Magic Arena: Dimir Sinister Surveilance

Since the open beta of Magic Arena started, I jumped on the bandwagon and started playing it. It’s a bit frustrating so far, because I have a limited card pool. Grinding is in order. Since my physical games are usually either draft or commander, this is a way for me to get into standard constructed.

For a guild based on secrecy, the Dimir love to splash their logo on things.

The deck I’ll aim to collect is a Dimir Surveil deck. I like the amount of card selection and draw, and the more grindy control elements. The idea is to win with Thoughtbound Phantasm or the very evasive Dimir Spybug. These can grow quickly while you surveil and increase your card quality. This is suplemented by Disinformation Campaign for extra draw and disruption.

~ Dimir Sinister Surveilance ~

Creatures (16)

Darkblade Agent
Dimir Informant
Dimir Spybug
Nightveil Sprite
Thief of Sanity
Thoughtbound Phantasm

Spells (19)

Cast Down
Discovery // Dispersal
Notion Rain
Price of Fame
Sinister Sabotage
Thought Erasure

Enchantments (3)

Disinformation Campaign

Lands (22)

Drowned Catacomb
Watery Grave

So let’s go over the cards:

Darkblade Agent – With all the Surveil, it should have deathtouch most of the time, or at least representing it. The agent also draws extra cards, when he is not trading up with other creatures.

Dimir Informant – The informant surveils and is a reasonable blocker, invalidating most of the smaller ground creatures.

Dimir Spybug – This is one of the centerpieces of the deck: A creature with double evasion (flying and menace) that quickly grows into a significant threat. With some removal on the side to deal with a second flyer and it is basically an unblockable creature that gets big, fast.

Nightveil Sprite – A flyer that is a constant source of surveil. I might take House Guildmage in concideration here, but the sprite surveils for free.

Thief of Sanity – This competes with Darkblade Agent for the card advantage engine, but the Thief is always “on” when it comes to card advantage. So far, when I played this in Arena, I was pleased with it. Not only does it turn the weapons of your opponent against them, it gives information in what they are doing and mills them. It also helps against other Surveil cards by disrupting the top of their decks after they set these up.

Thoughtbound Phantasm – Like the Spybug, this is a creature that keeps growing. As a 2/2 for it comes down early, and it’s cheaper than most removal aimed at it, so tempo wise it’s great. As a 2/2 that soon gets bigger, it often invalidates anything attacking on the ground. Once it’s big enough to be able to attack it should sweep the floor with most things, especially with some removal as backup, and force opponents on the defensive.

Cast Down – Some cheap removal to deal with troublesome creatures.

Discovery // Dispersal – Either a cantripping surveil card, or an extra removal card when the opponent is hellbent. It can potentially deal with non-creatures in the right situation.

You take the “” pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

Notion Rain – Card selection and card draw. It’s good, but I’m on the fence if Mission Briefing might be better, because that’s an instant and it can help recast my removal and counters, and has a lower CMC. I think Briefing is overhyped a little when it was spoiled, and I love it for my Shu Yun deck, but it’s still a good card. Either is worth testing. Cutting Notion rain would mean missing out on some sweet art, though.

Price of Fame – Another removal spell. Mostly a reverse Cast Down, but it surveils and can hit (almost) anything.

Sinister Sabotage – Once I have someone hellbent and unable to handle the board, this stops them getting out of a bad situation, while advancing my plans. It’s a counterspell that sets up my draws and grows my creatures.

Syncopate – I wanted to run more counters, and my pick has been two Syncopates. It does have some competition and it may change to suit whatever problematic things I’ll encounter. This may be too much of a dead card later on in the game. Does Unwind fit the bill better?

If we’re using Syncopate, we might as well choose the Dimir art!

Thought Erasure – Getting information is key, and this shows me what my opponent is up to and also mess with their plans.

Disinformation Campaign – My main source of card advantage and hand destruction. It’s arguably bad in multiples, but since I’m surveiling a lot, I can send duplicates to the ‘yard.

There are still some cards I’m concidering:

Etrata, the Silencer is repeated removal and an alternate wincondition. With all the deck manipulation going on, it’s not inconcievable I get her back a couple of times.

Lazav, the Multifarious could give me some graveyard synergies I’m lacking right now. It’s fun to think about how he can turn into a Dimir Spybug, grow a little, then turn into a Thief of Sanity when he bypassed blockers. It’s also very cute, and probably not practical.

Whispering Snitch – This one feels mostly like a sideboard card against very aggresive decks, helping to stabilize against an early onslaught. The life drain is fine, and may keep me out of range of red decks, but I don’t think this card is generally good enough.

Mephitic Vapors – I’m also in the market for some mass removal, And while the Vapors is technically that, it seems too low impact to actually have an effect. I see a lot of rushing 1/1’s, but generally it’s too unreliable. I do like what Find // Finality has to offer but that means splashing somehow.

Drowned Secrets – This is a heavy deck, and on the controling side, so games tend to go long. I can repeatedly play Disinformation Campaign. The Thiefs of Sanity also mill. Drowned Secrets might be a good sideboard option against other surveil decks. I don’t think the appeal is good enough to mainboard it though. Also, there are some cards that get played when milled (Narcomoeba, Creeping Chill) that adds some risk to mill strategies.

Enhanced Surveillance – I don’t think this is what I want out of a surveil matters card. Sure, it’s nice to have extra card selection, but it doesn’t do much else. I can see this in a Devious Cover-Up deck, with the additional reshuffeling and ultimately milling opponents out. While we use a similar control strategy, I think we need more substance.

Talking about Creeping Chill, it’s a concideration for a free spell to help stabilize and regain some life, mostly for free. It doesn’t actually impact the board, but with all the surveil going on it’s likely to be a free effect that doesn’t even cost a card.

