The Winter Domain (Ojutai primer, pt. 2)

This is the card-by-card analysis of the string of posts I want to dedicate to this deck, although I will be brief and probably bunch cards together as needed, since some of the cards are essentially the same cards, and some exist in the deck for the exact same reason.

The lands:
I won’t go over the dual lands, since they are quite obvious. The notable omissions from the duals are Port Town, Nimbus Maze, Seachrome Coast, and Irrigated Farmland. There aren’t any notable reasons for any of these omissions, other than the fact that I don’t own these particular lands and haven’t gotten around to get them. None of them are strictly better than the duals I have in the deck anyway.

The basics are numerous in the deck, allowed by the two-colour nature of it. I use the Ojutai basic lands from Dragons of Tarkir in order to tie it all together nicely. They look pretty sweet.

It should be noted that the deck doesn’t outright need the expensive lands like the fetchlands, Tundra, and so on, but those are cards I actually do happen to have, so I’ve included them. The deck can be built much cheaper, and worrying about the manabase in a two-colour deck is overdoing it for most of the time, in my opinion. With that said, let’s have a look at some of the special lands in the deck.

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge – This is perhaps the most important land card in my deck, which is a shame since it’s getting up there in terms of price. It adds pseudo-vigilance to the Commander, which is very important, and it’s also a school, so it ties into the Commander himself flavourfully as well. It’s the land I most often get with Expedition Map.

Calciform Pools – I think that these storage lands are underplayed in the format, and I quite like them in control decks. I want to pass the turn with mana up most of the time anyway and if the lap goes around the table without me spending all of it, I might as well put a counter on this thing, to cast some of the big spells in the deck like the Draw X-cards.

Celestial Colonnade, Mishra’s Factory, Mutavault – I didn’t realize how expensive Celestial Colonnade had gotten, but the other two are at least not outrageously expensive. I think all three merit inclusion in the deck, due to three reasons: 1. They can carry the equipment in the deck in a pinch. 2. They work well as Planeswalker assassins. 3. Most importantly: they protect Ojutai from Edict effects.

The Ramp:
Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Sol Ring – All of these are awesome, since they produce more mana than they cost. Sol Ring is by far the best of the three, though. Mana Crypt is a bit risky in this kind of deck – since part of the gameplan is to play a long game, the damage really adds up. Thus, I usually don’t play it until the turn I need the extra two mana. Mana Vault allows for a turn 2 commander if I really want to paint a bull’s eye on myself, but is most often used for the large Draw X-spells.

Azorius SignetTalisman of Progress, Thought Vessel, Thran Dynamo – These serve similar purposes, though not the exact kind of purpose. The signet and the talsiman both ramp and fix my mana, both are great. I think the talismans are desperately underplayed in the format, actually, at least all the non-green one should warrant inclusion in any deck they’re allowed in. Thought Vessel is a good rock with a neat upside for the later parts of the game, and Thran Dynamo is my single high-end ramp, used solely to  cast huge spells.

Land Tax, Expedition Map, Wayfarer’s Bauble – Out of these three, only Wayfarer’s Bauble ramps technically, but the other two can be used to fix the mana by getting me whichever basic I need. Expedition Map comes with the obvious upside of getting any land, which includes all of the utility lands I discussed above. Land Tax is great, and combos with Scroll Rack, which is also in the deck.

In total, I run ten mana ramp or fixers, and 38 lands. This is usually more than enough, but it’s always best to stay cautious; I want to be able to make land drops every turn for the first five-six turns easily, and I have the spells to make use of all of my lands at all stages of the game.

In the third and final part of this analysis, I will discuss the cards I cast with the cards I listed above! Until next time!



