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Introduction

This is my take on a control/combo Gavi, Nest Warden inspired by the Amonkhet Standard New Perspectives deck to basically abuse the cycling mechanic to draw my entire library to win with Thassa's Oracle. In a way, this deck plays like a storm deck when it starts going off with a cycling engine enabled. This is the deck for you if you are looking for a strictly thematic and fun cycling deck.

Gavi's Ability

It is easy to misjudge Gavi's abilities and in my opinion, her cycling cost reduction ability is heads and shoulders above her token making ability. Building around her token making ability requires significant commitment to token supporting cards which puts significant constrains on deck construction and makes it difficult to balance between cycling and token support. The same problem also applies to decks focusing too much on Astral Slide. Going overboard on ETB creatures can eat up opportunity costs of including other more synergistic cyclers as there is no reliable way of getting astral slide in play like Zur the Enchanter. Therefore I think that building around Gavi's free cycling ability is the best way to approach it.

Deck Construction

The following are criterias I set for deck construction:

  • The power level of the deck is to be between casual and focused
  • The deck needs to be strictly faithful to the cycling theme with no distractions
  • The deck needs to be able to function without Gavi
  • The deck needs to have a meaningful density of cycling cards (at least 30)
  • Non-cycling cards need to either support the cycling theme or the overall functionality of the deck
  • Avoid cards like Decree of Annihilation that break the social contract of my playgroup

Gavi 101

Gavi, Nest Warden is a pretty expensive commander without any inherent protection. What this means is that piloting the deck hinging entirely on having Gavi in play is something that you should avoid entirely. The deck plays like a mid-range control/combo deck that wants to hold up mana and cycle at an opportune time (usually EOT) or react profitably to swing the tempo your way. It's also very tempting to cycle as many cards as you can over the course the game but it is important to also keep some of the cards to answer threats on the table. The following are general guidelines to piloting the deck successfully:

  • Only cast Gavi if you have a way to protect her either in the form of permissions or cards like Escape Protocol
  • Do not over-commit on cycling every card in your hand and remember to assess the boardstate to determine what's best to keep
  • Take advantage of the deck's ability to answer a plethora of stuff for politics to gain board advantage
  • It's tempting to cycle lands but play them if you need the land drops instead of fishing for more untapped lands

Notable Synergies

When piloting the deck, there are several notable synergies to look out for:

Wild Research

Wild Research is a scary card to most new players simply because randomly discarding a card seems like such a huge downside. What if you discarded that Cyclonic Rift in your hand? I can totally understand why it has been such an underplayed card and is only seeing fringe play in some Zedruu decks. This downside is negated with Mistveil Plains which can put the discarded card back to your library and be tutored again. Mistveil plains can be easily tutored in the deck via fetches (like Marsh Flats), Eternal Dragon, and Tithe. Mistveil plains is almost always active with both Gavi and her dino token in play to satisfy its activation requirement. The best way to do it is to activate wild research at your opponent's EOT so that you can use mistveil plains if needed. This card is extremely powerful in Gavi because of the following:

  • Many cycling cards are pretty narrow in application and are usually used to cantrip for a better card. Wild Research can convert those cycling cards into a potentially better card. Mistveil Plains can put any discarded card back to library.

  • This deck for the most part plays a "draw-go" reactive strategy where wild research is great as another way to use our mana efficiently.

  • Wild research's random discard works well with discard triggers like Rielle, the Everwise and Drake Haven.

  • We have a good amount of instants and enchantments that can be repeatedly tutored for.

  • This deck is capable of drawing tons of cards which significantly mitigate the random discarding risk from wild research.

  • We run a good amount of recursion like Sun Titan, Scholar of the Ages, Warden of the Eye, and Hall of Heliod's Generosity that negates the random discarding downside of wild research.

  • Untappers like Vizier of Tumbling Sands and Cloud of Faeries can let me put more than a card back to library with Mistveil Plains if I want to tutor more than once with wild research.

The Cycling Storm

This deck primarily wins by assembling a cycling engine to start "storming" off with a chain of cycling cards.The core of the engine consists of either New Perspectives or Escape Protocol + a mana positive generator and Tectonic Reformation. With this core engine in place, it only takes an enabler to start the cycling chain going. I've included more than 30 cycling cards in the deck to ensure that I have enough to cycle through my deck. Alhammarret's Archive is the most important card to keep the cycling storm from fizzling out. Having other supporting cards like Surly Badgersaur to be able to cast Thassa's Oracle after cycling a couple of lands is highly beneficial to have in play when I'm storming off.

Cycling Engine A: New Perspectives

The New Perspectives engine is the easiest engine to assemble as it only requires two pieces to get going. Tectonic Reformation basically reduces the chance of you fizzling out significantly as you can convert all of your lands into more cycling action. Your odds are even higher with Alhammarret's Archive in play:

Cycling Engine B: Escape Protocol

The next engine involves Escape Protocol and a mana positive generator to get going. This engine involves a bit of math to make sure that every loop is mana positive:

Combos

The following are combos involving Scholar of the Ages with either Turnabout or Temporal Manipulation to win with Thassa's Oracle. If Thassa's Oracle is not available (due to getting removed by an opponent or some other reasons), Turnabout will net positive mana or Temporal Manipulation will have left over mana (after spending it to to perform the turns loop) to be able to use Drake Haven as many times as needed using Elixir of Immortality to reset the loop:

Token Beatdown

Using the power of Gavi's token generation and/or Drake Haven to assemble a lethal token army to overwhelm our opponents.

