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Building Soft Stax with Drana and Linvala



Today I am going to write to you about a deck idea that is not 75%. I know, I know. You have no idea what 75% EDH is because I wrote the first article about it 9 years ago and have barely mentioned it since because it was easier to just lean on my deck-building crutches. Well, not today! Today I am going to hip you all to a card that looks boring and linear because it is. I'm going to hip you all to a card that makes a deck you absolutely do not want to play against a table of people you don't know well because they're going to murder you. I want to hip you to a card that is very annoying but only if you lack imagination. It's a card you already know about, I'm not hipping you to the card, am I? I'm just showing a decklist like I do every week. Wow, this is off to a rough start, prose-wise. I am leaving this awkward intro in because you're going to be so charmed by the decklist that you're going to forget all about it. The deck comes later; first, the card and why it's a problem.

Drana and Linvala

I don't think either of these abilities are a huge problem per se, I think the problem comes when everyone sees this card and builds the same deck as everyone else. Stax. Drannith Magistrate and Hushbringer and Thalia and Aven Mindcensor - how many of the EDHREC Top 10 high synergy cards can you name without looking? I am going to play exactly one of them, and for a reason you might actually enjoy.

People aren't going to love that they can't activate the abilities of their creatures and you can, but people won't kill you on sight because of that. They think you're going to play a Stax deck. We could be, and maybe should be, and everyone is going to treat you like you are, but we're not going to use Stax to slow the game down. We're going to use their creatures' activated abilities. How can they stop us if we can protect Drana and Linvala? They can slow-roll playing creatures and, good, that's what we want them to do. The entire point of a Stax deck is to slow the game down, but if they're the ones slowing their turns down by holding back a few creatures with broken activated abilities, then we will build up enough mana that we can slowly and inevitably crush their spirits and kill them with their own abilities. We're not making the game take longer because them not playing creatures impacts their clock, not ours. I don't like cards that slow the game down evenly, so let's break parity and develop our boards while they hold back gas to keep you from using all of their abilities.

There is one ability I want all my creatures to have, and it's one that's going to do a LOT of work. It's a card most people know is good but forget why. It's this one.

Blind Obedience

Every time I play Blind Obedience, I think "Man, this card is so good, I know it gets played a ton but I wonder why it's not played even more than that." However, I never say that about the Stax ability. It's fine, it slows things down and can stop roughly a third of the combo decks in the format, which is always fun. It's a great card on its face, and the reason I say "This is so good" is that when you extort in commander, you gain a life for every player in the pod. We are going to play Blind Obedience in the deck, but it shall be our only Stax piece. We're not adding more Stax, we're adding stuff for the good half of Blind Obedience.

Pontiff of Blight

That's the stuff.

We're not going to play bad Extort cards but I want to play every single good one, and I want to have enough mana that Pontiff threatens to kill everyone whenever you cast a spell. While we're not an Extort deck, because that's not a thing, we can certainly look at a few Extort cards to see what's going to be fun to play. The thing is, you'd play Obedience anyway because I just like it in White decks and incidental lifegain 3 at a time is non-trivial for the mana you'd usually keep up to make people whiff on Rhystic Study, and Pontiff means you don't have to have anything else with Extort to have everything with Extort. It's not the basis of the deck, but it is an idea I was charmed by when I was lamenting throwing my Blindly Obedient baby out with the Staxy bathwater. Not only do I want to keep Blind Obedience, I want it to be a win condition.

Thrull Parasite is a card that people should be playing anyway. Yes, I am starting another paragraph to talk about Extort cards. At this rate I'm going to hit my word cap and have to post the decklist in a tweet, but the rest of the deck will make sense, I promise, and also, I would have talked about Thrull Parasite and Hex Parasite and other counter-removers and how they're way better now with everyone extorting all the time. Keep a planeswalker from ultimating, take -1/-1 counters off your creatures or do broken stuff with Sagas - Thrull Parasite does it all, and it has Extort tacked on, because why not? Anyway, you want to hear about the rest of the deck.

Activating the abilities of creatures your opponents control is way more fun than Extort and bound to be talked about less than Extort was in this piece. I truly and sincerely wish there was a version of this card that didn't shut down their abilities because, for me, I'm going to draw more heat than I want and I'd rather not. It's not that you're really holding them back a ton - they still have triggered abilities, the ability to attack and no restrictions on which spells they can play. As a Stax piece, this is sort of medium, but part of a web of annoying permanents that slow everything to a crawl, it's much better. Since we don't care to build such a web, instead we'll focus on getting the most from using their abilities. For that, we'll need a lot of mana, which we can make in these colors, and we're going to need a lot of equipment.

I am going to load up on equipment because we will need fewer creatures than a typical deck like this. We will want to make tokens and go wide, if only to make Pontiff of Blight into an Exsanguinate, but we can use non-creatures and non-fair creatures like Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder to fill the battlefield without investing a ton of cards in it. The rest of the deck will be spells to control what is in play and ways to make sure you can activate as many of their abilities as many times as you want. Our deck can't play cards like Circle of Dreams Druid, but if they happen to, an Umbral Mantle can make you go infinite fairly easily if you have a few tokens out. Thornbite Staff, Illusionists' Bracers - Magic is teeming with ways to untap creatures. Even Halo Fountain, which can win us a stalled game where we can amass tokens, untaps our commander early in the game. We're going to untap as much as we can and hope they have some nifty abilities for us to steal. If they don't, more mana for Extortin' as far as I am concerned.

This deck was insanely fun to brew and I am planning to build it in paper, something I don't do for all of the 52 decks a year I brew for this column. Here is the list.

Soft Stax | Commander | Jason Alt

Card Display

This probably needs one or two more ways to make tokens. I like Luminarch Ascension, personally, and there are some good other ones like Court of Grace and maybe even White Sun's Twilight as much as I hate how much Wraths slow a game down. Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave is cool, but expensive, and why not just run Divine Visitation so Endrek Sahr can spit out a steady stream of Angels and never die to having too many Thrulls? You know which spells make tokens and you know which ones you like, whether you're Entreating the Coppercoats or Calling the Angels. All I ask is that you try to kill someone with Halo Fountain.

This might be the best Halo Fountain shell I have ever come up with, but other cards shine here a lot. Crypt Ghast was going in the deck anyway, but it let me not play Nirkana Revenant which I cut as card like 101. It was tough making cuts but the deck will get a lot of board sculpting from these Planeswalkers specifically. Find room for The Book of Exalted Deeds or Cosmos Elixir - I won't be offended if you cut a pet card of mine.

What do we think? Not Staxy enough? Not 75%? Not enough ways to steal their abilities? Let me know on Twitter when you share this article with your followers. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you build this pile because I can't wait to. Until next time!

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