Conditions Allow - Linessa, Zephyr Mage
(Linessa, Zephyr Mage | Art by Jim Murray)
Welcome back to EDHREC and Conditions Allow, where we build decks around legendary creatures that have tricky conditions you need to meet before unlocking their true power. This week I’m tackling Linessa, Zephyr Mage, a mono-blue Human Wizard from Future Sight.
Linessa has two activated abilities. The first can be used to bounce a creature to its owner's hand. However, since it costs a bit of mana and requires Linessa to tap, this will usually not be worth it. The best application will likely be to control early mana dorks and small utility creatures or attackers while setting up Linessa's second ability.
This one reads "Grandeur - Discard another card named Linessa, Zephyr Mage: Target player returns a creature they control to their hand, then repeats this process for an artifact, and enchantment, and a land." This is much more impressive. By simply discarding another copy of Linessa, we can essentially cast a blue Decimate, setting one opponent back a full turn or more.
However, as with all commanders in this series, such a powerful effect must come with restrictions. In this case, we need to have two copies of Linessa to best utilize her power, and in specific zones to boot. In a singleton format, it's impossible to use an ability like this, right?
Luckily, blue is the color of Clones. The plan of the deck will be to create a copy of Linessa and set up a combo to repeatedly return her to our hand to activate her Grandeur ability over and over again, controlling our opponents until we can win.
In the Palm of my Hand
As we should whenever starting a new deck, let’s take a look at Linessa’s EDHREC page. Unsurprisingly, her Signature and Top Cards are dominated by copying effects, from actual Clone to more versatile options like Clever Impersonator. The most useful card here, however, is Supplant Form. This six-mana instant will let us put a token of Linessa onto the field while putting the real Zephyr Mage back to our hand, immediately preparing an activation of her Grandeur.
We don't want to activate that ability just once, though. We’re going to need a few ways to get Linessa into our hand repeatedly. Blue struggles to recover creatures from the graveyard, so we'll have to rely on artifacts to bring everything together. Some, like Myr Reservoir, have the potential to go infinite, while others, like Crucible of Worlds, set a slower, much less threatening pace.
Command Beacon can be sacrificed to return our commander from the command zone to our hand. This lets us dodge commander tax if Linessa is repeatedly removed before we can Clone her, but also lets us skip casting her if we already have a copy on the field. Then, when we discard her to the copy’s Grandeur she will be redirected to the command zone. Crucible of Worlds will then let us replay the Beacon, ready to start the whole process over again.
This is, by far, the slowest way to cycle Linessa, but it also requires the fewest pieces and is the hardest to disrupt. It also makes for a good surprise if you have Linessa in the command zone and your opponents forget Command Beacon is on the field. This can often be enough to hold off aggression until we are able to put together the deck’s real combo.
To chain together more activations of Grandeur, we are going to have to take a few hints from some strange decks. Momir Vig Hackball uses cards like Glamerdye and Alter Reality so both of Momir’s abilities will trigger at once. This allows the deck to easily chain together creature spells, generate infinite mana, and win the game. We will do something similar with Myr Reservoir.
Myr Reservoir can tap to return a Myr card from our graveyard to our hand. Rather than change color words, we need to change type words, or make Linessa a Myr. Handily, there are two cards that will help us do just that. The first, Artificial Evolution, will let us change the Reservoir’s text to return Wizard cards. Ashes of the Fallen takes the opposite approach, turning all creatures in our graveyard into whatever creature type we choose. I suggest Myr. Both cards will work together with Myr Reservoir to let us easily retrieve Linessa after she is discarded.
This also lets us recycle any other Wizard in the deck. Most notably, Vedalken Aethermage can be used to repeatedly tutor Wizards. This can quickly set up a strong draw engine with Azami, Lady of Scrolls, or build a dominant control strategy with Voidmage Prodigy, two major reasons to make this deck Wizard tribal.
