This week we’re brewing up something a little different in the Arcane Lab. Continuing the trend of tweaking decks other people have submitted, I'll look at a sweet Edric, Spymaster of Trest list Patrick sent me a while ago.
The twist is that Patrick’s deck is intended for 1v1 Commander, not multiplayer. Even though the rules stay the same, games in this Commander variant couldn't be more different.
Patrick’s deck is a textbook example of a deck that isn't viable outside of 1v1. The goal is to play Edric and a few cheap threats and back them up with tempo plays that preserve your advantageous board state. After several turns of countering and bouncing everything relevant your opponent plays, you'll soon encounter a dead opponent.
In a multiplayer game, something this aggressive might kill one player if nobody decides to [card Wrath of God]wrath[/card] you. However, no matter how many cards you draw, at some point your slew of one- and two-drops will be outclassed by cards like Tooth and Nail and Insurrection. This is not a recipe for success.
Building a deck for this variant requires a different approach and should be an interesting departure from what we’re used to.
Let’s start with the deck Patrick submitted:
[deckbox did="a157" size="small" width="560"]
I see a lot of strengths in this list.
It has an admirably low curve, focused on 2's and 3's. There’s a strong package of counterspells and bounce to disrupt your opponent and protect your guys. There are also a couple swingy game-enders like Sunder and Sword of Feast and Famine that can put the nail in the coffin when you’re ahead.
There’s still a lot in this list that could stand to be tuned. Let’s start by looking at the creatures, sorted by function.
Edric's Eyes and Ears
There are three main kinds of creatures that contribute to this deck's game plan: mana dorks, utility creatures and beatsticks. Each category is important in its own right, but the most important task is to arrive at the appropriate combination.
The most important advice I can offer here is to cut the creatures that tutor up lands guys that tap directly for mana. Boreal Druid and Birds of Paradise are the only others you can run, but that lets you cut the comparably slow Coiling Oracle and Wood Elves. I’d cut them before Yavimaya Dryad because the extra point of power is surprisingly relevant.
The importance of this eventuality cannot be overstated, because games with a turn two Edric are vastly different than ones without. We’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to squeeze in some fast mana where we can.
- Snapcaster Mage
- Mystic Snake
- Winged Coatl
- Fauna Shaman
- Glen Elendra Archmage
- Waterfront Bouncer
- Caustic Wasps
- Trygon Predator
- Waterfront Bouncer
- Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- Loaming Shaman
- Spiketail Drakeling
- Scryb Ranger
- Venser, Shaper Savant
- Sower of Temptation
- Thada Adel, Acquisitor
- Eternal Witness
This section has the most play to it, and can be customized to answer your particular metagame. For example, I’m not overly excited by the prospects of Loaming Shaman, but it may be useful against the decks you expect to face.
I’m unsure of the purpose of Scryb Ranger, as I don’t see many creatures that benefit from the untap effect other than the mana guys. As you’re unlikely to miss land drops after connecting with Edric once or twice, I don’t think that interaction merits [card Scryb Ranger]Scryb Ranger’s[/card] inclusion.
With those exceptions, we have a solid base of utility guys. The only other choices I might question are Caustic Wasps and Trygon Predator, but both are significantly better in 1v1 due to the prevalence of artifact mana. Suffice it to say that repeatable [card Stone Rain]Stone Rains[/card] play quite well into Edric’s game plan.
My proposed changes are thus:
- Jhessian Infiltrator
- Vendilion Clique
- Thalakos Seer
- Looter il-Kor
- Silhana Ledgewalker
- Cloud of Faeries
- Scavenging Ooze
Finally we arrive at the beatdown squad. Due to my relative inexperience with 1v1, I find it a little tricky to evaluate these particular inclusions.
Under the French 1v1 rules, where life totals start at thirty, I imagine these would be passable. As Patrick’s deck is designed to deal forty points of damage, they seem awfully anemic and easy to answer. Then again, this impression may be a result of my lack of familiarity with the variant.
Tools of the Trade
Next we’ll take a look at the permanents that back up the creature suite. I’ve divided them by card type rather than function because the sheer diversity of functions makes them hard to categorize neatly.
- Sensei's Divining Top
- Crucible of Worlds
- Aether Vial
- Sword of Fire and Ice
- Crystal Shard
- Sol Ring
- Mana Crypt
- Sword of Feast and Famine
The main card that underwhelms me here is Crucible of Worlds, but again that could be my unfamiliarity with building 1v1 decks. It doesn’t seem strong in a tempo-oriented deck unless you assemble Crucible plus Strip Mine or Wasteland. Since this deck doesn’t excel in the area of library manipulation it will be challenging to consistently find both halves of the combo.
Each of these cards helps you break parity in the mid game and pull further ahead on tempo.
