Archetune-Up - The Hunter's Blades

(A Silent Blade l Art by Todd Lockwood)

The Lone Drow

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

There are plenty of works that help craft the imagination of children when growing up: Lord of the RingsThe Chronicles of Narnia, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians, just to name a few. For me, the series that shaped my understanding of fantasy growing up was The Legend of Drizzt series by R.A. Salvatore.

Needless to say, when I heard that Drizzt Do'Urden, as well as the other Companions of the Hall (and even one of their biggest nemeses, Lolth, Spider Queen) were getting cards, I knew I had to get an article together for at least one of them. How could I not write about a deck built around some of my favorite fictional characters??

While I contemplated a Rule 0 build of Lolth (which still may come later), I ultimately decided that building around the titular character of Drizzt Do'Urden would be best. 

From a commander perspective, Drizzt looks a bit underwhelming at first glance. A 3/3 with double strike for five is slightly below rate for a creature, and while he does bring Guenhwyvar, who is a trampling 4/1 in her own right, her low toughness means she will often simply die in combat, and because she is legendary, we can't easily make copies of her. On top of that, when creatures die, Drizzt only gets +1/+1 counters equal to the difference between their powers, meaning anything smaller than him is of no benefit.

So what's the draw here? What are we looking to do?

Well, before we start zeroing in on a theme, let's take a look at Drizzt's average deck list on EDHREC and see what direction people have been taking:

Average Drizzt

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Commander (1)
Creatures (28)
Artifacts (10)
Sorceries (8)
Enchantments (8)
Planeswalkers (1)
Instants (11)
Lands (33)

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It's pretty obvious that Drizzt pilots have had two major things on their mind: high power and +1/+1 counters. There is a light Equipment subtheme as well, but it isn't enough for me to take note of at the moment.

Some standouts that really make this deck hum are cards like Phyrexian Dreadnought, Groundbreaker, Branching Evolution, and The Ozolith. The goal that people are building towards seems to be casting big creatures, getting them to die, and then supporting Drizzt through +1/+1 Counter synergies. Overall, this seems pretty solid. There are two small issues I see, though.

The first is an issue we often run into, and one I will always harp on: there aren't enough lands. I understand that this deck's average CMC is under 3.0, but 33 lands is too few for me, especially when starting off with the rough draft of a deck. I've lost more games to mana screw than mana flood, so I plan on bumping up that number a bit.

The second issue is that this deck is split between high power and +1/+1 counters, but then runs a bunch of dorky Llanowar Elves or cards with no synergy, like Destiny Spinner. These cards are fine, but outside of decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Ezuri, Claw of Progress, I'd rather stick to land-based ramp than creatures, even if they can be modified with counters. I value synergy highly, so I plan on adding as much of it into the deck as I can.

The First Notch

The main goal of this deck is to use Drizzt in the way he is most familiar: skillfully outmaneuvering his opponents and taking them down in a flurry of blows. My primary gameplan will be getting our Drow Ranger to one-shot opponents at opportune moments with 21 points of commander damage. Due to this, there are "magic numbers" that Drizzt has to be at in terms of power in order to do this most effectively.

Thanks to double strike:

  • At 4 power, Drizzt will kill in three combat steps if he connects with an opponent
  • At 6 power, Drizzt will kill in two combat steps if he connects with an opponent
  • At 11 power, Drizzt will kill in a single combat if he connects with an opponent

Any power between 6 and 11, or above 11, is useless, since it doesn't change our math, or it ends up being overkill. This math and these numbers are just a baseline, and can change slightly depending on the situation - number of blockers, if Drizzt has trample, etc. - so plan each combat and take his power into consideration accordingly.

Along with all this, there are spells in the deck like Natural Order and Greater Good that help mulch our large creatures as a way to pump Drizzt outside of +1/+1 counters or Equipment, making hitting these numbers via his own ability much easier.

Since we are focusing on +1/+1 counters and big creatures, I would be remiss to not include someone who lays squarely at the intersection of these themes: Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. Not only is he a big, beefy 6/6 that can apply pressure, but he will double any counters put onto our creatures! This is incredibly important, since not only will it buff our other incidental +1/+1 counter synergies, but it also makes pumping Drizzt to his magic numbers (or above them) much, much easier. Vorinclex also incidentally hoses other decks that revolve around counters, giving us a nice bit of counter play to ensure that no one can beat us at our own game.

Overwhelming Stampede is one of my preferred game-enders in EDH, since we will literally overwhelm the board without much effort. Since our plan revolves around building Drizzt up so much, it only benefits us to have an additional way to take advantage of that! Not only will Stampede double Drizzt's power, but it will also give a huge power boost to our smaller, synergistic creatures like Luminarch Aspirant or Pridemalkin to make them impressive threats in their own right. Simple and effective!

