Conditions Allow - Swans of Bryn Argoll EDH
(Swans of Bryn Argoll | Art by Eric Fortune)
Flight of the Swans
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the series where I take a card with a drawback and turn it into a strength. This week, I've been inspired by one of the cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One that really caught the attention of Commander players: Phyrexian Vindicator. Vindicator joins a long line of Boros Reckoners and Brash Taunters, but as a 5/5 flier is easily the best of them. Like many other players, Phyrexian Vindicator got me interested in building a deck around creatures that redirected damage dealt to them. It was while I was searching for all of the creatures with the Stuffy Doll effect that I re-discovered the card that is the focus of this article: Swans of Bryn Argoll.
Just like Phyrexian Vindicator, if damage would be dealt to Swans of Bryn Argoll that damage is prevented. Instead of redirecting that damage, however, the controller of the source of the damage draws that many cards. So, if one of your opponents plays Blasphemous Act, your swans will survive, but that opponent will draw thirteen cards. Any way your opponents have to draw cards becomes card advantage, including combat damage. This makes Swans of Bryn Argoll a popular choice for group hug decks on EDHREC, but not much else. There's plenty of power here, too, however.
Because you are in control of when you cast your own spells, it becomes much more likely that you will cast Blasphemous Act into your own Swans of Bryn Argoll. They also make for a pretty good value engine with Pyrohemia, draw your whole library with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, and turn all of your Lightning Bolts into Ancestral Recalls.
This is also when I stumbled on Lightmine Field. If you can get one or two copies of Swans of Bryn Argoll into play, then you'll draw three cards off each when you attack with Lightmine Field in play, and since they have four power, you're presenting a respectable threat to your opponents as well. This could slot nicely into a Jeskai build with Niv-Mizzets and Pyrohemia, but I was concerned with that deck's ability to actually find Swans of Bryn Argoll in the first place.
Not a Bant Idea
The best color to find creatures is green, so what if we drop Jeskai and go Bant? Other than getting access to Worldly Tutor, this also lets you play powerful clones, like Progenitor Mimic, to keep generating new Swans turn after turn. If you happen to already have enough Swans, Phyrexian Vindicator is a pretty good clone target as well. A few of them attacking into Lightmine Field is a pretty solid way to end the game.
Being Bant doesn't even lose you access to damage-based removal, either. You Hear Something on Watch may not be quite as flexible as Lightning Bolt, but five damage is more likely to take a creature out, and thanks to Swans of Bryn Argoll, you can always turn it into a two-mana: draw five. Or you could push through the last five points of damage with Phyrexian Vindicator.
I'm also glad to leave red behind because I don't want to combo with Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Mr. Izzet himself is powerful, no doubt about it, which can also make him a bit boring. Especially as a game-ending finisher, I'd like to look a little further afield. A quick search over on Commander Spellbook gave me exactly what I was looking for.
That's a Big Ouphe
Aerie Ouphes, in case you've never seen them before, are a 3/3 with Persist and the ability to sacrifice themselves to deal damage equal to their power to a creature with flying. Thanks to Persist, these Ouphes combo with Solemnity or Master Biomancer to deal infinite damage to flying creatures. Alternately, you can clone Aerie Ouphes with Moritte of the Frost or Spark Double, which both enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters to counter the -1/-1 counter from Persist.
As it just so happens, both of the creatures that inspired this deck have flying. With the Aerie Ouphes combo assembled, you can deal damage to Swans of Bryn Argoll until you draw Phyrexian Vindicator, then cast the Vindicator and repeat your combo to redirect damage to your opponents until you win the game.
To help make this even easier, I'm putting Kodama of the East Tree in the command zone (along with Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker, for the colors). With Kodama in on the battlefield, every time Aerie Ouphes enters play, you get to put something of four mana value or less into play. Coincidentally, Phyrexian Vindicator costs exactly four mana.
Of course, this combo still takes some setting up. Luckily, you don't have to pull off the combo to win. Just lining up Swans of Bryn Argoll, Lightmine Field, and a few clones can be enough, so while every creature tutor can grab Swans of Bryn Argoll, they can also find Moon-Blessed Cleric to grab Lightmine Field. Eternal Witness is here to fetch anything vital out of the graveyard.
Surround this creature toolbox with a healthy dose of removal, a little extra card draw, and a couple counterspells, and this is what we've come up with.
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Having built around it, I'm actually surprised that Swans of Bryn Argoll isn't more popular in EDH. You don't have to block with it as often, thanks to the extra life, and Lightning Bolt isn't a very commonly played removal spell. You actually have pretty good control over when and how these Swans will be dealt damage.
But maybe further play will prove me wrong. What have your experiences with Swans of Bryn Argoll been, if you've played it? Was ditching red for green a mistake? Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.