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Lullmage Sygg


Every player has a handful of cards that he or she loves playing with and building decks around. Some of those cards are even good enough that you’re rewarded for playing with them: Birthing Pod, Recurring Nightmare, Brainstorm. These are cards that a lot of players love playing with, but they are so innately powerful that you don’t have to work especially hard for them to be awesome. There are other cards that, as cool as they may be, struggle to find homes, to actually do especially much, no matter how much you try to posture your deck-building and gameplay around them.

Lullmage Mentor
For me, one such card has always been Lullmage Mentor. I’ve never been quite sure why, but I imagine it has to do with the circumstances under which I returned to Magic. I took a break for a few years before being roped into a Lorwyn Draft during college. In that fateful Draft, I ended up with a pair of Summon the Schools and three Merrow Reejerey, and I subsequently built an awesome control deck featuring Judge of Currents that was exactly the kind of grindy, value-engine style of deck I love playing. Fast forward to Zendikar, and Wizards prints this weird Merfolk lord that plays fantastically with Summon the School. How could I not be excited?

I’ve tried to do a lot of things with Lullmage Mentor. I tried him in an Ertai, the Corrupted Commander deck that utilized Lullmage Mentor and Thornbite Staff to generate an inordinate number of counterspells. I built tribal Changelings featuring every single cool lord I could find and tried to shoehorn Lullmage Mentor in. He plays okay in a counterspell-heavy version of Ephara, God of the Polis, allowing all of your counterspells to cantrip. Seven Merfolk is just so many unless you’re playing a dedicated tribal deck, and it just never felt that there were a high enough density of powerful Merfolk for that to be an effective strategy . . . 

 . . . Until now at least. It’s been awhile since I’ve revisited this concept, and a lot has changed since then. Notably, we have a much higher density of powerful Clone effects, which goes a long way toward making Lullmage Mentor a more reasonable card. Sure, you only need one copy of the activated ability, but being able to generate two or three Merfolk off each counterspell makes it much more likely that you can start tapping seven Merfolk. Once you reach that point, your activations will really start chaining together to lock down the game while you cast lords and start bringing the beats.

Of course, we have to be able to actually find the cards that our deck is built around in order for that to be a real plan. You only are able to play one copy each of Summon the School and Lullmage Mentor. Fortunately, we have a plethora of powerful effects that help dig through your deck to find the pieces you need. It’s best to start with synergistic, creature-based tutors: Tidal Courier, Merrow Harbinger, Seahunter, and Brass Herald. These effects are fantastic at most points in the game, but they play especially nicely with the pile of Clones that we intend to play regardless. On top of that, we can also use effects like Vedalken Aethermage and Drift of Phantasms for Lullmage Mentor or Mystical Tutor and Personal Tutor for Summon the School.

Between all of these tutors, it’s not especially difficult to assemble a squad of powerful Merfolk. The problem is ensuring that you can protect and recur them in the face of removal. Effects like Reveillark and Sun Titan continue the theme of creatures that support your primary plan while also playing very well with Clone effects. These cards give you the ability to recover from sweepers and removal, but also to recycle the enters-the-battlefield trigger off your value creatures.

Another important question is what the role of your commander is. There are plenty of interesting options in W/U. Ephara, God of the Polis is a fantastic option, turning your token generators and counterspells into cantrips. Brago, King Eternal is fantastic because it allows you to reset your enters-the-battlefield triggers and untap all of your nontoken Merfolk, allowing you to attack as well as leave up Lullmage Mentor activations. As far as my preferences go, I’d rather use Sygg, River Guide. Sygg allows you to play a draw-go style of game, leaving up an additional layer of protection for key Merfolk with minimal cost. Critically, Sygg substantially narrows the kinds of cards that you have to use actual counterspells or Lullmage Mentor activations on since you can deter spot removal just by leaving up one or two activations.

Sygg, River Guide
The last thing that we’re really concerned with is having a backup plan. What happens if we can’t find Lullmage Mentor? The deck still needs to do something in that case. Fortunately, when your plan involves making a lot of Merfolk tokens, there are plenty of options. You can absolutely do something traditional involving lords and Clones. It’s also possible to lean on Mentor of the Meek or Skullclamp to churn through your deck to find Lullmage Mentor. Alternatively, you can just try to slow the game down with the likes of Patron Wizard and Opposition.

The power of a deck like this is that, once you’ve assemble your pieces, it’s very easy for the game to spiral out of control. If you can stick a handful of Lullmage Mentors, it’s not hard to imagine pushing the game to a position in which multiple players have to cast multiple spells to break through all of the counterspells you can represent. The goal in deck-building, then, is to give yourself as many opportunities as possible to reach to that type of game state—and to build in ways to protect that board position as best as you can. Here’s what my preliminary build looks like:

Lullmage Sygg ? Commander | Carlos Gutierrez

  • Commander (0)

So let’s talk about some of the cool interactions here. Ajani Goldmane and Venser, the Sojourner help walk a line between actually ending games and helping you maintain board presence. Ajani’s minus helps you end the game while leaving up Lullmage Mentor activations while Venser lets you Flicker Tidal Courier and threaten unblockable attacks. Opposition similarly allows you to leave up Lullmage Mentor activations and manipulate the board such that you can resolve critical spells and get in big hits.

Summon the School
What you’re really trying to do is set up a turn in which you can clone Lullmage Mentor a few times and have enough Merfolk to counter one or two spells over the next turn cycle. To that end, you’re trying to set up things like casting Stolen Identity and hitting with the ciphered creature, or just Rite of Replication on Lullmage Mentor. A huge addition to this deck is the printing of instant-speed Clone effects like Fated Infatuation and Cackling Counterpart, allowing you to leave up Sygg activations to protect your board and flash in Lullmage Mentors when you think the coast is clear.

In the event that you can’t set up with Lullmage Mentor, Summon the School and Stonybrook Schoolmaster give you a reasonable way of building up a board presence, particularly in conjunction with the abundance of awesome Merfolk lords. Even if you can’t make super-profitable attacks, Bident of Thassa and Mentor of the Meek provide a completely reasonable backup plan. It’s also completely reasonable to just chain together Master of Waves and a pile of Clones to bury your opponents in Elementals.

One of the last things that I added to this deck was a small Faith's Reward and Second Sunrise suite, because it’s not a Carlos deck without graveyard tricks. If you’re leaving up mana anyway, these cards allow you to protect yourself from sweepers while you’re setting up big turns. You can also do cool things such as ramp yourself by recycling various fetch lands. You can even Ghost Quarter your Windbrisk Heights and set up a fresh hideaway card.

I don’t know if this is a deck that is going to replace my Ephara Superfriends deck in my typical rotation of Commander decks, but it’s one that I’m excited to play with for the next few weeks to scratch that Lullmage Mentor itch. It was also a fantastic opportunity to remember that the potential of cards can change wildly after just a few sets. This is a deck that I just could not get to function effectively just a few sets ago, but the inclusion of powerful and versatile backups such as Mentor of the Meek and Master of Waves, who synergize with the primary game plan, changes the dynamic substantially. I guess the moral of the story is to never an idea on the shelf for too long—you never know what you’ll find when you revisit it.

Whispers of the Muse

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