Conditions Allow - Chainer Dash In EDH

Ben Doolittle • August 23, 2021

Warbringer by Raymond Swanland)

Dashing Forward

Hello, and welcome to Conditions Allow. In this series I usually take a commander with a drawback and turn it into a strength, but today I'm going to flip that formula on its head. Rather than start with a commander, I'm going to start with a mechanic that imposes a drawback, and build a deck to showcase the unique opportunities it presents. So come with me on a journey back to Tarkir, to explore what is possible with Dash in Commander.

Dash is an alternate casting cost present on roughly eighteen Red and/or Black creatures from Dragons of Tarkir, as well as a few from the Modern Horizon sets. When you cast a creature for its Dash cost it gains haste, and will return to your hand at the beginning of the next end step. Even in Draft or Standard, this trade-off is barely worth it. Having your creatures removed from play every turn is a huge tempo loss, which is only magnified in multiplayer games. And while your dashing creatures dodge board wipes, they also leave you vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Before getting too down on these creatures though, let's take a look at what they actually do. Maybe they'll point us towards a strategy to mitigate their drawbacks, or even turn them on their heads.

Hit and Run

Rather unsurprisingly, creatures with Dash are designed to attack. Some, like the recently printed Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, sport an ability when they deal damage, but many are just big. Sprinting Warbrute, Pitiless Horde, and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury are simple, haste-y creatures with five power that are immune to sorcery speed removal. That sounds really good, but you also have to cast them every turn. Unsummon can really slow you down, and doing it to yourself is not usually a winning plan.

Of course, you don't have to Dash your creatures in every turn. Most are Warriors, Berserkers, or Barbarians, so you could stack the anthems of Lovisa Coldeyes, Ambuscade Shaman and Ogre Battledriver to attack for large amounts of damage out of nowhere. Even if you can take out a player in one swing, you'll still have to cast those creatures again on the next turn. I think this is too slow, and requires too much mana, to be the main focus of the deck, but its worth keeping in mind.

I'm also intrigued by Warbringer and Flamerush Rider. Flamerush Rider has the interesting ability to copy another attacking creature each combat. This could be a Grave Titan, Combustible Gearhulk, or simple Solemn Simulacrum. It is by far the most useful dash creature on its own. And it becomes even more powerful with Warbringer. Reducing Dash costs by two is very significant, as it means you can cast your creatures for just one or two mana. Then they'll be returned to your hand, ready to dash into play on your next turn. Used like this, Dash becomes a form of card advantage. All you need is some payoff for casting creatures.

Leaving A Mark

Abusing creatures is something that Red is very good at. Even discounting Purphoros, God of the Forge, Impact Tremors and Warstorm Surge can dish out significant damage once you're casting three or four creatures a turn. Oketra's Monument and Genesis Chamber double up those damage triggers, and create blockers so you're not left defenseless. The tokens can also serve as potent attackers with Lovisa Coldeyes and Ogre Battledriver increasing their power.

Even if you're not overwhelming your opponents with an army of tokens, you can still stop them from blocking with a surprise Onslaught. Every time you cast a creature spell, Onslaught lets you tap a creature. This is a great flavor win with Dash, which is meant to represent your creatures ambushing your opponents before fading away. Tapping potential blockers lets Sprinting Warbrute and Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury, who have relatively low toughness, have maximum impact.

Once you've tapped down the most powerful creatures in play, keep them out of the action with Meekstone. Meanwhile, your own powerful creatures will return to your hand, completely dodging Meekstone's effect. Smoke is another potent effect to keep enemy creatures out of the fight. With just three dash creatures, you can keep each opponent effectively defenseless, while simultaneously limiting their ability to launch a counter attack. Mudslide is slightly less effective, as it doesn't affect creatures with flying, but it does force your opponents to make a choice. Do they want to untap their creatures to protect their life total, or cast other spells? Even if they pay to untap their creatures, they won't be able to push towards a win of their own.

If you're feeling particularly frisky, Confusion in the Ranks is very powerful with creatures that don't stick around. Dash in Lightning Berserker with Confusion in play to trade up for an opponent's best creature. At end of turn, Lightning Berserker will return to your hand. If you prefer to keep your friends, though, Sunbird's Invocation is an excellent source of card advantage.

Cutting a Dashing Figure

The main problem of Lightning Berserker, Screamreach Brawler, and even Warbringer is that they're still not good on their own. This is a problem shared with God-Eternal Oketra. Sometimes it doesn't matter how many tokens you have when the cards you're playing just aren't good. So when looking for a commander for this deck, I want someone who can help our weak creatures punch above their class. And Chainer, Nightmare Adept is perfect for the job.

If you're caught in a pinch, Chainer, Nightmare Adept lets you trade Reckless Imp for any creature in your graveyard. With Magus of the Wheel filling your graveyard, alongside Unmarked Grave and Buried Alive, its easy to pivot from aggressively casting creatures to a slower, more interactive game plan. And because you're casting creatures from your graveyard, they still synergize with the Oketra's Monument and Sunbird's Invocation engine.

As a creature based deck, handling opposing creatures takes top priority. Fleshbag Marauder is an all-star among recursion heavy decks everywhere, and pairs well with Flamerush Rider to boot. Shriekmaw's evoke cost means you can continue casting other spells, and that it'll always be waiting in your graveyard. The more flexible removal of Ravenous Chupacabra is valuable as well. Ingot Chewer takes care of any artifacts, while Silent Arbiter keeps your life total safe from token armies.

Choosing Chainer, Nightmare Adept as the commander for this deck also opens up some additional interactions. Wheels, for instance, are a potent source of card advantage if you cast them with an empty hand. Dash creatures let you easily empty your hand, while Chainer, Nightmare Adept lets you reanimate Magus of the Wheel turn after turn. This lets you dig for Oketra's Monument and Onslaught early on, and find the right interaction later as well. And while that may seem mana intensive, its very manageable thanks to Warbringer reducing Dash costs and Alena, Kessig Trapper tapping for four or five mana every turn.

Let's throw in some mana rocks, a couple board wipes, and some Snow-Covered lands (to go dashing through the snow) to see the full decklist.

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This deck ended up being much more well rounded than I expected. While the Dash creatures are still awkward, they provide consistent fuel for the more powerful engine cards. And the commander in this Chainer EDH build gives you plenty of flexibility between grinding value out of the graveyard and playing aggressively.


Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.