Kristen takes us through her process in evaluating the new Mardu legendary creature, Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. In this deck tech, she’ll look at how to come up with the most powerful version of Syr Gwyn for Brawl.

Syr Gwyn is pretty darn exciting. Having card draw on an equipment based Commander is really sweet, and something that many Commander players everywhere will be rejoicing over. Commander Replay has already shown us a strong early brew of a Syr Gwyn Voltron build for Commander, but what I’d like to focus on first is getting the most out of this deck for the Brawl format.

Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale

So, let’s evaluate the card. Syr Gwyn cares about Knights, she cares about Equipment, and she is hard to block. This is a great combo for an equipment-based Commander, as a lot of Knights already care about equipment, and getting in for combat damage triggers a lot of good equipment. I’m a little dubious as to how relevant this will be for Standard, so I think we need to look at how the currently available equipment shapes up before we get much further in to deckbuilding.

What do I see as the downsides of Syr Gwyn? Well, the fact that she is six mana means we’ll have to have a strong midgame, and the fact she doesn’t have haste means we might need to focus on giving her this ability the most. We also need to have enough interaction and creatures before hitting six mana that we don’t get run over—Brawl games can be a lot faster than Commander, and we have fewer card slots to dedicate to Voltron-style cards.

A Colossal Issue

The first thing that will affect our deckbuilding is that there are only thirteen equipment legal in Brawl. Of those, not a whole lot are very exciting (and/or efficient or powerful enough to consider).

The first windmill slam is Embercleave, which gives our Commander two super powerful keywords in Trample and Double strike. Embercleave is powerful enough to make it into decks in the Commander format, which has a far greater card pool, so it’s no question about whether we’ll be playing this card.

The second card we are absolutely playing for meme-value if for nothing else, and that’s Colossal Hammer. Giving our Commander +10/+10 for a measly one mana is huge, and can just kill an opponent out of nowhere.

Outside of these two, I’d want to be playing anything that can grant Vigilance or Haste. For these keywords, Crystal Slipper, Shining Armor, and Mace of the Valiant will make up the rest of our suite of equipment. Four may seem low, but we need to play to our strengths.

On the haste front, I’d strongly consider running one of Crashing Drawbridge and Samut’s Sprint too, as haste is super important for an expensive Commander.

What is Mardu good for?

We don’t have a huge amount of equipment, so we need to look to what else our color combination can offer us. The main strength of playing with White, Black, and Red mana is our removal. Mardu has the best removal, and so we should be looking to capitalise on it.

Price of Fame is an obvious choice for this format, as it can hit opposing Commanders cheaply. Cards like Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty, Epic Downfall, and Lava Coil can hit most threats and remove them, never to return; and Kaya, Bane of the Dead can do this unconditionally, whilst removing Hexproof. We also have access to the super-versatile Meteor Golem, Plaguecrafter, and Crush Contraband for problem artifacts & enchantments. The new Opportunistic Dragon also looks pretty tasty, especially to disrupt an opponent setting up. Even Trapped in the Tower looks great here, removing activated abilities from opposing creatures.

Mardu also has access to some very strong bodies that aren’t Knights. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is not just a great blocker—she pumps our attackers and is an evasive flyer herself, gaining huge advantage from carrying Embercleave. Neheb, Dreadhorde General has Trample and a way to cycle through cards, enabling us to dig for our finishers. We also have access to God-Eternal Bontu, an evasive threat that can draw us cards, and God-Eternal Oketra, who natively has Double strike and can build us an army if we ask nicely.

Game Plan

There are two other things I usually like in an aggressive equipment build. The first is early flyers—were this Commander, these would be invaluable at getting early triggers on equipment. This doesn’t directly translate here, as we don’t have many equipment to trigger (or indeed search out), but having early flyers could still be useful. Planeswalkers are a threat in Brawl, particularly as they are legal as Commanders. Having early flyers can keep them off the board, so cards like Angel of Vitality (usually a 4/4 on turn three!) seem like they’d make a shortlist. Order of Midnight and Ardenvale Tactician are good bets too, but we’ll get on to Knights proper a little later. I also like the idea of running Feather, the Redeemed—a 3/4 for three is actually quite a good rate; and if we do run any tricks, this could be pretty sweet for recurring value.

The other aspect I like to lean into is protection, which follows Feather quite handily. God’s Willing is an auto-include anyway, as I quite often like to deploy my Commander with some backup for removal—with Feather this becomes very strong. With access to Black, Unlikely Aid is also a strong choice, giving us indestructible.

Unbreakable Formation is also worth considering, as it can protect our team or set us up for a strong swing for a relatively small investment. Fling can also be pretty cute, especially if we have Colossal Hammer on a Knight!


Knights will be the main creature base of the deck, as we want to be able to get in with Colossal Hammer or Embercleave. To that end, we also don’t have a huge amount of room in 60 cards, so I’d suggest only looking at the cream of the crop—cards that have a good upside outside of being merely a good body.

