Hello everyone, and welcome to another action-packed Commander article, brought you by TCGplayer.com. This week, I am going to continue looking at Dark Ascension, this time delving into the goodies offered in UW colors.
With that said, there are still a few spirits in this new set that are pretty good in this deck. The most obvious choice is Drogskol Captain, because he beefs Geisty and makes a lot of the other spirits in the deck, like Eternal Dragon or Sovereigns of Lost Alara, fit in with St. Traft's own hexproof.
Niblis of the Urn and Dungeon Geists are both pretty useful for an aggro strategy, and they both curve out pretty well with Traft. With all the evasion, I like Soul Seizer in this deck as well. I feel like it has a lot more versatility than a card like Control Magic, even if its slower and relies on a connection.
The gnarliest ghost of Dark Ascension, though - Drogskol Reaver. This bad boy is a spirit, so he loves the captain, but really, it is so amazing that it can go in literally any UW deck. The double strike and life link combination causes its draw ability to trigger twice every time it hits, and this also makes the swords doubly effective as well. Equip a Sword of Light and Shadow or Sword of War and Peace on this bad boy, and it will deal five damage, gaining you five life and a draw, trigger the life gain part of the swords which will draw you another card, and then the process will repeat for the second strike. You will end up drawing four cards just for attacking with a sworded flyer, which we all know to be a solid tactic in the first place.
I like the Drogskol Reaver so much, I built a deck that would better utilize life gain, so I could get more value out of it. I used Drain Life effects in last week's Kaervek deck, but that was mostly as a preventive part of the strategy; I wanted to make gaining life more of a proactive game plan.
Luckily, there are a lot of good cards that will take advantage of our bountiful vitality. First, we have to include Well of Lost Dreams; just imagine having that thing out with the Reaver!
Beyond the Well, life link creatures will be the simplest place to start, since we don't have to do much to make it work, and the best life linker for your money is Serra Ascendant. It is basically a 6/6 for W in EDH, and with life gain to back him up, we can really have some fun. The only time I have seen an Ascendant that wasn't dominating the table is when the controller was below thirty, and hopefully it won't come to that.
Next on the list is Wurmcoil Engine, and this is what led me, (amongst other factors,) to choose the general for the list, Hannah, Ship's Navigator. I like the fact we have an aggressive Hannah deck that just wants to get value and beat some face.
The last piece of the life link puzzle is Felidar Sovereign. Yeah... this thing is good in a life gain deck. It helps alleviate the fact that there is no coming back from the 21 general damage, and offers a sweet win condition against slow roll decks, especially if they haven't dealt any damage. Test of Endurance works in a similar way, but we have to work a little harder to get to 50 life. With Hannah leading, though, Test of Endurance may well be a more reliable win condition, and White really has better support for enchantments anyways, with cards like Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, and Academy Rector.
Of course, lifelink is not the only way creatures can gain us life. Gerrard Capashen is a regular source of good life, and has an ability that lends itself to aggressive tendencies. He is quite good with Training Grounds, which also reduces Hannah's ability-cost. Augury Adept is a nice little beater, and in fact, I am surprised this guy slipped by me for so long. I love how it will draw us a card and trigger the Reaver for another.
The most interesting life gainer, to me, is Faith Healer. The life is actually only the second best part of this card - it is also a sac outlet! Combine this with Claws of Gix, and we have a reliable way to use Parallax Wave and Parallax Tide to basically get away with murder. You see, all you need to do it play either P-Wave or P-Tide (heh), put all five targets on the stack, and destroy them so the second half of their text never happens and the cards stay exiled. Aura of Silence will also work, but won't gain any life.
Hannah really, really, REALLY, likes the parallax cards.
Beyond creatures, there are some planeswalkers that will gain us life. Elspeth Tirel will be a repeatable font of Vigor, but Ajani Goldmane is the real star here. The life gain is a little more reliable than Tirel's, since he doesn't need a creature in play. His ultimate is the big attraction, though, especially since we plan on having a lot of life.
We can even work some life from our mana rocks, like Pristine Talisman or Paradise Plume. Normally, these cards are not terribly impressive, but consider how awesome they are with the Well of Lost Dreams. They will both pay for the card draw themselves, and is especially cool with the Talisman as it doesn't need a spell to trigger it.
Since we are running Hannah, we will definitely want to load up on artifacts, and particularly artifact creatures. All totaled, there are 28 artifacts in the deck, so we know we will get a lot of value out of Etherium Sculptor or Cloud Key. Combine these with Sensei's Divining Top and Future Sight, and we have an infi-dig combo - draw the top card of the library with the Top's tap ability, play the top again for free with the combination of Future Sight and the Sculptor/Key, and you can keep drawing cards until you get what you need.
I really like Compulsion in this deck, since it can put more expensive cards like Wurmcoil Engine into the graveyard so we can use something like Scarecrone or Protomatter Powder to put it straight into play. These can both sacrifice themselves as well, so they themselves are good targets for recursion.
The last recursion tech in the deck is Crucible of Worlds. It will protect our key lands like Mishra's Workshop, Serra's Sanctum, or Academy Ruins, true, and all the artifact recursion will make Crucible a really safe option. Really, though, we want to abuse lands that sacrifice themselves to get maximum value. Wasteland and Strip Mine are probably the strongest, but Burried Ruin is quite good in this deck as well. Petrified Field will act like a baby Crucible we can get back later, just in case.
So just to review, the early game plan is aggressive, with a lot of small creatures and mana fixing in ramp, mana rocks, and cost reducers to establish a board position, deal some damage, and gain some life. As we ramp up, we can drop the bigger creatures, which will escalate the damage and life gain dramatically. Drogskol Reaver and Well of Lost Dreams will turn that life into cards, which ideally will be Test of Endurance or Felidar Sovereign for a quick win. Plenty of recursion will keep us on task and going strong as we go for the win, and the infamous Future Top combo will help us get there all the faster.
Next week, I am going to make another attempt at werewolves, even though we still don't have a suitable general. I think I will stick to straight up RG this time, rather than the Adun Oakenshield jund deck I built last time. Hey, at least we got the Immerwolf!
If you are hankering for more EDH material, you can check out OffColorCast.com every Wednesday for a long, meandering discussion on the serious, awesome, and aggressive sides of the format. The Off Color boys will be showing up on next week's Commandercast as well, so come Monday, you can hear the sound of Andy's listenership drying up while we consistently steer him off topic.
Stay logged for more Commander action, same Magic time, same Magic website, and always remember - winning isn't everything; it is jut a prelude to the next game.
Thanks for reading!
Cassidy Silver @WriterofWrong
PS - As I finished my final read through, I realized I should have included Arcum Dagsson in the final deck list. He is so GOOD!
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