The Problem with Pentagram

On Friday, I managed to get away from home for a couple of games of EDH with the gang. I unfortunately arrived in the middle of a game, but as one of the pilots left to do a pizza run, I got to take over and actually win the game that was in progress, through crazy shenanigans featuring a Mind’s Dilation and Clever Impersonator copying said Mind’s Dilation, and also casting someone else’s Rise of the Dark Realms twice. After the game finished, since we were five, we decided to play pentagram (or pentagon, for the less-satanicly inclined crowd). For those who might not’ve played it, it’s fairly simple: you sit around the table an imagine that you’re sitting in the pentagon-shape from the back of a Magic card. You win when the players opposite to you are eliminated, so if you’re sitting in the “green” position for example, you’re looking to kill the “blue” and the “black” players to win. In the format’s purest form, you all play with mono-coloured decks of the proper colour, but we play with whatever and randomize the seats. In essence, this is a faster way to play a five-man game, since only two player need to die in order to finish most games (sometimes three has to go), instead of four. It also leads to interesting situations around the table which doesn’t come up in regular free-for-all.

The dice were rolled, and the seats ended up like this, from my position:

White: Myself – Kess, Dissident Mage (decklist)
Blue: Grim Lavamancer – my Reyhan/Tana deck (decklist)
Black: “J” – Thraximundar good-stuff
Red: “M” – Ikra Shidiqi/Ishai tokens
Green: psykopatmullvad – Queen Marchesa ETB-abuse

(Yes, I re-built Mairsil into Kess. The deck went through more changes than I can count).

“Do you know what happens to a dragonspeaker when it’s struck by lightning?”

With this starting position, I partnered up with both the other contributors to this blog and I had to kill J and M to win the day. Luckily, J stumbled on mana early (especially blue mana) and was having a hard time getting into the game. He must’ve kept a pretty greedy hand, because he played a morph on turn three but then didn’t do much but equip a pair of Lighting Greaves onto them. I was having a pretty good start with a stacked hand of stuff ready to help either ally to deal damage, but not doing much myself. This almost went terribly awry early in the game when Grim Lavamancer cast Reyhan and elected to attack psykopatmullvad. Having your allies fighting each other in this format is never a good sign, but after some harsh words were thrown around, Grim Lavamancer elected to focus on “Project M” as we dubbed it.

Meanwhile, psykopatmullvad became monarch and I was happy with assisting Grim Lavamancer with clearing a path for him to attack into M, and since I didn’t threaten J particularly, Grim Lavamancer was free to focus all his attention on M. Like the red-green pro he is, he manages to topdeck Xenagod after a few turns, and all creatures he cast from then were huge threats. I managed to prove my conviction to Project M by not casting a Fact or Fiction at the end of psykopatmullvad’s turn, instead deciding to take my turn and Chain Lightning Ishai who became a 3/3 thanks to my spell, meaning she’d be too big to kill had I cast my Fact or Fiction as well.

As M was down to about a dozen life, J drew his first blue source, a Sunken Ruins, and could begin casting spells to disrupt Project M or the game in general. I had a Wasteland in play and had vocally debated using it to cut him off of black even earlier, but decided not to since it drew disapproving comments from both psykopatmullvad and Grim Lavamancer. A turn or so later, J managed to offend Grim Lavamancer by trying to save his other ally from death – and I was free to use my Wasteland and not draw any flak from Grim Lavamancer. Psykopatmullvad thought it was a douche move, and I completely agree, and I also hate getting Wasted or Stripped out of a colour. J took it like a champ, though.

Project M was successful right around the time J managed to use a Burnished Hart to get to double-blue but by then it was pretty much too late. My hand was stacked, and as psykopatmullvad had to try and start dealing with Grim Lavamancer, my 27/27 Consuming Aberration was free to go to town on J. The last points of damage were dealt by Kess herself along with the enters the battlefield trigger of Bogardan Hellkite for exactly lethal.

So, first paper game with the deck turned into a pretty solid victory. What’s wrong with that? Well, the wonky rules of the format variation meant that since J stumbled on mana and psykopatmullvad was content with establishing incremental card draw through monarch, Phyrexian Arena etc., Grim Lavamancer and I were free to gang up on M for a pretty long time, and as it happens, the decks played well together – Reyhan/Tana were free to spend all mana establishing threats, since I could provide removal for whatever M could stand in the way. And since Grim Lavamancer is an aggro player at heart, he went for the “start hitting someone, you gotta keep hitting the same someone” creed, and with psykopatmullvad not drawing (or not willing to spend, I’m not sure) enough answers to help his ally, we were victorious. It was a mini-2 vs 1 game within a larger game for quite some time. When that business was done, I was quite free to deal with J, seeing as how he was both stunted on mana for most of the game meaning his board was under-developed compared to mine, and lacking an ally to help him out.

