Epic Experiment - Happily Ever After
(Happily Ever After| Art by Matt Stewart)
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 be exploring the exciting 'new white mechanic' that we got from Throne of Eldraine: Happily Ever After!
Kidding aside, let's see what we can come up with for this new alternative win condition.
When Happily Ever After enters the battlefield, each player gains 5 life and draws a card.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if there are five colors among permanents you control, there are at least six or more card types among permanents you control and/or cards in your graveyard, and your starting life total is greater than or equal to your starting life total, you win the game.
To achieve this win condition, we are required to play five colors, or to find some means of stealing multicolored permanents or changing the colors of our permanents.
A three-mana enchantment can be a target for cards like Zur, the Enchanter, Sun Titan, or Sevinne's Reclamation.
There are a total of three conditions that we need to fulfill in order to win the game, four if we count "we need to make it to our upkeep" as a condition. Some are very easy to achieve, while others require a bit of setup. For instance, we may have to jump through some hoops to achieve both lifegain and enough permanents in play or in the graveyard, since many lifegain strategies don't rely upon a diversity of card types or colors.
Playing alternate win condition cards always draws a big target on yourself.
The Old Formula
It's no surprise that Happily Ever After has extremely low levels of adoption; its ETB is not earth-shattering, and the win condition has a lot of...conditions. It's most well-represented in Kenrith, the Returned King decks, with 88 at the time of writing this article, and it otherwise hasn't caught on in other decks with more powerful methods of victory. With three requirements, it is indeed a hard-to-build-around card.
Notably, all the commanders that do play it even a tiny bit are five colors. Since we're all about epic experiments, though... is there any way we might be able to play Happily Ever After without all five colors...?
The Epic Ingredients
The choice of commander is difficult. We need multiple colors, and we need lifegain... but more than anything, we need a hero.
Daxos of Meletis to the rescue!
"But Bernardo," I hear you retort, "he's only blue and white!"
This is true: on his own, he won't be able to fulfill the five-color trigger condition for Happily Ever After. However, this commander is sneaky, and can take cards from our opponents by dealing damage to them. He even has a way to gain life, helping us out with Happily Ever After's other tricky condition!
A 'tuck' package will help us find exactly what we need. Not only will it put our opponents behind on tempo, but it will also put the exact cards we need on top of our opponents' libraries, allowing us to sneak through and pilfer them from the top of their decks, providing us with the colors we don't already have. Control the enemies' boards while also leading to a win condition? Yes, please.
Unexpectedly Absent and Set Adrift are two pretty good catch-all tuck effects that, while sorcery-speed, are cheap enough to not mess with our potential plans. To complement those effects, we're also playing a couple of tucking counterspells, like Memory Lapse and Lapse of Certainty, which are extremely versatile, and can even put a spell on top of its owner's deck if we decide we'd like to steal a spell instead of a permanent.
Another package that helps our commander steal our way to victory is by having Lantern of Insight effects to reduce the chance of getting blown out by variance. Sometimes it's not as useful to predict your own future as much as it is to predict your enemies' futures!
Thievery effects complete the support suite for Happily Ever After. We don't just take from the top of their decks - we take them from the battlefield too. Blatant Thievery is an expensive card, but it can get us a permanent of each color all on its own. Agent of Treachery is also on the expensive side, but when we consider that it can easily draw us lots of cards with its end step trigger, it's easy to see how valuable it can be.
Finally, the biggest of the big deals: Expropriate might be one of the biggest splashiest cards ever printed, and there are almost no cases where casting this card won't swing the game drastically into our favor. If we ever cast it with Happily Ever After on the field, it's pretty much GG.
Daxos is pretty mana-hungry, and it takes time to get going, so the natural first step is to build towards a UW control shell. We should try to avoid committing too early to our main plan, because it's important that we can actually cast the cards Daxos steals from enemy decks.
To consistently stay on board and connect with our commander, we are using a Voltron suite. Sword of Feast and Famine is great in a shell that wants to cast spells after the combat step; Trailblazer's Boots, Prowler's Helm, and Aqueous Form are ways to completely avoid getting chump blocked by a random mana dork; Darksteel Plate, Lightning Greaves, and Swiftfoot Boots keep us safe against removal, making sure that we get a few attacks in.
For our opening hand, we need a very hefty chunk of lands and mana rocks. Our curve is on the heavy side, with even our single-target removal spells sometimes costing up to five mana, so it's much better to be overly mana flooded than even a tiny bit mana screwed.
In the early game, our job is to develop our mana and find some type of Equipment that will either protect or provide evasion to our commander. Saving our removal spells is wise; this will allow us to target permanents of specific colors we'll need later. Just make sure not to let the life total dip too low.
The mid-game is where we set our plan in motion, casting our commander while holding on to some form of protection, such as a Counterspell, to ensure his survival. Once we start hitting our opponents with Daxos, things get harder to predict; who knows what we'll find!
By the late game, we should have more than enough mana to steal the big threats from our enemies, perfect for our Happily Ever After. This is where all those big-mana spells shine, and if our enemies haven't figured out what we're up to, it will mean their demise. The lifegain from Daxos may have looked inconsequential to our enemies at first, but it has a nonzero impact on the game, not only helping us stabilize, but also preparing the grounds for one big happy ending (for us, at least).
Oh, and what do we do if we encounter a pod that doesn't have all five colors represented at the table? What if no opponent is playing red, never allowing us to steal a red permanent to appease Happily Ever After's win condition?
Easy: we steal things anyway and use them to beat our opponents the old-fashioned way!
I know this isn't the most competitive list out there, and some playgroups might even frown upon the alternative win condition. If you'd like to take the deck in a different direction, here are some other options:
Zur, the Enchanter is a tutor in the command zone, perfect for finding the win condition. This type of build would probably focus on more traditional Control Magic effects, and use cards like the new Mirrormade to copy them at a moment's notice. Sliver Hivelord is resilient against removal, has access to every tutor available, and is itself all five colors. This makes a flexible shell; we don't really need much to set up a win for Happily Ever After, and we have every card at our disposal.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Was this a happy end after all? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!