Dedicated to my high school Magic friends; thanks for teaching me about B.R.E.A.D.

One of the reasons that Commander keeps bringing me back year after year is how adaptable it is, how it allows for inspiration to strike from just about anywhere. As Commander Legends previews spilled out over the last few weeks, I knew that I would eventually stumble upon a general that spoke to me. Encore’s potential seemed a little lacking when I first started thinking about its use in Commander, since we exile any creatures you grant the ability to. Yet from the moment I saw Araumi of the Dead Tide and realized that it could be a factor in every game, I knew I wanted to do some careless things—like bringing Phyrexian Dreadnought out to play.

This week, we’re looking to leverage Araumi’s encore granting ability to create a different kind of reanimator deck, one that should be able to take down an entire table in a few quick swoops, instead of swarming just one player at a time. I ended up liking this deck’s potential a lot more than I expected I might, hopefully it can have a similar effect on my readers.

Commander: Araumi of the Dead Tide

Creatures: Archetype of Imagination, Baleful Strix, Bazaar Trademage, Body Double, Corpse Connoisseur, Farfinder, Filth, Gravebreaker Lamia, Hunted Horror, Hunted Phantasm, Inverter of Truth, Massacre Girl, Myr Retriever, Nyxathid, Pack Rat, Phyrexian Dreadnought, Phyrexian Metamorph, Phyrexian Soulgorger, Pilgrim’s Eye, Rishadan Brigand, Rotting Regisaur, Tribute Mage, Wonder

Artifacts: Altar of Dementia, Ashnod’s Altar, Bident of Thassa, Charcoal Diamond, Embalmer’s Tools, Fellwar Stone, Mind Stone, Sky Diamond, Surveyor’s Scope, Talisman of Dominance, Torpor Orb, Whip of Erebos

Enchantments: Coastal Piracy, Death Match, Freed from the Real, Levitation, Reconnaissance Mission, Teferi’s Veil

Instants: Ancient Excavation, Blink of an Eye, Chain of Vapor, Entomb, Into the Roil, Muddle the Mixture, Polymorphous Rush, Reality Ripple, Silence the Believers, Tale’s End, Trickbind, Whir of Invention

Sorceries: Careful Study, Decree of Pain, Exhume, Fabricate, Final Parting, Footsteps of the Goryo, Reanimate, Sakashima’s Will, Windfall

Lands: 13 Island, 11 Swamp, Barren Moor, Command Tower, Dimir Guildgate, Dismal Backwater, Drowned Catacomb, Geier Reach Sanitarium, Jwar Isle Refuge, Lonely Sandbar, Polluted Mire, Remote Isle, Submerged Boneyard, Sunken Hollow, Temple of Deceit

Giving a Dreadnought an Encore

Properly contextualizing the cult status of cards like Phyrexian Dreadnought for players who came to the game far more recently can be difficult. I don’t know if there is a modern casual equivalent, especially in a world where cards are dissected and known quantities before their set releases. When the out of print cards you had access to were solely the long boxes at your local game store, the idea of a 12/12 trample creature with a converted mana cost of one was the stuff of legends. I don’t think I saw a Dreadnought in person for the first three years I played Magic.

It’s not an objectively good card, but it presents a challenge that makes casting it into a story. There was at least one player I knew in my college years that would use Stifle or Trickbind, but there was also at least one time someone used Homarid Spawning Bed and Scornful Egotist to get most of the way to twelve power. This sense of ingenuity is what made me want to solve a few puzzles with this week’s deck to really create something fun that inspires as many worthwhile stories as possible.

It may be theorycrafting at this point, but I believe that with Araumi as an enabler, we don’t have to worry about the fact that we are exiling our good creatures to make tokens. I believe that as long as we focus on using each attack step to progress our game, we should be able to maintain options in our graveyard and keep pace with the typical game that goes for on average eleven turn cycles. Of course, I want to reanimate Phyrexian Dreadnought on the regular, which requires a contingency plan.

Our secret ingredient is Torpor Orb. This single card can enable our Dreadnought, along with Hunted Horror, Hunted Phantasm, and Inverter of Truth to play without their drawbacks. Because of how important it is to turn off these enter the battlefield triggers, I chose to employ a lot of ways to track down the very important artifact. Chiefly, this is done through Fabricate, Whir of Invention, and Tribute Mage. But a lot of thought was put into making sure Muddle the Mixture could go get the Orb and by extension, a lot of other two converted mana cost cards, like Altar of Dementia, Myr Retriever, and even Tale’s End.

Lesson from Feldon

Admittedly running counter to the Torpor Orb interactions, we can focus on enter the battlefield effects as our fallback plan. This can be as simple as giving Baleful Strix encore as a form of card draw or using Death Match as disproportionate removal. Yet outside of these interactions, I took a cue from what I had learned building a Feldon of the Third Path deck several years ago. The whole of Magic is filled with big creatures with drawbacks deterring them from staying in play, such as Phyrexian Soulgorger or Rotting Regisaur. Through Araumi, we’ll never have to deal with their drawbacks and as long as we’ve stocked Filth in the graveyard or have Levitation in play, it won’t matter that we only get to attack with each creature once.

But what if we weren’t restricted to only one attack with our encored tokens, what if we could save them in some form? While not reliable in such a small number, we can use phasing through Teferi’s Veil or Reality Ripple to get around the exile trigger at the end of our turn. Similarly, it would only take one activation of Pack Rat to start building our own colony with subsequent activations.

If there was one failing of Feldon, it was that Red doesn’t have a high saturation of quality graveyard enablers. Dimir, of course, has a wealth of options to enable encore. Ancient Excavation runs double duty, as it’s one-sided Windfall effect, giving me options and filling my graveyard. Corpse Connoisseur and Gravebreaker Lamia act as additional copies of Entomb. And Final Parting can go grab two cards for any combination of situations. The end result is a deck that at its core should be able to play consistently no matter which plan it executes on.

Another Application of Araumi

Because I was taking a break from writing during the Commander Legends preview season, I unfortunately missed out on a good chance to muse about possible deck ideas for a whole host of legendary creatures. While I hope to make time for generals like Belbe, Corrupted Observer, Hans Eriksson, or Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh in the future, I wanted to close this week with a possible home for Araumi in the 99 of a deck.

Admittedly, I cannot be certain how potent this strategy would be or if it would even be worth the slower nature of Araumi, I have to wonder if she wouldn’t be well off in a ninjutsu deck. In theory because she is creating so many attackers, it leaves the door open for either encore ninjas to create a bunch of triggers for Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow or ample opportunities for a creature to go unblocked and be substituted with a ninja.

For some examples in the typical build, I have gotten some good use out of Mist-Syndicate Naga, but I think being encored might be the interaction the naga needed to really swarm the table. On the other end of the mana curve, Silent-Blade Oni could dish out considerable damage and strip opponents of their best spells. Of course, I have no evidence to back up these thoughts, beyond meandering experience.

With that, I’ve begun to overstay my welcome. Next time, I will be digging into a deck that is long overdue to get a spotlight, dinosaurs! Then, I will be starting a run of articles that should cap off the year in style. Stay safe out there and be kind to one another. Thanks for reading.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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