Commander Deck of the Week: Hylda of the Icy Crown

The Commander deck of the week features an icy, tap-down theme with Hylda of the Icy Crown from Wilds of Eldraine

Hylda of the Icy Crown, illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak

I’m proud to say that I’ve got at least one Commander deck built in paper for each of the various color combinations in Magic (including colorless), but obviously I find the legends available in some color combinations more appealing than others. Azorius is one where the legends don’t usually speak to me – mostly because they tend towards controlling strategies and that’s not something I personally enjoy much whether it’s Commander or tournament Magic. So, when I first saw  Hylda of the Icy Crown, I figured it was just another controlling legend and I wasn’t interested.

Hylda of the Icy Crown

Over the course of a few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about Hylda. Yes, a Hylda deck is going to want cards like Icy Manipulator and of course Hylda’s Crown of Winter to tap down creatures, and those sorts of cards have traditionally been used to force opponents to commit more creatures to the battlefield and then get pummeled with a battlefield sweeper like Wrath of God. But those sorts of sweepers are usually going to destroy Hylda too and make two of her three abilities pretty much worthless.  This led me to realize that to fully unlock Hylda’s power, you’re going to want a more aggressive deck that uses the tapping of opponents’ creatures as a way to influence combat rather than as a way to squeeze more value from sweepers. Say, for instance, you want to attack with Sun Titan but a deathtouch creature stands in your way. You can simply tap it, get value from Hylda, and attack away!

Now this is exactly the sort of creature-centric strategy I enjoy in Commander, and I love that it makes all of Hylda’s abilities relevant. Need to build out your battlefield presence?  Make a 4/4 token. Need to boost your army’s size?  Give them all a +1/+1 counter. Need some gas?  Scry 2 and then draw a card.  All while tapping down an opponent’s creature, which you can do defensively to keep it from attacking you, offensively to push through attackers, or politically with wheeling and dealing.  “If you don’t attack me with that creature I won’t tap it down” or “If you attack that player I’ll tap the biggest blocker.”

Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea and started pulling the cards together for it, and finally got it all sleeved up and ready to go. Let’s dig in!

Permanents That Tap Creatures

Hylda's Crown of Winter Icy Manipulator Icebind Pillar Queen of Ice Rimewind Taskmage Elvish Mariner Dreamshackle Geist Retreat to Coralhelm Niblis of Frost Frost Titan Tolarian Kraken Junk Winder

Permanents that can tap creatures again and again are obviously quite good in this deck. One big upside to building this deck was having a good reason to put my Unlimited Icy Manipulator into a deck for the first time in forever. That Douglas Shuler art is just iconic early Magic!  Did you know that in the old days, tapped blockers didn’t deal combat damage?  You used to be able to attack into blockers and if they made blocks that were unfavorable to you, you could “ice down” one of them with Icy Manipulator and they wouldn’t deal combat damage.  The fact that they’ve changed that rule twinges my nostalgia a wee bit, but it never really made much sense anyway. New players would justifiably ask “so this tapped attacking creature will deal combat damage, but this tapped blocker… won’t?”

Queen of Ice’s tap ability as a creature is a little bit sketchy since it’s only a 2/3 and combat is going to easily be lethal, but the flavor fit is just too good not to include it.  Besides, a few +1/+1 counters and Queen of Ice starts to be something opponents will want to block.

Have you ever played with or against Junk Winder?  The card is just bonkers, and while I don’t have a ton of ways to create tokens in the deck, Hylda does the trick quite well.  Besides, who doesn’t want to get that train going? Tap a creature, make a token, Junk Winder taps another creature, make a token, rinse, and repeat for each mana you want to spend!

How about that new card Elvish Mariner?  You can use Hylda’s scry 2 ability and draw a card, and then Elvish Mariner will let you tap up to two nonland permanents, and if you choose a creature to tap you can do it all again, for one mana.

One Shot Tap Effects

Scroll of Isildur Dragon Turtle Solitary Sanctuary Cone of Cold Cryptic Command Tamiyo's Compleation Sharae of Numbing Depths Githzerai Monk

While having reusable tap effects are the most efficient, they’re also quite obvious and your opponents will be highly incentivized to destroy them, so we’ll want to round out with some tricks they might not see coming. I have a foil rulebook style Dragon Turtle I’ve been looking to find a home for, and this seems perfect. That 3/5 body will look great with a couple +1/+1 counters!  Githzerai Monk is another sweet Dungeons & Dragons inspired card that can flash out there to tap down all my opponents’ creatures, though it costs five mana to cast, so odds are I won’t be able to cash in all that often, but when I do, there will be so many Hylda triggers and opening everyone up to a big attack could be game-breaking!

