Non-Basically Speaking — Mairsil, the Pretender
Hello friends and infamous spell casters, welcome back to EDHREC and our continuing biweekly column, Non-Basically Speaking, the series that strives to identify non-basic lands that should be considered valuable staples or hidden gems based on their visibility on EDHREC.
With the full spoilers available for our commander hungry eyeballs to gawk at, I anticipated a scenario where I was pulling up a chair at the kitchen table with Inalla, Archmage Ritualist in the command zone. However, the more I studied the Arcane Wizardry decklist, researched possible Grixis wizard upgrades, and soaked in the discussions being had in online forums, I started to lose interest in the wizard tribe. It didn't help that the Arcane Wizardy pre-constructed deck had terrible outings against its 2017 classmates in the Command Zone's Game Knights and Star City Games Commander Versus. So here I am, less than 24 hours before she is even available on the open market, looking for something a little different than Inalla Wizard tribal.
Through the ashes of my hopes for a powerful tribal durdle deck, one of the other two Grixis commanders in Arcane Wizardry caught my eye: Mairsil, the Pretender. This Dominarian scoundrel has a unique feature that lets him absorb the abilities of a creature or artifact card so he can use it on the battlefield. In well-designed fashion, he enters the battlefield, exiles a card from your hand or graveyard and puts a cage counter on that card. Mairsil can then disappear for awhile, taking trips to the command zone, graveyard or our hand, but when he reenters the battlefield the caged animals are still there, and he gains another prisoner.
With an unfathomable amount of creature and artifact cards with uber-cool activated abilities, Mairsil gives way to interesting deck ideas that range from competitive to super-janky and everywhere in between. Internet conversations for excited deck brewers have already discussed a spectrum of strategies that include control, combo, and voltron. However, outside of a small handful of cards, the Arcane Wizardry pre-constructed deck does not have a lot of viable options to keep in the 99 for Mairsil. Hmm, so where do we start?
I Am Legend
Even though EDHREC only has 31 decklists at the time of this article, one method of getting a base for our Mairsil deck is to generate an average deck. Amazingly enough, we could make just a few simple adjustments or stop there. Even with a small amount of data, EDHREC provides us with a fun looking Mairsil deck that we can alter as we go.
While I won't deny the average decklist presented to us by EDHREC is well worth the investment, I need some oddball card selections in my life. It's what I do and why I love building Commander decks. So what can I do to make Mairsil different from the rest? If you recall, I was hoping to obtain a tribal deck from Magic's annual supplementary product. Wizards, in fact, but the synergies for this tribe don't fit my playstyle. So, in the spirit of Commander 2017 being a tribal themed release, how about we build Mairsil, the Pretender as a Legendary Tribal Commander deck?
Haha, okay. Well, whether or not we can actually call a Legendary Themed Commander deck "tribal" is left to the player's interpretation. After all, Legendary permanents do fail to work with several tribal type cards like Coat of Arms. However, there are several folks that play Captain Sisay that have no qualms about calling their deck Legendary Tribal. Regardless, our theme is set, so let's brew!
Mairsil and the Legends of the Multiverse
Mairsil and the Legends of the Multiverse
With a Legendary theme, we can include several characters from Magic's storied past, present, and future. Flavor-wise, it just sounds really cool to have Mairsil capture and cage popular characters from MTG lore and have them "put the lotion into the basket" as they reside helpless at the bottom of a gloomy pit. It would actually be quite funny to envision the "caged" characters being held captive by Mairsil. They would probably be bickering back and forth, powerless and unable to escape captivity. Can you imagine what a conversation between Jhoira, Volrath, Jaya, and Ertai might be like? Heck, maybe they accept their prison sentence and sit around to play a game of Commander with the 2017 pre-constructed decks. Volrath would be playing vampires, Ertai would be playing wizards, Jhoira would be suspending dragons and Jaya seems like the perfect cat-lady. Whoa, I am way off course. Sorry about that. Back to the matter at hand.
Where were we? Oh, right Mairsil and the Legends of the Multiverse. I fully anticipate Mairsil decks to evolve over time, so this article is merely meant as a starting point in what looks to be a long, promising career for the infamous wizard. With that being said, our decklist will have 24 on-theme, aka tribal, legendary creatures alongside a nice handful of non-basic lands. If I may speak non-basically for a second, cards like Urborg, Hammerheim and Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep do not enter the battlefield tapped and are perfect on-theme replacements for a few of our basic lands. Of course, there are a few more legendary non-basic lands that will have a greater impact on our games, and we will be discussing those in just a bit.
While we have a large portion of our deck built on theme, I can't help but include several of EDHREC's non-legendary signature cards for Mairsil. They are just too valuable to not be considered an auto-include.
- Aetherling, Torchling, and Morphling provide Mairsil with a spell book of abilities. This mini-tribe of shapeshifters are a perfect example of auto-includes and are recommended by more than 80% of Mairsil players.
- Tree of Perdition: With a haste enabler available, cast Evacuation at end of our opponents turn. On our turn, bring Mairsil the Pretender back onto the battlefield with a caged Tree and Morphling to reduce an opponent's life total to 4 and let our wicked Grixis commander finish his own dirty work.
