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CasualNation #57 – The Equinaut Primer

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Hello, Nation! I hope your week has found you happy and Magictastic! I’ve decided that it’s time. (It’s time for what?) It’s time for me to have the talk with you. We need to talk about Equinaut. This is among my favorite decks to play . . . ever. I’ve had a version of it assembled in sixty cards online and in real life since Invasion block. It’s become a deck a lot of people love to play, and I still come across variants in real life or online.

Today, we are going to talk about everything Equinaut. What is it? How do you play it? What cards are necessary? What other cards and strategies work with it?

When Invasion block had finished seeing print, but before Odyssey hit stores, I wanted to build a new deck for a Type 2 tournament. The deck I built featured mostly cards from Invasion block, but it also had a few cards from the core set that was legal at the time: Seventh Edition. In particular, I built a deck around the Bant colors that used the interaction between Equilibrium and Fleetfoot Panther to power out a game-winning condition.

The original deck had cards in it that would suit the themes—for example, Mystic Snake, Meddling Mage, Sunscape Battlemage, and Birds of Paradise. The original deck also had a lot more spells, including Counterspell and Absorb, plus Dismantling Blow and Fact or Fiction. It was a blast to play, and over time, it changed. Older cards were added, and newer cards, too. Ravnica had a big shot in the arm for the deck with the introduction of one of the best cards ever printed for Equinaut: Watchwolf. It would add other cards, too, and Planar Chaos increased by a lot the number of valuable creatures that could bounce themselves. Each set has a few cards that make Equinaut that much better.

So, now that we’ve done the history stuff all nice and quick, let’s look at the cool stuff. I could write a bazillion articles on Equinaut, but today, I’m going to spend a lot of time taking you through the deck, from concept to card selections to how to play it.

What Is Equinaut, and How Do You Play It?

Equinaut is a deck that uses Equilibrium for two purposes. It bounces problem creatures back to the opponent’s hand constantly, causing massive tempo problems for him. It also uses it to bounce its own creatures back for various purposes. In addition, it uses self-gating creatures with Flash to replicate this. A Fleetfoot Panther can bounce one of your guys to be replayed. Many have abilities when they enter the battlefield, but that is not the sole focus of the deck—the focus is on the tempo gained by Equilibrium, and the serving of beats by powerful and cheap aggro creatures. The cheap aggro creatures allow you to trigger Equilibrium and still gain tempo by bouncing opposing creatures (such as by playing a Watchwolf and spending a colorless mana to bounce your foe’s Baneslayer Angel). When you have both self-gating creatures and Equilibrium out, your deck turns into a well-honed machine of love.

Of all of the self-gating creatures ever printed, Whitemane Lion and Fleetfoot Panther are the best. My little nickname for the Fleetfoot Panther is “Death Kitty” because of how amazingly powerful it is in this deck. Death Kitty and Kitty Jr. are your power cards, combining the highly useful Flash keyword with the self-gating ability.

Allow me to show you the power of Equinaut with one of the original cards from my deck: Mystic Snake. Joe has played something nasty, and I want to counter it, so I pay 4 mana to play Mystic Snake. I can then spend 1 mana to pay for Equilibrium’s trigger. I can bounce one of my own guys back or bounce one of Joe’s. Suppose I bounce back my own Watchwolf. Now I can play it for 2 mana and an Equilibrium trigger to bounce my Snake back for another go. If I have a Mystic Snake out already, I can just bounce that one back and keep going. This is with just a single Equilibrium out. (The trigger goes on the stack and resolves before the creature enters the battlefield, so a creature that triggers Equilibrium can’t bounce itself.) Let’s look at more combos.

I play Fleetfoot Panther. I have an Equilibrium out, and I spend 1 mana to pay for its trigger, targeting one of Joe’s creatures to bounce back to his hand. My Death Kitty comes into play, and I choose to have it return itself to my hand. I have spent for a Capsize with Buyback on any creature. Then, there are other engine cards in the deck that can increase the power of this action massively. We’ll talk about those later.

The self-gating creatures have a lot of value. You can chump-block a flying creature with a Birds of Paradise, then flash out a Kitty Jr. and bounce it back to your hand. The Birds live. You can use the self-gating creatures with Flash as a way to keep your creatures from dying to removal—either targeted or mass—and from being stolen. They are also a good Demystify against any Aura. You can bounce a creature with a Pacifism on it and replay it (and Equilibrium is basically game over to an Aura-themed deck you might be facing).

