I am Sram
Sram I am
Do you like
My Aether Hub plans?
— Sram, Senior Edificer
I do not like them,
I do not like
Your Aether Hub plans.
It's that most excellent time of year once again, where Magic players the world over get previews of the latest Magic set. Aether Revolt preview season is in full swing, and I imagine most of us are quite excited at what we've seen so far. For Commander fans, we pay close attention to the legendary creatures that get previewed, and the ones I've seen so far look really sweet.
Especially this fine fellow!
It looks like Aether Revolt is going to give another handful of solid-to-amazing Dwarf cards to add to the tribe's woefully small population, and this legendary one is eye-popping! In the right deck he's going to be a powerhouse, and since Sram is a legendary creature, we can build our deck chock-full of cards that play right into his carefully calculated plans…which are basically 1) cast a certain kind of spell and 2) draw a card. Note that the card doesn't have to resolve to get the trigger—even if your opponent counters it, you still get to draw a card. We all like to draw cards, right? Sram provides us the mechanism that keeps the Magic machinery turning.
By the way, if you haven't read Revolution Begins over on the Wizards of the Coast website, make sure to check it out. Sram makes a quite colorful appearance in the story!
If we think about what a Sram, Senior Edificer deck might look like, we can see that he's really got quite a few different modes. He could be a great Commander for:
- A deck focused on Auras
- A deck focused on Equipment
- A deck focused on Vehicles
- A deck focused on Auras and Equipment
- A deck focused on Auras and Vehicles
- A deck focused on Equipment and Vehicles
- A deck focused on Auras, Equipment, and Vehicles
That makes seven different deck approaches we could build from just the one Commander card. Sure, there will be some overlap, but depending on the choice, each style will play differently. I think that's pretty amazing from one two-mana legendary creature!
What's fascinating here is the word that sticks out like a sore thumb. Equipment are artifacts. Vehicles are artifacts. Auras are… not artifacts. They're enchantments. Playing nicely with Equipment and Vehicles makes sense in the artifact-friendly world of Kaladesh. So where do Auras fit in?
I have a theory. Sram is an engineer, and given his abilities, he's one of the best. His creations basically cost none of a precious Magic resource: cards. If Sram is so masterful at churning out Equipment and Vehicles, he must know just about everything there is to know about them. And if you think about it, Equipment and Vehicles are descended conceptually from Auras.
From the very beginning of the game, Auras were meant to accentuate the power of creatures and other permanents. However, it didn't take long for most players to realize Auras had a horrible, horrible weakness—they set up opportunities for terrible loss in tempo and card advantage by investing two or more cards into a battlefield presence that can be handled by a single well-timed removal spell. Over the years Wizards R&D has come up with creative ways to address that weakness, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but when Equipment came along, players quickly latched onto that card subtype as a better way to boost their creatures. Yes, you could lose some tempo from the paying of the equip cost, but you were not usually going to lose Equipment when you lost the creature. The new Vehicle subtype is a flavorful spin on Equipment, needing creatures (for the most part) to be useful.
For my first stab at a Sram, Senior Edificer deck, I think I'm going with the first choice: a deck focused on Auras. There aren't too many legendary creatures around that let you build a deck heavily focused on Auras. There's Hakim, Loreweaver, but let's face it—he's a bit of a wimp.
There are Uril, the Miststalker and Bruna, Light of Alabaster, but both of them are mostly Voltron-style decks that want you to boost the Legend itself. Sram is much more egalitarian—it doesn't matter what creature you're targeting with Auras, he'll give you cards for it. Which means, when it comes to removal spells, your opponents are going to have hard choices to make—get rid of the legendary creature that's letting you draw cards (and that you'll be able to recast quite often, given his mana cost), or get rid of the potent creature that's getting all the Aura boosts. I like that an Aura deck built around Sram can be much more aggressive and wide without running out of gas too quickly.
Okay, let's see what we can pull together.
Umbras and Bestow
Umbras and the bestow mechanic are some of the most successful attempts to address the card disadvantage problem with Auras, so I'd like to include some of them here. The Umbras are nice because they help keep our enchanted targets around, and the bestow creatures can serve double duty as Auras when we've got a creature to enchant or a creature when we don't. I chose these specifically for their usefulness in a typical Commander game, such as vigilance, lifelink, and being able to tap down blockers.
