Hello everyone and welcome to another week of Shattered Perspectives, the series where I attempt to redefine the use of off-the-beaten-path cards in Commander through the lens of general of the week. This week it is the Fourth of July in the United States, and I wanted to bookend the holiday with something thematic. Last week, of course, I covered Adriana, Captain of the Guard for Red/White, while this week I will be hitting Blue with Zhou Yu, Chief Commander for a bit of a challenge. Let’s see what kind of a workable skeleton I can produce here, even if zero experience with the deck I can already tell we’re going to be playing in some weird space for Blue.

Zhou Yu, Chief Commander

As is common, let’s go over what we know about general before breaking down exactly how I want to make him work. Zhou Yu, Chief Commander—“The Captain” for short—is a beefy mono-blue legend coming to us out of Portal Three Kingdoms, who was based on a real dude out of the Eastern Han Dynasty circa 200 AD who likely didn’t have Islandhome, but probably was deadly enough to be considered a base power and toughness of 8/8 by real world standards. This real world adaption was because Wizards used to have sets that were not meant to be tournament legal Magic cards aimed at audiences starting out the game and they often strayed away from high fantasy with these installments. I don’t understand why they would choose to step away from their best selling factor, but that is a discussion for another day.

So we have “The Captain” as a pretty big creature for blue, undercosted for his size and with a fairly reasonable drawback. Let’s face it, blue is a very common color in Commander, in fact if one basic land type is going to be on the field, I would expect only Swamp to outnumber Island. I believe that by the time we reach the seven mana to cast him—I would plan to cut that down to turn five with enough mana rocks—having a way to get him attacking should not be an issue.

The name of the game here is to make things Islands and suit up our general to strike opponents down quickly, using the control elements of Blue to keep him safe after that. This shouldn’t be too hard, right?

All I See is U

The way I see it, making lands into Islands is much easier than it was in 1999 when Portal Three Kingdoms came out. There have been a lot of functional reprints of Phantasmal Terrain and in the case of cards like Spreading Seas, cantrips!

Quicksilver Fountain has been on my radar for quite awhile, as it was an early adoption in my Sygg, River Guide deck. In this deck not only will it push our agenda, but it will help to remove options for some of the greedier mana bases. There is the awkward point when all the lands will revert back and we might be left with no options for attacking, but we just have to live with that reality. In my experience, we won’t have to worry as much about the Fountain being destroyed though, as some players will gladly survive through the lockdown if it means keeping bigger threats down.

Finally, the list of cards in the vein of Spreading Seas is rather lengthy, which helps to create consistency and allow us to make attacks at non-blue combatants. Sea’s Claim, Convincing Mirage, Lingering Mirage, and Illusionary Terrain filling out my suite of cards to nearly unheard-of cards that will be winners for us.

Terraformers, Roll Out!

At first I was worried that with only about five solid enchantments and an artifact to terraform our opponents’ lands that we were going to fall short of consist ways to ensure Zhou Yu will be able to attack once he’s suited up. When I started playing Magic with Onslaught, I was aware of only Tidal Warrior as a way to aggressively push my Benthic Behemoth through to my opponent’s face. But in the past fifteen years I have come to realize just how much Invasion block is my friend. With a sort-of cycle of cards throughout the entire block, Dream Thrush, Sea Snidd, and Reef Shaman all work as a solid base of cards capable of changing lands to fit our needs. And in the last few years, Streambed Aquitects, Grixis Illusionist, and Tideshaper Mystic all do such great impressions of the Invasion creatures, that I feel we should have no trouble attacking with “The Captain.”

So now we have our “terraforming” package figured out though a dozen different means, let’s move onto how we want to get our game going and hopefully win.

Lost at Sea

Because we’re going to want the defending player to have at least one Island in play, it only seems reasonable that we will also tip in the direction of using Islandwalk and “Islandhome” to our advantage as well, like the aforementioned Sygg deck did.

Now, “Islandhome” is not a supported Magic term anymore, but Hammerhead Shark is pretty good example—a creature that is normally undercosted slightly due to the need to have an Island to keep it afloat. Additionally, they come with the drawback of needing an Island on the defending player’s side to attack in, something our general is sympathetic to. Does this result is a very low powered deck? Sure, but I love the unique flavor and gameplay.

On the other side of the equation we have Islandwalk, made popular by the Merfolk tribe and still very profitable here. While costed for a different age of Magic, the Tempest art on Benthic Behemoth is enough to win me over and is a solid closer alongside of “The Captain.” By contrast, Stormtide Leviathan is the sibling who was designed under modern design philosophy and happily checks off boxes from the first half of this article.

Go with the Flow

So we’re in mono-blue, I think it is pretty obvious that we will want our Unsummon variants and cards like Deprive and Dispersal Shield to play the control game. We’ll want to find these spells and keep our hands full with cards like Flow of Ideas and Rush of Knowledge.

These options rank much higher than I might have expected on EDHrec, but I still think they may be underplayed in Commander, especially in this deck where I plan to be drawing at least a full grip of seven cards for the five and six mana costs with all the big spells and wealth of Islands.

For those who want to walk a more well-worn path, Coastal Piracy is a great flavor win, as is Bident of Thassa to keep the cards flowing into our hands.

Our Powers Combined!

Finally, I want to be hitting hard with Zhou Yu. We already have the advantage that he reaches the magic number for power to have an opponent dead from commander damage with only three clean attack steps. But what if we want to cut that down to two or at least make sure we’re not going to get delayed?

I have been a fan of Awesome Presence since finding it in a long box of cards at my local comic book shop, Hot Comics, back in 2002. It was very close to making the list in my Ruhan article a few months back, but got beat out by Dragon Throne of Tarkir because, let’s be honest, that card didn’t seem like it was going to fit into many other decks. Awesome Presence is this great cheap option that can get slapped onto a creature as a last-ditch effort at a one-man alpha strike.

Auramancer’s Guise is going to be our out to making “The Captain” cut down on your clock to victory. Combined with other auras like Protective Bubble and Infiltrator’s Magemark, one would hope that not only will our general be protected, but he should be a fantastic closer.

That’s my time today, I have to get to the hamburgers and hot dogs that accompany July Fourth and maybe, just maybe, finding a babysitter and finally seeing Wonder Woman. With 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 build this deck.

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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