I built a Gisela Deck a little while back to participate in a League that had points for having a Red/White deck (plus some other things for Valentine's Day) and since I had wanted to build a Red/White deck already, I figured I would go all out to make it a permanent addition to my decks.
I chose Gisela because I liked the idea of using her ability for non-combat damage which allows me a little freedom to go outside of just having a combat theme that RW generals seem to gravitate towards. There is still quite a bit of combat-centric cards, such as the equipment, but I can go beyond that a little. Also, a friend already built Aurelia, the Warleader and I wanted something different.
I also fully foiled out the deck which is posted here (which is the decklist as of 08/26/17):
Combat is still a major themes of the deck which is why the Swords are there as well as the Equipment tutors. However, cards like Rolling Earthquake, Inferno Titan, Heartless Hidetsugu, Purphoros, Ajani Vengeant, Comet Storm, and so on are there to take advantage of Gisela. With Gisela in play, Mana Crypt only causes me to take 1 damage (at most). Pyrohemia deals 2 damage to every other player and creature they control while dealing none to me. Kumano is there is help exile big creatures if necessary. Reflect Damage is pretty good too. Since I am the affected player (most likely) I can apply Reflect Damage's replacement effect first to send the damage back to the source's controller and then Gisela applies to double that damage.
Stigma Lasher is there because of a couple people who are big on life gain. Since this deck wants to be able to win with damage, stopping players from gaining life is pretty important. Yes, it has to connect in combat, but it doesn't affect me like Leyline of Punishment would. I did have Leyline at one point but I didn't really like it was too easy to blow up before I could really start doing anything. Plus, it shuts off Gisela's prevention ability.
There are a couple slots that I could be conviced to change and I am going to be adding Recruiter of the Guard once it is released, but, for the most part, I like where the deck is now.
If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to offer them. I started this deck off as a more "burn-centric" deck, but in a multiplayer format, it just didn't work that well.
So why aren't you running repercussion? It seems a shoe in with your non combat theme, does nothing to your own stuff with a gisela out (or almost nothing) and is probably instant death for your opponents with a blasphemous act with or without your general online.
I am not sure why I am not running it. I think I knew about the card, but maybe it got cut early on for some reason.
In either case, I agree that it is a good card for the deck. It allows things like Pyrohemia, Rolling Earthquake, and Fault Line to become massive kill spells. I will have to find a spot for that card somewhere in the list and I will make a note to pick one up.
Repercussion was a great suggestion and I have found that I have never used Reflect Damage in any of the games where I had it in hand. It is a cute card in this deck, but I always felt that I wanted something different. Repercussion seems like it would be a better card for this slot.
I already run Imperial Recruiter due to the creatures it can tutor for and Recruiter of the Guard can tutor for all the same creatures plus it can also grab Kamahl, Pit Fighter. This list is actually pretty tight so making cuts is difficult. It came down to Livala, Keeper of Silence (since her ability isn't always relevant), Oreskos Explorer (as it doesn't really ramp and it is technically a 3 drop if I want to get lands), and Angel of Jubilation (the buff is nice, but it is rare to hit anything other than fetch lands in most matchups with her ability).
After a little deliberation, I decided that even though the two angels abilities came into play infrequently, they were still decent enough for inclusion. Oreskos, while letting me hit my land drops easier, just didn't do enough and I found myself not wanting to cast it in order to get more lands. Plus, with any other ramp, such as Knight of the White Orchid, I would never get a land off it.
Since it is coming down on turn 3 most of the time anyway, it felt better to swap it out for the new Recruiter. Worst case, I can just use the new recruiter to get a better ramp creature like Burnished Hart or Solemn Simulacrum.
I found that sometimes the deck kind of stalled out either due to land drops or not being able to get through damage. A friend suggested finding room for Avatar of Fury due to the cheap (conditional) mana cost and sometimes the deck just wants a big dump beater. The Firebreathing is nice too.
