Let Me Sell Ya - Shorikai, Humble Isochron Tyrant

Jake FitzSimons • March 14, 2022

Shorikai, Genesis Engine by Wisnu Tan

Welcome to Let Me Sell Ya, a new series where I'll try to sell you on a cEDH deck, be it a brand new brew or a vintage classic. I'm not here to write primers - this is more like a pamphlet: a preview of a powerful deck.

Let Me Sell Ya is about what's special, what's different, and what makes a commander worth paying attention to. And today, it's about Shorikai, Genesis Engine, the first noncreature artifact legal in the command zone. That's exciting in and of itself, but only the beginning of what makes Shorikai unique.

So, why should you try Shorikai? Well, let me sell ya.


The Tragedy of Darth Azorius

Azorius struggles a bit competitively. Made up of the two slowest colors, it moves at a glacial pace compared to the rest of the format. Slow isn't necessarily synonymous with bad, but Azorius can struggle to turn the corner. After all, stopping your opponents from winning and actually winning are different things.

Three cEDH viable Azorius commanders.

 

There's also an absence of quality combos in Azorius. The mono-blue ones, like Polymorphing into Hullbreaker Horror or assembling infinite mana with Isochron Scepter & Dramatic Reversal, require an outlet in the command zone, and that hasn't been possible with the existing options. Until now.


What Makes Shorikai Different

When I'm trying to assess the merit of a new commander in cEDH, I have three simple criteria: it must provide mana advantage, card advantage, or combo potential. Any legendary that ticks one or more of these boxes is worth looking at, and Shorikai the checks the latter two. Already, this puts the mech a rung above its Azorius contemporaries. Let's look at the combos first.

Isochron Scepter & Dramatic Reversal is a time-honored classic that produces not only infinite mana, but infinite untaps. This is perfect for Shorikai, as it draws the whole deck. With access to everything, simply cast Blind Obedience then activate and reactivate Isochron while paying for Extort.

The adjacent combo is Hullbreaker Horror. Using either Proteus Staff or Polymorph, a humble Pilot will turn into the thing that was in the ice, allowing you to make infinite mana by looping positive rocks. You can't untap Shorikai this way, but you can cast and recast it infinitely, which is just as good - remember, Shorikai is an artifact, so its ability doesn't suffer from summoning sickness. Again, Blind Obedience takes care of the rest.

"Okay, an infinite mana outlet and card advantage in the command zone, isn't that just what Thrasios does?" Trust me, I hear you.


Is Shorikai Better Than Thrasios?

Of course not. I'm here to sell you on the deck, not lie to you. If nothing else, Thrasios has Partner, easily one of the most broken keywords in all of Commander. But I do think Shorikai is the better value engine.

Despite costing four, Shorikai needs just one mana every turn thereafter to generate card advantage. Thrasios might be faster to cast, but in my experience his activated ability is rarely used for value outside of very grindy games or advantage lists looking to maximise it. It's a lot easier to find one spare mana than four. 

Once Shorikai lands, activating it every single turn is par for the course, and seeing two cards and discarding one is more than just card advantage: it's card selection, and that's before you start digging into the synergies.


Rock Around The Clock

All blue decks have access to engines like Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora, but nonblack decks struggle to tutor them. Outside of Enlightened Tutor, Shorikai has the same difficulty, but makes up for it with easily tutorable artifacts that send its activated ability into overdrive.

Just imagine if Seedborn Muse was cheaper and colorless. If you're already a Seedborn fan, you've experienced the ecstasy of activating your Commander four times a cycle. If you haven't, buckle up. Clock is one of the best cards in the deck, and if you can resolve it and protect it, you'll drown yourself in cards. Take that, Magda, you're not the only cEDH commander with a huge clock.

As a diehard Koll fan, I don't need any convincing when it comes to the power of the clamp. But if you do, consider this: every time you activate Shorikai (which should be every opportunity you get), you leave behind a Pilot. Other than Polymorph targets and chump blockers, what those Pilots represent are potential draws. Find Skullclamp and every Pilot becomes "pay one, draw two cards". If you don't have the mana for Clock or your board looks like an air force academy, get out the clamps.

