Instead of scouring the higher-level weekend tournament deck dumps from MTGO for an interesting list, I decided to wait until the MTGO Modern Constructed League 5-0 decks were released on Tuesday to write this article. While there are myriad reasons I chose to do this, the primary reason is that 5-0 decklists tend to be more diverse and more interesting.
MTGO Leagues don’t carry the same pressure as sanctioned online tournaments – the buy-in is lower so players feel more confident piloting experimental decks hoping to achieve success. And Tuesday’s lists did not disappoint.
There were many of the usual suspects one would expect to see in a Modern League: Prowess decks, Death’s Shadow variants, Ponza decks, Dredge decks, and Amulet Titan decks. Similarly, as expected, Lurrus and Yorion were the lion’s share of the companions in the Leagues.
An honorable mention goes to a very interesting “Abzan Flicker” list piloted by Kodiamonds that ran Yorion in the sideboard alongside creatures with strong enter-the-battlefield effects like Siege Rhino, Restoration Angel, Eternal Witness, Blade Splicer and others. The list went even deeper, playing 3 copies of Ephemerate to take full advantage of the deck’s creature suite.
The deck I will be writing about today happens to also be quite creature-heavy, although the mana-curve of the deck will look dramatically different. Today I will be writing about “Abzan Gyruda”.
Abzan Gyruda by Mashmalovsky – 5-0 at Modern League
1 Blast Zone
1 Castle Garenbrig
4 Cavern of Souls
2 Field of the Dead
4 Gemstone Caverns
1 Godless Shrine
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Windswept Heath
Right off the bat this list has all of the telltale signs of a traditional Nic Fit formula – ramp spells, removal, and a diverse suite of creatures that can be chosen from for different scenarios. And while this Modern version of the deck doesn’t contain Green Sun’s Zenith, the classic green toolbox spell, it does run 4 copies of Primeval Titan and Gyruda, Doom of Depths, which each provide elite card selection.
While there is no equivalent to the Veteran Explorer, Cabal Therapy engine that exists in the Legacy version of Nic Fit, this deck’s endgame is markedly more powerful, skipping over the early game in favor of repetitive high-end threats. The deck runs 12 two-mana ramp effects so that it can get to 6 mana on turn 4 and play a creature that can stabilize or turn the tides on a game.
Before we go any further in exploring this exciting list, it is important that we look at the deck’s centerpiece: Gyruda, Doom of Depths.
Gyruda is the primary engine of this deck – when it enters the battlefield it is almost always going to bring another body with it. What is so strong about this card, and this strategy in general, is its resiliency. This is a great come-from-behind ability as it lets you create a board state out of nowhere, especially if you Gyruda into a Linvala,the Preserver. It can also set up incredibly powerful turns where you Gyruda into a Restoration Angel, and then use Gyruda again.
The fact that this deck gets to six mana on turn 4, and has the option to play Gyruda on turn 4 every game, is very strong in this Modern format. Against all of the midrange decks in the format including front-runners like Lurrus Jund and Ponza variants this deck feels extremely resilient as its redundant high-end threats will often be too much for either strategy to beat. Ponza is typically playing a Seasoned Pyromancer or Magus of the Moon on turn 3 while Lurrus Jund is often casting Lurrus on turn 3. Any of these options are ideal for a Gyruda Abzan pilot.
This deck also has a strong matchup against format all-star Amulet Titan. Gyruda Abazan has much of the upside that comes with piloting Amulet Titan in the Primeval Titan and Field of the Dead package, but it also happens to play land destruction like Ponza, in the form of Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. On turn 3 this can will not only set Amulet Titan back on mana, possibly even hitting a Castle Garenbrig, but it also ramps the Gyruda player to the six mana on turn 4 it needs to start it’s engine.
These kinds of synergies are what makes the deck so powerful. Its endgame feels inevitable, and once it starts it is difficult to interrupt. In addition to that, it compounds. It’s not a single threat, but 12-16 different creatures all which pose unique threats from a synergy and objective power perspective.
Moving to the sideboard, there are not too many surprises in this list. Cards like Damping Sphere, Engineered Explosives, Gaddock Teeg are sure to be found in many green-based decks as a hedge towards some of the unfair archetypes in the meta. I especially liked the pilot’s 3 copies of Chalice of the Void in this list – while common in Legacy, I think this card is severely underplayed in Modern and deserves to be in more lists.
By looking at the sideboard the plan for the deck is clear. With only two pieces of removal in the 75, it’s clear that the pilot feels that the deck has creature matchups locked up. It can go over the top of any midrange or low-to-the-ground creature deck, and is only really worried about spell-based combo or control decks. Chalice of the Void is very good here as most of the deck’s cards cost 4 and up, so playing a Chalice on 2 or 3 is totally reasonable. It hits control decks and spell-based combo decks alike, while not really affecting the Gyruda deck after the early turns.
Whether it’s the Turbo Gyruda deck that’s been running around, trying to win in one turn with Gyruda, a bunch of copy effects, and Dragonlord Kolaghan, or this more value-based list, Gyruda seems like the real deal. It has great stats and an effect that, if built around properly, can be extremely strong. Seeing it pop up in the 5-0 deck dump is a positive sign, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the deck goes in the future!
Feel free to leave comments if you’ve played the deck and have thoughts. Until next time.