Finding room is difficult, but I decided that Faith's Reward was the cut to make. It ended up being a situational card that got stuck in hand more often than I liked. It just didn't come into play all that often, so taking it tout moves the deck a little more towards being aggressive vs reactive.
I have been cutting back on the amount of fetches I have been playing in my decks. I have started just keeping the fetches on color so off color fetches have been cut from all my decks. That means that for 2 color decks like this, it would leave 1 fetch which doesn't do much so I just cut all the fetches. In their place, I added 3 mountains and 2 plains to get the totals of each up to 11.
I cut two angels: Angel of Finality and Linvala. Finality was a great answer to dedicated graveyard decks, but it was the only answer with only one way to cast it at instant speed. This deck wants to be the aggressor so having specific answers like Angel of Finality never really fit the deck. Linvala falls into a permission role that never panned out much. There are a lot of creature abilities she shuts down but, again, the deck is all about speed and taking a turn off to cast a spell that didn't further the game was antithetical to the premise of the deck.
I added Forsake the Worldly to get a more general answer as well as another target for Sunforger. It also cycles in case I need another card so the utility of this card with a Sunforger/Mistveil Plains package is pretty high. So far it has been a welcome inclusion to the deck. Hanweir Garrison is another Hero of Bladehold in that it supports a go wide strategy if I need it. It packs a lot of damage in for 3 mana and, with Hanweir Battlements, represents a pretty significant threat. I just need to add the Battlements now (not sure why I didn't have it already). My next update will probably be adding it.
After playing this a little more, and my brother-in-law playing it, we came to the conclusion that in a 4 player game, there just isn't enough card draw to keep the deck going. As of right now, there are some Wheel effects and some cycling, but that is about it. As most people know, Red/White is terrible at card draw. Red has recently been getting some "temporary" draw and while it isn't bad, I am not sold on the cards we do have. I also don't like "rummaging" as it is not card advantage.
Chandra Ablaze does 2 things well; she deals damage (requiring a discard unfortunately) and she draws 3 cards. The nice thing about the minus ability is that everyone discards their hand and draws three so if someone has 6 or 7 (or more) cards in hand, this can level the playing field a but which the deck benefits from. And, drawing three cards at the expense of getting rid of 0-3 worthless cards in hand can be beneficial and, in this deck, generally seems like the discard portion of the effect will not be a hindrance.
I decided to cut Ajani Vengeant to make room as it never felt great in this deck. It didn't tap anything down and the Lightning Helix ability could only be used once every other turn (if I was fine with losing Ajani) or once every 3 turns (if I wants to keep him around). It is too much of a reactive card for a deck that wants to be proactive and aggressive.
In that vein, Gearhulk seems decent as well. Obviously giving an opponent a choice is bad, but with Gisela on the field, opponents are less likely to let me reveal 3 cards and have them take double damage from them. After all, if they re at 20 life or less, I only need to reveal 10 CMC to kill them. I am not sure how this will play out in practice, but in this deck I can see both halves being relevant especially when I just always target the player with the lowest life total. This makes it better than Browbeat in that there is an unknown risk and only one player gets to make the choice.
I decided to cut Soltari Visionary for this. Visionary is just too slow and, with the addition of Forsake the Worldly, I feel that my Artifact/Enchantment hate is pretty good. Add to the fact that Visionary needs to deal damage and only blows up Enchantments means it is slow and restrictive.
With Ixalan came the following cards that I felt would be good in this deck:
Rampaging Ferocidon - I had tried out Leyline of Punishment and considered it to be weak in the deck. It did its job well and was relevant, but it didn't really work to end the game on its own which meant I still needed other cards to do anything. Ferocidon is different. It is cheaper, has a decent body so it can actively deal damage by attacking, has evasion to make dealing damage easier, has a relevant trigger to deal damage when players try to go wide, and its static ability to prevent life gain seems extremely relevant. This is all round a good fit for this deck.
