The last week has been a very fast paced one as the Ikoria and Commander 2020 previews have been lighting up the internet. While I don’t know if I was ready to take on two separate     products that overlap in worldbuilding, I cannot deny that there is a lot of fruitful potential in both sets. I really like what Commander 2020 is dishing out, even if I feel like the themes of the four decks are not immediately evocative as past years. We get partners back, generals with themes from Ikoria that would not have fit well into a Standard legal set, and sprinkles of returning mechanics like devour, goad, and delve.

All that said, I was most excited by the return of cycling not only on new spells, but finally on a general that explicitly wants you to be playing the mechanic. Cycling is a mechanic nearly as old as Magic itself, so I was really excited to finally see a preconstructed deck that celebrates it. This week, I’m really excited to dig into Gavi, Nest Warden while trying to find the right balance between the available cycling spells and other synergistic strategies that can not only win us games, but also minimize dead cards in our hand.

Examining Gavi

My first reaction when I saw Gavi for the first time was resemblance to Tuvasa the Sunlit. I like the design decision for both that asks you to do something once per turn for a one-time pay off, instead of rewarding you for casting a bunch of cycling or enchantment spells respectively to sift through your deck ridiculously fast. This allows you to build around a theme without solely looking for the lowest costing enablers. In keeping with the worldbuilding of Ikoria, the uniquely-typed dinosaur cat tokens are likely going to be iconic to this deck as well—though I will not be looking to use them in any tribal way during this draft of the deck.

Cycling as a mechanic has constantly been on my mind. It’s a great way to help filter through your deck and allows for the use of more niche cards that can be turned into cantrips if they become dead in your hand. As such, I’ve waited very patiently for a general like Gavi, Nest Warden to finally come into existence. The closest cycling themed deck I’ve considered before is probably my build of Horde of Notions; but since the mechanic allows you to do so much more than draw cards, chiefly fill your graveyard, I’m really excited to see what can become of this week’s deck after some finetuning.

Commander: Gavi, Nest Warden

Creature: Backdraft Hellkite, Brallin, Skyshark Rider, Curator of Mysteries, Dream Trawler, Drowned Rusalka, Ephara, God of the Polis, Eternal Dragon, Hollow One, Kami of the Crescent Moon, The Locust God, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Nadir Kraken, Rielle, the Everwise, Savai Thundermane, Shabraz, the Skyshark, Spark Double

Enchantment: Ajani’s Welcome, Astral Drift, Astral Slide, Compulsion, Coastal Piracy, Curiosity, Drake Haven, Heightened Awareness, Improbable Alliance, Reconnaissance Mission, Tectonic Reformation

Planeswalker: Nahiri, the Harbinger, Venser, the Sojourner

Instant: Countervailing Winds, Desperate Ravings, Dream Fracture, Forsake the Worldly, Frantic Search, Neutralize, Return to Dust, Tolarian Winds, Unwind, Winds of Abandon, Wipe Clean

Sorcery: Akroma’s Vengeance, Breath of Life, Decree of Justice, Dismantling Wave, Mizzix’s Mastery, Resurrection, Sweltering Suns, Vandalblast

Artifact: Aetherize, Anvil of Bogardan, Ashnod’s Altar, Azorius Signet, Bident of Thassa, Boros Signet, Fellwar Stone, Fluctuator, Glass of the Guildpact, Howling Mine, Izzet Signet, Raugrin Crystal, Temple Bell

Land: 4 Island, 4 Mountain, 5 Plains, Adarkar Wastes, Ash Barrens, Battlefield Forge, Clifftop Retreat, Command Tower, Desolate Lighthouse, Drifting Meadow, Forgotten Cave, Glacial Fortress, Hallowed Fountain, Lonely Sandbar, Mistveil Plains, Mystic Monastery, Remote Isle, Sacred Foundry, Secluded Steppe, Shivan Reef, Smothering Crater, Steam Vents, Sulfur Falls, Swiftwater Cliffs, Temple of Enlightenment, Temple of Epiphany, Temple of Triumph, Tranquil Cove, Wind-Scarred Crag