Minamo isn't on the same level as Skullclamp or Unwinding Clock, but it doesn't need to be. It's hidden in the manabase, and much like the new Channel lands, carries no real opportunity cost. It either doubles Shorikai activations or serves as an untapped source of blue mana.

The Keys are a different story. They fulfill a similar role to Minamo plus additional utility with our best mana sources. Mana Crypt and Sol Ring start producing (3) and Mana Vault and Grim Monolith go from being colorless rituals to genuine rocks. I'm not currently running the Keys as I worry they'll prove a little too greedy, but I encourage you to test them and prove me wrong. 

Lack of card advantage is a common sticking point in low-color decks, even blue ones. Shorikai not only solves this problem, it crushes it.


Creatures Are Cringe

Back to the Polymorph plan: it's important to realize losing creatures is not a concession for this deck - it's an advantage. With a noncreature commander, you free yourself from the shackles of flesh and blood (the lobster doesn't count, it's made of chitin and hemolymph) and gain access to the exciting world of extreme anti-creature measures. 

Board wipes? In my cEDH? It's more likely than you'd think. And it's a lot better than conventional wisdom might suggest. The only board wipes to see real play in cEDH are Toxic Deluge, Cyclonic Rift, and the endangered Fire Covenant. There was a time where Pyroclasm effects saw play, but 2 damage won't cut it in a metagame infested with Drannith Magistrate and Eidolon of Rhetoric. And yet, the average cEDH board has never been in such need of a wiping.

An unreasonable number of the best cards in the format are recently printed creatures. Ouphe, Opp Agent, Drannith, Birgi, Archon of Emeria, Esper Sentinel, Ragavan, the list goes on. It wasn't always the case, but cEDH in 2022 is crawling with critters. Powerhouses, like Winota, Temur Pirates, and the dreaded Krarkashima are entirely dependent on maintaining a creature-heavy board presence from start to finish. There's so little in the meta right now that's capable of punishing them all in the same fell swoop.

Supreme Verdict is the least interesting of the three as well as the priciest. It's also the most reliable, resolving against all but Unsubstantiate effects and Mindbreak Trap. Verdict is particularly useful against creature-centric decks packing counter magic, like Yuriko, Najeela, and Pako.

Vanquish the Horde is rarely going to cost more than two white mana. If there aren't at least six creatures on board, it's probably not worth using a board wipe anyway. Your Pilot tokens will also help feed this. For the greater good.

Out of Time is the cheekiest, and presuming you can protect it, the strongest. Like with Vanquish, by the time this is worth casting, you'll have placed so many time counters on it that it may as well read "for the rest of the game". While OOT demands you protect it, Phasing is unique in that it doesn't give anyone the chance to return their commander to the command zone. For commander-centric strategies, this can be a death sentence.

Why do none of these cards currently see play? Because the overwhelming majority of cEDH decks - even other Polymorph decks - rely on creatures in the command zone or in the 99. Shorikai changes that. The cards themselves are efficient, relevant, and powerful.


Stay Humble

What's the name of that four-mana white enchantment that irritates everyone, slows the game to a crawl, and gets you kicked off low power tables?

That's right, Humility. Smothering Tithe is so 2019 (we run it anyway). But I'm taking you back to last century, all the way back to 1997. That's where you find the most cursed Magic, like this goofy game-wrecker that sits at number 43 on EDHREC's saltiest cards list.

If I had to give a 30-second elevator pitch for Shorikai, it would center around Humility. This is one of the all-time great stax effects, and shuts off every major wincon in cEDH other than Breach lines. Thoracle? Dockside? Food Chain? Witherbloom? Razaketh? Winota or Yuriko beats? Not when every creature is a vanilla 1/1. Going creatureless for Polymorph is already where the deck wants to be, so including the mother of all anti-creature cards is a no brainer.