Survival of the Fittest is the only card that sticks out to me. Survival is awesome when you’re already ahead and can tutor up Mystic Snake or Venser, Shaper Savant to bury your opponent, but it seems pretty miserable when you’re behind. In contrast to Fauna Shaman, which always beats in for two, Survival can be dead when it matters most.
In general I’d rather have one-shot tutors and other library manipulation spells that require less mana investment. The caveat is that I’ve never played a tempo deck with Survival of the Fittest or Fauna Shaman. This alteration is definitely the change I’m most unsure of so let me know your opinions in the comments.
Not much to say about these guys. Two of the strongest planeswalkers available in green-blue, they generate heaps of mana, board presence and card advantage. Exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Spymaster’s Tricks
This is the heart of the deck; spells that keep your opponent on the backfoot once you’ve developed your board.
We should place special emphasis on bounce spells in a format where everyone intends to abuse their always-available commander. If you can turn such cheeky strategies into a giant tempo sink, running away with the game becomes a mere afterthought.
- Arcane Denial
- Force of Will
- Mana Leak
- Memory Lapse
- Mana Drain
- Mindbreak Trap
- Spell Crumple
As the best counterspells the game has to offer, most of these are difficult to argue with. There are a few mediocre ones that can be trimmed though.
I’ll start by axing Arcane Denial, which is strict card disadvantage and lacks its political applications outside of multiplayer. I also don’t like Mindbreak Trap, except against [card Brain Freeze] blue-based storm[/card] decks, because of its cost.
We can replace these with more efficiently costed counterspells that generate tempo. The specific cards to include depend heavily on what you expect to face. Candidates I would consider include Cryptic Command, Spell Pierce, Turn Aside and Daze.
The one glaring omission here that I desperately want to remedy is that of Vapor Snag. Snag has repeatedly proven itself in both Standard and Modern as a powerful card that disrupts creature-based combos and pushes through damage for little investment.
I do not, however, intend to put any of the above cards on the chopping block. Rest assured we’ll find the space to squeeze in Snag somewhere else.
For Consistency’s Sake
I’ve already stated my preference for one-shot tutor and filter effects over Survival of the Fittest and here we see some of the premier options in this category.
With Edric as your Commander, you shouldn’t care much about the inherent card disadvantage from Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Tutor. The only card I would consider cutting is Green Sun's Zenith, but I’m loathe to remove any of the the one-mana accelerants.
What I’m tempted to do, since we’re upping the number of accelerants while trimming mana-intensive cards, is to cut one or two lands to make room for the extra cantrips. This may ultimately prove dangerous as the cantrips are meant to fix later draws, but if there ever was a deck that wanted to skimp on lands, this is it.
The Lay of the Land
- Mishra's Factory
- Tolaria West
- Mouth of Ronom
- Breeding Pool
- Flooded Strand
- Polluted Delta
- Windswept Heath
- Wooded Foothills
- Yavimaya Coast
- Gaea's Cradle
- Winding Canyons
- Strip Mine
- Tropical Island
- Flooded Grove
- Misty Rainforest
- Scalding Tarn
- Verdant Catacombs
- Command Tower
- Hinterland Harbor
- 6 Snow-Covered Forest
- 9 Snow-Covered Island
In a deck that aims to use all its mana every turn, Winding Canyons provides a clunky and expensive effect. Mana sinks in Edric should either generate cards or increase pressure. I prefer Riptide Laboratory in this slot because of its interaction with Venser, Shaper Savant and Snapcaster Mage.
Tolaria West, on the other hand, simply doesn’t have exciting targets to fetch up. It’s utility is marginal and it can go.
Last, I want to change the balance of basics to reflect the deck’s early reliance on green mana. By the time you need to cast double-blue spells, Edric should have found you the blue sources you need.
With extra space freed up we can add the aforementioned cantrips and Vapor Snag.
Behold, our final decklist:
[deckbox did="a158" size="small" width="560"]
You’ll notice that even small changes to this deck can have a huge impact on the outcome of games, due to the absurd number of cards you’ll see over a short period of time. You can be reasonably confident that you’ll find the singletons you need, especially creatures.
A handful of cards barely missed the cut. Any creature that’s seen play in G/x aggro decks in Legacy is eligible for a slot. Things like Tarmogoyf, Nimble Mongoose and Delver of Secrets could be insane, but I’m not sure how much worse they get when you double someone’s life total. The last card I want to try is Azure Mage as a way to pull ahead in blue mirrors, which seem fairly common in 1v1 Commander.
Regardless, this seems like a great place to start, with some flex slots that you can adjust to your metagame. It isn’t even that far off from something I might play in multiplayer, since you can get ahead on board and then counter most things that favorably interact with you.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Next week’s topic remains undetermined, as I have yet to finish sifting through my brimming inbox. If you’ve got any suggestions, requests or comments about the Edric deck, be sure send me an email or post in the comments below.
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