Yes, I know four out of my last five commanders were Battle for Baldur's Gate commanders, but four out of five dentists recommend I shut my mouth, and you don't see me complaining at them, do you?
Hello everyone, I'm Michael Celani, and I'm writing this from the floor of the MTG Summit in Salt Lake City, Iowa. It's crazy out here, folks; the Commander Crash is now an eighteen-car pileup, and there's no sign of it stopping. The roulette wheel in the VIP room isn't slowing down due to inertia, and is in fact getting faster. Worst of all, I'm going to make a fool out of myself by building a commander I condemned as not particularly good.
That's right, the same way Microsoft does: embrace, extend, and extinguish., the I'm willing to use before the final boss battle. not only gives all your creatures haste for activated abilities, but doubles up sinking four mana or more into one for the low, low cost of . We're going to use this incredible return on investment to monopolize the board
Quick on the Draw
First, we need to embrace a full grip of cards as well as a stocked graveyard. Though it seems like you'll only need to fill your hand to take advantage of activated abilities, that's only a part of the puzzle: the graveyard is just as important for our strategy. One of the easiest traps to fall into when evaluating Cycling, is where you put a in the spokes of your bike to make it sound cooler, but there's others out there as well.1 To make use of them, we have to find them. These cards are how we drew it:is to focus entirely on the text of permanents specifically, when there are so many abilities on cards in general. The most renowned,
- is cheap to cast and even cheaper to activate, but be careful: each time you shop, your hand size drops. He excels at digging up land and tossing fodder early game, but as the match progresses you'll unlock more consistent card selection with additional upsides.
- On the other side of the coin, refills your hand after you've sufficiently plotted your graveyard. Be careful playing him unless is already out; it's pretty typical that at least one opponent has grand plans for the future, and you don't want to be stuck unable to respond to removal. The best you can hope for is making it to the end step before yours without the catching a flat; having access to the full, magnificent seven before any of your opponents is a major boon.
- It might be controversial, but I'll say it: is better than . Sure, you'll pitch faster than the kid in Rookie of the Year, but you'll often relish the opportunity to dig four cards deep to find something you need while cleaning out what you don't. I have legitimately won games by casting this for zero.
- and its theater-kid big sister, , both have relevant draw and discard modes alongside ways to remove weaker engine creatures. Prioritize using them to knock out a threat like an , but don't be afraid to cast them to find land drops or discard cards that would rather be in the graveyard.
- is an absurd car(d) that not only fixes your hand, but also produces an endless stream of chump blockers. It's no wonder this literal draw engine is the most popular Azorius commander.
- Finally, if your draws are really driving you mad, can restore your sanity. Your opponents benefit from it, too, so be judicious.
1. Of course, a Dynaheir Cycling deck would be cool, but according to my terrifying regular expression, there's only four cards in Jeskai that cycle for four or more. You're better off with an most of the time.
Twiddling Your Thumbs
Doubling your money is great, but unlimited growth is surely the sign of a healthy business. There's no reason we can't activatemultiple times a turn, except for the rules of the game. However, if we untap , we're legally obligated to our shareholders to keep layering her copy effect until we cash them all in on one massive payout. This can escalate your mildly annoying abilities into game-ending threats.
- No point blindfolding the horse as I lead it to the glue factory:
, , , , , , , and are all slightly different models of the same permanent. They're all great at untapping , and you'll usually only need one or two of these to really go off. There's only a few truly notable differences worth pointing out here:
- is apparently the only person we know that's ever looked in a mirror, and therefore the only twiddler capable of untapping itself. This seems like neat trivia, but it makes achieving infinite untaps with a pair of more straightforward on him than anyone else.
- Unearth is useful if you want to get that one extra activation out of on a turn where you otherwise really wouldn't have the mana to spare. 's
- can't combo with , but it makes up for it by being the best untapper to clone multiple times over with . You honestly have to try to lose after you get five of these.
- works to refresh not only , but all of the above-mentioned permanents as well as any of our mana rocks. While this list doesn't run , you can loop this with enough rocks and a : just copy its second ability and have the copy target the Shredder itself, which is in the 'yard at the time it goes on the stack and is thus a legal target.
- rewards you with a mini- just for casting noncreature spells and it doubles as card selection. This is likely the best individual card in the deck.
- , of course, is great on , but don't get tunnel vision. Any effect like this is better served on a twiddler than on directly, because not only can you double up on , you can use that flexibility to fix your mana as much as you need or even go positive with an .
- is a little pricey, but an untapper on a permanent type that's almost impossible to interact with is worth the premium. Just make sure you name blue on your thriving lands a little more often than the other colors.