The land count is somewhat low, but the big amount of card selection should make up for that. I can add Dimir Locket, since the lockets work better than expected, and it’s more card advantage. Going shields down for a turn seems problematic, though. And Disinformation Campaign is more than enough card draw all by itself.

While the deck is mostly uncommons, I’m not nearly there on Arena. I have a vaguely similar Dimir deck that I want to tweak towards this model, and it’s already very fun to play. Especially Thief of Sanity has been a lot of fun.

Posted under Magic Duels,Standard

Shu Yun – Eye of the Tempest

I have my Shu Yun deck for quite some time now, and I realized I haven’t posted a decklist yet. And while the deck still is in constant flux, having a list is a nice tool to have an overview and that shows me where the deck seems to be lacking. I just made one little change: Out goes Tamiyo’s Journal, in comes Gilded Lotus. While the journal is a bit of a pet card, my DOOMSDAY MACHINE deck showed the value of artifact mana, and well, I need some explosive mana if I want to achieve explosive turns.

The construction of the deck is build on some stipulations. First: No wizards allowed. The deck is coloured, and if it has wizards, it just starts to overlap with the decks I have. Instead, I try to focus on monks, and have a martial arts feel to it.

The second thing grew organically. I tried to pimp the deck, and ultimately 92 of the cards are foil now. I try to go to 100% foil now, so I won’t even think about cards that have no foil version. It’s hard to achieve but eventually I should get there.

Wandering Champion looks so cool. Not the best card in Commander, but…

Here is the current decklist. I think some changes are coming once Guilds of Ravnica comes out, because I saw some cards I want to include. But for now, it looks like this:

~ Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest - Eye of the Storm ~

Commander (1)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

Creatures (17)

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder
Dragon-Style Twins
Dragonlord Ojutai
Elusive Spellfist
Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker
Kefnet the Mindful
Lotus-Eye Mystics
Mistfire Adept
Monastery Mentor
Niblis of Frost
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Ojutai Exemplars
Pristine Skywise
Sage-Eye Avengers
Soulblade Djinn
Wandering Champion
Zephyr Scribe

Instants (14)

Banishing Knack
Center Soul
Confirm Suspicions
Retraction Helix
Spell Swindle
Think Twice
Twisted Image
View from Above
Words of Wisdom

Sorceries (9)

Curse of the Swine
Declaration in Stone
Faithless Looting
Gitaxian Probe
Master the Way
Mind’s Desire
Ojutai’s Summons
Serum Visions
Surreal Memoir

Lands (39)

10 Island
Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Flooded Strand
Mana Confluence
Mystic Monastery
Port Town
Shivan Reef
Spirebluff Canal
Stone Quarry
Swiftwater Cliffs
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Triumph
Tolaria West
Tower of the Magistrate
Tranquil Cove
Wind-Scarred Crag

Enchantments (7)

As Fortold
Dismiss Into Dream
Eye of the Storm
Imprisoned in the Moon
Jeskai Ascendancy
Nahiri’s Machinations
Trail of Evidence

Artifacts (13)

Azorius Signet
Boros Signet
Chaos Wand
Everflowing Chalice
Gilded Lotus
Izzet Signet
Jeskai Banner
Mana Crypt
Paradox Engine
Pentad Prism
Sol Ring
Sword of the Animist
Umezawa’s Jitte

The basic strategy is simple: Play creatures, then play non-creature spells to trigger prowess, and use Shu Yun to give things double strike. The non-creature spells mostly are mana rocks, and spells that draw into more spells, or otherwise can be recast. A lot of the creatures have flying, making them a little harder to block. While attacking with creatures is a time-honoured way to win games, it often doesn’t work in commander, though. You have multiple opponents to beat down, boardwipes seem to be everywhere and turtling up in a pillow fort is a popular strategy. So, there are some combos available to get some more value out of things, and sometimes win the game on the spot.

Twisted Image represents a cantripping roundhouse kick in this deck. Yeah.

One thing you want to do is have your monks trancend reality, realizing that everything is ultimately illusionary, then kick the living daylights out of it. Yeah, I’m talking about Dismiss into Dream.  That should give Voltron style decks (those that have a few creatures, but make them huge with auras and equipment) a lot of trouble. But there are more proactive ways to use it. Tower of the Magistrate turns from an un-equip land into straight removal on a land. (This is one reason I probably want to upgrade some basic lands to the Kamigawa legendary lands that enhance Legends, like Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, but these are hard to find and somewhat expensive in foil.)

Dismiss into Dream makes problem creatures fleeting illusions.

The real trick is to use triggered abilities that target. The way it works is that once you trigger an ability, it goes on the stack and targets are choosen. Once the trigger resolves, any costs may be played. So if you use Shu Yun’s trigger, you target, then Dismiss into Dream triggers, sacrifices the creature, and then you just decline paying the to actually give the double strike. There are more creatures that target when you play something: Mistfire Adept, Niblis of Frost and Ojutai Exemplars all fit the bill. Bruse Tarl and Sage-Eye Avengers trigger on attacking.

Retraction Helix (and Banishing Knack) further wash away any problems.

The second big combo works with either Retraction Helix or Banishing Knack. This combo is relatively easy to set up, because there are some redundancies in the deck, and most cards involved are cheap to play. All you need is an opening to attack with a prowess creature, or a way to create such an opening. Then you need a way to untap a creature each time you play an artifact. Pristine Skywise and Zephyr Scribe do this by themselves, but Jeskai Ascendancy and Paradox Engine also do this.

The final component is an artifact that either can pay for itself (Pentad Prism, Sol Ring) or one that’s free to cast (Everflowing Chalice, Mana Crypt). Now you tap the creature to bounce the artifact, then replay the artifact, untap. Rince, repeat. The result is infinite Prowess triggers, leading to a lethal combat phase.

