Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Shattered Perspectives, a regular series where I dive into a much maligned general of the week to try to find all the hidden gems that can make for a viable strategy that you, the reader, might want to try. This week’s commander is Isao, Enlightened Bushi, a general that on the surface is understandably underplayed.

Normally this would be the part of the article where ask you all to keep in mind that the list was assembled by a less-than optimal Commander player of five years (myself), and that I try my best to normally steer away from cards listed as high demand on the respective EDHrec profile page. But reader, dearest reader, I have a written myself into a corner; because the supply of decks on EDHrec for Isao contains several of my own decks. I cannot in truth supply you with a list cards that fly under the radar for a fresh strategy.

But don’t worry—as usual—someone smarter than me is bailing me out!

1DH aka Dollar General

So, I am lucky enough to be in connection with a small band of about eight Minnesota Commander players that come together about once a month for an in-house (or apartment complex) day of Commander and drafting. Just a break from the normal LGS game night where we get to kill five to eight hours doing our own thing in the comfort of our own places. We call them Grand Prix [Insert City] just to be obnoxious and make for a good Twitter hashtag.

About two weeks ago, it was my turn to host and the formats advertised were Commander and Modern Masters 2017 drafting. But about a week and half before the GP, a message went out through the Facebook Messenger feed: 1DH! The idea, spurred on by fellow MN GP host, Alex Szeto—of General Damage Control fame—was that you would build a Commander deck around the restriction of only cards worth dollar or less. The idea took off like wildfire pretty quickly as the feed filled up with a few decks after a few hours, with more to follow in the coming week. And that’s where Isao, Enlightened Bushi comes in.

Isao, Enlightened Bushi

It has been fairly well documented around the internet that I love Samurai. They should come back and I don’t need to be on Kamigawa if Wizards doesn’t want to further that plane’s story. There was a point about a year ago where I even made a “Tag Team” Commander using Isao and Sensei Golden-Tail to allow me to do Green-White Human (Samurai) Tribal. This was before Partners, so I was doing it before it was cool.

In Isao I see a powerful general capable of being a below-the-radar voltron strategy. He can regenerate himself, so he along with any of the handfuls of mono green creatures in the deck can pick up a Sword of Light and Shadow or Nim Deathmantle, strike down a few opponents and be the voltron. And that’s where I go off the normal path that I have unfortunately found myself on during this series, I plan to leverage my general, but not solely as a voltron piece.

1DH did offer one minor setback. Several of the cards I had already placed into the deck were overcosted and thus “banned” in the ‘format’. Out went:

So now, I present some of the cards I had to scour my boxes of cards to find and sub in for the raw power the cards represented above.

Surrak, the Hunt Caller + Multani, Maro-Sorcerer + Glissa Sunseeker

With the loss of cards like the three Sword of X & Y I have listed above, I knew I was going to want to play more into the legendary creature theme I had as a backup plan in case Isao got too expensive in a long game. I had Time of Need in the deck during the first build of the deck and cards like Silvos, Rogue Elemental and Anthousa, Setessan Hero still made the cut. But losing both Jugan, the Rising Star and Thrun, the Last Troll, I knew I was going to need to fill the deck with a few more creatures to tool box for.

Surrak, the Hunt Caller was my first pick, as meeting his formidable trigger didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. In a perfect world, this would be Xenagos, God of Revels, but he’s both too expensive and not in my color identity. Surrak offers a good body on his own with the added advantage of a haste surprise factor the deck had been admittedly lacking since its original inception.

Multani, Maro-Sorcerer is one of my beefier options that didn’t make the cut during previous builds because he was rather expensive for a higher-tuned environment and lacked the ability to get suited up with auras or equipment under normal circumstances. In a variant format like 1DH, I didn’t see games being as swingy and creature removal being either targeted or in massive swaths of damage; two things Multani skirts around really well. In truth, I ended up liking him for the few turns I had him around—games ended up being a little faster than I’d gauged—as he stood as a very capable blocker that deterred single creature attacks. If I was going to die, it wasn’t going to be the same turn as another player.

Lastly, Glissa Sunseeker. This elf sits in a very odd place in Magic as a whole; first strike is not doled out to a lot of other green creatures and her artifact removal ability has not be seen in this form at all before or after. Because of these notable characteristics, I chose to find a spot for Glissa Sunseeker and Mirri, Cat Warrior as two very appealing targets for picking up a Loxodon Warhammer or Strata Scythe. During the event, neither made an appearance.