You can also flash out a bigger beater at the end of a turn to increase your fighting component in the future. Flash also allows you to ambush smaller creatures, and the Death Kitty has killed many a creature after being flashed out and blocking.

See here the power of a Death Kitty combined with Equilibrium: My deck is attacked by three 3/3 Elephant tokens, and all I have out is an Equilibrium and a Noble Hierarch. Oh, noes! I play a Death Kitty, trigger the E, and bounce my own Hierarch. I block and kill a token. On my turn, I play the Hierarch and use another mana to bounce/kill the third token, and I swing back for 3 damage. It’s really powerful stuff.

This is the power of the deck. Cheap beaters, flashers, gaters, Equilibrium, and other engines.

It’s important to understand that although the deck is named after Equilibrium, the true power is actually in the Cats (or Stonecloakers, if you prefer). Their sheer versatility is staggering. I’ve won a ton of games in which my Equilibriums were all destroyed, countered, or never even found. I rarely win without a self-gating creature of some sort. They are the keys to unlocking victory.

So, in summation, The self-gating creatures with Flash will . . . 

  • Act as a way to save a chump-blocker
  • Ambush and block or kill an attacker
  • Allow you to trigger Equilibrium and friends at instant speed
  • Allow you to save of your creatures from targeted removal or theft
  • Allow you to bounce and replay a creature with an ETB trigger
  • Be played at the end of the turn and swing for damage next turn
  • Be the most important cards in the deck; they break it in half

 . . . and Equilibrium will . . . 

  • Turn any gating into a Buybacked Capsize for 1 extra mana
  • Allow you to bounce any of your creatures so you can replay them and acquire more triggers of various types
  • Allow you to bounce opposing creatures constantly in order to keep yourself from dying

All right, do you have that? Good. Now the engines.

Equilibrium’s Friends

There are a few engines that work particularly well in this deck in addition to Equilibrium. I want to mention them now. Think of all of the things you are doing when your deck works: playing spells, putting creatures into play, bouncing creatures. What works with these things?

Azorius AEthermageThese are too powerful not to play. Imagine adding a mana to all of the scenarios above where you self-bounce and draw a card. Take a Kitty Jr., for example:

becomes, “I bounce one of your creatures, and I draw a card.” It’s as if all of your bounce effects become Whispers of the Muse with Buyback. The AEthermage is a powerful engine, and you can’t deny it.

Soul Warden and friends – With all of these creatures coming into play on your side, these guys make a ton of life for you. I’ve tried them before, and I prefer other engines. Your deck is spending so much time with powerful creatures that it only has space for a few engines. I’d rather run some of the other engines than this. The cheap casting cost of these creatures is a boon to the deck, but other than that, I want to go elsewhere. I tried out Suture Priest because you want to bounce a lot of opposing creatures, and then the opponent loses life when he replays them . . . fun! But by then, your deck has taken control and just wants to send in cheap beaters to win quickly. It’s too little too late, in my opinion.

Forgotten AncientLoading this up with counters is awesome! Then, you can hop the counters over to other guys and dole out some serious hurt! I tried it and found it wanting; it doesn’t have the long-game power I want. The deck wants to bounce creatures a lot. Putting counters on your Birds so you can fly over someone is cool, but it doesn’t happen often enough to warrant its use.

Cloudstone CurioThis is basically an extra self-bounce when you want it. It turns any creature into a gater, except that the creature can’t bounce itself. I can play Meddling Mage and bounce my own Birds, but I can’t have the Mage bounce itself. It works to reset a self-gating creature by sending it back to your hand for more fun, and of course, there’s Equilibrium abuse, abuse through other engines like the AEthermage, and reusing ETB triggers; it definitely has value. I play them occasionally, but they are the only artifacts in the deck, and so they tend to automatically draw all artifact removal.

Momir Vig, Simic VisionaryAll or most of the creatures in your deck should be either Green or White so that they can be saved by a Death Kitty. With this guy out, any time you play a Green creature, you can Worldly Tutor. That’s very powerful. When you play a Blue dude, you have a chance of drawing a card if the top card is a creature. This deck always has a high creature count, so that’s a pretty good chance. If you play a G/U creature, you’ve just tutored your deck for a creature and put it in your hand. This is a nasty, awesome engine. I play it.

