Conditions Allow - Mangara of Corondor
(Mangara of Corondor | Art by Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai)
Flight of the Corondors
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Conditions Allow. In this article series I take a look at commanders with powerful abilities and equally powerful drawbacks. This week, I’m taking a look at Mangara of Corondor.
Unlike most of the other commanders I’ve covered in this series, Mangara of Corondor only has one line of text. For the low cost of tapping, Mangara of Corondor will exile himself and another target permanent. There is no cost beyond tapping for this ability, and no restrictions to what it can target. However, Mangara will exile himself as part of the effect. I think this ability is really elegant, combining powerful removal with a neat limiting factor in one simple line of text.
Of course, Mangara is our commander, so when he is exiled as part of his ability, we could send him back to the command zone. However, commander tax will quickly render him virtually uncastable, especially in mono-white. The key to building around Mangara is to realize his exile happens as the ability resolves; it isn’t a cost. This means, since his ability doesn’t target himself, if he leaves the field when the ability is on the stack, the ability will still resolve and exile a permanent. Mangara of Corondor is the perfect commander for a mono-white Blink deck.
Blink and You’ll Miss It
Looking into the Blink theme page on EDHREC, there is a heavy focus on Bant colors. Not much is mono-white, but what we do have is largely dedicated to controling the board. In fact, Blink seems to naturally lean towards a control archetype, with cards like Oblivion Ring, Fiend Hunter, and Banishing Light. I don’t like those cards in this deck, though. Mangara is already a more efficient form of removal, which we will always have access to from the command zone.
I think the best approach to a commander that fills such a specific role in the deck is to focus the main part of the 99 on something else. In this case, we can take advantage of our Blink theme and white’s propensity for small creatures to build an aggressive deck with a commander that can help get rid of larger threats and imposing blockers. Focusing on small creatures will also allow us to make use of some of the more efficient options for card draw in white, something the color does sorely lack.
Before going any further, though, let’s talk about how we’ll actually blink stuff. There are plenty of one-time blink effects, like Cloudshift and Eerie Interlude. Acrobatic Maneuver is a little better, since it will replace itself, and Ghostway will gain additional value from any other creatures with enter-the-battlefield triggers we happen to control.
The best flicker effects, however, are ones attached to creatures or enchantments, like Eldrazi Displacer, Angel of Condemnation, and Flickerform. These will let us use Mangara’s effect turn after turn, while also dodging any removal that gets pointed at him in retaliation. To round out this list, I’m also throwing in Erratic Portal. Bounce does require recasting the targeted creature, but there are several cards that synergize specifically with casting creatures, so it isn’t entirely off-theme.
So what, other than the commander, will we flicker? I already know I want to focus on small creatures, so let’s start with Mentor of the Meek and Bygone Bishop for card draw. Mentor of the Meek in particular is useful here because it doesn’t specify casting the creature, but Bygone Bishop does interact nicely with bouncing our own creatures.
Then there are creatures we can bounce for direct value, like Wall of Omens and Recruiter of the Guard. Sandstone Oracle is an interesting creature that I suspect isn’t really good enough, since we can’t cheat it into play, but it has the potential to draw a significant number of cards, and I’m interested in testing it out.
There are two other sources of draw that are worth a little more discussion on their own, because they steer this deck in a particular direction. Hazoret’s Monument may seem a little weird in a nonred deck, but looting every time we cast a creature gives this deck some much-needed ability to dig for answers. Vanquisher’s Banner provides similar utility while making similar deckbuilding demands.
Both artifacts want a lot of creatures. Vanquisher’s Banner simply also asks for a specific tribe. Our commander is a Wizard and a Human, and white has a lot of support for Humans, but even more for Soldiers. As a bonus, most Humans in white are also Soldiers, so we can pretty safely build Soldier tribal while still being able to name Human for cards like Vanquisher’s Banner and Coat of Arms.
Soldiers also take great advantage of our Blink theme. Creatures like Captain of the Watch and Evangel of Heliod can spit out huge numbers of tokens, while Selfless Squire will repeatedly save us from damage.
Thraben Inspector is another source of card draw, while Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit will buff what are naturally pretty small threats. Cathars’ Crusade is a more powerful version of this effect, growing our board wide while Thalia’s Lieutenant goes tall.
To take advantage of all these +1/+1 counters, Abzan Falconer and Ainok Bond-Kin grant flying and first strike, making our army much harder to block.
Of course, there are also larger creatures to flicker if the game goes long. Sun Titan can help us recover from board wipes, while Linvala, the Preserver pushes out some larger tokens and can help stabilize our life total.
White also benefits from creatures that ramp as they hit the field, like Oreskos Explorer, Knight of the White Orchid, and Solemn Simulacrum. Boreas Charger is another great creature in this deck, turning each of our blink effects into ramp. Alongside a solid selection of mana rocks, we can largely solve the ramp problem, even if we can’t fully avoid running out of cards in our hand.
Rounding out the Ranks
Protection is going to be important to survive board wipes. Because we will often have three or fewer cards in hand, it is much easier to prevent Damnation than to recover from it. Unless, of course, we have Faith’s Reward. This will entirely undo any kind of wipe, often putting us in a position to easily steal a win. Rootborn Defenses is another great way to weather all manner of destruction-based board wipes, while Lapse of Certainty can take any unsuspecting opponents entirely by surprise.
Add in some artifact ramp and lands and we have a full list!
A quick note on my land selection: I wanted to have enough sources of colorless mana to reliably use Eldrazi Displacer when I draw it. Relying on artifacts for that can be a little tricky, especially since a large chunk of the ramp for this deck is actually creature and land based.
Mangara of Corondor
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This deck looks significantly different from the average Mangara of Corondor deck on EDHREC. That list focuses on cards that synergize with activated abilities and untapping, like Puppet Strings and Illusionist’s Bracers. I have very purposefully pushed this deck in a different direction, which I think accomplishes two things.
First, it plays into the strengths of white as a color in Magic. White wants to gain value from a community, in this case a large number of smaller creatures working together to achieve larger results through Cathars’ Crusade and Coat of Arms. This also helps us draw some cards with Vanquisher’s Banner and Mentor of the Meek.
Second, it fills the holes in Mangara’s own ability. Mangara is very good at controlling the board, which his average EDHREC deck builds upon and accentuates, but that means finishing the game can be difficult and time-consuming. By building a more aggressive deck that focuses on Blink more than building around the commander’s effect, I think we end up with a more balanced and effective game plan. We can control the board, but that is a means to an end rather than the goal itself.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, thank you for reading, and if you haven’t, then how are you reading this? If you’ve built Mangara of Corondor, or flicker focused Soldier Tribal, let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below. If there’s a legendary creature you’d like to see me build around, leave a comment and you could be responsible for a future article!