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Brawling with Gideon, Martial Paragon


Are you playing Brawl yet? If not, give it a try! I'm smitten with it. Many Magic players don't have the time or money for keeping up with Standard. That's where Brawl comes in: it provides players who can't make FNM (like me) an affordable and less time-consuming way to play with the Standard card pool.

In case you aren't familiar with Brawl yet, here's a brief rundown of the rules as they compare to Commander rules:

  • Decks must include 60 cards from the current Standard-legal card pool.
  • Decks are singleton decks, aside from basic land cards, just like in Commander.
  • Also like Commander, Brawl decks have a Commander! Any Standard-legal legendary creature or Planeswalker may be used. Normal casting rules about the Command Zone apply. Commander color restrictions apply.
  • Unlike Commander, you start with 30 life and there is no Commander damage.

In my last article about the Brawl format we looked at three different strategies for Vraska, Relic Seeker. In today's article, I'd like to look at a completely different character, the Gatewatch's version of Clark Ken: Gideon. Specifically, Gideon, Martial Paragon from Amonkhet.

Gideon, Martial Paragon

In this article, we're going to build a deck that's both competitive and fun. We'll also cover some other ideas for Gideon that didn't make the final list, but that you may want to consider if you want to go in a different direction.

Before We Get Started

As of this writing, the Standard format (and therefore, Brawl) includes the following sets: Kaledesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, and Dominaria.

Let's also take a quick look at Gideon's three abilities. Ideally, we'll cast Gideon early in the game and then protect him, allowing us to use his abilities multiple times. Here they are:

+2: Untap all creatures you control. Those creatures get +1/+1 until end of turn.

0: Until end of turn, Gideon, Martial Paragon becomes a 5/5 Human Soldier creature with indestructible that's still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.

-10: Creatures you control get +2/+2 until end of turn. Tap all creatures your opponents control.

The first thing I notice is the first and third abilities affect every creature you control. We'll get maximum value, then, if we have a lot of creatures on the board. This tells me that Gideon, Martial Paragon wants to command a token deck.

That said, whenever I review a Planeswalker's abilities, it seems wisest to avoid building around the third ability. I don't know about you, but it's not often that I can make a Planeswalker go ultimate. My opponents usually find some way to destroy them long before that happens. During most games, I end up toggling back and forth between a Planeswalker's first and second abilities.

The second ability is typical of a Gideon Planeswalker card. He turns into a big, indestructible soldier. Equip him, clear a path, and swing away. We'll come back to this later.

But Gideon's first ability is really interesting. It's something we can build around. It pumps creatures and it untaps them. Assuming we'll have a token swarm, I see two ways of interacting with this ability:

  1. Play creatures and spells that require creatures to tap as part of their cost. Play these effects in the first main phase, tapping your creatures, then use Gideon's first ability. All of your creatures will untap and you'll get to attack with a pumped up army.
  2. Use Gideon's first ability after your attack step. The pumped power and toughness aren't likely to matter during your second main phase, but Gideon essentially gives all of your attacking creatures vigilance by untapping them. Our only option for a similar effect in this format is Radiant Destiny which is contingent upon a tribal deck to play at its most valuable. So using Gideon in this way isn't too shabby.

Nailing Down the Strategy

To sum up, here are the plans for the deck:

  1. Cast Gideon, Martial Paragon early -- before turn five, if possible.
  2. Protect Gideon so we can use his abilities numerous times. This means creatures with flying, reach, and vigilance will be important.
  3. Build a token swarm for the win.
  4. Use creatures or spells with tap abilities during the first main phase to get maximum value out of Gideon's first ability.
  5. Use Gideon's first ability during the second main phase as needed to essentially give your creatures vigilance.
  6. Use Gideon's second ability if the right situation occurs. Aim for the third ability, but don't plan on it happening in every game.

Card Draw, Ramp & Mana Rocks

Every deck, regardless of its color, needs a way to draw cards and ramp into extra mana. We're playing Mono-White within the Standard card pool, so our options are limited. Here's the best of what's available.

Card draw: Arch of Orazca; Conqueror's Foothold; Ghirapur Orrery; Howling Golem; Key to the City; Sram, Senior Edificer; Sunset Pyramid; The Immortal Sun; Urza's Tome

Many of these cards are among the best in the format, so they'll cost you a premium price. And some of them come with drawbacks -- Sunset Pyramid is a limited resource, Ghirapur Orrery and Howling Golem also help your opponents.

But don't be discouraged. There are numerous artifacts and White cards that give a one-time cantrip effect that could work in this deck. Removal spells like Bright Reprisal and Pressure Point will keep you drawing cards; simple spells like Implement of Improvement or Filigree Familiar, as well as the cycling cards from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation. If we look hard enough, card draw is available to us, even in Mono-White.

Two other important spells for Gideon that will give you an additional card draw are Vanquisher's Banner and Silent Gravestone. Silent Gravestone is an auto-include in a format with Liliana, Death's Majesty, Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and The Scarab God. (Sentinel Totem is a nice option too.) Vanquisher's Banner is a solid card but you'll need to focus on a tribe in order to get the most value out of it. (I'd probably pick Humans, but solid cases can be made for Vampires, Knights, and even Thopters or Servos, depending upon the type of deck you want to build.)

Silent Gravestone
Muldrotha, the Gravetide

Ramp & mana rocks: Cultivator's Caravan; Ghirapur Orrery; Gilded Lotus; Gold-Forge Garrison; Hierophant's Chalice; Manalith; Orazca Relic; Prying Blade.