Stormfront RidersThe lack of Flash and the expensive self-gating ability mean that I usually don’t play this in my decks as a gating creature. However, you can play it as an engine. Watch as your deck now makes 1/1 Soldier dudes in addition to everything else. You now have Buybacked Sprouts as well. They can be useful, especially in a deck with lords (see the next section). I generally steer clear of this in traditional sixty-card decks, but I have used the Riders in other places to a solid effect.

Primordial SageYes, I don’t usually like 6-drops in my deck; that’s true. This one allows me to draw a card every time I play a creature. Considering that this should be happening frequently, this is a ton of free cards, and without having to pay any mana. Plus, it’s a 4/5 that can block or swing decently.

Aura ShardsWhenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may use this to pop something. That “may” is quite important. Imagine the above combos and engines, but with a Naturalize added on!

Mentor of the MeekDo you have a deck with a lot of smaller dudes? Then this is for you! Note that it will trigger off tokens and flickers, like Aura Shards does. It’s not for most Equinaut builds, but I know there are some out there that can really use this.

Tapping with Equilibrium

Having a creature in play for a moment or longer means it’s available to tap. Play a Whitemane Lion, put its ability to return a creature on the stack, then tap it to trigger something. Then, return it. There are a couple such tap effects that I like.

EarthcraftLet’s make mana! The issue with this is that most of my decks have few basics. The mana in this deck is rough. On the third turn, you need available. You need to be able to drop your Equilibrium or play the Death Kitty. Make sure you pay attention to it. I recommend either Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise along with a lot of dual lands of various sorts. With those recommendations in mind, Earthcraft is not as good as it would be in other decks.

Opposition/Glare of SubdualThe ability to tap a creature to tap an opposing thing of some sort is nasty. Imagine this: I pay for a Whitemane Lion. I bounce your creature, tap your other creature, draw a card, and return the Lion to my hand. In addition to Buybacked counterspells (Mystic Snake), and Buybacked Unsummons, and Buybacked Whispers of the Muse, you now have Buybacked Twiddles. The tempo mounts. I usually play at least one of these in my decks.

Tolsimir’s Friends

The next question you need to look at is what lords, if any, you are going to play. With Death Kitty promoting a G/W creature base anyway, I love dropping in Tolsimir Wolfblood. The Death Kitty becomes a 5/6 killing machine, and even a Birds of Paradise is suddenly relevant. In addition to Tolsimir, I like Wilt-Leaf Liege. It’s cheaper than Tolsimir (although the Liege doesn’t bring along a Wolf buddy), has the same mass-pump ability, and has a low enough casting cost to work with the theme of the deck. In my sixty-card decks, the Liege has largely replaced Tolsimir.

There is another guy to discuss. With all of these multicolored cards in the deck—Mystic Snake, Momir Vig, AEthermage, Death Kitty, Wilt-Leaf Liege, and perhaps Watchwolf or Meddling Mage—we have another lord, who is even more powerful. Say hello to Knight of New Alara. If your deck has enough multicolored creatures, you can break the game in half by tossing in this guy.

Kitty’s Friends

Another place you may want to look is at the other gating creatures. Let’s go over them, from my favorite to least favorite.

Stonecloaker The deck needs more flyers. With a weakness in the flying arena, the Stonecloaker is very useful. It can be used as an instant to exile a card targeted for resurrection. Plus, it has the same Flash-gating ability your Cats do. I run these regularly.

Dust Elemental The good thing about Dust Elemental is that you have an endgame beater who can serve for 6 a turn, and it gives your deck some evasion. It also is a mega-gater for when something massive is happening, such as a Wrath of God. However, this also restricts its usefulness. I regularly have it in my hand and am totally unable to use it effectively. I dropped down to just one in my last sixty-card deck, and I think I might remove it completely.

Shrieking DrakeDespite the fact that they can be gated by Whitemane Lion and Stonecloaker, mono-Blue creatures in your deck are horribly inefficient. Are they pumped by Wilt-Leaf Liege? No. Do they work with Death Kitty? No. How about pumpage from Knight of New Alara? No. But if you are going to run one, this is the one to look at. The 1-mana cost of a Shrieking Drake enables you to run your combos and engines much more easily.