There are situations where you can either double untap, or have Knack/Helix on two different untapping creatures. This is where you can bounce all non-land permanents of all opponents, giving them even less of a chance to interact. Generally, this is win-more though.

Eye of the Storm provides the cool, flashy way to win.

The final big combo involves Eye of the Storm. It’s difficult to pull off, especially I have only 23 instants and sorceries, and to be fair, it’s the least developed of the combos. I think that’s going to change when Guilds of Ravnica comes out, as I found some juicy inclusions there.

Another problem with Eye of the Storm is that other players can hijack the effect by playing their own instants and sorceries. A possible solution is adding Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, but he’s a wizard, and that would break the no wizards rule of the deck. His big advantage is that with Eye of the Storm he cuts opponents off from casting instants and sorceries altogether. If they cast them, the spell gets exiled, and they can’t cast the generated copies, because they can’t do this at sorcery speed.  I might decide to bend the no wizard rule a little, because it’s so strong.

Anyway, Eye of the Storm doubles the prowess triggers of spells, then snowballs into extra triggers on top of that. A lot of spells draw me extra cards, to keep fueling the storm. Twitch untaps artifacts and lands, to create some extra mana generation so I can keep casting spell after spell for the final storm. Spell Swindle has a similar role; I can counter one of my own spells to generate treasure and keep going.

This combo still needs work though. Out should go Confirm Suspicions for Mystic Confluence. The latter is a bit more flexible, and draws by itself instead of generating clues. On a similar note I want to replace Negate with Arcane Denial, which casts a wider net when countering, and can be used to slow cycle your own card in some situations. The card disadvantage is a moot thing in multiplayer, versus traditional one-for-one counterspells, because only one opponent is actually going up in cards.

One of the things currently not included in the deck are spells that helps search for other instants and sorceries. This is a good way to chain spells – especially with Eye of the Storm out. These are cards like Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll. They also make the Banishing Knack-like combos more consistant. I’m hesitant to include too many tutor effects, because it goes against the spirit of a singleton format, and searching your deck always takes up a lot of time, relatively speaking, slowing down games.

I do like the card Invert/Invent from Guilds of Ravnica though, especially when going off with Eye of the Storm. You then can cast it for , have it exiled by Eye, then cast the side and search your deck for an instant ánd sorcery to keep the storm going. I also like how it works with the upcoming Erratic Cyclops. That goes from a 0/8 to a 1/8 when Invert (or Twisted Image) is cast, then it becomes an 8/1 on resolution. Shu Yun then gives him double strike and you’ll have basically a 16/1 trample on the cheap.

The other big card I’m looking towards is Mission Briefing. Some say it’s the new Snapcaster Mage, others say it’s just a Flood of Recollection with some card seletion tacked on. I guess it’s somewhere in the middle. But with Eye of the Storm I can replay all spells from the early game, and get some selection and semi-draw as well. Eye also takes care of the exile clause, and we can keep on chaining spells.

The deck is hardly finished, though. I would like to further up the Instant/Sorcery count. Then there is the matter of granting haste. Haste is important for different reasons. It helps setting up combos in one turn, and going off with less chance of disruption. It also enhances the effectiveness of the tokens Monastery Mentor creates, as they’ll keep their prowess buffs they got when they where  created.

There are several directions in which to go about it. The simples way is to include cards like Fervor. But there are alternatives.

Myth Realized isn’t in the deck anymore, but it probably should be. Look at it!

Then there are cards that grant haste to a single creature. Expedite does this and draws a card, while Kari Zev’s Expertise creates virtual mana to keep chains going. Oh, and the latter doubles as temporary removal by stealing blockers away. The stack interaction with Expertise spells and Eye of the Storm can be weird though; I don’t think Eye of the Storm can put the exile trigger on the stack during the resolution of another effect. I should figure out how that works, if I go forward with that. Similar for the other Expertise: Baral’s Expertise.

Heroic Reinforcements also does a lot; Make tokens, grow them and give things haste. It’s a good part of a spell chain, but it also costs , making it a little more difficult to use when setting up the other combos.

The one legendary monk missing still is Narset, Enlightened Master. She is obviously great and also serves as a possible alternate commander (Bruse Tarl and Ishai can also team up if you want.) She does have a stigma as being an unfair commander though, but she is probably fine as part of the 99.

So, that’s the current state of the deck, and the future conciderations. A spellslinger deck with big turns, and tons of kung-fu flavour seems like fun. I’ve played earlier iterations, and it didn’t quite win, but it always was on the verge of setting up a winning position. Hopefully a slightly smoother mana, and the slight tweaks in spell choices bring this deck up to a level just high enough to enable some cool wins. There are some potential Oops I Win combos, but most of it is disruptable by smart players, and they are mostly combat based. I can’t wait to see where this deck will be going.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Guilds of Ravnica: Cards I’m Exited About

The soon te be released Guilds of Ravnica bring us back to a popular plane: The ecumenopolis of Ravnica, that is ran by ten guilds, supposedly working together in a magically binding contract, but where these factions still are at each others throat. Making things worse, the elder dragon Nicol Bolas has set his sights on the plane and is appearantly infiltrating these guilds and replacing their respective leaders with his pawns.

Part what makes this plane so beloved are the cards from previous sets. It had the signits and the bounce lands which are all pretty good, and staple mana-fixing in Commander. It also had a slew of interesting legendary cards to head decks. Now that the all the cards have been revealed of the new Ravnica set, do I think it lives up to expectations?

