Conditions Allow - Taniwha
(Taniwha | Art by Ian Miller)
It’s Just a Phase
Hello everyone, welcome to this week’s installment of Conditions Allow. This is the series where I take a commander with significant drawbacks and build a deck to turn them into strengths. I’m diving deep into Magic’s past this week to take a look at Taniwha.
Taniwha is part of a long tradition of card design from Magic’s early years. As a 7/7 with trample for five mana, it would make for a powerful creature if not for the debilitating downsides imposed for the sake of balance. Not only does Taniwha itself have Phasing, it forces your lands to phase out during your upkeep. Before talking about what that means, and how to play around it, let’s make sure we understand how Phasing works.
Phasing is an old keyword that has made a slight resurgence with the printing of Teferi’s Protection. Permanents can be either ‘phased in’ or ‘phased out’. Any permanent that is phased out will automatically phase in during its controller’s untap step, before lands untap. Likewise, any permanent with Phasing that is phased in will phase out at the same time. A phased out card does not change zones, and is considered to no longer exist by the game. Finally, if a creature phases out, any Equipment or Auras attached to it will phase out and in with it, remaining attached the whole time.
That timing is important. Taniwha will phase out before your upkeep, meaning your lands will stay in play until Taniwha phases in on the next turn. After casting your commander, it will alternate being on the field with your lands. This will functionally halve the number of lands we have access to, but it could also protect our lands from certain effects.
Closing the Floodgates
Looking on Taniwha’s EDHREC page, we immediately notice Sunder and Worldslayer. Worldslayer is seen most often in Avacyn, Angel of Hope decks, which can protect your field from the Equipment’s game-resetting effect. Taniwha acts in the same way: by phasing our lands out of existence, they become untouchable by either effect, letting us run away with the game.
Of course, two cards does not a deck make. Luckily, EDHREC can show us some other ways to slow the flow of mana in our opponent’s pools to a mere trickle. Overburden and Mana Breach will hinder our opponents while we set up our combo, and then stop them from being able to rebuild after we cast Sunder or connect with Worldslayer. Storm Cauldron acts in the same way, but will draw significantly more hate from the rest of the table. You also want to make sure you are equipped to deal with it yourself, so make sure only to cast this artifact if you are prepared.
For some extra land hate, I’m going to include Shimmer. Alongside cards like Stormtide Leviathan and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Shimmer will give every land in play Phasing, massively disrupting our opponents. We can even dramatically reduce Shimmer’s effect on our own lands by using Mana Breach or Storm Cauldron to return Urborg to our hand before our turn, so our lands will no longer be Swamps and lose Phasing.
The final piece of land hate in the deck is Quicksilver Fountain. The Fountain interacts with Shimmer in a similar way to Stormtide Leviathan, although at a much slower pace. It also doesn’t let lands keep their original land types once they get a flood counter, stopping your opponents from making any mana other than blue.
Disrupting lands is great, but it only does anything if the spells our opponents do manage to cast don’t stick around for long. That’s just a recipe for long, boring games. To avoid this, we’re going to run as many mass bounce effects as we can. Cyclonic Rift is obviously great, but cards like Whelming Wave can be functionally identical, since most of our creatures will be Serpents or Leviathans. Speaking of, Kederekt Leviathan and Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep are creature versions of this effect. This high density of bounce spells will ensure our creatures are always able to deal damage and quickly close out the game. Just in case a few blockers do manage to stick around, Thassa, God of the Sea can make our creatures unblockable.
Playing With Your Lands
The vital thing to remember when including cards with such strong stax effects is how to break parity on them. Bouncing lands isn’t fun for anyone when even you, the person doing the bouncing, cannot cast any spells. To help with this, a large part of this deck is dedicated to ramping and making use of lands in our hand.
Up first, ramp. Blue obviously has access to the same mana rocks as everyone else. Unsurprisingly, Sol Ring is great for the deck, as are Mind Stone and Thought Vessel. Of extra importance for us, however, are rocks that can make blue mana. Sky Diamond and Fellwar Stone are awesome, and we’re even going to include Manalith and Darksteel Ingot. Commander’s Sphere has some extra utility if we sacrifice it, as does Eye of Ramos. Lastly, Gilded Lotus will produce enough blue mana for just about any spell in the deck.
Blue also has access to ramp through doubling effects. High Tide will make all your Islands twice as effective in one big turn, while Caged Sun is a more permanent effect. There are others, like Extraplanar Lens, but that would grant our opponents extra mana when we make their lands Islands too. Omniscience will take that spot instead, removing the need for lands altogether.
Finally, we do have some tricks to put extra lands into play each turn. Patron of the Moon turns one land into two, while Walking Atlas is a pseudo-Exploration. Alongside Retreat to Coralhelm, the Atlas can even put every land in our hand back onto the field. This is great for ensuring that we can always cast our spells, and also acts as a win condition in combination with a couple other cards.
Water, Water Everywhere
Maybe you don’t want to play out all your lands, though. Nezahal, Primal Tide will let us pitch those extra lands to dodge removal. Foil lets us discard those lands to protect our other creatures, while Thwart can fuel either effect. Trade Routes gives us the choice to discard those extra lands to dig for more cards.
There are several utility creatures that will help us get lands into hand as consistently as possible. Meloku, the Clouded Mirror can make chump blockers, or an infinite army of Illusions with Walking Atlas and Retreat to Coralhelm. Uyo, Silent Prophet copies instants and sorceries, while Soratami Rainshaper helps to protect your creatures. Moonfolk are actually great creatures to consider for this of deck, as they interact well with Nezahal and our counterspells, and act as fodder for Patron of the Moon’s Moonfolk offering ability.
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This is a control deck, but your ultimate plan to win is through combat damage; always be playing with that in mind. It may be better to leave Storm Cauldron in your hand until you've developed a couple of large sea monsters and cast Sunder. There are a couple of counterspells in the deck to force it through, as well as some sources of unblockable to make dealing damage with Worldslayer easier. Playing stax pieces without quickly following up with either of those cards will most likely only make your friends not want to play with you.
With that warning, this week's article comes to a close. What do you think of Taniwha? Does this strategy stray too close to land destruction, or is phasing just too complicated? Let me know in the comments. And if there's a legendary creature you'd like to see me build a deck around, let me know! You could inspire my next article.