Achievement Unlocked - Winning in the Most Epic Way
(Eternal Dominion | Art by Shishizaru)
This Will Be Epic!
Have you ever made a Commander bucket list? Welcome to Achievement Unlocked, where we take a look at the cool and unique things you can do in this format other than just winning.
I've always wanted to build around the Epic mechanic, and today I finally got to do it! I was surprised in my research by how many cards and mechanics function with the Epic ability. This was such a fun build that I am excited to check off my bucket list. I encourage you to explore building with this set of cards, and if you have, let me know how it went in the comments below.
What Makes a Spell Epic?
There are few mechanics more epic in Commander than… well, Epic! The mechanic reads: “For the rest of the game, you can't cast spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability.” That's a big drawback, so these cards better be pretty good!
Actually, they're a little bit of a mixed bag. Undying Flames and Neverending Torment are a little underwhelming. Undying Flames in particular could quite possibly kill you in Commander before it kills an opponent.
Endless Swarm is much more interesting and can definitely finish a game, especially if built around properly. However, it's not the card we're building around today. Enduring Ideal is quite possibly the most powerful of the bunch; the fact that it searches your own library allows you to build around it and even set up combos such as Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood. However, that gameplay will get repetitive quickly, so that's not what I'm building around either.
Instead, I'm going with the one I think will make for the most enjoyable experience: Eternal Dominion.
There are a few reasons why I chose this card over the others. First, it searches your opponents' libraries, so games will play out differently just about every time. Additionally, blue (and red) are the two best colors for copying spells.
The Epic mechanic works a little differently than you might realize upfront. When you copy the spell on subsequent turns, you'll copy it without the Epic mechanic. You just get the one effect of the spell, rather than an exponentially increasing number of Epic triggers every turn. However, the real power comes from copying the spell when it first hits the stack. Copying the spell as we first cast it will copy the Epic ability, and this sets up multiple triggers on those subsequent turns. Casting this spell once per turn may not be able to close out a game, but multiple instances certainly will!
Choosing The Commander
When building this deck, I wanted to find the best commander to leverage this ability. First, I thought this may be the best strategy to leverage Errant, Street Artist. This card is still a great fit for the deck, but it can only copy the spell on subsequent turns, and it only gives us access to a single color.
Another that almost made it as the commander was Zaffai, Thunder Conductor. The Magecraft mechanic crucially states "cast or copy" (emphasis added). This means that this card will trigger on the initial cast as well as every turn following. Eternal Dominion is a ten-mana spell, meaning each instance will trigger Zaffai's full suite of abilities, which should end the game in short order.
The closest to making the cut was Anhelo, the Painter. Notably, this one gives us access to Grixis colors, which, as we will detail in the next section, is very important. Additionally, no extra mana is required to copy the spell when we cast it. With a spell this expensive, that's a huge plus.
However, in my mind, one general still beats it out:
Zevlor, Elturel Exile is the perfect fit for this strategy. Eternal Dominion targets an opponent, so with this commander, just two extra mana can copy the spell twice, setting up three Epic triggers for future turns. Additionally, Zevlor is very flexible. It turns a simple Doom Blade into a much more efficient spell, for example. Building around a single card is risky, so this commander lets us leverage backup win conditions by copying other enormous spells, such as Cruel Ultimatum or Clone Legion.
How to Build Around a Single Card
Building around just one card in the 99 is admittedly risky. First, we have to ensure we can find the card to begin with. Luckily, Grixis is the best color combination for tutors. Black, of course, gives us a variety of options, like Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, or Grim Tutor. As it turns out, red and blue have a variety of options as well, such as Spellseeker, Solve the Equation, Mystical Tutor, and Personal Tutor. Red even has Gamble, which could of course toss our MVP card into the graveyard, but that's something we'll just make sure to plan for.
In fact, there are plenty of other ways our MVP spell could end up in the graveyard. We could get milled, or it could be countered. Luckily, if we're trying to copy it anyway, those copies will be resistant to a single counterspell, but still, what's the plan if our epic Epic plan winds up scuppered?
The Mirari Conjecture can both get the card back and copy it on the next turn. Flood of Recollection is a solid, cheap option, and if you want to really go over the top, you can even stick the card in your graveyard with Entomb and cast Mnemonic Deluge on it. Mizzix's Mastery can also copy it once, and for much cheaper.
There's no shortage of ways to get the card back, unless of course it goes to exile, and in that case it's good to have other backup win conditions for when your Worst Fears are realized.
You Can't Have Too Much!