Well, the cycle of Lockets certainly are no Signets. The idea appearantly is that Signets where too good, at the very least for draft. And while, once on the table, the lockets are better, the bump up of the cost from to is significant. Then again, seems to be the current going rate for mana rocks, and the ability to cycle them for two (!) cards does make up for it a little. It’s actually card advantage late game. Taking off the third turn instead of the second turn to ramp still stings though.

Lands-wise the Gates make a return. The first Ravnica set had lands like Boros Garrison at common. These lands where great, because they where basically two lands in one. They come into play tapped, but they produce two mana, and made sure you had another land drop the next turn. The Gates are uncommons, also come into play tapped, and while being two colour, they don’t offer much of an advantage. Sure, there are some gate-sensative cards, like Maze’s End, but so far these haven’t been great enough to make a gate-tribal deck.

All in all, on the side of mana, things aren’t really pushed. How that’ll have an effect on draft remains to be seen, but the signal is to pick a guild and stick with it, as going outside it will cost you dearly in your mana base. For Commander it means we don’t get anything really new in addition to the good old Ravnica rocks and lands, and Guilds of Ravnica isn’t a way to stock up on these staples of deckbuilding. Meh. At least there is the return of shocklands, which are good, and they have beautiful new art.

So, are there things I actually like? Hell yes! I’ve always liked the Ravnican Cyclopses that look a bit like the Big Daddies of Bioschock. You know, like Nivix Cyclops. Guilds has the biggest of daddies with Erratic Cyclops. A thing that you can do with it is cast Invert (or Twisted Image) on it. It sees the spell being cast, turns into a 1/8, then flips into a 8/1 trample as the spell resolves. I think I’ll include these cards in my Shu Yun deck, adding a little double strike for good measure.

Invert / Invent is also great in that deck, because of the Eye of the Storm combo. For just playing the Invert side, you can get the Invent side. And search the deck to proceed with the combo. At least it’s a budget-friendly, uncommon tutor for that combo. Also, since the CMC of the casted side is 6, you pay 1 mana but boost the cyclops for 6. Awesome.

I guess her staff looking like Nicol Bolas horns isn’t suspicious at all…

In Commander, Burglar Rat is an upgrade over Ravenous Rats, a card I use in my Ninjutsu deck. It hits multiple players and doesn’t target. It makes me excited for discard-based decks. As does Vicious Rumors. Maybe these also make for a cool Modern discard budget deck? Something cool with Waste Not?

Etrata is an alternate wincondition, which is always worth a look. She also is removal and… well I talked about her already. She is high on my wanted list. And there is Vraska. An earlier version, Vraska the Unseen, dabbled with creating creatures that eliminate players when they hit. The new Vraska does that in Emblem form, making it even more difficult to avoid or permanently remove the threat when it hits. The advise is not to judge Planeswalkers by their ultimate though. What we see here is the basic Ob Nixilis Reignited template: A plus ability that draws cards, a minus ability that destroys things, and an ultimate that helps winning the game. There are a lot of planeswalkers that follow this pattern. What rarely happens nowadays is that the plus ability isn’t +1, but it’s +2. I think she’s good for and even if she isn’t, the ultimate is the way I want to try and win a game, just because it’s cool.


Then there is the second mythic on the list: Chance for Glory. It’s a weird card, and basically has multiple modes because, well, the extra turn is also your last. So casting it in response to a Wrath of God or something doesn’t really give you the extra turn. That said, I do run Final Fortune in Sunforger  based decks, with the plan to fetch an Angel’s Grace during the extra turn, and live to fight another day. Stopping most of the Wraths in a pinch is a huge upside. Also having the option to alpha strike with little risk to the attackers, so you can do it again is neat. The card doesn’t feel Mythic, though.

And Fireminds Research? It’s just the kind of card I like in general. A do-nothing enchantment that you can charge up, and gets you tiny, grindy advantages. I run Trail of Evidence in Shu Yun, and maybe this is better? More flexible? At least it’s just to cast. Yeah, Shu Yun does get a lot of extra options with the Izzet spellslinging cards. Fair enough. I haven’t made my ultimate spellslinging Commander deck yet.

I’ll guess I should name Generous Stray as a favorite too. Just because of the art and flavour. I mean, Elvish Visionary is concidered a playable card, and now for an extra you get one extra toughness, and a little less Elfness. So, there is less tribal support. Sure, we have Arahbo, Roar of the World, but I had little success with that deck, to be honest.

There is also Skyscanner which is concidered a good pickup in draft. Sure, that one flies and doesn’t tie you to a colour. But the art is so cute, and so is the text. Cats that bring you dead things as a gift. It’s been suggested however that they do this because cats think you’re a lousy hunter, and they try to teach you the hunt by bringing you prey, meaning “See how easy it is to catch something, now you do it!” Cat tribal might be a fun casual deck, however. And this is how cats on Ravnica work, see how friendly they are to that Indrik. Cute animals are the eleventh guild of Ravnica.

Ok, we’re done with the filler. These are the cards expected to move boxes. The chase cards of the set. First there is Assassin’s  Trophy. It’s a very flexible, catchall removal spell. It’s weird to “assassinate” a land, but this one seems especially aimed at destroying Urzatron lands, and it always has a target. At instant speed. For just . Right, so it’s not spectacular in the sense that it’s a proactive threat, but this is removal at it’s best. The theory goes that if you destroy something cheaper than the removal spell used, it costs you tempo. There are very little things cheaper than 2 mana that really needs to be destroyed (except the Tron lands, maybe) and the flexibility pushes it over the edge. You’ll feel a lot safer in a game where you have this in your hands, because you can deal with almost any situation, for just 2 mana, at any time.

