Nearly Identical - Minn or Alandra?

(Kindred Discovery | Art by Vincent Christiaens)

Count to Two

Hello! Welcome back to Nearly Identical, a series where I take a look at two commanders with similar designs and archetypes, find out what separates them, and help you find your next commander. Today, we're looking at two mono-blue commanders that make us tokens if we've drawn two cards: Minn, Wily Illusionist and Alandra, Sky Dreamer.

Mono-blue is known for its ability to draw cards and Minn and Alandra provide tokens when you draw your second card each turn. Minn gives you an Illusion that gets stronger the more Illusions you have on the battlefield, while Alandra makes 2/2 flying Drakes, similar to Talrand, Sky Summoner. Both of these commanders have powerful payoffs for these tokens: Minn allows us to put permanents into play when our Illusions die, and Alandra pumps up our team if we've drawn five cards. In order to get this gameplan going, however, we need to be drawing two cards each turn, so how do we do that?

Both of our commanders make tokens that share a creature type, so Kindred Discovery is possibly one of our best draw engines in the deck. On attack, we'll draw an additional card that'll trigger our commanders. This is especially key in Alandra, as attacking with five Drakes will be enough to trigger her second ability.

Our commanders only trigger once each turn, which makes Frantic Search perfect in our decks. Not only does it draw us two cards, but it uptaps our lands so we can have mana open to cast spells on the next turn. Also, Chemister's Insight is a draw spell that we can recast later for its Jump-start cost.

The "Draw Two" theme isn't a real category on EDHREC, but Minn and Alandra are not the only ones worded like this. Gavi, Nest Warden and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse also make tokens whenever you've drawn your second card. Based on this data provided by MtGDS, Minn and Alandra have a similarity coefficient of 78%, meaning that a card found in Minn has a 78% chance to also appear in an Alandra deck, so the only real difference between Minn and Alandra is that Minn cares about Illusions and Alandra cares about Drakes. After that, they're both being built with the same support cards that allow them to successfully draw two cards each turn.

So how do we delineate between them?

Minn's second ability puts permanents into play when an Illusion dies, so we need to think about what permanents we need to get us ahead of our opponents. For Alandra, we have a pretty straightforward gameplan, so I want to lean into the spellslinger strategy and see how fast we can make tokens and swing for the win.


Behind the Illusion

Let's see how we plan to draw cards in Minn.

Since Minn lets us put permanents into play, we want our card draw to come from permanents. Kumena's Awakening will draw us our second card on our upkeep and trigger Minn. With all the tokens we'll be making, getting the city's blessing will be a piece of cake. Wizard Class does everything we want to do in this deck: gives us no maximum hand size, draws us cards to trigger Minn, and can even pump up our Illusions so we can put down bigger permanents.

Azami, Lady of Scrolls is excellent in our deck. Minn is a Wizard, after all, so between Minn and Azumi, we can easily draw two cards on someone else's turn. There're eleven Wizards in the deck, including Minn, so Azumi could reliably trigger Minn each turn.

Now that we know how we're making Illusions, how do we plan to reliably sacrifice them?

Drowned Rusalka seems like a pretty weak effect on its own: pay mana to sac a permanent only to discard a card and not know what we're drawing into. Typically, we'd prefer a looting effect over this, but in this deck, Drowned Rusalka is an all-star: one mana to put any permanent into play at instant speed sounds a lot better, doesn't it? Even if we're just putting lands into play, we could play an Island, use that to pay for Rusalka on the next turn, and then put another Island into play. Mono-blue shouldn't be allowed to ramp better than green can, but in this deck, that's a reality.

Phantom Steed is possibly one of the better Illusions in our deck as it gives us an Illusion that we'll have to sacrifice at our end step, and Abjure is a piece of interaction that also lets us put a permanent into play if we sac an Illusion. So what kinds of permanents do we want to cheat in?

The more Illusions we control, the larger they'll become, making them real threats that could dish out a lot of damage. Therefore, giving them all flying with Archetype of Imagination and removing any fliers our opponents have means we could easily swing for lethal. I also wanted to include Wonder on our list because giving our team flying is worth the redundancy. Plus, we run enough discard outlets that'll allow us to get Wonder in the graveyard with no problem. Since all of our Illusions retain their one toughness, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive makes them all unblockable.

Finally, I wanted to mention Junk Winder as a sweet piece of tech that'll let us tap down any threats that could come our way. With enough tokens, we won't even need to cheat in Junk Winder as it'll only cost us two blue to get out.

And now, let's see our list!


Flying Overhead

Let's move on to Alandra!

I like Chart a Course here as a simple draw two for two that triggers Alandra, and if we attack with a Drake, we won't have to discard a card. I prefer this over Winged Words because if we don't have a flier out, it'll cost us three mana instead. In the instant speed slots, we're including each of the thirst cards: Thirst for Discovery, Thirst for Knowledge, and Thirst for Meaning. They're the easiest and cheapest options to trigger Alandra.

Occult Epiphany is an X spell that could be used to trigger Alandra's first or second ability, as we can pay X to draw that many cards. Instant-speed token-creation gives us a lot of versatility in the deck, as they could serve as blockers or excellent attackers on our next turn. The tokens may not be Illusions, but there's still some synergy with them if we have Heraldic Banner, Windstorm Drake, or even Windreader Sphinx out. With the draw two category covered, how do we plan to draw five cards to pump up our team for the win?

I've been slotting Keep Watch into a lot of my decks, especially decks that I play at lower-power tables that tend to end by combat damage. Having an instant-speed way to draw cards either based on the number of creatures you attack with or the number of creatures your opponents attack with is quite effective. In this deck, if we attack with five Drakes, it only takes three mana to pump them all up by at least +5/+5. Distant Melody has a similar effect. It draws us cards based on how many creatures we have that share a type, so we only need five Drakes to swing for lethal.

I like Candlekeep Inspiration as a backup wincon if we don't have Alandra out. What's neat about Candlekeep is that even if we get hit with a Bojuka Bog, it still counts all the instants and sorceries we've cast. As long as we have the fliers, Candlekeep Inspiration gets stronger the longer the game goes on.

Let's take a look at the list!


Fight or Flight

Minn, Wily Illusionist holds out as the 4th most built mono-blue commander with 3,500 decks. Illusions weren't much of a theme until Minn came along, and she gives them a unique build path that synergizes with one of their major downsides, which is sacrificing themselves whenever they're targeted. Minn is a one-of-a-kind type of commander that's hard to find a replacement for. Meanwhile, Alandra, Sky Dreamer bears similarities to the famous and heavily reprinted Talrand, Sky Summoner. Alandra only holds 600 decks versus Talrand, who has 3,600 decks. Alandra shores up one of Talrand's weaknesses, which is closing out games with just 2/2 fliers with few nongreen ways to pump them all up.

When Alandra was printed, I don't believe there was a ton of positive reception to her design. She's simply a better Talrand given that she has a win condition attached to her, which might lessen any excitement players could have digging for unique ways to win with Talrand. Why go searching if Alandra will do it for you? Let me know if this was your sentiment toward Alandra or if you were excited to build her.

Which Draw Two commander did you prefer? Would you rather cheat permanents into play with large Illusions or sling spells and win with fliers? Let me know in the comments below!

Josh is a creative writer that started playing Magic when Throne of Eldraine was released. He loves entering combat and pressuring life totals, and to him, commander damage is always relevant. Outside of brewing many commander decks, he can be found prepping his D&D campaigns with a cat purring in his lap.