Of course, Humility also stops Hullbreaker from working. In the event you run into this nonbo, you have two options, both simple to execute. Remove Humility yourself, or pivot to the Isochron combo. The secret third option is to just wait and continue accruing value with Shorikai. Even if the whole table gangs up on you, when everyone's creatures are set at 1/1 and you're making a Pilot every turn you're not going to feel much heat.

Just remember that if you cast Humility after a resolved Magus of the Moon, all nonbasics will remain Mountains. My brain is a bit too smooth to explain why this is, all I know is that it has something to do with layers, a concept I'm only familiar with in the context of ogres and how they relate to onions.


Ouphe, Ouch, Owie, My Artifacts!

The elephant in the room here is the risk artifacts carry in cEDH. Both Dramatic Scepter and the Hullbreaker combo require access to artifacts. Many of Shorikai's best cards are artifacts. Shorikai is an artifact. Boseiju, Who Endures just got printed, how can an artifact-centric deck survive in this economy?!

These three are trouble. Ouphe is the most common, but thankfully Shorikai can run an absurd amount of creature removal. Null Rod and Stony Silence are harder, but answerable on the stack with most counterspells. For catchall removal, I'm currently testing March of Otherworldly Light but Portable Hole and Prismatic Ending are great options with their own strengths. 

As for Boseiju, you'll have to cop that one on the chin unless you find room for Stifle effects, but it's still just one card. Pithing Needle may be worth including if Boseiju proves too common in your meta. 

What about Dockside? Won't you feed that greedy goblin even more treasures than most decks do? Well a little, yes. But with the exception of Null Rod Shorikai packs the best Dockside countermeasures cEDH has on offer.


Stax Machine

Humility is the best answer to Dockside as it also answers near everything else, but the three below are all great stand-ins. Dress Down and Torpor Orb are already on the rise with the suffocating prevalence of Dockside and Thoracle, and Shorikai can run them freely without worrying about stepping on its own mechanized toes. 

Blind Obedience is not only part of the infinite win, it serves as a temporary solution to the mana that Dockside produces, as well as stopping loops. It also slows Ad Nauseam combo turns and answers red combat combos like Kiki, Godo and Dualcaster Mage

I mentioned before that Humility doesn't help against the format's second-best wincon: Underworld Breach. Thankfully, being in white and never needing to use the graveyard, you have the greatest grave-hate effect ever printed in Rest in Peace. Shorikai is a swiss army mech, it has a tool for everything!

Rule of Law effects are out of the question because of the Isochron and Hullbreaker combos, but there are plenty of options for making your opponents weep and lament the very existence of white. Now, I wouldn't call Shorikai a stax deck because it isn't really the primary plan. It's a lot closer to Urza, Lord High Artificer: playing the stax it can break parity on in order to slow the game down to a longer game where Shorikai can shine. If you would like a more hardcore stax deck, I encourage you to check out my fellow pilot ETALOS' list.


The Rest

I've only covered a dozen cards here, and Commander decks are made up of 99 of the little cardboard rectangles, so what gives? As a cEDH deck, Shorikai is primarily made of staples. It has everything you'd expect from blue, with a stack of counterspells, cantrips, instant, sorcery and artifact tutors, as well as the few non-creature cards worth playing in white. If you're not familiar with cEDH or still learning the ropes, check out my Comprehending Competitive series to learn more about these cards.

Without further ado, I present you my take on Shorikai, a deck I call:

Shorikai: Humble Isochron Tyrant

Commander (1)
Instants (25)
Lands (30)
Sorceries (12)
Artifacts (20)
Enchantments (9)
Planeswalkers (2)
Creatures (1)

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It's a little rough around the edges, but with more testing, more time, and more brewers, Shorikai can only improve. If you'd like to contribute to the wider discussion around Shorikai, join us on Discord. This decklist is also available on Moxfield.

So what are you waiting for Shinji? Get in the f**king robot!



Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.