Finally, my most favorite card from this set, and it’s a bit of a weird one. Mission Briefing has been compared to Snapcaster Mage, but this as a different beast altogether. It has it’s own card selection and “draw.” I’m hyped for this card mostly because of Eye of the Storm. With Eye it doesn’t matter who exiles what and I don’t have to hold back instants and sorceries to get a high storm count. I’ll just recycle whatever is in my graveyard to keep it going. Mission Briefing does everything an Eye of the Storm deck wants.

Conclusion: Guilds of Ravnica plays it safe when it comes to mana. Explosive starts can be a problem for drafts, since it makes the game more random. For other formats this means the set is less interesting mana wise. There are also cards with lots of coloured mana in the cost, also meaning things are generally designed to be safe.

The set overall has some cards I’m interested in. I mostly like the Izzet () stuff, followed by either Golgari () or Dimir (). Boros () and Selesnya () hold my interest the least.

Of note are the things not in the set, like the buy-a-box promo and some of the basic lands. The promo is a big indestructable wurm, which is cool but not amazing. The basic lands are part of a promotion where you get one of these lands. And it’s generally advantagous to have all your basics the same, so opponents can’t count them that easilly, plus it looks cooler to have the same one. Good luck collecting these. They should have been in boosters, like the textless Bolas-themed basics  a couple of sets ago, where one in four lands was one of these. Oh well. I like some of the cards, even a couple of commons but it isn’t completely what made the earlier (and particularly the first block of) Ravnica so loved.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Etrata the Silencer

Just to make sure I have everything, and to have something that creates surprise and excitement, I have a deck around Vela the Night-Clad, and Ninjas.

The problem with Ninjas is that there aren’t that many, and since Kamigawa block is concidered a failure by WOTC, it isn’t likely that there are many more ninjas any time soon. Sure, sometimes they throw us a bone and print a new Ninja, like Yuriko, the Tigers Shadow, or something that fits at least thematically and has good evasion like Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive but it’s rare to see something mindblowing. And in general, Ninjas aren’t even that good. The on-hit effects are often a little marginal.

And while the options keep increasing, nothing beats Vela the Night-Clad right now as a Ninja commander because of the evasion she gives and she helps draining opponents when you ninjutsu something in. But at least there are some new cards that may add to the 99. In Guilds of Ravnica there is a new legend that at least shares some values with all the shadowy spy assassins in the deck. I love to put out hits on people, and while it’s not exactly a new Ninja, there are enough ways in which she synergizes with them. That new legend is Etrata, the Silencer.

So, what’s the synergy? Well, she is unblockable, so you can always use her to ninjutsu something out. this is important later. Further more she has an ability that triggers on hit, that straight out exiles the best creature the defending player controls ánd possibly makes them lose the game right away.

Her wall of text hides a significant downside, though. After she hits, she’ll be shuffled in the library and in a 100 card singleton format, the likelyhood of getting her back naturally is very low. This is where ninjutsu comes in. If she hits, you can ninjutsu her out, so she goes to your hand instead of being shuffeled. Preferably, you find some way to give her first strike, so you’ll get her trigger, and that of the Ninja you warp in. Then you can simply replay her and attack to exile another creature.

Note that even if you can’t cheat the shuffle trigger, at least she’ll do some damage and counts as a four mana removal spell, which is pretty good by itself, but not the reason to run Etrata. You run her to murder things one after another.

Sadly, granting her double strike isn’t a solution either. She’ll always be gone after first strike damage, and won’t be able to deal the second, normal strike. Outside of bounce and blink tricks, there are some solutions to that. First, there is Helm of the Host, so you can make copies of her, and eventually take people out in one fell swoop. This option is kinda slow though. At least the copies are non-legendary, so copying those is a viable way to quickly have 3 or more Etratas on the battlefield at the same time. Another option is to imprint her on Soul Foundry, and work from there. The downside to that plan is that there is a big incentive to destroy the Foundry, and you’ll lose Etrata forever.

The best workaround however, is probably Strionic Resonator. You can simply copy her hit trigger (maybe even twice with a Voltaic Key or something) and then bounce her to your hand. I’m sure that killing someone on the spot out of nowhere that way will resonate with them. Strionic Resonator will ofcourse also work with the on-hit effects of your Ninjas and other creatures with saboteur abilities.

If all else fails, you can make her your commander and just slowly assasinate things from you command zone. Then, you can always choose to put her back in the command zone, instead of shuffling her. This raises the commander tax very quickly though, and she’ll probably costs before you take down the first player, so it isn’t ideal. And people will make her a priority, especially after two hits on them. You’ll have to decide if just exiling one of their things is enough value on its own, or if you really want to take people out with her. I think I’ll go for the latter option.

Posted under Commander / EDH


This weekend I tested the DOOMSDAY MACHINE! deck. I have to say, piloting the deck is very difficult. I made a mess of it, really. It’s easy to forget triggers or activations, or see interactions already on the table. Also, stacking the triggers correctly can be of vital importance. One of the reasons for that, as it turns out, the deck can be explosive. I quickly had both Saheeli, the Gifted on the table, and her cost reduction effect quickly got things out of hand. People seemingly feared her ultimate, which is frankly not that interesting, or maybe the opponents tried to oversell the importance to incite people to remove her. She is all about the cost reduction, though.

The explosiveness also came from the mana rocks included, especially with the untap effects included. This is a point of interest, and so I think I’ll add more of these. This brings us to the first cut: Karn, Scion of Urza. This card did some work, making rather big Constructs early on. The problem is the +1 ability. This is a “bad” card draw effect, that holds some risks in this deck, as it also exiles.  Sure, you can get these cards back with the -1 ability, but it is risky, and there is no way to get Karn back when he dies. The deck has card draw build in, so while Karn is good, I don’t think this is the deck to use him in.

