Deck Guide: Kaiju Combo (Pioneer)

I want to start by saying that the deck is named Kaiju Combo. If you call it anything else, you are not my friend and you cannot read my guide. Gyruda has picked up steam in Standard and Legacy but it has flown under the radar in Pioneer. Today I want to share the build that I have been working on. What we have is a one-card combo that can end the game on Turn 4. I will share my current build, the intricacies of the combo, a mulligan guide, a sideboard guide, and the best cards to beat it.

This article assumes that you are familiar with how companion works. If you need assistance, look no further.

Companion (1)
Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Lands (23)
2 Aether Hub
4 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
4 Blast Zone
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Zhalfirin Void
Creatures (35)
4 Altered Ego
4 Clever Impersonator
2 Clone
2 Dragonlord Kolaghan
3 Gyruda, Doom of Depths
4 Paradise Druid
4 Spark Double
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Vizier of Many Faces
4 Wispweaver Angel
Spells (2)
2 Wolfwillow Haven
Sideboard (15)
2 Cyclonic Rift
4 Damping Sphere
2 Aetherize
2 Aether Gust
4 Thought-Knot Seer
75 Cards Total

The Combo
Step 1. Put Gyruda into play and mill four.
– Did you hit a Spark Double? If you did, proceed to Step 2a.
– Did you hit a Wispweaver Angel? If you did, proceed to Step 2b.
– Did you hit a clone effect or Gyruda? If you did, lose it to the legendary rule but use it to repeat Step 1.
– If you hit none of these, try Step 1 again next turn by casting one of the listed options; if it is Spark Double continue to 2a. If it is Wispweaver Angel, continue to 2b.

Step 2a. Put Spark Double into play as a non-legendary Gyruda and mill four.
– Did you hit a clone effect? If you did, proceed to Step 3.
– Did you hit a Wispeaver Angel or Gyruda? If you did, use it to mill four and repeat this process.
– If you hit none of these, try step 2a again next turn by casting one of the listed options.

Step 2b. Put Wispweaver Angel into play, blink Gyruda, and mill four.
– Did you hit Spark Double? If you did, go to Step 2a.
– Did you hit a clone effect or Wispweaver Angel? If you did, use it to repeat Step 2b. Each iteration of this will net you a 4/4 flyer. Enough iterations of this should jump to Step 4.
– Did you hit a Gyruda? If you did, use it to mill four; putting you back at Step 2b.
– If you hit none of these, try step 2a again next turn by casting one of the listed options.
Note: Steps 2a and 3 are not required. You may proceed to Step 4 if it comes up.

Step 3. Copy the non-legendary Gyruda and repeat. You can keep going as long as you hit clones (get a 6/6), hit Angels (get a 4/4 flyer), or hit Gyrudas (a reroll). Proceed to Step 4.

Step 4. After enough iterations on either combo path, you will eventually have a large board and the option to put Dragonlord Kolaghan into play. This will give the team haste for an alpha strike.

– It is often right to cut the combo early for a guaranteed Kolaghan and then win across two turns. The other copy may be in hand or scried to the bottom of your library.
– Gyruda into Kolaghan with no cloning is plenty threatening. Especially if you have a Spark Double to cast on the following turn; 31 damage across two turns.
– It is fine if Kolaghan just does not show up. Most decks will struggle to kill you through a kaiju army so you will usually live see another turn.
– Plain old Kolaghan beatdown works. Your mana dorks can cover the RB cost. It will get in for six immediately and a Spark Double will take it up to a total of 19 across the two turns.
– The opponent’s even-costed creatures are fair game while milling as well. This makes the mirror ridiculous. But it can also give you some value when you fizzle.

The Strategy
Combo decks often get a bad wrap for being linear. Well this is the most straightforward single-minded combo deck I have ever played. It is rare that you will win with anything other than Gyruda. So how does a six-mana combo with no backup plan survive in Pioneer? Ramp, resiliency, and outrageous consistency. The most similar experience I have ever had in Magic was playing ScapeshiftValakut decks. But with this deck you need six mana sources rather than seven lands,  and “Scapeshift” is in your “opening hand” every game. You are just counting to six and going off. Often you can do this on Turn 4. On Turn 2 you play a ramp card and on Turn 3 you either play a second ramp card or use a clone to copy the first ramp card. As long as you hit your land drops, you will be able to cast Gyruda from your sideboard and begin the combo. Companion is a dumb mechanic. Follow us on Facebook to hear me whine about it every day.

