Hello everyone! Today I’m bringing you the newest version of a deck that hasn’t seen much play since Ikoria, Cycling. Cycling saw super brief success back in Ikoria when Jeskai Lukka was the most popular deck, but fell off quickly after that. However, with the advent of Sultai Ultimatum coming into the metagame, Cycling may have found it’s foothold again propelling two players into the top 12 of last weekend’s SCG $5k Kaldheim qualifier. With that, it seems prudent to use the list that got to second place as it’s just felt so well built so far. Let’s take a look.
The deck has multiple avenues to win, but they all revolve around the same axis, cycling your cards. Since functionally every card in your deck has cycling, a lot of your turns are going to seem like there are infinite decisions, but if you follow my framework in the next section, you should be fine. The deck wins via 2 means, Zenith Flare and/or creature beatdown. Both plans are pretty easy to accomplish since as you keep cycling cards, you are working towards both of them. Whether you’re chunking your opponent with a turn 1 Flourishing Fox or you’re stalling until you can double Zenith Flare, as long as you can stay alive, you can almost always find an out to win.
This Cycling list is rather reminiscent of the old lists, but now includes a heavier blue splash to accommodate Improbable Alliance and counterspells in the board. Improbable Alliance works very similarly to Valiant Rescuer as cycling cards will net you tokens and if you go turn 2 Alliance and have 3 mana the next, you can start pumping out 2 1/1s a turn which can be devastating against any deck looking to 1 for 1 you.
Usually I do the sideboarding section next, but since this deck is both very viable in Bo1 and Bo3 alike, I’ll start with the gameplay tips so my Bo1 homies can jump right into the queue.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Try to play your threats first before Cycling Cards
Every turn your predominant choice is going to be between two options: deploy a threat or cycle a bunch of cards. Although working towards a fast Zenith Flare is very appealing, all of your creatures can be very scary if left unchecked so deploying them before you start cycling a lot of cards can be a valuable strategy. Think of it this way, if your opponent is forced to interact with your creatures lest they give you a massive advantage, you’re going to get them in the graveyard anyway. May as well put your opponent to the test to see if they can even beat the permanent half of your deck before even considering the Zenith Flare. Are there exceptions to this? Of course. If the only permanent in your hand is Drannith Healer, you can consider trying to cycle into a more powerful permanent.
However, if you are facing a deck that looks like it is trying to race you, Drannith Healer can be a valuable play against them. The bigger exception to this rule is if you’re facing a deck that looks like it’s only trying to kill all of your creatures, something like Mono Black Ugin. In that case, you are likely better off just trying to cycle into a bigger Zenith Flare instead of letting your opponent use the removal that is otherwise dead in their hand.
- Play your Zenith Flares as late as possible
Zenith Flare is going to be the primary way you win most of your games, and holding it as long as possible will give you the most value out of it. Although the ideal scenario is to hold it until you can one shot the opponent, that doesn’t mean you always get to. There will be scenarios you have to hit an opponent’s creature to stall for a few turns, or hit the opponent to get them closer in range for another Zenith Flare to follow up. This can be difficult to determine when you are supposed to do this, but a good rule of thumb is to fire off a Zenith Flare when one player is about to lose, whether that is you or them.
- Cycle your expensive cards first
Unlike the old versions of Cycling, you can actually cast every spell in your deck so choosing what to cycle isn’t as obvious. However, my guideline is that I cycle my most expensive cards first as it’s very unlikely you’re going to cast them in a timely manner or at all. After you cycle the expensive cards, I cycle the situational cards that you are unlikely to want to cast. This is generally where stuff like Startling Development and Footfall Craters gets cycled. Past that, you’ll likely to be forced to cycle creatures. I generally prioritize cycline Flourishing Fox and Drannith Healer in the late game as Valiant Rescuer costs 2 to cycle and Drannith Stinger can be a great play even in the late game.