Protect Hylda

Pippin, Guard of the Citadel Selfless Spirit Rayne, Academy Chancellor Boromir, Warden of the Tower Clever Concealment

In addition to destroying my tapping permanents, opponents will likely start pointing removal at Hylda too as my battlefield gets more and more threatening, so I’m running some ways to help keep her on the battlefield. Pippin, Guard of the Citadel is a fantastic protective card, and vigilance lets you add to your aggression with Pippin while still keeping the protection. Clever Concealment is an awesome way to preserve your army in response to a battlefield sweeper.

Rayne, Academy Chancellor doesn’t protect so much as disincentivize your opponents from burning a pinpoint removal spell on your permanents, and even though I don’t have Auras to juice her ability, I think it’s still worth it.


Warkite Marauder Harnessed Snubhorn Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant Guardian Scalelord Virtue of Loyalty Dream Trawler Sun Titan

These are the creatures that will help me deliver the beatdown. I’ve long loved Warkite Marauder, which can turn off the abilities of problematic creatures when it attacks, and combined with tapping down other blockers, it can really open up attack lanes. Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant is a big icy flavor win, and if it dies, it leaves behind Icingdeath, Frost Tongue, a sweet Equipment that taps a target creature when equipped creature attacks. Frost Titan is another flavor win that’s also perfect for the deck’s plan, and I’ve even got the Secret Lair version with that sweet Kaldheim special border.

I’ve already mentioned Sun Titan, but I also love its little sibling Guardian Scalelord, since its backup ability can let you bring back a nonland permanent from the graveyard right away, just like Sun Titan.

Virtue of Loyalty is a bonkers enchantment for any deck that’s planning on deploying a fair number of creatures to the battlefield – slowly growing your army, and giving them virtual vigilance.


Swords to Plowshares Rapid Hybridization Reality Shift Allay Generous Gift Stroke of Midnight Supreme Verdict Time Wipe

I’ve got many of the usual suspects when it comes to Azorius removal spells, including the new Stroke of Midnight that sits nicely next to Generous Gift. If battlefields get too bonkers then Time Wipe can bring Hylda or some other creature back to my hand while resetting the board.

Card Draw

Minas Tirith Skullclamp Borrowing 100,000 Arrows Dragonlord Ojutai Platoon Dispenser Sphinx's Revelation

I’m a big fan of Dragonlord Ojutai for aggressive beatdown in the air – especially if it’s nabbing some +1/+1 counters along the way – and I can’t wait to have it in play alongside Virtue of Loyalty.

I haven’t had a chance to play Borrowing 100,000 Arrows yet, but this seems like a great deck to give it a whirl. I’m definitely looking forward to casting this after playing Githzerai Monk on an opponent’s end step!


Demolition Field An Offer You Can't Refuse Barrow-Blade Soul-Guide Lantern Confounding Conundrum Arcane Denial Negate Dream Fracture

I do run a few counterspells to keep my opponents honest and to protect my battlefield position at crucial moments. You may have noticed that I jam Barrow-Blade in a lot of decks, and it’s particularly great here where I’ve got creatures that want to get into combat – shutting down special abilities that might otherwise be tough to push through.

Mana Ramp

Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Wayfarer's Bauble Mind Stone Arcane Signet Thought Vessel Midnight Clock Apprentice Wizard Solemn Simulacrum

A few months ago, I ran across an Apprentice Wizard in a box of old blue cards, and I’ve been slipping it into decklists recently. Sure, it’s squishy as an 0/1 for three mana, but is anyone really excited about wasting a removal spell on it compared to other, more scary creatures I’ll have on the battlefield?  If not, it provides a nice two mana bump that isn’t subject to mass artifact removal, which is a rarity outside of green decks.

Other Utility Lands

Scrying Sheets Cave of the Frost Dragon Hall of Storm Giants

I’m playing a bunch of snow-covered lands both for flavor reasons (Hylda is an ice queen, after all) and I’ve got a couple cards that care about snow, so I’ve tossed a Scrying Sheets in the deck for some potential card draw and information gathering. The two creature lands are my favorite from the cycle and it’s great to play them both in the same deck, especially Cave of the Frost Giant adding to the ice and snow flavor.

Okay, here’s the list!

Hylda of the Icy Crown
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 09-22-2023
Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

What must-have cards might I have missed including here?  Are there any other cool tap effects I might have overlooked?

Talk to Me

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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