Commander Showdown — Taigam vs Taigam
Here on Commander Showdown, we normally take a close look at two commanders whose abilities are very similar. Last week, for example, we went in-depth on The Ur-Dragon vs Scion of the Ur-Dragon. Long before that, we examined Roon vs Brago in a Blink-Bros Brawl.
This week, I hope you'll indulge me as we try something a little different. Commander 2017 has revealed to us two separate cards for the character Taigam, from the plane of Tarkir. From the original Khans of Tarkir timeline, we have Taigam, Sidisi's Hand, found in the 'Arcane Wizardry' preconsctructed deck. Then, hailing from the Dragons of Tarkir timeline and the 'Draconic Domination' precon, we also have Taigam, Ojutai Master.
Apart from their name, these commanders have almost nothing in common. Still, it's not every day we get two versions of the same commander in one product. This week, let's take a hard look at both new Taigams and get to know their strategies a little better. It's a Commander Showdown across time: Taigam vs Taigam!
The Ojutai Master
Let's start with the Ojutai Master. This is the first version of Taigam we saw in Commander 2017 previews, but it's the second version of Taigam we see in the Khans story. In this version, he's a monk that doesn't mess around. For four mana, you get a 3/4 creature that renders your instant, sorcery, and dragon spells uncounterable. Right off the bat, I'm impressed. Your instants and sorceries can't be countered? That's excellent against any control players in your group. Uncounterable dragons is just icing on the cake; I don't expect that ability to be too relevant, since most of the best dragons are in red. All the same, Baral, Chief of Compliance players had better watch their backs against your Taigam! Of course, you'll have to make sure they don't counter Taigam in the first place.
We haven't even gotten to the best part yet: if Taigam attacks, he gives the spells in your hand the Rebound ability. For those who aren't familiar, this means the spell will come back again for free on your next turn. Each spell in your hand basically has free flashback! This feels a lot to me like the white-blue version of Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, attacking to make your spells more potent. Taigam is much more reined-in than Yidris, though. Unlike Yidris, double strike won't amplify Taigam's ability, nor will extra combat steps, since Taigam only cares whether he attacked, not how many times he attacked. Plus, rebounded spells have a much bigger delay than cascaded spells. Still, it's a very powerful effect.
On the Rebound
Now, I don't know about you, but the first place my mind went when I saw Taigam was extra turn spells. This is probably because I'm a terrible, terrible person. There are plenty of groups who don't like extra turns, because they can frankly be a bit boring for the other players at the table. Still, you can't deny how powerful extra turn spells are are with Taigam. With a single attack, Taigam turns a Time Warp into a Time Stretch, because the rebound triggers on the extra turn.
If this strategy appeals to you, make sure you use extra turn cards that don't exile themselves. Trying to rebound Temporal Mastery won't work, because it exiles itself as part of its own resolution, which will supersede and negate the rebound effect. Look instead toward spells like Walk the Aeons.
This is a good lesson to apply to other big spells as well, such as Cyclonic Rift and Rite of Replication. Make sure you pay attention to the way rebound works. Even if you cast Cyclonic Rift with overload, when it comes back from rebound, it won't be overloaded. Similarly, kicker spells won't be kicked, and spells with X in their mana costs will come back with X = 0. There's an upside to this, though: after a spell has fully rebounded, (that is, after it's cast a second time, from exile,) it goes to your graveyard as it resolves. Unlike flashback, rebound eventually puts the spells back into your graveyard, which means...
...if I'm not mistaken, there's actually an infinite-turns combo available to Taigam by abusing spells like Call to Mind and Relearn. If you sequence your spells correctly, you can return your Time Warp to your hand with Call to Mind, your Call to Mind to your hand with Relearn, and repeat the loop over and over. You should be able to replicate a similar combo with an extra turn spell + Archaeomancer + Ghostly Flicker. Now, infinite combos may not be your thing. They're not really mine, either, but I'm not doing my job correctly if I don't tell you they're there. Regardless, as long as you can keep attacking with Taigam, you can get a lot of rebounds, and a lot of value.
None of this really matters if Taigam can't attack, and as a 3/4 without any extra combat abilities, he's unfortunately not guaranteed to always survive combat. We need some extra insurance to make sure he can stick around, because if he dies in combat, we don't get any of that sweet reboundy goodness. There are some unblockable options to make sure he stays out of danger, such Whispersilk Cloak, and damage-prevention options like Dolmen Gate. In addition to these, I'd like to suggest Maze of Ith and Reconnaissance.
As mentioned before, Taigam only cares whether he attacked, not whether that attack managed to hit an opponent. Using Reconnaissance, you can pull Taigam out of combat. He technically attacked this turn, he just had second thoughts, and those second thoughts are enough to trigger Taigam's rebound ability. You can do the same with Maze of Ith. Maze is normally a good tool to keep yourself safe, but in this deck it doubles as extra protection for Taigam when the battlefield looks too dangerous to wade into battle.
