Challenging Yennett Stats with One More Mana

(Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign | Art by Chris Rahn)

One More Challenge

Welcome to Challenge the Stats! This series is based on the awesome EDHRECast segment where we pick out cards that we think are overplayed, underplayed, or sleepers to challenge EDHREC’s data on a particular commander. Here on Challenge the Stats, we occasionally bring in guest experts, and this week I’m excited to have Ced and Hadou-Ken from the content creator team One More Mana here to help us.

If you haven't already, check them out! They also have the amazing power to entrance my wife to sit down and watch entire YouTube videos about Magic, and I'm hoping they can help me convince her to play one day!

We're going to challenge the data for one of their favorite Commander decks, Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign.

The One More Mana crew, from left to right: Liz, Mason, Hadou-Ken, Ced, Cowboy Kyle, and Derik.

EDHREC: Hey, guys! Thanks for joining me today! So tell us, how did you guys get into Magic? What's your Magic superhero origin story?

Hadou-Ken: It was a Tuesday, the wind was blowing at a nice 30 degrees to the east. It was 72 degrees outside, and the traffic was long in Atlanta. I decided to stop by a spot called Battle and Brew, where I discovered a game called Magic: the Gathering. I was intrigued because I knew I had to kill time otherwise I'd be stuck in traffic for an hour. And so I sat down, got some cards, played a draft, and got my behind whooped. Ever since that day, I swore vengeance. So, I went home, learned this game, and came back to whoop everybody's behind who was there for the next go-round. And I have been stuck playing this game since.

Ced: So myself, I was in grad school. Cowboy Kyle, for the first two years I was there, was trying his best to get me into Magic: the Gathering, but I was like, "No, I want to play a card game called Munchkin. I'm addicted."

So, the last year I was there for grad school, I was like, "You know what I give in. I'll help you test out a deck." So he gave me a Riku deck to test out, and I was like, "I don't understand what I'm doing. I’m a Yu-Gi-Oh player! I don't know what's happening here!" He told me I had to get that out of my mind.

I borrowed his deck for a couple of months and went to the game shop where we had Commander tournaments, and I loved it. I started buying my own cards. I was spending like six hours at the game store just rifling through the cards on the shelves so I was able to build my own decks. It's been almost 10 years since that happened.

What kind of things do you guys do in your life besides Magic?

Hadou-Ken: So, it's a lot of things. I'm into gaming, I'm into comics. Pre-pandemic, I was out and about doing different things, but now, just trying to focus on other skills like editing and trying to understand a bit more behind-the-scenes work so I can get more efficient at that. So, I'm just trying to learn other things since we have this downtime.

Ced: For myself, similar to Hadou-Ken, I'm really into comics and superhero properties. I’m also teaching myself videography, editing, and photography. That's pretty much how I spend my time, is editing, editing, editing, down to the point that I can teach other people how to edit. I have a mentoring program that I work with, and I'm teaching high school students how to create their own content and edit those as well.

Tell us about all the great things you guys do in the Magic community!

Ced: We linked up with The Professor and recommended a charity organization to raise funds for. That program is called SOSSI, for Saving Our Sons and Sisters International. They're a local organization that helps, from youth to elderly, individuals within the Atlanta community, especially when it comes to workforce development and resources that they may need for daily life.

Also, we just recently linked up with Pharaoh’s Conclave, for short called PCX. They're an eSports and gaming organization here in Georgia for youth. We're in communication with them right now to see what kind of work that we can help them with, whether it's working with youth or helping out with conferences and conventions.

Hadou-Ken: One of their main focuses is helping children understand eGaming, how to play different games, and also try to come up with their own games. So they use that creative investment as well. They are they're really hands-on in the community and trying to get a lot of children to use their imagination.

Those sound like great organizations. So, can you guys give us the rundown on your favorite commanders, both all-time faves, and anything new you've been working on?

Hadou-Ken: I love Dragons, okay? Dragons were my first introduction to Magic: the Gathering. My first three were Numot, Teneb, and Intet, and then later on I built The Ur-Dragon. I love them: they fly, they’re big-bodied, they get in where they fit in, and they do damage.

I never build mono-color decks, so I think I might actually try building my very first mono-green deck and Rule 0 the new Godzilla, Primeval Champion card. It’s my table, *Boom* I’m playing it!

Oh, and then I'm also working on a colorless deck because I'm not seeing too many of those around.

Ced: My all-time favorite commander would probably have to be Thraximundar. That was one of the first ones that I glommed onto when I first started playing. I know it’s a seven-CMC commander, but I love everything about that card: the artwork, the abilities, the flavor text, pretty much everything, even just the name of the card itself.

I think is my next build is going to be Jeskai, and I'm trying to narrow down the commander, but I think it's gonna be Elsha of the Infinite. The reason for that is there are a few just out-of-the-box kinds of cards that I want to play, and I felt like she was the commander to help me do that. The card I want to play is Spellweaver Volute. I like playing out-of-the-box cards and out-of-the-box commanders sometimes, but I wanted to change it up and just find a card that I wanted to play, and then find a commander to build around that.

So, what brings you joy in a game of Commander­? What's that spark that keeps you coming back?