Ranger’s Path

Even in mono green, losing Skyshroud Claim was a heavy hit to the original ramp package of the deck. My first reaction to seeing that it was priced out of the format was absolute shock, as I don’t know that I have ever seen anyone in my local group play it besides me. Ranger’s Path proves to be a viable replacement, all at the cost of my Forests coming into play tapped.

I don’t normally play Isao out into a board where he can’t be regenerated at least once before I get to untap with him in play. This means that he really comes in as a five-drop instead of a three drop in most games. It’s not that he draws a lot of hate, but an early Pyroclasm to clear out a more threatening player’s board can often be an annoying setback for me.

The importance of a Ranger’s Path in this situation is that ramps me two lands, so that on turn five I can drop my general down with the mana to let him survive an additional blow out as well. After that, I should untap have the ability to suit up my most prized creature and prepare for some fist to cuffs.

Grafted Exoskeleton

I am not the biggest fan of using Infect in Commander. You’re playing on a totally different axis to the rest of the table, meaning that all your work is meaningless if you don’t kill your target. And to be honest, the creatures that carry the keyword naturally are not that impressive when you’re facing down several other players. But in Grafted Exoskeleton, I find a horse in the race. I would rather have my Nim Deathmantle for the long game—side note: don’t sleep on Nim Deathmantle, it’s a great card and the price climbs a little every month—but if I cannot reap the rewards of recursion and helpful evasion, I will accept the ability to make quick work of at least a player or two on the back of my next card.

Chameleon Colossus

Thank you Commander 2016 for dropping the price of Chameleon Colossus below $1.

I don’t think I really need to sell anyone on this card, of all the cards I have mentioned in the last five weeks, this card is probably the most high profile. With it’s protection from black and ability to survive damage-based removal, this was really like a second general for me.

Over the course of the games I played, this card was the go-to creature because of its synergy with Isao’s regeneration ability and it’s ability to end games on the spot. If memory serves, it would have won me a game by being suited up with the Grafted Exoskeleton if I had simply had access to an additional mana or two when my back was against the wall on my final turn.

Silverglade Elemental + Surveyor’s Scope + Krosan Tusker

Like the case I made for Ranger’s Path earlier, with the loss of enough high profile ramp cards and a bumped up mana curve, I opted to mine Gatherer for even more tools. Silverglade Elemental is probably the most under-the-radar card on this entire list, but I fell in love with it early in my Magic career as I dug through the card bins at my local comic book store sometime around 2002 or 2003. Like Wood Elves, the ability to search your library for mana ramp while also getting a body was probably underrated by myself early on, but something just felt so great about casting Thorn Elemental with Instill Energy back then. During the event, if memory serves, it basically worked as a Fog with Rampant Growth stapled on, but that’s why you dedicate slots to role players.

Surveyor’s Scope came to my attention not too long after its printing when I needed a solid way to recover after a few uses of Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician’s token ability. In this deck it served the purpose of helping me not fall too far behind, and working in a similar space to the too-expensive Sword of the Animist. This is another card I wouldn’t sleep on.

Finally, we have what I had often considered an auto-include in any green Commander deck when I discovered the format: Krosan Tusker. I know this didn’t make the cut in the earlier incarnation of this deck due to better cards existing that played stronger with the direct of the deck at the time and a lack of copies in my own personal collection. Obviously the first factor for 1DH that landed this a spot in the deck was the price, but I was also drawn to the card advantage that bled out of the card. The ability to not only continue to hit land drops turn after turn, but also get a mystery card to replace Tusker is the kind of one-two punch I needed in this deck, because I never learn my lesson and need as much help stitching together good turns as humanly possible.

Overall, I really loved this format as a shared escape from the normal Commander experience, I don’t know if it will have legs to grow beyond the small group of Minnesota players or if it will go the way of Tiny Leaders, dead in less than a year. Either way, it was a fun way to interrupt a deck that had sat dormant for several months and I think I will reexamine this deck building challenge in a few weeks.

But now I turn the attention back to the read, anyone who wishes to be vocal and give their own two cents. What generals would you like to see get the Shattered Perspective treatment? What kind of cards would you have plugged in? You can find me on Twitter via @RyanSainio or yelling at Hipsters directly through the e-mail system at the bottom of the page.

Until next time, good luck and thank you!

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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