Conditions Allow - Atemsis, All-Seeing

(Atemsis, All-Seeing | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

Everything You See is Your Kingdom

Hello everyone, and welcome back to this week’s edition of Conditions Allow. As you know, this series is focused around legendary creatures with downsides, and building decks that turn them into strengths. This time, I’m diving into a new creature from Core Set 2020, Atemsis, All-Seeing.

Atemsis, All-Seeing has an effect that's similar to Door to Nothingness: when Atemsis, All-Seeing deals damage to a player, you may reveal your hand. If there are cards with at least six different mana costs among the revealed cards, that player loses the game. This may feel easier to achieve than the cost for Door to Nothingness, but it's a fairly difficult situation to engineer. As a game goes on, you will cast cards from your hand. By turn six, it is likely you will have fewer than six cards in hand, putting Atemsis’s ability entirely out of reach. Even if you do still have six cards in hand, you will need to have six different converted mana costs among them. This means we will need to carefully manage the cards in our hand, and pay special attention to the mana curve of the deck as we build it, not to mention navigate a difficult field where opponents will be doing their best to make sure Atemsis never even hits the field.

Seeing the Line

Atemsis hasn’t been around for very long, but we should still start by looking at EDHREC for any clever tech that has already been discovered. Among the Top Cards for this commander, we see a few recurring themes: as we expected, most of the High Synergy and Top Cards for Atemsis can manipulate the spread of mana costs of spells in our hand. Paradoxical Outcome can put a lot of cards in our hand all at once, neatly solving both problems we face when trying to activate Atemsis's ability. Other individual cards do this in interesting ways as well. Mechanics like Delve let us include high-cost cards without entirely ruining the curve of the deck: Treasure Cruise has a converted mana cost of eight, but it can be cast for significantly less. Brainstorm and Ponder both appear as well, giving us the ability to dig through our deck in case two or three cards in our hand have the same mana cost.

All of these cards have one thing in common: they can effectively change their converted mana cost. Brainstorm and Ponder both replace themselves with another card in your hand, which hopefully has a different cost. Bounce spells can do the same thing, replacing themselves with a creature of a different mana cost.

There are also hints of a Sphinx Tribal theme on Atemsis’s page, but I don’t think Sphinxes are the best tribe to support this particular commander. Most Sphinxes are pretty expensive, and don’t really help further what this deck wants to do. Instead, I think Atemsis presents the perfect chance to make one of my favorite mechanics shine: Splice onto Arcane.

The Arcane Arts

Now wait, don’t call me crazy yet. Using cards with Splice onto Arcane has a few interesting interactions with Atemsis. When you Splice a card onto an Arcane spell, you reveal it from your hand and pay its Splice cost. Then, its effects are added to the Arcane spell you cast. Notice that the Spliced spell never actually leaves your hand. This means we can hoard spells in our hand to reveal after Atemsis deals combat damage while still getting the benefits of their effects. There aren't many Splice cards to choose from, but several do exactly what we want in this deck. Consuming Vortex is a slightly more expensive Unsummon, protecting us during the early game and setting up Atemsis in the later turns. Veil of Secrecy will help us get damage through while protecting Atemsis, All-Seeing from removal. The Splice cost for Veil of Secrecy is even a bounce effect, perfect to make sure we have enough cards in hand to trigger Atemsis. Finally, Reweave is kind of a removal spell, and can be Spliced for cheaper than its actual mana cost.

Of course, if we want to Splice anything, we're going to need more than a few Arcane spells. Luckily, there are several worth including. Heed the Mists is a powerful draw spell, able to take full advantage of some of the eight- or nine-mana cards in the deck, especially if we can set them up with Brainstorm or Ponder. Ideas Unbound is a more efficient draw spell. We usually won't care about the discard clause, since we should be able to eliminate one or two players on the turn we cast it. Eerie Procession can search out the exact card we need, or just make sure we have a Splice card, usually Evermind or Veil of Secrecy. Lastly, Part the Veil is a mass bounce spell that can set up Atemsis all on its own.

