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Welcoming Elite Arcanist


What is it that makes people like Isochron Scepter so much? The fact that it costs 2 mana is great—if it cost 4 or more, it would become far less attractive. But the exciting thing is the versatility and consistency it provides. Choose an instant that costs 2, imprint it, and enjoy the benefits of that spell for the rest of the game . . . until the first Naturalize comes along . . . unless you imprinted a counterspell.

A card that’s similar in theme but quite different in play—and that’s always intrigued me—is Kaho, Minamo Historian. At one point, I scoured the blue instants of Magic as I considered building a Kaho Commander deck. Unfortunately, the tools just aren’t there to have him do much in mono-blue, but he’s someone I’ll be keeping my eyes on as more and more blue instants are printed. It could take just one key spell to turn him into something playable and fun.

Today, though, I have a preview card from the on-the-horizon Magic 2014. Like Kaho, he’s a blue, 4-mana creature, and like Isochron Scepter, he lets you virtually imprint an instant and cast it turn after turn.

Unlike Isochron Scepter, the spell doesn’t have to cost 2 or less. That’s a big deal. Of course, you have to pay its converted mana cost to activate the Arcanist, but it’s still quite exciting.


To start, let’s take a look at some instants in Standard we wouldn’t mind imprinting on our new Wizard friend. (In case you are unfamiliar with the Mirrodin-block and Scars of Mirrodin–block ability word, imprinting something means you exile it to a permanent’s effect, and then that permanent uses the exiled card in some way. It’s not technically on Elite Arcanist, but he mimics the concept.)

Boros Charm

  • Aetherize This would remove all incentive for opponent to attack you, allowing you to stall the game until he or she finds a removal spell you can’t counter or until you resolve your Aetherling or Omniscience or whatever.
  • Far // Away Split cards were always good with Isochron Scepter, in part because you could cheat out the expensive side, but here, both sides just generate a lot of value and give you a ton of options.
  • Azorius Charm When it comes to options, Azorius Charm offers them in spades.
  • Boros Charm This combo alone puts your opponent on a five-turn clock while also offering the opportunity to defend your Arcanist with its own Charm. Just be careful when you deal damage—you might need the Charm up for indestructible! (“Indestructible” sounds weird as a noun. Silly M14 rules!)
  • Warleader's Helix This also creates a five-turn clock but for more mana and less versatility. However, the option to shoot down creatures and the ability to gain life sure do spice up the deal.
  • Cackling Counterpart I don’t know what you’re copying, but make sure it’s good. Making more Arcanists can be pretty awesome, too, if you have a nice suite of instants in your hand.
  • Bone to Ash, Cancel, Plasm Capture, Counterlash These Standard-legal counterspells all offer different upsides, from only costing 3 mana to generating a bunch of mana, cards, and free permanents.
  • Ready // Willing I saved the best for last here, as Ready allows for infinite mana in conjunction with creatures that tap for a total of 4 mana between them. With an Elvish Archdruid and two of M14’s Elvish Mystics along with the Elite Arcanist imprinting Ready // Willing, you can tap the Elves for ggggg, spend 3 to activate the Arcanist for Ready, and untap all your creatures with gg floating, ready to do it again. What will you do with all that mana? How about spending it to activate your other Elite Arcanist imprinting Cackling Counterpart to make infinite Elvish Archdruids and massive Elves?

Now, I’m not expecting a 4-mana 1/1 to make the competitive cut for Standard, but if you’re visiting my article looking for options on the new card, there you go. And if you like trying to do weird stuff (like I do) in sanctioned events, there’s your challenge.

Pocket Combos

As a quick refresher, “Pocket Combos” is my name for sets of cards that can be implanted into a Commander deck so that, every once in a while, you’ll just pull it off. Alternatively, you could infuse your deck with tutors to focus on the Pocket Combo or you could forego the Commander format entirely and build a sixty-card combo deck around the synergy—using the four-of rule to great advantage.

Today, I’m going to highlight Elite Arcanist by building a few Pocket Combos with him . . . and then tossing them all into the same deck.

Note that, after looking through all Magic’s legendary creatures with u in their cost, I settled on either Riku of Two Reflections or Rubinia Soulsinger, both of which offer some synergy with the Arcanist and/or the cards that synergize with him. I settled on the Soulsinger for her relative obscurity and because I am able to play To Arms! She and Elite Arcanist both play great with Illusionist's Bracers, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Rings of Brighthearth. I will, however, greatly miss the loss of Riku, Firemind's Foresight, and Ral Zarek.

Elvish Aberration
To Arms!

