I am a big fan of flexibility in Commander. Being stuck with a narrow answer while fighting off a control deck, a creature recursion deck, and a sacrifice deck is a sure path to losing the game. That's why a lot of old removal spells irk me (“destroy target nonblack, nonartifact creature”) but that's a whole different rant. So, when I make a deck I usually try to make sure that my answers are as flexible as possible.
That brings me to Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder. Cascade is one of my favorite mechanics from Magic's history. I love both the value as well as the chaotic aspect of the mechanic. As such, the Minus White precon grabbed my interest pretty much immediately.
But as I was thinking about it, I realized there were some significant downsides to Yidris's ability. Barring a control-the-top-of-your-library theme (which totally goes against the spirit of the Chaos precon), the deck doesn't want you to play many reactive spells. No counters unless you want to run the risk of whiffing.
You know what rarely whiffs? Spells with modes. Each Charm has three; Commands have four. Regardless of the game state, each one of those cards likely has a use.
This all led to my desire to make a Yidris deck with a theme of “mode” cards. I want as many modes as possible, but I do want quality control. Also, I want to embrace the chaos and run zero cards that manipulate the top of my library. I want to be as shocked as everybody else when I cascade into something awesome.
“Chaos la Mode”
Toil / Trouble
Flesh / Blood
The charms and commands are modular as I mentioned earlier. Cascading into the Rakdos Charm, for instance, can help hurt the token player, get rid of an annoying artifact, or hose the graveyard recursion player. In my playgroups, at least one of those modes will be relevant nearly all the time.
Creatures were a bit hard to fit into the modular theme. I went with a lot of Clones because their ability packs a bevy of options into one package. Do I want to copy somebody's Terastrodon and blow up three targets? Maybe I just want to copy somebody's Coiling Oracle for some value? Clones aside, I also went to the Guildmages and Battlemages for some extra versatility. As a point of nostalgia, Thunderscape Battlemage was one of the first Magic cards I ever received. I remember looking at that artwork a lot during my childhood because of how menacing the titular creature was. I'm happy to try rocking it in Commander.
Here's the thing. I love the theme I came up with and a lot of my card choices, but I think that love is blinding me. I feel like aside from commander damage, this deck doesn't have a for-sure win-con. And if this was a Voltron deck, that'd be fine, but I don't think it goes down that path far enough to be considered a Voltron deck. Definitely not an effective one. So my big ask with this submission is whether or not you can increase the power level of the deck without scaling back on the theme too much. A very flexible Voltron deck sounds spicy to me, but I must have missed some critical elements.
Also, this is the first four-color deck I've made and I am concerned about the color intensity of the spells. Should I adjust this deck to be more Temur with a black splash? Or maybe Jund with a blue splash? Whatever helps me cast the spells and hones the deck's focus.
Oh! I almost forgot, my budget is an even $100 (including store credit). I've been drooling to create a cascade deck for a while, and I want it to be the best it can be (within reason).
Picking the best 100 cards when everything has one mode is hard enough; building around a theme of multi-mode chaos is even more complicated than that. Building a Cascade deck is hard, since you must pay attention to both making sure that things will always be useful when they turn up on the stack and managing your casting costs while you're at it... so this is an elegant solution to the utility problem, as “add more utility to each card” is a solid plan that will regularly bear fruit.
Sure, Simic Charm isn't ever going to be the perfect card, but it will always do something relevant to your interests. Most of the streamlining the deck needs is actually to its manabase, and half of that $100 budget is going to go to just one card – you're concerned that the deck might have a hard time winning outside of Commander damage, but the best way to do that is to just gain more card advantage and grind harder against your opponents so we might as well pursue the obvious route when it's available to us.
Let's start with the mana. You have some pretty color-intense mana costs, with double colors in all four colors, but you are constrained by price in an uncomfortable way – this would flow easily as a fetch/dual manabase without any concerns, but we have to get somewhere close to that same level of consistency while on a budget. I'll cut the weaker multicolor lands in favor of some stronger ones, and we'll also shave a few basics in order to get nonbasics with greater utility while maintaining the same color balance. We also have to pay attention to how many lands are entering the battlefield tapped or simply do not contribute to casting our commander quickly; Yidris needs to come down quickly and successfully connect with an opponent before we're in the happy cascade zone, so we can't really afford to stumble on our colors.
