Do Your Worst - Sultai Equipment

(Mask of Riddles | Art by Matt Cavotta)

Getting In to the Hilt With Equipment

Hello everyone! Welcome to the fourth installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we will be looking at decks that should not be – or should they?

Equipment is a very well-known and well-loved strategy, sitting at third place behind artifacts and lifegain on the EDHREC Themes page. I can see the appeal! It makes so much sense to give your creatures weapons to charge into battle. Equipment can also be reused multiple times, unlike Auras, which usually go to the graveyard once the creature they're attached to dies.

The Equipment artifact subtype first appeared in the Mirrordin block, with such staples as Lightning Greaves, Skullclamp and Sword of Fire and Ice. The archetype also intersects with a Voltron playstyle: create one all-powerful creature with tons of Equipment, then smash face.

So, what colors love Equipment the most? Well, surprising no one, Boros (white-red) takes the cake, with approximately 7,900 decks specifically dedicated to this theme. The number of Equipment-matters commanders we got in Boros over the years is, quite frankly, spectacular. Mardu (white-black-red) is second, with ~4,800 decks, represented mainly by Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. Next in line are mono-white (~2,900 decks) and Bant (~1,700 decks).

This makes our life difficult, because every color is represented here. It doesn't help that Equipment are usually colorless cards and can thus be played in a variety of color identities. I'm gonna take a decision here and say that Boros is by far the best color combination for this. We shall then craft the ultimate anti-Boros deck: blue, black and green.

Sultai Equipment it is!


The Research

Now, I do feel bad about playing three colors, because it isn't as restrictive as two colors or mono-color. I find solace, though, in the fact that it's hard to find a single commander of this color combination that cares about Equipment. There is Michonne, Ruthless Survivor, but she misses blue, and to me she reads more like a Zombie tribal deck than an Equipment deck.

Let's turn more broadly to artifact synergies: Armix, Filigree Thrasher, Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor, and Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer all care about sacrificing or discarding artifacts, but they don't seem like good options for Equipment. Silas Renn, Seeker Adept is all about combat damage and recurring artifacts. He could be paired with Kodama of the East Tree to reach the Sultai color identity, but I'm not sold.

All of this reminds me that a lot of Equipment trigger on dealing combat damage to a player. Evasion facilitates this strategy really well, and you know who has awesome evasion?

Two words: Whale Wolf.

People usually focus on Ukkima, Stalking Shadow's "leaves the battlefield" ability, or on the +1/+1 counters synergy found on Cazur, Ruthless Stalker. I have to say, though, that I think Ukkima being unblockable makes it the perfect bearer of weapons. There are a lot of Equipment that trigger on dealing damage to a player (the "Swords of", for example). Cazur offers a nice pump every time we hit, as a bonus. Of course, people will want to remove Ukkima from the board, since it's so threatening, but it's going to be very hard to do when it has Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, or Darksteel Plate. Plus, even if our lovely Mutant Beast gets removed, then it will deal an amount of damage equal to its power (augmented by our Equipment!) to the opponent who removed it.

I like where this is going. Let's get brewing!


Armed To The Fangs

Let's see what brutal weapons we can attach to our wonderful Whale Wolf.

Being unblockable is one of the best things you can hope for in an Equipment deck. Some effects that trigger on dealing damage to a player are very strong and are kept in check by the fact that the creature has to make itself vulnerable to reap the benefits. We can bypass that difficulty entirely. Bloodforged Battle-Axe gets out of control very fast. Wand of Orcus can create a massive board of Zombies in a few strikes. Killing somebody with Vorpal Sword is so satisfying, even if it's the most telegraphed death ever. Sword of War and Peace is decent against that player who likes drawing tons of cards - there's always one! You could also run Sword of Dungeons & Dragons if your group is cool with silver borders!

One of the reasons white in particular is so good at Equipment is the cheating of equip costs. We don't have access to Sigarda's Aid or Puresteel Paladin, so we'll have to get creative.

Vedalken Engineer and Renowned Weaponsmith are mana dorks that can help us pay for equip costs. The new Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh gives us two mana off our first equip each turn. Hammer of Nazahn and Brass Squire help cheat the costs entirely. If someone gets rid of Ukkima at some point, we can always fall back on Armory Automaton as a secondary Voltron target and, provided we have Swiftfoot Boots or Lightning Greaves somewhere on the battlefield, it can hit pretty hard out of nowhere.

Blackblade Reforged, Cranial Plating, and Fireshrieker will up our firepower quite a bit. I think Blade of Selves is cute: the Ukkima, Stalking Shadow tokens will get sacrificed immediately to the legendary rule, triggering its last ability. It's not that great honestly (6 damage and 6 life gained total), but I just think it's neat!


Weapons of Choice

Before we start dancing in a deserted hotel out of excitement, let's get our basics down.

Ramp. There are so many good Equipment options for ramping. Dowsing Dagger is the easiest thing to flip ever, since we're unblockable. Sword of the Animist and Sword of Hearth and Home get us a basic land per turn each. Hopefully, when Kodama of the West Tree comes down, you're already suited up and swinging, so it's going to fetch you some lands. The rest of our ramp package is mostly Signets, Sol Ring, and Wayfarer's Bauble to take advantage of our artifact synergies.

Card advantage. Mask of Memory, Mask of Riddles, and Rogue's Gloves will draw us cards when we connect with other players, which will be easy. Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar and Toski, Bearer of Secrets work in similar ways. The Reality Chip grants us access to the top card of our library, and if we ever lose an artifact to some removal, Emry, Lurker of the Loch can help us get it back. Speaking of artifacts, Vedalken Archmage will trigger every time we cast one, and Shimmer Dragon lets us tap our Equipment to draw cards.

Interaction. So, Argentum Armor is pretty expensive to equip, but destroying a permanent every time we swing is pretty good. We don't have much more "synergistic" removal, but we are in good colors for some solid and flexible interaction: Reality Shift, Abrupt Decay, Assassin's Trophy and Infernal Grasp, among others.

For protection, we can count on the ubiquitous Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, as well as Darksteel Plate and Mirror Shield. We also have a couple of counterspells and an Heroic Intervention. Fumble is an interesting card, too - we can save Ukkima from whatever removal our opponent had in store for it, trigger its leaves-the-battlefield ability, and reattach all our Equipment to another one of our creatures. Pretty good!


Now, let's see the decklist!

🛡️ The Old Man and the Sea-Wolf

Commander (2)
Artifacts (33)
Instants (11)
Creatures (17)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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One Last Sword

I'm glad we could put Boros, the objectively most broken and powerful color combination, in its place. How dare Boros monopolize the only thing it's good at! I mean, Sultai has to limit itself to aristocrats strategies, Mutate, mill, Landfall, +1/+1 counters, graveyard shenanigans, toolbox effects, ramp, removal, and pure value. Is it too much to ask to get a little bit of Equipment too? Sheesh, Boros, leave some for the others!

In other words, I think our deck came out pretty well! One of our weaknesses is that our Whale Wolf will probably the biggest threat on the table, and if your pod has a minimal amount of threat assessment, they will try to kill it as soon as possible. Ah, the true Voltron experience. Since we rely heavily on being unblockable, I've included Invisible Stalker and Dimir Infiltrator as backups. The latter also doubles as a tutor! All in all, I'm happy where this deck ended up.

How would you build your non-Boros Equipment deck? Did I miss any spicy card or interaction? Are Ukkima, Stalking Shadow and Cazur, Ruthless Stalker the best commanders for this strategy? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic : The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.