Epic Experiment - Gerrard Piñata
(Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero | Art by Zack Stella)
Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.
In this article we'll be looking into the second iteration (technically third, but Master of Arms doesn't really count) of one of the most iconic characters in Magic lore history: Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero.
When Gerrard Weatherlight Hero dies, exile it and return to the battlefield all artifact and creature cards in your graveyard that were put there from the battlefield this turn.
Having access to a slightly worse Second Sunrise effect in the Command Zone can be quite versatile, as it can function in both aggressive decks looking for board wipe protection and combo decks as a sort of engine card.
Gerrard's main drawback as a Boros commander is his high mana cost which can get prohibitively expensive if we cast him a bunch of times. Another glaring weakness is his vulnerability to single target removal spells, which not only further exacerbates his high CMC problem but also completely invalidates his main selling point.
The artifact builds of Gerrard seem a bit stronger than his creature ones, as both of his colors provide plenty of support, unlike with creature-based synergies where red is a bit lacking.
Nevinyrral's Disk is just a nasty card with Gerrard. It gives us a recurrable asymmetrical board wipe, although it can get expensive pretty quickly.
The Old Formula
As we can see, Gerrard's high synergy list mainly consists of the combo aspect of the commander, which is not all that surprising since it does seem like a more commander-focused build.
The Epic Ingredients
Gerrard's ability to protect our board illustrates his qualities as a leader, sacrificing himself for his people. But what if we're in a "are we the baddies?" type of situation and we turn his selfless sacrifice into a sadistic desire to make our people suffers twice as much? While still somewhat a small niche, the self-damage archetype, for lack of a better name (I ended up calling it piñata in this Riku article), keeps getting better with time. Gerrard's job is quite simple: he is a cheap way to get more value from our Stuffy Doll effects, allowing us to get be able to complete the combo multiple times a turn.
For the actual pieces, we're trying to gather a two-card combo, with the first part being the creatures, and the second being the damage effects. Both parts of this combo are pretty straightforward: we have a few copies of same effect, two of the most noteworthy being Repercussion, which turns our opponents' creatures into self-damaging Stuffy Dolls, and Arcbond, which turns any creature into a Coalhauler Swine.
Damage-doubling cards, like Dictate of the Twin Gods, work really well in this type of combo because they double dip in the sense that they double the damage that the creatures deal and then double the damage that they deal from the trigger. There are some great options here, but I'd advise to not go overboard with them since they do have the tendency to sit stagnant in our hand.
Our commander is a great help to keep a chain going, but we can't rely on having him out all the time; granting indestructibility to our creatures is one efficient way to get around this minor detail. Archangel Avacyn is a great one-time effect that also acts as a small clock. Frontline Medic is cheap and is pretty easy to trigger since we have the tendency to have a couple of bodies lying around. Last, but not least, we have Boros Charm, which is cheap, instant-speed, and fetchable with Sunforger.
Gerrard PiñataView on Archidekt
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The rest of the deck is a dedicated group slug shell, which helps getting our opponents low enough to be in range of our combo, and the group slug cards do stack well with our damage-doublers. Our biggest problem, as a combo deck, is to fill the gap between the beginning of the game and the combo turn. It's really naive to think that we, without blue in our deck, could ever hope to curve out into a win in the early game by playing creatures and then, on the next turn, playing a board wipe.
Sunforger, while a staple in Boros, is especially good here. We're packing the usual package of forge-able spells, but with a small twist: we have combo options available to us. Arcbond, which we can use with or without our Stuffy Dolls, is an instant we can fetch with our favorite Equipment, to begin a beautiful combo. Boros Charm, which I discussed already, is great when played out of nowhere, and there's even Enlightened Tutor, which also has plenty of amazing target, such as most of our damage-doublers and even Stuffy Doll itself.
For our opening hand, we're looking mostly into early hate and mana ramp. We don't need to rush to end the game, so it's better to have a disruptive early game where we can sneak in a few instances chip damage.
For the early game, we'll be dividing our turns between accelerating and trying to play hate pieces. Most of these pieces tend to attract aggro from other players, so a little bit of reading the room goes a long way. We need to start looking into possible targets/threats, since some of our answers are single-target only.
By the mid-game, we should start looking to control the board, either by stacking multiple lock pieces or simply using one of our many board wipes to reset the board. This is the time where we'll start to look for possible openings to play our combo, but that'll mostly depend on which pieces we have available at the time.
Things start getting a little worse for us in the late game. Most of the difficulties stem from the fact that we don't have enough card draw, and we need at least two cards to combo out. However, it does become easier to snipe a player or two with our Earthquake effects or even Price of Progress.
We have plenty of great suggestions. For a more lock-centric build, cards like Stranglehold and even Blind Obedience are great options. Need a little help getting the combo out faster? The recruiter duo Recruiter of the Guard, and Imperial Recruiter can find some of our combo creatures. We could also add some haymakers with Heartless Hidetsugu or even something hasty such as Aurelia, the Warleader.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!