Man-o’-War, AEther Adept, etc. – Not only will these function as self-gating creatures when needed, they can also bounce an opposing creature when needed as well. This adds a massive flexibility to your gating creatures! However, note my comments above. Mono-Blue creatures are not tech. If I had to pick a mono-Blue creature with an ETB trigger to play, all these guys would be distant to Mulldrifter and Draining Whelk.

Sawtooth Loon, Silver Drake, Steel Leaf PaladinThey cost too much, they make your deck worse, they don’t have Flash, and they don’t have a good power-to-toughness ratio (except for the worst of the lot: Silver Drake). Yuck.

Arctic Merfolk If you are considering this for your Equinaut deck, you are clearly trying too hard.

Beaters’r’Us

Okay, you’ve got the tricks all taken care of. You have engines, you have pump, and you have gating dudes; everything is set. Now, choose a full set of either Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise and move to beaters. There are a ton of good choices here, and I will put them in a few categories for you.

Virtual Essentials

Watchwolf, Watchwolf, Watchwolf This card is so important that I mention it three times. No other 2-drop is as effective in this deck as Watchwolf. Playing it always makes you happy. It’s strong enough to win the game, it’s aggressive enough to put pressure on people, it breaks Wilt-Leaf Liege, and Tolsimir Wolfblood, and Knight of New Alara, and it is cheap to bounce and replay for triggers. Again, I want to make sure everyone in the back can hear me: There is no replacement for Watchwolf . . . period. You will have Watchwolf wins. These are games where you go Watchwolf, Watchwolf, Equilibrium, bounce your stuff, win. Sometimes, Equinaut takes fifteen or twenty turns to win, but Watchwolf can bring that down to five or six turns with no problem at all.

Powerful Beats

Loxodon HierarchWhy is this great? It’s among the few ETB-life-gain creatures that work on the curve, it’s Green and White, it’s hefty, and it can save the team in a pinch. The ability to keep everyone alive through some mass removal is very powerful in any deck as sensitive to mass removal as this deck is.

Kitchen FinksThis is the only other way to gain life on the curve while including both colors. Netting a 3/2 beater and life is great. It plays very well with the team, and it’s even cheaper than the Hierarch. Persist just adds to its power, and its ability to come back as a 2/1 for free after it dies gives you some built-in resistance to mass removal.

Dauntless EscortAnother “save me” creature that’s on-curve and powerful—this is a treat for your deck. Unlike the Hierarch that requires mana and just regenerates your family, this can keep your creatures alive through anything, and it sacrifices for free anytime. In a deck with such a large creature count, cards like this and the Hierarch are essential for success against people who want to do you wrong. There is one more creature in this vein later on.

Serra AvengerYou spend 2 mana, and you end up with a 3/3 flyer with Vigilance. This adds some Flying game and serves as a cheap beater that can be replayed for a quick trigger of your engines. Even though it can’t be played until turn four, it has tremendous power at that point—plus, it allows you to develop your engines.

Solid Creatures

TarmogoyfIf you are playing this guy against a deck that has a variety of card types, you are fine. However, this deck doesn’t feature sac lands or a lot of spells. It has no artifacts at all, unless it plays Cloudstone Curio, and so you can only expect creatures and enchantments to ever be in your graveyard. Because of that, Tarmogoyf is often just a 2/3 dude with nothing special going on. In multiplayer, his value rises considerably, since he can be bigger faster and more reliably.

Mystic EnforcerAll Mystic Enforcer has going for it is that it’s cheap, big, flying, and G/W. In this deck, those are all very important, so it has a lot of value. I still wouldn’t put it up there with the creatures above, but don’t underestimate it.

Qasali PridemageThe ability to swing for 3 on turn three puts this at the level of an early Watchwolf, and it can pump later attacks. However, Exalted is not as good in this deck as it is in others. A sixty-card Equilibrium deck often has twenty-six lands and twenty-six creatures. I’ve played twenty-eight-creature decks. When you attack, you tend to want to attack in groups. Here comes the team! Exalted, while still useful at some points of the game, is often a wasted ability. Sacrificing is not the best plan. I mention our Dauntless Escort and Loxodon Hierarch above because they sacrifice to save the team. One goes to keep others from going. This sacrifices for a simple one-for-one trade with an artifact or enchantment. You need removal, so these have value for that, but I prefer to look elsewhere for it.

