Archetune-Up – The Most Contentious River Sausage

(Lutri, the Spellchaser | Art by Lie Setiawan)

Otter Nonsense

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

Today is a bit of a “Part 2” to last week’s Nethroi+Umori article. In it, I had mentioned that, while I had a great time building the deck, I disliked the Companion mechanic for Commander. While game-defining (and game-breaking) in other formats, I tend to find that Companions work in one of two ways: they either end up restricting a deck so much that it becomes more clunky and harder to play, or there is no noticeable deck building difference and they end up being a free 101st card with no downside. I’m not a fan of either scenario.

There are, of course, exceptions, but nine times out of ten I prefer to see one of these legends in the command zone instead of being a Companion, because I think that’s where they shine the brightest.

This prompted me to pose the following question to my followers on Twitter:

Responses to the question were varied, and each Companion was named at least once, but three names kept popping up time and time again: Obosh, Zirda, Lutri.

I will probably get to all three of these at some point, but Lutri, the Spellchaser intrigued me the most. Lutri was banned prior to release, so why were people asking me to write an article about it? Surely not every single person requesting the article simply wanted to be a contrarian, right? I don’t often hear people asking to see articles on Griselbrand, or Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, so what makes the Otter so different?

I think the answer lies in why Lutri was banned. Unlike any of the other legendary creatures on the ban list, Lutri isn’t there due to having obscene power or being an oppressive presence in the command zone. Instead, it quite literally died for Companion‘s sins. Lutri was a free inclusion in any deck that ran blue and red. That, despite what some may think, is a worthy reason to be banned… as a Companion.

I want to say outright that I greatly respect the Rules Committee for managing the format as well as they do; I don’t want this article to be seen as a jab at them, nor do I want anything here taken out of context. Yes, I feel like the response to Lutri was a bit too heavy-handed. I wish that there was a bit more wiggle room between outright banning Lutri and it being banned as a Companion. Even considering the ban list, Rule 0 is the most important aspect of our format. It determines what happens at your personal Commander table and how your play group operates. Our ban list is a guideline for EDH as opposed to something firm and concrete like you see in other formats like Standard or Modern.

Taking all of this into consideration, I asked myself: if someone showed up to my table with Lutri in the command zone, would I be okay with them playing it? My answer, without a second thought, is yes. Lutri wasn’t banned for its power as a commander, but for its ubiquity as a Companion.

As such, I wondered how many other people felt the same. This once again led me to Twitter to ask the same question, this time in the form of a poll:

While 251 votes is a small sample size, a surprising 86.1% (216 out of 251 people) feel like Lutri would be fine to be at the helm of, or be included into, an EDH deck as long as Lutri wasn’t its Companion. What really surprised me was the discrepancy between answers, since it was much more dichotomous than I had anticipated. All of these varied aspects combined together pushed me to write this article, a love letter to Lutri, the little Otter who never had the chance to play in our format.

Much like I did with my Kalamax Article a few weeks ago, I’m going to be basing this brew off of another preexisting commander’s average deck list: Melek, Izzet Paragon.

Lutri’s unfortunate banishment from our format means that no one is brewing with him; as such, EDHREC is only clocking in four decks for the Otter at the time of writing this article. Four is way too few decks for me to write an article about, and I really don’t feel comfortable pulling numbers or cards from such a small sample size. As such, Melek was the closest analogue to Lutri in Izzet colors that I could come up with. Luckily, he has nearly 600 decks to his name, which is definitely a number I can work with, as opposed to four, so Melek seemed like an obvious choice!

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While Melek is the closest Izzet commander to Lutri, there are still quite a few differences between the two that we need to take into consideration before we can make this deck our own. Melek will copy any instant or sorcery off of the top of the library for free, whereas Lutri can copy any instant or sorcery, but will add an extra three mana “tax” to the spell’s cost in order to copy it. This leans our deck away from top deck manipulation and large, splashy spells, and more towards efficient ones and combo potential.

Wh-otter We Up To?

Like I had mentioned above, Lutri is a perfect choice to be at the head of a deck based around spells. As such, there is no better place for us to reference when tuning up the deck than the Spellslinger Theme, itself! This theme has eight different color combinations to choose between, from mono-blue, to Azorius, even to WUBRG. Luckily for us, one of the combinations for this theme is purely Izzet-colored, so by using the Izzet Spellslinger Page, we can narrow our scope and try to find more relevant cards!

As I often do, I am going to start us off with what I consider to be the most important part of any deck: the win conditions. We have four from this theme: Aria of Flame, Metallurgic Summonings, Shark Typhoon, and Jaya’s Immolating Inferno.

These first three cards take advantage of the high density of instants, sorceries, and other noncreature spells in the deck. There are 35 combined instants and sorceries, and a total of 57 noncreature spells, meaning we have plenty of ways to trigger Aria, Summonings, and Typhoon. This will lead to us producing a staggering amount of damage, whether through Aria triggers, massive Constructs, or a typhoon of flying Sharks!

Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, on the other hand, takes a more direct approach, targeting three separate things and dealing swaths of damage to each of them. Jaya’s Inferno is great mana sink since it can easy burn out the entire table. What’s really fun, however, is copying it. If one Inferno is good, two is even better! We have plenty of way to do just that! Our commander, Lutri, Bonus Round, Increasing Vengeance, Ral, Storm’s Conduit, no matter how we want to copy it, we have the ability to do so!

As Jaya’s Immolating Inferno shows us, some of the most fun spells to copy are big, splashy ones, and this theme provides that in spades! Both Expropriate and Mass Manipulation fit this description to a tee. While both of these cards are often seen at the end of games, I decided to not include them with the win conditions for two very important reasons: they don’t do anything on their own, and I don’t consider frustrating your opponent in order to get them to scoop valid ways to win.

