Epic Experiment - Tibor And Lumia Superfriends
(Tibor and Lumia | Art by Jim Murray)
Hello, EDHREC! 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 play 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.
In this article, let's talk about the most iconic Izzet powercouple: Tibor and Lumia!
Let’s start by taking a quick look at their kit:
Whenever you cast a blue spell, target creature gains flying until end of turn.
Whenever you cast a red spell, Tibor and Lumia deals 1 damage to each creature without flying.
Observation 1: It's hard to keep triggering both abilities. First, we need to cast about 1.5 spells a turn. Second, in Commander (especially while not playing green) we have a natural reliance on artifacts, meaning that when we factor in lands, our deck will be about 50% colorless cards, triggering neither ability on our commander.
Observation 2: While their kit is really open, it heavily favors control strategies, since there're a lot pieces that help enhance the red trigger ability and keep non-flying creatures off the board.
Observation 3: Because of the aforementioned pieces, we need to keep Tibor and Lumia in the air so they don't get friendly fired, which means that either we have lots of blue spells in hand, or we need flying enablers.
Observation 4: It's hard to find a balance between blue and red spells, but some concessions must be made to get the most out of each trigger.
The Old Formula
Let's take a quick look on their EDHREC page:
As we can see, their Top and Signature Cards revolve around the ability to lock creatures down. This is done with effects like with spells like Charisma, which allows you to gain control of an enemy creature when Tibor gives it flying, or with effects like and Basilisk Collar, which destroys all the creatures Lumia deals 1 damage to. The remaining cards either keep the commanders flying themselves, to stay out of range of danger, or are simply generic UR Spellslinger cards.
The Epic Ingredients
There's a saying that goes, "When in Rome, do as Romans do," which was kind of the inspiration for this particular article. What's the newest set? War of The Spark. What's it about? Planeswalkers fighting each other. Welp, that was a freebie!
Planeswalkers are usually a risky proposition in multiplayer games. Their usual kit of card advantage/removal/game changing ultimate doesn't translate well against multiple players and they are easily an aggro magnet. Fortunately, we are playing a very control-centric deck, with a build-your-own-board-wipe in the command zone, so we can reliably protect our walkers from aggression! For this plan to work, we need some moving parts. The two most important pieces are the planewalkers suite (AKA the payoff) and the lock pieces (AKA the enablers).
For planeswalkers, we got a lot of new toys to play with! In fact, aside from the Jaces and Dack, all these other planeswalkers are from last year alone!
Since we are playing blue, starting with the Jaces seems like an adequate choice. We currently have three of them: Jace, Architect of Thought, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. While they don't seem very similar, the three help us with card advantage and can keep creatures at bay. Jaya Ballard and Ral, Izzet Viceroy are amazing when paired together, as their kit merge extremely well with each other (and to our deck).
There's also the need for a special mention for two planeswalkers in particular: Tezzeret, Artifice Master and Sarkhan, the Masterless. M19's Tezzeret is crazy powerful even in non-artifact decks, it's very easy to achieve the pseudo-Metalcraft on his middle ability. Plus, his ultimate can grab other planeswalkers. The new Sarkhan is a great new tech to Superfriends lists, as he helps protect our planeswalkers (with his -3 and his static ability) and he is a fast clock with his +1.
The second key element to our strategy, the lock pieces, are standard in Tibor and Lumia's list. Let's do a quick rundown. Basilisk Collar and Gorgon's Head are cheap ways to give our commanders deathtouch, so every red trigger will guarantee to kill every nonflying creature. Neko-Te can very easily perma-tap everyone's creatures. While its effect is more expensive and can be bypassed, not having to worry about our commanders pinging themselves with deathtouch, and instead just staying tapped, is quite helpful.
Charisma is very tilting with our commanders because it lets us steal everyones' creatures when we give them flying, which has the added bonus of helping us defend our planeswalkers. Dismiss Into Dream, while more on the expensive side and less explosive than the other alternatives, helps with sniping down enemy flying creatures, indestructible creatures, and it even hoses the odd Voltron deck at the table.
