Archetune-Up - Eerie Number 13

(Triskaidekaphobia | Art by Willian Murai)

Crippling Fear

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages!

Today's article is the last installment of spoopy decks themed for the Halloween, and the last weekly article before I move to a biweekly schedule. As such, I figured I would close this month out with aplomb and write about a deck that really got my wheels turning.

This deck is a bit off the beaten path for my article series since it wasn't initially based around a commander or a theme. Instead, it was built around a card, to which I then applied a theme and a commander. It's also important to note that, because of this, this list is not finalized in the traditional sense. Due to it being such a loose concept, there are countless changes that can be made to it, whether you play around with different colors or even themes.

Enough with the buildup, though. Seeing as this month started out with arachnophobia, I figured it would only be suiting that this month ended with another phobia; Triskaidekaphobia!

Building around a specific card as opposed to a commander is a bit tricky. One way to build around a specific card is to look at its page on EDHREC in order to see whose decks it's most often included in. This is the first thing that I tried, but none of the commanders here really spoke to me.

Trying a different approach, I decided to check the Enchantment Theme to see if it had options for me. My thought here was that even if the page, itself, didn't list Triskaidekaphobia, there would be more than enough support in order to build around this one specific enchantment, regardless.

In order to build around Triskaidekaphobia, we're looking for a commander that can support enchantments that also has black in their color identity.

The obvious choice here was Alela, Artful Provocateur, but she didn't really help move this gameplan forward aside from making blockers for us. Then there were generically good commanders, like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim or Kenrith, the Returned King. Both of these would be good, too, but I really enjoy it when our commander has synergy with our theme. Since the card that we're building around isn't our commander, a way to tutor or recur Triskaidekaphobia would be ideal, but both Zur, the Enchanter and Tayam, Luminous Enigma just miss the mark. Mogis, God of Slaughter was also a consideration since he can help manipulate life totals, but I really enjoyed the support that white gave the deck.

Then I made it to the end of the page... and who do I see next to Mogis...?

Average Ertai Enchantments

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Commander (1)
Creatures (15)
Enchantments (27)
Instants (6)
Artifacts (8)
Sorceries (6)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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While he isn't the most robust commander by any means, Ertai the Corrupted is one of the few commanders in the colors that we want that can help protect the key piece to our deck. He also gives us a option to throw Triskaidekaphobia into the 'yard in case the battlefield is getting too scary! This interaction won't come up often, but it's a good option to have as a failsafe. Running Ertai also allows us to easily pack often-overlooked enchantments, like Hatching Plans or Treacherous Blessing, into the deck. These enchantments provide sacrifice fodder while also counting for effects like Sphere of Safety and Archon of Sun's Grace.

Overall, I think that Ertai has a lot of depth beyond what I initially expected, and I gladly chose him to command this experiment for me.

Seeking Terror

First, I want to touch on the specific cards that I added from the Esper Enchantment Theme to help support the Triskaidekaphobia plan.

When utilizing a "hidden commander" like I'm trying to do, the most integral part is to make sure that we increase our chances to have access to the card we're looking for. Ertai's average enchantment list already included Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor, so I thought it was appropriate to add both Demonic Tutor and Plea for Guidance, as well, to increase the odds of pulling Triskaidekaphobia out of the deck. Black is the king of tutors, so if you wanted to add more, that's also an option, as well. Diabolic Tutor, Razaketh's Rite, Grim Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor are all options here, depending on your budget.

Underworld Coinsmith and Grim Guardian may seem a bit underwhelming, but they represent an important aspect of this deck: the ability to slowly chip away at life totals. By choosing the Enchantment Theme, I decided to lean away from fully pursuing the life manipulation aspect that this deck could have pursued in order to focus on the enchantments, themselves. With that said, going down a more life-focused route is certainly a viable one. Each small point of life drain will add up and help slowly move opponents' life totals to where they need to be. Utilizing Triskaidekaphobia will require a bit of finesse.

