60 to 100 - Lich's Citadel
(Lich's Mastery | Art by Daarken)
Howdy pals and partners, and welcome back again to another installment of 60 to 100, where we take a deck from a 60-card format and transport it over to a 100-card Commander deck! This week we almost didn't have to brew a deck for this article, because the Standard deck from which we're drawing inspiration this week is so unique it feels like it should be an EDH deck already! It's not quite the combo-tastic, million-moving-pieces deck we brewed up based on Krark-Clan Ironworks and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle from a little while back, but it's equally crazy and fun to watch go off.
As per tradition, let's take a look at the deck that inspired this week's brew. Thankfully, the originator not only posted his decklist, but his own entire article breaking down how the deck works! You can check it out here if you want to see Ali Aintrazi's breakdown and evolution of the deck. Today, though, we're going through the list with which he won a Star City Games Classic event.
Ali Aintrazi Masters LichcraftView on Archidekt
Juuuuuust in case you were wondering: yes, that is quite the pile of cards. There's no real win condition in the main deck outside of maybe a really big Expansion // Explosion if you're looking for an expensive way to get the job done. That's because of a big glitch in the system when it comes to bringing a Standard deck over to Commander when that deck includes Mastermind's Acquisition. In a word, sideboards.
One of the major rules of the format says that a Commander deck doesn't have a sideboard. Cards that search for things you own outside the game are technically limited to a sideboard - this has especially become popular with effects like the new Karn, the Great Creator. Still, Commander is a social format, and house rules are fairly common. If you'd like to mirror the list above, including outside-the-game tutors and the affectionately dubbed 'wishboards', then I encourage you to talk to your playgroup about whether or not they're okay with you summoning up a card from outside your 99. Some folks aren't a fan, some are. Make sure you let folks know what's going on and it'll save you plenty of hassle in the long run.
Now then, back to this Lich's Mastery stack. In Ali's article he talks about a sick synergy with Chance for Glory and The Mirari Conjecture to loop turns over and over again, retrieving The Mirari Conjecture with Nature's Spiral and then repeatedly returning and recasting the extra turn spell before its delayed trigger would end the game. We can one-up that in Commander, though, since we have access to Regrowth and other Eternal Witness effects. A little redundancy never hurt anyone.
Bear with me, this get's a little (read: a lot) silly. This is how the loop works: ideally, cast Chance for Glory at the end of the opponents turn, right before it becomes your turn again. You'll get an extra turn, and on that turn, play Lich's Mastery to prevent yourself from losing to Chance for Glory's delayed trigger. This will get the chain started.
Remember, that was an extra turn, so now that you've avoided death, you can take your normal turn. Here, cast The Mirari Conjecture, whose first chapter gets back your Chance for Glory. You can then recast Chance for Glory to get another turn. On that turn, cast Regrowth to bring back Chance for Glory once again, then bring back the Regrowth with the second chapter of The Mirari Conjecture.
Cast Chance for Glory once more to get to another turn, which leads to the third chapter of The Mirari Conjecture. We now double all of our spells, meaning we can cast Regrowth to get back Chance for Glory and The Mirari Conjecture to repeat the whole process all over again without fear of dying, thanks to Lich's Mastery.
Whew! Sorry, that was a lot. Now you can only imagine how Ali's opponents felt when he decided to bust this number out in a tournament! The Standard version of the deck needs a second copy of The Mirari Conjecture to combo off, but thankfully Regrowth works even better for our purposes here. Once the deck gets moving with Lich's Mastery out, it becomes very hard to stop as there is no Back to Nature type of effect in Standard. The deck was perfect for such a tournament when the format was young, and kudos to Ali for seeing the perfect time to pick up such a cool brew.
Warring With the Spark
As you may or may not have heard, there is a new set of cards called War of the Spark. As you also may or may not have heard, the set is absolutely nuts. War of the Spark has players of every format excited with new toys for decks from every strategy, and even this brew we're talking about today gets in on awesome new War of the Spark cards. The card that stands out to me the most here is one that I admittedly shrugged off at first glance, but has grown on me since. What's the card?
That one. Right there. The "Bad Naseum," as you may have heard some folks not-so-affectionately call it. Bolas's Citadel is a card that perked up every Commander player's ears as soon as it was previewed. Well, every Commander player's ears except mine, but then I had the sense to revisit the card. Lots of people undervalued Experimental Frenzy, after all, and Bolas's Citadel doesn't come with the downside that Experimental Frenzy does. The nail in the coffin is the simple fact that cheating mana costs, even by paying a ton of life, is ridiculously powerful in any format.
Sitting Atop the Citadel
The relationship between the loss of life from Bolas’s Citadel and the punishing clause on Lich’s Mastery when we lose that life is one that is incredibly important to balance. Granted, the aforementioned relationship is somewhat strained, but that doesn't restrict all our avenues. There is a powerful interaction that Aintrazi used in his deck that I found very interesting, and it gets even more intense with Bolas’s Citadel.
What's the interaction? The way that Lich's Mastery turns lifegain spells into draw spells. Revitalize or even the lowly Healing Salve turning into a draw spells is a powerful (but weird) interaction. In turn, gaining the life and drawing extra cards from it helps to offset the downside of losing cards from our hand when we cast spells off the top of our library.
