Sift Through Sands - Aminatou and Sidar Kondo/Silas Renn

Wes Stuckey • July 26, 2022

Primordial Mist | Art by Titus Lunter

Face Down

Hello, Magic fans, it's Wes Stuckey again with Sift Through Sands. When I build around mechanics, I go all-in. It might be a problem. Sometimes, I'm struck by how a mechanic truly changes the game we love so much in such an intriguing way, but sometimes I can't make it work. Ship tribal is not a thing. Skipping your own turns for profit is expensive to build around (Meditate is on the Reserved List).

But sometimes, just sometimes, it works in my favor. Visiting Ixalan let me play Pirate tribal, Phasing has returned, and the proliferation of powerful, affordable support has made janky decks viable.

Early in my brewing days, I came across a manifest deck that built itself around the confusing Illusionary Mask. Its main wincon was getting Phage the Untouchable face down, flipping her, and taking out an opponent by surprise. I loved it, but in those days scry taplands were a couple bucks apiece, and I was in school. The deck's theme of getting surprise heavy hitters face down and having answers to everything suddenly was extremely appealing, so I built it, and it was bad with budgetary limitations.

However, with the release of Commander 2018 and 2019, the Magic community gained two important cards for manifest and morph decks: Primordial Mist and Scroll of Fate. With these cards, the downsides of the strategy were nixed. We now have ways to use face down cards we want to cast and a way to manifest from hand. It was magnificent, and the power of this strategy is what inspired the decks we'll be looking at today: Aminatou, the Fateshifter and one of my paper decks, Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and Silas Renn, Seeker Adept.

Our Picks

In these lists, our commanders work as enablers and backup to ensure our victory. Aminatou, the Fateshifter's +1 ability allows us to control the top card of our library to manifest a card we want to see face down, and her -1 ability lets us flicker a card we don't want to see manifested, like an important enchantment or land. Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa lets us make our manifested 2/2s unblockable (most of the time), while the utility applications and colors that Silas Renn, Seeker Adept gives us access to help the game progress in our favor. We'll start by looking at the Aminatou decklist.

Nap Time

Commander (1)
Artifact (6)
Creature (35)
Enchantment (9)
Instant (8)
Sorcery (5)
Land (36)

Playing Aminatou

When playing Aminatou, getting as many creatures face down is important, and setting up our victory is key in our first few turns. Any ramp is welcome, as having mana open is a threat to our opponents. Having cheap morph creatures in play lets us secure our board state, making Disruptive Pitmage, Frontline Strategist, and Willbender welcome plays for later on. Support in card advantage comes with Mentor of the Meek, Brainstorm, and Ponder, while Behind the Scenes and Brave the Sands make combat our friend.

Aminatou is cheap, and getting her moving can start our manifest engines going with great success. Apart from one and done cards, like Cloudform and Soul Summons, we have engines in Qarsi High Priest, who can sacrifice our unwanted manifested 2/2s as we work towards a bomb, while Primordial Mist lets us manifest ad nauseam. If we draw a card we want face down, Scroll of Fate lets us manifest it, and the versatility of the peculiar Penance allows us to target our own black sources to order our deck, in addition to Aminatou's +1.

By the time we get our engines moving and our deck stacked, we want to hit our surprises before we manifest them. As mentioned before, Phage the Untouchable is the perfect hit, along with Eater of Days, Leveler, and Nyxathid. Some of our cheaper cards turn face up to our opponents' chagrin, with High Priest of Penance, Ruthless Ripper, and Spellskite all disrupting the game. In the event our manifest engines don't work out, backup cards Hushwing Gryff and Torpor Orb allow us to exploit our big boys and potentially hose our opponents' enter-the-battlefield triggers.

The deck plays smoothly as we enjoy the flexibility of manifesting morph creatures or simply casting them. Much of their abilities imitate instants, letting us focus on having a plethora of creatures. Similarly, our Sidar/Silas decklist can go wide, as we manifest closer to Phage. Let's check out the list!

Danifest Mestiny

Commander (2)
Artifact (10)
Creature (29)
Enchantment (9)
Instant (5)
Sorcery (9)
Planeswalker (1)
Land (35)

Playing Sidar/Silas

This deck has been a project, and it's one of my all-time favorites. We have access to a large amount of ramp and card advantage, making establishing our gameplan much easier. Hitting the ground with Trail of Mystery, Secret Plans, or Jeskai Infiltrator sets us up for a great game. Low-mana-value sifters, like Mystic Speculation, Preordain, and Diabolic Vision, let us set up our deck and find our engines, like Whisperwood Elemental and the like.

As with Aminatou, getting morph creatures with utility, like Unblinking Bleb, Mischievous Quanar, and Den Protector, all keep us in the running. Many of our support pieces come from sacrificing artifacts, with Brainstone and Conch Horn being both important card advantage and deck-stackers that we can recur with Silas Renn. Getting lots of face down 2/2s lets Sidar Kondo do work, and we can use Pygmy Hippo and Mindleech Mass for surprise combat damage triggers. Ixidor, Reality Sculptor doesn't play that well with Sidar Kondo, but similarly to Primordial Mist, his ability to let us flip cards helps the deck tremendously.

Our win conditions are multifaceted. We can swing with our army of 2/2s, flipping the important ones when necessary, or use combo pieces to profit. With Primordial Mist, we can really take off. Sunscape Apprentice lets us manifest every turn, using Wormfang Manta to establish turn lock, or combining the versatile Vesuvan Shapeshifter to repeat morph abilities for 1U, making Brine Elemental a miserable control piece. Plus, as with many Sidar Kondo decks, Mirror Entity lets us take our opponents out by boosting our creatures after no blockers are declared. We're running a handful of tutors, like Congregation at Dawn and Insidious Dreams, to let our deck work with whatever wincon is appropriate.

This Sidar/Silas deck is complex, but the wide array of potential wins and the unassuming nature of the combination keeps you from looking like a threat. Most of the time, your opponents won't even know what you're putting on the battlefield as it comes in face down.

Face Down Defense Position

So, are you manifesting Phage now? Here's the cards that are in both decklists.

Although this is a large package and fairly specific to this strategy, they can find a home in any manifest or morph deck. Powerful commanders have been printed that want this strategy, from the direct Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer to the powerful Animar, Soul of Elements. Morph and manifest allow for significant card advantage, and in tandem they allow you to save utility creatures for surprise application later in the game. It's a blast to play morph, and I highly recommend checking out this affordable theme.

So, if that caught your eye, check out some of the other big statements on Commander's Herald, like how you don't really need to run that fetch, or check out how many classic Magic artists came back for Double Masters 2, and why it's important to discuss power before you play. In the meantime, let us know what kind of weird theme decks you've made? Have you become as attached to a weird gameplan revolving around Phage the Untouchable, or do you have experience with morph? Until next time!

The untenable Wes Stuckey is the jankiest Magic player to roam the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (their first brewed deck was Blind Seer "old cards"). By day, they work in circulation at one of the city's many great libraries. By night, you can find them slinging spells, running campaigns, and listening to music with friends and the cat.