Good Grief – Extra Turns in Commander

Andrew Floury • November 18, 2021

Time Warp by Jon Foster

Welcome back to Good Grief. This series is about powerful Commander strategies that make us say, “Good grief,” and the ways we can combat them. I’m Andy Floury, and you may know me from the Guardian Project podcast, or from Commander streams with the community. This month I’m writing about Commander decks focused on taking extra turns.

You’re A Bit Extra

Time Walk, the original extra turn spell, is banned in Commander, mostly due to its low mana value and price tag, but we still see cards with the same effect cast regularly. Extra turns are a worthy adversary and change games drastically. If you aren’t prepared for a game against an extra turns deck, you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs as your opponent finds a way to win.

Let’s start by looking at some of the commonly played extra turn spells.

The trouble here isn’t necessarily the extra turns; rather, it’s what your opponent is doing on those turns. Taking three turns isn’t a problem if your opponent isn’t do anything impactful. Sure, the extra turns can create a less-than-desirable play experience if you’re unable to participate meaningfully, but the frustration comes with the 10 minutes that your opponent thinks about a way to win, forcing the table to sit around.

Here are a few commanders that put extra turn spells to good use.

I think it’s safe to say that the commander who has the worst reputation for being an unfun extra turns deck is Narset, Enlightened Master. Narset’s color identity has access to haste, protection, counter magic, and extra turns. Narset herself is very difficult to remove and doesn’t fall behind if she doesn’t make it through combat. Depending on the build, Narset can easily set up three extra turns, and at that point you really need some answers, or the game is going to end. If a Narset deck is built for turns, it’s possible that land destruction, extra combats, and counter magic are involved. It isn’t surprising that this commander takes the top spot.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest is a less frustrating extra turns commander in that it closes games out quickly. Edric relies on extra turn spells, tiny creatures to swarm the board, and counter magic to ensure that their board isn’t wiped. It utilizes cards like Druid’s Repository to make a lot of mana to start its engine.

Meloku, the Clouded Mirror doesn’t just rely on extra turns, it relies on infinite turns. With Meloku, the Clouded Mirror, Time Warp, and Mystic Sanctuary, this deck can take infinite turns while making an additional 1/1 each turn. This extra turn combo is very slow, but consistent. This deck is going to need to take a ton of turns to make 1/1s.

How can we take advantage of these spells?

Changing Targets

I like the idea of playing cards that change the target of a target spell. They don’t feel like dead cards in your hand, nor do they feel too narrow. They can be used to take whatever spell you need, and they work against most strategies. These cards can be used to take control of targeted removal spells to remove the permanent that is causing you the most trouble, steal card draw from an opponent, or even gain control or target permanent. But more importantly, we can change the target of many of the extra turn spells. Beacon of Tomorrows, Karn’s Temporal Sundering, Time Stretch, Time Warp, and Walk the Aeons all say “target player takes an extra turn” or, in the case of Time Stretch, “Target player takes two extra turns.”

Divert is a cheap option that will catch our opponent off-guard. In the event that they’re playing Narset turns and have tapped out, they won’t be able to afford to pay the two mana. Misdirection is a solid inclusion and is a free spell. Exiling a blue card from your hand is not as bad as allowing your opponent to chain multiple turns. Rebound is another low-mana-value spell that can steal an extra turn.

Perplexing Chimera is a steal-a-spell ability on a stick. I’m not sure the mana value here at five is where we want this to be, but it’s nice having options.

Ricochet Trap is narrow, but I’m including it because the extra turn spells we’re looking to steal are blue. Sudden Substitution is my pick for the most reliable of this bunch. This could also take a Seedtime or Temporal Extortion if your opponents are in Sultai turns. Split Second is a powerful mechanic that your opponent isn’t likely going to interact with. If you control a creature you no longer need, you can give it away to take control of your opponent’s spell. Willbender is another option, but the issue with Morph spells is that it will really only work once with your playgroup. Once you’ve played it, they know what you’ve got, so you’ll have a hard time bluffing this in the future.

Now if we can’t change the target of the spell, we have other ways to keep a presence in the game.

Punishing Turns

To combat extra turns, I think the best strategy is to punish your opponent for each turn they take. We’re going to focus on a suite of cards that might cause discomfort. Cards like Sulfuric Vortex that make players lose life at their upkeep slot in perfectly, and cards like Roiling Vortex that punish a player for casting a spell for free are welcome.

Manabarbs is a nice inclusion to speed up the game. If your opponent needs to continually cast their extra turn spells, they won’t be able to go for long. They’ll need to find an answer to this card. Burning Earth is a redundant Manabarbs that I’m including because of the nature of the deck theme we’re trying to combat. The budget for these decks isn’t low, so you’re going to get some mileage from this card.

Fatespinner is an interesting case. The step or phase your opponent is going to choose changes depending on their commander. A Narset, Enlightened Master player needs their combat phase, God-Eternal Kefnet and Meloku, the Clouded Mirror players need their draw step, and Edric, Spymaster of Trest players could change depending on their situation. I think cards like this force decisions that may give you an out if they choose the wrong option on a given turn.

Manic Scribe is included because I often see a turns deck start to go infinite, but for the first 4-5 turns they don’t have a lot to do. If they’re looking to draw into a specific card, it is possible that they will mill the card as long Delirium is active. I’m not sure this is going to be reliable, but I’m going to include it for good measure. Meloku, the Clouded Mirror and God-Eternal Kefnet decks will need to fight through this.

Wandering Archaic is the single best inclusion. If your opponent wants to take an extra turn and cannot pay the two mana, you also get to take an extra turn. However, I’m more interested in the extra spells they cast. Unfortunately, whether you copy their extra turn spell or not, your opponent’s spell will resolve, and they get to take the first extra turn. But at least they’ll have to consider carefully what spells they cast thanks to our Wandering Archaic.

Stranglehold is the last card. It would have been wrong to exclude it and it’s one of the strongest cards we can play against an extra turns deck. Not only will our opponent skip their extra turns, but they also cannot search their library for an answer. They will need to find it naturally.

Here’s the list I ended with:

Stop Being So Extra; Ishai and Kraum EDH

Commander (2)
Lands (35)
Creatures (19)
Enchantments (12)
Instants (18)
Artifacts (9)
Sorceries (5)

 

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Since we need to be in blue and red for most of these spells, I decided to add white for targeted removal. If we can take out a problematic commander, we can stabilize the game. Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker grows quickly, so we might as well capitalize on the fact that our extra turns opponents will be casting lots of spells. If they can’t chain infinite turns, we can hit them hard. Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus also benefits from opponents casting spells. If our opponents are taking multiple turns and casting two or more spells, we can hope to draw into a redirect spell, counter magic, or spot removal.

With this deck, we might be able to shunt our opponents away from playing their extra turn spells. This build should be able to redirect a few extra turns to keep us in the game. If that doesn’t happen, we can keep our presence known by punishing the extra turns strategy with cards that deal damage as they tap their lands or move through phases. These cards can lead to decision trees that could take the game.

Well that’s it for this month, now I want to hear from you. How would you combat extra turns decks in commander?



Andy Floury is one half of the Guardian Project Podcast. He started playing Magic following the release of Gatecrash and has been playing ever since. Insurance professional by day but commander player by nights and weekends. Follow him on Twitter @AndyFloury for updates on his content!