First we have the light substitutions:
Getting a bit more card advantage is key to grinding out a longer game, so getting a few extra spells out of our manabase is going to be very welcome whenever we can do so. Your color combination has access to the two best hideaway lands, so we might as well put them to work! Tolaria West can find a copy of any utility land and Bojuka Bog keeps opposing graveyards nicely pruned, potentially letting you pick other modes off of the various Charms that are otherwise going to play the part of the Fun Police whenever they come up via Cascade. Shizo, Death's Storehouse can potentially help Yidris attack unblocked and does so at an attractively low cost, so it gets the nod as clearly better than a basic Swamp even though the price tag has gotten a little hefty lately.
Since we just added four lands that enter the battlefield tapped, I now want to remove four:
Your deck's favorite lands to draw in an opening hand are undoubtedly going to be the Command Tower and four Shards/Khans tri-lands, so I wanted to find a few more of those. One of them is expensive, but the other three are available at very low cost and the last two have the benefit of potentially being able to re-use any of the hideaway lands or that Bojuka Bog we just added, so the "downside" may actually turn into a free card later in the game.
We don't often see the Planeshift Lairs come up, but they're all super-cheap as budget options go and they tap for three different colors of mana while entering the battlefield untapped. I don't think the bounce-a-land drawback is that big of a deal in small doses, since you can plan your land sequences around it and this is not a deck that aims to ramp and end up with lots of lands on the battlefield. The slight stumble will often go unnoticed or even be capitalized into a second chance at a hideaway trigger.
We have another group of cheap budget lands available to us still just begging to be used, and I don't like the Terminal Moraine / Panorama-style lands unless we're maximizing landfall triggers or using Crucible of Worlds and Life from the Loam as part of our plan. They can all technically fix your colors so you can deploy all of your spells, but they do so at the cost of a full early turn of the game and do not contribute to casting your Commander in a timely fashion. So we'll cut these four as well:
In their place, we get three more cheap two-color lands and another utility land to help Yidris connect in the later stages of the game...
The bad news is, we've already spent $30 of that $100 budget; the worse news is, to really do what I want, I need to expand that budget to $120. There's one addition that just makes such obvious sense that I cannot exclude it despite its lofty price tag, though there is some hope that it may be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017 and drop in price considerably. It may make some sense for you to hold off for a few months as you ponder spending that much on just one card for this deck, so as I try to justify the price tag to myself, I'm working off the operating assumption that you may either a) already have a copy in your Commander box or for Constructed purposes, or b) be willing to wait a few months and see if a reprint makes it more affordable. Telling you to add it to your deck now and then watching the price collapse after you sank $50 into it is the worst feel-bad possible, so take these plans all with at least one grain of salt.
Moving on to the artifacts, I'm going to cut most of your mana rocks and only add one card back in. I want a few more spell slots to get this deck's balance just right, and I also want to minimize the number of bad cascades that are possible. Going to all of that work to connect with Yidris and then having your two big spells turn up Fellwar Stone and Wayfarer's Bauble feels downright counterproductive, so I'm cutting any mana rock that costs two or less and then also cutting the worst of the threes:
Our one addition isn't an obvious one – but since you're so Clone-happy and looking to maximize the valuable enters-the-battlefield triggers said Clones generate, I figured we'd go a little bit further by letting you cheaply reuse them.
Sometimes the small cards will do the most work. We need to have a spell in our hand to cascade with in order for Yidris's damage trigger to be profitable. We will often find we want our Clones to copy a creature for its enters-the-battlefield trigger but not necessarily want to stay that creature forever, and without much in the way of countermagic to lean on, we'll be happy to have a way to "counter" removal by bouncing a creature to save it. All of these little advantages add up to a sum that is larger than the seemingly small package, and it can also play politics fairly well – you can offer to save an opponent's creature for them in order to earn a short-term ally or eventual favor, or potentially use it to punish anyone who taps out for a big spell.
