Underdog's Corner — Taigam, Ojutai Master
Way of the Fist
Hello EDH enthusiasts, and welcome to the Underdog's Corner! If you have never read this series before, I want to wish you a warm welcome and thank you for reading. For this series, I often cover a commander that gets overshadowed for one reason or another. That general may have a unique game plan that has hurdles to its execution. Maybe that general has lost its luster to the toll of time as the format has evolved around it. Maybe, a new general has emerged to dethrone its place in the format. However, none of these reasons particularly capture our combatant in this week's installment. This week we look at a commander who I believe is not only powerful and unique but also underrepresented on EDHREC. This week we are looking at Taigam, Ojutai Master.
Taigam is currently the fourth least played commander from Commander 2017as well as the 18th most played Blue-White commander. There are currently only 136 decks made with our time-shifted monk, and I think that number is surprisingly low for what he offers. My goal is to shed some light on our Tarkiri spell slinger, and hopefully bring attention to the fun he brings.
Taigam, Ojutai Master
One of the most lamented occurrences for me and others is when standard legal sets roll around, and interesting characters within the lore do not get a legendary creature card. Normally, the community is pretty reasonable about who should get a card, but there are still characters that inevitably don't make it into card form. Taigam is one such character that people were hoping to see. While he was introduced and gained favor during the Khans timeline, we were happily surprised to see both versions of him introduced during Commander 2017. So what does our Ojutai-aligned Taigam bring to the table?
Instant, sorcery, and Dragon spells you control can't be countered by spells or abilities.
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell from your hand, if Taigam, Ojutai Master attacked this turn, that spell gains rebound.
(Exile the spell as it resolves. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast that card from exile without paying its mana cost.)
This is what Taigam is all about. If Taigam attacks, each and every instant and sorcery spell we cast gains Rebound until the end of turn. Effectively doubling all of our spells is incredibly potent, and it adds a nice wrinkle into the "spell-slinger" archetype as Taigam needs to attack and survive combat to gain this benefit. Another wrinkle in the plan is that some spells lose effectiveness or don't synergize at all with being rebounded, so we need to keep that in mind.
Survival of the Fittest
Knowing that Taigam, Ojutai Master needs to survive combat, his safety needs to be heavily considered before throwing every fun spell under the sun into our list. A 3/4 will survive quite a bit in the early to early-mid portions of a game, but the later a game goes the harder it's going to be for Taigam to swing with impunity. As an aside, why doesn't he have prowess?
Fortunately, you can't die in combat if you aren't in it. At a single mana, Reconnaissance is an absolute steal. As soon as Taigam attacks, we can whisk him away and move to our post-combat main phase to reap the benefits of his abilities. While Maze of Ith technically doesn't remove Taigam from combat, it still effectively does so. I'm sure there is a corner-case where Taigam could die after being targeted by the maze, but the majority of times we can guarantee Taigam's survival with this land out. If we feel like we really need to hunker down on this theme, Gustcloack Savior can add an additional layer, and Taigam also gets a bird buddy to waltz with.
However, having Taigam survive combat doesn't help us if he dies on arrival. The ever-popular Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves allow us to passively protect Taigam with the bonus of giving him haste. These cards have stood the test of time as they are the most played artifacts in all of EDH if we exclude Sol Ring and the various signets. Greaves and boots appear in 63% and 54% of Taigam decks respectively, but there's a third equipment you may want to consider. Whispersilk Cloak, while both more expensive to cast and equip, not only gives shroud but also makes Taigam unblockable. Appearing in 43% of decks, I feel like it's rightly appreciated.
Don't Block Me Now
We're having such a good time, why stop with Whispersilk Cloak? There are a few cards that you should give a hard look at when looking at the whole package of support for his combat prowess. Thassa, God of the Sea is a resilient permanent that will scry each turn while also allowing us to convert mana into making Taigam unblockable. Distortion Strike currently only appears in four decks out of the existing 136. I might be missing something, but at face value having a one-mana spell with native rebound seems very good for Taigam. The best of these, however, is likely Shadow Rift. Instant speed is such a godsend for this deck as we can cast Shadow Rift after Taigam attacks, Taigam will gain shadow (ie, pseudo-unblockable), and Shadow Rift will cantrip... and then we do it again next turn! If we're interested in more permanent options, I have soft spot for both Aqueous Form from being a former UW Heroic player as well as Steel of the Godhead because it's just a fun card.
When in Doubt, Spell it Out
Phew. That was a lot of words so far, but now we're at the main event, the coup de grâce, the crescendo... That may be a bit of hyperbole, but now we can talk about the meat of what you would expect to see in a Taigam list: instants and sorceries. There's quite a bit of nuance when it comes to Rebound. So let's review: From the Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, 702.87a:
“Rebound” means “If this spell was cast from your hand, instead of putting it into your graveyard as it resolves, exile it and, at the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast this card from exile without paying its mana cost.
A few notable portions of this are that the spells do not go into your graveyard, and we cast is without paying its mana cost. Additionally, this only affects cards we cast from our hand; unfortunately, we can't cascade into spells and have them gain rebound. We can't always win. And 702.87b:
Casting a card without paying its mana cost as the result of a rebound ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2f–h.
I won't list out those rules as I'm sure my editor will not appreciate me artificially inflating my word count, but 601.2b is relevant for "X" spells and spells that have alternative costs. If we rebound a Sphinx's Revelation, "X" will zero when it boomerangs back to us and is cast from exile. Additionally, if we have some reason to cast an overloaded Cyclonic Rift on our main phase, when it rebounds back we effectively ignore the overload text and it reads "Return target nonland permanent you don't control to its owner's hand." 601.2f-h adds more wrinkles. 601.2f states that we can pay additional costs such as kicker or entwine for rebounded spells, and since we're likely to include cost-reducers such as Primal Amulet or Baral, Chief of Compliance those will apply to those additional costs. 601.2h addresses the fact that the delayed trigger created by Rebound is a "may" ability. This means if we choose not to cast a rebounded spell or are unable to (say if there are no legal targets or we are unable to pay additional costs), then that spell remains in exile permanently. So... What do we do with all that information?