This deck needs so much mana. To cast the spell and copy it with our commander, we need a minimum of 12 mana. So how do we get there? There are a variety of ways. First, we need a strong ramp package, and in this color combination, that means mana rocks. Izzet Signet and Talisman of Dominance are the go-to efficient rocks, but we may even want to use more expensive rocks to go off on the one turn we need them, such as Basalt Monolith, or Chromatic Lantern to fix our mana, since the spell is quite color-intensive for a three-color deck.
Once we get the Epic spell going, we can't cast spells for the rest of the game, so even short-term mana sources that are technically card-disadvantage can work for our One Big Turn. This means rituals! The traditional Dark Ritual and Seething Song are strong, and we can also leverage cards such as High Tide or Turnabout. Jeska's Will is already powerful but it shines even brighter here because it targets an opponent, so Zevlor can make more copies if we need it!
Finally, we can always rely on cost-reducers. Goblin Electromancer is a classic, but there are some interesting new additions to EDH we should check out, too. Wizards of Thay can reduce the cost and can make the spell instant-speed. With a little extra planning, Mizzix of the Izmagnus, Vadrik, Astral Archmage, and Magnus the Red can make spells significantly cheaper, too.
I'll Have What She's Having
The Izzet colors contain all the best ways to copy spells, which means we can be picky and choose only the best for our strategy. Permanents that copy spells are great because we can still use them after the spell resolves (once we're unable to cast further spells). Echo Mage, for instance, can copy spells and can really get out of hand when it's fully leveled up.
Other permanents can't duplicate our big spell on subsequent turns, but they don't cost mana to copy it upfront when we're first casting it. Double Vision and Thousand-Year Storm are great options, and the latter pairs extra well with rituals. Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant copies spells and hinders opponents, Tzaangor Shaman is a recent addition that can copy spells without any additional mana invested.
We can also copy our commander's ability with Illusionist's Bracers, Battlemage's Bracers, or Rings of Brighthearth. Sure, these can only copy the spell the first time we cast, but we can pair them with Strionic Resonator, Twinning Staff, and Lithoform Engine on subsequent turns!
Oh, and Paradox Haze is great to play early, since it will double our Epic upkeeps later on!
Beyond permanents, there are a ton of takes on the Fork effect in EDH. Galvanic Iteration can be used twice to really go over the top, as can Increasing Vengeance, and both work at instant speed. Howl of the Horde is one of the cheapest ways to double up at the small cost of attacking that turn. Blue also has spells to add, such as Twincast. The sheer number of copiers we have access to means we have our pick of the litter, so we can easily build this deck on either a shoestring budget or a big budget.
Don't Worry! You Can Keep Playing
Just because we can't cast spells doesn't mean we can't keep interacting and playing Magic. There are plenty of abilities that don't count as casting spells!
First, let's talk about Spellshapers. Spellshapers are a unique creature type that allow us to discard cards and turn them into brand new effects. We'll continue to draw cards each turn, so this is a great way to use the stuff that gets stuck in our hand. Waterfront Bouncer allows us to repeatedly use an Unsummon effect, and Overtaker allows us to steal other creatures with a Threaten effect. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage does a little bit of everything and can deal out loads of damage.
The Channel mechanic that returned last year is another great way to interact without technically casting any spells. Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is not incredibly useful, but it has such a low opportunity cost. Its blue partner, Otawara, Soaring City, is much more useful, both before and after casting our Epic spell. Mirrorshell Crab can counter a spell, and Jiwari, the Earth Aflame even gives us a board wipe!
Speaking of board wipes, Cycling also works under this restriction, and two of the best Cycling cards function as board wipes. Decree of Pain can eliminate all the small creatures, and Decree of Annihilation is a bit meaner, but it can wipe out lands, making it impossible for opponents to catch up. Nimble Obstructionist and Complicate are more counterspell options, and Shark Typhoon can make a giant creature to block or even end the game on its own.
There are many other one-off effects that work well. Graveyard abilities, such as on Geistblast, work without technically casting anything. Even lands can help out! Mirrorpool can copy the spell on subsequent turns, and creature-lands such as Creeping Tar Pit, can be activated as blockers or attackers. We can even throw in Quicksilver Amulet to put any creatures we draw into play.
And here we are! Our epic Epic deck!
An Epic DeckView on Archidekt
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This deck is a little bit of a glass cannon, meaning it either goes off or it doesn't. However, our commander gives us a little more play, and the strategy is much more resilient and powerful than it first appears.
I only scratched the surface of taking advantage of Epic spells. There's way more you can do with them, all with different strategies for each spell and color. The moral of the story is to not count out any strategy; building decks like these is a great way to test your ability to think outside of the box while deckbuilding.
Which of the Epic spells is your favorite? Have you ever built around one? Which abilities did I miss that work well with Epic? Let me know in the comments below!