The Knowledge Pool - Feather, the Redeemed
(Feather, the Redeemed | Art by Wayne Reynolds)
Birds of a Feather
Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Knowledge Pool, where we take a deep dive on deep commanders!
Last time I brought you a take on BW lifegain helmed by Karlov of the Ghost Council. That deck was inspired by my recent foray into Magic: the Gathering Arena, and this week I'm showing off another deck with similar origins. Feather, the Redeemed has become the focus of a popular Standard deck, and for good reason. With 4 toughness, Feather blanks the bulk of instant-speed, damage-based removal, and if the Feather pilot can cast her with one or two mana to spare, she will almost certainly be resilient to spot removal. What makes Feather all the more devastating is that she returns all spells targeting her or her allies to their owner's hand at the end of each turn. In Standard, this powerful ability means that the naturally evasive Feather will be hard to kill, and your opponent will be forced to expend multiple spells to remove her, allowing you to gain relative card advantage.
Obviously, Commander is a much different beast than Standard, with more powerful spells, more opponents, and more damage required to kill those opponents. So what does Feather offer us here? In many ways we can think of Feather in the same light as Talrand, Sky Summoner and Kykar, Wind's Fury, although the difference is striking: Feather lacks blue. Before Feather was printed, imagining what a Boros spellslinger deck would look like was difficult, given that red and white are so poor at drawing cards. It's hard to keep casting spells when you have no way to replenish the stock. Feather, however, fixes this issue in several ways.
The most obvious advantage Feather offers is the fact that as long as she's on board, and as long as our spells are targeting our creatures, all the spells we cast will return to our hand at the end of turn. At first blush, this ability seems great with pump spells and spot protection, but there is a surprising amount of utility to take advantage of if we get creative. Suddenly, Path to Exile becomes a reusable, instant-speed Rampant Growth alongside Young Pyromancer's tokens, and we can do it every turn! This utility also helps us fix the issue of drawing new cards; cantrips that target our creatures now represent a handful of cards drawn over the course of a few turns. We might even end up with so many cards in hand that we're forced to discard! What a wild proposition for a Boros deck!
All of this card advantage is great for staying competitive in a game, so how are we going to win? Luckily, red and white present some great payoffs for our cheap, reusable spells. Traditional spellslinging win conditions like burn and tokens are an option for us, but we also have access to a handful of uniquely powerful creatures that will let us pump up all of our dudes with each spell we cast. If worse comes to worse, we can ride Feather to victory with a spell-based Voltron package of pump and protection spells.
You can find an interactive version of my brew on Archidekt here. As always I like to pay respect to my deckbuilding inspirations, and for this brew I was particularly impressed by the work done by Jumbo Commander. You can find his version of Feather here. DJ does an excellent job of trimming spells in favor of those that offer the most utility, and overall our deck follows much of the same gameplan. Definitely check out DJ's videos, his decks are always top-notch!
Without further ado, let's dive into this decklist, and get a feel for the damage we're gonna do.
Feather, the Redeemed
My version of Feather has an average CMC of 2.44, with the bulk of our spells costing one or two mana and a near even split of red and white pips. I've tried to keep our costs as low as possible so we can cast multiple spells per turn to make the most of Feather when she's on the board. In particular, we want our protection spells to be cheap so that we can protect Feather at a moment's notice.
We have five token-makers and five damage-slingers to help us establish a board presence and whittle our opponents away. Once we play Feather, we'll have endless fuel for burn and tokens, with all the spells to protect them. These creatures will be our primary payoff, and will be our main method of taking over a game.
When looking through the above stack of cards, its redundancy really stands out. Redundancy is nothing new for my builds, as I like to load my decks with tons of ramp, removal, and card draw. While we have these categories in this deck too, we also have substantial portions of our list devoted to protection, pumps, and cantrips. Cantrips take the place of more traditional draw spells since they synergize so nicely with Feather, and I skewed towards instant-speed options so that we can draw cards on every turn. It turns out there are a lot of protection and pump spells in Boros colors, so I limited myself to a handful of each. With a few exceptions, I wanted these spells to offer additional utility beyond their primary function. For instance, Cloudshift is one of the most popular cards on EDHREC for Feather decks, but cards like Gods Willing and Sheltering Light will usually accomplish the same task with the added bonus of to scry.
I hinted previously that we get to use some unique removal options, and while I still included staples like Vandalblast, I tried to choose options that synergized with Feather. For instance, we can cast Aurelia's Fury as a pseudo-Silence, or we can use it more proactively as a way to tap down enemy creatures so ours can get through. What makes Aurelia's Fury excellent in this deck is that we can ping one of our own creatures and return Fury to our hand at the end of turn. Most of our removal works this way too, with cards like Chandra's Ignition and Fell the Mighty representing scalable Wraths that we can use turn after turn.
Recently, I've been aiming more towards a 75% power level. This is a concession to the fact that my playgroup prefers grindier games that don't move at a blistering pace. I'm okay with my deck durdling a bit or being a bit slower to get off the ground. In the case of Feather, I expect this deck to be fragile when we can't keep her on board, and I don't expect us to kill our opponents particularly quickly. In many respects, I feel Feather fits into a similar tier as Karlov: a little clunky, but powerful when it gets going.
With this in mind, our gameplan is fairly simple: we're going to sling spells until our opponents are dead. Let's take a look at some of the champions of this deck.
Burn and Bodies
Slingers and Tokens
Our burn creatures are standard fare for spellslinging decks. Normally, these types of creatures aren't interesting to me, as they represent fragile bodies that offer fairly underwhelming abilities. However, in a deck like this one, where we'll rarely run low on spells to cast, a card like Guttersnipe becomes a must-kill target if our opponents don't want to lose in a hurry.
