Archetune-Up – The Cat that Hits Back

(Marisi, Breaker of the Coil l Art by Rudy Siswanto)

Me-owch!

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

When going through and editing last week’s article, one of Pramikon, Sky Rampart‘s themes really stuck out to me. This theme ended up being the catalyst for brainstorming this week’s article. Once I dove into this theme and looked at it more closely, it ended up posing a very interesting question to me: do I want to talk about a Spider, or a Cat?

That’s right, this week, we are going through the goodies from the Forced Combat Theme, a theme populated by all-star commanders such as Saskia, the Unyielding, Gahiji, Honored One, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, as well as the legends above.

Leaving it up to the lovely people on Twitter to decide, I asked them the question, would you rather use this theme to “Jund’em out” or let Naya do its work and stomp all over the table?

While it was close, Marisi beat out Thantis by a whisker-thin margin!

I’m pretty happy that this was the case for a couple reasons. I think white brings a lot more to the table in terms of combat and playing around with the combat step. Also, I like Marisi’s wording more than Thantis’s wording since it gives you more wiggle room to play politics and pick your battles. Last, we just did a Korvold deck last month, so it’s nice to have some variety between articles.

Before going too far though, let’s take a look at what the average Forced Combat Marisi deck looks like:

Average Marisi Forced Combat

Commander (1)
Creatures (27)
Sorceries (9)
Enchantments (11)
Artifacts (9)
Instants (7)
Lands (36)

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Overall, I really like where the deck is going. It has a lot of tools to play politics, and a lot of interaction to force opponents away from us or to punish them for interfering with our plans. That being said, there are a couple things that strike me as a bit odd.

The first is the inclusion of cards like Sphere of Safety and Baird, Steward of Argive. Our plan is to hit our opponents to consistently keep their creatures Goaded and have that snowball into all-out war between the other players. Very infrequently will we need to rely on Ghostly Prison effects to protect us since the deck basically protects itself by being proactive. Instead of reactive pillow-fort cards, I’d rather include ones that push our plan forward and increase the chance to Goad our opponents’ creatures.

The second thing that I’m not a fan of is the minor theme of giving creatures to our opponents. If that is the focal point of the deck, it can be quite powerful, and I’m all for it, but that isn’t the direction in which I want to take the deck. Hunted Dragon, Beast Within, and Sylvan Offering are fine here, as they can provide immediate, powerful effects, but Hunted Troll, Tahngarth, First Mate, and Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor are either too clunky or slow for my tastes. I’m not wholly against giving creatures to my opponents, but it needs to be in line with where I want to take this deck.

So, what did I swap out to replace all of these cards? Let’s get into it and see what interesting cards the Forced Combat Theme has to offer!

? No Durdling Allowed ?

This deck, much like its name says, wants to force combat. We don’t want anyone sitting back and twiddling their thumbs. We don’t want to give people breathing room to set up. We want to hit our opponents fast, hit them hard, and get the snowball going! Once we hit an opponent one time, it makes it a lot easier to hit them again.

This is where cards like these come in. Each of them will help either bolster our own board state or give us the ability to swing away with abandon, both things that this deck loves.

Dragonlair Spider and Rampage of the Clans both apply pressure to our opponents while gumming up the board with creatures that they won’t want to deal with.

Dragonlair Spider will provide a steady stream of dorky 1/1s that we can continuously just throw into our opponents’ creatures in hopes of getting just one of them to connect with our opponent and Goad them. Even if we throw away half a dozen Insects, it will be worth it if we are able to get our Goad chain going.

Similarly, Rampage of the Clans will demolish any artifacts or enchantments on the board and replace each of them with a 3/3 Centaur. Once we’re able to swing in and hit an opponent. the rampage will really start. Centaurs and other creatures will crash into each other and start dealing massive damage to our opponents, forcing them into unfavorable trades and taking chunks out of their life totals. Descent of the Dragons could also work well here if the deck had enough non-flying evasive creatures, but since there isn’t, Descent didn’t make the cut.

I know I said I was not a fan of the Ghostly Prison effects, but Archangel of Tithes is everything we want on a single creature. It is well-costed, evasive, and it applies pressure and punishes our opponents for attacking or blocking us. Archangel allows us to shift between being proactive or reactive depending on the situation, which makes it incredibly hard for our opponents to find a spot to attack us or to stay not Goaded. Everything Archangel does is something we want.

Both Loyal Unicorn and Nacatl War-Pride do a fantastic job at making sure that trying to block and take out our creatures is futile.

Loyal Unicorn is an incredibly strong uncommon that negates any combat damage dealt to our creatures. This lets us swing with abandon at whoever we want, with whatever we want, without fear of losing any of our creatures. It also gives our entire team vigilance, meaning that they can perform both offensively and defensively as long as Marisi is on the field.

Nacatl War-Pride, on the other hand, distracts every blocker that our opponents have whenever it attacks. If we can always ensure that the original Nacatl War-Pride survives, through something like Loyal Unicorn, Iroas, God of Victory, or Whispersilk Cloak, we guarantee that one opponent never gets to block and is always Goaded. This is an incredible amount of leverage to have over one person at the table. which can easily swing games in your favor.