The Build
The decklist is as straightforward as the strategy. You have no interaction in the main. You just want to win on Turn 4. You have twenty-three lands to hit your four land drops consistently. The mana costs in this deck are extremely easy to cover. You want G by Turn 2 and UU by Turn 4; mana dorks will help with the latter. This allows us to run eight colorless utility lands; Blast Zone and Zhalfirin Void. Blast Zone can buy time against aggro; we are able to play it and fire it off on Turn 3 consistently with our mana dorks. More importantly, it takes care of low-cost hate cards postboard. Zhalfirin Void enters untapped with a scry to improve consistency. Another option would be Radiant Fountain but at this time, I think the lifegain is worse than either other option.

For colored sources we run the typical Simic lands in Breeding Pool and Yavimaya Coast. However, Temple of Mystery gets the nod over Botanical Sanctum. Gyruda does not let us run one drops so we can get away with our green source entering tapped on Turn 1, especially when it sets up our draws. Rounding out the manabase we have Aether Hub because once we get that first G mana, the ramp effect will produce the next; note that it helps with C spells postboard as well. Finally we have the basic Forest to get value out of effects like Field and Trophy.

The clones are much less complicated as they are all pretty redundant. Before the combo they duplicate our ramp or dive in front of attackers to buy time. Then once Gyruda is in play they make the combo work. Spark Double is the best because the copies it makes are non-legendary; and clones of that clone will be as well. Clone is the worst because it does nothing special but is the easiest to cast. Altered Ego can get out in front of a threat and beat it with a +1/+1 counter if necessary. Clever Impersonator can copy any nonland permanent, which gives it the unique ability to double our Wolfwillow Havens.

Vizier of Many Faces is only notable when the combo fizzles. Often when you combo off you will be dumping a lot of clones into the grave; bin Vizier over another clone if you can. If you fizzle you know you can try again next turn via embalm. The honorary clone is Wispweaver Angel. It does not enter as a 6/6 but it does recur Gyruda’s etb. Unlike non-Spark Double clones though, you get to keep the body. From there you start cloning Angel rather than Gyruda to net a 4/4 flyer with each iteration. You can continue with this till you hit Kolaghan or swap to the Spark Double combo if the opportunity arises.

The ramp effects are pretty straightforward as well. Sylvan Caryatid is the best. It is the toughest blocker and always hexproof. Paradise Druid is the runner-up but it is not close. When you tap this on Turn 3 to cast a clone, you are opening yourself up to get embarrassed. They will have an opportunity to remove it and leave your clone without a body; you can copy an opposing creature but your mana development is now stunted. The rare upside is that if not used for mana, it can contribute two damage to the alpha strike at the end of the combo. Then finally we have Wolfwillow Haven. This one is always removal proof but only produces G and cannot be cloned without Clever Impersonator. Keep in mind that after Turn 2 it can functionally cost one mana; cast it on an untapped land.  The sacrifice ability has not come up for me but you never know.

Then we have our legendary creatures. Gyruda abides by its own companion requirement so you get to mainboard extra copies. While going off, these act as rerolls if you hit one but do not hit a clone. These also help you to win through counterspells and the rare removal spells that can actually answer Gyruda. Then our big finisher is Dragonlord Kolaghan. This gives all of our kaiju haste and is six evasive haste damage on its own. The second paragraph might be the most meaningless text ever printed on a Magic card. I have seen builds with Thassa’s Oracle as well. Please do not do this. Hitting 3-4 kaiju followed by a Dragonlord is pretty easy. Milling out most of your deck and having Thassa’s Oracle near the bottom is pretty difficult.

The sideboard was interesting to build. We would love Mystical Dispute but Gyruda will not accept its odd mana cost. I considered Jace’s Defeat but it is not worthwhile; casting Gyruda with two mana up is an eight mana play. Cyclonic Rift is our catch all for permanent-based hate and it is not unreasonable to overload it to buy time. I have seen others use Blink of an Eye and I think it is a reasonable budget option. Damping Sphere is exclusively for Lotus Storm as they can race us effectively. Aether Gust is a multi-format staple at this point. We do not want to get run over by the aggressive red and green decks of the format.