Vance's Blasting Cannons - This fits in with the latest changes I made in that the deck often has a problem with card advantage or keeping its hand full if the game goes late. It is part of red's "impulse drawing" so it does require the card be cast that turn. I am not a fan of exiling my stuff (which is why I haven't included any other impulse draw effects), but I think this combined with the fact that it can transform into a land that can deal damage means I am willing to try it out in the deck.
Blasphemous Act - I felt that a cheap board wipe is prudent in this deck as my current board wipes become fairly expensive if I need to deal a bunch of damage to deal with large creatures. Act only requires R (or somewhere around there) to wipe the board which lets me do more on my turn without forcing me to tap out to wrath the board. It is "worse" than the current ones as I can't scale it to save my creatures (it will always do 6 damage to my creatures with Gisela out and 13 otherwise) so it can often wrath a lot of my board if my creatures aren't equipped) but I feel this is acceptable.
To make room for these cards, I have decided to cut the following:
Kamahl, Pit Figher - This is somewhat of an odd cut since I am adding a worse version in Spitfire Bastion (the transformed side of Vance's Blasting Cannons) but that card does a little more than just deal damage so I feel it is acceptable for now. Kamahl has been on the chopping block for a while as there are plenty of cards that deal damage. I feel that there are enough cards to choose from that Kamahl doesn't do as much as another card in the slot. I am not totally sold on Vance's Blasting Cannons but I still feel that a 6 drop to deal damage every turn can be eventually replaced with something better.
Firemane Avenger - I like this a lot, but it is rarely relevant. The deck doesn't need the life gain and, like Kamahl, bolting (I guess it is Lightning Helix technically) every turn isn't as good as this slot could be doing. Add in to the fact that I need to attack with 3 creatures and do everything on my turn means it turns out to be worse in most cases than Kamahl.
Repercussion - I liked this card when it was first added and it has come through quite a bit. But, it has also been a double edged sword where it has killed me or significantly reduced my life total on a number of occasions. Add in the fact that my wraths are damage based means I could kill myself while trying to wrath the board (which would be needed to save myself). And yes, I can stack the triggers so everyone else takes damage first so there is still a potential where I wouldn't actually die (especially in the case of Blasphemous Act) since everyone else will take 26 damage for each creature that died while I will only take 6 (assuming Gisela is in Play), but I feel this is worthy of a cut and focus on trying to win with my creatures rather than trying to get this to work without hurting me.
Chandra Flamecaller was on my list of includes when I ended up included Chandra Ablaze. I think I didn't include her as the tokens would rarely do much since she doesn't come down until turn 6. By that time, opponents have blockers to deal with the tokens. The other issue is that the discard/draw ability isn't as good as I want it to be. I like that Ablaze gets me 3 cards no matter what. If I don't have a hand, I get one card from Flamecaller. Ablaze also makes everyone else discard which can be relevant.
This isn't to say I can't include both, but she did not seem high impact enough for me to include in the deck and, as with Neheb below, even if I wanted to include her, I am not sure of what the cut would be.
I am not sold on Neheb. Sure, he ramps but there isn't much for me to use the mana on except a couple X spells. I admit I haven't really considered him for this deck so I am not sure what the cut would be to make him fit. He just doesn't seem like a good fit as dealing a bunch of damage before combat (or during combat) means there is less likely anything after combat I want to cast to use that mana on. Maybe I am underestimating his impact, but it seems low.
The only other wheel effects I know of are Wheel of Fate, Dragon Mage, Memory Jar, and Runehorn Hellkite. I don't like Wheel of Fate or Memory Jar as they are "random". Fate doesn't really let me time the wheel properly and Jar forces me to cast the "new" hand or lose it which this deck really can't do. The two dragons are alright but Mage requires damage and Hellkite is expensive. I could maybe be convinced to include Hellkite, but it still doesn't seem impressive.
Then gamble for mind's eye each and every single time.
Get lucky and draw cards.
You cannot afford not to play minds eye.