This still isn’t a huge number of Arcane spells. In order to ensure that we regularly have access to at least one in hand, I’m going to include both Archaeomancer and The Unspeakable. The Unspeakable is great for this build of Atemsis. Not only is it a high-cost card that can help fill out the six-different-mana-costs requirement of our commander, it will pull other cards out of the graveyard, keeping our Splice engine running and our hand flush with cards. With flying and trample, that damage trigger won’t be hard to get either. There is also a neat combo with Sift Through Sands to search for The Unspeakable and put it directly into play. If anyone can actually pull that off in a game of EDH, you get all of the bonus points.

A Ghost of a Chance

Of course, we’ll also want more payoff for these Arcane spells than a measly four Splice cards and a nine drop. That is where Cloudhoof Kirin comes in. Cloudhoof Kirin is a top commander for all of the Splice cards on EDHREC, and has an ability that triggers whenever we cast a Spirit or Arcane spell. This effect will likely never win us the game, but it can interfere with topdeck tutors like Enlightened Tutor, or even target ourselves if we know the next few cards are going to be uncastable for several turns. Playing a Spirit tribal theme also lets us use Sire of the Storm, which will replace each and every Spirit and Arcane spell when we cast them. This is great for keeping six or more cards in our hand while digging deeper for all of the casting costs that we need to win with Atemsis.

A lot of Spirits help us draw more cards, it turns out. Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar fills a place high on our curve, and lets us be a little more selective with what ends up in our hand. Nine-Tail White Fox draws a card when it deals combat damage, while Diviner Spirit lets you and the player it hits draw cards, making it a little more likely to get past blockers.

Lastly, we come to the slippery Spirits. Shape Stealer is the perfect blocker, harmlessly bouncing off anything that comes your way. Ethereal Usher fills an opposite roll, making Atemsis unblockable when we want to punch in for the win. Kiri-Onna is another defensive option, bouncing away threats before returning to your hand to count for Atemsis, All-Seeing.

Crossing the Finish Line

There is one more thing we can do to really push Atemsis to its full potential. Atemsis's effect stipulates that it must deal damage to a player, but it does not specify combat damage. This means we can give the Sphinx the ability to deal direct damage, and that will still trigger the ability. Some enchantments do this, like Hermetic Study and Psionic Gift, alongside Equipment like Viridian Longbow. If we can stick one of these to Atemsis and find a way to untap our commander, we potentially have the ability to eliminate two or even three opponents all in one turn. Cards like Freed from the Real or Thousand-Year Elixir are great for this. Toils of Night and Day is slightly less good, since it will cost a card from your hand which you might need for Atemsis, but it's still worth including for the extra redundancy.

Finally, this is a very, very mana-hungry deck. The curve isn’t as flat as I originally thought I would need it to be, but we still want lots of mana in case we need to cast the big spells the deck runs. To do this, I’ve included mana rocks at a variety of costs, along with High Tide and Caged Sun. This keeps the curve of the deck fairly even, with a spread of cards across converted mana costs of one, two, and three. The cards with costs of four, five, and six are fewer in number but all spread out relatively even as well, with more isolated pockets of mana costs going up to ten. This helps ensure we will have the six different costs to kick players out of the game with Atemsis, All-Seeing while still being a playable deck. The land low land count helps with this as well, ensuring our hand isn't flooded with zero-cost cards we can't get rid of.

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This deck was a lot of fun to put together, not least because I love some of the names on cards from Kamigawa. Toils of Night and Day stands out as one of my favorites. It just sounds like notes from a wizard’s tome. Despite this, I expect this deck will actually be pretty hard to play. From before your first turn, every other player at the table will be wary of you casting your commander and will likely work together to make sure you never get its ability to go off. You may want to cut out some of the two-mana instants in favor of counterspells to protect Atemsis. I preferred going all in on the Spirit and Arcane theme, so they aren’t present in this list.

What do you think? Are counterspells a necessity? I’m sure there is a more efficient, straightforward way to build Atemsis as well. What has your experience with this commander been? Let me know in the comments down below.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.