The other standout among these is Balefire Liege. Even with no spells cast, Balefire Liege will make Feather a 5/6, and bump our other creatures by at least +1/+1. However, the reason Liege makes the cut is that he tacks on 3 damage to each red spell we cast, and 3 life to each white one. This can help us to stabilize if we're hurting, or deal a ton of damage for as little as two or three mana.
Our token-makers aim to take advantage of the density of spells we'll be casting and of the fact that we'll be targeting our creatures with most of them. Akroan Crusader, Vanguard of Brimaz, and Young Pyromancer are efficient creatures that can make a ton of dudes if they're not dealt with. Monastery Mentor takes this a step further by creating tokens with Prowess; this greatly increases our ability to deal a ton of damage before our opponents start to notice. Of our token-makers, Elspeth, Sun's Champion is the only one that doesn't directly synergize with our strategy, but I think she's too powerful here to ignore. Elspeth can put a lot of bodies on the board, and her -3 ability should normally miss our creatures while clearing the rest of the field.
Tiny tokens are nice, but in a deck with mostly targeted spells, they're not particularly exciting. However, we have a few ways to take advantage of our army and present a lethal threat without much effort. The most basic of these spells are Phalanx Leader and Anax and Cymede, which will let us pump our board with each spell that targets them. However, the true ringers of this deck are Zada, Hedron Grinder and Mirrorwing Dragon.
These two are the most powerful cards in our deck, allowing us to truly abuse Feather's ability. By targeting either of these creatures with a protection spell, Feather and all of our tokens will also get protection. Likewise, any of our cantrips that target either of these spells will draw us a card for each creature we control. Our card draw will put even the blue players to shame! Lastly, with a density of creatures and Zada or the Dragon, Titan's Strength suddenly looks similar to an Overrun that lets us scry for every creature we control!
Now that we have an idea of what our spellslinging enablers are, let's take a look at some of the cards that we'll be casting.
Aggression with Insurance
Protection and Pumps
The bulk of our protection spells are pretty straightforward. Cards like Gods Willing and Sheltering Light will let our creatures survive Wraths or attack freely. Shelter will let us draw a card, while Valorous Stance doubles as removal. We even have cards like Boros Charm and Dawn Charm with three modes each.
Once we get to three mana, our protection spells become truly potent. Eerie Interlude will let us blink any number of creatures we control, which will let us double up on ETB abilities from Stoneforge Mystic, Solemn Simulacrum, or Knight of the White Orchid, and will protect our creatures from our opponents' removal spells. Intimidation Bolt is a card I hadn't considered until browsing EDHREC and DJ's list, but it functions in this deck as a Fog; if there's a problem creature with 3 toughness or less, Intimidation Bolt will take care of the creature while stifling any attacks that turn, but we can also point Intimidation Bolt at Feather or our tokens so that we can reclaim our Fog at the end of the turn.
I think Sword of Feast and Famine is underrated in a Feather deck. It gives one of our creatures protection both from one of the most prominent removal colors and from most of the bigger bodies we're likely to see. What makes Feast and Famine so interesting to me, though, is that it untaps our lands. Having the extra mana on enemy turns will give us the ability to protect Feather and double up on our cantrip spells.
Moving to pump spells, Balduvian Rage gives us the potential to deal a lot of extra, unexpected damage with the bonus of drawing a card during the next turn. We can even cast Balduvian Rage but leave up enough mana to follow it up with a double strike spell like Temur Battle Rage, allowing us to put extra pressure on our opponents.
Fists of Flame is a new offering from Modern Horizons, and I really like it in this deck. At worst, we can play Fists of Flame as a cantrip, but if we have our engine rolling, it's possible that we even get to pump our target by +3 or +4. Of course, granting trample makes this card all the more impressive.
I've talked a lot about our cantrip spells, and while a handful of them have been sprinkled through our previous sections, four or five of them haven't gotten the spotlight. The reason for this is that the cheap cantrips that have the potential to draw us the most cards over time aren't very exciting cards. Expedite, Bandage, and Crimson Wisps offer us benefits, and while in most decks their usefulness is situational, they're excellent in a deck like this one. We're more than happy just to cycle these over and over for value.
The Cut List
Given the focuses of this deck, there are a lot of potential spells that could be included. If you have a favorite spell I didn't include, swap it in. There are several cards and packages that could work in a Feather deck that just didn't happen to make my version of the list.
For example, I debated including more spell recursion in the event that we lose our hand or that Feather isn't active to help us recycle our spells. Feather works very well with Flashback spells, as we can choose to return the card to hand instead of letting them go to exile. It's possible cards like Past in Flames or Dreadhorde Arcanist would be good inclusions. This is one area where I need more testing to determine how important these sorts of effects will be.
Along similar lines, I've debated including more Fork effects in this deck. However, given that these won't get returned to hand with Feather, I opted for Dualcaster Mage instead so that we have an extra body to pump up.
Lastly, there are a handful of artifacts and enchantments that reward us for playing spells. Of these, Aetherflux Reservoir was the one that made the final cut, but if you're looking for more spellslinging damage, Sentinel Tower, Sphinx-Bone Wand, and Aria of Flame are options to investigate.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my article! With Commander 2019 on the horizon, I'm looking forward to demo-ing a few of the new commanders. I have a feeling one of them will be an egg-cellent fit for my playstyle.
Until next time, I wish you all the best, and happy brewing!