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Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Die Trying

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I hope all of you raced out this weekend and picked up your copy of the Unsanctioned box! The chance to play a variety of games using the contents of just the box is delightful! While I was away from my local game store this weekend, I'll be picking up a couple of boxes tonight!

Another way to enjoy the cards is with an Unmander deck! If you are still questioning just how much fun silver-bordered cards can be in your Commander decks, check out the most recent episode of Game Knights! Josh and Jimmy, along with their guests Olivia and Tappy Toe Claws, put together decks using silver-bordered commanders and a generous helping of Un-cards throughout the decks.

Early last week I started to put together a Pippa, Duchess of Dice deck, then saw Jimmy had one as well. As of this writing, his decklist wasn't spoiled, so beyond the cards revealed during the game, nothing else is out there. After getting feedback from many of you, I present, Die Trying!

Die Trying | Commander | Bruce Richard


When looking at Pippa, Duchess of Dice, I really focused on the first ability. I thought about focusing on the second ability and pushing my Chicken a la King deck into Commander, but that just felt like a bird deck that would only work when Pippa and the Chicken King were both out. Besides, we already got a good look at Chicken a la King last week, so I really wanted to focus on Pippa here.

Alone, Pippa, Duchess of Dice, could be a little underwhelming. We are paying three mana to get a single token creature on each of our turns. That token creature is, on average, a 3.5/3.5 creature. Paying three mana for a token creature of that size is fine, but nothing really special. We are going to want more than just that!

Room for Improvement

Haste. One way to make Pippa (and the token creatures) better is with haste. Haste means Pippa can tap the turn she enters the battlefield, so the token production can start immediately. It would also mean that the token you make can attack immediately. Without haste, Pippa enters the battlefield and just sits there. The next turn she makes a token that just sits there. Even if you wait until your opponent's end step to tap Pippa and make a token, you are waiting two turns before you can attack with a single 3.5/3.5 creature. Haste can move things along.

Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves are obvious includes to speed Pippa along, with the added benefit that they will protect her as well. Concordant Crossroads and Crashing Drawbridge are two others options that will help Pippa and our Die! Die! Die! tokens.

Cost reduction. Three mana isn't a whole lot, but spending less is just better. We can make Pippa hasty, but then we need six mana to take advantage of the haste. Reducing the cost of the activation is a great way to make that happen!

My go to with these colors is Training Grounds. It reduces all my activation costs by two generic mana, so suddenly Pippa's abilities only cost one Green mana or one Blue mana! This card first did yeoman's work for me in an old Soulfire Grand Master 60-card casual deck I ran years ago. That deck absolutely needed the Training Grounds to make it hum the way it wanted to, and now this deck gets to step up.

Another card that works well here is Heartstone. Heartstone isn't quite as good as Training Grounds in this deck. It only reduces the cost by one and it also reduces opponents creature abilities that require an activation cost, so there is risk there. Heartstone is a lynchpin in my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck. My experience there suggests that there are few opponents running creatures with activation abilities that can benefit from this, so I not too worried about that downside.

My friend Andy recommended Biomancer's Familiar as another option for reducing the activation cost. This is another perfect fit for the deck! The downside for the Familiar is that it is a creature, so it is susceptible to a lot of removal, but if your opponents think Pippa is such a massive threat that they are targeting your Biomancer's Familiar, then you are definitely doing something right!

This is glorious! Heavy activation costs are miserable for decks that want to redo the activations again and again, so keeping the costs as minimal as possible is key! The problem now lies with the tapping requirement...

More tapping? More untapping! The next step in making Pippa awesome is finding ways to untap her. With Blue and Green, there is no shortage of ways to make that happen! The deck is packing a few auras that will allow you to untap Pippa for a small cost. Cards like Instill Energy or Pemmin's Aura will give us ways to activate Pippa multiple times in a turn and that is what I'm looking for! Let's roll more dice! I want my army of Die! Die! Die! tokens to be massive (and somewhat ridiculous), so being able to untap Pippa is key.

A second way is Seedborn Muse and other cards that will untap my creatures on each person's upkeep. This doesn't allow for repeated activations in a single turn, but you will get four times the activations that you would otherwise. Murkfiend Liege is another great option that has the added benefit of making the Green Die! Die! Die! tokens just that little bit bigger.

The obvious best option for this was suggested by a handful of people: Intruder Alarm. By the way, if you have the choice, get the Stronghold version. The art is just so much better. With Intruder Alarm you tap Pippa and make a Die! Die! Die! token. When the token hits, all the creatures untap, including Pippa! This means that we can use all our mana to make as many Die! Die! Die! tokens as we can afford!

I tend to like to make my token creatures on my opponent's end step whenever I can. It means that they aren't sitting there for a round, waiting to get destroyed before you can attack with them. It gives them a quasi-haste and that just makes sense. The downside of doing this then is that your opponents' creatures are also untapping when you are untapping. This means their defenses are up every time. It also means that if they have a way to tap their creatures for a benefit, they can use it and piggyback on your Intruder Alarm.

Thankfully, you have built your deck around the interaction while they have not, so we should be enjoying a bigger benefit than they do, so let's roll with it!

Improve the rolls. When you roll any dice, the harder you roll the die, the greater likelihood of getting a higher roll. If you are hoping for lower numbers, just roll the dice lightly from your hand. It is amazing to me that people seem to be completely unaware of this. So many friends simply roll the dice without even trying.

...

Okay, so maybe that was a little tongue-in-cheek (I do roll the dice harder when I want a higher roll, don't judge me), but Krark's Other Thumb does improve your die rolls. When rolling a single die, the average roll is 3.5. When rolling two dice and choosing the higher roll, the average moves to just under 4.5! To some of you, this might not sound like much, but if you are planning to create more than 20 token creatures, that can be a huge pile of damage and make your token creatures that much more difficult to kill.

Clam-I-Am is not a card I ever considered until my friend Josh recommended it. While there are times when you'll get a roll lower than a three, the average roll is better. With Clam-I-Am out, the average roll is 3.6. This is not a huge increase over the 3.5 without it, but every incremental advantage is appreciated.

And you just read a paragraph seriously discussing the benefits of Clam-I-Am. I love my job.

Cards that Just Kick Ass

Apprentice Wizard. This wizard turns one Blue mana into three colorless mana and I love it. You can use it to pay the commander tax, or help pay a Pippa activation cost. Players rarely see that you can get two more mana, so that can mess up their calculations as they try to determine what you can and can't do. For this deck, it taps to get the mana, so all of the ways this deck has to untap creatures can make it that much easier to use and abuse!

Land Aid '04. Songs I recommend include: This is the Song that Never Ends, Never Gonna Give You Up, or Baby Shark.

Tradewind Rider. Given the number of token creatures I hope to have on the battlefield, this should hardly be a cost at all! Add in the likelihood that I'll be able to untap it more frequently just makes it that much better. The ability to open a break in an opponent's defenses, or give another player a chance to replay an enter the battlefield creature offers all sorts of political machinations or offerings of good will on top of the obvious, setting them back a turn.

Chittering Doom. This deck is not a Squirrel deck, however with the number of dice that will be thrown, it seems almost insane to not include it. Half of your rolls are going to get you a bonus 1/1 Green Squirrel, and adding to the bulk of token creatures is always a good plan! This is a card that should have a spot in Ol' Buzzbark but was overlooked. I'll be looking to fix that very soon!

I hope you enjoyed my last few articles where I've focused on the joys of silver-bordered mayhem. Try something a little UN-orthodox with your group and enjoy how Un-cards can add laughs to your games!

Bruce Richard

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