I've rarely felt the urge to play heroic creatures in Commander until Sram came along, but they play perfectly in our plan to be aggressive and wide. Turn 1 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, turn 2 Phalanx Leader, turn 3 Sram, Senior Edificer plus Gryff's Boon on Phalanx Leader feels like a pretty good way to start the game. Fabled Hero's double strike turns it into a fierce battlefield presence quickly. It's nice that Tethmos High Priest can help bring your cheaper creatures back from the graveyard to keep up the pressure. At the top of the heroic curve, Dawnbringer Charioteers brings evasion and lifelink to the table.
I also wanted to add Grand Abolisher to the lineup, since it makes it difficult for your opponents to stop you from getting at least one use out of your Auras when you cast them. Bastion Protector lives up to its name for Sram, often forcing opponents to deal with the Protector first before dealing with your Commander.
I purposely steered clear of several tutor cards that search up specific Auras or Enchantments. My reasoning is that Sram is going to keep the juice flowing on cards anyway, so why spend time and mana searching for specific ones when you're likely to have a fistful of options at every point in the game? Plus, forcing everyone to wait while you sift through your deck isn't the most pleasant thing to do. But I made an exception for Auratouched Mage and Boonweaver Giant because they are late-game cards, and for that mana and that point in the game, you may need to search up a particular haymaker Aura to finish things out – or at the least get your pound of flesh in revenge for all your deceased comrades.
The Good Stuff
In addition to Umbras and bestow creatures, there are some other really good Auras printed when we comb through Magic's history. The ones that bounce back to your hand when put into the graveyard from the battlefield are particularly awesome: Brilliant Halo, Spirit Loop, and Angelic Destiny. Shielded by Faith and Indestructibility provide some protection from removal. Spirit Mantle makes the ultimate attacker or blocker.
Flickering Ward is a useful tool against particular colored threats; note that Flickering Ward has errata that prevents Flickering Ward from causing itself to fall off the enchanted creature, by calling white, for instance. Also note that the errata doesn't prevent Flickering Ward on white from causing all your other Auras from falling off. So, in general, don't call white with Flickering Ward. Mostly though, you'll be using Flickering Ward to play and replay repeatedly for each pair of white mana you have lying around to get extra triggers from heroic, Kor Spiritdancer, or Mesa Enchantress.
While I've kept the mana curve really low in this deck, since I'm including Auratouched Mage and Boonweaver Giant, I wanted to include a couple of haymaker enchantments. Eldrazi Conscription and Celestial Mantle fit the bill.
White certainly has no lack of removal options, and I have some of the usual suspects here – Swords to Plowshares and Return to Dust, for example. But I've leaned more heavily on the many white Aura and Enchantment removal spells to better play with the themes of the decks. Even though Seal of Cleansing and Aura of Silence won't trigger Sram, they play nicely with some of the “enchantments matter” cards. Rather than Wrath of God, I decided to go with Austere Command instead, since I can customize the modes to break the symmetry quite well—I have very few artifacts in the deck and most of my creatures are much lower on the mana curve.
Pariah is a cool card that can function as pseudo-removal when you slap it on an opposing creature. You can also of course put it on something that's indestructible to make your life total indestructible. If you've never tried it, I can attest that is quite fun.
With so many Auras and enchantments, I wanted to take advantage of the cards that care about that sort of thing. Sigarda's Aid has done some really good work with Equipment, but giving your Auras flash is pretty sweet as well – especially with Flickering Ward! Daybreak Coronet is a powerhouse Aura so long as the creature has at least one other Aura on it, and I don't think that'll be an issue in this deck.
Flickerform is a nice way to dodge something you'd otherwise have problems with like Swords to Plowshares or Hallowed Burial. Most of the time, you'll get your enchanted creature back with all the Auras, but there is one exception.
From the rulings on Flickerform:
“If the enchanted creature was enchanted by any Auras with bestow or any Licids, those cards will return to the battlefield unattached as creatures.”
