Conditions Allow - Chisei, Heart of Oceans

(Chisei, Heart of Oceans | Art by Matt Cavotta)

Believe in the Heart of the Oceans

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, where I build decks that turn drawbacks on legendary creatures into strengths. We’ve had more than a few mono-colored decks featured in the past several articles. I’d hate to break the streak, so this week it’s back to blue for Chisei, Heart of Oceans.

Chisei, Heart of Oceans has an interesting requirement that offers up some unique opportunities for blue. At the beginning of each upkeep, Chisei needs us to remove a counter from a permanent we control, or it sacrifices itself. Chisei functions in nearly the opposite way as Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. Any planeswalkers you control will die faster, creatures will lose +1/+1 counters, and artifacts will run out of charge before you know it. This can make any deck featuring Chisei as the commander a race against time, rushing to get as much value out of your permanents before they become useless. 

This is probably the reason that Chisei’s EDHREC page is dominated by Proliferate effects. Stacking Inexorable Tide and Flux Channeler seems like a great way to stay ahead of our commander’s ravenous appetite.

There are also several cards among the top suggestions, however, that gain counters we don’t want to Proliferate. Mystic Remora is a fantastic card advantage engine in the right meta, but adding more age counters isn’t the best idea. The same goes for Thing in the Ice and Glen Elendra Archmage. In fact, Chisei, Heart of Oceans is really good with the Archmage, and Persist in general. Cauldron of Souls also appears among Chisei’s top cards.

I actually really like the direction that Cauldron of Souls suggests. Not only does it let us use Chisei’s upkeep trigger to our advantage instead of racing against it with +1/+1 counters and Proliferate, but it also lets us sacrifice creatures for value. Solemn Simulacrum and Filigree Familiar net us cards every cycle, while Burnished Hart helps us keep pace in mana potential. Mulldrifter is another popular card advantage engine, while Trophy Mage finds key pieces of this engine. At the top end of our curve, Agent of Treachery is a powerful theft effect and draw engine neatly packaged onto a single card.

Of course, these are a lot of pieces to try and put together. Most of our value creatures sit between three and five mana as well. We’re going to need to find the engine pieces, and we’re going to need to be able to protect ourselves while we do. Finally, value is great but it doesn’t win games on its own. The deck will need a plan for closing out the game once the engine starts rolling.

Start Your Engines!

Let’s start with finding our key cards. These include Cauldron of Souls, which, due to its CMC of 5, usually isn't coming down early, and sacrifice outlets like Ashnod’s Altar. Luckily, blue is pretty good at finding artifacts. Whir of Invention can find any of our important pieces, or one of our artifact creatures if we draw it later; incidentally, Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll both can help us find Whir of Invention when we need to. Also, Trophy Mage will grab either Ashnod’s Altar or Phyrexian Altar while still having the option to grab any of the other three-mana artifacts in the deck.

After making sure we can find Cauldron of Souls, we need to make sure we can survive long enough to cast it. The deck will have plenty of creatures, but we want most of them to stick around to be sacrificed and revived later on. Thing in the Ice, though, can come down early to deflect early attackers. Once we have Chisei in play, we will have the option to quickly remove ice counters to clear the board and then start attacking ourselves. Time of Ice comes down a few turns later than Thing in the Ice, but lasts for a lot longer. Paired with our commander, this Saga can tap a creature during each of our draw steps, and keep it tapped for as long as we choose. With Chisei removing counters, we never have to let Time of Ice get to three lore counters if we don’t want it to.

There are also two lands that help slow the game down. Glacial Chasm is rather well-known, but Halls of Mist is much less popular, appearing in only 97 decks compared to Chasm’s 5,220. This makes sense, since normally Halls of Mist costs more and more mana every upkeep. For us, though, it should only ever cost one, and Glacial Chasm should only ever cost two life. Each sets us back in resources, and neither land taps for mana, though, so they're better used as last resorts in case of emergency.

