Playgroup Brews - Commander 2018 (Pt 1)
Howdy readers! We’ve finished another set review, and it’s time for another round of Playgroup Brews! A lot of people have had mixed feelings about Commander 2018, but I think we can all agree that we’ve gotten some really interesting commanders to play with and brew! This article isn’t going to be reviewing the precons. Instead, three members of my playgroup are going to join me in creating decks for four of the new commanders. Each of us has chosen one of the precons, and within that, one of the main three commanders to build. As with past articles, we are going to talk about our initial reactions and brew ideas for each of these, how the chosen player ultimately decided to build the deck, and then a very short deck tech. For those of you who read the Elder Dragon article, you’ll recognize one of these authors, and will meet two new ones! Today, we are going to discuss Tuvasa the Sunlit and Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign.
Christian: Hey all! I hope you know me by now, but I am a dumb magic player. I build decks that no one would expect with very well-known, goofy commanders, and decks revolving around different biological groups of life. I like having fun more than winning, but that’s always a perk! I really wanted to do some goofy shenanigans, so I chose to run with Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer.
Eric: I’m Eric, and I think I’m the one you get to blame for reading Christian’s articles; I introduced him to Magic! We’ve been dueling each other for the past five years, creating decks that were specifically designed to ruin the other, but that didn't do so well in any larger meta up until recently. I am definitely mainly a Limited player, but I enjoy goofy games of Commander. I like messing with the ways other peoples' decks are supposed to work, which is why I normally enjoy mill strategies and stealing creatures. I chose Thantis, the Warweaver to change everyone's game plan.
Austin: Hey everyone, I’m Austin, and I’m a Commander fiend! I have over 20 decks at this point, but every time I think I’m done building, I get an idea for another one! I’ve been playing Magic off and on since 2000 and EDH since 2010. While I enjoy other formats, EDH is my favorite. I've had a Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis Enchantress deck for a while that I've wanted to refine, so I chose to go with Tuvasa the Sunlit for this article.
Travis: I’m Travis, and I have been passionately losing games of Magic since Starter: 1999. I've written for Christian's Playgroup Brews series before when I wrote about Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner, and am back again! I have been playing Magic for almost twenty years, but I truly found myself in the game when I discovered EDH six years ago. I chose Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign because she offers a lot of interesting design space in an area the format hasn't yet explored.
First Impressions: Tuvasa the Sunlit
Christian: Having just finished building Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, this piqued my interest for a Merfolk/Enchantress build. This is exactly what Enchantress builders have wanted, but it's a little too 'meh' for me, in a similar way as the new Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain. Just too simple of a concept for my tastes.
Eric: Bant has had a special place in my heart. I remember having lots of fun playing with those colors during Shards of Alara, and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician was my first commander. Tuvasa is a very straightforward commander to me, but I don’t subscribe to Voltron building. I really like how much card availability you can have with this commander, and I would definitely rely heavily on 'pillowfort' enchantments that make it difficult to attack you.
Austin: All hail the queen of Durdleville! I think Tuvasa is exactly what the Enchantress strategy needed to make it both more powerful and more fun, and I was thrilled when it was spoiled. Finally, we have a bonafide, honest-to-goodness legendary Enchantress in Bant, and she’s a win condition to boot! Huzzah!
Travis: The Merfolk part is largely irrelevant, but any commander that says “draw a card” on it gets my vote. Note that this ability will work on your opponent’s turns as well, so make sure you sleeve up your Vedalken Orrery and Alchemist's Refuge!
Austin's Tuvasa Deck Tech
Tuvasa the Sunlit is the perfect card for Enchantress. Before this, there wasn’t a way to build a true “set up a draw engine and then close out the game by going over the top of everyone” Enchantress deck. On the one hand, you have Uril the Miststalker and Sigarda, Host of Herons and friends, who are more geared toward a Voltron strategy. On the other, you have the pillowfort and Group Hug commanders like Angus Mackenzie and Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. While these commanders are good at being defensive, they don’t have any particular synergy with enchantments, and, unlike the Voltron commanders, often have difficulty closing out the game.
Enter Tuvasa. She is durdley enough with her card draw ability to incentivize sitting back and drawing cards rather than creating a ton of early pressure, but she gets big enough with her buff ability that she’ll prevent games from going too long. I think this strikes the perfect balance.
With this in mind, I tried to build Tuvasa as a classic Enchantress deck. The idea is to get to the point where you draw so many cards by playing enchantments that you never run out of more enchantments to play, churning through your deck and burying your opponents in card advantage. You do this by setting up a draw engine with Enchantresses, creatures similar to Tuvasa that draw you a card whenever you play an enchantment. Meanwhile, the enchantments themselves make it hard to attack you or your board position. Finally, once you’ve built up your board enough, you can close out the game with some powerful finishers.
Enchantress decks have three essential components:
- Enchantresses: These are the bread and butter of the deck, and I’m running as many as I can. There are seven in total, including Enchantress’s Presence and Tuvasa herself. Unlike Tuvasa, these draw cards for all of your enchantments, not just the first each turn.
- Defensive and Pillowfort-y Enchantments: Drawing all the cards requires the game to go long, so I’m playing enchantments like Solitary Confinement, Ghostly Prison, etc. that encourage this. Also, since I’m building up a board presence over several turns, I’m playing enchantments that protect my permanents, like Privileged Position, Martyr’s Bond, and Avacyn, Angel of Hope.