So if you activate Flickerform on a creature and it is enchanted with bestow creatures, when the creature and Auras come back, the bestow creatures will come back as standalone creatures and no longer be enchanting the creature. This might even be a good thing; depending on the battlefield state, you may have wanted to go wide.
Replenish and Retether can set up some interesting corner cases depending on the battlefield state. If there are some of the “removal” Auras in the graveyard when you cast these spells, you can actually attach them to creatures with hexproof or shroud!
From the Comprehensive Rules on Auras:
303.4f If an Aura is entering the battlefield under a player's control by any means other than by resolving as an Aura spell, and the effect putting it onto the battlefield doesn't specify the object or player the Aura will enchant, that player chooses what it will enchant as the Aura enters the battlefield. The player must choose a legal object or player according to the Aura's enchant ability and any other applicable effects.
Choosing a legal target isn't the same as targeting it, and hexproof and shroud only prevent targeting. Imagine the sweet, sweet justice of being able to slap Prison Term on an opponent's Uril, the Mistalker!
Keep in mind that all Auras will be entering the battlefield at the same time, so restrictions on what can be enchanted won't count any of the returning Auras – for example, you can't slap Daybreak Coronet onto a creature with Retether or Replenish if it doesn't already have another Aura on it. If not, Coronet would stay in the graveyard per this rule:
303.4g If an Aura is entering the battlefield and there is no legal object or player for it to enchant, the Aura remains in its current zone, unless that zone is the stack. In that case, the Aura is put into its owner's graveyard instead of entering the battlefield.
Sigil of the Empty Throne is a great way to generate additional bodies to boost with Auras. Note that you have to actually cast the Aura to get the trigger and not put it onto the battlefield some other way – playing Gryff's Boon from the graveyard will not give you an Angel. However, we can go nuts with Flickering Ward to bring out an armada of flying 4/4s while drawing cards off Sram!
Looks like a blast, doesn't it? Sure, the games might be short, quick and brutal, but that just means you have time for more games of Commander! Here's what the total list looks like:
- 1 Akroan Skyguard
- 1 Auramancer
- 1 Auratog
- 1 Auratouched Mage
- 1 Bastion Protector
- 1 Boonweaver Giant
- 1 Dawnbringer Charioteers
- 1 Fabled Hero
- 1 Favored Hoplite
- 1 Grand Abolisher
- 1 Hero Of Iroas
- 1 Kitsune Mystic
- 1 Kor Spiritdancer
- 1 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Nomad Mythmaker
- 1 Phalanx Leader
- 1 Tethmos High Priest
- 1 Umbra Mystic
- 1 Vanguard of Brimaz
- 1 Celestial Archon
- 1 Heliod's Emissary
- 1 Hopeful Eidolon
- 1 Observant Alseid
- 1 Crystal Chimes
- 1 Angelic Destiny
- 1 Arrest
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Brilliant Halo
- 1 Captured by the Consulate
- 1 Celestial Mantle
- 1 Cessation
- 1 Darksteel Mutation
- 1 Daybreak Coronet
- 1 Eland Umbra
- 1 Empyrial Armor
- 1 Ethereal Armor
- 1 Faith's Fetters
- 1 Felidar Umbra
- 1 Flickerform
- 1 Flickering Ward
- 1 Gryff's Boon
- 1 Hyena Umbra
- 1 Indestructibility
- 1 Mammoth Umbra
- 1 Pariah
- 1 Prison Term
- 1 Seal of Cleansing
- 1 Shielded by Faith
- 1 Sigarda's Aid
- 1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
- 1 Spectra Ward
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Spirit Loop
- 1 Spirit Mantle
- 1 Starfield of Nyx
- 1 Stasis Cocoon
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Austere Command
- 1 Replenish
- 1 Retether
- 1 Eldrazi Conscription
Let me know if you have any questions about card choices I didn't specifically address in the column. I'm curious to hear how you would build an Aura-heavy Sram deck differently. Did I overlook something big? Do I have too much faith in Sram being on the battlefield early and often? What other legendary creatures from Aether Revolt are you excited to build Commander decks around?
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):