Gilded Lotus is an amazing card in Commander, and a player-favorite because it's a lotus. However, if one of your goals is to get Gideon out early, then running both Orazca Relic and Hierophant's Chalice may be better options. Play either of them on turn three and Gideon comes out on turn four.

Creatures like Jhoira's Familiar and Foundry Inspector aren't exactly mana ramp or mana rocks, but they're worth considering in the same category. Run them if your deck favors either historic spells (artifacts, legendary spells, and sagas) or just artifacts.

Token Makers

Now we get to the fun part! Building our token army for Gideon to command. There are many options available to us in the current Brawl card pool. Here are some of my favorite options:

Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort; Cogworker's Puzzleknot; Crested Sunmare; History of Benalia; Memorial to Glory; Queen's Commission; Angel of Invention; Anointer Priest; Anointed Procession; Call the Cavalry; Cradle of the Accursed; Oketra the True; Oketra's Monument; Sacred Cat; Sram's Expertise; Steward of Solidarity; Whirlermaker

Anointer Priest
Legion's Landing
Crested Sunmare

Master Trinketeer and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle are both solid token makers too. But in order to get the most value out of them you'll need to commit to the tribes of Servos and Thopters, or Vampires. I've left them out of the final list below, but I could see going in either direction if you wanted to.

Defending Gideon

I love casting Planeswalker spells. It's one of my favorite things to do in a game of Magic. But casting a Planeswalker is like pinning a target to your back. People just don't like to see them on the board. Whenever my opponent controls one I feel like it's just sitting over there, accruing mad value.

Players get so focused on Planeswalkers that I've even seen crappy Planeswalkers like Jace, Architect of Thought or Dovin Baan get taken down pretty quickly. I'm guilty of this too. I once countered my friend's Jace, Architect of Thought during a multiplayer EDH game and then thought, "Why did I waste my counter? What could he have possibly done with that?" Planeswalkers just get inside people's heads.

With this in mind, we need to form a plan to protect Gideon. I've looked for spells or artifacts that can deflect attacks, or creatures that have flying, reach, hexproof, protection, or vigilance. Here are some of the better options at our disposal:

Aerial Responder; Aethersphere Harvester; Angel of Condemnation; Consulate Skygate; Baird, Steward of Argive; Dusk Legion Dreadnought; Edifice of Authority; Icy Manipulator; Kinjali's Sunwing; Knight of Grace; Mirage Mirror; Serra Angel; Weatherlight.

A lot of great creatures are not in the list above, like Seraph of the Suns and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. Both of these creatures have high converted mana costs. Running one or two them in your deck is fine, but when it comes to protecting a Planeswalker I favor small-ish creatures that I can get on the board quickly.

Aethersphere Harvester
Consulate Skygate
Baird, Steward of Argive

Spot Removal and Board Wipes

In a multiplayer format, it makes sense to run at least one or two board wipes. I would choose Dusk // Dawn, Fumigate, or Urza's Ruinous Blast. It seems to me that Dusk // Dawn will give you the most value in a Mono-White deck.

I can also see choosing Wakening Sun's Avatar just because it's fun to swing with a big dinosaur. The converted mana cost is just a little high on that one. It's a judgment call.

I would not choose Hour of Revelation because it will destroy any sagas or artifacts you may have in play. Cards like Oketra's Monument and Legion's Landing are so good in this deck I would hate to lose one to my own board wipe.

Along the same lines, Consulate Crackdown is a card to consider. It takes care of your opponents' Gilded Lotuses, their monuments to the Amonkhet gods, their Sky Skiffs and of course, the Weatherlight.

Dusk // Dawn
Oketra's Monument
Hour of Revelation

As far as spot removal goes, we have some good options at our disposal:

Blazing Hope; Bright Reprisal; Cleansing Ray; Decommission; Demystify; Fragmentize; Gideon's Reproach; Impeccable Timing; Revoke Privileges; Sandblast; Skywhaler's Shot; Thopter Arrest.

I would also put Angel of Condemnation in the spot removal category. Because of Gideon's first ability you can use the angel in your first main phase, untap her with Gideon, then attack (with vigilance), and then use the angel again during the second main phase. That's #synergy.

Here's the final deck list:

Earlier in the article, I mentioned that Gideon's second ability could be an alternate win condition. This is why I've included Strider Harness in this list. If it's late in the game and your opponents manage to knock out Gideon and whittle down your army, you can always re-cast him and swing away. I picked Strider Harness over some of the other more powerful equipment cards because it gives haste to the equipped creature. If it still seems too weak, you can easily swap in Blackblade Reforged, Forebear's Blade, or something else.

Some players may even opt for a Voltron strategy, making Gideon as an attacking creature their primary win condition. If you go this route, consider including more equipment and aura cards, along with Danitha Capashen, Paragon and Sram, Senior Edificer. Another strong strategy to keep in mind.)

Blackblade Reforged
Danitha Capashen, Paragon
Sram, Senior Edificer

I also put in the desert cards, Cradle of the Accursed and Grasping Dunes just to squeak in one more token maker (the cradle) and one more small removal spell (the dunes).

End Step

Have you played Brawl with or against Gideon, Martial Paragon? How did it go?

What do you think of this decklist and the strategy outlined in the article? What cards or interactions did I miss?

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @Steamfloggery.

May all your token swarms be mighty and may all of your Brawls be fun!

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