Solve the Equation – Does Size Matter?

(Lurrus of the Dream-Den | Art by Slawomir Maniak)

Does Size Matter?

Feel like your deck just is not coming together? Welcome to Solve the Equation, where we take a look at the numbers and see what's making your deck and in-game decision-making fall flat.


What’s the Average?

It’s no secret that the average mana value of the most played cards in our format is plummeting, and valuing efficiency is more important now than it's been, especially within our suite of creatures. I took a look at the top 100 creatures of the past two years on EDHREC to see where their average mana value lies:

  • Average Mana Value: 3.45
  • Average Power: 2.28
  • Average Toughness: 2.47

Not exactly a stat line that will strike fear in your opponents or present much of a clock, but there are some key takeaways this data presents us with.


The Takeaways

There are two major takeaways when we analyze this data.

First, game-ending treats are getting cheaper and cheaper. For instance, an unanswered Scute Swarm can take over a game in just a few turns.

Second, the average mana value of the Top 100 creatures is about a full point higher than their average power and toughness (3.45 compared to 2.28). What does this mean? Well, creatures in Commander are expected to do more than just attack and block, and power and toughness are not as valuable as they are in other formats. The creatures that make up this list almost all have enter-the-battlefield effects or triggered/activated abilities that allow them to add up to more than the sum of their power and toughness.

The ability to generate value outside of combat is even more important for expensive creature threats. These creatures easily die to something as simple as a Doom Blade, so they need to have an impact on the board even if they disappear immediately. The biggest creatures that tend to find success are the ones like Etali, Primal Storm and Avenger of Zendikar, which make up for their high cost with a relatively immediate impact in addition to the ability to gain value over time.

Additionally, our mana curve has much less room nowadays for six-mana-and-up threats. Decks are finding it increasingly important to find threats that can mimic the game-breaking abilities of Avenger of Zendikar, but at a much more efficient mana value.


Making the Most Out of a Little

Commander’s top creatures list is full of efficient creatures, which made me wonder: do we even need expensive game-ending threats in our deck? Can a deck win without relying on a finisher, such as Craterhoof Behemoth, to end the game?

To test my hypothesis, I plan to put my deckbuilding skills to the test, and the best way to test is to use the bane of Magic’s Modern format!

Lurrus of the Dream-Den and the Companion mechanic warped Magic as we know it, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den has even been banned in a variety of formats. However, the mechanic has yet to see widespread adoption here in our singleton format. While the restriction is absolutely worth the game-breaking consistency in other formats, especially since those formats have access to multiple copies of each card, Companions haven't caught on quite as much in Commander (although Arahbo, Roar of the World and Kaheera, the Orphanguard appear to be lifelong pals).

Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist and Wernog, Rider's Chaplain give us access to Partner commanders that both fit within Lurrus's requirement. Two Partner commanders and a Companion give us access to three additional cards in our opening hand, mitigating the risk of running out of gas after casting so many cheap spells.

So how can these creatures end the game with such low power? Commander is less reliant on winning through combat than it used to be, so dishing out enough damage to kill all our opponents is a tough task, and decks frequently require an alternate route to victory.

One of the most efficient ways to deal damage outside of combat (besides combos) is with the aristocrats strategy. Luckily for us, many of the best payoffs for this strategy sit at a low mana value and work well with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Cruel Celebrant and Blood Artist consistently drain our opponents as other creatures die, stabilizing our life total as they do so. The Meathook Massacre is a real all-star because the "X" in its mana cost allows it to fit within the Companion requirement while also functioning as a mana sink that can wipe the board and kill our opponents.

We'll need some other creatures to fill out our curve, and we can pick out the creatures that have the best synergy with our commanders. Wernog, Rider's Chaplain creates Clues upon entering the battlefield, which we can leverage in a variety of ways, first and foremost being Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist's ability.

Many other creatures at the "2 or less" mana value can use these Clues by sacrificing them or by gaining advantage over time with triggered and activated abilities. Reckless Fireweaver can deal out damage when these artifacts enter play, and when we need more gas we can use Sage of Lat-Nam to draw deeper into our deck.

The action doesn't stop at just creatures, though. Time Sieve turns these Clues into extra turns, while Oni-Cult Anvil puts in double duty, pumping out chump blockers and dealing damage to our opponents. Cranial Plating can quickly turn one of our utility creatures into a game-ending threat with the potential to activate at instant speed.

However, to take advantage of this synergy, we need to ensure that we have a steady stream of Clues. The easiest way to ensure this is by abusing the enter-the-battlefield effect on our commander, Wernog, Rider's Chaplain. Charming Prince, Mistmeadow Witch, and Momentary Blink allow us to blink our commander, or any of our utility creatures. Erdwal Illuminator can create extra Clues, and Disorder in the Court will do a little bit of everything, blinking our creatures and generating additional Clues.

An important note to remember is that Lurrus of the Dream-Den’s ability does not restrict the cost of our non-permanent spells. We're welcome to play Ghostly Flicker and Eerie Interlude to keep generating tons more value!

On top of all this synergy, we can pile on with some of Magic’s strongest and most played creatures, such as Phantasmal Image and Dockside Extortionist, that just happen to fall within Lurrus's restriction. As an additional bonus, these are solid blink targets as well. Esper Sentinel and Ghostly Pilferer will draw cards, and Drannith Magistrate just might make our friends hate us.

Sometimes our aristocrats and life drain strategies will not be enough on their own, and there are a variety of alternate ways we can finish out the game. The easy way out would be to use a combo, such as blinking Dockside Extortionist repeatedly, using Underworld Breach and Brain Freeze, or a Thassa's Oracle combo. However, I'd prefer to use a different type of spice: Rise and Shine turns our artifact tokens into game-ending threats!

Check out the full list here:

Low Mana Lurrus

Commanders (2)
Companion (1)
Creatures (30)
Instants (17)
Sorceries (3)
Artifacts (12)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (33)

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What do you think? How would you build Lurrus of the Dream-Den? Does the size of creatures still matter in our format? Let me know in the comments below!

Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.