If you have been following the Internet recently, you will note that the latest hotness from the casual world is the variant on Commander called Tiny Leaders. While it retains the rules on color identity and such, every card must have a converted casting cost of 3 or less (X = 0). It also has its own unique banned list that reaches beyond the simple Commander list to ban a lot of staples such as Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor, and Edric, Spymaster of Trest. (Find out more here.)
Tiny Leaders is a format that really embraces its Spikeness, with the lower casting costs, duels, a banned list that strives to keep things balanced for tournament play, and a smaller deck size to keep tutor effects and such more quickly resolvable. If you've ever thought about playing Commander in duels or tournaments, Tiny Leaders may be right up your alley.
To be fair, there has been a duel variant of Commander already on the books. It has a more nuanced banned list to help keep things real. You can check it out if you prefer.
Meanwhile, Tiny Leaders is currently the flavor of the month. Because of the tournament-Spike nature of the format, playing some simple Soraya the Falconer and a mono-white Bird deck is likely to get you clobbered.
We already have a few established archetypes in the format, such as the Ezuri, Renegade Leader as a tribal, Elfball-esque build. It runs Priest of Titania, Gaea's Cradle, a large number of mana Elves, it blows out at least one or two Hydras to invest its mana into, and it attacks with giant waves of Elves for the win.
Remember that Tiny Leaders is different than a lot of casual formats. It’s designed to be used to take a fun, casual format and send it off on a Spikish spin. Unless your playgroup agrees to keep it nice, you may not find much of a home in Tiny Leaders if are a non-Spike. Random pick-up games at the card shop or between rounds at a local tournament aren’t like to go well for you.
On the other hand, if you’ve been hankering for a casual format that will scratch your Spike itch, you may have found your new best friend—at least until the format is solved . . . or broken. You can break this thing all open!
So let’s embrace that Spike-ness and build a quick Tiny Leaders deck, just to try out the format.
You know what? Let's push that theme (of winning Spike-ish-ly) even more! Not just decks that win, but one that tries to win without necessarily being “fun” for a lot of people.
Barrin, Master Wizard ? Tiny Leaders | Abe Sargent
- Commander (0)
- Creatures (9)
- 1 Aether Adept
- 1 Chasm Skulker
- 1 Chronatog
- 1 Man-o'-War
- 1 Old Man of the Sea
- 1 Rishadan Cutpurse
- 1 Vedalken Mastermind
- 1 Wall of Tears
- 1 Waterfront Bouncer
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Jace Beleren
- Spells (19)
- 1 Aether Tradewinds
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Capsize
- 1 Counterspell
- 1 Forbid
- 1 Thirst for Knowledge
- 1 Ancestral Vision
- 1 Compulsive Research
- 1 Fade Away
- 1 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Ponder
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Curse of Inertia
- 1 Stasis
- 1 Chronatog Totem
- 1 Howling Mine
- 1 Relic Barrier
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Winter Orb
And there's your Stasis deck!
Stasis. Once you do, you try to find a way to keep your Stasis out, keeping your opponent locked out of the game. When your opponent tries to break out, simply counter, bounce, or steal any threats he or she has. Then, bounce your Stasis before you untap, untap all of your stuff, and replay it. Repeat turn after turn, beating with smaller creatures as needed, until you win.
Since the Tiny Leaders embraces that Spike mindset, go ahead and embrace that Stasis!
There are a few great tempo-oriented concepts here. The tiny leader is Barrin. Just sacrifice a permanent (and invest 2 mana) to bounce a creature. Usually, you'll want to do that to hold your foe back. We have a full twenty lands to make sure we have fodder for Barrin as well as to hit our land drops later on. You'll find that the threat of the bounce is often nastier than the actual bounce.
In addition to Barrin, we added bouncing creatures like Aether Adept and Man-o'-War to the decklist. If you don't want to sacrifice a permanent, you can just discard a card to Waterfront Bouncer to bounce a critter as well. Capsize is probably the best card here since you can play it to bounce and still buy it back to keep the bouncing going. We also have Cyclonic Rift and Aether Tradewinds to increase our bounce effects.
The next part of the deck is the tempo-oriented tapping and land-screwing. Note that we have Stasis adjuncts like Curse of Inertia. (Too bad we can't run Frozen Aether.) Whenever your opponent drops that land (or creature or artifact I suppose), just swing next turn, and tap it down for free. That way, your foe cannot build up a large number of untapped lands over time. Speaking of tapping and untapping lands, Winter Orb makes a decent adjunct to Stasis in case someone takes it out. We have some ways to turbo our Stasis deck with Jace Beleren and his Howling Mine. It doesn't matter how many cards your foes draw if he or she is locked behind a Stasis and Curse of Inertia. (A fun way to spin this deck would be to play an Azorius-colored leader and then run some white lock-down cards like Blind Obedience and Enlightened Tutor.)
Stasis eternally is to skip turns with Chronatog. We have both Chronatog and its Chronatog Totem. You could even skip one turn to upkeep it with Magosi, the Waterveil and then use that stored turn later on.
Another tempo-based way to take care of folks is the "tempo tax"—take a look at Fade Away. When you play it, you know it's coming, so you can pay the Fade Away cost for your creatures. But consider it in a deck with this much bouncing and tapping. Timed right, it's a virtual Plague Wind. You can add Rishadan Cutpurse to the mix as well.
Don’t forget the power of Vedalken Mastermind here. It’s very easy to tap it and bounce a Stasis back to your hand. That’s obviously the major reason it’s here. But you could also use it to bounce a creature with an enters-the-battlefield trigger, such as Rishadan Cutpurse or Aether Adept. If you have enough mana, it can be a nice trick to pull!
I thought about Vedalken Shackles, but after consideration, I wanted more creatures to trigger stuff like Curse of Inertia. Instead, Old Man of the Sea leapt in. Not everyone has the budget for a card like that, but the Old Man is certainly a worthy addition, adding another element of harassing to the deck. Plus, you can tap to steal a creature and then sacrifice it to Fade Away or Rishadan Cutpurse and grab another whose taxes were paid.
The only real things that are left are adding in card-draw and filtering to find combo pieces, counters, and a few more creatures that are on theme. You can swing with a few creatures over your foe's denuded or tapped-down board a few times until you win—you don't even need a giant beater.
Stasis decks, let’s sum up:
- Remember to find and play Stasis.
- Then, bounce it with something like Vedalken Mastermind or Capsize.
- Or you can upkeep Stasis by simply hitting your foe with a Sword of Feast and Famine–equipped dork, which will untap your lands and let you go infinite.
- Another infinite way is to have Curse of Inertia. Swing with a creature, untap an Island, and use the untapped Island to pay the Stasis turn after turn.
- Or just chuck your turns into Chronatog.
- Or upkeep Stasis for a few turns, and then, when you are about to run out of mana, bounce it with Aether Tradewinds.
And there you are!
Feel free to toss in the likes of Thassa, God of the Sea, Daze, Rhystic Deluge, Equilibrium, Temple Bell, Dictate of Kruphix, Quiet Contemplation, Vedalken Shackles, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. If you want to bring back your dead, but vital, enchantments, you could run something like Skull of Orm or Crystal Chimes. You could also shuffle everything (including artifacts or creatures) with a Feldon's Cane or similar effect.
I hope you enjoyed our tour through all things Tiny today, including the Barrin Stasis deck. What are your thoughts about the burgeoning format? Are you going to try it out?
See you next week,