Free Cycling

Focusing on Gavi for a moment, I wanted to weave in as much potential for benefitting from cycling as I could and maximizing the potential for a dinosaur cat token whenever possible. While a good chunk of the deck cycles, Anvil of Bogardan, Compulsion, Howling Mine, and Temple Bell are here to ensure that we have a token being produced every turn, while also fueling some of my favorite cards in this archetype: Drake Haven and Nadir Kraken. Both of these spells have proven themselves as pretty fair ways to stay in a game when I’m building around them modestly, so I’m excited to see how they break in dedicated decks.

For the purposes of this deck, Decree of Justice is a card I will very happily cycle for zero mana for a spur of the moment Secure the Wastes on my opponent’s end step. Dismantling Wave cycled for free can be the difference maker against affinity and enchantress decks wandering the metagame. Then there is Tectonic Reformation, which we can rely on to turn mana flooding into a free draw with Gavi. And late game, it gives us a chance for monumental card drawing each turn.

Rummaging for Potential

For as much as I love Gavi, Nest Warden, I wanted to ensure this deck can be considerably powerful when our general isn’t in play. As Amonkhet block proved, a viable deck can be made by simply looking at cards that care about discarding or drawing cards. Chief among those options is The Locust God, which acts as a primary win-condition here. If we’ll already be looking to draw cards, the ability to break through stalemates with a reliable stream of flying creature tokens is going to make a world of difference for the reach of this deck. Combine that with Purphoros, God of the Forge and we have a quick way to cut down life totals.

While more limited in its reach, I would also consider Improbable Alliance as a possible diamond in the rough. Dream Trawler is a fairly new card that I have a feeling could be very helpful as a late game threat in case everything else goes wrong, both for refilling our life total and absorbing removal. And finally, there is Drowned Rusalka who isn’t going to turn heads, but might be a workhorse if our token production really has legs.

Gone, Never Forgotten

When everything is running smoothly, it’s easy to assume that our graveyard is going to fill up fast. Unfortunately, unlike in Muldrotha, the Gravetide or Olivia, Mobilized for War decks we don’t have black to fuel graveyard shenanigans. This means in terms of creature recursion, we are limited to Breath of Life and Resurrection. But since many of our high profile win conditions are harder to outright remove, I think we can overcome that handicap.

For our spells, we are much better prepared to recoup them. Backdraft Hellkite and Mizzix’s Mastery are very handy; they act as versions of Past in Flames that we can make use of, since we don’t have the room for a package of “ritual” spells. With the ability to get another swing with Sweltering Suns, Akroma’s Vengeance, or Return to Dust, we can flex our control muscles even in the late game.

Closing Time

As we begin sculpting our end game it’s important to try to visualize how we are going to take this mishmash of cards and turn it into some kind of victory. At least one of either Coastal Piracy, Reconnaissance Mission, and Bident of Thassa should be easy enough to acquire with all deck manipulation we will be doing. This should in turn mean that we have token production in the works. Regardless of where the tokens are coming from, hopefully Purphoros, God of the Forge has lowered the life totals of our opponents. We can ultimately then perform an alpha strike with Venser, the Sojourner of all things. And to be completely honest, I don’t even know if it will come to that, as Purphoros is a one-card combo most times.

Looking over this deck, I will admit that in its current state it might be a little bit of glass canon. Ready to strike hard and fast at an unprepared playgroup, but easily dismantled once they know what they’re dealing with. There is a lot of potential here though, especially since cycling and token production give you advantages above and beyond other players who only have their one hundred card pile.

In the coming weeks I plan to focus my attention on what has been previewed in the last week as much as I can. I want to make time for as much as possible, looking at mutate, companions, and our new partner commanders. The options are a little overwhelming. With this whole host of new cards previewed, I am very excited to come back with something coming out of Ikoria next week. Until then, stay safe and I’ll see you then.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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