Hello everyone and welcome to another week of Shattered Perspectives, the series where I redefine the use of off-the-beaten-path cards in Commander through the lens of general of the week. This week we’ll be covering a topic I know pretty well and have used just about every soap box offered to me to push: Samurai! As you can see from the title card, I will be using Adriana, Captain of the Guard as my general, as Samurai doesn’t have any multi-colored Legendary creatures to choose from—yet, if my hopes for Commander 2017 are at all answered—and this deck really wants to be combat based. Also, as an additional layer, the Fourth of July is coming in the United States, so I figured I’d cover some red, white and blue in my two articles surrounding it. So spoilers for next week, blue will be involved.

I remember when I started playing Magic right before Onslaught came out being extremely excited by the theme of Tribal. This should be no surprise, as most players start out getting drawn to big creatures, burn and tribal. It was honestly a great period for me personally to start in, even if I had zero understanding of fetchlands. The next year Wizards scratched an itch I also grew to become passionate about: Artifacts! Once again, it was the idea of artifacts and less of the power level of Mirrodin block. But I was not ready for what were delivered in the Fall of 2004.

October 1st, 2004. The release of Champions of Kamigawa. With this set and the eventual block, Wizards played into interests that were not solely linked to the game of Magic: Japanese culture. Now, in hindsight I will agree that what Kamigawa was vs what most audiences—myself included—might have associated with Japanese culture were not going hand-in-hand. But needless to say, the young Shonen Jump subscriber that I was at time loved this block for being something visually and mechanically satisfying to a culture I was finding entertainment in.

Additionally, we got the introduction of a key creature type to the supported tribes of Magic: Samurai. Sadly we’ve never returned to Samurai—not even in the Planechase expansion that touched on Ninja. And with that marooning of Samurai coupled with the fact that Kamigawa was mostly a monocolored world, we have been left with little to build around in Commander. Which overall is a disappointment, because Samurai represent skilled warriors who have so far been mechanically tied to a combat ability that works both aggressively and defensively.

Adriana, Captain of the Guard

First off, I don’t know that Adriana is the best general for this tribe, but I don’t believe there is an agreed upon best general or even color combination for Samurai. A majority of the best Samurai exist in White and Red, so as much as I hate to play further into the “all Boros does is attack” stereotype, that’s what this deck wants to be.

Adriana, Captain of the Guard comes to us out of the second Conspiracy set and offers each of your creatures the new Melee mechanic to improve attacks in multiplayer. I like this go on the deck, because Melee feels like the Commander version of Exalted and allows for our creature base to get over the hump of being from a time period where creatures were bad.

Even in the face of being from that era, I think Samurai are a strong theme to build around if you want to slant your gameplay towards combat. They are actually a lot like the Eldrazi—as an example I have already written about—as they can be grouped together by their shared creature type, but can also work very well on their own as independent creatures. They have the bonus of being pretty well saturated with legendary creatures, so they can take advantage of Day of Destiny. And overall, I just really like the Bushido ability as a way to make them relevant in combat, even if they look like overcosted White Weenies.

As a thesis for the deck, I am looking to obviously include Samurai, but the inherent conceit is that the deck will not function optimally compared to other tribal decks. I still want to be aggressive and win through combat damage, but I have to be mindful that Magic is a different beast than it was fourteen years ago, so I have to be mindful to fill the deck with ways to have a comeback feature in mind.

Brave the Sands

Before getting into the suites of creatures made available to us, I wanted to talk about a card I have mentioned in the past—see Going Deep with Jareth—but I believe is so essential to this deck that it requires a repeat discussion.

Brave the Sands in combination with the Bushido ability can be almost unfair to match up against, it creates situations where it can be very hard to want to attack into you because the combat math can get very complicated incredibly quickly. The same is often true when you give a creature double strike with Berserker’s Onslaught or Battle Mastery. I imagine we will see similar worried looks once Afflict enters into the format, if a good Afflict creature rises to the surface.

I have played games of Commander with a field a Samurai and Brave the Sands in play and attacks from opponents often result in them losing a lot more than I do. The mix of Bushido, additional blocks and the massive combination of blocking options usually leaves the chance for failure independently in my hands. I have probably failed to make the optimal blocks dozens of times, but at least I was in control of my own destiny.

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo

As I have already mused, I was a huge fan of Samurai when they made their debut and am reasonably biased towards them. Removing that bias, I think Konda, Lord of Eiganjo is a great card. Like nearly all of the creatures in the tribe, he is not without faults as he is seemingly overcosted and definitely falls below the curve at face value. And his indestructibility can mean less in a format with an ample supply of exile effects. Nevertheless, I have won more than a few games because my opponents simply didn’t have an answer, and Konda was able to both defend my life total due to his incredibly high Bushido ability and vigilance, while also helping carve away at the rest of the table.

Along side of Konda, I would recommend stocking the deck with Konda’s Hatamoto—as a lot of our creatures will be legendary—and the Samurai tribal cards like Takeno, Samurai General, Nagao, Bound by Honor, and Call to Glory. I personally believe that even outside of the gimmick of the deck, this card is a very good inclusion into any deck that has access to white and needs staying power.

