I’ve been brewing [[Zirda, the Dawnwaker]] since spoilers and am excited to present my finalized list for your review and feedback.
I’ve pasted the description below for those who would rather read it on reddit.
A proactive Zirda list with a focus on abusing equipments, mainly Umbral Mantle and Sunforger (hence the name). Extremely fast with an average CMC of 1.76 and very greedy for mana, with about a third of the 30 lands only tapping for colorless, this deck can be explosive and usually tries to win or swing for lethal against at least one opponent by turn 3 or 4, but can go off as early as turn 1 with the right cards (though such scenarios are extremely unlikely).
1 – Winning
2 – Combos
3 – Card Choice
4 – Mulligans
5 – Budget Options / Honorable Mentions
The two main win conditions of this deck are:
Making infinite mana and casting Walking Ballista to ping opponents for lethal damage
Attacking with infinitely large creatures pumped with Umbral Mantle
Infinite Walking Ballista Damage
A. Grim Monolith / Basalt Monolith + Zirda, the Dawnwaker + infinite mana outlet (Walking Ballista, Staff of Domination, Diviner’s Wand) = Walking Ballista or drawing into Walking Ballista for infinite damage
B. Palladium Myr / Metalworker (and an artifact in hand) + Umbral Mantle + Zirda, the Dawnwaker + infinite mana outlet (Walking Ballista, Staff of Domination, Diviner’s Wand) = Walking Ballista or drawing into Walking Ballista for infinite damage
C. Auriok Salvagers + Lion’s Eye Diamond + Chromatic Star / infinite mana outlet (Walking Ballista, Staff of Domination, Diviner’s Wand) = Walking Ballista or drawing into Walking Ballista for infinite damage
D. Sunforger + Zirda, the Dawnwaker + another white permanent + RRWWWW = Tutor Grim Monolith + Walking Ballista for infinite damage (Sunforger line below)
T1: Cast Chance for Glory, Cast Enlightened Tutor for Grim Monolith.
T2: Draw Grim Monolith. Cast Seething Song for RRW. Cast Grim Monolith for RR. Cast Tithe, find Mistveil Plains, play it. Cast Angel’s Grace. Cast Final Fortune. Equip Sunforger.
T3: On upkeep, use Mistveil Plains to shuffle in Enlightened Tutor and cast Enlightened Tutor for Walking Ballista. Draw and cast Walking Ballista, ping opponents for infinite damage.
Attack with infinitely large creatures
A. Palladium Myr / Metalworker (and an artifact in hand) + Umbral Mantle + Zirda, the Dawnwaker = Lethal combat damage at one or more opponents (unblockable lethal damage at two or more opponents if Zirda doesn’t have summoning sickness)
B. Paradise Mantle + Umbral Mantle + Zirda, the Dawnwaker = Pump any of your creatures without summoning sickness to lethal power for 1 mana (pump for free with Puresteel Paladin and any additional artifact)
C. Umbral Mantle + Zirda, the Dawnwaker + mana dork without summoning sickness (Iron Myr / Gold Myr / Blinkmoth Nexus / Inkmoth Nexus) = Pump the dork to lethal power for free
3. Card Choice
Contentious picks – why you should run these.
Geier Reach Sanitarium / Mikokoro, Center of the Sea – Card selection / advantage, interaction with Thassa’s Oracle & Demonic Consultation.
Inkmoth Nexus / Blinkmoth Nexus – Can become infinitely large with Umbral Mantle and Zirda, the Dawnwaker, provides flying creatures to a deck that would otherwise have none.
Bag of Holding – Has many synergies with multiple looting / wheel effects in the deck, can get back all the cards you discard, and its costs are reduced by Zirda, the Dawnwaker to make it very economical to use.
Chromatic Star – Filters colorless mana which can make or break a combo or enable a tutor for an infinite outlet. Provides infinite draws with Auriok Salvagers and infinite mana (whether from a monolith or Lion’s Eye Diamond). Provides card advantage with Goblin Welder / Goblin Engineer.
Codex Shredder – Good interaction against topdeck tutors and universal recursion for only colorless mana. Recursion cost is also reduced by Zirda, the Dawnwaker.
Experimental Frenzy – Great late game card for interactive / staxy games. Provides incredible card advantage, and can combo with infinite mana and Sensei’s Divining Top to draw until you can cast Walking Ballista. Removal cost is reduced by Zirda, the Dawnwaker.
Abrade – Cheapest instant that hits both Collector Ouphe and Null Rod (the deck’s main weakness)
Angel’s Grace – Stops wins from Thassa’s Oracle / Laboratory Maniac / Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, allows you to run extra turns and use them with Sunforger, has split second.
Chance for Glory / Final Fortune – Extra turns to mainly for use with Sunforger or Gideon of the Trials – however, sometimes all you need is another turn to get one more mana to combo off, and these can be useful for those scenarios.
Seething Song – Great ramp to help fuel combos or looting with Oread of Mountain’s Blaze.
Tithe – Very useful whether you need colors or recursion in the form of Mistveil Plains.
Gideon of the Trials – Incredibly underrated stax piece, shuts down opponents “win the game” effects, wins the game for you if they can’t remove it. Allows you to abuse extra turn effects of Chance for Glory and Final Fortune.