Hadou-Ken: For me, it's the petty. It's watching someone try to ascend to greatness, watching them try to cross that threshold, and they're almost at their peak, and when they almost have the win, just take their wings off and watch them plummet. You're like, "I'm not even gonna win. I'm just gonna make sure that you don't." The game is about to wrap up, and then I'm like, "NO."

That, and catching people off guard. So, one of my favorite things is feigning weak or feigning like I don't keep a banger in the back pocket, and then as soon as someone comes after me I'm like, “You foolish mortal. Why would you? Why would you do this?”

Ced: Yeah, for me, I would say interesting play strategies. I wasn't a mono-blue player, but I considered myself a blue player starting out. So, every deck I would play would have blue in it, and I got to a point where I kind of got bored. I wanted to keep Magic interesting for me, so I thought, how can I play like a blue player without playing blue. And that, I think, upped my game and it upped my creativity. So I will play a mono-red deck like a blue player, or I'll play a green deck like a blue player, which you actually can do now.

Also, doing things that people don't see coming, like playing some of those older cards that are incidentally now on the Reserved List. I didn't know it at the time, but I was just getting cards I didn't see people playing. I was like, "How can I make this work in a new deck?" And, it turns out, these are bangers. These are good cards.

Very cool! So, let's get into Yennett. For people who might not be familiar with the strategy, can you guys give me a rundown of what the deck wants to do, and if your deck is different than the typical Yennett deck?

Ced: At our game shop, Titan Games and Comics in Cobb County, every night someone brings interesting decks. So, I wanted to do a riddle deck, but not in a sense of all Sphinxes and whatnot, but just cards that really make you think and guess at what's going on. So, it's a way to build more interaction and engagement between all the players. I don't really care whether you won or not. I just wanted players more interactive in a game.

The general strategy behind Yennett is that, of course, we do want to get values from the attack trigger of her being able to cast odd CMC spells off the top of the library. But, we feel like it differs from the typical Yennett deck in that we're not really going after those large CMC spells, like the sevens, nines, or elevens.

It's about playing cards that encourage engagement from the opponents, like when I play this spell, my opponent has to choose x, y, or z. So, it's about keeping everyone engaged and keeping people on their toes, but also, everyone gets to do something at some point. Whether it’s a one-CMC spell or three-CMC spell, I want you to do something, and we're going to get value from those low CMC spells as well.

Hadou-Ken: Also, it makes the opponent the architect of their own destruction, because it's like, you're choosing what's going on right now, not me. I'm just playing the cards.

Looking at Yennett’s EDHREC page, are there any cards you see there that you don't agree with or think might be a mistake to put in the deck?

Ced: We realized that a lot of the cards that are high synergy or show up in high percentages came in the pre-con with Aminatou, which Yennett was also a part of. So, we want to weed out some of those high-CMC spells, and some that don't really impact the game that much.

Hadou-Ken: Yeah, the curve of this deck was off the charts, looking at some of the cards that people want to put in here, and I'm like, "You do realize you have to get to seven mana to begin with, right?"

Ced: Or at least five to get Yennett out, and then find a way to protect Yennett.

So the first card that we want to pull is Artisan of Kozilek. It's a nine-CMC spell that just returns a creature. Granted, it’s a big body, but let's say you don't have Yennett. You're going to pay nine mana to resurrect a creature?

So that's in 39% of the decks, I say let's get that out of here.

Next is Prognostic Sphinx. I understand why it's here, but at the same time, you have to do a little bit more work than you need to for that particular creature. There are so many other ways that you can scry without having to go to combat first.

Hadou-Ken: Sorry, Ced is being nice. This card is toilet paper.

Ced: Essentially, the way I play Yennett is I know what the next two to three cards are on the top of my deck before I even go to combat. We don't have to do the attack-sry. Prognostic Sphinx is in 49% of the decks. I think we can throw it out of here.

We have a couple more: Enigma Sphinx. We realized that some of these Sphinxes in here are just flavor. We don't really need Cascade, especially with Enigma Sphinx being seven CMC, meaning you're just going to hit six and below, which are most likely going to be your fives, your threes, and your ones. Those are spells that you can hard-cast. So, even if you are playing this for free off of Yennett’s trigger, a 5/4 body's not really worth it for seven mana. This is in 62% of decks and yeah, I think it's gotta go.

The last one we want to talk about is Future Sight. Let's say that you have to hard cast this–that three blue is bothering me. And then, it ruins the element of surprise. If your opponents know what’s on top of your library as well as you, that doesn't really work for the strategy of our deck. I want to know what is on top of my library. I don't want my opponents to know until I'm ready to cast it.

Hadou-Ken: The fact is that it’s just a trash card. I was like, "this is in how many decks?" There's a lot of people making mistakes out there, okay?

Those are great pics. On the flip side, are there any cards that are missing, or showing up in low numbers and deserve more play?

Hadou-Ken: Okay, Strionic Resonator should be a lot higher on this list. You are talking about activating a triggered ability. All right, get your chicken nuggets if you’re going to get the value meal!