Rebound - When in Doubt, Spell it Out
So now that I've expounded on anything and everything that isn't an instant or sorcery it feels like, I guess we should close out the article. See you next time! On a serious note, let's look at a small slice of what we can rebound with Taigam. We want impactful spells, spells that have value even when rebounded, and spells that have variable applications. Let's dive in!
What's Yours is Mine
I think a good place to start is using our opponent's resources against them. In true monk fashion, we can divert an opponent's momentum to our benefit. I personally try to include a few "fun" cards in each of my decks, and Fractured Identity fits that perfectly. This is very close to being a color-shifted Death by Dragons, and allows us to get rid of a problem nonland permanent while putting us up in value. Sure, our other opponent's have copies of whatever we exiled, but I think that's a small price to pay for having a little fun. If we want to be selfish, Bribery and Acquire are the way to go. These let us grab the best creature (probably something green or Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur) or best artifact from our opponents... and then we do it again on the rebound! Go big, or go home, as this is unlikely to make friends.
Big Blue Bombs
Sometimes we need to make a splash on our own, and these three spells certainly do so. Rise from the Tides is the most straightforward; the more instants and sorceries that we've cast, the more zombies we get. In the early game, this can create a small number of chump blockers to protect us, and by the late game, we should be able to amass an army. Rite of Replication has some notoriety as a card that ends games, and not only is that still true in this deck, but it is also on a much more accelerated clock. It goes like this: we attack with Taigam and cast Rite of Replication on some creature, and we exile Rite. On our upkeep, we rebound Rite of Replication and pay its kicker cost. Normally a nine-mana investment just became much more affordable. Cost reducers such as Baral, Chief of Compliance only add on to the speed of this combo.
Speaking of Baral, his expertise is sorely needed in this deck. Realizing the synergy between Baral's Expertise was the figurative lightbulb lighting in my brain. To the 71% of people not running Baral's Expertise, I hope you have a good reason, and I would love to hear it. Baral's Expertise not only acts as soft removal but also allows us to cast a spell of converted mana cost of four or less. If that spell is an instant or sorcery, it'll also get rebounded. Just think of the value!
Draw Me Like One of Your Ojutai Monks
I think one of the cleanest and most easily understood aspects of the value of rebound is being able to double up on draw spells. Chart a Course is from the newest Magic set, Ixalan, and is a sure include in Taigam. We raid an opponents life total, and then we draw cards. We turn a two-mana spell into an effective draw four and discard one. Thankfully, that's not the most efficient draw power we have. Strong enough to become restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy, Treasure Cruise can become something as ludicrous as a one-mana draw six. Eat your heart out, Ancestral Recall.
Fact or Fiction is one of those cards that is just fun to cast. Drawing two or three cards from your top five is a great deal, even if our opponent is trying to give us a "hard" decision. Rebounding this lets us dig ten cards deep over a round, and, potentially, our opponents may not even remember which cards were in what piles and what cards were kept. The extra political element makes this one of the cards I'm most excited to cast.
Instant Gratification at the Speed of Sorcery
Lastly, we come to the instant and sorcery payoffs that aren't instant and sorceries. Metallurgic Summonings is likely the most "obvious" of the inclusions. We can construct a robot army out of our spells and then do it again... on the rebound. Treasure Cruise producing two 8/8s is something that dreams are made of. If we don't need the token support anymore, or if our spells in the 'yard are critical, we can cash in our enchantment to return all of our instant and sorceries to our hand. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper adds a nice subtheme to the deck that doesn't really interfere with the overall composition of the deck, as adding Darksteel Citadel and Cascading Cataracts isn't hurting our two-color mana base. We may even be able to take a chance with Wall of Resurgence. One of my biggest concerns with spell-slinging decks is finding a win-condition, and Noyan Dar offers a very powerful alternative by creating powerful creatures from our spells.
Lastly, we have Monastery Mentor. By casting any noncreature spell, we start to generate an army one spell at a time. Once we are able to get a consistent amount of spells being cast via rebound and from our hand, we truly can create an army that can explode for damage when needed.
While I've covered a lot of cards so far, I would be remiss to skip on what gained Taigam some notoriety before he faced release. While I personally approach decks with a more "fair" mindset, don't expect others to do the same. The most popular and most prevalent strategy I saw during the initial discussion for Taigam involved extra turn spells. Time Warp is the most popular of the lot, appearing in 49% of decks. The next most popular extra turn spell is Walk the Aeons. If we use the advanced filters to look into the decks that include Walk the Aeons, 67% of them include Time Stretch, and 31% include Temporal Manipulation. While this last card isn't on the same level of extra turns, I would actually recommend including it as it gives you a win-condition and a powerful soft-lock piece. Dovescape counters any noncreature spell that a player attempts to cast, and in return, it gives that players birds. However, Taigam turns this into pure advantage. While Dovescape will still counter any of our artifacts, enchantments, or planeswalkers, all of our instants and sorceries will resolve uncountered thanks to Taigam and then come with a care package of birds. That is it for this week! I hope I have given you a glimpse into why Taigam, Ojutai Master should be respected, and I hope he gets the attention he deserves.
Ojutai and the Way of the Fist
Thanks for joining me in the Underdog's Corner!