With Commander 2020 still a few weeks out, I’m stuck only brewing up ideas for the new decks rather than actually playing with the cards, which I should have been doing by now, but you know, “all this shit going on.” I already talked about one of the sub generals that I’m excited to build with Xyris, but today I’m going to take a look at one of the face commanders. Specifically, we’re talking about Gavi, Nest Warden who is the leader of the Timeless Wisdom deck. This is otherwise known as “the cycling deck.” Let’s take a look at our general:
Gavi is a solid 2/5 for 5 CMC requiring Jeskai colors. This should be playable by turn three as long as you get your colors early, so it’s not a bad rate. Gavi allows you to play 0 for the cycling cost of your first cycle per turn. She also rewards you for cycling, as your cycle draw will create a 2/2 boros “dinosaur cat” (yes they are starting to reach with these weird combinations but that’s Magic I guess). So there are some obvious directions we can go with this, as cycling is a recurring mechanic that’s been around for a long time so there are a ton of cards to support the strategy. We also know that there are some cycling cards with additional effects that come off of cycling the card, but the activation cost is usually high. With Gavi, you can cheat some powerful effects by cycling, or if nothing else you can literally replace a card in your hand for free each turn while also making a 2/2 token. That means we can lean into cycling effects pretty heavily, but have some support for the token strategy as well. I’m sure these will be the two main strategies for the deck, but some people will lean more heavily in one direction or the other. I’m looking for a synergistic balanced approach. So first, let’s look at the cycling cards in the deck.
I’ve split up this section into multiple parts because when the galleries get too big they don’t display all that well. Plus, each are in different card categories and will likely be used under different circumstances.
I’ve included most of the available cycling lands in these colors. All of these cost either one or two to cast, but in the case of Ash Barrens, it’s just color fixing instead of card draw. Still, each of these can be utilized as land drops as needed, but they do mostly come into play tapped, so they are a little slow. To compensate I’ve added a considerable amount of better lands for the rest of the base, so these should be powering your token engine and card draw engine.
Enchantments in the deck tend to focus on a variety of utility while still being able to be cycled away. Most of these will provide some sort of reusable benefit if they hit the battlefield, but can also be cycled away themselves if the circumstances aren’t right. As a bonus, both Decree of Silence and Shark Typhoon have extra abilities if you cycle them, which is free if done at the right time. Remember, you get a free cycle PER TURN so even on your opponent’s turns you can cycle DoS for a free counterspell, or get an additional bounce effect off of Astral Drift.
Most of the spells with cycling on them have a similar design to other cards that are lesser CMC. This means spells of this nature are sort of modular in that they will do what you want them to do, but they cost more so you end up down on mana. However, cycling them is always an option, and sometimes that will give you a bonus effect or will simply draw you a card and give you a token. When every card reads “cycle this for free, draw a card and create a 2/2” they all end up being pretty good. As such, some of these are included because they are meant to cycle, and others are just decent effects that you might need at any given point in a game.
There are less creatures with cycling on them included in this list mainly because many of them aren’t very good. We also want to cast most of these for their effects rather than cycling them away, but in some cases it’s okay to cycle them away especially with some of the big plays we can make with our support cards.
So these cards don’t have cycling on them, but each is either affected by cards with cycling on them or benefit from the act of cycling. For example, Herald of the Forgotten returns all cards with cycling on them from the graveyard to the battlefield, so if you happened to cycle away powerful cards during the early part of the game, this could pull some good stuff out of the bin. Astral Slide is Astral Drift’s older brother. New Perpectives and Fluctuator both allow additional cycling for free. Drake Haven and Spirit Cairn will make more tokens if you have the extra mana to spend. Abandoned Sarcophagus allows you to play cards with cycling from the graveyard. You get the idea.
Our last section covers some of the other cards in the deck. They were mindful inclusions but might not be obvious as to why I included them right away. So remember how we get a 2/2 each time we draw our second card per turn? Well that happens on opponent’s turns as well, so if you have out Consecrated Sphinx you’ll get a 2/2 on everyone else’s turn, beyond drawing two cards. Ditto Alhammaret’s Archive, where your cycle effects on their turn will draw you two cards instead of one, so you’ll still get the token. These tokens entering the battlefield on each opponent’s turn will also draw you more cards off of Ephara, as you’ll have tokens entering each turn. Cloudblazer and the artifact mages were included as bounce targets for Drift/Slide, as you’ll get more value from them that way. Also, since we are making tokens all of the time, why should we limit their capabilities? Why not turn those 2/2’s into 4/4 angels with flying? Divine Visitation will do that. Anointed Procession will double those tokens you’re making, whether they are 2/2 dinos, 4/4 angels or 1/1 spirits. You can also pump up your tokens with Aven Wind Guide who gives all tokens flying and vigilance. Lastly, if you want to end a game quick, use Brallin and Curiosity to create an endless loop during your discard step. His flying shark friend Shabraz will also get huge with all of the cards you should be drawing.
All in all I think cycling is a powerful tool and is only more powerful with this commander at the helm. I’m definitely looking forward to playtesting this one come next month.