While it might be too early to call Commander 2018 a roaring success, the deeper I dig into the set’s newly printed legendary creatures the more inspired I find myself. Admittedly, I have not played with the Nature’s Vengeance deck yet, though I have played against it on multiple occasions, seeing Avenger of Zendikar make twelve 7/8s in one turn. But for the most part, the legends from the other decks play better than I thought during preview season. I understand the preview schedule for these products, but I think one of my issues might stem from having so many legends hitting me all at once.

Nonetheless, Subjective Reality has been on my brain for the better part of the last six weeks, with each viable commander spawning its own deck. Today, I want to talk about Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign, not to construct the skeleton of my own crazy concoction, but to analyze my friend Grayson’s list. I’ll be doing my own impression of Levi’s Dear Azami; but instead of doctoring the deck, I will be highlighting some of the high points of Grayson’s build and offering some cards I might include to enhance what he was already doing.

Odd Cycling

I remember during the preview week discussing my feelings about Yennett and her potential with Grayson. My brief outline included a general rule that countermagic and removal needed to skew towards even converted mana costs, with non-situational being odd to cast with Yennett. Grayson took his build in a similar direction, but took to cycling as a way to speed the deck up and go into space I had not considered. To be fair, I also had a misunderstanding at the time about how Yennett’s attack trigger worked and thought uncast spells stayed on top of the library. They are drawn. The deck as he currently has it outlined is as such:

Creature: Archfiend of Ifnir, Chasm Skulker, Cloudblazer, Cunning Survivor, Curator of Mysteries, Dimir Infiltrator, Eternal Dragon, Horror of the Broken Lands, Magister Sphinx, Mulldrifter, Nimble Obstructionist, Ominous Sphinx, Prognostic Sphinx, Psychosis Crawler, Riverwise Augur, Ruthless Sniper, Shriekmaw, Street Wraith, Striped Riverwinder, Sun Titan, Thassa, God of the Sea, Void Winnower

Planeswalker: Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Instant: Ancient Excavation, Brainstorm, Countervailing Winds, Expunge, Forsake the Worldly, Muddle the Mixture, Radiant’s Judgment

Sorcery:  Akroma’s Vengeance, Approach of the Second Sun, Decree of Justice, Decree of Pain, Dream Cache, Essence Fracture, In Garruk’s Wake, Migratory Route, Mystic Speculation, Ponder, Razaketh’s Rite, Wander in Death

Artifact: Abandoned Sarcophagus, Azorius Keyrune, Commander’s Sphere, Conch Horn, Crystal Ball, Darksteel Ingot, Fluctuator, Gilded Lotus, Manalith, Orzhov Keyrune, Sensei’s Divining Top, Sol Ring, Thought Vessel

Enchantment: Archmage Ascension, Astral Slide, Cast Out, Drake Haven, Faith of the Devoted, Lay Claim, New Perspectives, Soothsaying, Spirit Cairn, Thought Reflection

Land: 3 Island, 2 Plains, 3 Swamp, Arcane Sanctum, Ash Barrens, Barren Moor, Blasted Landscape, Command Tower, Desert of the Mindful, Drifting Meadow, Drowned Catacomb, Evolving Wilds, Fetid Pools, Glacial Fortress, Halimar Depths, Irrigated Farmland, Isolated Chapel, Lonely Sandbar, Polluted Mire, Prairie Stream, Reliquary Tower, Remote Isle, Secluded Steppe, Sunken Hollow, Temple of Deceit, Temple of Enlightenment, Temple of Silence, Temple of the False God, Terramorphic Expanse

Never Empty Handed

Right off the bat, 50 of the 99 cards in the main deck are odd converted mana cost, which means there is a very high chance that Yannett will be casting spells without help. Once you start to include spells like Conch Horn, Soothsaying, and Mystic Speculation, you start to have a lot more control over what cards you’ll be revealing with the general’s attack trigger.

Looking over the deck from a more strategic perspective, it was hard to get a grasp on what was going on at first. Knowing that Grayson and I don’t often build the same kinds of decks, but having already flirted with a five-color cycling deck, I tried to look at what his deck was setting out to do and if I thought it was viable. The cycling theme dominates, but until I play with or against it, I can’t be sure if it will mean the deck plays the same every game or if certain spells will present themselves as removable.

