Conditions Allow – Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner

(Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner | Art by Leesha Hannigan)

The Wheels on the Caravan

Hello, and welcome back to¬†Conditions Allow, an article series where I choose a commander with a drawback and try to turn it into a strength. Last time, with Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, I explored a strategy usually outside of red’s wheelhouse, Aristocrats. This time, I’m leaning into red’s conventional strengths, aggression and fast damage, with another commander from Core Set 2021, Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner.

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner is a new take on an ability we have already seen on a couple of mono-red legends. Similar to Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion, Subira is a pseudo-Wheel of Fortune in the command zone. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner comes with two important restrictions that set her apart as a unique commander. First, you have to discard your hand as an extra cost to activate her draw ability. This can leave you empty-handed if an opponent casts Teferi’s Protection or removes your creatures in response. In contrast, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion‘s draw effect has the discard and draw as part of the same trigger, so there’s no risk of being left Hellbent. This also means, however, that if your hand is already empty, Neheb won’t draw you any cards, while Subira can.

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner is a great support commander for an aggressive deck precisely because she can function like a Reconnaissance Mission in the command zone. Her EDHREC page is full of creatures that produce hordes of tokens, letting you draw tons of cards when they deal damage. Tilonalli’s Summoner is a literal one card army, and Krenko, Mob Boss should need no introduction. We can check out the EDHREC pages for Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser to find any cards that haven’t appeared for Subira yet, and if we plan to empty our hand every turn to mitigate the downside of discarding cards, it may be worth looking at Edric, Spymaster of Trest‘s page for some strategic inspiration.


Going Over Your Head

Comparing Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner to Edric, Spymaster of Trest might be a little hyperbolic, but it does reflect the best way to play with Subira. Much of the Top Cards on Subira’s EDHREC page are creatures and enchantments that make small nuisances into bigger threats. Fiery Emancipation, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, and Cavalcade of Calamity take the place of Time Warp and Time Stretch in Edric decks. In order to make those cards do anything, though, we’re going to need creatures to attack.

Mono-red doesn’t have access to the same number or quality of cheap flyers that Edric does, but there are still some decent options. Loyal Apprentice is probably the best of these, producing a flying Thopter token every turn, as long as Subira is in play. This is also an opportunity to run obscure cards like Bird Maiden and Robber Fly, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. I’m also going to include Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus as optional flying creatures that can survive board wipes.

While the flyers may be somewhat lackluster, red has some excellent token cards. You can’t look for much better for Subira than Tilonalli’s Summoner. This card is a great no matter when you draw it, quickly flooding the field with Elemental tokens to recover from a board wipe or to press an early advantage. Hanweir Garrison can do something similar, along with Krenko, Mob Boss and Legion Warboss.

All of our tokens still come from creatures, so we can still make full use of Oketra’s Monument to get two bodies for every creature we cast. Anax, Hardened in the Forge makes sure that our army survives early board wipes, letting us keep the pressure going. Hangarback Walker is another great insurance policy against Wrath of God, leaving behind a platoon of Thopter tokens when it dies. These tokens will continue to draw cards with Subira and finish the game quickly, before concentrated removal becomes a problem.


Making a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill

Nearly all of the creatures in this deck will have one or two power, so they’re going to need a little help to be as dangerous as we want. Luckily, that also means we can take full advantage of Raid Bombardment, Cavalcade of Calamity, and Hellrider. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell can amplify that extra damage into a real threat, especially when combined with Fiery Emancipation. Finally, Throne of the God-Pharaoh is the perfect card for this deck. Even if we don’t go all-in on tokens, an extra five or six damage a turn won’t be something our opponents can ignore.

I’m also adding in Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge as extra sources of damage. These are usually used as win conditions on their own, and can act as bait for removal if we draw them early enough. Even if we draw them late, we should have enough creatures to deal a decent amount of damage. You might also consider Warstorm Surge for its ability to clear away small blockers, but I’m leaving it out of this initial list.


No Blocks, Only Attacks

Even with every damage amplifier, our deck won’t do anything if our creatures can’t deal combat damage. Luckily, there are plenty of cards that make sure blockers won’t be an issue. War Cadence demands a tax for every blocking creature. Our opponents may be able to pay for one or two, allowing the rest of the army to attack unopposed. Bedlam is even better, stopping creatures from blocking altogether. This could easily backfire, though, as it stops us from blocking as well. Aggro decks tend to draw a lot of attention, so we’ll also need to be able to protect ourselves.

Meekstone is perfect for this, keeping opponents’ creatures tapped so they can’t attack or block. Mudslide is less broadly effective, but neatly handles any opposing token decks. It also rewards us for including plenty of flying creatures, while still letting us pay to untap key creatures. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner obviously falls into this category, but Krenko, Mob Boss can quickly take over a game if left unchecked as well. Lastly, Goad may not seem like a defensive ability but it is, and it’s a very good one. Making creatures attack elsewhere keeps our life total safe, while also furthering our own plan. Plus, if Subira is removed, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser can provide the extra card advantage we need to stay in the game.

If you can’t outright stop your opponents from blocking, the next best thing is deciding how they block for them. Invasion Plans does force all creatures to block, but lets you decide how those blocks are stacked. Make all of your opponents’ creatures block a Thopter token from Loyal Apprentice and have the rest go unblocked. Finally, Menace is not the same as unblockable, but it can certainly help, especially since most of our creatures already have flying. You could even include Yuan Shao, the Indecisive to make creatures with menace truly unblockable.

And don’t forget that Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner can make your creatures unblockable as well. And if you’re worried about having enough mana to make creatures unblockable¬†and cast the spells you draw, add in Neheb, the Eternal. Braid of Fire also works, providing mana for Subira to make creatures unblockable during your upkeep, while keeping the deck’s curve lean and aggressive.

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I was genuinely surprised at how fun this deck was to put together. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner is a very cool commander that asked me to think in a way that I usually don’t. I certainly wasn’t expecting to compare her to Edric, Spymaster of Trest, but I think the comparison stands to scrutiny. With a token army at her back, Subira can draw you a lot of cards, which you can then play out before your next turn. The creature slots are also highly flexible, letting you play your favorite red aggro creatures from Standard formats of the past.

Would you play Subira with Bird Maiden? If you’ve played with Subira, what have your favorite cards been? Let me know what you think 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.