Conditions Allow - Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper

(Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper | Art by Karl Kopinski)

Walking Islands, Flying Plains

It seems like Landfall decks are always getting more popular, especially since more cards that support land-focused strategies keep getting printed. From Omnath, Locus of Creation to Kodama of the East Tree and Archelos, Lagoon Mystic, the number of commanders that synergize with lands continues to increase. It's hard to complain, too. Lands are a lot of fun, and a big part of what makes Magic unique. But if you want to get away from Scapeshift, Avenger of Zendikar, and Tatyova, Benthic Druid while still getting to play a land-focused strategy, let me introduce you to Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper

Much like Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor, Noyan Dar seeks to take over the game by turning lands into creatures and attacking for big chunks of damage. Unlike Obuun, however, Noyan Dar's awakening effect doesn't end. He makes your lands permanently vulnerable to all of the most common removal in the format, potentially turning Wrath of God into a one-sided Armageddon. In return, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper can very quickly pump a land to fifteen power or more. Additionally, turning lands into creatures lets us abuse effects that untap creatures in ways they weren't designed for. First and foremost, however, we need to make sure we can protect our newly awakened lands.

Save the Land

Right from the top of Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper's EDHREC page, we can see that white actually has some pretty important effects for this deck. Terra Eternal removes the threat of most board wipes by simply giving all lands indestructible. Sacred Ground takes a more reactive approach, returning your lands to play after they've been destroyed by a spell or effect. If you don't want your lands to be targeted at all, however, you'll need to play Tomik, Distinguished Advokist. Tomik's effect essentially gives all your lands hexproof, while also shutting down anyone planning on abusing Crucible of Worlds. This is especially valuable as targeted removal grows more popular than board wipes

White also has the best land tutor effect available in Azorius: Weathered Wayfarer. Our primary search target is usually going to be Lotus Field, which conveniently makes sure that we can continue to activate Weathered Wayfarer for the rest of the game. Lands that protect themselves are vital for any Noyan Dar deck, as are lands that tap for more than one mana. They're what really let us take advantage of spells like To Arms! and to potentially have Storm-like turns.

Can-Tripping Down the Road

Before we get to any possible combos, let's pick out the cards that will form the meat of this deck. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper needs us to cast instants and sorceries to awaken our lands, and anyone who has played with or against Talrand, Sky Summoner won't be surprised to find that most of the spells on Noyan Dar's page are counterspells.

This makes a lot of sense. Noyan Dar makes our lands vulnerable, so we want to be able to protect them. I've already mentioned several cards that do so, however, and all of our best lands also protect themselves. Darksteel Citadel and Cascading Cataracts are indestructible, and Lotus Field has hexproof. Between Weathered Wayfarer, Expedition Map, and Tolaria West (along with a high density of cantrips), we should be able to find one of these lands or an enchantment to protect them fairly reliably. Additionally, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is not Talrand, Sky Summoner. Talrand makes a lot of tokens which produce card advantage through Skullclamp and Bident of Thassa, neither of which is as powerful when paired with one or two much larger creatures.

I'd much rather be chaining cantrips together. This generates plenty of triggers for Noyan Dar to push our land creatures above twenty power while also helping us dig for the effects that we need to protect our lands and win the game. Most of our best cantrips, like Impulse and Frantic Search, let us draw or choose from multiple cards while also being cheap to cast. Because Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper turns our lands into creatures, we can also take advantage of Cerulean Wisps, Refocus, and To Arms! as "free" cantrips. If our Elemental happens to tap for more than two mana, these spells even let us gain mana.

We can push this concept even further by including Chakram Retriever and, to a lesser extent, Retreat to Coralhelm. Neither card appears on Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper's EDHREC page, but both definitely deserve a spot in our deck. Being able to untap one of our lands every time we cast a spell is powerful, although it only works as long as we are casting spells on our turn. With enough cheap spells in our deck, Chakram Retriever can let us chew through a lot of cards. Retreat to Coralhelm isn't nearly as powerful, but gives us a free scry or an extra mana every turn at the very least. In conjunction with Walking Atlas, it can put every land in our hand into play, which can make it feel like we're casting spells for free.

Throwing Rocks

It shouldn't take very long for Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper to make our creatures big enough to threaten to take over the game. Unfortunately, though, they are still very easy to block. We can try to equalize with board wipes that don't destroy lands, like Planar Outburst and Ondu Inversion, but there are cheaper ways to give our Elementals evasive abilities. Herald of Secret Streams is very straightforward, making all of our creatures with +1/+1 counters on them unblockable. Halimar Tidecaller and Abzan Falconer grant our creatures flying instead. I'm choosing to include only Herald of Secret Streams to avoid running into trouble against decks with lots of fliers and also to make room for a little combo.

Elite Arcanist is the creature version of Isochron Scepter, which is exactly what this deck wants. We could combo with Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal as well, but Dramatic Reversal doesn't have the synergy with the rest of the deck that To Arms! or Call to Glory do. The Elite Arcanist imprinted with Call to Glory will let us cast an infinite number of spells, growing our lands as large as we need to win the game. If we happen to have Azami, Lady of Scrolls in play (or to have imprinted Call to Arms! instead) we can also draw our deck to ensure that we have all the tools that we need to win on the spot. To make sure that we can pull this off in one turn, we're going to need to give Elite Arcanist haste. Swiftfoot Boots accomplishes this while also protecting our lands or Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, himself, but this is a lands deck. Hall of the Bandit Lord is the only land in our colors that grants haste, so it'll find a slot in the deck as well.

If you're worried about milling yourself out or about having one of our untap spells milled for you, we can include a couple of cards to throw those vital spells back into our deck. These are also great late, after we've cast most of our cantrips and want to keep going. Learn from the Past is probably better in a version of this deck with more removal and counter magic, but it lets us potentially infinitely loop through our deck with Elite Arcanist and To Arms! by first casting Echo of Eons and then shuffling it back into our library with Learn from the Past.

Staying Grounded

Which leaves us with just the lands. I've already mentioned Darksteel Citadel, Lotus Field, and Tolaria West, but this is a lands matter deck; I've got plenty more fancy lands to show off. Our best aggressive land is undoubtedly Inkmoth Nexus, capable of killing players after only three Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper triggers. Remember that you can still use Inkmoth Nexus's own effect to turn it from a 0/0 Elemental into a 1/1 Blinkmoth creature for that final point of Infect damage and flying. Celestial Colonnade comes with a slightly more hefty power boost. If we find ourselves in the late game with mana to spare, Celestial Colonnade is a pretty good place to spend it. Soldevi Excavations is another great mana sink: unlike most bounce lands, it comes in untapped, so even though we have to sacrifice an untapped Island, we stay mana neutral thanks to the two mana that this land produces.

The rest of the land base is pretty much what you'd expect. There are more than a few lands in this deck that only produce colorless mana, so I emphasized mana rocks that produce blue or white mana in the ramp package. There's also a couple of cards that reduce the cost of our spells, like Primal Amulet and Jace's Sanctum, to ensure Chakram Retriever is as effective as possible. With a little bit of removal to round it out, we've got ourselves a deck.

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Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is a lot of fun to play. His effect is unique, even among commanders that animate lands, and it almost always leads to really interesting games. I've gone for a more aggressive build with this list, but it is also very possible to play a much slower, grindy game as well. If you've played Noyan Dar before let me know what approach you took. What cards worked best for you? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments, 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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