Mind's Eye is a good card. It is not a card I want in this deck. I am especially not going to include Gamble just to work with Mind's Eye as I don't like Gamble already. And, it is basically guaranteed that if I did add it, my first tutor choice is going to be Sword of the Animist to help me get to Gisela.
I am not suggesting that Mind's Eye wouldn't solve my card draw issues. I just think it causes other issues. The deck is trying to go fast and be aggressive. Mind's Eye requires holding up mana over a couple turns to make use of it and it requires I take a turn off just to cast it. So, I cast it turn 5 and do nothing. Then, turn 6, I maybe cast something and leave up 1 or 2 mana to draw 1 or 2 cards. I have essentially spent 2 turns to draw 2 cards at best (if I leave up mana to draw 3 cards, I will not cast anything that turn as I am unlikely to have much to cast for 3 mana). It is slow and clunky for this deck.
Magus and Wheel of Fortune are fine because they are cheap and they do everything right away. Chandra and Reforge the Soul do everything at once (and Chandra is repeatable). Chandra Flamecaller, from RaltheMad's post above, is probably the best card for this deck for card draw that I am not running. I really should find a spot for it. She is expensive too, but she does something relevant right away (either give me a new hand or give me beaters). This is far better than Mind's Eye in this deck.
Why not just play more high quality mana rocks to get to Gisela? Chromatic Lantern could easily be Worn Powerstone or Coalition Relic. or Just play them all.
I'm high on Mind's Eye because I doubt that you're able to tap out every single turn when you're low on cards. You're basically asserting that you play on-curve every single turn in every single game, which is unlikely. Even if you did, it's also probably not the best play for you to play on-curve every game, I'm absolutely you'd have free mana more often than enough to make use of Mind's Eye.
Playing Mind's Eye on turn 5 is not "doing nothing." It's an investment into a card draw engine that exceeds anything else you're playing in your 99. Mind's Eye does not require holding very much mana. 2 mana the next turn makes it card positive. Mind's Eye also snowballs very quickly and complements wheels.
"Fast and aggressive" in EDH is about card draw and mana ramp not dealing damage or playing threats. A deck that can draw more cards and play more spells is more aggressive and will deal more combat damage over time.
After that, I attacked the same person and got a Sword of Fire and Ice to draw a card and burn one of his creatures to kill it (I forget what it was). Then, the next player cast Return to Dust on both Swords.
I eventually got down a Sunforger and, over the course of the game, I tutored out every Red/White Instant I could cast with it. Unfortunately, I never got to my Mistveil Plains so I could re-use any of my Instants.
At one point, I had one creature and it was being destroyed, I responded by unattaching Sunforger and casting Enlightened Tutor. This got me Combustible Gearhulk. I then targeted the payer at 7 life with the trigger so I drew 3 cards. One was a land and 1 was Imperial Recruiter. Recruiter got me Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker which I then used to copy Recruiter to get Duergar Hedge-Mage so I could destroy an opposing Blind Obedience that was slowing me down. Then, I copied Gearhulk a couple of times which let me draw 3 cards one more time and the opponent took the risk of damage another time. But, attacking with it was able to get me close to closing out the game.
At one point, I had Comet Storm in hand but I was trying to get both players with it so I was doing other things (like casting my general) first. Unfortunately, one opponent cast Death Cloud with X = 1. Gisela was my only creature and Comet Storm was the only card in hand so I lost that. looking back, I should have just killed the player at 7 since they eventually got back up to 24 off Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. That is what allowed them to take the damage off the copied Gearhulks above.
In any case, I was able to stabilize with the Gearhulk and ended up just beating face with that for a few turns until I got Gisela down again and that basically clinched the game.
So, that game went really well and was able to thrive even through a bunch of removal. As shown in the summary above, I did get down to 2 or fewer cards in hand a couple times and the card draw I have added has been relevant. Looking at it, I am not sure whether Chandra Flamecaller would have been a welcome top deck. Knowing I have that as an out may have led me to hold onto lands in case I needed more cards, but I also needed to play my lands as Gisela ended up costing 13 mana at one point.
