Not long ago Ted asked me if I was interested in writing about (checks notes), "irritating commanders and cards that hose them.” I stewed on it for a bit. At first I wasn’t sure how I wanted approach this. Who am I to decide which commanders are more irritating than another. I mean, I love to play my
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger deck which is totally fair and janky, but that doesn’t stop my friends from holding up their spot removal specifically for me just so they can get to “play magic”.
So I went looking for some reliable data on where players likely find the most “irritation” in their EDH lives and turned once again to edhrec.com for my Magic Mirror on the wall. Odds are pretty good if the commander is showing on their top builds anywhere in the last 2 years, you're dealing with it at your LGS. It’s also fun to have access to their top 100 list of saltiest EDH cards.
For today's installment of Sour Salty Grapes we will be taking a look at some of the recent rising stars in the last couple weeks on EDHREC.com and examine countermeasures specific to those commanders and their typical strategies. Bear in mind these countermeasures are designed to answer what I see as general trends for these commanders. One should always weigh my recommendations against their local meta to see if they are the right fit. Let's begin.
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Yuriko has been a pet favorite for many since its release last summer but received a considerable boost from the printing of new Ninja creatures with Ninjutsu in the recent Modern Horizons expansion. Coupled with what I perceive as “writing on the wall” for an eventual return to Kamigawa, this made
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow a priority for today's article. Regarding countermeasures to Yuriko, I see a few general strategies worth noting. The first is that Yuriko and subsequent Ninja cards are counting on successful combat phases primarily using “unblockable” as the method of evasion. This means traditional combat strategies are coming up short in these matchups and requires alternative thinking. The second component I see for Yuriko decks is a need to manipulate their top deck through cards like
Sensei’s Divining Top to better maximize Yuriko’s triggered ability. If these decks are alowed to have their way with their own top deck they can put a serious clock on the table.
First I’m inclined to lean on resources that tax our opponents combat step. Cards like
Ghostly Prison help by adding a mana cost to attacking. Then cards like
Maze of Ith to bottleneck their options. Both of these lines of play will put a crimp on the Yuriko player while being relevant against any other combat-oriented decks. Then I enjoy cards like
Curse of Death’s Hold and
Watchdog to help nullify the combat damage required to trigger Yuriko. While these are meant to be more targeted at Yuriko decks, they add depth to an anti-combat strategy. It is also worth noting most of these suggestions are in the form of Artifacts or Enchantments making it a bit more challenging for a Blue/Black deck to deal with once they resolve.
The next counter measures I’d focus on for Yuriko are resources that disrupt top deck manipulation. The quick and simple solution here are cards that create
Millstone effects at instant speed. So in addition to the namesake card there are options like
Altar of Dementia,
Grindclock that help mitigate any
Sensei Divining Top shenanigans a Yuriko player may have in mind. Also be sure to add in
Lantern of Insight to reduce the top deck chaos factor and
Rest in Peace style cards to keep inevitable graveyard malarkey in check when you are running any
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Looking at the common components found in lists for this deck straight up gave me a headache. As suspected, when you see this card sitting in your opponent’s command zone you can expect an “Oops-All-Spells” strategy via infinite mana loops, counter magic, artifact shenanigans, card draw manipulation and stax style control. Fortunately, as I have previously suggested about the Urza EDH decks, you will automatically have 2 to 3 allies helping you shut this madness down. The question is what trinkets will you bring to the table? This will be a little tricky since many of the tools to restrict an Urza deck will often restrict the whole table. Even then it is worth the risk. I feel your best bet for managing an
Urza, Lord High Artificer meta will be strategies that force player into playing “fair magic.” This means limiting how much anyone can cheat their way around the standing rules of the game.
My first impulse is to put a crimp
Urza, Lord High Artificer’s baked in goal of playing out the whole deck in one shot. For this we have
Arcane Laboratory, the recently reprinted
Rule of Law,
Eidolon of Rhetoric and
Curse of Exhaustion. If nothing else, having at least one of these card in play stops the Urza deck from going full ham. That isn’t enough however so we need to bolster our efforts.
The second piece I want to shut down in the Urza deck is its ability to draw extra cards. This means countering their inevitable
Narset, Parter of Veils with our own
Narset, Parter of Veils along side
Spirit of the Labyrinth and
Notion Thief. Even with
Urza, Lord High Artificer’s ability aside, mono blue artifact decks are already well positioned to draw extra cards. There is no sense in just letting that slide.
The third way I want to shut down for the Urza player is access to counter magic. Outside of running a compliment of
Counterspell's, I’m inclined to go the route of cards like
City of Solitude,
Dosan the Falling Leaf,
Teferi, Time Raveler and
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir forcing most if not all players at the table into the same tempo of game play. It is important to note with this third option however that all other efforts to dismantle a
Urza, Lord High Artificer deck need to be in place. Shutting down the ability of players to interact with the Urza opponent at instant speed is risky since you are merely shutting down their combo protection and not the combo itself. Timing will matter with this one.
Finally for the red players in the room I suggest adding in some
Shatterstorm effects to you brew in addition to suicide components like
Eidolon of the Great Revel. While the Pillar and Eidolon tend to be weaker in EDH overall, it seems to me that many of the favorite cards for the Urza decks are at 3 CMC or less making them perfect prey for these cards.
A third commander and darling of the Commander 2018 precons that has been seeing considerable brewing of late is
Lord Windgrace, thanks in part to the printing of
Wrenn and Six. In my previous article I discussed the some of the absurdities of
Wrenn and Six and the high synergy it brings to the
Lord Windgrace deck through its draw engine. We are also seeing the increased addition of cards like
Prismatic Vista and
Tectonic Reformation to strengthen its sustainable green deal. I think it’s important to note that at first glance this deck may not feel like a reanimation deck, but it is important to treat it like one.
There's a significant number of cards in these decks dedicated to recapturing lands from the graveyard. This means we need to lean heavily on graveyard hate. The upcoming reprint of
Leyline of the Void in the M20 core set is certainly a welcome sight. I would also tailor the graveyard hate to include some targeted removal with cards like
Scavenging Ooze and
Moratorium Stone. These will hit the Windgrace decks where it hurts without drawing the same ire that mass graveyard hate tends to draw.
Aside from the graveyard shenanigans
Lord Windgrace runs with its lands, there are a few other trends presented in the data that we can prepare for. There’s a great deal of tutoring going on in the Windgrace decks so
Ashiok, Dream Render,
Ob Nixilis, Unshakled,
Leonin Arbiter, and
Aven Mindcensor can be handy tools of stifling. It also looks like a the aggro components like to go wide with token creatures so be ready with your
Wrath of God and
Cyclonic Rift style board wipe options too. You may also find some of my aforementioned countermeasures for Yuriko and Urza useful against the nuances of a
Lord Windgrace deck so be sure to check them against your local meta to see where they fit.
With that it is time to say good day and good night. I hope this list of EDH countermeasures by Johnny was helpful for you. Please feel free to check in with me on Twitter @JohnnySlivers if you have any questions.
Until next time, may your top decks be epic :)