Moving on to the spell section, we've got two slots free and I plan to liberate another from the creature section, so we'll add three cards total in addition to any substitutions we may make here. Let's add the first card now, since I've already alluded to it and you can probably guess what it is already:
The secret to a good cascade deck is to have some knowledge of what will happen if you do X. Back in Shards of Alara Block, and to a lesser degree that same block's time in Standard, cascade-heavy control decks were built around knowing that, however the chain ended, there would be two cards' worth of advantage gained at the end. Whether it was Blightning or Esper Charm mattered, of course, as one dealt three damage while the other could give you +2 cards instead of giving the opponent -2 cards... but the end of the sequence always wound up with the same advantage. In this deck, we largely expect whatever sequences we start off with to end in Charms, as that is the bulk of this deck's two-mana cards... but what if we're starting the sequence with a two-mana Charm rather than ending it?
Right now, that would get you a Disciple or a Wayfarer's Bauble... and that is not very impressive at all for something we know will just regularly come up. Cut the one-drops and add Ancestral Vision, however, and any spare Charms or other two-drops you may have in your hand after connecting with Yidris actually include “draw three cards” in alongside whatever mode you choose for them.
Cascading already provides us with card advantage, but cascading harder and getting a definite +3 cards for our effort is well worth the slot here. That slot comes at a very high price, but I accept that, even though it forces us to blow past your budget target.
I have five cards I want to cut because I don't think they're pulling their weight:
Brutal Expulsion just doesn't do enough to warrant the slot; yes, it does something besides be a Counterspell when you cascade into it, but that something is rather small and as a Counterspell it isn't much of one either. Palace Siege is "just" an Oversold Cemetery variant, while Ana Sanctuary is supposed to help buff Yidris and get through for damage... but I don't think it's helping. You'd probably do better with an Equipment card for that function and I don't think it's necessary so I would rather just save the slot for something more interesting.
Gruul Charm has one mode I think is worthwhile – “deal three damage to each creature with flying” – and two modes I think will barely ever come up. Atarka's Command barely does anything I'm interested in at all; the fact that it can deal an awful lot of damage for its mana cost is much more relevant in formats where opponents start at 20 life than at 40.
I have another seven cards to add back in, so let's start with swapping your two weird enchantments for my two weird enchantments...
Ana Sanctuary "just" pumped your Commander; Ceta Sanctuary is actually a great little card-advantage machine if you can keep it fully active, providing a free card each turn and a free loot while we're at it. Card advantage is key, so I wanted more permanents that would stay on the table when we cascade into them and give us more resources to work with, and we're going to see our two-drops fairly frequently thanks to this deck's focus. The second one is a bit weirder, it's true, but I got the feeling from your use of Living Lore that we could embrace the weirdness rather than try to control the top of your deck and know the outcome of the future. The deck has a focus on both instants and sorceries, so we'll have both a lot of targets and plenty of things to initiate the trigger.
Spellweaver Volute can pick whatever instant you'd most like to gain access to the next time a sorcery comes up, and you can pick with some reasonable foreknowledge that a sorcery is either likely to start off the cascade chain or may very well come up within a few cascades, so if you need another graveyard-exiling effect or removal spell or what-have-you, then you can plan around that and improve your chances. You're not opposed to planning or shifting the odds; you just want to Embrace the Chaos while you're flipping through the top of your deck to see what you get, and this is more of a “yes, and...” than a “well, actually...”.
We'll also add one non-weird enchantment, in that it doesn't make a lot of sense to add Ceta Sanctuary but not, say, Phyrexian Arena. I just want to keep the card-flow coming, so we'll add the Arena too – I prefer “draw a card” to “cast Raise Dead,” especially since so very many of your creatures are Clones that are only valuable in the right context.
A good chunk of the rest of your budget goes here:
This is obviously the card Brutal Expulsion is meant to be; it's a little bit rough on the mana cost, but I'm confident it'll work out at least in the middle stages of the game, and it is always a powerful cascade, even if it's not wanted as a counterspell at the time. You had the other three Commands in here so I know you were at least already thinking about it, and as it's the best of the Commands available to you, I'm going to put a solid chunk of your budget constraints towards getting it.
