The Scrambleverse — Pacifism Control
Greetings Readers! It's your friendly neighborhood jank crafter again! Sorry for not having an article for you last time, but I didn't have internet while I was out of the country. While I was out there, I took a picture list of all of the Dominaria commanders, because I wanted to try something new with the Scrambleverse. So far we have discussed two ways to build really weird decks for well developed commanders, but this time, I want to talk about building a new commander. We often look at commanders and can get a good idea of what the deck is supposed to look like. For example, Tatyova, Benthic Druid is very obviously a deck that relies on lands and drawing cards. Lyra Dawnbringer very clearly helms angel tribal decks. And Tiana, Ship's Caretaker leads into an equipment and aura based voltron deck… Or does it?
In this installment, we look at the commander Tiana, Ship's Caretaker, and how we can build a ridiculous deck that isn't what you first think of when looking at her. I thought about a lot of options to write about while I was gone, and this seemed like the most interesting option to discuss. Much like many other Boros commanders, Tiana lends herself to a voltron strategy. While there isn't a “voltron” theme on EDHREC, we can still browse those of the “Equipment” and “Aura” themes. Unsurprisingly, all of them have white with a smattering of other colors, though there is very little black. Because white is such a phenomenal support color, providing enchantments and other bonuses, it lends itself well to supporting the aggressive strategies of red. Make your dude big with white spells, swing out with red spells, right? Well not in this case; let's take a look at what Tiana has to offer.
To start off with, Tiana has the very attractive keyword combination of Flying and First Strike, which means it's going to be really hard to kill her through combat damage, especially after buffs. You need to have a flier that can take all the damage tiana throws at it in order to defeat her. But what Tiana really excels at is being able to use her triggered ability.
Whenever an Aura or Equipment you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may return that card to its owner's hand at the beginning of the next end step.
Now equipment rarely go to the graveyard. The only time you really see an equipment destroyed is if it is a BIG threat. Any of the Swords of X and Y are popular targets, as are huge buffs like batterskull, though it's significantly harder to destroy an equipment than an aura. Killing a creature will destroy any aura's attached to it, though will leave all equipments on the battlefield to be used again. Because of this, unless there is a sacrifice engine for the equipment and an ability to abuse sending equipments to the graveyard, usually her ability will be affecting auras. In terms of auras, there are generally three different kinds.
Types of Auras
- Those used to enchant a PLAYER - Enchanting players is an interesting mechanic. I really like the concept with commanders like Zur, the Enchanter or Mathas, Fiend Seeker, developed into politics commanders. You often find curses with these play styles, as they let you enchant your opponent to weaken their ability to play the game while strengthening your presence. However, it's hard to get rid of these enchantments, which means we won't see much use with Tiana's ability.
- Those used to enchant a creature YOU control - Enchanting your creatures is the most common method of using auras. Whether it's gaining an ability like in the case of Curiosity or a simple buff in the case of Madcap Skills, auras are phenomenal tools to increase the threat of a creature on your side of the board. The “Voltron” gameplay strategy involves using auras like this on a single creature to drastically increase its power along with the use of equipments. Unfortunately, with a voltron deck, Tiana's ability is going to be fairly irrelevant. Because her ability only affects the auras and equipments, and you only have one creature, it takes a LOT of mana and time to rebuild the boardstate. For someone like Zurgo Helmsmasher, his presence is so powerful, that it isn't as difficult to rebuild a threatening board presence again with him.
- Those used to enchant a creature an OPPONENT controls - Enchanting your opponents' creatures is less common and usually involves putting a stop to a threat on the field. That can mean multiple things. Sometimes you can completely shut down a creature with something like Darksteel Mutation or Song of the Dryads, or it may be less aggressive and be something more like Pacifism, which will just prevent a creature from attacking and blocking. This is really intriguing, considering you can reuse the enchantment if the creature ends up dying, or if the enchantment gets destroyed, you can replace it on your next turn!
The Deckbuilding Phase
I thought a lot about this on my trip and ways to implement it and apparently so did Reddit! I had drafted up a lot of ideas while I was gone only to find several other discussion on the EDH subreddit. Because of this, I would like to give credit to U/Dracon_Pyrothayan for initiating this conversation about the deck, and for creating an awesome looking decklist! I hope the list I came up with isn't too similar to yours! In addition to reddit, even another EDHREC write, Dean, had the same idea, and is building Tiana Prison himself. I found it very interesting that a lot of different people independently figured out a weird way to build a commander. I also wanted to keep this on a budget, as the last few decks I've made for this article series have been quite expensive. With that in mine, I want to keep the deck around $75. Without further ado, let's talk about how I constructed this deck.
