The Case For Arcane Denial in Commander

I’ve made a Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca Commander deck, and it has met with some success. He can be very explosive and steal some games quickly. However, I wanted to make the deck be able to grind a little bit more and take advantage of the consistant card draw and become less of a glass cannon. I looked at some articles about Merfolk and their playstyle and it turns out they’re less of an aggro style tribe, but work their best in a control shell.

I wanted to be able to counter things and flash merfolk in, keeping my options open. I’m not going full counter control, but at least be able to stop combos and board wipes. Counters are difficult to play because you really need to know when to stop things, and when to keep counters up. Also, having a 100 card deck means I need a lot of counters to consistantly have at least one.

Counterspells do work well with Lullmage Mentor and he does create some kind of endgame where you can counter most of the things, while building up the board. Outside of him, there are other counters to concider:

Counterspell – The original. It will stop most things.

Negate – While it doesn’t hit creatures, it’ll stop most things we’re worried about, like board wipes, or some non-creature permanents we need to take care off, like nasty equipments or enchantments, and it’ll break up at least some of the combos.

Deprive – Also a cheap counter, and almost as good as Counterspell. Sometimes it gets to reset a land that is accidentally turned into an Island, or a land with an enter the battlefield trigger.

Forbid – With the extra draw from Kumena, and other card draw effects, the buyback is less problematic, so it’s like having a counterspell forever.

Swan Song – Another conditional counter. The great thing is that you only need to keep open to stop people from wrathing or comboing out.

Muddle the Mixture – While the countering is limited to instants and sorceries, these are the most common sources of boardwipes. It is nice to have the option to exchange it for one of the merfolk lords, or a Merrow Commerce though. It even can fetch a Biomass Mutation, but since transmuting can only be done as a sorcery, and costs this might be the most telegraphed combat trick ever.

Now, let’s talk about Arcane Denial. This is often concidered a bad Counterspell because of the inherent card disatvantage. This is generally true in 1v1 games, but less so in multiplayer games.

In multiplayer games most Counterspells are card disadvantage. You play a card to stop a card, which is a one-for-one trade with one player, but you’ll get behind on the other players. Arcane Denial is different, in that it replaces itself. Sure, the player you countered the spell off will gain an extra card, but in a 3 player game, it’s the same as any other counter, card advantage wise. With 4 or more players, it’s actually better.

As an added bonus, it’s less feel-bad than just countering a spell for the opponent, because they will get something in return, which also makes them more threatening in the long run. So, it’s politically advantagious as well.

Also, Arcane Denial allows you to counter your own spell, technically cycling it and going up a card. For the two cards spend, you get to draw three and while you won’t often go for this line of play, but it’s nice to have the option.

All in all, don’t dismiss Arcane Denial as a counterspell in multiplayer. Sometimes things have to be stopped now, and having a splash-friendly hard counter is always a welcome sight in such situations.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Rebuilding artifacts with Jhoira

As we’re getting closer to the Dominaria release, I’m getting stoked about rebuilding my Pia and Kiran Nalaar artifact deck, and having Jhoira at the head instead. The idea of the deck is to create a rube goldberg machine of mechanical mayhem and monstrosities, creating combos or setting up a factory that churn out huge golems and constructs and win that way. Oh, and there was that thing where I try to lock down the board with Kill Switch for laughs.

The trick of the deck was to use cards like Goblin Welder to get back important artifacts from the graveyard, and that’s where Pia and Kiran’s thopter tokens came in. Also, the saccing of artifacts for damage comes in handy, especially since having artifacts in the graveyard isn’t a problem for the deck. But I figure that I have enough scrap material anyway, and Jhoira’s card draw is more important to the deck. Also, having access to doesn’t hurt my options either. The deck already is packed, but with the extra colour I might be able to add some more flexible / more efficient cards here and there, saving some space.

My ideal artificer commander would be Goblin Welder and Master Transmuter mashed together as a legendary creature, but at least now we have a relevant artifact commander in these colours.

What’s also nice is that Jhoira doesn’t stand on her own in Dominaria, and there are plenty of new artifacts to try out.

The Guardians help get things back from the graveyard and can help to make use of all the welder effects in the deck. However, I also ran cards like Junk Diver but ultimately it didn’t feel like it is worth the deck slot. Still, you know, options.

This card doesn’t look like much, but considering that each copy also triggers, these could add up fast. And while 2/2’s aren’t that impressive, there are ways to combo out and make a lot of them, and at worst they can function as scrap fodder when dumpster diving with Daretti, Scrap Savant and the other welding/recycle effects. Also notable it’s a Assembly-Worker, and while that’s not a deep tribe, these can be fetched with Self-Assembler for value.

Since Commander is a singleton format, this is easy to overlook. doesn’t have many ramp options, and generally Darksteel Ingot ranks as about the top of the rate for mana fixing and ramp for . This only makes colourless mana, but that isn’t a problem when most of the cards are colourless anyways. Where it shines is that the deck is able to make copies of artifacts. Sculpting Steel makes it so the shard is already producing a good rate of mane, as is Mirrorworks. Using it as a template for an assembly line with Prototype Portal should make things spiral out of control quickly.

This is a beater on it’s own in an artifact-heavy deck, with enough cards that can untap artifacts already (Voltaic Key and Clock of Omens are cogs in the machine I try to build) and the self-untap is just slightly harder to activate than the one on Battered Golem.

Now that I have access to ├índ having Jhoira’s card draw there are options to use this and Battered Golem with Retraction Helix/Banishing Knack to combo out completely. You can use Helix/Knack on Traxos or Golem, return a free artifact to hand with them, replay the artifact, repeat. If you find a Sol Ring this way, you can tap it and get one mana each iteration, and just play all the artifacts in your deck (Just look out as Jhoira’s draw isn’t optional though! Check yourself before you deck yourself!)

So, now all my artifacts cost and can be warped in at instant speed? Even things like Darksteel Colossus or Darksteel Forge? Sure, why not? There is not much to say about this card except that it’ll probably become a Commander staple. Even if you don’t run much artifacts, flashing in a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is always a juicy option.

Even though the deck slots are limited, and I like to focus on artifacts, this could be interesting. Tutoring 5 cards deep is ok, doing it twice is nice, but turning all the random scrap and servos, clues and treasures into an army could well finish games there and then. People would see it coming turns in advance though. Thranning it in at the end of the last opponent’s turn, possibly hitting a Myr Battlesphere in the process just gives them one turn to deal with a crazy army though. Do I want this as a finisher instead of the numerous other combos? Maybe only if I can make enough space in the deck somehow.

This is a reprint I might concider. I run Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer to protects things and get stuff in the yard, for a big Scrap Mastery or otherwise being able to repeat enter/leave the battlefield effects. Card draw is nice, and the deck as a whole could have enough synergy to run Ichor Wellspring and Mycosynth Wellspring for value, I don’t know if this is enough carddraw next to Jhoira herself. I think, with all the possible untapping effects, I’m more likely to run Quicksmith Spy as a possible value engine. In the Pia & Kiran version I use Quicksmith Genius to smooth out my draws, so the deck space might be better served adding Riddlesmith instead.

All in all Dominaria has enough spicy things that might replace things in the currect deck, or that give me ways to consolidate the deck. And the full set will be revealed tomorrow, maybe giving me a couple of must-haves in addition to what is shown so far.

Posted under Commander / EDH