This means that in a normal free-for-all game, if a player stumbles on mana enough to get behind on the board, it essentially only hurts him, but in this case, it hurt M as well, who was down an ally early in the game and facing a lot of damage from Grim Lavamancer.

The game was, all in all, enjoyable from my perspective, win or no win, and my deck played exactly as I wanted it to. I will spend a couple of post on it after finishing my Ojutai analysis.

All this aside, I like pentagram as an EDH variant. It does make for shorter games than five-man free-for-all, which can go on for hours depending on the decks participating. On paper, it leads to less diplomatic play since you’re provided with “allies” and “enemies” from the get-go, but in reality it leads to more diplomatic plays later in the game than might be expected. Like Kingdoms, it has its issues, but overall I like it over five-man free-for-all.

The Winter Dragon (Ojutai primer, pt. 1)

Though the switch between the old Tarkir timeline to the new led to the destruction of my favourite world of all time in Magic – the Khans-timeline Tarkir, it brought with it my favourite Commander of all time: Dragonlord Ojutai. As head of his eponymous clan after the downfall of all khans and the death of Shu Yun at the hands (at the breath?) of Ojutai himself, Dragonlord Ojutai is also known as “the Great Teacher”. His clan values knowledge and wisdom, as well as martial prowess, and Ojutai is the epitome of both those aspects.

This deck started off as a reaction to my friend’s project to build Dragonlord Atarka, and originally it was intended to be a school-themed deck. I’ve written about the deck’s thematic construction before (part 1, part 2, part 3), and since the deck has gone through numerous changes since, I want to focus on the deck’s function.

Why Ojutai?
Azorius is blessed with several good candidates for the command zone, whether you’re into control (Grand Arbiter Augustin IV), voltron (Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Geist of Saint Traft), blink (Brago, King Eternal), or even tribal (Sygg, River Guide, Kangee, Aerie Keeper). Ojutai steps into the ponds of both Augustin IV and Bruna by being a voltron commander of a control shell. This dual nature of the deck lends it strengths not available to other commanders: he’s better protected than Augustin IV, he’s cheaper than Bruna, and he’s better at generating card advantage than Saint Traft. This combined strength along with the nice thematic flavour of the commander makes him my choice.

Do play this deck if you:

  • Like long games.
  • Like interactive play where you’re able to answer a variety of threats.
  • Like your commander to generate cards for you.
  • Like to win with commander damage.

Do not play this deck if you:

  • Like to ramp out into huge threats.
  • Like to win quickly out of nowhere.

Basic strategy
Early game, the deck wants to make land drops and establish a board position by making land drops. I like to tap out to cast card-draw spells over holding up counter mana early game, if it likely allows me to never miss a land drop. The deck can then answer most threats presented by opponents either through the flexible removal suite or countermagic, to preserve life total for later parts of the game. In the mid-game, the deck wants to establish a card parity vs. most of the opponents, usually through Rhystic Study, or one of the Draw X cards-spells. The deck then wants to win in the late game through casting the commander and playing one of the various Vigilance enablers on him, followed by beat down.

The deck rewards, or outright needs, diplomatic play to survive the early turns of some games, against very aggressive opponents. Against all opponents, the deck will have to, and is good at, adapting to the changing board- and game states.

The Deck list:
I’ll leave you with the current deck list, as an image. Click here (TappedOut link) to see the same list but with working card tags etc.

The Greatest Teacher as of 2017-09-09


In the following posts, I will break down the deck into categories and discuss some of the card choices as needed. Until then, have a look at my themed custom play mat, drawn by my friend GrimLavamancer.