Between $30 in lands, about $50 for Ancestral Vision, and about $20 for Cryptic Command, we're out of budget... but I managed to handle literally everything else for twenty dollars or less, so as not to blow too far past that budget. While I can't say with certainty that Ancestral Vision will be worth its price just as a card to own for future Commander decks, I definitely can say the same about Cryptic Command here – its price before the Modern Masters reprint was considerably higher, and it's a card you'll regularly be happy to add to future Commander decks once you've bought it.
We're out of Charms or Commands I felt were worth including, since basically you started with them all already... but there are a few split cards I think will fit the deck pretty well. Flesh // Blood and Toil // Trouble are doing fun things here, especially since you can cascade into Blood and decide to cast Flesh instead if you want to, and there are two more I think would have a good home here:
While you probably won't get Down very often, Dirty is just straight-up Regrowth, giving you a second chance at exactly the right Charm or Command you need the most right now. I would likewise be quite surprised if you were ever caught Breaking anything, but cascading into the two-drop Breaking allows you to cast the six-drop Entering just fine. There's both spice and variety to them, so I think they'll make fine additions to the deck that help keep things interesting while remaining powerful.
Speaking of powerful, we have one spell slot left and it's a doozy.
I wanted some more card advantage in this deck, and this is a whole heck of a lot of card advantage. But mostly I wanted something that would make your Living Lore an absolute powerhouse; people tend to look at that creature and say “Is that even any good?” and it's pretty obviously good when its job is Cruel Ultimatum recursion. We don't actually have very much at the top end of this deck, and Cruel Ultimatum is a pretty amazing top-end.
Moving on to the creature spells, I have to make one straight-up cut in order to make room for that last extra spell we added... but it was Cruel Ultimatum, so I'm sure it'll have been worth it. I have a few cuts I obviously need to make in order to ensure a two-drop always Cascades into Ancestral Vision, and a few cards don't seem to be pulling enough weight to keep them around, so they'll go up on the chopping block too.
There just isn't enough card to these cards, and we actively want zero one-drops.
I see these two as our worst Clones, especially since you never get the opportunity to pay X off of cascade... and our two weakest card-advantage options. We have six slots to fill back in, so I'll start by adding the better Clones we're slotting in to replace the two I've just cut here:
Back in my day, Vesuvan Doppelganger was the best Clone you could hope to cast... because the only other Clone was literally Clone, so this looked pretty sweet by comparison. I'm reasonably assuming that your plan of cascading into Clones to get the best effects was generally going to focus on sweet enters-the-battlefield triggers, and both the Vesuvan-flavored Clone cards can do exactly that and still turn themselves into the actual best creatures on the table to fight with turn after turn.
I wanted yet more card advantage in some of these slots, and having just added Down // Dirty, it should come as little surprise to see this make the cut:
Eternal Witness is just as Dirty, but with a two-power body attached and the option to recur it with Clones and Erratic Portals as we see fit. Duskwatch Recruiter makes the cut for much the same reason as Ana Sanctuary did – we'll see our cheap drops make their way onto the table far more often than usual in a deck like this, so cheap and reliable card-advantage effects are going to pull a lot of weight if we include them. We're actively aiming to not have the Werewolf side's cost-reducing effect, since we're regularly cascading turn after turn, but we're creature-heavy enough that the front side's ability will give us a valuable mana sink.
Our next addition seems like an odd fit but was selected because you're already playing one of my very favorite creatures in the format, Scourge of Kher Ridges:
We've actively avoided adding any battlefield wipes to this deck because our side of the battlefield is very valuable to us, relying instead on card advantages, Clones, and a hodgepodge of Charm / Command effects to keep things manageable. Some people try very hard to make the battlefield unmanageable, and most of those people aim to do so by abusing token generators to grow swarms that can't be answered except by battlefield wipes.
Thankfully, token creature armies tend to be small – at least at the start of things – so Thrashing Wumpus can play clean-up duty alongside the removal effects of Jund Charm and Golgari Charm. The Wumpus can also do so turn after turn, or go beyond their size capabilities if you really need to try and wipe the battlefield and have enough black mana to spare – or go to work on players or planeswalkers, depending on what your actual problem is. The Wumpus has done a whole lot of good work for me in this format, and I think it'll do great work here.
