Gyruda, Doom of Standard and Legacy
- Andreas Reling
Ikoria's infamous companion mechanic has changed Magic as we knew it. The set has only been available on Magic Online and MTG Arena for a few days, but Gyruda is already terrorizing both Standard and Legacy. Learn about the decks that have been successful on the first weekend and how to use them.
Ikoria Is Here!
Usually, whenever a new Magic expansion drops, I can't wait to open Twitter every morning. I love to read what the community is thinking about the cards and what exciting brews shake up the various formats. This time around, Twitter has been a dark place for me ever since Wizards unveiled the companion mechanic.
It was obvious from the beginning that starting each game up a card — more so a powerful one you've built your deck around — is a very big advantage. Not as clear was whether or not the restrictions the companions impose would be enough to keep metagames diverse. If it's too easy, everyone enlists a companion, as nobody wants to miss out on the extra card. Since companion demands very specific deck building, the number of available archetypes decreases if they turn out to be a must-have in competitive settings. Before Ikoria became available on Magic Online and MTG Arena, there was skepticism as to which condition one could meet without crippling existing strategies. Many people were excited about the upcoming challenge to brew with the companions. But after the set hit the online platforms and players started competing, it became crystal clear:
Today, I want to show you two successful lists from the past weekend that both include what I consider to be the most dangerous companion: Gyruda, Doom of Depths.
When I first saw Gyruda, I thought it would be hard to fulfill the requirement, as skipping on all cards that have odd converted mana costs shrinks the Standard card pool significantly. Decks that can't cast anything on the first turn and struggle to use up all of their mana on the third and fifth turn will have a hard time competing. Luckily, Theros Beyond Death brought back the beloved Temples and with an abundance of ramp spells at 2 and 4 mana, the following deck is perfectly set up to ignore Gyruda's drawback while maximizing on its potential:
|Moth Gyruda Ramp by Emma Handy|
The deck is optimized to cast Gyruda from the sideboard on the fourth turn and from there on, the fun can begin. If Gyruda hits Spark Double or Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, we get another spin to look immediately after more big creatures and flood the board with massive threats. Often, this turn four play will prompt a lethal attack on the following turn, which is too much to deal with for most Standard decks. Dream Eater and Kogla, the Titan Ape serve as interaction for problematic game states and Luminous Broodmoth protects our most often superior battlefield from Wrath of God-like effects. It's as simple as that. Not very deep or intricate regarding lines of play, but it's brutally efficient and does what it's intended to do very consistently.
Since Gyruda has an even converted mana cost itself, you can have one in your sideboard as your companion and put the other three copies into the main deck for redundancy. That way, you have a backup plan when your companion gets countered or dealt with in another way, which makes the whole pretty resilient while featuring all the upsides a broken glass-cannon combo deck has to offer.
I played the deck myself for a few matches and have to say that it feels very broken and overpowered. Sure, it's a strategy a metagame can adapt to. You can choose and build a deck specifically to prey on ramp's vulnerabilities, but it doesn't look like this is healthy for the metagame at all. It kind of reminds me of the Nexus of Fate situation where your best bet was to go under their defenses with an ultra-fast strategy and the complete metagame needed to revolve around a single card which shrank deck diversity in a decidedly unfun way. To make matters even worse, Gyruda offers very boring and repetitive gameplay patterns and doesn't reward tuning, sideboarding, or thoroughly planned and executed turns as I'd enjoy. Yet, if you want to earn easy wins in Standard and enjoy completely crushing disheartened opposition with big, juicy monsters, this is the deck and time for you to shine!
Traditionally, Legacy isn't a format that changes much with each new printing. That being said, we had to get used to adapting our favorite archetypes to every set in 2019. While I like change, Ikoria will likely leave its mark on Legacy forever. I was already expecting companions to have a big impact on the format, as you can read in my article on Lurrus of the Dream Den, but I didn't expect Gyruda to break it in half.
While it was clear that Gyruda had to slot into some a combo deck, nobody saw the following monstrosity coming before the Magic Online Legacy Challenge this past weekend:
|Turbo Gyruda, Top 8 Magic Online Legacy Challenge|
The deck is essentially built with the same intention as the Standard version: cast Gyruda as fast as possible from your sideboard. The main differences are that fast mana is a lot more powerful in Legacy and the ability to be way more broken with a bigger selection of creatures to cheat into play. Heck, this deck can even cast Gyruda on the first turn of the game with a mulligan down to two cards! All you need is two copies of Lion's Eye Diamond and the fun can begin, which usually means lethal haste damage immediately.
When Gyruda's trigger resolves, you can choose from a plethora of different creatures to ensure the Gyruda train keeps running. Spark Double, Sakashima the Impostor, and Restoration Angel all evade the legend rule, leaving extra bodies on the battlefield until you hit the mighty Dragonlord Kolaghan that should usually win on the spot. Cavern of Souls and Leyline of Lifeforce make life easier against decks featuring Force of Will and Leyline of Anticipation makes it even possible to go off in the opponent's first upkeep when you're on the draw and would lose to a turn one hate piece from their sideboard!
While this deck surely is a classic glass cannon and not built to play interactive and fair games of Magic, take a moment and compare it to Goblin Charbelcher. This very risky strategy sees success in Legacy from time to time and remains a force to be reckoned with — even if it loses on the spot when an opponent successfully interacts with it. Imagine how powerful Belcher would be if you could start every game with a Charbelcher available and then draw your starting seven. Building the deck would be so much easier; you could use the remaining space for the best fast mana and easiest ways to beat sideboard cards while maximizing the deck's consistency. Yeah, exactly, the Gyruda deck is Belcher on steroids.
Note: Because there is an issue with replacement effects like Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace, Magic Online has temporarily banned Gyruda, Doom of Depths. The rules dictate that Gyruda still puts a creature from the milled cards onto the battlefield even if such an effect exiles those cards. But on Magic Online, a software issue makes Leyline of the Void and its like effective hate against Gyruda. The card will be allowed again when the problem is fixed.
I think the companion mechanic is a very big change to Magic and will impact all formats a lot. I have heard comparisons to when planeswalkers were introduced. It's that big of a deal, since the rules of the game change quite a bit when everyone is suddenly starting with eight instead of seven cards and many decks are built with those cards in mind. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. However, if we're forever stuck with the first few badly balanced companions, it will turn boring and problematic very soon. I'm excited to see what ideas the upcoming weeks will spark, but I'm also concerned that something needs to be done about Ikoria's companions to save competitive Magic as we know it.
What do you think about the new companion mechanic and the impact it will have on your favorite format? Are you afraid or excited? Let me know in the comments!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.