- Get your Lurrus of the Dream-Den when you run out of things to do
Lurrus of the Dream-Den is really good in this deck, but getting it onto the battlefield is a very costly operation. First you need to spend 3 mana to put it into your hand, then you need another 3 mana to cast it. However, even with the 6 mana spent on Lurrus of the Dream-Den, it doesn’t really do anything until you cast a spell from your graveyard, which can be another one to two mana. Since Lurrus of the Dream-Den is so pricey, this is generally the last thing you want to do, but it is very nice that the deck has the option to play it. However, as I said before, if you’re stuck on the Wildcards, you really don’t need Lurrus of the Dream-Den, but it is an upgrade to the deck for only a single Rare. The exception to this is if you have 3 mana open and only 1 cycling card in your hand, instead of trying to cycle into more cycling cards, I would probably just get Lurrus back and have it as a potential play for all of your upcoming turns.
- If facing a Counterspell deck, try to wait until they tap low or are low on resources
Since Zenith Flare is your primary win con, this can be really awkward if you’re facing a deck that plays Counterspells like Rogues. In this scenario, you have to change your game plan slightly. Against counterspell decks, you are going to want to try casting as many of your creatures as possible to bait the opponent into countering those rather than your Zenith Flares. If your opponent isn’t taking the bait and constantly holds up mana for a counterspell, a great way to circumvent that is to wait until you have 2 Zenith Flare and 8 mana. If you can cast multiple lethal Zenith Flare in one turn, it’s generally unlikely that your opponent will be able to stop them all. Be patient, and cast them as late as possible.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
MONORED AGGRO (SLIGHTLY UNFAVORED – EVEN)
|+3 Glass Casket||-3 Improbable Alliance|
|+2 Redcap Melee||-2 Boon of the Wish Giver|
|+2 Shredded Sails||-3 Frostveil Ambush|
|+2 Skyclave Cleric|
This matchup will revolve around you staying alive long enough for Zenith Flare to stabilize you or kill them. Use your creatures as roadblocks and prioritize your Drannith Healers over your Stingers here.
MONOWHITE AGGRO (FAVORED)
|+3 Glass Casket||-3 Boon of the Wishgiver|
|+2 Skyclave Cleric||-2 Frostveil Ambush|
Monowhite plays similarly to Monored, but it is significantly easier since they don’t have Embercleave and your 1/1s are way more impactful on the board. They don’t have many ways to get around your blockers so block aggressively before they find a Maul of the Skyclaves.
GRUUL/NAYA ADVENTURES (EVEN – SLIGHTLY FAVORED)
|+3 Glass Casket||-3 Boon of the Wishgiver|
|+2 Redcap Melee||-3 Frostveil Ambush|
|+2 Shredded Sails||-1 Footfall Craters|
Adventures has big creatures which can be a pain, but they generally don’t do much in the face of a lot of tokens. If they are Gruul, prioritize not getting blown out by Embercleave. If they’re Naya, prioritize not dying to Goldspan Dragon. Zenith Flare will be the most common way you win this matchup, but Flourishing Fox can get the job done as well.
SULTAI ULTIMATUM (FAVORED)
|+1 Improbable Alliance||-2 Boon the Wishgiver|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-3 Frostveil Ambush|
Sultai is a great matchup for you as they don’t really have the means to deal with your game plan. Most lists don’t run Elspeth’s Nightmare anymore nor that many Shadow’s Verdict so overrunning them then Flaring them is a pretty easy way to win.
ROGUES (EXTREMELY FAVORED)
|+3 Glass Casket||-2 Boon the Wishgiver|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-3 Frostveil Ambush|
This matchup is more or less a joke as Rogues pads your graveyard for quick Zenith Flare kills. You can lose of course if your hand doesn’t line up, you don’t find a Flare, or they have the nuts, but you should be winning this matchup most of the time.
That’s all that I have for today! Thank you for reading!