Epic Experiment – Esika Piñata

(Esika, God of the Tree | Art by Johannes Voss)

Epic Preparations

Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

This week, we’ll start exploring Kaldheim with what’s probably one of the most powerful commanders recently released. It’s part creature, part enchantment, 100% bomb. Yes, it’s Esika, God of the Tree!

 

Esika, God of the Tree

Vigilance

{T}: Add one mana of any color.

Other legendary creatures you control have vigilance and “{T}: Add one mana of any color.”

The Prismatic Bridge

At the beginning of your upkeep, reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a creature or planeswalker card. Put that card onto the battlefield and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Observation 1:

Esika has tough competition on her front side; both Kethis, the Hidden Hand and Sisay, Weatherlight Captain offer a better support for the ‘legendary matters’ archetype. However, the versatility of having two forms can’t be underestimated.

Observation 2:

The enchantment is quite strong. In fact, it’s probably the main reason one should consider running Esika as a commander.

Observation 3:

The combination of the creature side plus the enchantment side is really powerful in a deck dedicated to playing haymakers, as both halves can help the gameplan in their own way.

Observation 4:

Cheating creatures or planeswalkers into play can be used in plenty of different ways, from getting big haymakers to a more combo-focused approach.


The Old Formula

As we can see, Esika is often used as the head of a God tribal, which makes sense, in a way, since Gods tend to be quite good. This seems more like a thematic choice than one based on power, though.


The Epic Ingredients

Like in my Illuna, Apex of Wishes article, the challenge of building around The Prismatic Bridge is to find out what we’re trying to cheat into play. One of my favorite two-card combos is a Stuffy Doll effect plus some big damage spell. This combo has always felt a bit clunky because we need to find one combo piece, play them, and then cast our damage effect. This is can lead us into two outcomes: either we play our creature early and wait for our next turn to play the damage spell, or we wait until we have the mana to cast both cards on the same turn. The Prismatic Bridge helps us find our creatures and play them for free. This makes so we can hold playing our commander until we find a damage spell, and then on the next turn we can combo out.

We have basically every variation of Stuffy Doll. They all look very similar, but upon further look we can see their differences. Coalhauler Swine being able to damage every opponent makes it a very effective threat. Spiteful Sliver is the best target for our Clone effects, because they’ll get multiple instances of the damage trigger. Aside from these creatures, we do have some honorable mentions that help us, too. Repercussion, Arcbond, and Toralf, God of Fury turn our opponents’ creatures into our own Stuffy Dolls.

The best part of this archetype is that one of its combo pieces are board wipes. This means that we are somewhat slot-efficient and we can reliably interact with our opponents’ creatures. Blasphemous Act is one of the best options out there. It’s cheap and does a lot of damage. Earthquake and Rolling Earthquake do a good job both triggering our creatures and as a burn to face. Sundering Stroke is a powerful burn spell that can act both as a way to spread damage across and as a way to focus damage onto one opponent.

We probably won’t be able to wipe out all of our opponents with our combo, so we need a way to soften everyone up. This is a bit of a challenge because we want to avoid playing creatures (other than Stuffy Dolls) and planeswalkers, so we need another way to find a constant source of pressure. Group Slug enchantments do a great job covering that weakness. They punish greed and play nicely with damage multiplier effects, another key part of our gameplan. Cindervines and Spellshock punish our opponents for playing multiple spells, while Roiling Vortex and Sulfuric Vortex might seem a bit too slow, but they do add up by the time we’re combing out.


The Mixture


Another key component of our list are damage multiplier effects. These effects stack amazingly well with our creatures (both the damage on our creatures and the triggers are affected by the multipliers). While they are great, we do have to be careful because they tend to be win-more. Fiery Emancipation is a powerful new addition that not only scales better than any other, it’s also safer because it doesn’t apply to us. Dictate of the Twin Gods has flash, which is a pretty nice way to get first value out of it.

Most of our pieces lack protection, which makes them mostly a “one-time deal”. That being said, having a bit of recursion goes a long way to help us continue going off. No Rest for the Wicked is great because we pay it in advance. Phyrexian Reclamation allows us to use our Stuffy Doll effects as effective blockers. We can also give the missing protection for our creatures: Boros Charm and Heroic Intervention are both great protection spells that could be used both to protect our pieces from removal and to allow us to continue the combo.


Methodology

We have some different kinds of opening hands and their usefulness will vary according to the type of game we’re looking for. Hands with hate pieces are great for slower games where we don’t need to rush for our combo out. Hands with ramp, on the other hand, can be good for faster combos, but without the board wipes we might run out of steam by the mid game.

For our early game we need a clear starting plan. Are we going to try to rush for our combo? Are we playing early Slug pieces? We can even take it a bit slow and dig for a plan. Regardless of the path chosen, we need to stick to it; it doesn’t make any sense to try to rush for our commander without access to board wipes to combo after. One thing that is very important to keep in mind is that having access to all of our colors can be a bit tricky because our mana based is stretched to fit Sundering Stroke.

In the mid game we can, hopefully, start looking to combo. Even if we don’t get to, however, that’s okay: our Group Slug pieces can go a long way throughout the game. A bit of politics go a long way in lying low while we search for our threats.

By the time we get to the late game we should be careful to not die to our own effects, but aside from that we have lots of one-shot potential even with spells like Earthquake.


Epic Results

Esika is a really fun commander to build around, and it’s too bad that I can’t show more builds that I’ve tried. However, I can tell you some that were pretty close to being featured: Turbo Turns using Archaeomancer effects to recur our Time Warps, Burn using damage multipliers on creatures to get more value out of our Burn spells and slug pieces, even a Curiosity combo deck featuring every single variation of those effects and some cards that combo with it.

As for this build, cutting Sundering Stroke can help out alleviate our mana problems. Having more Clone effects can also increase our all-in potential at the cost of being dead draws outside of the combo.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which did you not? Was this Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.