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Much Abrew: Gyruda Combo (Explorer)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Explorer has been around for a few months now, and one of the strange aspects of the format is that no real combo decks have developed yet. This is partly because of the card pool: two of the most popular combo decks in Pioneer—Jeskai Ascendancy and Lotus Field Combo—are missing too many pieces to work in Explorer. Even so, it seems like there should be a combo deck or two that could be competitive while we wait for the rest of the cards to come to Magic Arena.

As such, today, we're going to try to combo off with Gyruda, Doom of Depths and see if the Demon Kraken might actually be the Goblin Charbelcher of the Explorer format. While we played a Modern Gyruda deck a while ago for Much Abrew, that was mostly a value-y reanimator deck. Today's deck is full-on combo, with the goal being oddly similar to that of a Belcher deck: count up to six mana, resolve our namesake card, and trust that a single Gyruda, Doom of Depths will win us the game because of how our deck is constructed! Is Gyruda the Belcher of Explorer? Let's get to the video and find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

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Much Abrew: Gyruda Combo

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  • Record-wise, Gyruda Combo did well in our video matches at 4-1, although I think that involved a bit of hot running. If you toss in all the matches I played while testing and tuning the deck, the win rate was just above 50%, which is still great but not the 80% win rate we had while recording.
  • While the comparison probably sounds silly, I really do think that the right way to think about Gyruda Combo is like Goblin Charbelcher Combo. The way the two decks play is surprisingly similar: you try to count up to X amount of mana (six for Gyruda and seven for Belcher), which is enough to use your namesake build-around and trust the one card will be enough to win the game due to how your deck is constructed. The biggest upside of Gyruda is that we have access to it every game since it has companion, so there's no chance that we won't find a copy of our key combo piece. On the other hand, the downside of Gyruda is that it isn't as guaranteed of a win as Belcher is since Gyruda, Doom of Depths' mill will fizzle some percent of the time (more on this in a minute). But, in general, we should win the game if we can resolve a single copy of Gyruda, possibly immediately or, at worst, within a turn or two thanks to Gyruda's ability to build a massive board.
  • The idea of Gyruda combo is pretty simple: if you look through our deck list, there are really only three cards. Gyruda, Doom of Depths (both in our companion zone and in the main deck), two-mana ramp spells to help us cast Gyruda as fast as possible, and four-mana Clones (well, and also Wispweaver Angel, which is basically another Clone thanks to its blink ability). We spend the first two or three turns ramping and then cast Gyruda, Doom of Depths as quickly as possible, by either paying three to snag it as your companion or, if we're lucky, drawing one naturally, which often speeds up the combo by a turn.
  • Once we resolve a Gyruda, our deck basically turns into a math problem. Gyruda, Doom of Depths enters the battlefield and mills four cards. We're hoping that among those cards will be one of the 23 cards in our deck that will give us another Gyruda trigger to repeat the process. Our best hits with Gyruda are Spark Double (which copies Gyruda, giving us a non-legendary copy that we can clone with future copiers like Mirrorhall Mimic, Undercover Operative, or Vizier of Many Faces) or Wispweaver Angel, which blinks the original Gyruda, allowing us to reuse its enters-the-battlefield ability. We can also hit more copies of literal Gyruda or our non–Spark Double Clones. Even though these cards will leave us with two Gyrudas (causing us to lose one to the legend rule), we'll still get Gyruda's enters-the-battlefield trigger to keep the Gyruda chain going. 
  • As far as winning the game, there are two primary plans. The most straightforward is to mill a Spark Double with Gyruda, Doom of Depths, use it to copy Gyruda, and then clone the non-legendary Gyruda a bunch of times, giving us a massive board of 6/6 Demon Krakens, which can typically win with just a single attack. The second takes advantage of the fact that Gyruda mills both players. If we can chain together enough Gyruda triggers, we can mill our opponent's entire deck. While we'll likely mill our entire deck as well, since this is happening during our turn, we can pass the turn to our opponent once the libraries are empty, and they'll lose to drawing on an empty library during their draw step.
  • As far as the actual math of the combo, considering that we have 23 cards in our deck that will give us an additional Gyruda trigger, we're about 86% to hit at least one with any given Gyruda trigger. If you keep with the math, this means that if we resolve a single Gyruda, we'll end up with five or more Gyruda triggers about 50% of the time (which is often enough to win the game over the course of a couple of turns, assuming we hit a Spark Double early in the chain) and about a 20% chance to hit 10 or more Gyruda triggers, which should be enough to mill our opponent out of the game on the spot in many situations. Of course, 13% of the time, we'll cast Gyruda and it will whiff, but if this happens we still get a 6/6 Gyruda and probably end up with a Paradise Druid or some random even-mana-value creature from our opponent's deck.
  • So, what beats Gyruda combo? The same things that beat Belcher: discard and counterspells. Gyruda Combo can feel almost unbeatable against a random midrange or even aggro deck without Thoughtseize or counters. Things get more difficult against decks with counters and discard, but we have solid sideboard plans for both, with Leyline of Sanctity shutting down Thoughtseize and friends and cards like Malevolent Hermit, Destiny Spinner, and Negate to fight through counterspells.
  • With our best draws—ones involving multiple ramp spells like Wolfwillow Haven, Prosperous Innkeeper, Paradise Druid, or Incubation Druid—we can start the Gyruda Combo chain as early as Turn 4, although this requires us drawing a copy of Gyruda naturally, rather than paying three to put it in our hand. If we have to pay the companion tax, we're usually going for the win on Turn 5.
  • The weird part of Gyruda Combo is that the combo is pretty much all the deck does. It's probably possible to win a game without Gyruda, mostly by cloning some powerful creature that our opponent plays a bunch of times, but this is pretty rare in practice (although we do sometimes get hilarious value by cloning our opponent's threats). Speaking of Clones, outside of Spark Double to get around the legend rule, we don't usually care which Clones we hit with Gyruda, although it is worth mentioning that both Vizier of Many Faces and Mirrorhall Mimic have some sneaky upside if our combo fizzles since we can cast them from our graveyard to copy Gyruda the following turn and restart the combo.
  • So, should you play Gyruda Combo in Explorer? If you're a fan of combo decks or a Belcher player in older formats, I think the answer is yes. People don't expect to play against combo in Pioneer, and a lot of players have no idea how to stop Gyruda specifically (for example, graveyard hate doesn't do anything to stop the combo because of Gyruda, Doom of Depths' unique wording, but a lot of Explorer players aggressively sideboard in graveyard hate to try to beat it). The deck felt pretty competitive, and it's hilarious when it goes off. I'm not sure I'd want it to be my only Explorer deck because it really only does one thing, and I expect the deck might be a bit boring to play with once the gimmick gets old. Still, if you like the possibility of winning the entire game by resolving just a single spell, Gyruda Combo is a really sweet option for Explorer at the moment!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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