Stax (High-Powered)

So now you're wondering what's the best way to increase the power level of this deck since your playgroup is on a higher power level. After numerous playtesting and experimentation, I've come across numerous synergies with stax pieces that are pretty much one-sided in this style of control/combo cycling deck helmed by Gavi. Since the combo for the deck requires some set-up, setting our opponents back in resources can buy us enough time to storm off. Due to the social contract of the playgroup, this strategy is omitted from my deck but will be considered if I decided to increase the power level of the deck in the future. The following are cards that I would recommend adding if your playgroup is of a higher power level and is alright with stax/MLD effects:

Here's a sample brew I drafted for those that are interested in having a baseline to work off of. I'm currently looking for feedback to improve it as much as I can.

Divergent (cEDH)

At its current form, I don't think a Gavi stax strategy has been proven yet in a cEDH context. With the banning of Flash, the format has evolved to become more interactive and value-oriented which makes stax strategy viable again. I think that Gavi-stax is an avenue that can be explored in a cEDH context in the future. There is however a great cEDH brew centered around Divergent Transformations into Leveler + Thassa's Oracle which is something you should look into. The primer, written by a collaboration between 9Lives, igligl, and Weirdmagic, is here.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why aren't you playing Solemnity which combos with Decree of Silence? Solemnity is in my opinion a terrible card by itself and doesn't do anything outside of that mana intensive combo. The odds of you pulling that combo off is actually pretty low in an interactive table and will set you back significantly with any interaction. Including Solemnity in the deck would also be forcing me into making several deck building concessions to extract more value out of it. Would you rather draw into solemnity or another card that does something?

  • Wouldn't Library of Leng go infinite with any cycling cards? No it won't because library only works with effects not costs and cycling is part of the activated ability's cost unfortunately.

  • How many lands should you be running? Since I run all of the cycling lands (which comes into play tapped), running more untapped lands is needed so that I can turn those cycling lands into cantrips and not have to be forced into playing them tapped and losing on tempo. If you run some "free" mana rocks like Mana Crypt/Chrome Mox, running 37 feels right after numerous testing. Otherwise, running at least 38 is my recommendation if you included most of the cycling lands.

  • Why are you playing other mana rocks instead of Izzet Signet/Azorius Signet/Boros Signet? I usually try to avoid signets because they require an additional mana source to work. You actually lose tempo when you cast it without any way of using it. This fact is ever more so important in this deck when I want as much mana available to me to cycle my cards.

  • Why aren't you running more traditional counterspells and removals like Path to Exile and Counterspell? I want to keep the deck as thematic as possible and found a couple of cycling cards that can emulate those effects pretty well. For example, Astral Slide does a great job of fogging problematic creatures coming your way.

  • Wait you're not even playing Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe? After playtesting I find that those cards are practically win more cards in this particular build because I can churn through my deck pretty well and Surly Badgersaur does a better job than Smothering Tithe in producing treasure token on demand.

  • Why aren't you playing "insert cycling card here"? There are a ton of cycling cards out there and will be impossible to include every one of them in. Ultimately it comes down to personally preference and playgroup which determined what I chose to put in the deck.

  • Some cards in the list are out of my budget. Are there any budget replacements for them? Of course! Gilded Drake can be replaced with Agent of Treachery/Perplexing Chimera and Mana Crypt with Lotus Petal/Everflowing Chalice.

Notable Exclusions

  • Decree of Annihilation: This card is just too mean for my playgroup and I've decided to exclude this from my list (save for some special occasions).
  • Bag of Holding: This card was in my first couple of iterations of the deck but was ultimately cut. This is because this is a card that sounds awesome in theory but often flops in actual games. There are just too many removals and ways to mess with this card to make it worth it especially when the activation cost is . What that means is that if you're tapped out your opponents can mess with you by just removing it. It is also a nonbo with Decree of Silence loops.
  • Shark Typhoon: Does too little for a deck that doesn't aim to cast a bunch of instants and sorceries.
  • Unpredictable Cyclone: Powerful card but does not synergize well with my strategy.
  • Abandoned Sarcophagus: Not a big fan of this card due to the exile clause and it doesn't return cyclers back to my hand.
  • Zenith Flare: This card is only good late game and is mostly a dead card early to mid game.

Feel free to join the Gavi discord here.

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Updates Add

If a commander is in a graveyard or in exile and that card was put into that zone since the last time state-based actions were checked, its owner may put it into the command zone.

If a commander would be put into its owner’s hand or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event.

So how does this change impact Gavi? Well, it is actually pretty good as we can exploit this new rule with the EOT trigger of Astral Slide/Astral Drift with any Stifle effects like Nimble Obstructionist to permanently exile a creature (specifically a commander) if the commander player chose to leave them in the exile zone instead of the commandzone. This combo is pretty easy to pull off and is such a strong interaction that it is worth it to consider other stifle effects like Disallow/Tale's End.

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