The Cavaliers from Core 2020 (Cavalier of Night, Cavalier of Dawn, and Cavalier of Flame) are obvious picks, each allowing us to do different things: destroying creatures and re-animating, destroying permanents and retrieving Colossal Hammer, or digging through cards and burning each opponent. Each of these effects are strong on their own, and being able to strap them up for battle is an exciting prospect.

Murderous Rider follows on nicely, allowing us to remove a problem creature or planeswalker and functioning as an extra removal spell. Early game, I like Ardenvale Tactician for disruption, Order of Midnight as a way to cheaply recast our Commander (by letting it go to the graveyard), and Acclaimed Contender as a way to dig deeper.

Card draw is something we should be aiming for, so aside from Acclaimed Contender, Midnight Reaper is a great Knight to play. As far as being efficient with our cards, we already have a bunch of adventures, so I’d be happy to play Embereth Shieldbreaker for more modal value. It’s not big, but it can blow up mana ramp!

Other knights I like are Burning-Yard Trainer, who grants +2/+2, Trample and Haste when he enters, and Silverwing Squadron.

Card Draw

Outside of what already draws us cards, our best options are probably Ugin, the Ineffable who can also shoot down permanents, Guild Globe & Golden Egg that fix our mana, and Light up the Stage for some impulsive draw. Most of our draw will come from Midnight Reaper and our Commander; but depending on which way you decide to brew the deck, Tome of the Guildpact may be an option for multi-color payoff, and should you be playing a lot of legendary creatures, Tome of Legends may also work.

Pay Offs & Finishers

There are a couple of directions it’s possible to go here. As most of our card draw will be from losing life, I like the idea of running some lifegain in here; and so there is some potential payoff for doing so. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord lets us make big swings and also reanimates a small value body, or something larger if left unchecked. Deafening Clarion can wipe out small annoying blockers or tokens and pave the way for our bigger bodies to get in unimpeded, and/or gain us a bunch of life to stay in the game longer.

If we lean hard enough in to lifegain, Smitten Swordmaster allows us to play a miniature Exsanguinate effect that is stronger the more knights we control. We also can consider Ajani, Strength of the Pride as a one-sided board wipe.

Speaking of Knights, Circle of Loyalty might be pretty strong. Getting a free token whenever we play our Commander is pretty decent, plus an anthem never hurt anyone. I’m probably more excited by running Twinblade Paladin—at 25 or more life, it has Double strike, and gains counters when we gain life. There’s also Gideon’s Company who get similarly large with lifegain, though that may be going too deep.


Being able to gain a slow and steady advantage and build toward ending the game is a good strategy, so Brimstone Trebuchet is actually looking pretty good here, especially as it hits each opponent. Outlaw’s Merriment is also worth considering, as a token every turn is huge value, and lets us sink mana into equip costs if we need to.

I also like to pack a lot of recursion in singleton decks, so cards like Bond of Revival are great—they reanimate our Commander, and give it haste. Tasty. Beyond this, we have Brought Back, which can be good if we’re holding mana up for God’s Willing anyways. Revival // Revenge is also pretty strong here, allowing us to potentially jump back into a game with a chunk of life while rendering an opponent close to death. Knight’s Charge, from the precon, is also a monster of a card—definitely leave this one in.

There are a couple final cards I’d like to consider. First up is Gideon, Oathsworn. This guy comes in with four loyalty, and takes three turns to ultimate. Provided we are attacking though (which we will be) his static gives us +1/+1 counters. If we can protect him long enough, he can initiate a one-sided boardwipe, exiling all of our opponent’s creatures. One sided wipes win games.

The second is Bond of Discipline. If you spend the game getting set up only to find yourself at an impasse, this can provide a way through whilst also giving you enough life to survive the backswing.

Realm-Cloaked Giant allows us to play games in the control seat, and let our opponents over-extend whilst committing less to the board. This won’t happen that often, but when it does, will sometimes severely limit our opponents options for bouncing back.


Finally, Manifold Key lets us finish games with Commander Damage, or get through with a big hammer. What’s not to love?

A Note on Mana

The precon comes in at 24 lands. As tempting as this is, I would be unlikely to cut any of them for spells as we need to hit our land drops. As for which lands to run, I’d be inclined to lean a little heavier into Boros or Orzhov, with the following fixing and lands being of high priority:

Castle Ardenvale, Castle Embereth, Castle Locthwain, Temple of Silence, Temple of Triumph, Godless Shrine, Sacred Foundry, Blood Crypt, Tournament Grounds, Fabled Passage, Command Tower, Emergence Zone, Chromatic Lantern, Smothering Tithe

In Closing

Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale is card I’ve been excited about since spoiler season. Whilst we don’t have as many super-hot equipment in standard as we’d like, she’s still a strong contender in the Brawl format, with access to lots of efficient removal, strong creatures and powerful effects.

Next time, we’ll look at taking her to the next level for the Commander format. I can’t wait!

Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. Based in the UK, she works as a software developer, and her love for the Legion is second only to her appreciation for Lord of the Rings and Mass Effect.

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