Almost a third of Grayson’s deck can cycle—and if he includes Compulsion, everything can cycle. As such, having Drake Haven, Chasm Skulker, and Spirit Cairn around to generate tokens is a very sound strategy. Token creation can be an underappreciated part of Magic for those who haven’t yet felt the power of it, making a card generate more value than just the single card. By extension, this stalls up the board while allowing the pilot time to dig for the two big win conditions of the deck: Approach of the Second Sun and Psychosis Crawler.

Evened Out

The flashy part of this deck is that at any moment you could be gaining advantage by cheating in something as big as Void Winnower or surprise Magister Sphinx. Plenty of the odd converted mana cost cards provide value, but not every spell can be cast with Yennett and even converted mana costs are pretty much unavoidable. What I like is that Grayson has put spells that act as rattlesnakes into those slots, so even when revealed, they are foreboding.

I like having Dimir Infiltrator and Muddle the Mixture to transmute for Fluctuator, which drives this deck. Cast Out and Decree of Justice foreshadow problematic combat math for an opponent. And revealing Decree of Pain means that your opponents have to look at your available mana—you should have five already—and question if attacking you is really worth it. The nice thing is that once we’re using Psychosis Crawler, the draw trigger will have value, sometimes over getting spells cast anyway since so many cards have natural cycling.

Accept Change

As I looked over the deck, I didn’t see a lot I would be looking to change. The biggest red flags came in the artifact section, with the use of the Azorius Keyrune and Orzhov Keyrune. These two should be substituted out for Obelisk of Esper and Fellwar Stone. I understand that both can be hit by Yennett and can be creatures if needed, but I would prioritize getting my general out/cycling often (the Stone) and maximizing my colors (the Obelisk) over the Keyrunes.

There could be a case made that Archfiend of Ifnir, Ruthless Sniper, and Radiant’s Judgment offer enough removal that cards like Expunge and Essence Fracture aren’t needed. I think this would allow for room for at least some counter magic—sometimes you only need one to stop someone from thwarting you—and Lightning Greaves to help keep our sphinx safe. I also have my reservations about Thought Vessel and Sol Ring, only because I don’t often like making colorless mana in a deck with more than two colors. But since so much of the deck wants to be cycling, any mana is good mana.

Finding Space

Finally, there are a few spells I would want to find space for, especially since we have a high chance of casting them without using mana. Jace’s Ingenuity was a big missing piece for me. While most people don’t want to be drawing three cards for five mana, the fact that you can set up the top of your deck means that you can Brainstorm this to the top of your deck effortlessly. I might include Stonecloaker as a way to not only protect a creature requiring it, but also to get another enter-the-battlefield trigger or additional cycle. This is also a deck where Liliana Vess should be included since she sets up the top card of your library and might sit below the radar, since she won’t present a clear danger.

I am also going to advocate for the use of two Time Walk effects in Time Warp and Savor the Moment. Since Approach of the Second Sun is already a win condition, I can say from personal experience that just the threat of that going off a second time in a game will make you priority one to remove from the table. Since I don’t believe the deck has at present a way to loop these spells, I think they push you to victory.

Overall, I really do like the idea of this deck. It seems like the kind that can’t be developed to be perfect on the first try. The upcoming year’s sets will probably contribute to what this deck is capable of. At present the cycling mechanic might be overused and leave weaknesses in the deck that it cannot answer. That said, the deck boasts token creating and card draw as central themes, and that has proven fruitful in the past. And it’s very possible that there are interactions that I don’t see going on. I appreciate Grayson’s deckbuilding approach, because it’s a little more “mathematical” than my own.

But what do you think of this deck, or even just the concept? Do you think that an Esper cycling deck has more value than a different color identity? Yennett has been overlooked a bit, so I don’t know if people are giving her the credit she’s due. But I have high hopes for the future Yennett, I think that this deck can be whatever you wanted to be and I hope that this idea proves to be viable.

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

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.