Thought-Knot Seer is perhaps our most important sideboard card. Mystical Dispute is the top sideboard spell in the format and the cleanest answer to Gyruda. We need to answer it proactively and Seer is our best option to clear the coast the turn before we go off. Gyruda would not allow us to run Thoughtseize but Agonizing Remorse would be an option if you are willing to shake up the manabase. However, I do not think that it is worthwhile. The last slot is Aetherize and I am not sure about it yet. It is an odd mid-point between Cyclonic Rift and overloaded Cyclonic Rift. I have tried Dungeon Geists in the slot as well and it was fine; upside was that it can be cloned. Honestly, this slot has just felt unnecessary as aggro matchups are favorable. But as you will see with the sideboard guide, we cannot just jam more hate for the other matchups.

Mulligan Guide
Simply put, mulligans are strange with this deck. You are a combo deck but it is a one-card combo and it is already “in your hand” every time. God, companion was a mistake. Believe it or not, the optimal hand is probably four lands, two ramp spells, and a Gyruda. The second ramp spell can be replaced with a suitable clone. The Gyruda is not necessary, it just means you can try again if the first copy is answered. We run all of the clones, angels, and dragons for when we are going off. You actively do not want them in your hand; the more in library, the lower your odds of fizzling when going off.

This is especially true of Kolaghan. One in hand means that there is just one left in the library for the alpha strike. Drawing it or milling into it early will set your win back a full turn, or it might be stuck way down in your library. Most clones are just fine in hand but you really would prefer you Spark Doubles and Angels to be in the deck for maximum odds of hitting them early while going off. I generally do not keep hands with Kolaghan for the aforementioned reasons but 0specific hands can use it an an alternate win condition.

All of this being said, bottoming these cards when you mull does not do you any favors. You do not have shuffle effects to redistribute them, they are just trapped on the bottom of your library and you almost certainly will not see them again. It is fine to keep a hand with a Spark Double or Angel; there are still seven copies of the effect in the library. Spark Double especially is still useful. It can copy ramp to accelerate you or it can restart the combo in earnest the turn after you fizzle.

The short of it: Ideally you have at least three lands and a ramp effect in your opening hand. You probably will find the fourth land and supplementary ramp, perhaps a clone, in time for your combo turn. You never want to keep a one land hand and a two land hand is only acceptable if you are on the draw or have a scryland. I do not want more than one copy of Spark Double / Wispeaver Angel and I do not want Kolaghan; bottoming these cards is even worse than holding onto them. Obviously, you cannot be as picky after the first mulligan.

Play Patterns
Temple of Mystery usually should be put in on Turn 1 where the ETB tapped clause cannot burn you. The exception would be if you have enough early land drops and two mana dorks; then the scry is more useful just before you combo. Hold back Blast Zone as long as possible so that the opponent does not play around it. Do not shock yourself to bluff something with a lone Breeding Pool; you declared Gyruda, they know you do not have a one drop in the deck. Try to hold Zhalfirin Void to be your fourth land; then your first Gyruda trigger functionally goes five cards deep.

When sequencing mana dorks, lead with those that are hardest to answer. Avoid tapping a Druid into open mana whenever possible. Again, If they kill it before you can clone it you will be miserable. Just go for it on the combo turn though; dead Druids do not matter when your opponent dies later that same turn. On a related note, you typically should just slam Gyruda into open mana; the companion copy if you have the option. This is not a combo deck with a guessing game, they know you have it. If you have the mana, they will leave that interaction untapped forever. You need to force them to have it. By leading with the revealed copy, you at least get some hidden info back and the opponent may tap out when you pass back; opening the door for a second attempt.

When you are going off, your choice in clone effects is not particularly relevant. Obviously, Spark Double is the top priority and Angel is the runner-up. Again, bin a Vizier if you have the option so that you can embalm it for a second attempt incase of a fizzle. Clone, Ego, and Impersonator are virtually identical when going off. Gyruda is worse than any clone effect because you will just lose it to the legendary rule.

