammate. Note that auras and combat tricks (almost) always work this way so by default they won’t be listed. Auras are generally even worse because you have two opponents who could have removal, but combat tricks usually get a little better if both of you are very aggressive; a trick on hand allows twice as many creatures to attack.

Here are the non-aura, non-trick cards that can target your teammate’s creatures:

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The rares are all great by themself with only a minor boost in 2HG.

  • The most likely scenario for Ruins of Oran-Rief to help your teammate’s deck is if it’s an Ally swarm deck that uses Eldrazi Scion tokens to swarm.
  • Eldrazi Displacer seems to fit into that same scenario at first glance, being played in the colorless deck and abusing the Rally effects from the teammate, but how often will the colorless deck play or splash white?
  • Deepfathom Skulker grants unblockability, but you won’t draw a card if you target your teammate’s creature and you have at least a 4/4 as a target yourself. Although if you want to play around Immolating Glare that’s a nice way to keep the Skulker itself around.
  • Mina and Denn, Wildborn’s trample will be used more often on the teammate than Skulker’s unblockability, but it’s not as relevant as, say, flying.
  • Gravity Negator gives flying and has decent stats (although it’s not a 3/3 flyer for 3). This provides a pretty quick clock in the air if the ground is stalled.
  • Steppe Glider also gives flying (and vigilance) and the counter requirement can be solved with Support. It’s not very mana-efficient for 2HG, but it could be a curve-topper in an aggressive deck that can close out games and prevents any racing to boot.

Double Drain

Cards that make each opponent lose 1 life or deal 1 damage to each opponent are normally a staple effect in each set. They work smoother on Magic Online than the version that targets a single opponent. In this set however we (almost) exclusively see the latter version. Meet the one member that still gets extra value in 2HG, and a rare that technically also fits this category:

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  • Cliffhaven Vampire has great base stats and combined with the Battle for Zendikar cards that double drain (notably Drana’s Emissary, Kalastria Healer, Zulaport Cutthroat and Retreat to Hagra that all work together in the allies/lifegain deck) he’s quite the beating. Just keep in mind he won’t trigger when your teammate gains life.
  • Oath of Chandra‘s second ability is not made for limited, but if you do manage to deal 8 damage total to your opponents with it, please let us know in the comments!

Affects all your opponents’ creatures

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  • Mass removal scales very well with more opponents, so cards like Flaying Tendrils, Chandra, Flamecaller and Kozilek’s Return have a much higher ceiling. The ones killing only small creatures like Tendrils have a higher chance to kill something, so they have a higher floor as well.
  • Immobilizer Eldrazi has twice as many potential creatures to affect, but Scions still block it.
  • Bonds of Mortality also has twice as many potential creatures to affect. Technically.

BIGGER CARD POOL

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  • Don’t deny it, you want this to happen! You’ll have 14 shots to get these! Just don’t be the team that opens 3.

NOT IMPROVING

This section is about cards that do not get better in 2HG. Their rating will be comparable to how they’re rated for a duel, with the additional caveat that filler often won’t make the cut at the prerelease.

This section is bigger than usual because Wizards has been extra mindful of 2HG for this set and they didn’t want these cards to accidentally outshine the intended cards mentioned above. The biggest category this time is cards that ping for only 1 even in 2HG.

NOT pinging double

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In any other set these cards would likely have “each opponent” lose life or take damage or mill cards rather than “target opponent”. (Fathom Feeder mills each opponent for example.)

This is where Cliffhaven Vampire should belong as well, don’t you think?


NOT being supportive

Here are the cards that do not allow you to target your teammate or a creature he or she controls, even though it seems they could easily be templated to work that way.

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Void Grafter and Prophet of Distortion have the excuse that they’re Eldrazi-aligned while teamwork is a theme of the Zendikari. But that didn’t stop cards mentioned earlier like Gravity Negator to subtly work better in 2HG.
Malakir Soothsayer would normally have the excuse of being black-aligned, which usually isn’t a team player. But she’s an ally! She’s supposed to work together with others. Would even be a cute pinger that way, like how Sign in Blood is sometimes a cute burn spell.
Make a Stand has no excuse whatsoever.


“Awaken”

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These cards do not mention Awaken but they all animate lands, either temporarily or permanently. It would’ve been nice to be able to animate your teammate’s land if he or she was the one being flooded, but Wizards understandably didn’t want to risk these cards leading to nasty land destruction by being able to target any player’s lands.


TOP 20

To summarize all of this here’s a list with the 15 commons and uncommons that show the biggest increase in power relative to their value in a normal duel. (So these are NOT the 15 best commons/uncommons to open at the prerelease overall, good removal is still good removal in 2HG, etc)

  1. Jwar Isle Avenger
  2. Relief Captain
  3. Boulder Salvo
  4. Cliffhaven Vampire
  5. Havoc Sower
  6. Walker of the Wastes
  7. Goblin Freerunner
  8. Gravity Negator
  9. Joraga Auxiliary
  10. Flaying Tendrils 
  11. Essence Depleter
  12. Shoulder to Shoulder
  13. Lead by Example
  14. Kozilek’s Shrieker
  15. Press Into Service

And here’s the top 5 for the rares and mythics, again for cards that will be much more powerful than at a regular prerelease.

  1. Fall of the Titans
  2. Tyrant of Valakut
  3. Crush of Tentacles
  4. Gladehart Cavalry 
  5. Endbringer

As you can see, three of the four new mechanics promise to play radically different in 2HG, so it looks like this 2HG prerelease is going to be a unique experience!

Do you disagree with this list? Are you missing a card in this article? How was your experience at the prerelease? Comment below!

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3 thoughts on “Oath of the Gatewatch 2HG “Hidden” Gems

  1. Thanks for posting this! You’re the only website that goes into detail of which cards to look for in multiplayer games. However, format-wise, I would love it if you put your thoughts directly under the card image. Otherwise, I’m scrolling up and down to read both and understand the reasoning since I haven’t memorized all the new cards’ text. Still great, though. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I tried grouping cards here because I did not want to talk about all of them individually, but for next time I’ll try just adding “see card X’s comments” for those cases.

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