When new sets come out there is an emphasis on the new legendary creatures in the EDH community. There is a quick buzz and players want to build with new shiny toys. Normally only one or two decks will rise in popularity from the new set. However, if we ignore the other commanders we often will lose out on a fringe deck that can be very enjoyable to play. Standard Commander looks at the current commanders in the standard meta and then builds one of the decks around it. This time we will be looking at Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale
With the release of the Trone of Eldraine Brawl decks four additional commanders entered the standard meta all of them in three color combinations. This is a good thing as the rest of the commanders in Throne are mono-colored. Honestly, I am not surprised by this as Theros is coming up next. There should be a lot of support for mono-colored decks and strategies. This does put new commanders at a disadvantage because color diversity is a strength when it comes to brewing commander decks. This puts all four of these commanders at the top of the Throne of Eldrane decks being built. Of the four Syr Gwyn is the least built.
Double Design Space
What makes Syr Gwyn interesting is that there is design space to build her for multiple archetypes. When you sit down at a table versus Syr Gwyn it is unsure what exactly to expect as the game opens. This creates an interesting strategy in that you could reasonably build two decks to keep your opponents guessing which build it is. The advantage is minimal, so unless you enjoy playing both deck archetypes I would suggest building just one.
The first of the two archetypes is knight tribal. Ever since Dominaria, Wizards of the Coast has been trying to put a knights deck in standard. Now it comes to commander. There are plenty of knights in Mardu colors. With Knights Charge and card draw the board can explode if it is left unchecked leaving a wake of damage behind. Lifelink will be necessary so that your life total doesn’t get to low. Unfortunately, Edgar Markov is also a six mana commander in Mardu colors and the deck contains stronger tribal options. This makes Syr Gwyn a fringe option for the tribal archetype. This is me personally and others may disagree. I would far prefer to play a vampire tribal than knights tribal EDH deck using the same colors.
The other archetype is Voltron. Vigilance and menace allow you to attack freely and provides a little bit of evasion. Equip Knight 0 allows you to power her up quickly and provides a value for your equipment. If you need any other keywords equipment can provide it to make your commander very effective. The advantage is you will get to draw a card each time she attacks and because there are few knights in this archetype you will not be hemorrhaging life as a knight tribal deck will.
While Syr Gwyn is expensive to cast, it will allow you to spend your early turns playing equipment so that when you finally do play her she will rapidly power up. Of the two builds, I am of the opinion that Voltron is the preferred strategy for this commander. For the purposes of this deck tech, we will be building the Voltron version of this deck.
For this deck tech, we are going to keep things simple in what the deck wants to do. All decks want to ramp and draw cards. The deck also wants a lot of equipment so that your commander can kill quickly. For this reason, we will invest heavily in these three categories of cards We will slot fifteen cards for each card draw and ramp. If we can accomplish these effects on a piece of equipment than all the better. As for equipment we slotted 15 cards to them but will build other equipment cards into the other categories that a deck wants. In this build, we were able to fit 25 pieces of equipment into the deck.
Creatures will always be light in a Voltron style deck. For this reason, any creature in this deck needs to serve a purpose other than just being a body. Card effects on a body are often easily removed. When we construct the deck we want to use some effects that are creatures but not too many as our board becomes susceptible to removal.
The Key Three
While each card serves a purpose in the deck The Key three is a highlight of three key cards that helps the deck run efficiently. This is a Voltron Deck. Syr Gwyn is needed for the deck to win. We will be excluding Syr Gwyn form this discussion as it is a given.
Commander Clinic MTG believes you do not get a full understanding of a deck when you divide it up into card type but instead divides the deck by card function. You may view the decklist on Arkidekt.
Swiftfoot Boots and Company
Swiftfoot Boots and the Lightning Greaves not only protect our commander from single target removal but they provide haste as well. The boots are a little stronger as hexproof will allow you to attach other equipment to your commander without sliding them off and making your commander vulnerable for an instant. Both effects are equally important. Haste is probably more important than the single target protection as there is less of that ability in the deck compared to commander protection. If you have a choice to go fetch just one of these two effects, then go for the haste first.
