Solve the Equation – Scrying Your Way to a Discount

(Elminster | Art by Tyler Jacobson)

Scry Me a River

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.

Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is full of interesting new commanders to build around, and the one that's caught my eye sure loves to scry! One of my favorite commanders from the original Commander Legends was Eligeth, Crossroads Augur. The deck drew a ton of cards, but it quickly turned stale and struggled to close out the game. Enter Elminster, who looks like a Azorius value engine who also happens to profit from scrying. However, Elminster has many more tricks up his sleeve, making this a completely unique deck.

Let’s take a look at how to make the most of Elminster’s suite of abilities.

Let’s Take a Look at Our Wizard's Spellbook

First ability:

  • Whenever you scry, the next instant or sorcery spell you cast this turn costs {X} less to cast, where X is the number of cards looked at while scrying this way.

The best spellslinger decks leverage cost-reducers to cast huge spells. This is how Mizzix of the Izmagnus decks have been winning games for a while. Even better, scry is often an afterthought on cards, which means many of the cards with the highest scry-rates are under-played and cheap!

Second ability:

  • +2: Draw a card, then scry 2.

“Draw a card” is always a solid ability on a planeswalker, and Elminster will frequently replace itself the turn it comes down. The scry 2 here can set up a huge spell at a discount and even set up our next turn to use Elminster’s other ability.

Third ability:

  • −3: Exile the top card of your library. Create a number of 1/1 blue Faerie Dragon creature tokens with flying equal to that card’s mana value.

These are some serious tokens! Flying makes these a real threat and with some high-mana-value spells that we can even leave a few behind to chump block.

Turning Scrying into a Ritual

Casting huge spells can be a tough task, and one of the most efficient ways of casting them is through ritual spells, such as Dark Ritual. We would not normally have access to these spells in white and blue, but Elminster’s ability allows us to take advantage of scrying as if we are casting a ritual.

The key numbers to compare here are the amount we scry against the card's mana value. We're looking for spells that scry for a greater amount than their mana value. If a spell costs a single mana but has scry 3, then we're effectively going up on mana if we have a bigger spell we plan to cast in our hand. This takes spells like Preordain and Serum Visions, which already have incredibly high floors, and super-charges them.

We can find this effect on creatures as well with Faerie Seer or Augury Owl both putting us up on mana in comparison to their mana value. Things really get crazy with Cryptic Annelid, which not only sets up our next draw wonderfully, but also discounts our next spell by six mana! (Remember, Elminster triggers each time we scry, so he'll reduce the cost of the spell by 1, 2, and 3, for a total of 6.)

Discounts for Days

These scry-bursts are great for casting big spells, but we also want to be able to scry reliably. Remember, our commander can scry twice a turn on its own, so it will not take too many extra scry effects to generate a huge discount consistently. Netherese Puzzle-Ward is a niche card that fits right into this deck, giving us a consistent discount each turn and even occasionally drawing us a card. (Bonus points for this card's Dungeons and Dragons flavor!) Jace's Sanctum has a built-in discount, and the scry effect stacks with it effectively making our spells cost two less if we plan on casting a few in the same turn.

Furthermore, some cards fit this deck like a glove. Ugin's Insight will put us at least even on mana while drawing cards and potentially setting up our future draws. The same can be said for cards such as Foresee and Tamiyo's Epiphany. Diviner's Portent does double duty by both being a way to scry and an outlet to dump extra mana into from our discount.

Here Come Dragons

Now let's take advantage of that -3 ability! These spells are also serving double duty. They're both cards to cast at a discount and cards to exile to Elminster’s ability to make Faerie Dragons. We want cards that can win games on their own. Approach of the Second Sun literally wins the game on its own, and we can dig to the spell easily within a turn with how much scry we have in our deck. Not only is Storm Herd an expensive spell, it'll make a ton of creatures either way we use it! Planeswalker commanders also pull damage away from our own life total, potentially making Storm Herd even more effective.

Clone Legion and Aminatou's Augury are guaranteed to generate more than a card’s worth of value. These are total haymakers, especially if we time them right. My favorite, though, has to be Devout Invocation. Devout Invocation can take advantage of the Faerie Dragons our commander has already made to become even more effective. The problem with these cards, of course, is that if we don't have our commander out, they sometimes rot in our hand. The best way to mitigate this downside is by taking advantage of a variety of abilities that make spells cheaper to cast than their printed mana value. In other words, we've got more tricks up our sleeve!

Prices On These Spells Are Cheaper Than They Appear

Miracle cards have inflated mana costs but will often be cast cheaper if we can manipulate the top of our library, which this deck does all the time. Terminus can be a cheap board wipe in a pinch, and Temporal Mastery turns into Time Walk on the top of our library.

Delve and Convoke also make our spells much cheaper. Temporal Trespass gives us access to another extra turn spell that could also make double-digit Faerie Dragons. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are excellent card draw spells that only get better in this deck. Hour of Reckoning is not only cheap, but it will also keep our board of tokens and our planeswalker commander unscathed.

Sephara, Sky's Blade’s ability works the same as Convoke with our tokens. Modal cards, like Dusk // Dawn, get both spells' mana values counted to equal the whole card's mana value, so they're great in this deck! This spell works especially well, as Dusk can be a one-sided board wipe in the right circumstances.

As if MDFCs did not already have enough flexibility, they really shine in this deck. They can be lands, spells, or they can be exiled to make Faerie Dragons. Emeria's Call and Sea Gate Restoration both have huge mana costs, but they can effectively act as an Island or Plains in the early game.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the deck:

Scry Me A River

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Which cards do you like that scry the most at the cheapest rate? How do you plan to build around this commander? Which commander are you most excited about from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate? 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.

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