With these three cards, you can activate the Elf for ggg, pay gg to activate Elite Arcanist with the imprinted To Arms!, and then untap both creatures, floating g and drawing a card. This draws potentially your whole library and makes a bunch of green mana, which you can use to activate any other Elite Arcanists a bunch of times (in conjunction with To Arms!). Of course, since this is Commander, you’ll have to use Cackling Counterpart or Progenitor Mimic (in this list) for additional Arcanists. In lieu of Elvish Aberration, you could have three 1-mana-generating creatures, but I didn’t want to fill the deck with those, so Citanul Hierophants is here to grant mana-generating superpowers to passersby such as Scrivener and Coiling Oracle. Note that the mana is all green but that Gemstone Array can fix that—and also that since To Arms! draws you a card, you’ll be limited in your mana amount by the cards in your library. Once you draw Vitalize, Momentary Blink (or Cackling Counterpart), and Thousand-Year Elixir, though, you can begin the combo using Vitalize instead of To Arms! so you can keep making mana without running out of a library. (Consider Laboratory Maniac if you’d like to turn this into a feature.)

Seedborn Muse
Orim's Chant

With an Elite Arcanist imprinted with Orim's Chant, you can lock one opponent out of his or her turn on each of his or her turns (or on someone else’s turn if you prefer). With Seedborn Muse, however, you can then lock each opponent out of his or her own turn. If you want to lock each player out of each turn to prevent instant-speed shenanigans, Echo Mage or Sigil Tracer can help you handle all three opponents in a four-player game, leaving your only vulnerability in players’ upkeeps. Include Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to take care of that.

Cerulean Wisps

This equates to, “1: Draw a card.” It’s nice that the Arcanist’s ability even removes the necessity for u; you simply pay 1, tap the Arcanist, and then untap him and draw. This combo is part of what makes me miss Firemind's Foresight so much, but cards such as Personal Tutor and Mystical Tutor can help shore up this loss if you choose to run them.


Kaho, Minamo Historian
In addition to the Pocket Combos above, I’ll leave you with a few more specific card choices and synergies to round out the deck before I leave you with it below.

Thousand-Year Elixir

  • Rings of Brighthearth, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Illusionist's Bracers All three of these are very good with creatures’ activated abilities, with the Rings and Bracers doubling both Kaho’s and the Arcanist’s effects, but also Rubinia Soulsinger’s. Though she can normally only steal one creature at a time—because you lose it when she untaps or leaves the battlefield—these two artifacts actually double the ability when it’s activated, thus allowing you to borrow two creatures at a time. Thousand-Year Elixir is great for the virtual haste and to reuse imprinted instants if you’re willing to repay.
  • Genesis, Holistic Wisdom, Noxious Revival, Wildwood Rebirth, and Evolution Charm These cards all allow you to pull stuff from your graveyard and put it back into your hand (or onto top of your library in the case of Noxious Revival). With so many utility pieces, it can be key to have the right one at the right time—or just to return the Elite Arcanist after he dies. Genesis will also let you reuse Scrivener and friends, and Holistic Wisdom provides vast opportunity at the steep cost of exiling your cards.
  • Pull from Eternity and Riftsweeper With so much exiling taking place in this deck, I thought it would be nice to grab some back; I really hate permanently losing access to some of my resources. Pull from Eternity can take a spell abandoned by the Arcanist or Kaho and put in into your graveyard for later retrieval. Riftsweeper does the same but returns it to your library—convenient for Kaho in particular.
  • Instill Energy This is a pet card of mine, but it’s generally too low-impact to actually earn a spot in most decks. That may apply here as well, but it does allow for an additional activation of creatures with tap abilities . . . such as our exciting M14 preview card. Just don’t forget the drawbacks of this enchantment: It’s not real haste (it’s only for attacking, which is unfortunate considering our focus on activated abilities), and it can only untap once and only during your turn. A modern redo of this Aura would be awesome: “Enchanted creature has haste. 0: Untap enchanted creature. Activate this ability only once each turn.”


Instill Energy

  • Cunning Wish I don’t know what Wish rules you play by, but I’ve always found the official Commander guidelines to be lacking in this area in particular. I can see why they need to have them established the way they do, but in my opinion, the point of the Wish cycle was to grab any card—not just a card from a short, fifteen-option list. (That’s why it’s a Wish and not a tutor.) Just make sure not to spend too much time rifling through your collection, and if you’re going to go buy singles from the local game store’s counter in the middle of a Commander game, make sure to do it during someone else’s turn! And don’t forget: If you go infinite with Cunning Wish, Battle of Wits makes for a great win condition for decks with fewer than two hundred cards.
  • Harrow There is not much at all in the way of instant-speed mana acceleration. If you want to ramp up your mana with Elite Arcanist, here you go. And hey, it’s only 1 mana more than a Dreamscape Artist, and you don’t have to spellshape!



Well, that’s it for today. I’ll leave you with the list and a few new combos in your brain. Also, welcome to the world, Elite Arcanist.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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