Initially I wanted to replace Karn with Gilded Lotus. Looking through all the options, I settled on Basalt Monolith though. There are some artifacts in the deck that can untap themselves by paying mana, which is important because I run Quicksmith Rebel and strongly concidering Quicksmith Spy.

Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer easily overperformed. He really helped keeping (most) of my artifacts safe from (mass)removal. And then there was Scrap Mastery.

I think that was the singlemost important spell in the deck. It basically allowed me to not only get back in the game, but to win on the spot. This is what went down: A mass removal spell was played, then countered. Another player countered the counter and things died. Now that the control/counterspell players where more or less shields down I cast Scrap Mastery and got a lot of things back, including a Karn, Silver Golem and a Mycosynth Lattice. This, in turn allowed me to turn opponents’ lands into 0/0 artifact creatures, killing them. Then, without fear of someone throwing in a spanner in the works, I set up Metalworker and Staff of Domination, drew my deck and Station combo’d for the win.

So, maybe, in the end I got a little bit lucky. The Karn lockout is disgusting, though, and since I plan to use more mana rocks, maybe I’ll expand on this side of the deck. I can do this by adding:

  • Memnarch. During deck construction I included more cards that turned things into artifacts. This is important to some of the combos and tricks. I ended up cutting things except Mycosynth Lattice, but now I think I need more ways to accomplish this ánd stealing artifacts makes Memnarch a force.
  • March of the Machines. This joins Karn in the “turning all lands in 0/0’s” trick, keeping everyone off land forever. And suddenly having lots of creatures is nice as well.
  • Vandalblast also counts as a coup de grâce after turning things into artifacts. It somehow feels the least “on theme” though.

There are some other things worth concidering, moving the deck further away from just big stupid artifact creatures. High on the list are:

All in all the deck worked fine, but some tweaks will make it run a bit better. Or make it more difficult to disrupt every possible combo. Maybe the deck lacks interacting with opponents, but it makes up for that by being difficult to handle, and every move being a puzzle.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Jhoira / Saheeli – Let’s Build A DOOMSDAY MACHINE!

Welcome to the deck that collects the greatest artificers of the multiverse (and some goblins for some reason) and tries to create a DOOMSDAY MACHINE out of random scraps of metal and some other parts, like goats, maybe.

Historically, this was my Pia and Kiran Nalaar deck, a commander that came with some Thopters to use as spare parts. I wanted a commander though, preferably with some artifact synergies, and that’s where Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain came in. The cards added some less chaotic options in building artifacts, as opposed to how approached the process. Later, Saheeli, the Gifted came out in Commander 2018, and serves as an alternate commander.

I don’t now which of the two is better for the deck. Jhoira should draw you tons of cards, while Saheeli can produce scrap in the form of Servo tokens, and ramp out the more expense artifacts.

The deck itself is low on interaction; It’s generally more concerned doing it’s own thing, trying to convert one resource into another and creating a rube goldberg-esque sequence of activations to come out ahead, and eventually create loops that can be repeated infinitely. It’s a combo deck.

There are some standard combos like the Fifth Dawn Station cycle, but the deck offers some shortcuts into these combos, or alternate ways to set these things up. It’s essentially a puzzle, and I don’t think I know every interaction and combo by heart yet. There are so many.

You can’t count on opponents to just sit there, so there are a bunch of way to get artifacts back from the graveyard. This makes it ok to just discard or sacrifice stuff you don’t need right now, and get it back later. In fact, the deck can use some self-mill to dig for any needed parts. It’s perfectly acceptible to just mill, then use Scrap Mastery to assemble your DOOMSDAY MACHINE at once from the graveyard. Just try not to run into any graveyard hate, or you’ll have to depend on plan B)

  • Plan B) Have Mycosynth Lattice and Kill Switch and shut the game down long enough to find another solution, like:
  • Plan C) Put a Darksteel Colossus under a Prototype Portal, make an army of really big indestructable robots. Or create Lodestone Golems to choke out mana production, or;
  • Plan D) Have Quicksmith Rebel add some stopping power to one of the many self-untapping artifacts like Staff of Domination and go to town. Or;
  • Plan E) Improvise with what you have. It’s a deck; When plans fail, think on your feet and wing it. There is a non-zero chance there is something weird you can do to advance your goals.

The deck also features sub-goals such as assembling Urzatron. That’s not exactly like winning, but at least it’s an achievement when you do it.

There is a lot going on here, so let’s take a look at the current list:

~ Jhoira / Saheeli - Let's Build A DOOMSDAY MACHINE! ~

Commander (2)

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
Saheeli, the Gifted

Artificers (11)

Chief Engineer
Feldon of the Third Path
Goblin Welder
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Quicksmith Genius
Quicksmith Rebel
Reckless Fireweaver
Sai, Master Thopterist
Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
Thopter Engineer

Artifacts (32)

Aetherworks Marvel
Animation Module
Blasting Station
Clock of Omens
Darksteel Forge
Decoction Module
Expedition Map
Fabrication Module
Flayer Husk
Grinding Station
Izzet Signet
Key to the City
Kill Switch
Krark-Clan Ironworks
Mana Vault
Mycosynth Lattice
Mycosynth Wellspring
Planar Bridge
Prototype Portal
Renegade Map
Retrofitter Foundry
Salvaging Station
Sculpting Steel
Sol Ring
Soul Foundry
Staff of Domination
Summoning Station
Tamiyo’s Journal
Thran Dynamo
Trading Post
Unwinding Clock

Lands (32)

Buried Ruin
Darksteel Citadel
Foundry of the Consuls
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Great Furnace
Inventors’ Fair
Izzet Boilerworks
Mishra’s Factory
Seat of the Synod
Spire of Industry
Sulfur Falls
Terramorphic Expanse
Urza’s Factory
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower

