New EDHREC Feature - Salt!
(Narset, Enlightened Master | Art by Magali Villeneuve)
Just a Pinch
In a recent episode of the EDHRECast, co-hosts Joey, Matt, and Dana sat down with Star City Games writer Bennie Smith to discuss... salt. No, not the delicious spice that supplies iodide (a necessary nutrient); I mean salt: the feeling you get when the Mizzix of the Izmagnus player combos out a turn before your victory; the emotion inspired by a Zur, the Enchanter pillowfort deck that you just can't get through to; the prickling sensation of a player who just resolved Armageddon... with no win condition in hand (or in mind).
It's easy for me to recall specific moments where a card made me salty, but it is much more challenging to judge whether a single card is inherently "salty". How do you quantify a card's "salt potential"? The answer, it turns out, is "with lots of help."
This April, we at EDHREC presented a survey to you, our lovely readers, listeners, and users. In the span of 3 days, you contributed over 500,000 votes on the saltiness of various cards, rated on a scale from 0 (sodium-free) to 4 (drinking a bottle of soy sauce while swimming in the Dead Sea). With all that data, we created a Top 100 list of the most salt-inducing cards in Commander.
In browsing this list, clear patterns emerge of what cards are most likely to conjure up some good-old NaCl. Sitting pretty at #1 is Stasis, a low-effort method of making players skip their untap steps. Stasis is the namesake of an entire genre of decks that prevent you from using your resources, and some of its best friends populate the list: Winter Orb (#3), Static Orb (#11), Hokori, Dust Drinker (#26), and so on. Living at the #2 slot is the tried-and-true land destruction spell Armageddon. Similar cards that destroy, bounce, exile, or otherwise Do Bad Things to your lands make up a whopping 20% of the Top 100 list. Smaller categories represented in the list include: cards that say "can't" (such as Iona, Shield of Emeria), spells that result in multiple extra turns (à la Expropriate), notable win-conditions (like Craterhoof Behemoth), and frightening commanders (e.g. Narset, Enlightened Master).
Saltcrusted Steps to Building Decks
Empowered with this new salt-flavored knowledge, how can we take advantage of it to reduce or– Keftnet forbid– increase, the saltiness of our decks? The wizards of the EDHREC team have you covered, with what we're calling the Salt Early Warning System*.
* Note: no one is actually calling it the Salt Early Warning System.
If you make a visit to the card page for one of our salty friends like Cyclonic Rift, you'll notice a little salt shaker icon at the bottom-left corner of the card image, warning you that this card is likely to cause salt. This icon will follow the card no matter where you view it on the site. The salt shaker also appears on lists of decks (like the "Recent Decks" section on Atraxa's page.) As exemplified by Scion of the Ur-Dragon's page, you can even sort lists of decks by their salt score, to find the lowest- or highest-sodium ways to play that commander.
Shake It Till You Make It
Now that we know saltiest cards on the block, it's only fair that we put our salt where our mouth is. With assistance from the Top 100 list, let's try to make the saltiest deck we can manage. In the spirit of my budget deckbuilding series, Low Market, I'm also going to cap myself at $100.00 – this is notably higher than the average cost of a Low Market deck, but salt doesn't come cheap in this economy.
There are approximately 20 viable commanders in our Top 100, when you exclude banned cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Of these, a scant six Legendary Creatures can be found for under $10.00 USD (at time of writing). Two options immediately jump out at me: Narset, Enlightened Master (#36), and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. Both of these commanders offer many colors to work with, and play into at least one major theme we identified in our most salty cards. Narset is focused on free casts of noncreature spells, while also being a great card advantage engine when someone–not going to name any names–has blown up everyone's lands. Derevi, meanwhile, is a means to untap permanents that might, theoretically, be locked down by Stasis effects. Since I am a bit more familiar with her operation, I've decided to tackle Narset Land Destruction.
That makes our gameplan pretty straightforward: stick Narset, cripple our opponents through land destruction, and find some method of killing them. I selected a healthy quantity of land destruction spells from our salt list: note that some of these cards also destroy creatures, so we'll need means of protecting Narset.
Since Narset's main jam is casting noncreature spells, I wanted a noncreature method of closing out the game, and landed on Aura-based Voltron. This choice is, in part, thematically driven: I've killed a few people with Narset after stacking a few Auras on her, and those folks were definitely salty afterwards. Being in white gets us Auras that grant indestructible, addressing our above need, and also gives us several convenient cards that tutor for Auras such as Three Dreams.
With the advent of commanders like The Gitrog Monster, and more recently Lord Windgrace, there are far too many decks that actively want lands in their graveyard. We're compensating for this strategy with a meaty collection of budget graveyard hate effects: Silent Gravestone, Sentinel Totem, and Scavenger Grounds.
The remainder of our deck is filled out with standard Narset fare. We've stuffed in a dozen mana rocks and reduced our land count a hair, since lands are useless when exiled by our commander. A couple topdeck manipulation spells like Brainstorm prevent high-CMC spells from living in our hand, and lay the foundation for explosive attacks. Finally, we've a handful of straightforward card draw spells for when Narset is unavailable for help with card advantage.
High-Salt Narset (By Themes)
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
When the Salt Settles
At the end of the day, our High-Salt Narset Land Destruction deck checks out for approximately $100.00 by TCG Mid pricing, and our oh-so-critical salt score is 115.96. You can also find this decklist on Archidekt. In a departure from the norm, I sincerely hope that as few of you as possible build this salt-inducing deck. If you'd like to tell me about the saltiest deck you own or have faced, track me down on Twitter, @Walking_Atlas, or leave a comment below. Until next time, here's hoping that our new features get you your daily recommended allowance of sodium.