We're not ever going to cascade into this, so it's being added for much the same reason as Cruel Ultimatum – you were worried about closing the game out, so I wanted to reach for a powerful card advantage card that can quickly overwhelm an opponent and end things. Casting the best spells out of three different opponents' graveyards is an insanely powerful trigger, and that's before you start copying or re-buying the Primordial to multiply that effect. It's totally a fair card but it also hits that "chaos" sweet spot for you since it will do different things every time, and the power level should help finish things out if you're having trouble later on in the game.
Putting it all together, we get the following:
- 1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Ana Battlemage
- 1 Body Double
- 1 Clever Impersonator
- 1 Diluvian Primordial
- 1 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Evil Twin
- 1 Gigantoplasm
- 1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
- 1 Living Lore
- 1 Mercurial Pretender
- 1 Nightscape Battlemage
- 1 Nivix Guildmage
- 1 Quicksilver Gargantuan
- 1 Scourge of Kher Ridges
- 1 Stunt Double
- 1 Thrashing Wumpus
- 1 Thunderscape Battlemage
- 1 Vesuvan Doppelganger
- 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- 1 Maelstrom Wanderer
- 1 Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
- 1 Riku of Two Reflections
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 3 Forest
- 3 Island
- 3 Mountain
- 2 Swamp
- 1 Ash Barrens
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Crosis's Catacombs
- 1 Crumbling Necropolis
- 1 Darigaaz's Caldera
- 1 Darkwater Catacombs
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Frontier Bivouac
- 1 Mossfire Valley
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Opulent Palace
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Savage Lands
- 1 Shadowblood Ridge
- 1 Spinerock Knoll
- 1 Temple of Abandon
- 1 Temple of Deceit
- 1 Temple of Epiphany
- 1 Temple of Malady
- 1 Temple of Malice
- 1 Temple of Mystery
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Tolaria West
- 1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Cultivator's Caravan
- 1 Erratic Portal
- 1 Ceta Sanctuary
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Spellweaver Volute
- 1 Crosis's Charm
- 1 Cryptic Command
- 1 Darigaaz's Charm
- 1 Dimir Charm
- 1 Golgari Charm
- 1 Grixis Charm
- 1 Izzet Charm
- 1 Jund Charm
- 1 Kolaghan's Command
- 1 Mystic Confluence
- 1 Rakdos Charm
- 1 Silumgar's Command
- 1 Simic Charm
- 1 Sultai Charm
- 1 Temur Charm
- 1 Wretched Confluence
- 1 Ancestral Vision
- 1 Breaking
- 1 Cruel Ultimatum
- 1 Down
- 1 Fiery Confluence
- 1 Flesh
- 1 Incendiary Command
- 1 Primal Command
- 1 Profane Command
- 1 Toil
- 1 Treasure Cruise
- 1 Verdant Confluence
As always, for participating in this week's edition of Dear Azami you will receive a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com® Online Store; you'd given me a budget of $100 to work with and that included the coupon, so I can't pretend I didn't just blow past your budget by waving my hands at the end and saying “we hit $100 after I give you that $20 coupon.” But I can say that I think it was well worth doing so because Ancestral Vision will add a lot of power to the deck, with the caveats that you can probably test that theory out before putting a $50 investment into one card and can probably wait six months and benefit from a Modern Masters 2017 reprint before having to do so anyway. Those are pretty milquetoast excuses, but the best way to close the game out with this deck is going to be burying your opponents in card advantage – which is what the Ancestral Vision here is designed to do.
Breaking down the card prices individually, most were downright cheap and affordable... just not all.
This is definitely a different direction than I would have taken Yidris, but that different direction is also what caught my eye – I think the Charms and Commands give the deck a lot of flavor in addition to a lot of utility, and I have never quite seen "flexibility" pursued as a theme in quite this way before. This build is all about both more cards and more options, so I expect it'll probably be a hard deck to play right... but if you're happy spinning the Wheel of Fish and seeing what comes up, I won't be the one to tell you that your way of being happy is wrong. I'm a bit Spike-y in how I go about things, but that doesn't necessarily stop a Spike from improving a Vorthos deck so Vorthos can have very effective fun.
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like Eric's Ishtai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker & Kraum, Ludevic's Opus deck or Jack's Saskia the Unyielding deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com®!
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