Bomat Courier – Underrated card advantage in red. 1 mana, swings turn 1, triggers on attack. By turn 3, you could sacrifice it for a red mana and get 3 extra cards – the longer it lasts, the more value you get. Gets around Notion Thief / Narset, Parter of Veils and can give you back a hand if yours is wheeled away.
Goblin Welder – Great in case your Grim Monolith or Basalt Monolith is countered. Can kill Null Rod. Provides card advantage with Chromatic Star.
Gold Myr / Iron Myr – 2 mana colorless creatures that ramp and become infinitely large with Umbral Mantle and Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Can be played turn 1 with Mishra’s Workshop with mana to spare.
Gorilla Shaman – Powerful repeatable artifact removal, especially with the reduction from Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Can kill Null Rod.
Grand Abolisher – Protects our combos, prevents almost all interaction on our turn. Hard to cast at WW, but worth it.
Mother of Runes – Protects creature combo pieces, can make infinitely large creatures unblockable, can protect itself and stop large attackers without trample.
Oread of Mountain’s Blaze – Huge value with Zirda, a repeatable R to loot (or reverse loot, technically). Insane with Treasonous Ogre, being able to pay 3 life to loot can allow you to win on the spot.
Puresteel Paladin – Possibly the weakest choice in the deck, but a personal favorite of mine. Hard to cast at WW, but neither the draw nor the metalcraft ability is insignificant. Lets you pump all your creatures infinitely for free with Paradise Mantle, Umbral Mantle, Zirda, the Dawnwaker, and any other artifact.
Relic Seeker – Probably the second weakest include after Puresteel Paladin. I like to think of it as a slightly worse Stoneforge Mystic, and I believe it’s still worth running for the tutor effect.
Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner – Great card advantage for interactive games, can make creatures unblockable before you pump them with Umbral Mantle, can let you draw the turn it comes down. 25/27 of the creatures in the deck have power 2 or less (exceptions being Ranger-Captain of Eos and Zirda, the Dawnwaker).
Weathered Wayfarer – Can search for Inventors’ Fair or Mishra’s Workshop, or just let you keep hitting land drops. A 10/10 must run in my opinion.
Contentious exclusions – cards that (I believe) are too slow, aren’t proactive enough, and/or don’t provide broad enough stax effects.
Aven Mindcensor – Doesn’t help against Tainted Pact or Consultation, doesn’t help against Hermit Druid, costs 3 mana and you usually want to spend that mana doing something on your turn. Too slow and doesn’t do enough for this deck’s strategy.
Blood Moon / Magus of the Moon – Almost useless against monocolor decks, hurts our lands too (Urza go brrr).
Rule of Law / Eidolon of Rhetoric – Too slow / hurts our own deck & strategies too much.
Containment Priest – Almost made the list, but too many decks don’t care about it to the point that it’s not worth it just to stop Hermit Druid, graveyard recursion, and “to the battlefield” tutors / Polymorphs.
Deafening Silence – Pretty much same argument as Containment Priest – not proactive enough, doesn’t interfere with opponents enough.
Karn, the Great Creator – Too slow, not proactive enough.
Underworld Breach – Too many conditions to meet to make it work consistently (Lion’s Eye Diamond + Wheel of Fortune to combo, graveyard needs cards to use as recursion, etc).
Path to Exile – Swords to Plowshares is better in most cases, as Path can ramp an opponent. I prefer to run Abrade and both Pyroblast / Red Elemental Blast than Path to Exile.
You should usually keep hands with Grim Monolith, Basalt Monolith, Treasonous Ogre, or Artifact / Equipment tutors as long as you have a decent amount of lands / ramp too. Hands with lots of ramp and one or two draw / loot effects are also good options to keep. Mishra’s Workshop and a Myr or Metalworker is a very attractive opening. You should tend to be more conservative on mulligans, and usually shouldn’t need to mulligan more than twice to find a keepable hand.
5. Budget Options / Honorable Mentions
See the maybeboard for a list of good budget options you can use to replace expensive cards like Mishra’s Workshop and Candelabra of Tawnos.
Imperial Recruiter, Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Combat Celebrant, Village-Bell Ringer, and Splinter Twin are a great replacement combo package if you’d like to replace the Bomberman package (Aruiok Salvagers + Lion’s Eye Diamond). Stonehewer Giant is very powerful in the late-game as well.
Below are some combos that I really liked but had to take out because they were too slow or included dead cards.
Giant Giant – If you have 2WW up and Zirda out, you can swing with Stonehewer Giant and before damage is dealt, pay W and tap to tutor and equip Umbral Mantle, pay 1 to untap, pay W and tap to tutor and equip Paradise Mantle, pay 1 to untap, then tap/untap Stonehewer Giant to make him infinitely big.
Sunforger Turns – Infinite turns with Sunforger. Need Zirda, Sunforger, and 2RRWW.
T1: Repeated Reverberations, Chance for Glory = 3 Extra Turns
T2: Angel’s Grace, Tithe, play Plains, equip.
T3: Enlightened Tutor on upkeep for Reito Lantern, Seething Song, Reito Lantern, shuffle Angel’s Grace, Angel’s Grace
T4. Shuffle Seething Song, Seething Song, Final Fortune, shuffle Final Fortune & Angel’s Grace, Angel’s Grace
T5: Repeat T4
Thanks for the read! Thoughts appreciated.
Bonus challenge: Can you come up with any better Zirda / Sunforger combos than the two in this post?