Artifact Creatures (17)

Arcbound Ravager
Arcbound Reclaimer
Combustible Gearhulk
Darksteel Colossus
Dross Scorpion
Golden Guardian
Hangarback Walker
Karn, Silver Golem
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Lodestone Golem
Mindless Automaton
Myr Battlesphere
Steel Overseer
Wurmcoil Engine

Planeswalkers (4)

Daretti, Scrap Savant
Karn, Scion of Urza
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Tezzeret the Seeker

Sorceries (2)

Scrap Mastery
Trash for Treasure

Aside from the vulnarability from graveyard- and artifact hate, from the list there is one more appearant flaw in this list. The land count is just 32, which should ring some alarm bells. I won’t tell you not to worry about this. Despite the fact there are some artifact concerned with helping you with mana production by either tapping for mana, help find lands or even become lands themselves, 32 ís dangerously low and greedy. Some testing should reveal if it is indeed too low, but if it is there are some ways to get the land count up a couple of percent and make things run a little more smoothly. Some suggestions are:

This should keep the basic functionality, but up the land count a little. If even more lands are needed, it’s probably Karn, Scion of Urza and Pia and Kiran Nalaar that are here for the Rule of Cool, but are non-essential parts of the deck.

The fact that commander decks are required to have exactly 100 cards does mean there are cards we don’t have space for, but would be nice to include. Some of these are:

  • Aetherflux Reservoir. Nothing says DOOMSDAY MACHINE! like a weapon that uses your own forsaken life as a disposable resource. Right now there is little lifegain outside of Wurmcoil Engine and the deck isn’t stormy enough to reliably power this thing up.
  • Mechanized Production. Not only does this produce more scrap (sometimes Colossi!) but also functions as an alternative win condition. At the very least we hope to create a lot of Servos and Thopters. If anything, it occupies a niche similar to Prototype Portal in our deck, so maybe we replace the Portals for Productions.
  • Padeem, Consul of Innovation offers an extra layer of protection for our Artifacts, while also generating some incidental card draw.  Running her would be… nice.
  • The Antiquities War. The card selection and draw is helpful in finding the correct pieces to suplement your current plans, and have all Thopters/Servos/Clues turn into (very telegraphed) 5/5s might be game winning. There is a lot of card draw as it is, though, and any boardwipe nullifies the effect of the final chapter. It was in at one point, but I don’t think it’s good enough, so for now it’s out.
  • Null Brooch. A literal last-ditch effort stopping any spell, while putting artifacts in the graveyard. With all the rest of the stuff in your hand. It protects your Scrap Mastery from being countered a little bit, or blocks some of the mass artifact removal around. Still, our deck has so if we wanted to stop spells, we had less drastic effects to counter things.
  • Other cycles like Kaldra or Empire Regalia – But the deck is crowded as it is, so adding another entire cycle of artifacts just can’t be done.

Anyway, this is the deck as it currently stands. One of upcoming the improvements will probably in the Basic land I’ll be using. I just hope the new Ravnican promo lands won’t be overly expensive! Just look at the Izzet lands:

Yes, having beautiful and thematic basic lands is a crucial part of deck construction. At least it’s incentive to include more lands, while keeping the cool factor.

Posted under Commander / EDH



Brainstorm F
Mystic Confluence F
Arcane Denial F
Pir, Imaginative Rascal P
Toothy, Imaginary Friend P
Sentinel Tower F
Will Kenrith P
Rowan Kenrith P
Mystical Tutor F spellbook: jace
Cadaverous Bloom
Spitting Image
Mindless Automaton
Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
Lathliss, Dragon Queen

The Eldest Reborn
Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering

Posted under Commander / EDH

UR Artifacts

Even though my Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain artifact deck is crammed right now, the Commander 2018 Exquisite Invention has some juicy cards I want to make space for. The deck is all about setting up an assembly line to create… whatever. Thus, one thing I’m particularly interested in is the Retrofitter Foundry. It just fits the theme of making things and turning it into other things so well. Also, the creation of Servos and Thopters is already well supported.

One of the things the deck attempts to do is create lots of Servo’s by setting up Animation Module, Decoction Module and Fabrication Module. It’s a good way to kickstart the combo, and slowly start upgrading the resulting servos.

It might also factor in the other pre-build combo of Blasting Station, Grinding Station, Salvaging Station and Summoning Station, functioning as the 1-drop artifact to salvage, and creating a short-cut in the Station combo with Krark-Clan Ironworks. Throwing both a Servo and the Foundry into the oven, then salvaging again should yield every iteration, eventually generating enough mana to create “infinite” servo’s, thopters and constructs. All in all a very interesting addition to the deck.

The other interesting card is (obviously) the headliner of the deck: Saheeli. Yet another way to kickstart the modules, and a ramp ability that could make casting a Darksteel Colossus trivial.

The only problem is making cuts. The deck is already scary low on lands, and all the cards that are in the deck right now have very specific roles in the numerous combo’s available. Pulling out one important cog and the whole potential machine may fall apart. I don’t think I can cut any more mana sources either. It’s important to get at least to mana early, before the other mana ramp and card-draw takes over. So I’ll be debating and re-evaluation every single card again, and hopefully find a way to incorporate these new toys.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Nicol Bolas EDH

Nicol Bolas. He’s probably the biggest big bad in Magic’s storyline. The last of the Elder dragons. Bolas was killed, then reincarnated and at some point became one of the most powerful planeswalkers. Then The Mending happened and he was toned down a bit, but not before he set a plan into motion to regain all of his previous powers. Possibly at the cost of everything else.