Embrace, extend, and extinguish: That's the triple-E strategy, but little did you know that extinguish itself can be wrapped up in another triple-E:
eastern equine encephalitis Embalm, Eternalize, Encore.
Yes, unlike Escape or Flashback, which cast the spells from your graveyard and are thus ineligible for chicanery, our triple-E abilities are legally activated abilities. Think about it: maybe three Treasures out of an isn't the best use of your resources, but nine? Maybe one clone of an enemy's is fine, but having four copies? 's the key to all this, and the triple-E abilities play almost any role you need:
- Need extra mana to hit the bigger effects? Free Bird that and watch those royalties pile up. Six Treasures for four mana is comparable to some of the most popular red rituals, and those don't even let you store it across turns.
- Both and are undoubtedly costly, but refilling your hand from the graveyard is a great effect you'll always feel comfortable double-activating, even if you have no untappers on your board yet.
- Straight lifegain is often overlooked in Commander, but a few extra copies of and could be the difference between surviving a big attack and... not surviving that big attack.
- comes back strong as a 4/4 double striker. Getting two or three of these isn't that unrealistic a proposition, and having them around renders empty boards extremely punishing. This is one of your best draws against those durdly value decks that tend to run very few creatures that they'd be willing to part with.
- has a built-in way to the graveyard, because it Plainscycles into . It's irreplaceable in an opening hand. One of your best possible curves is a turn two Plainscycle into into into a triple-Eternalized .
- is usually not worth Embalming, because 2/3 fliers don't scale extremely well, but it does provide a backup in case it gets killed. Flying and vigilance are great keywords for tokens, because they enable them to pull double duty on offense and defense, and their status as "not real cards" often means your opponents feel like removing them is a bad trade.
- is the strongest removal in the deck, because it will come down and exile six creatures for just six mana! Those 4/3s are a bit beefier than I'd like, but being able to shotgun practically every threat at once while leaving your board intact is amazing.
- is less of a shotgun and more of a laser-scoped sniper rifle. A few of these can really ruin a combo player's day, and they're even decently beefy attackers too.
- Picture a creature that bolts three or so times when it enters the battlefield and you've got , the P90 of creatures. Crucially, it can hit face, too, so while it's not the cleanest way to get the job done, don't shy away from it if you find it's in your yard and you've got a substantial amount of untaps.
- Although it's strange to think of a bog-standard clone as a game-ender, can be just that. Sometimes the best thing to copy is an untapper, but sometimes the best thing to copy is . Pay attention to the board, and you might find a line that makes your opponents' permanents better for you than they were for them. Remember, not every clone has to copy the same thing.
- scales as the game goes on, since players very rarely hold back their land drops. Trample also means it's a simple matter of whichever number is bigger, and there's no need to worry about the specifics of each player's board. Math's for blockers, after all.
- If you managed to pull a lot of Treasures out of an early in the game, congratulations! will burn your opponents to a crisp before they ever even have to worry about connecting. Without those Treasures, it's a riskier bet, but you'll usually have enough rocks to make some sort of dent in life totals. You can always pump up your artifact count with a multi-activation of , too.
- is actually absurd at three Encores and fatal at four. Just to demonstrate, if you can untap just twice in a turn, this generates three flying 10/10s for each opponent, and if you can bump it up to three, it becomes four 13/13s.
- And obviously, is big, ostentatious, and unnecessarily overwhelming. Every additional Encore represents another 27/27 of stats that sticks around. If you somehow don't run the table over the turn they come out, it's only a matter of time before you do.
It'll be demoralizing if you only find the categories you don't need though, so let's just make amassing a giant army at all our win condition:
, , and are all blunt instruments, which incidentally are great at knocking your opponents out. You'll only need to Encore a few things before their life totals start running out, but try to win the game all at once if you can; Encore gets weaker the fewer opponents you have. is a little bit more subtle, but the basic gist is that any Encore will double its power six times to 64, which generally finishes anyone not playing a dedicated lifegain deck.
And finally, thoughis usually reserved for tribal decks, we can think of our strategy as a sort of tribal; everything we Encore will be of the same type, basically making everything a makeshift . Everything we Embalm or Eternalize will be Zombies, so that synergy is available to us as well.
The Fourth E: Epilogue
This is one of the more balanced decks I've put on How They Brew It; there's always some line you can take that can knock out opponents all at once, so you'll never need to worry about sniping a friend of yours only for the game to drag on another thirty hours. Hopefully, your opponents will be less mad at you than they were at me. I'm still dodging rocks here at the convention center, though that may just be the actual, literal Brother's War that broke out here during prerelease.
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Embalm, Eternalize, Encore (Dynaheir, Invoker Adept EDH)
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