Conditions Allow - Mageta the Lion

(Mageta the Lion | Art by Brom)

King of the Jungle

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength.

Lions may not appear to have many weaknesses, but this one runs out of steam very quickly, so let's sit in the shade and take a break while we build Mageta the Lion.

Mageta the Lion belongs to a long tradition of commanders that function as board wipes in the command zone. Like every other Spellshaper, Mageta lets us transform extra cards in our hand into a spell. In this case, we can trade in two cards to cast a Wrath of God that will leave our commander in play. This means we'll always have a creature in play to take advantage of the now-empty battlefield.

The fact that Mageta the Lion survives his own wrath is a big advantage. Graveyard and reanimation decks only become more popular, and most other colors can draw enough cards to rebuild from a board wipe relatively quickly. We're going to need a plan to keep our own threats in play while also ensuring we always have cards to discard for Mageta's ability.

Drawing a Blank

Looking through Mageta the Lion's EDHREC page, we can see that players have dug straight to the bottom of the barrel for draw effects in white. The most effective cards, however, aren't always the draw spells.

One of the advantages of Mageta the Lion is that he can turn any two cards into Wrath of God. This makes Land Tax one of the best cards in our deck, if not the best. We can always ensure we get three lands every upkeep, keeping our hand full even if we activate Mageta every turn. Gift of Estates provides a one-time burst of cards, but I'm most interested in trying out Cartographer's Hawk. Usually, Cartographer's Hawk is simply too cumbersome to be effective, but we can play it early to ramp or discard it to Mageta the Lion later on.

If Land Tax isn't the best card advantage engine in our deck, then Bag of Holding is. Every time we discard cards to activate Mageta the Lion, they will be exiled under Bag of Holding. When we run out of cards, we can sacrifice the Bag to put every card in it back into our hand. This lets us discard valuable cards that we can't cast yet and give us a surge of cards to stay strong in the late game. The looting effect on Bag of Holding is also surprisingly useful, letting us see more cards. Even if we're empty-handed, looting with the Bag puts an extra card into our hand when we sacrifice it.

For a more steady source of card advantage, we can turn to planeswalkers. Ugin, the Ineffable is perfect for this deck. The tokens he produces are great fodder for Skullclamp, and they activate Idol of Oblivion. When we do have to wipe the board again, each token we've created will replace itself. And while the 2/2 Spirits aren't impressive attackers on their own, we can use them to Crew Vehicles, like Weatherlight and Smuggler's Copter, virtually increasing their power and drawing us an extra card.

Street Racing

The more I think about it, the more I like Vehicles in this deck. They're only creatures when we want them to be, so they avoid Mageta the Lion's Wrath of God effect, and can be used to scale up our smaller creatures, sometimes by quite a bit.

Untethered Express, for example, effectively lets a 1/1 Soldier token attack for four damage, or even more if the Express has already attacked a few times. Our tokens don't even need haste to crew Vehicles, so we can destroy all creatures with Mageta the Lion, recreate tokens with our planeswalkers, and still attack with Vehicles. Smuggler's Copter does show up on Mageta's EDHREC page, but more Vehicles definitely should. In particular, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and Aradara Express can deal big chunks of damage and really pressure our opponents to play blockers, only for Mageta the Lion to clear them away.

Speaking of cards that are only sometimes creatures, let's talk about Gideon Blackblade. Most versions of Gideon have the ability to turn into a creature on your turn, providing you with an attacker (or Crew member) that dodges our commander's effect. Basri Ket doesn't turn into a creature, himself, but he can make one of our creatures indestructible on our turn. The +1/+1 counters from Basri Ket shouldn't be discounted either. Mageta will make the game go long, so Basri Ket and Ajani Steadfast can put a significant amount of power on the board, especially if Elspeth, Sun's Champion has had a few turns to tick up.

As long as we're talking about tokens and +1/+1 counters, let's not forget Court of Grace. Mageta the Lion is very good at protecting the Monarchy, so we can usually rely on Court of Grace to be drawing us cards and producing a 4/4 Angel on each of our upkeeps. Luminarch Ascension is a slightly stronger version of this effect, since it can make tokens during the end step before our turn, allowing them to attack right away. Finally, if the 1/1 Soldiers from Elspeth, Sun's Champion didn't impress you, a little Divine Visitation will make them much scarier.

Finding a Friend

Planeswalkers really form the core of this deck, so we're going to want to find them as often as possible. White may not be able to draw many cards, but it has a surprising number of ways to search for planeswalkers directly. Aside from Weatherlight filtering for historic cards, we'll play Djeru, With Eyes Open as a creature to find and protect our 'walkers. Let's also add Call the Gatewatch and Ignite the Beacon to grab the 'walker we need when we need it.

The core of our deck may be planeswalkers, but we also have plenty of artifacts and enchantments, and Commander Legends conveniently gave us a card that can return all planeswalkers, enchantments, and artifacts from our graveyard to play. Much like Bag of Holding, Triumphant Reckoning lets us discard our most powerful spells to deal with creatures early before bringing them all back to take over in the late game.

Nothing is Unbreakable

With most of the list in place, we can round out the deck with cards to accentuate our core plan. We want to use Mageta the Lion aggressively and pressure life totals with Vehicles and tokens. Indestructible creatures will throw a wrench in those plans. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile help, but let's include Shadowspear as well. Most decks want it for the trample or lifelink, but we're most interested in its ability to remove indestructible.

Mageta the Lion is also going to invite a lot of removal. Rebuff the Wicked is a hard counter for any targeted removal, as are Gods Willing and Brave the Elements. Sheltering Light and Fight as One are more limited as counterspells, but still very worth playing. Finally, Akroma's Will is useful as a protection spell and an offensive finisher, absolutely deserving a spot in this deck.

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When I sat down to brew with Mageta the Lion I expected it to be a bit of a slog. Playing with Wrath of God in the command zone seemed like it would really lend itself to slow games of attrition that would leave everyone tired. What I ended up with is a reasonably aggressive deck that I think really leans into white's strengths in Commander. Having to discard two cards to use Mageta's ability is slightly offset as long as you're destroying more than two creatures. Planeswalkers and Vehicles also let you play around your own wraths and keep extra cards in your hand to discard.

But what do you think? Is there any hope for mono-White? Have you tried to build around Mageta the Lion? What cards stood out for you, and which ones underperformed? 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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