The dark hour approaches. Dry, decaying leaves drift like ashes on the wind; a crisp breeze howls down those streets dressed in grim reminders of everyone's fate; and the people shuffle along as corpses, hoping for an even bigger handout this year than last. Yes, this unhallowed night heralds true terror, for behold: tax season is upon us.
On the Backs of Giants
My name is Michael Celani, and this Halloween, I'm ready for true terror: I'm going to commit tax fraud. It doesn't matter if it's state or federal, negligent or intentional, because when it comes to the IRS, I just don't give a buck. That's right: taxation is theft, and I'm Robin Hood. Wait a minute, that doesn't--
Our crooked accountant for the evening is, depicted in the card art literally cooking my books. She's got her ways to make colorless mana, and she only brings in more when invest in her "business." Sure, that mana's dirty; the fed would come knocking if you used it to cast spells from your hand, but luckily, I'm a master of making undeclared income look legit. All we have to do is some mana laundering.
Secret of Mana
Our commander is quite theengine. Thanks to the , just one activation can make as much as . Now that's getting rich quick, but being unable to use our dork's mana to cast spells from our hand is an actual downside we need to mitigate. There's a couple of ways to skirt tax law, so let's go over a few main strategies that'll help us plan for our opponents' retirement.
Getting Out of Hand
The first strategy is to get around that "from your hand" clause. In other words, we can cast spells, just not from our hand. Places like the graveyard or exile are fair game under the law, so here's a couple spells that fit the bill:
- Let's start with the big one: itself. It resides in the command zone, which a lot of people internalize as part of their hands since it's not their graveyard. produces a mere without , but that's still enough to guarantee you can play it the turn after she hits the field. Needless to say, getting both out is a top priority.
- Flashback is the easiest way to cast a spell from the graveyard. Ten colorless is a lot of mana, so
basically makes huge Flashback costs a non-issue.
- and are both decent draw spells for the cost. While lets you dig a bit deeper, is an instant and is costed to compete with a .
- and are basically the same card - an stapled to another, pricier .
- is an often-slept-on card, since usually fills its role better, but since the Flashback cost is such a non-issue, we can keep the second cast in reserve until our opponents think we're out of gas.
- Both and have Jump-Start, which is basically Flashback if it had the radical idea of making you discard a card in addition to paying the cost. Most of the fun Jump-Start cards, like , are Izzet, though, so we have to make do with what we got here.
- Finally, the second halves of Aftermath cards are cast from the graveyard, because nothing says "after the end" like additional value.
- springs to mind, as it's both ramp and card draw on the same card. Note that the Mind portion is instant-speed, so if you didn't need to tap on your turn, you can cast this from the yard on an opponent's turn.
- is fairly pricey removal, but it's stapled to , which is essentially in this deck. This lets you play facsimiles of the Power Nine without needing to spend a thousand dollars.
A second strategy is to cut out the "cast spells" part entirely. You can activate abilities of cards and permanents you control with's mana just fine. We'll get into a few specific categories of abilities later, but here's a few choice cuts that benefit from having a beefy portfolio:
, , and all act as instant-speed ramp, which is great to have on hand as you bluff a grip of interaction. Plus, when tons of cards in your deck are essentially , it's a snap to get to a point where paying for green and blue costs on abilities ceases to concern you.
- Note that both and 's abilities put the lands into play untapped, making the color cost essentially free.
- doesn't take the land it finds the final step to the battlefield, leaving it with less of a return on investment compared to other options. Despite that, it's invaluable when you're looking for that fourth drop to guarantee your commander in the early game.
- There're a few activated abilities out there that draw cards without requiring you to tap something, but
is clearly the best for this deck. 's mana pays for most of it, and unlike most options around this price point you get two cards per activation instead of just one.
- is an extremely close second, since despite only drawing one card for four mana, she can outright win you the game thanks to her triggered ability. It's safest to get to fourteen or so cards while holding up a or something similar.
- And sure, may buff 's mana production, evasion, and provide a completely colorless outlet for all that mana, but it makes up for this by auto-equipping to her as well.
- 's Morph counterspell may be as visible as a neon sign under a new moon, but that doesn't make it any less effective when you steal a game-winning spell at a crucial moment.
- And of course, there's the Lamborghinis of abilities, too: flashy, expensive, and liable to get you eaten. Show these cards off only with a generous portion of protection in your hand:
- effectively recurs your whole graveyard, and if that happens to include or , you've essentially unlocked a second hand to play with.
- threatens a one-sided board wipe every other turn, which is a terrifying prospect when they're staring down a 10/10 commander with vigilance.
- is the only card in the deck that makes tokens, but it makes a lot of them. Five 5/5s is the floor on this, and if you're able to untap with a or , it can end the game on the spot.
- Sometimes, the most threatening cards are the most overlooked. If is about to connect with an opponent, knocks them immediately, since you can easily Reinforce for eleven at instant speed.
Win Ben Stein's Mana
Our third and final strategy is to simply ignore that part that says "this mana."'s mana might not be acceptable, but we can trade it in for real mana, sort of like selling counterfeit bills.
This ability is mostly limited tountapping all your lands at a 1:1 rate, or and its clones , , and directly making more mana at a 2:1 rate.
Now that we're keeping ninety-nine cents of every dollar that we take, we need a way to close out the game. Luckily, the answer's been staring us in the face the whole time: we have a 10/10 commander and all the mana in the world to make her unblockable.
Talking about each card here would be redundant, but using a combination of Auras like, activated abilities such as the one on , and some choice Equipment including and , it should be simple to take out each of your opponents in one to two turns.
But that's not the whole story, no. You've read this entire article thinking that it was merely about a $10 Voltron deck. Yes, that is technically true, like a lot of the true things I say. No, the real trick is that it's also secretly a $10 Wizard tribal deck:
Yes, with Wizardcycling, you can find every piece you'd ever need to get yourself in the game. Think about it:? ? ? ? ? ? Practically every problem you'd ever have is answered by some sort of Wizard, and our payoffs aren't limited to just tutoring for them:
makes our Wizards essentially immune to single-target removal, since you can just bounce the would-be victim in response. It'll make your opponents need to find board wipes or multiple kill spells to handle your board in any significant way, giving you all the much more protection when going for a kill. is as effective as on a single activation with just himself and , and the ceiling is much, much higher. And ? Wipe away everyone else's board while yours stays relatively intact. Just make sure you tap for the mana before returns to your hand. How ironic that it would be removed by a Giant.
You know, I've never seen those stupid Purge movies, but it always baffled me that corporate executives wouldn't lock down in an office somewhere and commit heaps of fraud. For every bloodthirsty idiot that would go out killing guys, there'd be, like, five or so overworked interns wiring stolen Bitcoin from compromised accounts directly to corporate.
Anyway, we've gone through three ten-dollar decks now, spanning four colors. Only black remains; which commander will helm that deck? They say that true terror is the unknown, which means I am living in deep fear every day until someone tells me the answer. Happy Halloween!
If you enjoy How They Brew It, please check out the Discord and my other projects at my website, including the new Pisces engine for playing on Spelltable without needing a webcam. I hope to see you there!
Vhal Mana Laundering
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