I should also point out another neat trick you can pull with Taigam: when he declares an attack, you can actually cast your instants right then and there, before any blockers or combat damage, and those spells will get rebound too. He's technically attacked that turn, even if we're still in the middle of that attack. This can be a good way to guarantee you get to rebound those instant spells.
Bearing all this in mind, let's try our hand at a decklist. There are a lot of big blue and white spells Taigam is happy to rebound over and over, so I've arranged some of my favorites into a decklist below:
This looks like a lot of fun. Who doesn't love multiple copies of big blue bombshells like Knowledge Exploitation, Blatant Thievery, and Bribery? Your opponents, that's who. I couldn't resist adding a Dragonlord Ojutai to the deck, too.
Now, there's a really important interaction in this deck, specifically in the enchantments section, but I don't wanna mention it just yet. We've lingered too long on this version of Taigam. It's time to visit the other timeline and see what that Taigam, Sidisi's Hand is up to.
Hand of the Queen
I'm tempted to call this version "Evil Taigam," since he's working for Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, but to be honest, he's kind of a jerk in both timelines, so instead I'll call him Sul-Taigam. In this timeline, he's still a 3/4, but he costs one more mana. He starts off with a peculiar ability that's slightly reminiscent of Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar. Rather than drawing a card as usual on your draw step, Taigam Strategic Plannings on your upkeep. This only occurs on your upkeep, not on every card you draw, as it does with Tomorrow. It's also important to note that the cards you don't choose go to your graveyard, rather than the bottom of your library. Those cards become important fodder for Taigam's second ability, which lets you exile cards from your graveyard to snipe down creatures.
With advanced card selection and the ability to kill enemy creatures (even creatures with indestructible) Sul-Taigam has all the makings of a ripe old control deck. Your opponents aren't likely to attack you when you can threaten to -X/-X whatever creature they try to throw your way. In fact, unlike his Ojutai counterpart, this Taigam strikes me as rather political. Taigam, Ojutai Master just likes to attack, and most of the value he produces is with spells cast on your own turn. This Taigam's ability is more relevant on other player's turns, making him a bit more interactive. Overall, he's a nice new option for Dimir players who are sick of mill strategies (such as Phenax, God of Deception or Lazav, Dimir Mastermind,) or zombie tribal decks (such as Gisa and Geralf, the Scarab God, or Grimgrin.)
Sul-Taigam won't do much at all without cards in your graveyard, however, so we should find a way to fill it up.
Ancient Excavation immediately jumps to mind. This will fill your graveyard right up, and give you excellent hand-filtering to boot. It's an instant, too, so you can surprise your enemies out of nowhere with a sudden influx of exilable cards. Windfall and Whispering Madness aren't bad either, resetting your hand and tossing tons of cards into the bin.
This is where Taigam starts to feel a little clunky. You do have a finite number of cards in your graveyard to exile, so his ability to snipe out creatures is limited. That doesn't make him useless, though. Even exiling a single land from your graveyard to give a creature -1/-1 can completely upset an opponent's combat math. You just have to navigate yourself carefully into those situations. Much like the Sultai themselves, this guy likes to lurk in the shadows, drawing little attention to himself and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
As a matter of fact, Taigam embodies the Sultai Brood's most important quality: ruthlessness. How? By making his weakness into your opponents' weaknesses too.
Drawing a Blank
Taigam, Sidisi's Hand forces you to skip your draw step. Well, if you don't get one, neither should anyone else! Omen Machine prevents players from drawing cards, instead randomly casting the top card of their libraries. You already aren't drawing cards, though, so what do you care? You're selecting them on your upkeep instead. You'll get this ability in addition to Taigam's upkeep trigger, so you're actually up on card advantage while you watch your opponents struggle.
In the same vein, Fatespinner forces each opponent to choose and skip one entire part of their turn. They either can't draw, can't play cards, or can't attack. Since you already naturally skip your draw step, this stunts your opponents by bringing them down to your level. Possessed Portal is another. It's expensive, but it totally shuts down your opponents while you continue to choose cards with Taigam's ability. (Bear in mind, though, that it triggers at the end of each turn, not just yours, so it's a dangerous card even for you.)
I think my favorite of these effects is Uba Mask. Instead of drawing cards, players exile them, and only get to play them that turn. This not only reveals every card your opponents draw, but also puts a time limit on it. Every Harmonize your opponents cast is an Act on Impulse instead! True to the Sultai creed, this deck is already shaping up to be excruciatingly cruel.
Now, as long as we're messing with draw steps, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the most famous skip-your-draw-step card of them all...
Necropotence exchanges your draw step for a ridiculous amount of power, and that synergizes perfectly with Taigam. Plus, Necropotence's exile-from-the-graveyard trigger only occurs when you discard a card, so Taigam still gets to fuel his graveyard with his upkeep ability. There's a case to be made for Null Profusion as well, though I'm not personally a fan of the reduced hand size.