Just a Little Too Much

Primeval TitanI love this creature’s abilities in Equinaut. I love its size, too. What I do not like is that massive casting cost. Sixty-card Equinaut decks should not have any creature that costs 6 mana in it. I don’t even play Tolsimir Wolfblood anymore. Momir Vig is the top of my mana-curve. Your deck guzzles so much mana that more expensive creatures tend to not be good ideas.

Baneslayer AngelIt has no synergy with any aspect of your deck in any way, shape, or form. Does it have any abilities, like gating or triggers? No. It’s still worth considering, simply because of how beat-tastic it is. You’ll rarely find them in my Equinaut decks, but they always merit consideration.

In the Conversation

Rhox War Monk3 mana for a 3/4 with Lifelink is solid, but remember that Watchwolf is sort of your guide to what should make the cut. This deck has evolved into a “Watchwolf Rule of Power.” That is, if a creature has 3 power and costs more than 2 mana, it really needs to have something extra. Serra Avenger is right on the curve, so it’s in the running. This guy costs 50% more mana. For that price, you are finding a creature with Lifelink and an extra toughness. You also have something harder on the mana base. Dauntless Escort and Kitchen Finks have 3 power for 3 mana, but they bring something very tasty to the table. I just feel that Rhox War Monk doesn’t have enough.

Jenara, Asura of War She has one fewer toughness than Rhox War Monk, and she trades Lifelink for Flying and the pump ability. Forget the inflatable aspect of this creature—what you have is a three-color 3/3 flying 3-drop. Jenara is adequate. I’m not happy about her presence in the conversation, but I understand it. She is liked more by your lords than Serra Avenger, and she can be pumped to a size large enough to threaten Dragons. I can see her in the deck.

Pay Your Utilities

Some creatures are played for their abilities rather than their usefulness as beatsticks. I mentioned earlier that you will ideally want four of either Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. Both have value, and if you play two of each or three and one, that’s fine. Whatever works with your collection!

Enter the Battlefield

This is not a deck specifically designed to break ETB creatures with blinks, bounces, and such. However, that plan does fit in, and you want the best creatures for it. Clearly, the class act here is Mystic Snake. Adding a bounceable, repeatable counter is simply too good to pass up.

There are a ton of good ETB creatures from which to choose, and I can’t list every option. If you have an Equinaut build with Uktabi Orangutan, go for it. It’s not my preference, but who cares? As long as you are happy, I’m happy.

With a deck that needs mana this bad, a creature with an ETB land ability is strong. Forget Solemn Simulacrum, which has little in common with the rest of your deck and costs too much. I like Borderland Ranger and Civic Wayfinder. First of all, they aren’t artifacts, and thus don’t die to artifact removal. They work with stuff like Death Kitty and Wilt-Leaf Liege, and they cost 1 fewer mana for bounce effects. You can also tutor for them with a certain tutor below, which won’t work on the Solemn. Wood Elves is good if you don’t mind the smaller creature and want a Forest in play (Read: You play dual lands).

Destruction of stuff is a good choice. I think the best choice is Kor Sanctifiers. They can destroy either an artifact or an enchantment, and when you don’t want to do that, you just don’t have to pay the Kicker and you’re fine. After that, you can have anything from Acidic Slime and Indrik Stomphowler to Nikko-Onna. Remember that you want cheaper casting costs when possible.

We need to talk about a trio of creatures that you will seriously want to consider: Eternal Witness, Loaming Shaman, and Karmic Guide. The Witness is everything you want in an ETB critter. Bringing back a crucial card that was destroyed, countered, or discarded is quite valuable. I also find this deck sometimes blowing through cards, and a Loaming Shaman can keep things going without fear of decking yourself. You can use it to force someone to shuffle some goods back into your deck as well. In combination with Stonecloaker, it gives you some game fighting graveyard abuse. Finally, Karmic Guide is very expensive, but it’s among the best ETB creatures in your colors, so you should shoot me if I don’t mention it.