Cresting the Wave

We have a plan to set up an engine, and a few methods to protect ourselves until it gets rolling. Once it does, however, we need the final piece of the puzzle: a win condition. The first step is making our sacrifice plan actually worth the effort it takes to set up. Normally, Cauldron of Souls can only be activated once per turn cycle, and Chisei can only remove one -1/-1 counter in our upkeep, only letting us protect one creature via Persist. To really take advantage of Cauldron of Souls, we’re going to want to repeatedly resurrect multiple creatures. This means more ways to get rid of -1/-1 counters, and ways to untap our Cauldron.

Power Conduit is one of Chisei’s Top Cards, and it does a lot of work in this deck. By removing a -1/-1 counter from one creature you can put a +1/+1 counter on another. This will negate any lingering Persist counters, and ready both creatures to be sacrificed again. With Chisei in play, this means we can sacrifice three creatures per turn, gaining significantly more value. 

We can keep piling on the value by amping up our commander even more. Paradox Haze will double Chisei’s effect by giving us an additional upkeep. This is great with Cauldron of Souls, but be careful of the increased cost of Glacial Chasm and Mystic Remora. 

Redundancy is key in Commander, and we aren’t done with this category yet. Graft is one of the Simic guild’s signature mechanics, and it's a natural match for a strategy centered around Persist. Creatures with Graft all enter the battlefield with some number of +1/+1 counters, which they can give away to other creatures that enter the battlefield. This means that we can sacrifice a creature alongside Novijen Sages, and give both +1/+1 counters when they re-enter, negating the -1/-1 counter from Persist. If we include a couple anthem effects (like Hall of Triumph), we can spread these counters even further, because the Graft creature won’t die from giving away its final counter. 

Out With the Tide

The final piece of this large, complicated puzzle is untapping. Untapping Cauldron of Souls gives us access to even more value, and can even push us into the realm of infinite combos. Really janky infinite combos. First, though, some value: Unwinding Clock lets us use Cauldron during each players' turn; Clock of Omens has the potential to go infinite, or it can just turn extra mana rocks into untapping machines. After sacrificing Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart a couple of times, we can afford to skip out on the extra mana. Finally, Deceiver Exarch is what really pushes us infinite, alongside the newly-spoiled Corridor Monitor in Throne of Eldraine. Every time these two creatures re-enter the field they can untap Cauldron of Souls, setting us up to sacrifice our creatures over and over again.

So what are we sacrificing? Augur of Bolas joins our ranks of draw effects, alongside creatures that trigger on death, like Darkslick Drake. River Kelpie draws cards when our creatures revive, and Chasm Skulker will turn those extra cards into an army of tokens. Master of Waves is great for tokens, as well, especially since this deck will usually have a pretty high devotion. 

This is where extra anthems come in extra handy, and we start thinking about closing out the game. Hall of Triumph, Caged Sun, and Grant Architect boost all our blue creatures. Hall of Triumph even has a mana cost of three, meaning we can find it while looping Trophy Mage. These anthems help our Graft creatures get rid of as many counters as possible without dying, in addition to keeping the Elemental tokens on the field when we sacrifice Master of Waves. Tidal Influence won’t do either of those, but it grants a more significant boost to power, synergizing with Chisei, Heart of Oceans. Just like Time of Ice, Chisei will keep Tidal Influence at exactly three tide counters, giving all our little tokens a +2/+0 boost. 

With that, we’ve got a finished deck, so let’s check out the whole list.

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This is a really fun deck. It plays for value like blue decks are known for, but it has a clear win condition through combat, which will surprise some players. The main plan of the deck is to assemble its engine, and maybe build into a combo before closing out the game with combat damage. I've also included Chronozoa and Dark Depths, both of which can run away with a game all on their own if given enough time. Deadeye Navigator also gives us the ability to pour extra mana into blinking value creatures if Cauldron of Souls is removed or we are still struggling to find it. Overall, I think this is a pretty flexible deck that really turns what was designed to be a drawback into a source of strength.

What did you think of the deck? Have you played with Chisei, Heart of Oceans before? What were your favorite cards? Let me know, and thanks for reading!

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.

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