Another interesting find is Psychic Possession. Instead of drawing on your turn, you can enchant an opponent with this bizarre aura, and draw a card whenever they do. You're already not drawing on your turn, so this is a total shoo-in right alongside Phyrexian Arena. Despite skipping his draw step, Taigam has the potential to produce a ton of extra card advantage. That's pretty rad, if you ask me.
Let's see how all of this looks in a decklist:
Yeah, this deck is not friendly. Windfall into Notion Thief is downright nasty. There are a handful of ways to lock down your opponents, too. Maralen of the Mornsong and a Mindlock Orb or an Ob-Nixilis,Unshackled can totally wreck any chance your opponents have of winning the game.
The real takeaway is that this is, frankly, a simple Dimir deck. Dimir has a lot of good commander options, but many of them involve milling your opponents or playing zombie tribal. Just look at the blue-black commanders page here on EDHREC, where we can see that the most-frequently-played cards in this color pair include Traumatize (30% of blue-black decks,) Mind Grind (32%) and four or five different zombie lords! This Taigam deck offers an outlet for a straightforward Dimir deck, drawing some cards, killing some creatures, stealing some stuff, reanimating some baddies, and just generally being awesome.
Cards to Consider
Both Taigams have been fun to look at macroscopically, but I want to take a moment to hone in on some specific cards for each of them. If you're taking either of these commanders out of the Inalla, Archmage Ritualist or The Ur-Dragon preconstructed decks to build a new Azorius or Dimir brew, these are some cards I think you should pay attention to.
- Dovescape. Remember that "really important interaction" I mentioned earlier for the Taigam, Ojutai Master deck? Yeah, it's this card. Dovescape counters every noncreature spell, turning them instead into bird tokens. Taigam prevents your spells from being countered, but you get to keep the bird tokens! Meanwhile, your opponents are stuck, unable to cast any noncreature spell without it turning into a bunch of tokens instead.
- Mirari doesn't care where you cast the spell, from your hand or from exile. Taigam doubles up your spells, but this artifact can triple them up instead! The new Swarm Intelligence from Hour of Devastation works exactly the same way.
- Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is insane, oppressive, and probably exactly what Taigam wants. Reducing the cost of your spells with Baral, Chief of Compliance and Jace's Sanctum is excellent, but this is better than both of them.
- Medomai the Ageless. I could be wrong, but I think Medomai likes what Taigam's up to. Taigam always needs more excuses to attack, and Medomai gives him some help in that department. Plus, with the extra turns Medomai provides, you get to see those rebounding spells a loot sooner.
- Shadow Rift will make your commander unblockable, keeping him out of harm's way. If you cast it immediately after he attacks, it will rebound and come back next turn. Oh, and it also draws you two cards. This fits perfectly into Taigam's strategy, but since Shadow Rift is from Tempest, it's not a very well-known card. Keep your eye out for effects like these. (If you'd like help finding gems in old sets, I recommend Dean Gootee's Dig Through Time series.)
- Paradox Haze gives you two upkeeps. With Taigam in play, this is basically a pain-free Phyrexian Arena.
- Spelltwine. Taigam naturally puts cards into your graveyard, but not all of them need to be fodder for his activated ability. As a matter of fact, I'd call his tap ability a last resort, not a primary goal. Your graveyard is a versatile and valuable resource, and Spelltwine is one of the best cards I can think of to take advantage of it.
- Zur's Weirding and Breathstealer's Crypt are a few more interesting lockdown choices. You rarely draw cards, so your opponents won't get to mess with your hand much, but you can certainly curate theirs.
- Vengeful Pharaoh is cheeky, but I like it. If you're ever attacked while the Pharaoh is in your graveyard, you get to destroy an attacking creature, then put the Pharaoh back on top of your library... where Taigam can put it right back into the graveyard again. Consistent deterrent against enemy attackers? Seems pretty fun.
- Far // Away. This one isn't necessarily specific to Taigam, I just think it's a highly underrated blue-black spell. Both halves are good against indestructible creatures, and you can even divide their effects to target different players. This feels like a quintessential Dimir spell to me, and I recommend trying it out. In my experience, it's better than it looks.
There's an elegance to the design of both Taigams that I really appreciate. One Taigam throws his spells into the future, while the other fights by using the past as a resource. It's cleverly done, and each gives us something new and refreshing for their respective color pairs. Whether he's milling himself to prepare for a delve spell or punching us so hard his spells rebound, Taigam present a new and unique problem for his opponents. I see a lot of potential in his future... and his past.
That'll be all for this week. Which new commanders from Commander 2017 should have a showdown next? Is Queen Marchesa's throne threatened by the new Mardu politics commander Mathas, Fiend Seeker? How does the old master of flashback, Dralnu, Lich Lord compare to the new Kess, Dissident Mage (a card which I've affectionately renamed "Snapkesster Mage")? Let me know what future Showdowns you'd like to see!
Til next time!