I also get umtiger's point about Mind's Eye (though our definitions of "fast and aggressive" are obviously different). But again, looking at the game above there were very few times I would want to cast Mind's Eye. Due to me trying to aggressively attack the opponents I would not have cast Mind's Eye until turn 8 or 9. Perhaps this isn't necessarily a bad thing as I did have mana to cast it eventually (assuming I ever drew it of course) but it is worth noting that it wouldn't hit the field until a little later.
So, even if I want to include it, I am faced with the decision of what to cut for it, I really want to see if Vance's Blasting Cannons can be decent, but I am thinking it isn't. It is pseudo-card draw but slow and restrictive. Then, once transformed, it is a slightly worse Kamahl, which I have cut, I haven't actually cast it yet, but just looking at it again I may have made a mistake in including it. But, realistically, if I cut it, it will be replaced by Chandra.
One major exclusion in this deck is Lightning Greaves. With the amount of equipment I have, Swiftfoot Boots might be the better call, but this gives me a way to give Gisela haste when I cast her if I only have 7 mana. Other than Hall of the Bandit Lord and Urabrask the Hidden, no other cards really give me this option and Greaves helps protect her on top of the haste.
Looking through the deck, I have been really disappointed by Vance's Blasting Cannons. I also don't feel that Heliod, God of the Sun is all that good here either. Having Vigilance is great, but I don't find that I get to Heliod all that often anyway. And I don't think I have created more than 2 or 3 tokens for all the times I have actually got to him anyway as it is a lot of mana.
2 other cards I am keeping an eye on are Kumano, Master Yamabushi and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. Jaya has done literally nothing since she has been in the deck (and she has been there since the beginning). The biggest reason is the card draw issues I have mentioned above a number of times so not having many cards in hand and then discarding cards do not play well together. As I work towards trying to fixing the card draw issues, Jaya may become better but, even then, I just don't see a scenario where I will want to Incinerate someone. Inferno could be useful but it is basically a one time use since she will kill herself. And if I am already not running actual Inferno, I don't think she is going to be right either.
Kumano, however, is actually really good to get in the last few points of damage on someone (especially with Gisela out) but I keep wavering back and forth on whether he is the best that slot can be. I don't really know what I want this to be, but every time I look at my deck looking for cuts, he always makes the initial list even though I never actually cut him. I suppose he is on a "watch list" for now.
With the above underwhelming cards (Heliod, Jaya, and Vance's Cannons) I have decided to make a couple tweaks to the deck to see what happens. As mentioned, I think Lightning Greaves is a card that has been excluded too long so I will add that. Based on RaltheMad's suggestion, I will slot in Chandra Flamecaller for one of these slots. And, despite my above insistence, I am going to go with umtiger's suggestion of adding in Mind's Eye. They may ultimately prove right, but considering the cards I am cutting are already low impact, I can see where I would most definitely want a Mind's Eye over these 3 anyway. So, I don't think I am risking a lot by slotting in Mind's Eye and I realistically have a lot to gain if my initial assessment about it proves incorrect.
So far, the most recent changes to the deck have been working out pretty well. I played this deck on Friday and had a pretty good game with it. I was playing against Atraxa and Lyzolda, Blood Witch. The game started off really slow for Atraxa and I started off with Mana Crypt and Chromatic Lantern on turn 1. From there, I was able to power out a few things and eventually got Gisela down. However, they were able to keep her off the board pretty well, so I wasn't able to utilize her as much as I wanted. At one point, I did get to swing with her against Lyzolda twice so they were at 20 Commander Damage. The following turn I was at once life with Mana Crypt's trigger on the stack. The die roll did not cost me life so I was able to live for the turn.
I then cast an Inferno Titan and gave it haste thanks to Flamekin Village. I killed Lyzolda's flyer and then I tried to be cute by attacking them with Inferno Titan (pumped once) and Gisela at Atraxa. This would have been exactly lethal at Lyzolda, but I forgot they had a Solemn Simulacrum to block with. So, they blocked and got rid of some of my stuff the next turn. Atraxa then cast Austere Command to kill all my artifacts and Gisela.
