Hey everyone, let’s continue with this week’s installment of “Jess takes on Commander 2014,” the series in which I tell you about the upgrades I made to my own copies of the Commander 2014 precons once I got them out of the box.

Side note: I seriously need to get better at branding. I’m reminded of the following exchange from Bojack Horseman:

Bojack: “I can see the headline now: ‘Stupid Bojack writes a stupid book about his stupid life, nobody cares.’”

Todd: “What newspapers are you reading!?”

So, yeah. What branding articles am I reading? Are there even branding articles?

God, there probably are articles about branding out there. I find that moderately depressing. They’re probably the social media equivalent of “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

If you want to make friends, don’t run Teferi, Temporal Archmage as your general. And, if barring that you find the need to run Teferi, Temporal Archmage as your commander, don’t include The Chain Veil in your decklist. It is an impressively unfun combination.

When I built Teferi my intent was not to turn him into some combo engine. But, as one of the few planeswalkers that specifically cares about other planeswalkers, when I made my build I decided to run all the other blue planeswalkers I could bring myself to run in Commander. This is shorthand for “all the decent blue planeswalkers other than Jace, the Mind Sculptor,” who is just a little too powerful for me to enjoy running in Commander. Perhaps it’s because I do play Legacy, and therefore I have an outlet for all these Legacy staples, but I try to build in such a way as to minimize inclusion of the outliers in power level.

Actually, it’s an interesting line. As you’ll remember from my build last week, in which I included Batterskull and Stoneforge Mystic in Nahiri, the Lithomancer, it’s not like I’m opposed to including any card that sees play in Legacy. And it’s not like those are particularly weak cards; many people rank Batterskull as more powerful than Umezewa’s Jitte, particularly when combined with Stoneforge Mystic’s ability to cheat it onto the battlefield. But in Commander, there’s a definite difference between saving three mana on a 4/4 with vigilance and lifelink, versus having a removal engine that completely mucks up combat. In Commander, it’s not even close: even with Stoneforge Mystic in the mix, Umezewa’s Jitte is significantly more powerful than Batterskull. And I’m not just saying that because I have a stack of foil GP Promo Batterskulls I’m trying to justify throwing into a bunch of different decks!

Although it is true that I do. The lady and I went to a bunch of GPs this cycle, and have a bunch of promo Batterskulls with only limited Commander playability. Considering the promo before it was Primeval Titan, and the upcoming promo is Griselbrand, you can sorta tell how the GP designers feel about Commander.

Then again, what would a Commander GP even look like, outside of France?

Back to the story. Once I focused in on blue planeswalkers, I quickly realized that, with one notable exception, they were pure enablers. Blue walkers draw cards. Sometimes they do other defensive stuff, like Jace, Architect of Thought’s defensive shrink effect, or can give you ways to win the game on their own, like Jace, Memory Adept’s mill, but the commonality on almost all the mono-blue planeswalkers is some means of drawing a card.

Except for Tezzeret the Seeker. Tezzeret, like Teferi, untaps things. Things that are artifacts, specifically. So Tezzy’s a great fit with mana rocks. And since this is something that Teferi, Temporal Archmage already wants for you to do, and since Teferi is a draw engine you can pull from your command zone, it seemed clear that the goal of this deck should be to go big. Lots of mana rocks, the occasional mana doubler, and some big dumb flying sphinxes to close out the game in the air.

Here’s what that deck looks like:

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

Planeswalkers (5): Jace Beleren; Jace, Architect of Thought; Jace, Memory Adept; Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; Tezzeret the Seeker

Creatures (26): Hypnotic Siren; Azure Mage; Fathom Seer; Dulcet Sirens; Sea Gate Oracle; Reef Worm; Archivist; Mulldrifter; Ixidron; Master of Predicaments; Prognostic Sphinx; River Kelpie; Sphinx of Lost Truths; Vesuvan Doppleganger; Steel Hellkite; Arbiter of the Ideal; Djinn of Infinite Deceits; Sphinx of Magosi; Phyrexian Ingester; Scourge of Fleets; Sphinx Ambassador; Sphinx of Uthuun; Windreader Sphinx; Hoverguard Sweepers; Stormtide Leviathan; Deep-Sea Kraken

Non-Creature Permanents (9): The Chain Veil; Tower of Fortunes; Bident of Thassa; Leyline of Anticipation; Inexorable Tide; Caged Sun; Contagion Engine; Well of Ideas; Thought Reflection

Spells (10): Pongify; Compulsive Research; Exclude; Domineering Will; Concentrate; Dismiss; Reins of Power; Rite of Replication; Intellectual Offering; Distorting Wake

Mana Rocks (11): Everflowing Chalice; Sol Ring; Mind Stone; Commander’s Sphere; Unstable Obelisk; Worn Powerstone; Thran Dynamo; Ur-Golem’s Eye; Gilded Lotus; Dreamstone Hedron; Astral Cornucopia

Lands (38): Coral Atoll; Ghost Quarter; Lonely Sandbar; Myriad Landscape; Remote Isle; Tectonic Edge; Zoetic Cavern; 31 Island

Having played through with the deck a few times, I feel comfortable saying that I could stand to cut a mana rock. My preference would be to cut Ur-Golem’s Eye, since that one is costly, doesn’t synergize with other strategies (like proliferate), and can’t be cashed in during the endgame. Of course, it does net you one more mana when you untap it, though, so it’s a conundrum. It’s certainly either the Eye or one of the rocks that only taps for one, like Mind Stone, Commander’s Sphere, and Unstable Obelisk. But each one of them merits inclusion: Mind Stone because it drops on turn two, Commander’s Sphere because it cycles freely, and Unstable Obelisk because it’s excellent late-game removal.

I actually think mono colored decks without artifact synergies should start running Unstable Obelisk over Spine of Ish Sah. The card is really that good.

What I had not anticipated was truly how degenerate The Chain Veil ended up being. Both times I played it I won the game within two turns. But The Chain Veil wasn’t the only thing that made my legion of Mentoks out perform their Birdman friends; Contagion Engine and Inexorable Tide both managed to threaten Teferi’s ultimate with ease. It was messy, since even without The Chain Veil the main limit on Teferi’s action tends not to be timing so much as mana. Being able to untap a bunch of your mana on an opponent’s turn, let alone every opponent’s turn, opens up a ton of unpleasant opportunities, of which Counterspell is the most mundane.

I need to go back to the drawing board on this one. I leaned into the planeswalker theme, and, shockingly, the result of a monoblue deck focusing on the most degenerate permanents is unfriendly for one to play. Going forward I may try to turn it into a Gravitational Shift deck. I’ve always enjoyed that card, and it would give me a reason to commit more to the SPHINX theme.


Jess Stirba is a huge fan of Shore Leave!

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