Hammer of Nazahn
After the haste and hexproof indestructible is the name of the game. Our commander costs six mana to cast so we will only be able to cast him a few times before he becomes ridiculously expensive to cast. Indestructibility will make Syr Gwyn impervious to almost all board wipes. Add in hexproof from above and it is going to be very difficult to remove your commander. Indestructible and vigilance is a great combination to have. You can constantly attack and draw a card while suffering no ill effects from doing so. There are several effects that create indestructibility in the deck. The hammer is the most efficient.
If creature removal is not effective than player removal will be the next line of attack for your opponents. This is where Platinum Agel comes in. Your opponents can attack all day and swarm you but as long as the angel is on the battlefield you can not lose the game. This will allow you to continue to be aggressive and take out the largest threat to you in the game. With this build adding a Darksteel Forge is very tempting. Indestructible equipment is nice but an indestructible Platinum Angel is better. This build doesn’t include the forge. It can be easily included for those who would enjoy such interactions.
A Different Brand of Tutor
Any deck that contains black has an instant include of several of the most powerful cards in Magic with Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. White also gives us access to Enlightened Tutor that will allow us access to artifacts and enchantments. These are very strong cards. We decided to not use them in this build.
A lot of money invested on cards like Sword of Fire and Ice and other expensive cards. Arkidekt has the cost of this deck in the $700 range. If we added in more efficient tutors the deck would push $1000 and the deck begins to exclude some players from constructing it. Instead, we sacrificed a little bit of efficiency for cheaper but still effective tutors in Steelshaper’s Gift, Steelshaper Apprentice and Stonehewer Giant. While expensive. Stoneforge Mystic fetches a piece of equipment while providing a way to put it on the battlefield at a discount. This mana discount makes Stoneforge Mystic worth the money spent to acquire one.
Speeding Up Commander Damage
One of the drawbacks of this deck is the six mana cost of the commander. We need to do whatever we can to minimize this. Opponents will have time to set up and defend while you are building the mana to cast your commander and begin the attack. We have a strong ramp package to start. Then we have several haste equipment options. This allows us to attack immediately when Syr Gwyn is cast. Still, this is not enough.
First, there is equipment that creates large power boosts. Blackblade Reforged is known for rapidly increasing the power of the creature attached to it. It easily doubles Syr Gwyn’s power. In this deck, Hedron Matrix will provide six power for four mana which is a great rate of return. Bloodforged Battle-Axe becomes insane when you do not have to spend the mana to equip them. You keep attaching them to your commander. Pairing them with the double strike keyword does not hurt either. They double with each time they damage a player. SIgarda’s Aid creates even more mischievousness with the Battle-Axe
Another way to speed up the damage quickly is through Double Strike.wiht a single +1 power with double strike Syr Gwyn becomes a two-turn clock. This is on top of the added defense to keep your commander alive if she is blocked. Inquisitor’s Flail provides pseudo double strike. When equipped each time your creature would deal damage it does double damage instead. This ability is not double strike. This means that the extra damage will stack with double strike quadrupling the damage if you can pair the two abilities.
Finally, there are multiple attack phases. This build does not focus on them too much. However, cards are included to allow infinite attack phases. With infinite attacks, you can slowly whittle down your opponents and win the game. You can read about the infinite attack combination here.
A Different Sort of Board wipe
Hats off to the Command Zone for bringing Heartseeker to the attention of all the players who play Syr Gwyn. It is a repeatable creature removal on equipment and you do not have to attack in order to destroy a big nasty. It also can efficiently take down utility creatures that just sit on the battlefield and never attack. The knight tribal deck has the advantage of sending Heartseeker from knight to knight for free destroying the board. Voltron decks do not have this ability so instead, we will include a little Hearseeker mischievousness in this deck.
Thornbite Staff is a piece of equipment that not only lets you ping your opponent but when a creature dies you untap equipped creature. In this scenario, you attach Heartseeker and Thornbite Staff to your commander for free. Tap your commander and unattach Heartseeker from him. The creature is destroyed and then Thornbite Staff triggers untapping your commander. Then you attach Heartseeker to your commander for free again and repeat the process until the battlefield is wiped.
While it is a two-card combo that most board wipes can accomplish in one it is a fun piece of tech that is searchable in this deck. There are many different ways to search your libraries for artifacts. Once you draw one piece of the combo, you can go get the other. Finally, because it is on equipment it is a repeatable effect turn after turn. This allows you to keep the board clear and over time saves more cards than it uses providing value versus board wipes.