Since we'll be throwing handfuls of +1/+1 counters around, why not add in a creature that can take advantage of them? Esper Sentinel is right at home in a Drizzt deck. It has the potential to accrue a couple cards in the early game, or become an impossible-to-pay tax mid-to-late game. It's highly unlikely that your opponents will pay an extra three or four mana when casting their first noncreature spell each turn, so make sure to throw some counters Sentinel's way if you want a great payoff!

Timeless, Boundless, and Relentless

While I keep referencing +1/+1 counters, in reality, this is a Voltron Deck in disguise. We have plenty of synergy with Drizzt, and our main gameplan is fleshed out, so let's work on a secondary plan of attack, shall we?

While Drizzt goes tall, I want a few cards with +1/+1 counter synergies that can go wide as a back up.

Cathars' Crusade joins Felidar Retreat, Vigor, and Shalai, Voice of Plenty as another way to put counters on all of our creatures. If Drizzt has been taken out of commission a few times, we need to shift our win condition to something else. Going wide and swarming the board with multiple sizable creatures is a good way to throw opponents off balance after expecting us to go tall on solely Drizzt.

To synergize with this shift in playstyle, I added three cards: Herd Baloth, Scurry Oak, and Iridescent Hornbeetle.

The first two are incredibly powerful, as they immediately commit creatures to the board when they get counters. This means they'll create an arbitrarily large board when combined with the aforementioned Cathars' Crusade, going infinite until we decide to stop. Hornbeetle, on the other hand, will only trigger on the end step, but will create 1/1 Insects equal to the number of counters put onto any of our creatures this turn. This means we can start going wide no matter what, whether we're focusing on Drizzt, another creature, or the beetle itself!

The Last Threshold

While there were a few other cards from the +1/+1 counter theme I was interested in adding to the deck, like Kalonian Hydra, Basri's Lieutenant, and Voracious Hydra, I wanted to take a stop at Drizzt's page on the site and see if it had any goodies for us. Drizzt's abilities are a bit unique, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't over looking anything obvious by just keeping my nose in the +1/+1 Counters page.

I've said it before, and I will continue saying it until all of the breath leaves my body: MDFCs are incredible and you should be running them when applicable. In this case, this deck would love some more removal and protection, so Khalni Ambush and Sejiri Shelter are perfect for us. Shelter can also double as an aggressive play and potentially make Drizzt unblockable as well, so don't forget that too! The bottom line is that these MDFCs are lands when we need them and important spells when we want them. I cannot give them any higher praise than saying that they are now the best-in-slot for many effects. Don't sleep on the Zendikar Rising MDFCs. There is a reason I've mentioned them in almost every article since they've come out. They're incredible.

Something that I felt was missing from the +1/+1 counters theme was a way to consistently become unblockable. A lot of +1/+1 counter decks rely on going through creatures instead of around them, and while that is our secondary plan of attack, I want to get Drizzt connecting with my opponents' life totals first and foremost. Spirit en-Dal is a cheeky little creature that can repeatedly give Drizzt (or another creature) Shadow if we pay its (quite affordable) Forecast cost at the beginning of our turn. Shadow is a very uncommon keyword, even with the recent popularity of Dauthi Voidwalker, meaning that whatever we target with Spirit will, for all intents and purposes, be unblockable. Having a cheap, repeatable, and uncounterable way to ensure damage gets through is integral to this deck, and I am more than happy to include this niche little uncommon to get to that end.

To Legend He Goes

There we have it! A fun an synergistic list for one of The Forgotten Realm's greatest champions!

Drizzt is at a unique crossroads in Selesnya. He cares about power, he creates a token, and he can also provide himself with +1/+1 counters. It can be quite easy to split attention between any of those three, but I think focusing on +1/+1 counters first and foremost is the key to having a smooth time constructing a Drizzt deck.

That said, there are plenty of pieces of tech that a Drizzt deck can include no matter the build.

Berserk is a sweet trick that can be used to push through damage on Drizzt to take out an opponent, or to pump another creature (usually an opponent's) to deal extra damage to someone while also doubling as a removal spell and spell that will put extra counters onto Drizzt. Our Ranger also holds a sword and other equipment incredibly well, so I'm sure there are definitely builds that revolve around Stoneforge Mystic and other Equipment synergies. Not only that, but Auras are right at home here too! Rancor, Shield of the Oversoul, and Indomitable Might are A+ auras that pump our Ranger and helps get him into the red. 

No matter how you choose to build him, there's a style of deck here that could potentially interest you. What Drizzt lacks in raw strength, he makes up for in versatility... which is perfectly on character!

What are your thoughts? Do you like Drizzt? What would be your preferred way do build him? Would you have added any other cards to my list? Make sure you let me know down below!

As always, 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, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.

Archetune-Up Drizzt Champion of Mielikki

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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.

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