- Jace's Archivist: Wheel a depleted hand and then use Jhoira of the Ghitu and Patron of the Moon to suspend cards and dump lands into play. Next turn, cycle our hands again. Speaking of the Patron, I really dig its synergy with Uyo, Silent Prophet.
- Quicksilver Elemental: A non-caged Quicksilver Elemental can obtain Mairsil's abilities and use them without the once per turn restriction. A sufficient win condition that will look for Mairsil with a caged Gilded Lotus and Torchling to provide infinite colored mana.
- Ovinomancer: Because giving our opponents green 0/1 sheep tokens seems like a fun thing to do.
- Nevinyrral's Disk: In response to activating the disk we can use Aetherling to blink Mairsil out of harms way or Mirage Mirror to turn him into an Island until the destruction subsides.
Mairsil the Cage Hunter
As the Grixis Cage deck's pilot, it is our responsibility to aid and abet Mairsil, the Pretender's wicked plan of imprisoning creatures and artifacts so that he may amass their abilities for our bidding. Since our commander's ability to cage a card only triggers when he comes into play, we will need to be inventive on creating additional opportunities to enter the battlefield. One of the easiest mechanics to execute our strategy is to 'flicker' or 'blink' Mairsil. Aetherling performs this duty flawlessly, but unfortunately for us, most flicker effects involve white. A color we are unable to include in a Grixis brew.
With limited access to reusable flicker abilities, we can design a scheme that is well within our color pie. Bounce effects. Returning our twisted leader to our hand so that we can recast him for four mana will fulfill the task of exiling another card with a cage counter. An absolute gem in returning our general to our hand can be found in one of EDHREC's signature cards, Cavern Harpy (65% of decks). With this bird in the cage, Mairsil can be returned to our hand by simply paying 1 life. This not only allows us to recast our evil wizard, but also to protect him from control magic, board wipes, or any other assassination attempts in an opponent's arsenal.
During our deck building process, we could levitate closer to running mass removal that focuses on returning all creatures or permanents to their owner's hands. Cards like Evacuation, Devastation Tide, and Whelming Wave will reset the battlefield and allow us another opportunity to recast our commander and cage another card to add to Mairsil, the Pretender's ever-growing list of abilities.
Let's extend our conversation just a tad and have a non-basic chat. Riptide Laboratory is a non-basic gem that focuses on one task, and one task only. Returning a wizard to our hand. With the popularity of Commander 2017, wizard tribal in particular, I implore you to visit Card Kingdom right away and snag this ancient tech from Onslaught before demand outweighs the supply.
Once our friends catch onto our game plan, they are likely to put enough safeguards in place to send Mairsil back to the command zone a few times. While Nightscape Familiar is included for casting cost reduction or as a caged regeneration source, we also have a Command Beacon available. You know, in case of emergency. With Command Beacon, we can bring our commander from the command zone to our hand and get at least one more tax-free casting of our Grixis general.
Once Mairsil, the Pretender has drained our caged legends of their powers, we need to find a way to abuse that power. As the game progresses, Mairsil's activated abilities will multiply and flourish and we, as a player, will begin to feel the greed of wanting to activate them all. We do not want to be restricted to a single tap activation and wait until our turn to untap to activate Mairsil again. For this reason, we need to incorporate untap abilities.
Honestly, my EDHREC friends, we may be a bit light in this part of our strategy, so tinkering around with additional untap sources may be necessary in the near future. In the meantime, we have two Signature Cards highly recommended by EDHREC, that can get the untapping shenanigans underway: Morphling and Torchling. In addition to our shapeshifters, we can use Thousand-Year Elixer for an additional untappity-tap play. Of course, we have to look at this non-basically as well by including Minamo, School at Water's Edge in our deck build.
The Quick and the Caged
Having Mairsil enter the battlefield numerous times gives way to several bouts of summoning sickness. In order to fully maximize the laundry list of his acquired activated abilities, we will need to incorporate a multitude of haste enablers. One of the most efficient methods of granting our commander the ability to act the turn he comes into place is by having Anger in our graveyard. Simplicity at its finest, an early game Buried Alive will seek out Anger, along with two cage targets, and ensure our commander is able to use his tap abilities without waiting for an entire round. Haste enablers will help grant us a position of control when we bring Mairsil onto the battlefield and cage Legendary control cards like Ertai, Wizard Adept or Shauku, Endbringer.
While we have chiseled a number of additional haste strategies into our build with the likes of Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and Hammer of Purphoros, we can still further our agenda by including a backup plan embedded within our Grixix mana base. Hall of the Bandit Lord and Flamekin Village (or Handweir Battlements if you prefer) will provide solid contributions if plan A, B, C, and D all fail.
Mairsil's Legends of Tomorrow
That's all I have for you today my EDHREC friends! I am positive we have only scraped the surface of the clever ideas that we can pack into a Mairsil, the Pretender EDH deck. So with that, what are your opinions on Mairsil? How would you build around him? What did you think of our Legendary Theme? What Legendary Characters or items do you think would best suit our plan by being locked up in Mairsil's Cage? Are you following me on Twitter yet? Happy brewing!
On to the next!
Want to hear more about Mairsil, the Pretender? Nate Burgess discusses his Mairsil brew on Commander Time!
Commander Time Podcast - Episode 13: Mairsil Taigam Wasitora