Ebony vs Ivory: Ivory Part 2

Ebony vs Ivory: Ivory Part 2 By Alan Hale                          25/5/11

Welcome back Commander Fans!  New Phyrexia release events are now in the past and most players will be in the process of updating their decks.  I expect to see a lot of Birthing Pod, Torpor Orb and Praetors at the Commander tables over the next few months.

Getting back to my Elesh Norn deck, my first article defined some of the strengths and weaknesses we would be facing when building around her.  To refresh your memory…

-          Our strategy of using tokens and enchantments would be well supported by white.

-          We would be able to generate a lot of mana using a variety of artifacts as well as having access to a number of land                       searchers.

-          We would have issues with card drawing and would need to look to artifacts (much like our

         Mana situation) to resolve this.

-          The deck would have issues interacting with our opponents outside the combat step and

         would also lack the ability to recur our major threats.

In this article we will try and iron out some of these issues and identify some of the key interactions of the deck.

Combo or not to Combo

Initially we outlined this deck as being aggressive with a strong use of enchantments.  However aggressive decks in Commander sometimes don’t have the endurance to win a long game against threats like Oblivion Stone recurred by Academy Ruins or Attrition.  The other issue is that aggressive decks often are too linear in a format that is often defined by table politics.  Being too aggressive will attract the attention of every player on the table and often result in them working to remove you from the game.  Having a combo gives you another path to victory; however, can we find one suitable for a mono-white general?  White has been part of various combo decks through Magic’s history but thinking of one only using White cards and artifacts is a stretch.  Our best option would be to use my favourite Commander card, Revielark.  Reveillark has been used as both a combo card and just as a general value card and only gets better the more good two-power creatures are printed.  The best two-power creature we can pair with Reveillark is Karmic Guide.  Pairing these two with a sacrifice outlet like Altar of Dementia allows each creature to bring the other back from the graveyard infinitely and the Altar will allow us to mill our opponents to death.  Other options we can look at can be Ashnod’s Alter for infinite mana, and adding a Soul Warden into the mix can give us infinite life. 

                                                                                                           This is how you spell combo kids...

So plenty of reasons to pack a combo, but will we?  We have few ways to tutor for it and fewer ways to defend it.  At this point we may revisit combo after we test the deck (and there is no need to drop to James’ level ;-)).  What we will most likely do is retain Reveillark simply for the great value it can provide.


An Ideal worth fighting for…

Saviours of Kamigawa was a pretty lackluster third set. (It was however my first pre-release).  Despite this, it did contain a card that saw play in both Standard and Extended: Enduring Ideal.  In Standard it often sought out multiple Form of the Dragon and played as a control deck until it could resolve Enduring Ideal.  If we cast Ideal it will prevent us from playing further spells but is this such a worry when we can tutor and put into play any enchantment of our choice?  The real test is whether we can put in enough enchantments to make it worthwhile  -  once we have played Ideal it will cut us off from Elesh Norn.  It’s definitely a card that meets the criteria of recursive threat,although at great cost.  It’s too powerful a card to leave out but it is still one we will need to play with carefully.


The Value of Planeswalking and card drawing …

In the first article we went through most card types we would include with the exception of one, Planeswalkers.  In white we have several on-theme choices to supplement the token plan.  Ajani Goldmane has been supporting  vigilant counter-enhanced tokens since he was legal in Standard (with partner-in-crime Spectral Procession).  Both Elspeth, Knight Errant and Elspeth Tirel are efficient token creators.  If Elspeth, Knight Errant’s ultimate ability resolves we should have very little to fear.  Elspeth Tirel however allows us to blow the board but preserve our tokens.  Gideon Jura is perhaps the weakest Planewalker in Commander terms.  However, he does provide repeatable removal and his lure effect could prove useful for taking down an opponent’s defences.  We will run all these planeswalkers in the deck; these will give us a good selection of threats that can provide value for us every turn assuming we can defend them.

Our planewalkers will give the deck extra value but what White doesn’t provide is access to card draw.  White has plenty of cards that cantrip (spells that draw a card as well as having another effect) but none that give repeatable card draw.  The ones we will invest in are Scroll Rack, Sensei’s Divining Top, Mind’s Eye, Skull Clamp and Inheritance.  While not as good as those found in Blue and Green they should help keep our hand full or at least stocked with the right cards.


                                                                             A gaggle, cluster, herd, hoard,parade or pod of Planeswalkers?

The Moat issue…

Recently speaking to Laurence Petty (Owner of King of Cards) he brought my attention to one line from my first article, ‘White also has plenty of good enchantments we can run such as Moat’.  He pointed out the simple fact while white as a colour has access to Moat, how many players do?  The people who play Commander range from those who have been playing since it first arrived in New Zealand to those who think Scars of Mirrodin has been the first visit to the metal plane.  At the same time people have different financial commitments to the format.  Some have to trade hard to get the essentials or do their best on limited budgets.  Then there are those who have invested a lot of cash and can play a Mana Drain, Moat or Time Twister (guilty as charged).  The ethics of this could fill an entire article (and hopefully will do later in the year) so I won’t go into it here.  But at this point I’m going to limit my use of these old and pricey cards.  Firstly, because most players looking at using Elesh Norn won’t have access to such a card, and secondly, Moat is possibly a better fit in a more controlling deck or a combo deck that is light on creature defence.


That’s it for this week.  Next week we will actually present a completed list and may even get a game or two in…

Check out the other half of this in James Stewart's article you can find here

Alan Hale

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