There are a lot of other ETB creatures worth considering. Want to draw cards? Look at things from Mulldrifter to Wall of Blossoms to Elvish Visionary. I like Masked Admirers; it recurs if it dies, it draws cards, and it has a power and toughness that’s worth considering. How about things like making tokens? Patagia Viper and Cloudgoat Ranger both have nicer presences and cheaper costs than other options (like Ambassador Oak’s lack of power or Benthicore’s super-high cost). We already have life-gain in Kitchen Finks and Loxodon Hierarch, so I’d skip guys like Temple Acolyte and Radiant's Dragoons. I don’t have any, but if you’re going Blue, this is a great place for Gilded Drake. There’s lots of other stuff you’ll find as well.

I Do Stuff!

Take a look at some great, on-curve 2-drops, like Saffi Eriksdotter and Selesnya Guildmage. Making tokens is great for decks with pump and/or Opposition and its friends. Plus, the Guildmage can pump, too; it’s great! Saffi is a card I play regularly. You’ve got the right price and the right colors. You have a lot of engines in your creature base, and sacrificing her to protect them is another way to fight targeted removal. Gaddock Teeg is another 2-drop on-curve guy that is very interesting. If you build your deck around it, this can be a very powerful creature. With a deck that has so many creatures anyway, and the key engine cards at 3 mana, the only things you’ll disrupt are cards like Opposition and Glare of Subdual (and perhaps a handful of spells; see below).

There are other mana-producers you might want to play other than the 1-drops. Perhaps some 2-drops, like Werebear, come to mind. Post-Threshold, it’s a 2-drop with the power of massive intensity. This deck doesn’t find Threshold early, though. Therefore, I’m not a big fan of Threshold cards that come down earlier than turn four. Mystic Enforcers is the only one I usually play. I do like Weathered Wayfarer in theory. The 1-mana creatures are precious, and situationally tutoring for a land is great in a deck that really needs it. I’ve never found space in a sixty-card deck for him, but I do like the theory.

Support Democracy: Vote for Fleetfoot Panther!

There are some seriously awesome support cards you’ll need to think about.

First, you need creatures to win. In fact, you need specific creatures to do so. You also need Equilibrium. To fill these different needs, you must find ways to tutor through your deck. For that reason, I love Eladamri's Call here. The flexibility to tutor for Mystic Snake or Fleetfoot Panther at instant speed is tasty. You could grab Summoner's Pact, but I prefer not to pay for it next turn. Plus, if I want to tutor my deck for a Green creature, I’d rather use Green Sun's Zenith for it. You can use Idyllic Tutor to grab Equilibrium, Aura Shards, or Opposition. I like Wargate in bigger decks as a way to tutor for anything you want. Note that Living Wish's value depends on how your playgroup looks at it. If you can grab any creature from your collection, it’s amazing and you’ll want many. If not, it’s a chump card.

However, there is one very powerful card I always play in Equinaut: Drift of Phantasms. Here are the useful cards for which it transmutes: Equilibrium, Aura Shards, Fleetfoot Panther, Azorius AEthermage, Eternal Witness, Cloudstone Curio, Civic Wayfinder, Dauntless Escort, and Stonecloaker. If you add some of the spells I discuss below, you can potentially add Dismantling Blow and Absorb. That is a powerful slate of tutor targets for a Drift. When I have mana, I like to transmute into Eternal Witness and return the Drift to transmute into what I really want. It tutors up either half of the powerful combo as well as many other engine cards. Plus, you can play it as a wall early when you need it, and bounce it later to transmute.

With so many cards that I want to stay in play, I love protection. I love Privileged Position to keep my stuff from being targeted. I also adore Asceticism to protect my guys in two ways. Sterling Grove protects your other enchantments, and it can tutor for a valuable one. If you are feeling crazy, go add a copy of Fountain Watch to the deck.

Considering the value of tutoring, don’t forget a card that will change your deck. It’s got a big target on it, but in any format that allows Survival of the Fittest, you have to consider it. I do play Fauna Shaman sometimes, since creatures are tech in this deck, and it has a cheap cost. When I play it heavily, Vengevine does make an appearance, because it’s so easy to trigger its ability when in the graveyard.

I also like Venser, the Sojourner. His +2 ability works very well in the deck. Even if all you do is swing and flicker something to untap it, move his die up 2. If you have an ETB ability, use it. Plus, some of your cards trigger when something enters play, like Aura Shards. The middle ability is just . . . meh . . . but the ultimate is just the best combo for your deck ever. Your deck is playing so many spells that you can easily exile everything an opponent has. And it’s not coming back!

