It's been seven days since Ikoria's release.
Just seven days and we've seen the metagame be established, re-established and then re-re-established.
The first deck to really blow our minds was Bant Gyruda, Doom of Depths. We first saw this deck on day one of Ikoria's release—April 17.
The first draft of this deck was simple. Ramp your mana with Growth Spiral and Paradise Druid, cast Gyruda, Doom of Depths as early as turn four, and hope to mill one of Charming Prince, Spark Double or Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to copy or blink your Gyruda, Doom of Depths and trigger the enters-the-battlefield ability again.
This deck was putting absurd amounts of power onto the board and ran away with games, taking Standard by surprise…for about 24 hours.
The way Arena has changed our online experience with Magic is almost crazy to me. But between Arena and social media, the speed of Standard has never been faster. In this particular instance, we saw Gyruda, Doom of Depths decks take Standard by storm. Within hours multiple builds of the deck had been built in varying colors in an attempt to "break the mirror."
Here is where we see Migration Path added and Luminous Broodmoth starting to pop onto our radar:
This deck kept the core of the original build. We saw the full playset of Spark Double and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling remain, but Charming Prince got the cut. The goal of this deck was to ramp its mana faster and more consistently than the original build, but it also offered board-wipe protection in Luminous Broodmoth as well as alternative ways to win the game pre-board.
The wave of complaints on social media was pouring in, and people learned the hard way that Leyline of the Void didn't interact favorably with Gyruda's text. But the initial panic began to die down when people remembered the magical trick to stopping "combo" decks: interaction.
At this point, the general populace realized that thoughts and prayers weren't enough to get your companion to resolve. Additionally, your game plan was very weak without Gyruda, Doom of Depths. When it didn't resolve, or your board was wiped, your deck was suddenly full of mediocre beats and the aforementioned thoughts and prayers.
Thus the Sultai version was born.
The Sultai build of Gyruda, Doom of Depths added Humble Naturalist and Skull Prophet to accelerate their mana, and capped out with Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths and Izoni, Thousand-Eyed to support Gyruda's game plan.
While we still see four Spark Double, we only see three Thassa, Deep-Dwelling. Already we can see that while the Gyruda, Doom of Depths combo is the main plan, there is a secondary game plan available to us.
Polukranos, Unchained synergizes especially well with Gyruda, Doom of Depths, as even if we do not choose it as our Gyruda target, we can pay six mana and cast it for its escape cost later on. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed allows us to capitalize on all of the creatures in our graveyard while also being able to draw cards, and was a great find for this deck. Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths gave us some card advantage while being an effective attacker, and played a similar role to Elite Guardmage.
Fiend Artisan was an interesting addition to the Gyruda, Doom of Depths decks, as it allowed us to sink mana into tutoring up an uncounterable Gyruda.
When we look to the sideboard of this particular build, we see some countermagic, removal spells and protection spells. Similarly with the Bant lists, the deck does not play additional threats and primarily still functions around the pre-sideboard deck configuration.
Because of the way the deck had been built, opponents were able to consistently and correctly assume what threats we had access to and knew how to dismantle our game plan while developing their own.
Now we've reached the part of this timeline where everyone has given up on Gyruda, Doom of Depths and has moved on to smaller and better things. It's Sunday April 19, and already this archetype has peaked and crashed. I gave up too and started playing the white-black Lurrus of the Dream-Den aristocrat sacrifice deck.
I have to admit, the Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks have been incredibly impressive, but there's something about casting a turn-four Gyruda, Doom of Depths that I couldn't stop thinking about.
No matter how I looked at it, consistently putting a 6/6 that brought friends along with it into play on turn four was too good for me to move on from. What I was realizing was that the game plan was typically good enough in game one, but it just wasn't enough to get us across the line in the post-board games.
A couple of straight Simic Gyruda, Doom of Depths decklists showed up, but they seemed to have the same problem: the monotonous game plan was no longer enough, and we needed to change things up.
My reaction? We had to break Gyruda, Doom of Depths in order to fix it.
Not in the traditional "oh my gosh we broke the format" kind of way, unfortunately. But if you're looking to jam with Gyruda, Doom of Depths in the future, I've got an idea on how you should do it.
I'm calling this masterpiece "Gyrodda."
Like the name suggests, our sideboard is full of oddities that will help us change our game plan up as needed.
Sometimes, sticking to the constraints of a companion post-board is unavoidable (for example Yorion, Sky Nomad). But in this case there are merits to breaking the rules, and we should at least try and explore them.
Our game-one plan of comboing is almost always good enough, so the deck is centered around a similar core to the one we started with initially.
Casting mana accelerants to speed up the casting of your spells is essential to this deck. I will almost always mulligan in game one if my opening hand does not contain a Paradise Druid or Growth Spiral. The strength of this game-one plan draws on doing big things earlier than your opponent is able to keep up with, so having access to these two-drops is important. The addition of four Migration Path helps us toward our turn-four Gyruda, Doom of Depths or Dream Trawler, with a major upside of being able to cycle it when you have plenty of lands.
