I think [casthaven]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/casthaven] is designed such that he makes a great political commander. Just as [casthaven]Diaochan, Artful Beauty[/casthaven] can capitalize on the differing agendas at any table, so too can Tasigur. The key lies in the “drawback” to his ability: “Put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard, then return a nonland card of an opponent’s choice from your graveyard to your hand.” I think the point of this was to make it worse than random in one-on-one Magic, since in Modern he returns the worst card left in your graveyard; a random trigger will occasionally lock your opponent out with the best card each time, and if you got to choose you’ll always lock them out with your best. But in a multiplayer setting, it’s often less clear which card is the “best” in a given situation, and few cards are universally good. The best card against the tokens deck might do nothing to the Voltron deck, and therefore it’s in the Voltron deck’s best interest to return that to you.

In short, I’m picturing some sort of friendly control deck. Yes, it has a bunch of answers, but it uses those answers to curry favor and direct the flow of the game. Most control decks just focus on shutting down what people are doing, but Tasigur would be more about king-making than about making its own explosive plays.

The problem is that there are two ways you could take this. With the first way, you could just make a consistently powerful deck. Power would mean that you’ve got the right answer every time, even if you have to dig or tutor towards it now and again. This deck requires more desperate politicking, though, since your power over the flow of the game is more obvious, and your inevitable one on one matchup seems worse for your opponents. Basically, after you knock out the first player, the other two are going to temporarily gang up on you, absent some challenging speech checks. It’s very quickly going to go from a situation where you and target opponent are scheming about what to do next, to a situation where your opponents are scheming together, and that’s a terrible change.

The second way, and the one I think is preferable, would be to focus on flexible answers that offer different lines of attack. Mostly I mean charms, although [casthaven]Dimir Charm[/casthaven] is still unplayably bad. Still, [casthaven]Sultai Charm[/casthaven] gives you draw and removal, [casthaven]Simic Charm[/casthaven] gives you protection, and [casthaven]Golgari Charm[/casthaven] is strong enough removal to see play in Modern. Add in [casthaven]Primal Command[/casthaven], which can also save you from getting milled out, and [casthaven]Profane Charm[/casthaven], which gives removal and resurrection, and you’ll be able to be Johnny on the Spot for almost any board state.

Johnny on the Spot is basically the ideal for a deck like this. You want to be the one with the out, all outs. If you have that certainty of answer, no matter how clumsy it might be, you are bargaining from a position of strength. No longer will you be asking an opponent for the answer; done right, you can get them to be the ones who ask you. That is, unless you’re pushy. I’m vaguely pushy, as I prefer action to inaction, and sometimes it comes around and bites me.

Do you know what type of card tends to be versatile? Planeswalkers! And Sultai has a good crop of them. A deck more focused on the win could likely do some gross things with Tasigur, [casthaven]Doubling Season[/casthaven], and the Sultai planeswalkers, but I think I’d want them more for their incidental utility than for any game-winning shenanigans. Like, [casthaven]Vraska the Unseen[/casthaven] is primarily making the deck because she’s a repeatable Vindicate, not because she could potentially make some Assassins and kill some weakened prey. [casthaven]Garruk Relentless[/casthaven] is not just in the deck because it’s got the right color identity (it’s such a pain finding decks for him), but because he does like nine things. And the same holds true for [casthaven]Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury[/casthaven], who provides ramp, bodies, and removal, and for [casthaven]Teferi, Temporal Archmage[/casthaven], who gives you ramp and draw. I’ll probably find a slot for [casthaven]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/casthaven], since she’s basically a double explore who can handle Voltron strategies, but may draw the line at the significantly less useful [casthaven]Jace, Memory Adept[/casthaven]. I’m tempted since the “mill ten” ability will probably help getting Tasigur back down on the battlefield, but after he’s in play what’s the point?

One card I am definitely looking forward to playing, though, is [casthaven]Deathrite Shaman[/casthaven]. When it was first spoiled I was excited to play it in Legacy, but the rise of [casthaven]Delver of Secrets[/casthaven] and the banning of the DRS in Modern has limited my opportunities. A deck like this, that’s playing a fair amount of the game from the graveyard, seems the perfect opportunity. Add in [casthaven]Scavenging Ooze[/casthaven], the Commander 2011 card I rarely play in Commander, and [casthaven]Deadbridge Chant[/casthaven], a card I would play in all the decks were it mono black or mono green, and you’ve got the foundation for the type of deck I love to pilot.

There is a question of creatures versus spells. On the one hand, spells tend to be more powerful in their effect; on the other hand, stocking the deck with [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven]s allows me to play cards like [casthaven]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/casthaven], [casthaven]Whip of Erebos[/casthaven], and [casthaven]The Mimeoplasm[/casthaven]. While they might not be perfect fits in the deck, the two Sultai legends are basically unplayable in any other deck; I’m not in the practice of having multiple different wedge decks together at any given point in time, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so adamant about wanting the color identity rules to change. If I can go a little out of my way to get to play with those cards again, it’s probably worth it.

Of course, the problem is that now I’m left with a pile of over 100 cards, before I even get to the lands. The easy part is affixing the outer boundaries of my design space; it’s going to be far more challenging for me to figure out which cards within my target can be safely eliminated. That’s a process that always takes a while, since it relies on a variety of balancing elements that include card power, redundancy, and even “nostalgic feel.” Mind you, most of this is done on a barely conscious level, and assigned to “intuition” or something similar. To quote Rick, from Rick and Morty: “sometimes science is a lot more art, than science. A lot of people don’t get that.” Just because I write about this on the internet, doesn’t mean that I’ve completely figured out my own grading systems.

Come back next week, and I’ll try to have a deck list together, although chances are it will be rough. Other things that one could look forward to include a return to my Commander combo article series, a focus on the cards from the last few years that are worth stockpiling for utilitarian purposes, and probably at least one article about my cats.

Jess Stirba is not kidding around about her cats.

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