Again, Gyruda makes both players mill four. You can pull your even-costed reanimation target out of their pile if it is worthwhile. I did manage to build my own Inverter combo this way once; fizzling the first attempt  and grabbing Inverter then seeing the Oracle to win on the second attempt. That was a lot of fun. This deck does not take much brain power so at least try to be mentally present to catch these lines.

The sideboard strategy is super simple as well. I only every board out the two Wolfwillow Haven and/or the two Clones. This is an all-in combo deck and anything you board out weakens your gameplan. You can get away with eight ramp spells and twenty clone effects but you should not go lower. There are matchups where more than four sideboard cards are good, but I do not believe it is worth making your combo less consistent. Here is a short sideboard guide for what I consider to be the Top 10 decks:

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +2 Aetherize, +2 Rift

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +2 Gust, +2 Aetherize

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +4 Thought-Knot

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +4 Thought-Knot

Out: -2 Haven, –2 Clone
In: +4 Thought-Knot

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +4 Thought-Knot

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +2 Gust, +2 Rift

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +2 Aetherize, +2 Rift

Lotus Storm
Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +4 Damping Sphere

Out: -2 Haven, -2 Clone
In: +4 Thought-Knot

How To Beat The Deck
I will start by saying that exile-style graveyard hate is ineffective against this deck. Gyruda says “from among those cards” rather than “from a graveyard”. This means that placing the cards into exile is irrelevant; Gyruda did not ask where they were. The graveyard hate that does work is Grafdigger’s Cage and any deck can run it. White mages have access to Hushbringer, which is also good against Inverter. Dranith Magistrate can work too but says “cast” so the combo itself ignores it; they just need a real Gyruda to get things started. The best way to deal with the deck is via instants and sorceries rather than permanents. Counterspells like Dispute and Stroke are great. Hallowed Moonlight is a forgotten gem as well.

Removal can work too if you do it in response to the ETB trigger and they do not land another Gyruda. But it takes very specific removal to bring down a legendary blue/black six mana 6/6 at instant speed. It incidentally dodges Fatal Push, Doom Blade, Cast Down, Fry, Lava Coil, and so on. You will instead want things like Stasis Snare and Assassin’s Trophy. Settle the Wreckage is good if they cut the combo early or do not play around four untapped lands. Lost Legacy can be played on Spark Double to force Angel to carry the weight but you are not doing much with that play. Gideon’s Intervention can be lights out as it is very expensive to deal with it via Blast Zone.

The Verdict
Part of what makes the deck so good is that most of the hate for it is somewhat narrow in the current format. You need to pack sideboard hate or you will get goldfished. A traditional all-in combo deck loses to two things: opposing hate cards and its own inconsistency. The latter just does not apply here. It is a one card combo and it is in your hand every single game; so they need the hate. But a traditional all-in combo cannot consistently mull to its combo + anti-hate cards.

With this deck though, the combo is already there. You just need six mana sources; go ahead mull to the anti-hate. I think this deck is very good. The odds of the combo fizzling within five triggers is about a 50/50 but that is usually all you need. The fizzle is not like other combo decks either. If you have a clone in hand or a Vizier in the grave, you just try again next turn; the 6/6 blocker should help you survive till then.

The Looming Hammer
My primary concern for the deck is a ban. It is extremely consistent and pushes Pioneer further into the “play blue or get run over” territory. Companion is bad game design and this is a great way to demonstrate that. That being said, I do appreciate how unique the deck is. It would be a shame to see it banished. If the hammer has to fall, I hope it is on Spark Double so that Kaiju Combo can live on.

We would likely just add more clones and lean more heavily on Wispweaver Angel. It is worse pre-combo, it cannot copy ramp, and it generates less power while going off. If the deck proves to be too good, I hope that they let us hold onto such a build. It would still be good but noticeably slower and less consistent. But it already struggles with the format’s top sideboard spell so it might not need a nerf at all.

I am not sure how the guide to this braindead combo deck ballooned to 3,500 words but here we are. I tried to cover everything but if you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask. Do you think this deck has a shot at the top tier? Do you think companions ruined Magic? Let us know in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back soon with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s