Monomania — Introductory Accounting

(Flood of Tears | Art by Adam Paquette)

Adventures in Bookkeeping

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to Monomania. In this article series we build mono-colored decks as a way to explore ramp and draw packages that are synergistic with our particular deck’s strategy; in these articles I try to challenge staples of and misconceptions about the color pie.

Today we'll be reviewing our finances. Numbers have never been as important in EDH as they are with our commander today. With Atemsis, All-Seeing, we'll curate a stunning investment portfolio to pave a path to victory.

There is an unintuitive amount of depth to Atemsis as a commander. This isn't quite an alternate win condition in the command zone, but it's a close cousin. Alternate win conditions are often considered underpowered in our format. Most lack consistency because they begin the game tucked away in the 99 and tend to have no additional effect attached: Coalition Victory and Barren Glory are great examples. There are others, however, that don't fit this description. Revel in Riches is shockingly effective because it incidentally provides a reservoir of mana as well as easily winning us the game if left unanswered. Maze's End and Scapeshift can also end games if they have a decent engine behind them.

So where does Atemsis, All-Seeing fit into this schema? She has a decent body and a solid, desirable activated ability. What's more, she is always available to us in the command zone, extricating our general from the inconsistency associated with alternate win conditions in Commander. However, there are two wrinkles here. The first is that we must reveal at least six cards with different converted mana costs to fulfill her condition. The second is that Atemsis isn't an alternate win condition, she is an alternate KO condition. Instead of winning us the game, she can only make our opponents lose the game one at a time. Because of this, Atemsis gestures towards a pseudo-Voltron strategy—we want to protect our commander, make it evasive, and use it to blast our opponents out of nowhere. Like commander damage, Atemsis can level the playing field against an Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck that is sitting on 100+ life.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this commander is its wording. There is a very important omission in its textbox. Atemsis doesn't specify that it must deal combat damage to a player. This means that if we give our general the ability to deal damage without swinging, we can circumvent stalled boards or Ghostly Prison effects. With Atemsis, we're going to keep a full, diverse hand as we search for Viridian Longbow or Hermetic Study. In conjunction with Aphetto Alchemist or Fatestitcher, we'll be able to topple our opponents one ping at a time.

With this deck, we want to plan for two contingencies. First, we want to be able to draw into a large hand to maximize our chances of meeting the requirement of six cards with different converted mana costs. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we want to make sure that even with a six or seven card hand we can still meet the criteria. Let's examine how this affects our ramp and draw packages.

The Price is Right

Our ramp package in this deck is built under a unique condition—we want to diversify the converted mana costs in every facet of our deck. Instead of prioritizing two-mana ramp effects, we want to create a smooth curve in order to ensure that we can kill an opponent with Atemsis if we do manage to push damage through. This deck also creates unique decision points in which we have to decipher whether to play a card or keep it in our hand to fulfill a slot in our CMC curve; in other words, we need to think about our hand as another important factor of our board. We'll be taking stock of what's in our hand and in our deck. Without further ado, I present our financial plan.

While most of our ramp effects are going to be mana rocks, there are a few interesting inclusions to consider to polish our CMC curve. High Tide is stellar in any mono-blue deck, allowing for one explosive turn or as a mana doubler in conjunction with Isochron Scepter. Search for Azcanta does everything we want: it filters the top of our library and then upgrades into a blue-mana-producing land that also provides decent card selection. I've discussed before in this series about how Ixalan's transform cards are wildly underplayed in EDH, and this card is no exception, with just 4,630 decks listed on EDHREC. This should be a blue staple. Caged Sun is an obvious powerhouse in EDH and it will facilitate explosive turns for our deck while filling out the top end of our ramp package.

I have chosen to omit cards like Everflowing Chalice and Astral Cornucopia. It may seem like they plug a hole in our curve with a CMC of zero, but any land stuck in our hand will fill the exact same function. They are flexible, but I've elected to play ramp effects at alternate CMCs.

In addition to the cards above, I've included six other ramp effects to make sure we can power out our commander early and dig for the right hand to kill an opponent.

Cutting Costs

Mono-blue commanders love to draw cards and ask questions later, and Atemsis is no exception. Our strategy for card advantage reflects the same philosophy as our ramp package. We want to fill out a flowing curve. However, there are also some very interesting mechanics that allow us to cheat costs and fill our hands: cards with high CMCs that can be reduced are perfect in our deck.

We will often be able to cast the above cards for only a few mana, but if we reveal our hand to destroy target opponent, they count the nominal cost at the top of the card.

In addition, all three of the above cards can be very powerful in EDH. Dig Through Time is perhaps the best of these, giving us the best two cards of the seven on top of our library, allowing us to select for specific mana costs if we're missing any specific numbers in our hand.

Outside of those nominally high-costed draw effects, we have a few card advantage effects that are actually very expensive, but their effects are worth the expense. Consecrated Sphinx and Nezahal will allow us to draw through our deck like no other. Drawing big before our discard phase will expand our chances of meeting Atemsis's condition. Kozilek is a massive beater, but he can also refill our hand if we are down on cards. In addition, he also has an ability that plays well with our strategy of incorporating cards with different converted mana costs. If we build a big enough hand, we can pitch cards in flush slots in order to disrupt our opponents' key plays.

The Deck

Now that we have a solid basis for ramping and drawing with Atemsis, let's see what the deck looks like as a whole.

Among the other notable inclusions, we have a variety of cards to protect our commander from removal, such as Lightning Greaves and Darksteel Plate. It's also essential to our strategy to remove the limitation of a maximum hand size. As such, we have more than a few ways to eliminate our hand size, with Reliquary Tower, Thought Vessel, Nezahal, Primal Tide, and Finale of Revelation.

If we fail to find Viridian Longbow, we might need to clear the way for Atemsis to damage the way our grandparents did it—by smashing face. With this in mind, we have several ways to return creatures to our opponents' hands, such as Cyclonic Rift, River's Rebuke, and Wash Out.

Because we're playing cards like Aphetto Alchemist to untap our commander, I've included other creatures with significant tap abilities like Arcanis the Omnipotent and Empress Galina. Each creature I've selected that can untap our haymakers can also untap artifacts, allowing them to serve as ramp in combination with our mana rocks. Finally, if all else fails, we have the Isochron Scepter, Dramatic Reversal, Laboratory Maniac package to win the game if we can find Finale of Revelation or Stroke of Genius in time.

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How do you feel about Atemsis, All-Seeing? What did I miss? Would you build her with a graveyard focus to leverage the looting effect? Do you want to see other commanders with alternate win conditions stapled onto them? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. Have a good one, and I'll see you on down the road.

Steven Vincent is an ESL teacher located in Oaxaca, México who uses Magic as a teaching tool. He hasn't introduced his students to Commander yet, but he is inching them toward the format so that he has a play group and can more frequently sate his thirst for EDH.