We've retained the core of the deck while cutting two Charming Prince to provide additional resilience. It is possible that we go back to the full set of Charming Prince, but as it is one of the first cards I cut when sideboarding, it was the first to go.
The choice to play only three copies of Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is because over the course of testing we were "Thassa flooded" too often. The card is not great in multiples, and even worse if you have no other creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects to support it.
Spark Double is great value in this deck. Whether you're hitting it off of a Gyruda, Doom of Depths entering, or simply copying your Dream Trawler or Elite Guardmage, the versatility has proved powerful over the course of testing.
I was initially going to separate the flex cards from the value cards, but ultimately, all of these are replaceable cards that we choose to play because of the value they generate or their positioning in the current Standard metagame.
Disdainful Stroke is a minor point of contention for me, since it is awful against any of the Lurrus of the Dream-Den sacrifice decks, but excellent against the other decks we are seeing be played at the moment. What it boiled down to was having a long list of spells it could counter against every other deck. And against Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks? It can always be discarded to protect your Dream Trawler.
Elite Guardmage is a pretty straightforward addition to the deck. It draws a card, it gains life, it works fantastically with Spark Double, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Charming Prince, and while I don't regard it as a combo piece, I believe it's currently essential to the deck.
Dream Trawler is a piece of the original build that I've held onto. Having a threat that can only realistically be killed by board wipes or sacrifice effects is very strong. Its ability to close out games quickly by evasively attacking and gaining a reasonable amount of life is why I currently love it for the Gyruda, Doom of Depths decks.
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is a newer addition to the deck for me, but one I've been impressed with. The static ability preventing much of the sacrifice decks' power against us is a great reason to play it, but being able to return cards from your graveyard to your hand is great against the other decks in the format. The +1 ability helping us find what we need is great too.
It's great to have an eighth card in your hand, and of course, it's always awesome having access to Gyruda, Doom of Depths as soon as you're able to cast it. But as I've said a few too many times in this article, while it's been good for game one, the reality is that the deck struggles post-sideboard against everything.
Thanks to the Sacrifice decks, and the peculiar wording on Gyruda, Doom of Depths, we are seeing multiple copies of Grafdigger's Cage in every other deck's sideboard in Standard. And while others have chosen to put Gyruda, Doom of Depths to sleep, I'm choosing to look at alternative ways to make doom happen.
The first thing to note is that you won't always be sideboarding into a companionless deck, but it will happen frequently. When you do, Gyruda, Doom of Depths will typically come in to give you four copies so that you're easily able to draw it, while capitalizing on the perks of having odd cards in your deck.
When I built my first Gyruda, Doom of Depths deck, the first thing I wanted to do was have access to Teferi, Time Reveler and Mystical Dispute. But knowing that I'd be losing Gyruda, Doom of Depths as my companion deterred me from ever considering it.
Teferi, Time Raveler is a card we're choosing to play because of its ability to stop decks from interacting with us with countermagic. The previous Standard saw an abundance of countermagic in the sideboard of every deck that could play it, and this Standard is not much different. Teferi, Time Raveler offers us protection against their countermagic while allowing us to bounce our value creatures to generate more (you guessed it) value, and drawing a card.
Mystical Dispute is something I've chosen to play because it always felt so unfair to have your six-mana spell countered by their one-mana spell. Now, we're fighting fire with fire and not only protecting our spells, but attacking theirs as well.
Shatter the Sky and Dovin's Veto are even-costed cards that we can play with Gyruda, Doom of Depths as our companion. Shatter the Sky is able to clean up the boards left behind by the creature decks that make up a large portion of the Standard field right now, and there are arguments to consider this as a mainboard card. Dovin's Veto is additional countermagic that cannot be responded to. I prefer Dovin's Veto to Aether Gust right now, but this could change as the format develops.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is one of the best cards in Standard and if we're breaking the rules, it would be wrong not to include him. Uro is a nice surprise against sacrifice decks, especially as a counter to Hushbringer.
Since our deck cannot realistically play Grafdigger's Cage, our anti-graveyard options were Soul-Guide Lantern and Leyline of the Void. Since Leyline of the Void is almost uncastable in this deck, and we're choosing to deviate from our companion guidelines, I've settled on Soul-Guide Lantern as an effective hate piece against the Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks.
Agent of Treachery is a nice value card that we'll bring in thanks to its fantastic synergies with Thassa, Deep-Dwelling. There's an obvious unity between Agent of Treachery, Charming Prince and Spark Double, but Thassa Deep-Dwelling's ability to recur it at each of your end steps make it the ideal card to pair it with.
What I've realized experimenting with Gyruda, Doom of Depths in Standard is that there's no set way to build the deck. But since the game-one plan is so effective, I've chosen to stick to that and work out the post-board issues.
The most intriguing way I've seen Gyruda, Doom of Depths built was into a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck where Gyruda was not your companion. The realization that Gyruda was powerful enough to play in the maindeck has made me consider all the different ways each companion can be built into. There are so many possibilities in Standard alone, the prospects in the older formats are endless, and I can't wait to see what people do.