Archetune-Up - Whips and Chainers Excite Me

(Chainer, Nightmare Adept l Steve Prescott)

Brewing with One Chainy Boi

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages! This week we're going to craft a slightly different shell for a relatively recent commander: Chainer, Nightmare Adept!

In previous articles, we've quite often radically changed decks, or have pulled them in different directions to help serve a theme's needs. Today we are going to be doing the opposite. We will not be straying from a Chainer Reanimator deck, but instead changing how quickly and efficiently we can get our game plan moving using a secondary theme. Before I get too ahead of myself though, let's take a look at the average Chainer, Nightmare Adept list generated by EDHREC:

Average Chainer List by EDHREC

Comander (1)
Creatures (32)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (14)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (5)
Lands (36)

Overall, aside from a glaring lack of mana acceleration, the average list looks pretty solid. There are definitely ways we can improve it though. The question is: what theme could help supplement this kind of deck?

Chainer, Take the Wheeeeeeeeel!

Often, when people think of wheel decks, their minds go to The Locust God or Nekusar, the Mindrazer (and for good reason). These are both incredibly powerful commanders that seek to take advantage of drawing cards. Conversely, Chainer is interested in the Wheel Theme for the back-end of these spells: the discarding of cards. We are already running Cathartic Reunion and Faithless Looting, so cards that let us throw our entire hand into the yard seem like a logical next step.

Let's start with the most obvious cards from this theme: the wheels! Wheel of Fortune, Cavalier of Flame, Chandra Ablaze, Dragon Mage, Incendiary Command, Khorvath's Fury, and Thrill of Possibility all help us get our most important cards where we want them: in our graveyard. The strength and effects of these particular cards can vary wildly despite being so similar. For example, Thrill of Possibility is an instant-speed Tormenting Voice that can surgically throw creatures or unwanted cards into the yard, while Wheel of Fortune will cause everyone to dump their whole hands, but also let them refill back to seven.

There's a good diversity of wheels and card filtering spells added from this theme. This is to make sure we always have what we need in the yard or in our hand, as well as to keep our opponents on their toes, since they will have a hard time keeping any long-term plans together when we force them to discard their hands a few times. What is always most important with effects like these is ensuring that we are the ones getting the most bang for our buck. It always feels awful to let our opponents get more advantage from our cards than we do, after all.

Most if not all of the next cards could be cut if you wanted to add a bit more interaction or reanimation spells, but I thought that Fate Unraveler, Psychosis Crawler, and Glint-Horn Buccaneer would be fun cards to try since we are already wheeling. The reason what I wanted to try these is because we have the ability to recast them every turn. These creatures have respectable bodies for their mana cost, and if we end up wheeling and discarding a bunch, the damage from these will definitely add up. Bloodchief Ascension plays in a similar vein as the previous three cards. While it can't be recurred with Chainer, when it is paired with wheels, the life discrepancy between you and your opponents grows very quickly, very fast.

The final three selections are a mixed bag of cards that synergize with wheels, and with Chainer himself. Because we care about what we have in our graveyard, Sire of Insanity is a great way to relieve our opponents of their hands. This gets rid of their answers and keep our yard stocked full, allowing us to pull away with a game relatively easily.

Dualcaster Mage is an MVP in this deck, due to having flash, allowing us to cast it from the graveyard with Chainer even on an opponent's turn. This means Dualcaster Mage can function as a Counterspell, a ramp spell, or even a way to double a wheel or two. Any creatures with flash are incredibly valuable here.

Our final entry is Heartless Hidetsugu. Hidetsugu suffers from not being able to tap as soon as he comes out, but if we are casting him from our graveyard, he will enter with haste and allow us to dome every player for half their life! This is brutal, especially when combined with all of the incremental damage and disruption from Fate Unraveler and friends!

Let's Whip it into Shape

From here, we move into the Bonus Round, a potpourri section where I can talk about whatever I'd like, whether it is highlighting specific cards, interactions, or just my personal includes! Today will be a mix of both.

I'm going to start off with the most boring cards I added: mana rocks. I'm not going to list each one of them here since you can find them in the list below, but it was definitely important that I mentioned them. The original deck only had five ramp cards, which is definitely a no-go. Chainer does not circumvent the cost of creatures in order to reanimate them, and as such, the deck can be quite mana-hungry. In the final list, there are eleven rocks, but we could honestly go up to fourteen or fifteen in my opinion.

Speaking of artifacts, this deck is also running both Vedalken Orrery, and Ghirapur Orrery. Despite the similar names, these provide very different effects. Vedalken Orrery was included after realizing the interaction that Dualcaster Mage had with Chainer. With this Orrery out, we will be able to cast one creature per turn from our graveyard as long as we have the cards in hand and the mana available to do so. Ghirapur Orrery will allow us to abuse Chainer to the fullest, refilling our hand on our turns if we are out of cards, and also allowing us to play extra lands to cast our spells with. Yes, this card helps our opponents too, but we will be getting much more use out of it a majority of the time.

Knollspine Dragon, Sandstone Oracle, and Phyrexian Gargantua can all draw you multiple cards when they enter the battlefield. This helps us immensely since we need to discard a card whenever we bring a creature back from the yard. We need to make sure that we have multiple, consistent ways to keep our hand stocked, and these cards do exactly that.

While we are talking of powerful, repeatable abilities, Anarchist allows us to loop our wheels and other powerful sorceries over and over again. With a sac outlet like Altar of Dementia or High Market, we are able to play Anarchist each turn! This will allow us to disrupt long-term plans if we choose buy back one of our wheels, or just generally disrupt the board if we choose something like Blasphemous Act or other removal.

"Cleanup Step" is our Safeword

Despite swapping nearly 30 cards from this deck, the core value has remained the same: reanimate our creatures. Now we just have new ways to get there! A majority of the tutors such as Buried Alive did end up coming out since I figured it would be more fun to lean into wheeling through our deck instead of tutoring things out of it. I also cut cards like Animate Dead in favor of keeping mass reanimator spells like Living Death and Rise of the Dark Realms since Chainer himself already focuses on reanimating a single target.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept is a surprisingly deep commander that only has about 450 decks to his name at the time of writing. He has a strong central theme to utilize so you don't get too lost when deck building, but also has the ability to branch out and utilize tools and parts from other themes to bring his deck together. If I didn't already have a deck with The Scorpion God at the helm, I'd have built a Chainer deck myself after this article. He seems incredibly fun.

If you’d like to reach me I’m quite active on Twitter (@thejesguy), and have an email that I do my best to respond to ( 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!

As always, thanks for you time, and thank you for arche-tuning in!

Wheelin and Dealin

Comander (1)
Creatures (16)
Artifacts (6)
Enchantments (3)
Wheel Theme (14)
Instants (4)
Sorceries (7)
Potpourri (12)
Lands (37)

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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.