Mind Bend - Spymaster of Mardu

(Segovian Angel | Art by Simon Dominic)

Spy's Demise

Too flashy to ignore. Too fast to catch.

Kitesail Cleric flavor text

When it comes to aggressively attacking at the Commander tables, you would probably expect there to be some red involved, right? Both Boros and Gruul are all about the smashy smash, using combat to end players' days. However, one of the most aggressive decks you can find might just be helmed by Edric, Spymaster of Trest. That's why in this Mind Bend, the article series that breaks down the conventional notions of the color pie to forge new ground outside the confines of the already established, we're shifting Edric's Simic game back where it belongs - in red, white, and black.

All Spies on Me

For those of you wondering why Edric, Spymaster of Trest is very aggressive, one look at his average decklist on EDHREC will sort out your concerns. Let's go over it a little more here in order to make the Mardu conversion.

Air Force One

For one, the average Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck plays 26 different versions of Flying Men: tiny one-mana creatures that have flying or are in some way either unblockable, like Gudul Lurker, or have odd blocking conditions, like Spire Tracer.

The bevy of Flying Men serve a singular purpose: deal combat damage to your opponents so that Edric can draw you cards. The more of these evasive low-cost creatures you can have in play to swing with once Edric hits the battlefield, the more cards you'll have to cast on later turns. The first swing is for replacing those already deployed, the subsequent swings are just sheer value.

Doing the Time Warp

So what do you do with all that draw? How about... draw more cards? The average Edric, Spymaster of Trest list runs six extra turn spells, once again for a singular purpose: to give you more combats, mana, and cards. Digging deep with your Flying Men gets better and better when you keep striking extra turn gold. Each Time Warp or Part the Waterveil in hand means a better chance at finding the next.

Closing Time

Now, you could draw cards and take turns until your library is empty, but winning the game is a whole 'nuther problem. Poking with a small army of 1/1s is only going to get you so far. Since you'll be speed-running your deck into the ground, you only need a few ways to close out the game.

In the average list on EDHREC, Edric players run about four win conditions, and they include pumping your team via Beastmaster Ascension, coming out of nowhere with poison from Triumph of the Hordes, or killing players without even attacking them directly via Throne of the God-Pharaoh.

The rest of the typical Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck is filled with the usual Commander staples, mostly removal, ramp, and answers, plus a few secondary "Edrics" in the form of Reconnaissance Mission and Bident of Thassa.

The end result is a deck that wants to hit early and often, then steal the game away by never giving anyone the chance to play again.

The Tangled Web We Weave

When changing this deck over to Mardu, the question then becomes "Who can helm the deck on a level similar to Edric?" Edric, Spymaster of Trest has no direct analogue, but we do have one that gets close: Tymna the Weaver.

With her in the command zone, we can replicate Edric's early turn strategy and net the same amount of cards. Luckily, both black and white have a plethora of Flying Men of their own to get in on the early aggro-for-cards train. For example, there are bombs like Serra Ascendant that can come down as a 6/6 flyer at the opening of the game.

We can even recoup that life loss from Tymna's ability with some low-mana evasive creatures: Healer's Hawk, Vampire Cutthroat, and Vault Skirge, for example, will give us the life we'll happily pay.

Extra Combative

So what about the next step in the Edric game plan: extra turns? Also, what about the red portion of this deck? To both of those I say to you, what about extra combats? Red is tops when it comes to swinging more than once in a turn; just look at Relentless Assault, or, new from Zendikar Rising, Moraug, Fury of Akoum.

Since we're in white, we also get the versatile Response//Resurgence and the absolute beating that is Waves of Aggression. An extra combat spell you can cast again and again from the graveyard? Yes, please.

We're Pirates Now!

But we can't play these extra combat cards with just Tymna in the command zone. It's time to Partner her up! Welcome aboard Breeches, Brazen Plunderer.

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer offers another route to "card draw" by stealing the top of our opponent's deck upon damage. If we have additional Pirates, we can aim them at different opponents for full effect. Unfortunately, our Flying Men, like Serra Ascendant, are not Pirates. Or are they?

Conspiracy has long been a staple for messing with your creature types, and it's perfect with Breeches. Plus, you can't spell "conspiracy" without "piracy", arr! The brand new Maskwood Nexus gives us another way to turn our team into Pirates. For a one-shot effect, we can boost our team for extra damage with Volatile Claws.

End Result

To mirror the Biomass Mutation in Edric's list, why not add a way to make our team all Pirates and turn them huge? For this, Mirror Entity fits right at home. Speaking of ending the game with large creatures, Marton Stromgald does a wonderful Beastmaster Ascension impression that's actually stronger with more combat steps. Brutal Hordechief adds to the damage and makes it even easier to get a lethal attack through, even on other turns!

We even have a few Coastal Piracy effects to slot in. Grenzo, Havoc Raiser can play both offense and defense, netting us opponents' cards to cast or sending a large threat elsewhere. Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner can give us a brand new hand whenever we want.

Mardu You Do

I will admit that this decklist is still a little rough around the edges. I feel that the build will require some heavy in-game testing before the final list is achieved. But the start here is a great one, considering the pedigree it is modeled after. It does run a little slower than Edric, to be sure, but not much slower. Taking advantage of its pace of play would be the first thing to upgrade here.

Edric, but Mardu This Time

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Commander (2)
Creatures (34)
Instants (15)
Sorceries (4)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (33)

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Time to Trest (For Now)

I feel like this archetype of aggressive creatures barreling into value is still somewhat unexplored. Edric, Spymaster of Trest has been around for a long time, but he can't be the only iteration out there. I'd like to see other color combinations and commanders follow suit. Decks like these win fast or die fast, but the will leave their mark before they're gone. So if that sounds like a strategy for you, go all in!

See you all soon for another mind-bending deck!

Jeremy is a data analyst in his hometown of Chicago. He is the commissioner of a Commander league at a local LGS, Near Mint Games. He is also a board member for AnimeChicago, an non-profit anime club for adults, and an avid craft beer fan.