The next turn I managed to kill the Lyzolda player but now I was behind to Atraxa as they were at 21 life and I was at 4. We went on for a while where I was just struggling to stay alive and Chandra helped me by wrathing the board. However, the board eventually turned into Atraxa having 2 flyers and a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I was doing my best to chump and stay alive but it was not going well. I had 1 creature on board (a 2/2; I forget which) with one of my swords. My only play was to cast Combustible Gearhulk in the hopes of drawing cards. My opponent decided giving me cards was a bad idea so they had me mill 3. The 3 cards milled were Blasphemous Act, a Sword, and Stonehewer Giant. This was enough for 17 damage and I was able to equip my 2/2 with a sword and swing in for lethal. They could not block as they tapped their Thrummingbird and my creature had Pro Black to stop Atraxa from blocking.
The somewhat ridiculous end to the game was awesome in that I never expected Gearhulk to deal that much damage. The way I was able to barely not lose to Mana Crypt as well as eke out a win against a deck that had me on the ropes towards the end means it is a game I wanted to summarize here.
Not much to update with this deck really. So far, everything I have has been performing pretty well. I am thinking of Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker though I am not sure if I want her. She is 5 mana, but she does help "protect" my artifacts at least to a degree. She is also a decent body so I want to find room for her to try out. The main question is what to cut for her. As my previous posts have shown, finding cuts in this deck are pretty hard as I have the deck where I want it to be for the most part.
As of right now, I am thinking of getting rid of Knight of the White Orchid. It is the worst card in the deck from what I can see and I have slowly been cutting it out of most of my decks anyway. So this seems like the best choice to make room.
I never got around to adding Tiana, Ship's Caretaker and I am still not sold on her. It rarely feels like she will be that productive. I already feel like I am possibly over-reliant on equipment as it is so doubling down on it seems bad.
Instead, M19 brings Leonin Warleader. It plays in the same vein as Hero of Bladehold and Hanweir Garrison and allows me to go wide as needed while also creating blockers (for the next turn cycle of course). The fact that they have lifelink and the Warleader is a 4/4 on its own also makes it more useful. So once M19 is released I am going to cut Stigma Lasher. I know I said Knight of the White Orchid was next on the chopping block, but I think Stigma Lasher does even less. It is a great card on turn two, but I think of all the games I have played, or my brother in law has played, Lasher has probably only hit a handful of times. It is low-impact enough that its inclusion at this point is questionable.
The first game was basically the same thing except my opponents were the ones who had a poor game. I started with a Hall of the Bandit Lord. I then played a Sunhome, cast a Sol Ring, cast a Chromatic Lantern, and cast a Serra's Ascendant. Next turn, I dropped a Sword of Feast and Famine and swung at the Tawnos player. Next turn I played a land and dropped in a Hanweir Garrison with Hast thanks to the Hall and swung in again. And that is basically how the game ended; I swung with tokens and Ascendant for a few turns, while getting stuck on 3 or 4 lands, and just overtook the game from there.
The second game isn't worth going into detail about: I started off with Plateau into Sol Ring. Next turn I cast Stoneforge Mystic to get Sword of the Animist and played a land so I could play the Sword. Next turn the Grenzo player blew up my Sword and Sol Ring. I missed a land drop so I pathed my Mystic to get another land, but then the Grenzo player hit me with 6 creatures and exiled 4 lands. I didn't draw another land on turn 4 and just scooped it up.
So, the second game was certainly retribution for how quickly I ended the first game. Nothing really to report beyond this and neither game is really indicative of how this deck is meant to function. The only takeaway from both is that I was lacking in lands pretty hard and, in the second game anyway, I should have mulliganed, but I expected to be able to use my Stoneforge to get Sword to get lands. I hadn't expected a turn 3 By Force.