I like some counterspells besides Mystic Snake (and perhaps Draining Whelk). I think the best options are the cheap ones that won’t impact your mana too much. I like to stick with 2- and 3-mana guys. I give preference to Absorb, Voidslime, Forbid, and Counterspell. If you have Mana Drains, they work wonders here. If not, that’s okay. You’ll still win!

For backup removal, you have a ton of choices, from Swords to Plowshares to Retribution of the Meek. I do like a spell or two for emergency Disenchanting. My preference these days is actually Seed Spark first, and the more expensive (usually) Dismantling Blow second. Seed Spark triggers things like Mentor of the Meek and makes dudes for your stuff. You have great support cards because of your colors. Want to draw cards? You have a thousand good options! The same is true of many different effects. Throw in a Curfew! Consider Mirari's Wake! There’re a ton of interesting choices to ponder.

Some people really like the cards that allow you to play things as though they had Flash, such as Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery. I think these cards give you a little spice, too, but in a sixty-card deck, you can only have so much that assists the deck without interfering with the core aspects. If Grand Abolisher allowed you to flash creatures or something, we’d be in the money. We’d have a creature on-curve, and that would be amazing, but we don’t. All we have are these things and the way-too-much--to-cast Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, who also doesn’t really fit the deck much, since he’s a mono-Blue creature.

There’s always a tendency for a deck like this to lean a little toward an enchantment theme. Let’s toss in Replenish! Academy Rector! Various Enchantresses! Nope. This is a creature-heavy deck with an adjunct section of vital enchantments and a smattering of other cards to spice it up. If your nonland count isn’t at least 75% creatures, it’s not Equinaut. (All stats are made up!) Deck space is way too tight.

The Mana Man Cometh

Earlier, I mentioned the issues of mana in the deck. You want all three colors as soon as possible. If you can play Equilibrium or Fleetfoot Panther on turn three, you’ve got a strong mana base. I don’t care what dual lands you might have; this deck needs Seaside Citadel. The minor tempo loss from entering the battlefield tapped is worth it. The only tempo you’ll lose is if you miss dropping a Birds or Noble Hierarch on the first turn by playing the Citadel, but if you have the precious 1-drop creature, you can usually play another land for the first-turn mana. I don’t like to run many other ETB-tapped lands for that reason. You’ll realize quickly that this deck needs a lot of specific colors of mana, and it’s always different. If you want to bounce and recast a simple Watchwolf with an Equilibrium triggered ability, you need . If you bounce another creature back with Equilibrium, you may have to play for it, too. And so on. With such specific and changing color demands, you need lands that tap for all three colors, and the Citadel will do it without the life loss from things like City of Brass, the counters of Gemstone Mine, or the even bigger tempo loss of Rupture Spire. If you have the right lands, perhaps Reflecting Pool will be rocktastic as well.

In formats that allow it, Sol Ring is a good choice. Other than that, I don’t feel we have good mana artifacts to choose from. I’ve tried Gilded Lotus, and I’ve never found it to really work the way I want. Nothing else comes close to being in the conversation. Again, artifacts are a weakness in a deck that might have Cloudstone Curio but usually doesn’t.

I love Nantuko Monastery and Stirring Wildwood. They tend to be the only other lands I like that don’t tap for a colored mana or enter the battlefield tapped. Because they become G/W creatures of notable size, they’re pumped powerfully by lords and give you a little extra juice when you need it.

All right! If you’ve read this whole article, clocking in somewhere around six thousand words, I have a surprise for you. This week, over at StarCityGames.com, I am publishing a special version of Equinaut . . . for Commander! I have built the deck, I’ve played it . . . and I have pictures. It will be up on Thursday! In order to whet your appetite, I’ll build a quick sample Equinaut deck for you right now.

In a deck with just five cards that aren’t creatures, Ancient Ziggurat is not bad at all. This is a simple version of the deck, designed to illustrate how everything works. As you play with it, you’ll figure out what cards work for you, your deck stock, and your kitchen table.

And with that, we come to the close of an extensive article. Equinaut is a blast to play, and I hope you try it out. Thanks for reading!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

P.S. In a few days, remember to check out the Commander Equinaut deck I’ve built and played around with over at StarCityGames.com. Thanks!

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