Fumiko the Lowblood

Speaking of creatures that need no additional tribal support: Fumiko the Lowblood. I would like to say that this is a pretty well established known quantity, but as I look at EDHrec, she doesn’t have a home in even 1000 decks as the general or in the other 99. This is unfortunate, as I believe she creates interaction in games—which I often feel can be missing too often—but I think I understand why. You see, the perception at first might be that this puts a target on your head—and frankly sometimes it does—but more often her Bushido ability can be enough of a rattlesnake that while you might get attacked, it’s not always going to be with someone’s best creature. Additionally, the first few players being affected by Fumiko might not even target you, as they will not want to be the only ones affected by her. Players often like “group slug” abilities to be felt by other players as well, something about human psychology and shared pain.

While we’re on the topic of Red samurai, I figure this is a good place for me to drop my two cents on another pair of cards, kind of, with Brothers Yamazaki. I for one fall on the side of flavor here and believe that as long as you have both art, you should be allowed to invoke house rules with your opponents to have both in your deck. They are then a pair 4/3 hasted creatures for 4RR over two bodies, which are two separate physical cards. Most people are more afraid of a Broodmate Dragon for that converted mana cost. Don’t let them kill your buzz.

Riders of Gavony & Shared Triumph

As much as I would like to push purely Samurai tribal, I do need to be real; it’s not that strong. But, we do have the boon that most of the reasonably good Samurai also fit into the Human tribe as well. What this means is that we can reasonably use cards like Riders of Gavony and Shared Triumph to bolster our creatures, including our general.

It might not be the case everywhere, but tribal is an often played theme within several of the metagames I play in, so granting protection from an entire board via Riders of Gavony can be very helpful. Shared Triumph naming “human” might not always be a one-sided affair, but I believe it’s a better pick for us than something like Coat of Arms. That said, the density of our on theme creature type means I would still likely name “samurai” with little worry about any stragglers outside of that type on my side of field.

Additionally, this is a good time to mention that I think Adaptive Automaton and Metallic Mimic are also good lords for the deck that can be retrofitted to feed into Human tribal as well, though naming “samurai” is still a fun pick just to be different. This is Hipsters of the Coast.

Samurai of the Pale Curtain

The final spotlight I want to draw Samurai today is Samurai of the Pale Curtain, because it is tragically overlooked as a Rest in Peace that can also inflict damage on your opponents. This confounds me a little bit, as this is a hate bear that doesn’t get the credit it’s due. It comes down early and can undermine a lot of the plays that many Commander decks rely on, graveyards are not always going to function as a second hand.

Besides under my own control, I once saw this card blow out a player as it was “flashed” in via an emergency Collected Company in response to Damnation as a way to prevent most of the profit for a soon-to-ultimate Liliana Vess. There was a lot going on there, but it was a legendary moment nonetheless.

My one bit of warning, this is not Leyline of the Void and will not affect cards getting discarded or spells being countered. But we’re in red/white, we were not going to get that lucky anyway.

Hanweir Garrison & Breath of Fury

Finally I want to end on a pretty sweet combo I would have available in the deck if the moment struck where you needed to end the game quickly. Together Hanweir Garrison and Breath of Fury create a very potent combo that allows for you to take additional attack steps to your hearts content. This would likely go under the radar, as we’re already playing in the space of Human tribal and it would allow for a misdirection as people will expect that you intend to meld into Hanweir, the Writhing Township. You can do that too—Hanweir Battlements is also a great card all its own.

In conclusion, I wanted to say—in the unlikely event that someone at Wizards actually read this and got to this point—that I think Samurai are an interesting creature type and they are a nice change to the usual creature classes that run the gambit. There is a version of Tarkir that I could have seen Samurai in the place of Warriors and although it also become a debate similar to the Snake vs. Naga debacle in that Samurai could be swapped in—with purpose—for just about any skilled combat profession. I think the same could be said for Ninjas as stand-ins for Assassins. I know that there will always be some group that will hate whichever direction you pick for the creature typing of Magic, but I don’t think it would be so much to ask for new infusion of the Kamigawa creature types.

And finally, from the lore perspective, I felt that the Kamigawa books were some of the best novels in the series. I don’t know if they stand the test of time, but they were my standard for good Magic novels from 2004 until you moved to a digital realm with Tarkir block. That’s why some of us who love Kamigawa loved it, less of the mechanics and more of the world you’d built. That said, I for one don’t care if we ever actually go back to Kamigawa proper because of the customer feedback reasons. But I just wish that we could see a return to the creature types made famous by the plane itself.

I guess it’s about time that I finally I turn the attention back to anyone who wishes to be vocal and give their own two cents. You can find me on Twitter via @RyanSainio or yelling at Hipsters directly through the e-mail system at the bottom of the page. Let me know if you’ve built a deck even slightly in the shape of what I have outlined.

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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