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Blink and You'll Miss It – Building with Roon


“Hold on. In your second main phase,  . . . ”

I have never uttered that phrase nearly as much as I have in the past week. It’s a particularly awkward phrase, and it’s one that most players don’t even understand the first time you use it. In ninety-five percent of matches (a completely scientific figure), there’s just no reason to ever make that distinction.

Today, I’m going to show you why you’ll be hearing that phrase repeatedly for the next several years.

My favorite Standard deck of all time is and probably always will be Greater Gifts from Ravnica/Kamigawa Standard. Second place will probably always be Reveillark around the time of Lorwyn block. Third place, and the launching point for today’s various Magical musings, was a little ditty built, in part, around this seemingly innocuous card:

Momentary Blink

Check out the top decks from U.S. Nationals in 2007, and do a search for Momentary Blink. Or just trust me that it comes up eighteen times. For reference, Tarmogoyf, which was also Standard-legal at the time, comes up just twelve times. For funsies, search for Remand.

That was the power of Momentary Blink six years ago. Now consider that, since then, creatures have improved, Wizards has shown a penchant for printing spell-like abilities on more and more creatures, and there are even more Momentary Blink lookalikes running around.

It’s no wonder, then, that this guy caught my eye out of all the cards in the Commander (2013 Edition) set:

Roon of the Hidden Realm

Bant-flavored? Check. Blinks things? Check. Randomly made as a Rhino Soldier? Check. Makes you want to use its ability in the second main phase instead of end step? Double check.

How could I not build around this thing?

So, from the outset, I want a few things out of the deck:

  • A tons of creatures – Roon has one job . . . let’s let him do it.
  • Resilience to sweepers – With a ton of creatures comes a ton of vulnerability. Some of the Blink effects will take care of part of this (a la Mistmeadow Witch and Roon), but we also want things such as Eternal Witness, Angel of Serenity, and Masked Admirers.
  • No infinite combos – There’s no point in building around Roon if we’re just going to try to Reveillark-combo someone out. That means I’m going to avoid Body Double even though it’s a strong Blink target (Karmic Guide will be able to stay because it’s relevant for the second point).
  • If it’s not a creature, it better make Roon better or be just that sweet – That will cut out some of my favorite Bant staples in that Wargate, Doubling Season, and Mana Reflection won’t make it in.
  • Never play a spell when a creature would do the job – If I want a Glimpse of Nature, I’ll play Soul of the Harvest. If I want a draw spell, I’ll play Mulldrifter.

Let’s get to building:

The obvious place to start is with Blink effects to make sure we can get our stuff going outside of Roon. For that, we have:

Vanish into Memory

A number of these come in the Bant Commander deck, but Vanish into Memory is the real gem from Coldsnap (there are not many cards you can say that about). Not only does it provide another Blink effect, but it draws cards, too—not that that particular effect will be in short supply in this deck.

Next, let’s check out our best Blink targets, drawing heavily on both old Reveillark decks and the 2007 Nationals.

Sun Titan

Vesuvan Shapeshifter


Draining Whelk
Of these, I’m not real excited about the counterspell creatures like Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk. They don’t work well with Roon, and they don’t really add to the game plan of just out-valuing the entire table. That said, they’re very powerful cards. Venser has other uses and can possibly stay.

I’m also not super-interested in Kitchen Finks or Glen Elendra Archmage. Finks is kind of dull, and Archmage can be frustrating for others to play against. Avenger of Zendikar is out because it’s in literally every green deck ever, and I want this deck to have a different feel. Avenger doesn’t need Roon to be game-ending. Besides, Hornet Queen is much cooler. Craterhoof Behemoth probably won’t make the cut for the same reason, even if it is on-theme.

Also, Arbiter of Knollridge doesn’t receive nearly enough love. It’s an incredibly political card, has a unique effect, and is close to broken with cards like Necropotence (a combo found in my Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck). Being able to Blink it makes it all that much sweeter.

Moving on, we have some support creatures, either ones that make Roon better or ones that interact well with blinking without being Blink targets themselves.

Progenitor Mimic

An aside on Derevi, Empyrial Tactician: I was quite underwhelmed by the Bird Wizard when I first read it, but I could not have been more wrong. It is quietly among the strongest cards in the set and definitely something to be built around in the future. For now, it’s pretty happy untapping Roon five times in a turn.

Djinn of Infinite Deceits is also not a remotely fair card when you can snatch the swapped creature back on command. It has been among the best cards in the deck and unbeatable if not removed, to say the least.

After that, most of these cards either copy other blinkable creatures or untap Roon. If we’re building around him, it seems that we should try to use his ability more than once per turn, no?

From there, we have a few other options to help the deck run smoothly and/or do cool things.

Somberwald Sage

Of these, Teferi and Rubinia excite me less since they don’t really add anything to the strategy. Skyward Eye Prophets doesn’t Blink, but he’s something to do with all of the untap effects if Roon isn’t available. The rest of the cards provide mana in some unique or effective way. I don’t think this is the kind of deck that wants Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, or the like. Even with Bane of Progress in the deck, I’d still rather play some Signets.

After that, here are a few of those sweet, noncreature support spells.

Proteus Staff

Bident of Thassa seems to be a more on-theme way to draw cards than, say, Sphinx's Revelation, and it seems fun in multiplayer. Greater Good is just one of my favorite cards ever, and it works well as anti-sweeper tech, too. Proteus Staff doesn’t Blink, per se, but it’s pretty close. Plus, it’s just a fun card that happens to be good against certain commanders and indestructible creatures.

Primal Command and Chord of Calling are both excellent additions, but I think I’ll leave out at least Chord to keep the deck from being repetitive. Momir Vig won’t make the cut for the same reason (plus, he has his own deck).

I like having about forty lands, but I am willing to go to thirty-eight in a deck like this. That leaves us with:

"Blink and You’ll Miss It"

  • Commander (0)

Note that the mana base is pretty much just the first thirty-eight cards I thought of. If you want to go more expensive, you can (Flooded Strand, Windswept Heath), and if you want to go less expensive, you can do that, too (Guildgates, no original duals). Honestly, the mana in Commander is so good that you really don’t need to dip into expensive stuff. Just play the cards you have, and you’ll be fine—even if it’s a bunch of Signets and Terramorphic Expanse.

Just keep in mind you need a few basics to search up with Sakura, Solemn, and friends.

Prophet of Kruphix
The deck is really, really sweet, and it’s instantly one of my favorites. I played a few games with it after throwing it together (literally between rounds) at Friday Night Magic and was impressed immediately. I played one four-player game in which I was the center of attention almost from the get-go (Sol Ring into Signet will do that) and had the board wiped three times, and yet, I still never once had an empty grip or board. Between Eternal Witness, Angel of Serenity, Reveillark, and Sun Titan, my stuff just didn’t stay dead. Eventually, everyone conceded when I had Prophet of Kruphix and Soul of the Harvest working in tandem.

In another game, I faced waves of hate, including having three of my lands blown up by Terastodon, but I got Prophet and Mistmeadow Witch going and continually built my advantage turn after turn until I just killed everyone with a bunch of creatures, including, somewhat ironically, the elephants from Terastodon.

A few things I learned:

Roon of the Hidden Realm is certainly here to stay, and, “Hold on, at the end of your second main,” might just be the new “EOTFOFYL” for the Commander crowd. Better get used to it.

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