If you're looking to throw away all subtlety, though, Sorin Markov and Magister Sphinx are two cards that can nuke an opponent's life to 10, progressing your plan even faster. Both of these would have been considerations for the deck had I used the Esper Lifegain Theme, as they were both listed there, but since I decided to pursue a more enchantment-focused build and not included on the Esper Enchantment Page, they were ineligible for inclusion.

Thirteen is Bad. How About Twenty-Six? Thirty-Nine?

What’s better than one Triskaidekaphobia? How about multiple?

Ertai's list already had cards like Estrid's Invocation and Mirrormade, so why not add more? Mirage Mirror, Clever Impersonator, and Copy Enchantment are great for this deck, letting us double up on Triskaidekaphobia or any other enchantments that we want. With multiple Triskaidekaphobias out at a time, we can more finely control opponents' life totals, shifting them up and down however we see fit and putting them closer to our lucky number.

Another way to utilize our clones is if the main plan of winning through Triskaidekaphobia seems out of reach. We can simply pivot to doubling up on something like Sigil of the Empty Throne to try and win through a flurry of swords and feathers. This deck has a single goal in mind, but we can't allow it to become completely one-dimensional.

Necessary Fuel

While I want to maximize the Triskaidekaphobia gameplan, I also think it is important to fuel Ertai since he is integral to our plan after all.

Following in the footsteps of Sigil of the Empty Throne, Archon of Sun's Grace, and Alela, Artful Provocateur (who, while not chosen as the commander, is included in the deck), I thought to add Bitterblossom, Felidar Retreat, and Ajani's Chosen to the ranks, as well.

This token subtheme is important for two reasons. The first is to provide a steady stream of expendable creatures to feed to Ertai so that he can counter spells that can infringe upon our plan. The second is to be a potential backup win condition. We aren't always going to be able to rely on Triskaidekaphobia to be able to ping our opponents down. Sometimes we're going to need to amass an army of tokens and smash through! The two strategies can also work together quite well, too: a large force of creatures can be quite helpful in pecking down opponents' life totals, allowing Triskaidekaphobia to finish them off.

Shark Typhoon and Monastery Mentor are also potential inclusions here, as well, but they weren't included on the Enchantment Theme page, sadly.

The last card that I included fell under the category of expendable enchantment: Confounding Conundrum.

Conundrum checks a lot of the boxes of cards that are acceptable for this deck. It's cheap, it replaces itself, it can be sacrificed to Ertai, and it can hamper opposing strategies at no detriment to us! There are plenty of other cards that could be added here, though: Ethereal Armor, Teferi's Ageless Insight, heck, even more mana ramp or pure card draw. I liked adding Conundrum as a placeholder and a bit of a flex slot. It does the bare minimum for the deck, but there are potentially more synergistic cards that can be added if you want.

Titles Involving Thirteen Were Quite Hard, But I Tried

The last card that I included was not on the theme page, but it is necessary when the deck revolves around a single integral piece like this one does.

Pull from Eternity is one of the very few effects that can get us a card from exile. This deck has a handful of ways that can return enchantments from the graveyard to the battlefield, so taking an exiled Triskaidekaphobia and dumping it into the 'yard is a great ability to have.

A brewer has an incredible amount of freedom when putting a deck together when it revolves around a single card like this one. Nearly every kind of color and theme is at your disposal. Instead of basing the deck around enchantments, this could have easily been a Lifegain or Group Slug deck that decided to take a much more active role in manipulating life totals through other means aside from Triskaidekaphobia.

I'd like to hear from you, though. What kind of "hidden commander" decks have you built before? Have any of them involved Triskaidekaphobia? If not, what was your key card that your deck couldn't live without?

I hope you all enjoyed this month of ~spooooopy~ decks, and I look forward to doin' the same next year. Until then, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, go vote, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up Ertai Triskaidekaphobia

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Commander (1)
Creatures (12)
Enchantments (27)
Artifacts (8)
Instants (7)
Sorceries (8)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.