- Finishers: The classic Enchantress finishers are Sigil of the Empty Throne, other enchantment-based token makers (e.g., Luminarch Ascension), and - since we're drawing so many cards - Laboratory Maniac. The nice thing about Tuvasa is that she is a built-in win condition herself. As noted above, one of the problems with non-Voltron Enchantress decks in Commander is that they can sometimes durdle too much, failing to close out the game in a timely fashion and dragging things out unnecessarily. Tuvasa can get big enough by the late game that she is capable of one-shotting people with commander damage, which I think is a great way to add a win condition to a strategy that needed more of them. I included Thassa, God of the Sea and Rogue’s Passage in the deck to facilitate this.
By far the most stylish way to win, though, is with Aura Thief and Enchanted Evening. Enchanted Evening makes all permanents into enchantments, so you can use an enchantment removal spell like Seal of Cleansing to kill Aura Thief and then take control of every permanent on the battlefield. This is a difficult combo to pull off, since you don’t have any way to tutor for the Aura Thief, but the looks of bewilderment followed by dawning horror on the faces of your opponents will make it all worth it.
I can’t wait to build Tuvasa Enchantress. It's going to be an absolute blast. If you like card draw, synergy, and crazy board states, I definitely recommend giving it a try!
First Impressions: Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Christian: This is certainly going to be an *odd* deck… I don’t really see anyone building a serious deck with this, its just always going to be full of jank and ridiculous shenanigans, and I don’t know if I will ever take a deck with this commander truly seriously.
Eric: What does a mana curve look like when you skip even numbers? In my opinion, creature to battlefield > card draw, so I would definitely not play even creatures. Definitely has the opportunity to be goofy, but probably not lethal.
Austin: That’s… weird. But I’m intrigued. How should you construct a deck if you sometimes get to cast odd-CMC cards for free? I don’t know the answer, but I’m excited to find out. I think this could be fairly powerful, but it’s so out there that I don’t know.
Travis: Now this is the kind of spice we’ve been looking for, WOTC. You can go odds-only, Esper value, or even just cram a bunch of splashy bulk rares into one deck. I’m smitten.
Travis's Yennett Deck Tech
“Okay, let’s look up Esper cards. With a CMC of, say, seven or higher? Yes...YAAAASSS!!!”
If you’re like me, that is what your first search in a card database felt like after Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign was spoiled. It’s simply a beautiful day to be a brewer when you have Yennett. And let’s face it, Esper gets a bad rap these days. Oloro, Ageless Aescetic just sits there and gains life. Zur the Enchanter grabs Doomsday. Sen Triplets gets hated out quickly, and Sharuum the Hegemon means that at least one person will be hit with Magister Sphinx. Now it’s time for an Esper commander that literally says, “Hold my beer.”
A lot of folks looked immediately towards an odds-only build for Yennett, pointing to things like Void Winnower as the poster child. However, I think that deck design is a trap. Instead, I chose to divide the deck into two halves. When evaluating a card for this list, I thought, “Would I rather have this played immediately if I were to cast it off of Yennett? Or is this something I’d prefer to hold up?” Using this methodology, I split the deck into evens and odds. Odds want to hit the board right away, evens can wait for the right situation.
When it comes to the core cards, there are some interesting forces at play. While we’re compromising on removal staples like Swords to Plowshares and Forsake the Worldly, we gain the flexibility of not being forced to cast them off of an attack trigger. Also, we get things like Gilded Lotus, Rhystic Study, and Ghostly Prison for free off the top.
As for the deck itself, we’re running a suite of high CMC payoff cards to tilt the tides in our
favor. Let’s address this now, though: I don’t think you should go overboard with Yennett payoff cards. If you race into 1st place too early, she might just be killed on sight, leaving you with a hand full of seven- and nine-drops.
If you think it’s too early to windmill slam that Emrakul, The Promised End, then there are plenty of effects to keep her right where you need her. For instance, the easy choices are things like Sensei’s Divining Top, but Soothsaying also offers an efficient way for you to dig for the pieces you want. If you attack alongside a Prognostic Sphinx, then you can order the triggers so that you scry 3 before Yennett's ability resolves. This allows you to pick which bomb you want to cheat into play, or which answer that you want to draw. Outside of the usual pieces of footwear to keep Yennett safe, Gustcloak Savior, Reconnaissance,and Maze of Ith all offer some worry-free attacking in order to farm the top of your library.
There are various ways to close the game out, so pick whichever splashy payoff cards you like best. I just hope you win at least one game with this deck off of Baneful Omen. I hope you liked this deck! Check it out below and its deck link here!
Odds and Ends
The End Step
And that's Part One of our two-part Commander 2018 Playgroup Brews! Two of our four chosen commanders discussed, and we are excited to visit the other two in our next segment. I’m so excited to see what people come up with for these commanders, and to see what goodies out of Commander 2018 will stick around.
This is the second time we've done this Playgroup Brews article series, and love hearing feedback! What did you think of Travis and Austin's deck techs? They wrote their sections differently, did you prefer one method over the other? Would you build either of these commanders differently? Think we missed any cards that absolutely need to be included? Any comments would be very helpful!
We have Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer and Thantis, the Warweaver coming up next. How do you plan on building them? Maybe we will include some of your ideas! Hope you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for Part Two later this week!