The last card, Kinjalli’s Sunwing functions similarly to Archangel of Tithes. It is an evasive creature that applies a surprising amount of pressure to the table. The Sunwing completely shuts off haste by forcing every new creature to enter the battlefield tapped. This makes it quite hard for our opponents to establish any blockers, especially if they’ve already been Goaded the turn prior. Sunwing plays into our snowball-y nature, making it consistently harder and harder for our opponents to stop our creatures from getting through. It is also a great evasive pest that can help us keep sending out opponents at one another as well!

Wait, Why Are You Targeting Me?

When we’re doing nothing but hitting each player at the table and forcing them to swing at one another, we won’t make many friends. That is why it is just as important to protect our permanents as it is to sow chaos in our opponents’ ranks!

All three of these cards are fantastic when looking to keep our board intact. Teferi’s Protection is the best (and priciest) out of the three, protecting us and our entire board from whatever evil may be afoot. If this card ends up being a bit too expensive for your budget, it can easily be swapped out for something like Unbreakable Formation or Make a Stand. They aren’t as robust, but they are easier on the wallet and can be just as effective in most situations.

Flawless Maneuver and Selfless Spirit can be mana-less board protection options that any deck would be happy to have. Flawless Maneuver is from Commander 2020, and is commanding a solid price tag currently. A potentially free way to protect the board is something I don’t mind splurging a little extra money on since it can really change the direction of a game. That being said, though, if this, much like Teferi’s Protection, is out of your price range at the moment, they can easily be swapped out for the two budget options above.

Selfless Spirit, on the other hand, costs two mana up front, but is free to use afterwards. Until it comes time to sacrifice our ghostly friend, we can use it as an evasive creature to plague our opponents and get the game moving with some Goading. It is another creature that fits multiple roles, and it’s one of the best cards in the deck because of this, fitting into the same tier as Archangel of Tithes and Kinjalli’s Sunwing.

Getting back to the idea of gifting creatures to our opponents, we have Mercy Killing and Benevolent Offering.

Mercy Killing is an interesting card since it is one of the few cards that targets a creature and forces its controller to sacrifice it as opposed to destroying it outright. This is neat tech against creatures with indestructible, causing creatures like Avacyn, Angel of Hope to explode into a pack of Elves like some kind of festive yet horrifying piñata.

Benevolent Offering, conversely, is an often underplayed instant that gifts both you and another player three 1/1 flying Spirits along with a handful of life. Benevolent Offering fits well into decks like Kykar, Wind’s Fury and Inniaz, the Gale Force, but in this deck, it gives us a handful of fliers to haunt and hit our opponents with! The nice chunk of life that we gain is always nice, too, as it helps to curb any aggression that may have squeezed through our Goading. Benevolent Offering is an underrated card that I’m happy to include.

Benefactor’s Draught is a card I have never seen used before, and I’m not sure why. In a political deck like this one, this innocuous instant seems like a shoe-in. Since we’re constantly forcing our opponents to attack one another, there often won’t be a good chance to block in order to mitigate damage. With Draught, we can muck up combat even further, tempting a player to block the creatures coming at them, and all the while netting us a handful of cards! This Benefactor’s Draught can be a bit hit or miss, but if you are applying proper pressure to the board and putting your opponents under enough duress, they should have no choice but to take you up on your generous offer to block and let you draw a few cards in exchange…

Lastly, we like fliers, but only when they’re ours. We don’t want to see them swinging at us if we can help it, which is where Sandwurm Convergence comes in. Convergence is one of my favorite big splashy enchantments. Convergence will immediately give us a 5/5 Wurm at the end of each of our turns, and it also prevents fliers from attacking, which is a very potent combination. This gives us great creatures to block with on the ground and also protects us from any threats flying above. Then, after a few turns, we can set our Wurms loose on our opponents, forcing unfavorable blocks or just hitting them outright and keeping the Goad snowball rolling!

Never Afraid to Throw the First Stone

As someone how absolutely despises three-hour games and do-nothing durdle-fests, I’ve really been appreciating the effort by WotC in recent years to push aggression and incentives to attack. Monarch was the biggest push towards the idea of attacking and interacting with opponents, which I absolutely adored. The second is Goad, which, once again, incentivizes interaction and aggression, and which, unsurprisingly, I love. These two mechanics are some of the best ever created for Commander, bar none. In a format full of people reluctant to attack each other, sometimes all we need is just a little push.

I hope we continue to see designs like Marchesa, Marisi, and Thantis each year. For every Yarok, the Desecrated and Chulane, Teller of Tales, we need an equally compelling legend that reminds us that creatures aren’t just here for value, they are here to attack! Magic the way Garfield intended, right? No, I’m not talking about Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter…No, not Time Vault with Voltaic Key either… never mind. Don’t think too much about it, just attack and enjoy the fun!

If you’d like to reach me, I’m active 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, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up The Cat That Hits Back

Commander (1)
Creatures (26)
Sorceries (9)
Enchantments (8)
Instants (12)
Artifacts (8)
Lands (36)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Angelo is a Connecticut native who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. With at least 20 EDH decks constructed at all times, it's an understatement to say that he loves Commander. Angelo trusts counterspells over creatures, and is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation rotation out of Standard.