Sift Through Sands - Gnostro and Lathiel

Wes Stuckey • June 13, 2022

Evra, Halcyon Witness | Art by Johannes Voss

Slice of Life

Hello, all! If you're like me, you're thrilled about the release of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. You're even so thrilled that you preordered a box and couldn't help but gush about the flavor of the set.

Shameless self-plug aside, if you haven't checked out the set reviews posted here and on EDHREC, definitely do that. There are some great insights!

That being said, it's back to the usual grind here on Sift Through Sands, and this week we'll be talking about two commanders from the last Commander Legends: Gnostro, Voice of the Crags and Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn. Both of these fine cards make interesting EDH decks that allow us to build around utility. If that's not what this article series is about, I can't tell you what it is.

Our Picks

Gnostro and Lathiel are fun to build around because they provide utility payoffs. Lifegain in Commander is very popular, but you need a way to turn lots of life into winning the game. Gnostro and Lathiel both lend themselves to different archetypes, with Gnostro usually having a Storm build while Lathiel often being a straightforward +1/+1 counters deck. However, they both give us a lot of room to work with. Gnostro is our payoff, providing three different utility options as we sling our spells, and similarly, Lathiel allows us to turn passive lifegain into aggressive damage. They're fair, balanced, and still easily powerful. Let's check Gnostro out!

Gnostro with Garlic Sauce

Playing Gnostro

We're going with Storm in this deck, as you can see, but in a different way than usual. Gnostro is probably better in the 99 of a different Storm deck, but having access to the utility options at any time make it shine. As we begin the game, ramp is always important, but more importantly, it's important to time our draw spells well to filter through the deck. Cards like Faithless Looting, Thrilling Discovery, and Faithful Mending all help us get the lands or dorks we need to get going.

Once we have some mana, getting Gnostro out is a priority, along with some of our other Storm payoffs. Jori En, Ruin Diver is a great source of card advantage, Cerulean Wisps helps us get extra value from Gnostro, and Storm-Kiln Artist helps us keep our spells going with lots of Treasure tokens. As we filter through our deck with our cantrips and Gnostro's scrying, we start assembling our big payoffs. Sentinel Tower and Guttersnipe help us start ticking our opponents' life totals away, while Cryptic Pursuit, Young Pyromancer, and The Locust God net us tokens to keep us in a good position defensively and offensively. Our modal double-faced cards, like Silundi Vision and friends, provide a great crutch to the deck.

The real stars of the deck come in building around pieces that Gnostro helps us take advantage of. Gnostro's lifegain ability is the least exciting of the three options (sorry, horse head), but leaning into lifegain can help surprise opponents who are going to be expecting the late-game Mind's Desire. Contemplation and Griffin Aerie help us out with this, and Possibility Storm not only doubles our cast triggers, but works with Gnostro's scrying fairly well. By late game, Voice of the Blessed, Serra Avatar, and Evra, Halcyon Witness can swing in to help close the game out.

In a more focused way than Gnostro, our Lathiel deck is based around using Lathiel as a payoff for passive lifegain. Let's take a look at the list.

No Pain, All Gain

Playing Lathiel

I run this Lathiel list in paper, and it's an all-star. Lifegain is inherently unimpressive to many players, and Lathiel being able to take advantage of massive gain combos is a sight to behold. As we move into the game, the potential to get massive creatures suddenly is a common occurrence, and it can happen at surprising speed. Starting from turn one, we want to get our low-to-the-ground threats on the table. Soldier of the Pantheon, Conclave Mentor, and Cleric Class all help us set up threats later, while ramp pieces like Fertilid and Accomplished Alchemist make sure we stay ahead of the curve.

Once we get Lathiel in play, we start setting up our big plays. Interactive creatures, like Shattered Angel, Sunscorch Regent, and Soul Warden, keep us gaining life and +1/+1 counters every turn as we prepare for our bombs, like Soul of Eternity. Our heavy-hitting enchantments, like True Conviction, Angelic Chorus, and Light of Promise, provide some insane boosts. Blossoming Bogbeast, Archangel of Thune, and Kitchen Finks help bring the game to a fantastic crescendo, while Spike Feeder often hands us the game on a platter

As we assemble our threats, utility and removal are important. Any lifegain we can tack on to generally useful spells helps the deck keep rolling. Board wiping with Righteous Fury, recurring something with Pulse of Murasa, or locking a problematic card down with Faith's Fetters is generally useful, but adding on lifegain for little extra mana keeps our deck working.

Gain Package

This incidental lifegain binds our Gnostro and Lathiel decks together. In both decks, we have cards that gain us incidental life for payoffs, allowing us to take advantage of what may seem unimpressive or too defensive to some opponents. Although there are many of these in both decks, the following cards are in both lists:

Lifegain Package

These cards work well in tandem. The creatures boost our life totals to enable our big threats, while Sigarda's Splendor and Survival Cache (which is easily becoming a pet card of mine) both help us tie lifegain and draw together in decks that easily fulfill their conditions. Any deck that gains life as an incidental addition can get a lot of use out of these, from Queza, Augur of Agonies to Astarion, the Decadent.

That's all for now! Hope everyone enjoys brewing with Battle for Baldur's Gate! And I want to hear about your lifegain decks! Do you run off-color ones, like Philomène's Izzet list, or you a madman who runs Heroes' Reunion or Heroes Remembered? Does lifegain deserve more respect these days? Let me know in the comments and keep an eye out for the next entry of Sift Through Sands.

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.