During Time Spiral block I opened a foil Nicol Bolas, and I made a commander deck out of it, with all kinds of Bolas related cards. Slave of Bolas? Check! In Bolas’s Clutches? Well, I haven’t updated the deck in a while, but yeah. Torment of Hailfire? Cruel Ultimatum? Yup, all the Bolas related haymakers.

The foil OG Bolas is heading the deck, for coolness. There isn’t much of a mechanical connection, though. He brings the colours and the theme, and sometimes hits and let people discard. Still, it’s almost a shame a better option is available soon. It does take away some of the uniqueness of the deck – but that’s still a choice right? The new version of Bolas can head the deck and he’s probably a little more powerful, and even stylish in his own way.

The new Bolas-as-commander is cheaper, and punishes opponents for killing him, because recasting Bolas makes them discard again. And he turns into a planeswalker with 4 abilities. And with the new Planeswalker rules he goes easilly alongside Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver, almost making it a superfiends deck with only Nicol Bolas cards – Although some Lilliana planeswalkers fit now she is forced to work for him again, and, say Ob Nixilis Reignited ">Ob Nixilis Reignited are fine for superfiends too.

More spells that show you’re on the side of evil are Dark Intimations,, Settle the Score, The Eldest Reborn and Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering so the planeswalkers keep coming and have a better chance of staying on the battlefield.

So, there are plenty of chances to improve on my current deck, and have something that could function a bit as an Archenemy deck. I might even have to bring some schemes just in case.

Posted under Commander / EDH

Battlebond: Pir and Toothy EDH Decktech.

Out of all of the duos from Battlebond, my favorites are probably Pir and Toothy. Their colours are nice () and their abilities seem very interesting, with their focus on +1/+1 counters and carddraw. In this pairing Toothy really is the teeth of the deck, offering a potentially large beatstick and tons of carddraw. Pir is more of a support character, acting more like an enchantment, but his ability to add extra counters does fuel some of the synergies of the deck, creating ever greater returns on the carddraw Toothy enables.

The Strategy

So, what if a Brainstorm acts like a cantrip version of Giant Growth? Or even better: Essence Flux acts like an (sometimes even better) Ancestral Recall? That’s awesome, right? It seems like Toothy has really great synergy with two types of effects: Blink and clones. So how does this work?

Blinking Toothy makes him leave play, setting up a trigger that allows you to draw cards for each +1/+1 counter he had when he left. Before you draw the cards, the blink effect returns toothy so he sees the draws and regains all the counters. With Pir in play, he even gains more than he had before.

A similar thing happens with clones: Once you make a copy of Toothy, as a state-based effect you have to choose one and sacrifice the other. You draw cards of the original, and the copy gains the +1/+1 counters of the draws. Even though the copy doesn’t deal commander damage, you can play the original again from the command zone, sacrifice the copy and draw a bunch of cards again, all the while Pir doubles the amount of counters gained.

Everything hinges on Toothy to live long enough to get a few counters. The blinking cards at least double as spot removal, and even against mass removal often you’ll draw a bunch of cards, gaining some advantage in the process.

So, how do we blink Toothy? Well, there are some instants that remove him and return him in time to see the draws, like Displace, Essence Flux, Ghostly Flicker and Illusionist’s Stratagem. With exeption of Essence Flux, these cards blink two permanents, so you can set up cards like Archaeomancer to return the instant to your hand again, to keep blinking and drawing lots of cards. Yet another blinker that’s more permanent is Nephalia Smuggler. The ultimat blinking guy is probably Deadeye Navigator, but maybe that one is too cheesy to put in a deck. Then again, once they see you blink things, opponents might think you have one anyway, so why not? Ultimately you may draw so many cards you may concider Laboratory Maniac as an alternative wincondition.

So What About Pir?

As I said, Pir feels more like an (important) enchantment. His ability to add extra counters to things seems good with Planeswalkers. Another use is using cards like Druids’ Repository so he’ll help ramping out, which is good concidering the amount of carddraw we hope to have.

A pet card of mine is Mindless Automaton, which happens to be great with Pir. This can be a huge beater in itself and basically “store” superfluous cards to be cached in for extra cards later, or at cycle things for just .

Furthering the +1/+1 counter theme are Herald of Secret Streams and Tuskguard Captain making Toothy, Automaton and the additional Toothy-alikes Lorescale Coatl and Chasm Skulker difficult to chump block.

Send In The Clones

Clone effect have some good synergy with Toothy as mentioned, and also go a long way to autobalance the deck against your playgroup. There are numerous ones to mention, and they fit the illusion theme well. A special shout-out to Altered Ego though, for supporting the +1/+1 counter theme. Also a notable clone is Stunt Double. Flash is great, and he also supports the blink theme a little by being an extra backup for Draining Whelk and Mystic Snake, countering a spell in a pinch.

So What Else?

Battlebond has some fun cards to use, to promote interaction and sometimes even make some allies. Let’s begin by looking at that other team fighting in the great Arena, that offers a little ramp and carddraw, and due to being partners help finding the other half when being played:

I can’t say they are the greatest cards ever, but they help. If we can find ways to make lands produce more than one mana, Ley Weaver can add a lot of mana. Fertile Ground is in the set, as is Peregrine Drake to go with the blink theme. Another good addition is Simic Growth Chamber, as always. All this put together offers the option to draw ánd play your entire deck.

All in all Pir & Toothy seem to make a fun team, with a deck that can beat down, but also have big combo turns and the ability to win out of nowhere on occasion. They probably need some time to get the ball rolling, both staring out as mere 1/1 creatures that spin out of control easilly if left unanswered. Pir is a bit dull by himself as he stays out of the action mostly, but having a combo piece in the command zone as a big plus. I can’t wait to swing with a gaint, imaginairy monster with double digit power and toughness, with combo and mill backup for the win.

Posted under Commander / EDH
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