Another card that I'm seeing that is high, but it's not as high as it should be: Soothsaying. So, I get to rearrange my deck? I already have a lot of mana, and because of my commander, let me put that mana to use and reconstruct my deck the way I need it to be. 41%? No, it needs to be at least 87% of decks! And then it's a one-drop, so you trippin'.

Alright, next. I didn't see a Spark Double. I was upset, physically upset. I had to take a Tylenol and two Benedryl. I was like "What's going on, no Spark Double in this deck? You're telling me you don't want to copy this commander and do it again? What is wrong with y'all!?" It doesn't appear on the list. It's trippin’.

And last, but not least, my boy Sakashima. I know it's a new card, but when something says "the legend rule doesn't matter", you better put it in the deck, baby, especially with blue.

But, when it comes to pet cards, there's one I have been preaching from the mountaintop. I have been telling everybody that I know about it and they still don't want to know about it. It's called Kaya’s Ghostform. Whenever your creature dies or gets exiled, it comes back... for one mana. People don't want to listen.

Awesome picks! Were there any other pet cards you guys had in this deck?

Ced: Oh yeah, definitely. The first card we want to throw out–every time I play this card I get a rise out of the table–is called Spy Network. This thing has a full paragraph on it for one blue mana. You play this instant and look at target player’s hand, the top card of that player's library, and any facedown creatures he or she controls. Then, you can look at the top four cards in your library and rearrange them in any order. For one!

The next card is Perplex. I love playing this counterspell because, again, it puts the ball in the opponent's court. For three mana, it’s their choice–either their spell gets countered, or they discard their hand. You also have that nifty Transmute ability on there. Every now and then I might use it to help tutor up something, but I definitely love playing the counterspell side of it.

Hadou-Ken: Oh, there's a pet card of mine that goes in this. It goes by the name of Mirage Mirror. I honestly think Mirage Mirror needs to go into every Commander deck along with a Sol Ring. That's just me speaking right now. My Mirage Mirror can become a creature, an artifact, a land, it can become your next-door neighbor, it can become the mailman–

Ced: –It can become the table itself!

Hadou-Ken: Exactly. And, it's so difficult to remove just as long as you have mana open. It's beautiful.

Ced: The next pet card is called Head Games. This is the psychologist in me. Target opponent puts the cards from their hand on top of their library. I get to search that player's library for that many cards and then put those cards into their hand and then shuffle their library. So, I choose your hand. This one kind of goes against the choice theme, but the name of the card is called Head Games, and that's what we're doing, so I had to play it.

The last one–Hadou-Ken hates this card–is Master of Predicaments. It's a guessing game.

Hadou-Ken: We ain’t got time for sub-games in Magic! Take that somewhere else!

Thinking about new cards that have come out, what have you been adding to the deck? 

Ced: Yeah, we need to talk about two of them coming straight from Kaldheim.

Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire. This Demon Rogue has deathtouch, but also the Boast ability, so when he attacks you can pay one and a black to have target player search their library for a card, shuffle their library, and put it on top.

Hadou-Ken: When I saw this card, I cried. I was like, "This has to be banned!" You tell me something has a search trigger every time it attacks? What is going on here?

Ced: You can stack this so you search for that card, put it on top, and then Yennett’s trigger goes off.

Hadou-Ken: Okay, when I saw this next card, I had a dream. I was telling people “Alright. I know you may think I'm crazy, but you may want to peep this card.” The Dream Devourer says each nonland card your hand without Foretell now has Foretell. Foretell is a beautiful mechanic. You know why? Because it gets the cards out of my hand. And now, it’s just sitting there in the ether of exile and I can still cast it. You're telling me I can put all my cards into the ether, and then I can cast them so I don't have to worry about card discard spells or hand disruption? You're telling me all that is a thing of the past right now? Where do I sign up?

The next card is Vega. Anytime you play a card that's not from your hand, you get to draw a card. Are we serious right now? Is this really going on? Yes, sign me up.

Ced: The last card that I would choose is Drana, the Last Bloodchief, from the last Zendikar set. It's a little basic in a sense, but it’s again giving opponents a choice. So, you get to choose one of my stupid creature cards that you were glad that you got rid of before and bring it back to the battlefield so it can annoy you some more.

Thanks so much for talking to me today, guys! Please plug anything and everything you got going on, and let people know where they can find you!

Ced: Thanks for having us on! We are on YouTube at One More Mana. We are on Twitter @manasquad. We have a Patreon at ManaSquad. We have an audio podcast that we started a while back that we're going to bring back as well called MTGFAM, where we talk about blending things about Magic: the Gathering and family life. All three of us are fathers, so we take that time to talk about our family life and how we apply some lessons from Magic into family life. We're going to get that ramped back up pretty soon. If people want to buy some awesome shirts that we have, we have a Teespring store for that.

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Check out Ced's Yennett deck!

Yennett Head Games

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If I just had...

Thank you, readers, for joining me this week! It was a pleasure to talk to Ced and Hadou-Ken, and you should definitely check out their content! Before you go, let me know what commander you'd like to see on the next Challenge the Stats!

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He has a PhD in nutritional sciences, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramp-les and draw-nanas.