Have you ever felt like your friends were playing too much Magic in your game of Magic? Do you think that there’s a finite amount of fun to be had in a given game and want to have all of it? Do you demand your opponents ask for your permission to do just about anything? Then boy do I have a deck for you!
The Commander: Talrand, Sky Summoner
Talrand is an extremely flexible Commander from back in the day who still holds up well today thanks to his simple but powerful ability to create flying 2/2’s for doing the things you want to be doing already in a mono-blue deck, namely advancing your board state with sorceries and stopping everyone else from winning with instants. A lot of decks don’t have ways to deal with massed flyers, especially through counterspells, and while the tokens don’t seem like much at first glance, you can easily be cracking in for 10+ damage a turn fairly quickly, and even with Commander life totals, that becomes a problem fast.
This list is my personal baby that I’ve had for years so there are definitely some cards that could be updated like ‘just because’ favorite Spy Network, but the deck is still plenty effective today.
This deck largely eschews traditional mana rock based ramp, though there is of course a Sol Ring. Instead, we have a couple of cost reducers in Sapphire Medallion and Jace’s Sanctum which can effectively provide more mana than a rock when we’re casting multiple spells per turn, and the big money payoffs Extraplanar Lens and Caged Sun to take advantage of the fact we’re a monocolor deck and double or triple (at least, more on this later) our mana, allowing us to do truly horrendous things. This is also why we’re running exclusively Snow-Covered Island, in order to break the symmetry of the Lens. While it has become slightly more common to see them since their recent reprint, it’s still a rarity to find an opponent running them, and even if they are, we should still be ahead by virtue of being monocolor where most other decks are not.
In addition, we have Terrain Generator as a repeatable way to get extra lands into play. This deck is planning on drawing lots of cards and therefore having lots of extra basics to put in, and when each of those lands is tapping for extra mana it snowballs quickly.
The Card Draw
The deck is chock full of the biggest hits in blue’s busted draw power with classic pieces all your friends love such as Jin-Gitaxias, Rhystic Study, and Consecrated Sphinx. In addition, there are cards that cantrip like Think Twice and Impulse, plus big mana X-spells to take advantage of all the doubling we’re doing like Blue Sun’s Zenith and Stroke of Genius.
Further, we have ways to get repeated scry like Jace’s Sanctum, Scrying Sheets, and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. On top of that, we can also manipulate the top of our deck or go digging for pieces with cards like Sensei’s Divining Top and Scroll Rack.
The true heart of the deck is the counterspells – when I first built it it had many more counters in it because our meta was heavy on other blue decks that wanted to combo off and win, and it was built to be the ultimate policeman, stonewalling infinite combos and winning 3, 4, 5 card deep counterspell battles. Over time a lot of these ended up coming out while keeping a good density as the meta shifted and my threat assessment within the playgroup got better, and this is the little secret to heavy control decks in Commander: don’t try and stop everything from happening.
A lot of players find strategies like this where you are trading one of your cards for one of your opponents’ difficult to play properly because they’re trying to do too much and prevent anything remotely threatening from hitting the board, and even with this much mana and card draw, you’ll burn yourself out and die trying it more times than not. Instead, ask yourself if that spell on the stack is going to cause you to rapidly or immediately lose the game, or if it’s going to disrupt your board in a way that will make you lose. The vast majority of the time this means you should be letting any creatures less dangerous than a Craterhoof Behemoth resolve, and saving your counter for a crucial Wrath or Enter the Infinite. This is also why we have multiple counters like Dissipate and Void Shatter that not only counter the spell but exile it, if it’s not dangerous enough that you want to ensure they can’t recur it from their graveyard next turn and try to kill you all over again, you probably shouldn’t be countering it.
That being said, we do have a solid chunk of regular old counters, packing all the free ones available at the time in Force of Will, Pact of Negation, Thwart, and Foil so that you can still protect yourself on a crucial turn where you need to tap out to get something important down. Muddle the Mixture does double duty as a counter in a pinch, though it is mainly here along with Merchant Scroll and Mystical Tutor as a way to get Cyclonic Rift to answer the board if something scary does make it through.
Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, and Reality Shift offer us spot removal for problematic creatures, something rare in blue. Stormtide Leviathan locks down most combat while conveniently leaving our Drakes unhindered. Trickbind and Squelch give us ways to deal with abilities, and the holdover from the tuck rule days Hinder is still great for putting a spell out of reach. Finally, when we have a full grip and tons of mana, Capsize, Forbid, and Spell Burst come in to play to actually let us lock people out entirely.
While we plan on keeping most issues off of the board with counters, we do pack additional answers such as the brutal Torpor Orb to completely shut off the many, many decks built around some form of ETB’s while leaving us unaffected, plus taking advantage of our large number of basic lands with Back to Basics to shut down big chunks of our multicolor opponents’ mana bases. Leyline of Anticipation gives us flash which is amazing since we can hold up counters on other turns and then if nothing threatening is played we can effectively take our turn on the end step of the player before us.
Finally we have our spicy graveyard package with Relic of Progenitus and Grafdigger’s Cage. We are running a Proteus Staff to polymorph our Drakes into one of the few, highly valuable creatures in our deck, but when combined with the Cage the Staff becomes repeatable exile for the biggest threat each turn.
The Game Enders
Okay, so now that we have a bunch of mana and a fist full of counters, how do we actually close out the game? Since we’re not running mana rocks the easy, lame way with a classic Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal combo to make infinite mana isn’t open to us, so we get to do things with a little more style. My absolute favorite way to win with this deck is with a little card called Stolen Identity which not only lets us make another copy of our Caged Sun to buff our whole team further but also makes our lands tap for yet another mana AND gets ciphered on to a Drake that you know will be able to connect each combat and make yet another copy.
With all that mana, we’re also into the territory of actually being able to lock people out with our buyback bounce and counter spells, especially if we can find a Jin-Gitaxis to ensure they stay empty handed. If that’s not enough, Blue Sun’s Zenith is target player so we can mill people out quickly as well.
Thanks for joining us for our latest kitchen table Commander deck! Make sure to keep an eye out for the other decks in the series! If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.