No Teferi’s Protection
For a Voltron deck there is a lot of protection from board wipes as well as cards devoted to preventing you from losing the game. As such Teferi’s Protection would be an excellent include as it does both. When debating over the last few spots of miscellaneous effects The card slotted in and out several times. In your own a version of Syr Gwyn in EDH, then you would not be wrong in including it. Many games have been saves because of Teferi’s Protection.
For this build, it lost its spot to Sun Titan. It’s an extra body on the ground that can help deter attacks. It also recurs inexpensive permanents of three mana or less. People will target your boots in order to remove your commander and having an opportunity to get them back is wise. He also can mana fix by bringing your fetch lands back from the graveyard. If you played a land this turn he will ramp you as he enters the battlefield or attacks. The decks Mana Curve is low with all the equipment. Thus, having an additional high-end card that will help you win the game if it bogs down is reasonable.
In all but the competitive and optimized decks there is room for cards that players like to play or enjoy. They bring flavor to the deck and add a personal touch. These cards can still be strong but are more of personal preference. Like salt and pepper, you sprinkle them in for flavor. This build has several pet cards. We will go over them here.
While in 66% of Syr Gwyn decks I am surprised it is not in more than this. This is not a card that finds its way into most decks because the mana cost is really expensive. For most decks twelve mana to play and equip the card means the game is about to be won and not in the midgame when this card wants to be played. Syr Gwyn cuts the cost in half while turning your commander into a two-hit clock on its own. With double strike, you can take out a player in one swing. Permanent removal is a bonus and can help clear the way for your commander to connect.
A card that is often overlooked Charmbreaker Devils helps to recycle cards in your graveyard. It is random as many red effects are but it becomes a good card if you are just looking for value. I have already abused this card by just making sure there is one instant or sorcery in my graveyard and kept recurring the card I wanted over and over again. All the instants and sorceries in this deck are simple effects that you would not mind casting again. In case of recycling mass removal cards, your opponents knowing you have it in hand again should affect them on how they deploy their creatures. If you happen to actually use the power bonus on them for damaged it’s purely incidental value.
This card often gets overlooked. But it can create a lot of havoc on the board. Players will attack and then cast their creatures for protection so the life totals do not drop as dramatically as you would think. The board will be simplified and that is a good thing. It can provide an opportunity for a commander with menace to take someone out. This card can be fun to include if you like to watch the fur fly in a catfight.
Etali Primal Storm
Often overlooked Etali can be a force to be reckoned with. I am very bullish on this card and have it in my top ten red cards. When deckbuilding the first thought is “but I do not have a way to protect her..What if there is no one open to attack?” She does cost six mana. That deters her use in some decks. In Syr Gwyn, we have equipment galore and with it comes many different ways to attack and survive. With it comes extra cards and it doesn’t cost a thing to cast them. Your deck is short of creatures and this is one way to help build a defense using other people’s creatures at no cost to you
What is better than double strike? Getting the ability twice. The card does not grant double strike although it doubles the damage that is dealt to and by the equipped creature. With the indestructible cards in this deck including some on equipment, the downside of this pet card is reduced allowing you to increase the damage output of your commander. If you can equip Syr Gwyn with a double strike card she is generating 20 damage without any power buffs.
Overall this is a unique build compared to the average deck that is presented on EDHREC. Those decks seem to focus on knight tribal. When it comes to popularity we shouldn’t be surprised as people enjoy the knight theme. This means while you are outside of your normal playgroup, the deck will have a “surprise” factor.”
As for the strength of the deck, it is limited to the overall strength of Voltron decks. You need to be a pit bull and continue to hang on and attack the player you initially attacked. An aggressive playstyle benefits you. It is critical that you threat assess properly and attack the player that will be the biggest threat of taking you out. Often this will be the deck with mass fliers or someone who can combo off rather quickly winning the game. While the deck contains ten pieces of removal your biggest answer is player removal. The deck is more defensive than most Voltron Strategies and that helps its viability to survive later into the game.
This deck is solidly in the focused range of commander decks. It takes a little time to ramp into your commander but once he gets going he can be a force to stop. The overall strength of the deck runs about a 7.2 to 7.5. You may find the decklist here on arkidekt.
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