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Commander Crush: Gavi, Nest Warden

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Ikoria previews hit like a hammer on Tuesday and boy did we need it! With all that's going on in the world, escaping to the fantasy world of Ikoria was a breath of fresh air! In the flurry of new cards, one Commander caught my eye. Let me introduce you to Gavi, Nest Warden!

Gavi, Nest Warden

At first sight, Gavi reminds me of Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer. You take a niche mechanic like Cycling, or Morph in Kadena's case, and make it free. Then you add a payoff for using that ability. Gavi makes a 2/2 Dino Kitty when you draw for second card for a turn. There's a subtle difference that makes Gavi way more powerful than Kaden. That difference is timing. You play a Morph creature at sorcery-speed, but Cycling is instant speed. Even though both cards allow you to use their ability "on each turn" you get more mileage out of Gavi. It's like combining Kadena with Josh Lee Kwai's invitational card Vedalken Orrery.

Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer
Vedalken Orrery

This synergy alone is enough to make a fun Commander deck, especially if you like drawing cards. But when you think about the Cycling cards that do something when you cycle them, that's when things get spicy. For example, with Gavi out, Decree of Silence becomes a Force of Will that draws you a card! Or how about this totally fun and fair Magic card:

Decree of Annihilation

I know, for some of you, your stomach turned, but I had a different reaction. For me, it was love at first sight. I knew instantly that I needed to build this deck. Cycling Decree of Annihilation is massively disruptive to your opponents and there's little they can do to interact with it. I promise, I have friends, but I'm always looking for ways in Commander to "slam the door shut". This is a perfect way to do that. It can't be countered. It makes a threat, the 2/2 Dino Cat. You may not think that's threatening, but once I get a herd of these things together, you'll be singing a different tune. This interaction is so powerful that it makes sense to start with it as the centerpiece of our deck.

Building Around Decree

Since we plan on blowing up all the lands, it's important that we prepare to whether our own mass land destruction. I've done this in four ways.

Mana Rocks - Cards like the Signets, Talismans, and Sol Ring are great ways to power out Gavi early. They also keep you from shooting yourself in the foot with your own Armageddon.

Indestructible Lands - Darksteel Citadel and Cascading Cataracts are great for keeping mana sources around after the boom. Flagstones of Trokair does a nice impersonation of an indestructible land, and it can even become a dual land.

Bounce Lands - I try to avoid the Ravnica karoo lands, because people like to blow them up to spite me. Can you blame them? Look at the deck I'm building! Anyways, these are great in this context, because they give us another land to play post explosion.

Spells - The addition of Boros Charm and Teferi's Protection are a nod to Decree of Annihilation. They are also great cards in their own right.

Mystical Tutor
Personal Tutor

Now that we've protected our mana base, let's weave in some ways to find our Decree. This is a high-velocity deck due to all the Cycling, it's likely that we can draw into our Decree. But to speed things up, we'll rely on the old classics Mystical Tutor, and Personal Tutor to fetch our Decree. I'll also add an Archaeomancer to rebuy the Decree. There's no need to overload on this effect, especially if we have Astral Drift or Astral Slide out. Anyways, enough about Decree. Let's talk about the rest of the deck.

Gavi and Friends

Until now, I've only talked about a few cards that could go into this deck. Let's expand on that by building to Gavi's strengths. Those strengths are; Cycling matters and drawing a second card matters. The primary ability is Cycling, because it enables the secondary ability.

Cycling is Good for Your Health

Since Gavi depends on Cycling cards to be "good", the deck should include a metric ton of Cycling cards. The more the better! After a big unscientific think, I've guessed that the correct number of Cycling cards is between 30 and 35. We should also add all the card that make Cycling better. Here are the usual suspects. Let's hope MTG Finance didn't buy out Fluctuator, again.

Fluctuator
Lightning Rift
Abandoned Sarcophagus
Astral Drift
Drake Haven
New Perspectives

These cards can squeeze extra value out of our cycling cards, as well as super charge your engine! Even though we don't have time to talk about every card with Cycling, I do want to mention a few as suggestions. Before I do that, here's a caveat. As of the writing of this article, we don't know what other cool cycling cards are coming in Ikoria. I got so hyped that I wrote this on the first day of spoilers! Hopefully, we'll get some nice toys from the set. Ok, on with the show! The only stipulation for adding a Cycling card was, I wouldn't be completely embarrassed to cast it.

Angelsong - With the amount of Craterhoof I've seen at commander tables, this is a great inclusion.

Nimble Obstructionist - Aside from all the corner cases, this card is particularly handy at disarming an Aethersphere Reservoir!

Rebuild - This card plays well with our land destruction plan, since you can bounce the mana rocks before roasting your opponent's real estate. TROLLFACE

Slice and Dice - This is a perfect answer to an early elf or token swarm.

Complicate / Decree of Silence - These counterspells are nothing to write home about, but when you make them free, they get much better. Who would have guessed?

Making Dinos

Before we get to the decklist, let's talk about supporting the secondary ability. I didn't lean too hard on this axis, but I added a couple of cards that work well with it.

Consecrated Sphinx
Rhystic Study
Mystic Remora

You'll notice that these are all good draw spells in Commander. They're great stand-alone, and they prop up the second ability to allow me to get some extra value during other people's turns. I considered adding Temple Bell, which started me down the path of Mind Over Matter and Thassa's Oracle. In the end I decided against it. Giving my opponents cards makes my stomach turn. There's plenty of room to build on the secondary ability. Cards like Irencrag Pyromancer and Improbable Alliance seem to fit nicely with that theme. I'd like to get some reps in before going down that road.

The Decklist

Keep in mind that this is a framework. My final list will be different. Especially considering that we might get some more goodies from Ikoria. My hope is that this will give you a good starting point for your own version of the deck.

Gavi, Nest Warden | Commander | Jonathan Medina


The Big Picture

Whenever I build a deck, I like to imagine what my turns would look like. What am I playing on turn one? If nothing, maybe I should have some more comes-into-play-tapped lands. What about turn two? Which mana-rocks make sense? I build this deck with a similar mindset; and wrote a cadence for it.

Turn One: This will be a weak turn; we may Cycle a card.

Turn Two: Play a mana-rock. We have 8 in the deck.

Turn Three: Play a value Enchantment, a mana-rock, or Tutor for Decree of Annihilation.

Turn Four: Play Gavi and destroy all the lands. Or hold up Decree of Silence as protection.

Turn Five: Convert the advantage gained in turn four into a winning position.

That's where some of these other cards come in. Besides the built-in ability to create an army, I've added Drake Haven and Rise from the Tides. This gives me a grindy approach to win the game, but it's venerable to board wipes. That's why I threw in a Runechanter's Pike. The Pike bring the ability to go "tall" and get someone with Commander damage. If both these approaches fail, then we need to get the value engine online! That's where these big boys come in.

Replenish
Open the Vaults

These are some of my favorite late-game cards. Between things being destroyed and Cycling cards our graveyard should be stocked with loot for a massive rebuy. Imagine drawing three (New Perspectives), stealing your opponent's best permanent (Lay Claim), removing the second biggest threat - you stole the first one (Cast Out), and countering the next three spells (Decree of Silence). If you can't win after that, then I can't help you! No one can.

Conclusion

Needless to say, I'm excited about building this deck. As soon as I can get the cards, I'll be testing it out on MTGO. If you'd like to keep up with the changes to the deck, jump into my Discord server or drop me a follow on Twitter. I hope you have an awesome preview season, and I'll see you next time. Thank you for reading.

<3 JM

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