Conditions Allow - Shisato, Whispering Hunter
Snakes on a Plane
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, where we take commanders with a downside and turn it into a strength! This week I’m continuing my foray into the forest with .
is a 2/2 Snake Warrior with two triggered abilities. At the beginning of your upkeep, Shisato will force you to sacrifice a Snake. When she deals combat damage to a player, that player skips their next untap step.
While that last bit is pretty a scary effect, there are many factors holding Shisato back from becoming a dominant force on the battlefield. First, if you aren’t playing some form of Snake tribal, she will sacrifice herself on your upkeep. Second, people usually like to untap their permanents, especially lands. The possibility of being denied that opportunity will make this whispering hunter a major target as soon as she hits the field. Her CMC of 4 isn’t nothing, even in mono-green. Two or three removal spells and she won’t be easy to cast anymore. Finally, as a measly 2/2 without any evasion, it’s actually pretty difficult to get her damage trigger to go off.
However, if you can jump through all the hoops necessary, what does Shisato do for us? Making players skip untaps steps is reminiscent of , everyone’s favorite Stax piece. Shisato doesn’t feel like a Stax commander to me, though. She doesn’t help us break parity on effects like , nor does she dodge effects in the same way does. Shisato is also not a reliable Stax piece herself. She only affects one player, leaving the other two relatively unrestricted and free to develop their own boards or start to take apart yours.
This makes me think of the Commander games that turned into Archenemy, though. In many of those games, I felt that if the players who were behind had just one more turn, we might be able to catch up. can grant you that turn, forcing the player who is ahead to take one turn off, or at least to dramatically slow down to avoid being completely blown out by her abilities. That style of play sounds very similar to a control deck, trying to prevent anyone from running away with the game until it has amassed the resources it needs to win. It’s also not how green decks normally play, so I’m excited to see what we put together.
An Impenetrable Fog
Control isn’t a theme on EDHREC, so I turned to the list for both Group Hug and Pillow Fort to see what green cards and commanders might show up. One of the top commanders for Pillow Fort decks is Angus Mackenzie, a Bant commander with an activated ability that mimics .
Green actually has a fairly high density of effects, and they present a great way to control the pace of a game. You can use them to save a vulnerable player, or deny an opponent’s abilities that trigger from combat damage. Especially in metas where decks rely on combat to win, can act like a counterspell, denying your opponents the chance to win and letting you get to your win condition.
For this plan to work, we’re going to want repeatable effects. is a great example of everything we want a card to do. It prevents combat damage and has an easily manageable Buyback cost. If the land we sacrifice is we can easily pay three mana to just bring it back to our hand. and accomplish the same thing by allowing us to replay lands from our graveyard. also appreciates the Crucible, as you can repeatedly fail to pay the Cumulative Upkeep and then replay to keep your defenses up.
For other creature options, and both use counters to negate combat damage, although does accumulate them very slowly. Finally, can only be used twice, but we want as many reusable fogs as we can get.
To that end, we’ll want ways to find and as reliably as possible. and will let us search for any land, with putting that land into play at instant speed. It may not seem like much, but don't underestimate the value of flashing in a in your opponent's combat step.
Of course, we’ll also want some more direct ways to interact with our opponents. and are both very good options for dealing with opposing commanders, giving no chance to retreat to the safety of the command zone. can deal with token decks and other strategies that need lots of permanents on the field while can make any creature we play into a profitable blocker. Our final piece of removal is . This enchantment probably won’t stick around for long, and you won’t want to use its ability more than two or three times, but it is highly flexible removal and can prevent other players from casting their big threats early on.
Enter the Snake
Eventually, we’ll want to cast and have her stick around. That means we’ll need to protect her and have a disposable Snake or two on hand. will produce a Snake token every time we play a land, while will make a token every time an opponent casts a blue or black spell. If your meta is light on these colors, I recommend or in this slot.
is our last token maker, and also a Snake itself. is a useful piece of pseudo-ramp, while helps get back a piece of protection or removal while picking up brownie points with another player.
There are two other spells in the deck that help to protect from her own sacrifice trigger. The first is , which can Imprint another Snake for easy access throughout the rest of the game. In a real pinch, can even Imprint Shisato herself. This is risky, though. If is removed before another creature dies, Shisato will be stuck in exile.
A slightly more stable artifact is , which changes from a Snake to a Zombie. This means her sacrifice ability won’t apply to herself anymore, letting you keep your commander when there are no other Snakes present. Plus, ’s resurrection clause can keep Shisato around when your opponents would rather see her dead.
Of course, this isn’t the only card that helps keep on the field. , , and all make our creatures hard to target, while evacuates key creatures to our hand. lets us play our biggest threats at the best possible moment, while will ensure we can push through any blue decks at the table.
The final piece of any good control deck is card advantage. We want to be drawing cards as often as possible, so while cards like or are good sources of draw, I want to highlight and . These both give steady sources of card advantage that don’t require casting extra spells. That may seem insignificant, but becomes very important when paired with the next card in the deck.
Why Does it Always Have to be Snakes
Let's make sure we have ways to close out the game. has a lot of flavor in a dedicated Snake deck, and a rather strange keyword. This spell is Epic, meaning that once it is cast we can’t cast any other spells for the rest of the game. During each of our upkeeps, however, we can copy , except for its Epic ability, so each turn we’ll create a number of 1/1 green Snake tokens equal to the number of cards in our hand.
Of course, this isn’t good enough to win on its own. The tokens made by are small and not numerous enough to win quickly. Luckily, we have plenty of ways to address that. and give our whole team a pretty sizable buff, while will make sure they always trade up in combat. and can also make a select few Snakes into significantly larger threats.
For some added punch, and have fairly cheap activated abilities that both pump our creatures and grant trample. This is useful for punching through blockers quickly and ensuring we get Shisato to connect when we need her to. Finally, gives all creatures vigilance so we can deal with incoming attacks.
With a little bit of ramp and a couple more lands, I think we have a deck.
Shisato, Whispering Hunter
This deck aims to play the long game, gradually draining opponents of resources and options until it is safe to cast . You want to have at least one of your creature buffs on the field when you do this, although two or three is ideal. If you can’t do that, it is often best to forgo the token strategy in favor of suiting or up with and aiming for a Voltron win.
No matter how you aim to close out the game, this deck will rely fairly heavily on politics to gain an advantage, making cards like extra valuable. For me, this adds to the flavor of the deck as you charm your opponents while slowly squeezing them to death, like Kaa in The Jungle Book.
That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this return to the forests of Kamigawa. Let me know how you would build Shisato in the comments. As always, if there’s a legendary creature you would like to see me tackle in this series, leave a comment, and you could be responsible for a future article!