That being said, they are both incredibly powerful on their own and can clean up games with a little bit of work. With the appropriate set up and mana production (which we will talk about later), we can copy either Expropriate or Mass Manipulation in order to potentially stack up turns or steal most of the permanents, creatures, or planeswalkers on the board. From there games can be closed out through sheer overwhelming value, or through combat damage and tempo after commandeering a huge portion of the battlefield!

One of the ways we can perform feats like copying huge X-spells is through the Dramatic Scepter combo. This combo consists of Imprinting Dramatic Reversal onto Isochron Scepter, and having at least three other mana producing nonland permanents on board. By paying two mana into Isochron Scepter we can cast Dramatic Reversal, which will untap our nonland permanents. This will untap our three mana rocks and net us one extra mana each time we do it, which will give us an arbitrary amount of mana to put where we please, such as Fireballs or Expropriate. I also added Fabricate into the deck in order to be able to tutor up Isochron Scepter, allowing us to be able to assemble the combo more easily. This deck isn’t a hard combo deck, but the option is there if we wish to pursue it.

These Puns are Otterocious!

We’re still going through the Spsllslinger Theme in this section where we will talk about cards that simply work well with Lutri and with the deck as a whole. These cards aren’t necessarily huge haymakers on their own, but they do provide synergy. Unlike the above section where we used spells to brute force things, here we are trying to be a bit more subtle and cute.

Dig Through Time (along with other Delve spells) are fantastic for our deck. We can reduce their cost to basically nothing, and then easily copy them with Lutri. Dig Through Time in particular is great, as it can be cast and copied with Lutri at the end of an opponent’s turn, or even in response to a spell of said opponent.

Channeled Force, along with being one of my new favorite cards, is an amazing spell to copy with Lutri. Since discarding is part of the cost of casting the spell, copying it won’t force us to discard more cards! In other words, we discard once, deal damage to two separate targets, and then draw double the cards, which is well worth Lutri’s extra three mana!

The last Lutri-based card is Evacuation. This isn’t a spell that we’re looking to copy with Lutri, but it is one that’ll kill tokens and stall the board for a turn or two. Evacuation will perform double duty by buying our Otter back to our hand for an additional use, too! Unlike Melek, Lutri will only copy a spell once, so we need to make sure we have ways to replay him, and Evacuation does that while also being an instant-speed way to catch opponents off guard.

Finally, there are three more cards from this theme to mention. The first two are inclusions that are often seen as a bit subpar, but they are ones I’ve always wanted to include in a deck. They are The Magic Mirror and Jaya Ballard.

If there is any deck for The Magic Mirror, this is the one. Mirror can range from expensive and clunky to cheap and game-defining. It shouldn’t be terribly hard for The Mirror to cost three or four mana, which is a great deal. If you find that it’s too swingy, or too big of a target, it can easily be replaced with something a bit more “safe” like Jace’s Ingenuity or Opportunity.

Jaya Ballard falls into similar space as The Magic Mirror. She is prohibitively costed, may be targeted down quickly, and may also not do much of anything before she goes to the graveyard. Once again, though, if there is a deck for her, this is it. She lets us fill our hand, provides us mana for our instants and sorceries, and then gives us a free, permanent Past in Flames. She’s perfect for the deck, but some people may find she just helps us spin our wheels as opposed to progressing our game plan, so feel free to add something with a bit more teeth like another Fireball or Docent of Perfection.

The last card from this theme I want to talk about is Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. Saheeli is a great card for us, as she gives us endless chump blockers thanks to the high density of noncreature spells in the deck. She is also harder to kill than creatures with this effect, which is I opted to add her into the deck and oust Young Pyromancer and Talrand, Sky Summoner.

Would You Like My Ottergraph?

Before we go, there are a few more cards I’d like to highlight that I personally added since this theme is missing a few cards that are key for this deck.

Since we have a handful of expensive spells that we want to use to end the game, I added Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power to help with mana production, since once we name a color, our lands can produce double of that kind! Gauntlet of Power specifies basic lands, which is why the deck is so heavy on them, having 32 all together. They are also the reason I am running Chromatic Lantern, that way any land can produce any color, and even our basic Mountains can produce two blue mana with Chromatic Lantern and Gauntlet of Power out, since they are still considered basic lands!

Two more cards, Sunken Hope and Crystal Shard do a great job at buying back Lutri, which is something this deck loves. Sunken Hope can function as pseudo removal against slower decks that play few creatures, and Crystal Shard allows us to bounce Lutri at instant speed, saving it from removal or giving us a chance to copy a spell a second time. There are other options to do this, like Erratic Portal, Decoction Module, and Disappear, but I didn’t want to overload the deck with too many of these kind of cards.

The deck could use a few more pieces or interaction, but I thought that it would be good to leave it where it is. The deck right now is functional and tuned, but also at a crossroads. This allows players to take it and tune it and change it in whichever direction they like, whether it is more removal heavy, more combo focused, or with more flashy spells.

If there is one thing I want people to come away with from this article, it’s the fact that having open conversations with your playgroup and the people you play with is imperative in order for everyone to enjoy themselves. Ask questions, try new things, and maybe, just maybe, let an Otter join you for a bit of fun at your table. I know I will be.

As always, I’m open to engage and discuss my thoughts on Twitter, or in the comments below, so if you’d like to discuss Companions, Lutri, or anything else, please feel free to reach out! If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or anything else of the sort, please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch!

Until next week, stay safe, wash your hands, and see you then!

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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.