Ah, yes, Healing Salve, the new draw staple of the format. What a world.
This strategy is obviously very all-in, especially when we have both of our key cards on the table at the same time. It's not bad, it's just fragile, putting our deck synergy and ultimately our life total in a precarious situation. When I say there is lots of potential for things to go wrong, I mean it can be real bad. What if we never see a payoff card? Even worse, what if we never see an engine card? How can we make this work?
Thankfully, there's a reason this Lich went for the rainbow option. In a five-color deck, you’re not restricted in terms of support. We can play a suite of blue cantrips to dig for our important pieces and defensive answers. White packs some utility and board wipes. Black gives us a tutor package. I’ve never been a huge fan of playing a deck with a heavy tutor suite, but if your playgroup is fast and brutal, it might be worth taking a look. Once our engine is online, the possibilities are almost endless.
Life, the Ultimate Resource
Do we want to play the Aintrazi way and use lifegain spells to race through our deck? It seems like it would be pretty easy to do with either of our two key cards in play. Casting spells off the top of our library with Bolas’s Citadel at the cost of a few life isn’t so bad when we’re gaining more life from the spells than we paid to cast them. This gives us an almost infinite way to speed through the deck, much in the same way that Lich’s Mastery turns spells cause us to gain life into card advantage. In other words, just one of our key pieces shifts the deck into overdrive.
When Bolas’s Citadel was first spoiled, there was a massive wave of players talking about how to keep a life total high while abusing the new artifact. The first thing that came into my head (and into the heads of many other players) was another fairly unfair tool for spellslingers all around: Aetherflux Reservoir. Gaining life in incremental amounts while you cast more and more spells off the top of your deck seems like a surefire way to fuel the engine and make it much more sustainable. It’s probably a good thing that this interaction between Aetherflux Reservoir and our other key cards here never were in Standard together, as that might have been a little... broken. So far, since War of the Spark has been released, 31% of decks playing Bolas’s Citadel have made the connection and also play Reservoir, and as the card gets more time in the wild, I can only imagine that that number will start to climb higher.
A card that sets us up for an easy “storm through your deck and do combo things” finish with Aetherflux Reservoir and Bolas’s Citadel comes in the form of one of my least favorite cards to play with or against in any format: Sensei’s Divining Top. This card is a supreme nuisance (“in response, activate Top”), but when it comes down to powerful interactions, this is very hard to beat. Using Bolas’s Citadel to cast the Top from the top our library for a measly one life, we regain that life due to Aetherflux Reservoir. Promptly activate the Top to draw a card and put it back on top of our library. Then repeat. We draw a fistful of cards, gain an insane amount of life, and then use the activated ability on Aetherflux Reservoir to zap the table down in short order. Of all the decks that play Bolas’s Citadel, Sensei’s Divining Top almost matches Aetherflux Reservoir at 30% popularity, making these potent artifacts among the Citadel's most popular inclusions.
No Such Thing As “Too Much”
I know what you’re thinking: “Matt, we’re going to draw too many cards here. Gaining life, drawing cards, drawing cards, and gaining life! We could deck ourselves out!” Well, you’re absolutely right. The last bit of the deck lets us sneak in one of the other most maligned cards in the format. Well, some say it's maligned. I prefer to say this nutty professor is “misunderstood.”
Before you all roll your eyes - I know, I know, this can be a rote way to end the game - keep in mind that Lab Man can be a fragile win condition. It's also not 100% necessary, since we do have other plans like the Reservoir. I just happen to think it's a good idea to have a backup plan or fail-safe, especially since a bunch of low-life-costing spells means Bolas's Citadel will churn through our deck quite fast, and Lich's Mastery could draw us a bunch of cards just by accident. Luckily, Wizards of the Coast obviously agrees, which is why they gave us another version in the form of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
Laboratory Maniac gets played in 12,000 decks on EDHREC, meaning that Jace, Wielder of Mysteries should get at least 12,001 nods. Being yet another draw engine and a backup to our backup is merely gravy on this fluffy pile of mashed card potatoes.
A New Commander on the Horizon
Since Modern Horizons is on the... horizon... I think it’s only fair that we feature a new legendary creature that loves legendary permanents. Sisay, Weatherlight Captain not only gives us access to all five colors, but it just so happens she lets us tutor up legendary permanents. Splendid! I’ll gladly take one and put her at the helm of the deck. Obviously, the more legendary permanents, the better, but here even being able to search a for a few permanents with Sisay, such as our Citadel, is going to be great. I will fully admit this probably isn’t the optimal build for Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, but she's new and exciting, and that's all the reason I need.
With that, here’s the list!
Sisay Lich CitadelView on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Boom. The least Matt Morgan deck we’ve ever Matt Morgan’d. It’s wonky, it’s glass cannon-y, but most of all it looks like an actual blast to play. Assembling the pieces and navigating some weird relationships between cards seems like something I can get into. We even found some room for cards like Angel’s Grace to make sure Lich’s Mastery doesn’t backfire and lose us the game! Like Ali's Rainbow Lich deck, we're doing some crazy, crazy things, with some awesome six-mana black card advantage engines that make even the smallest cards into crazy powerful spells.
What do you all think? Is it worth jumping through a few hoops to make this Aintrazi brew work in EDH, or is it a little too scary? Enjoy the deck, and let me know your thoughts!