Before talking about closing out the game, I want to go over Mirror Gallery and why I haven’t included it in the deck. This five-mana artifact does appear on Linessa’s EDHREC page (and in 16% of decks), but I don’t think it’s worth including. All it gets you is two copies of Linessa, Zephyr Mage on the field, which isn’t really helpful. The deck is already built to return the commander from the graveyard to hand, so we can pretty safely let the real Linessa die after copying her and go from there.
Sometimes we do want to avoid the legend rule and the graveyard. For those cases, Sakashima the Impostor can copy our commander while remaining a distinct legendary creature. If you have the budget, you could loop these two creatures with Cloudstone Curio, copying Linessa and returning her to hand. Then discard her and send her to the command zone, cast her again, and bounce Sakashima. From there, repeat until the field is nice and clean. I have included Tidespout Tyrant instead of the Curio for budget reasons, but the Tyrant can do a reasonable imitation of this loop, needing only one additional permanent to bounce between Sakashima and Linessa.
All of these Clones are creatures, which blue can have a hard time finding. Cackling Counterpart is one instant speed option, as is Supplant Form. These can both be searched for with Merchant Scroll or Mystical Tutor, and cast again later with Archaeomancer. Just keep in mind that loops with Tidespout Tyrant won’t work with these spells, as the token will simply disappear when returned to your hand.
What do we do if Linessa does end up getting stuck in our graveyard? Maybe someone has a Krosan Grip for our Reservoir. We have some utility lands like Buried Ruin to get our artifacts back (which synergize nicely with Crucible of Worlds). We also have a little-used enchantment called Back from the Brink. Back from the Brink lets us exile a creature from our graveyard and pay its mana cost to put a token onto the battlefield. This is a great way to reuse spent Clones, and an excellent method to get our commander back onto the field and into the command zone while dodging commander tax. There’s a reason this is a staple in Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun.
To Infinity and Beyond
Cycling Linessa with Tidespout Tyrant and Myr Reservoir will require a near infinite amount of mana to clear the board in one turn. The deck has a couple of ways to do this. Grand Architect and Pili-Pala work together to generate infinite mana of any color. Use the Architect’s ability to make Pili-Pala blue, and then tap the Pili-Pala for two colorless mana. Use that mana to activate Pili-Pala’s effect, generating one mana of any color. Repeat over and over for infinite mana!
Alternately, you can pair Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal. With at least three mana from non-land sources, such as mana rocks, this generates infinite mana and infinite untaps. This is the simplest method of using Myr Reservoir repeatedly, but Filigree Sages will serve as a respectable backup.
Winning the Game
After you have wiped away most other permanents, you could count on your opponents to scoop, or slowly kill them by attacking with Linessa. In most cases that will be fine, but what do we do if Linessa isn’t an option, or vital pieces of the combo get exiled? The deck has two backup plans, one relying on infinite mana, and one which uses our Clones and Wizards.
Ambassador Laquatus is a legendary Merfolk Wizard with a simple activated ability. For three mana, we force one opponent to mill three cards. Use this effect repeatedly to mill out each opponent after generating infinite mana.
Master of Waves is another Merfolk Wizard. When it enters the battlefield, it will make a number of 1/0 Elemental tokens equal to our devotion to blue. It also gives all Elementals +1/+1, so they won’t die immediately. With the help of a few Clones and Naban, Dean of Iteration, we can spit out a huge army of rather large Elementals to win through combat.
Enough chatter, let's look at the list!
Linessa, Zephyr MageView on Archidekt
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All in all, this is a slower control deck. It can take some time to make a copy of Linessa and then repeatedly cycle her original card back to the hand. Once we do, though, we can keep opponents in check with Grandeur until we can put together one of the combos above. From there, we should be able to lock out the board and safely go for the win. In the event you aren't fully able to assemble the combo, it's better to hold back with Linessa, keeping her in hand to hold off aggression while continuing to amass resources until we can eventually threaten a win.
That brings us to the end of this week’s Conditions Allow. Have you tried to build around Linessa, or the Grandeur keyword before? Let me know what I missed in the comments down below. If there’s a legendary creature you’d like to see me build around next, leave a comment and you could inspire a future article!