Compared to my other decks in the scrambleverse, this was actually very straightforward. Similar to my Zur, the Enchanter build, I looked at the enchantment theme and picked some of the important enchantment-matters cards that would help the deck out. Things like Mesa Enchantress and Sigil of the Empty Throne were top picks for this deck. General protection enchantments like Sphere of Safety and Ghostly Prison also made sense considering this is a politics deck seeking to not be attacked repeatedly.
The next thing I did was look for pretty much anything that had a Pacifism effect. I actually couldn't rely as heavily on EDHREC for the creation of this deck due to the sheer lack of Tiana decks. It's been a long time since I've worked on a deck without using EDHREC as my main support tool, instead going back to basics using tools like Gatherer, Tappedout, and Google. Searching for “MTG Pacifism effects” turned up a lot of results, as did entering “can't attack or block” in the Advanced Gatherer search with an aura filter. From there it was relatively simple; figure out which ones have a more significant impact than others, and narrow it down.
Along with pacifism effects, I also wanted to find spells that would benefit from being attached to opponents' creatures. This is where I began to branch out to other players. I asked my playgroup if they had any ideas and got some really spectacular suggestions! Spirit Link on an opponent's huge creature not only means that when it deals damage to an opponent, I gain that much life, but also that it effectively cannot damage me unless it deals lethal. Because you are gaining life, they may choose not to attack with it, but if they do, it's free life! Meanwhile, Flowstone Blade lets me maximize political powers by offering to buff creatures that attack opponents, while threatening to kill creatures that attack me. Laccolith Rig is another particularly hilarious card that can make an opponent's creature become a lethal weapon to other creatures if it chooses to attack you, making it another political card to coerce your opponents into attacking each other. Most importantly, if any of these creatures die during combat or other ways, I can play the enchantments again if Tiana is out!
Speaking of Tiana, we really want to capitalize on her ability. Because of this, we want to try and keep a very cheap converted mana cost to make sure that we can replay enchantments fairly easily. In addition, we want some outlets we can use to sacrifice enchantments to replay them if they become less useful. Some examples of this are Auratog and Faith Healer. It's also helpful to have ways to recur our graveyard, should we happen to lose Tiana, so I've included Elixir of Immortality and Crystal Chimes as well, along with several sorceries that can bring back enchantments from the graveyard.
Lastly, I needed ways to pull through the game. Sure I can use goad mechanics and politics to win players over and make them attack each other, but ultimately I want to be the winner, right? Well, that's where Tiana comes in. As I said in the beginning, a Flying, First Striking Angel is nothing to laugh at. So, not only are there several ways to protect Tiana, such as giving her totem armor, but there are some buffs and some creatures that can really benefit from auras in order to close the game. For example, the new legend from Dominaria, Valduk, Keeper of the Flame, can be enchanted with MULTIPLE pacifisms and cheap enchantments that effect him, as long as he can still use his triggered ability. He never needs to attack, but he can create an army of elementals to attack for you in the end game if necessary.
This deck is beginning to come together! Now that we have the workings of what the deck needs to look like, let's see the final list. Here it is on tapped out, and here it is for the article!
Luckily with this deck we don't need to address the Rafiq Problem! Tiana is not only a new commander, but widely seen as not very impactful within EDH. Because of this, chances are if you pull out a Tiana deck, people aren't going to focus on you too heavily. Remember that a deck like this isn't meant to be aggressive. You also may not play enchantments immediately as you receive them. Pacifisms have bigger impact when their target is more threatening, so it's important to play this deck intelligently and strategically, playing your opponents by making them fight each other. While they fight each other and whittle down their life totals, hopefully you can fly under the radar with Tiana, dealing a lethal blow at the end of the game out of nowhere.
I think that this is going to be a really hilarious way to play the game, and a unique way to introduce pacifism and prism like effects into Commander, which are rarely seen in such a high concentration within a deck.
The Cleanup Step
Thank you all for reading! This was definitely a simpler deck to build and write about than my previous write ups, and am excited for my next one! What do you think of this deck? Do you think this playstyle suits Tiana better than a Voltron build, or not? Do you think there are any major cards I missed out on including, or do you think I misevaluated a card that I included? Let me know in your comments below and in the reddit post!
I want to thank everyone who commented in the last article about the topic choice! While I did not have the chance to look at the list for this deck while I was gone, Saskia Self-Targeting was the popular vote by far, and will be the topic of the next edition of the Scrambleverse! Remember, if you have an idea for a weird way to build a commander, please let me know! I'd love to take reader suggestions! Stay tuned, do your best, and Embrace the Jank!