We are also rocking out some planeswalker-enabling cards like the two Proliferate-on-demand engines, Inexorable Tide and Flux Channeler, and the ever-powerful The Chain Veil, although we're using it in the "fair" way (it's not really fair, though).
For nonplaneswalker, standalone threats, we're a running the token duo Talrand, Sky Summoner and Murmuring Mystic for the anti-flying tech that they provide. Niv-Mizzet, Parun (a card that could very easily helm a very similar deck) helps us draw cards and can also act as a second copy of our commander if we can't cast them. Finally, there's Consecrated Sphinx, because... well, because it's Consecrated Sphinx.
Tibor and Lumia Superfriends
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As we can see, the list is in between a standard blue-red Spellslinger and an Izzet Superfriends list. Some concessions were made to please Tibor and Lumia. The first is the shortage of board wipes and straight-up creature removal; since a lot of our slots are dedicated to hose creatures, having more of these effects seems redundant and counterproductive. The second is the addition of some "funky" cards, like Flame Jab and, Cerebral Vortex, which, while not particularly powerful in a vacuum, help increase our red spell total.
This list is designed to dig through our deck, dumping every nonessential card (like extra lands and irrelevant spells) while keeping creatures strategies down. Then, turn by turn, our advantage grows by activating our planeswalkers, who are free from the burden of having to defend themselves against enemy aggressors. Sometimes there'll be hard choices that might cost us the game, but this just goes to show that it's not an easy deck to pilot.
Now that we've got our bases cover, let's get on how to play the list. We have varying degrees of acceptable opening hands, since we're playing lots of cantrips, but it's usually wiser to try to keep a hand with at least a planeswalker or a lock piece. This way, the chance of us bricking is considerably smaller. Hands with lots of mana and card draw can also be okay, since we'll need some mana to start things rolling, and drawing any planeswalker can provide the card advantage we need.
For the early game, we need to either set up for a planeswalker, or ramp/draw into this set up. It's very important to consider when starting deploying our planeswalkers, because it's very easy to become the target after dropping an early walker onto the table. This doesn't mean that it's wrong to play them without a proper protection - in fact, in the very early stages of the game, where no one has any creatures, that's technically when they are the most protected, and playing them can start an early snowball. This goes to show that it'll all depend on the game, but the usual question we should ask ourselves is, "Can I get away with playing this without protection?" If we can, we probably should be playing them, but otherwise, we should consider the overall importance of the card to the game.
In the mid game we should already have played or be close to playing a planeswalker. Even if we can't protect them, the longer the game goes, the harder it is to protect them. We should also try to space out our spells (mostly our red ones). It would feel bad when we have everything set up on the table and we can't activate our commander's triggered ability because we lack the color to do so. Again, this is where the raw card advantage provided by our planeswalkers is crucial. It might be the difference between having access to that random red spell or not, or even the ability to do much of anything on our turn at all.
By the late game we should have the mana necessary to both play and protect our board, and cards won't really be a problem with many of our possible draws having card draw stapled into them. Just watch out for enemy flying creatures, and opposing planeswalkers, too. This is truly our time to shine, and although it might take some time to close the game out, we can definitely get there.
Between managing a bunch of mid-costed planeswalkers and having to balance out the number of blue and red spell, this list felt really like an optimization puzzle. I tried my best, but I know that there were some concessions made along the way. Because of that, we've got to be extra careful when adding and removing cards, as we have to keep in mind that we need that balanced number of spells.
For potential improvements, the obvious thing that could change is the planeswalker suite. There're some notable exclusions, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which were left out just because of their price tag. If you can add them, do so, but if not, don't worry about them. One could also potentially add effects like Time Warp to this list, to trigger our commanders and provide an extra activation on loyalty abilities. If you want to be mean - and I mean mean - you could also go the obnoxious route and add Obliterate and Jokulhaups, which don't affect our walkers (though by that point we might consider changing commanders to something like Jhoira of the Ghitu).
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this Superfriends concoction? Please fell free to leave any suggestions in the comments section. Do you have any questions about the list? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know!