Epic Experiment - Anje Living End
(Anje Falkenrath| art by Cynthia Sheppard)
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.
With Commander 2019 just past us, let's talk about one of the most popular commanders from it: Anje Falkenrath
T, Discard a card: Draw a card
Whenever you discard a card, if it has Madness, untap Anje Falkenrath.
Anje can play a very reactive game; since cards with Madness can be cast when discarded, even at instant speed, they can evade normal timing restrictions, which enables a permanent flash game state.
There're two main deckbuilding mentalities when evaluating cards with Madness: we either play them as cantrips, or we play them as actual cards. This seems obvious, but keeping this in mind will inform our card selection process.
There's something toxic about her kit, since it has the Dredge-like quality of reducing Madness cards to a single line of text. For those who don;t know, Dredge cards are famously used more for the mechanic itself than they're ever actually cast; Anje's rapid-fire ability could have a similar effect, where Madness cards are not cast, but rather just used as a means to filter quickly through the deck.
On that note, she can work pretty well with Dredge, although the lack of access to green would be quite a challenge.
The Old Formula
Madness?! What is this madness?!
Obviously, Anje's going to attract the Rakdos Madness cards, but the main thing we need to look at are the win conditions. Though she's not been out long, people seem to be using Anje more for her rapid card filtering capability than as an actual Madness enabler, and a main standout on her page is the Worldgorger Dragon combo: you discard the Dragon to Anje's ability, then revive it with Animate Dead. The Dragon will exile everything. including the enchantment... which means it will go back to the graveyard. The Dragon's leave-the-battlefield trigger will then occur, returning the enchantment, so you can revive the Dragon again. In between each of these, you can tap your lands for infinite mana, or even use a simple Piranha Marsh to drain the rest of the table to nothing. A combo like this is usually a little tough to find, but with Anje's rapid card filtering (and her ability to discard the Dragon in the first place), she's become quite the ideal combo candidate.
So what Epic Experiment can we conduct with this information?
The Epic Ingredients
Usually, in this article series, we tend to run away from the obvious theme. However, for this article in particular, we'll embrace it! We'll be using Anje's potent draw power with Madness cards and some excellent Cycling cards to effectively make our deck smaller and reach our combo.
Now, let's talk about our powerful combo: it's Living End. We'll use the sheer number of creatures that we discard to create an undead army so massive that it can one-shot any one opponent.
The three most important creatures in this strategy will be our haste enablers; since we're planning on bringing a bunch of creatures back in one swoop, haste is a crucial part of our plan to allow us to insta-eliminate one player, and we want to limit the potential for someone to produce an answer to our gameplan before it comes around to our next turn. Garna, the Bloodflame is a great card for the usual Anje Falkenrath build; normally she just lets you reclaim the cards you discard, but in this deck she's even more versatile! Her primary job is being a haste enabler, but in a pinch she can also serve as a surge of card advantage, and when we do cast Living End, she'll even put Anje back into our hand! Dragonlord Kolaghan is a sweet Dragon, but again, she's a haste enabler first and foremost, and a 6-power beater at that. Finally, Urabrask, the Hidden provides some utility by tapping any eventual blockers that the remaining players might play.
For Living End to work, we need cards that allow us to cast it without paying its mana cost. Anje can very easily toss it in the graveyard, making it a suitable target for Finale of Promise, Mizzix's Mastery, or Goblin Dark-Dwellers, each of which allow you to cast cards from the graveyard for free. Kari Zev's Expertise and Electrodominance, on the other hand cheat Living End direct from our hand.
For redundancy, we have Living Death and Twilight's Call that basically do what Living End does; they each come at a higher cost, but they come with the benefit of not having to be set up.
Living End Anje
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In a staple-based format like EDH, it's hard to see a deck that doesn't run Sol Ring, but here, well, I don't think we need to: we don't need that much mana, and the combination of running this many Madness and Cycling cards often means that too many mana sources will actually cause us to flood out, interrupting our Anje chain.
Most of the cards in the deck are basically redraws that we can reanimate later for our alpha strike. There're a few notable creatures that, while they don't directly contribute to our main gameplan, they provide the utility that this deck so desperately needs in addition to providing bodies for us to reanimate later. Some of the Rakdos-aligned Evoke creatures work great in this shell, for example, like Shriekmaw, and Spitebellows, each of which helps stabilize our board early on, and after the combo goes off, clears the way of blockers. Seasoned Pyromancer doesn't seem all that necessary since we already have so much drawing power, but we need to consider that there're some key cards that we need to put into the graveyard, and not being able to do so can really bottleneck our turn because, without some other way to untap her, Anje Falkenrath can only discard one non-Madness card per turn.
We are also bringing in two Dredge creatures: Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Thug. They're each effective at digging for a haste enabler or even Living End itself, which, if we have a way to cast it from our graveyard, like with Finale of Promise, then the graveyard is exactly where we want that spell to go. Be careful using Dredge if you don't have access to one of those spells, though; if you mill them into the graveyard and can't cast them, there goes the whole combo!
For our opening hand, having two lands and some discard-able cards is usually great, especially if we have access to any of our Landcycling creatures (like Igneous Pouncer) to guarantee our third land drop.
For our first and second turn, Cycling is the name of the game. It's very important to reach for our third land drop, and keeping hands with more than two lands is ambitious in a deck with only 26 lands. Starting on the third turn, we can start going crazy by rummaging away all of our Madness cards. After that, we have more flexibility to look for a haste enabler and a way to mass-reanimate our creatures.
Our ideal mid-game is one where we're close to reanimating our creatures. Sometimes, if other players decide to target us because they know how potent our strategy can be, we might not be able to be as fast as we'd like. Luckily, we can still play a midrange game by - get this - actually casting our Madness cards. This isn't as exciting as the combo, perhaps, but still can be quite effective if unexpected.
As an all-in combo deck, it gets less powerful as the game goes long. However, there's something about being able to, out of nowhere, eliminate a player from of the game that can't be underestimated. By this point we actually have pretty good top decks, since we can start hard casting our threats.
Finally, as a secondary win condition, we have Mortal Combat. In a deck with 46 creatures and the amount of digging power we're going to have, it won't be hard in longer games for us to reach the 20 creatures mark; it can just steal games away if cast at the right time.
This was a very unusual article, but I hope you enjoyed this Living End take on Anje.
For future upgrades to the deck, we could look into adding the usual looter package, such as Faithless Looting, Tormenting Voice, and Cathartic Reunion. They work very much like our Cycling cards, but the main point for not opting for them in this initial build was the fact that they don't provide bodies to the yard.
Mana rocks are similar to the looters; because we only need to hit three lands, adding those rocks would mean that we need to cut some lands, or else run the risk of getting clunky. Nevertheless, the rocks that could be added are the ones that allow us to get to three mana by turn three, like Sol Ring, Talisman of Indulgence, or even Rakdos Signet.
If the direct combo nature of this deck is not so much to your liking, we could go slower by adding more controllish creatures, like Magus of the Moon and Plaguecrafter.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Was not including Sol Ring pure madness? 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!