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75% Deck Garage – Talrand the "Evil"

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Welcome back, readers! I didn’t know whether I felt ready to be at the point where we would start looking at decks that weren’t 75% already and trying to tweak them, but like in all endeavors, you are sometimes called upon to be tested before you feel ready. The hero inside each and every one of us must rise to the occasion and triumph over adversity in the face of overwhelming odds and ultimately emerge victorious.

That sounds pretty melodramatic. Some dude just wanted help with his Talrand deck.

Talrand, Sky Summoner
Said dude, /u/RevoltOfTheBeavers on reddit, is among the first people I have seen using the term 75% to refer to a Commander deck in the wild and without my prompting. Does this mean the philosophy is catching on a little bit? I hope so. It’s my sincere hope that a significant number of Commander players will one day have at least one 75% deck in their arsenals and will see it as a good choice to bust out against a new, unknown playgroup. Even if that never happens, it’s heartening to see some players think in terms of, “How do I not make my playgroup miserable?”

RevoltOfTheBeavers’s playgroup was miserable. If not miserable, they sure didn’t like his Talrand deck—“hates hates HATES this deck,” were his words when he told us his problem. The entire exchange can be found at this link. The request was that the users of r/EDH help power the deck down so that he could still play it.

Dedicated readers of this column can already see an issue, and that has to do with a principle I established very early—taking a deck that is strong and weakening it was the wrong approach to 75%. If we were going to save this deck, we’d have to suggest a bit more extensive an overhaul than just say, “Substitute this card with that card”—at that point, you’d have a neutered version of the same deck that would probably lose way too often. Worse still, it might not! While I might advocate keeping the deck this oppressive to play against a spikier playgroup and building a different deck that doesn’t make my friends upset (and my wife cry!), it sounds like RevoltOfTheBeavers really wants to be able to play this deck often but not ruin lives with it. This will be the first test of our 75% deck-building abilities. Let’s start with the deck as it currently is built.

Spin into Myth
Our first glance at the deck reveals a few cards that seem “off.” Why Force of Will? Why Scalding Tarn but no other nonbasics? Why Inkwell Leviathan when it feels like the path to victory won’t be through creatures like this? Why Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in a 75% deck ever? In fact, we could almost start a list of cards that don’t fit the 75% philosophy and should never be in a 75% deck. I see three such cards here: Back to Basics, Jin-Gitaxias, and Spin into Myth. I used to include Spin into Myth in my 75% decks, but I have begun to take it out. While tucking someone’s commander is very powerful and can help in your matchup against tougher decks, the card is bound to make your regular playgroup miserable. I have come up with a solution I like.

I replace all instances of Spin into Myth with the card Distant Memories. This benefit is twofold. First, it can help you win against tougher decks that may tuck your commander. I feel that anti-tuck cards are just as effective as tuck cards in helping you win a hypothetical tuck war against a tougher deck. Second, it can allow you to proactively search for a card you know your playgroup hates but isn’t too unfair. They can decide if they would rather you have that card or draw some cards. In this way, you can avoid taking out a card like Bribery that some feel makes a playgroup feel bad but that I think is among the finest 75% cards ever devised. This deck already has Distant Memories, which I feel is important for a deck that relies on its commander. If the deck already has Distant Memories, replace Spin into Myth with Swiftfoot Boots or Lightning Greaves to keep the commander in play.

Looking at the list, I think there is actually a way to avoid breaking one of our principles—I feel there is a way to replace problem cards with spells that are actually more powerful but less consistent. In this way, we can make the deck closer to a 75% deck without weakening it at all and without making the playgroup miserable. I am going to suggest a few one-for-one substitutions right off the bat, not for this deck only, but in general.

Counterspell + Desertion

Counterspell
Desertion

See what I mean about more powerful? I think Desertion is an excellent 75% spell. Some playgroups don’t like swipe effects, but if they play enough removal, they should be fine. Having your guy swiped can feel bad to some, but is it worse than having your guy Doom Bladed? Is it worse than having your opponent use his or her mana to summon a creature better than every card in your deck? I like scalable spells, and I don’t like how easy it is to keep up 2 mana for Counterspell. Homeboy’s wife cried because she couldn’t play her spells. If you’re doing stuff on your turn, it’s tougher to keep 5 up, and you’re not going to counter any old spell with Desertion, meaning you’ll let stuff make it through. It’s harder to keep 7 mana up to Snapcaster Mage a Desertion as well, and that means opponents might be able to resolve some stuff.

− Jin-Gitaxias + Anything

Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Island

Literally anything. Delver of Secrets. Basic Island. Grand Architect. Anything.

Spin into Myth + Distant Memories

Spin into Myth
Distant Memories

We went over this above.

Forbid + Whispers of the Muse

Forbid
Whispers of the Muse

I went back and forth on this one. Forbid isn’t eternal—it has inherent card disadvantage, meaning you need a full grip to keep opponents from doing stuff. In a four-player game, you will have to let a lot of stuff resolve. Still, if you counter two of someone’s spells in a row, that may feel terrible, and that card disadvantage won’t help you against 100% decks. I think Whispers of the Muse belongs in the deck, and this is a great place to slot it in. You gain great value with Talrand this way, and you always have a cantrip to make a blocker if needed.

Back to Basics + Dissipation Field

Back to Basics
Dissipation Field

I like punishing people for doing things rather than preventing them from doing them. A blue No Mercy is not a weak card by any means, and it is less brainless than jamming Back to Basics, a card I detest from a 75% perspective (but love in Legacy!). This also allows us to run more utility lands than just Reliquary Tower.

I think a card like Mana Maze may hurt you more than it hurts multicolored decks, but I can’t decide if Mana Maze breaks some of our rules. What do you think? Should we jam Mana Maze in a mono-blue deck?

I think a way I might build this deck will focus on our Drakes. Keeping the commander out and alive should be our focus, and after that, we’ll use our spells to gain both advantage and an army of Drakes to rule the skies and fill our opponents with dread. We can play the best spells for this strategy and not have to weaken the deck as is. What might something like that look like?

I loved a lot of what this deck initially had going for it. Rather than neuter it with cuts, I decided to take it in a fun direction to try to make it less onerous to play against—but still powerful enough to win games. By building toward a theme of Drake beatdown, I left the core of the deck intact once I removed what I felt were egregious spells.

Runechanter's Pike
First and foremost, I want to lean on Talrand more. This involves making sure he stays alive and in play. Swiftfoot Boots should help with that on top of the counterspells. The deck already had Distant Memories, which is good. I added Diviner's Wand because that auto-equips and is good for helping Talrand turn your mana into damage and going over the top. Wanting to put Runechanter's Pike and Diviner's Wand on Talrand prompted the inclusion of Swiftfoot Boots over Lightning Greaves. Being able to alpha-strike out of nowhere with your commander seems good to me.

The deck had Polymorph before, and I loved it! I cut all the creatures except for Stormtide Leviathan because I love Polymorph either tutoring for him or for a tucked Talrand for the low, low price of a Drake token. If you want to include another creature in that spot—such as Blightsteel Colossus—it’s your party!

Beating down with Drakes seems fun to me, so I added cards that help you do that; Favorable Winds, Gravitational Shift, Coat of Arms, and Caged Sun all help out and either help you in other ways or hinder them. Devastation Tide seems bad at this plan, so it was cut. Distant Melody is great for this theme and was already included.

I can’t decide if I want twenty cards in hand or twenty cards in the graveyard. The Venser's Journal is a bit of a nonbo with Runechanter's Pike, but I think the card is very good in the deck, and with used spells going to the ’yard, Pike will be plenty potent. Strap it on a Drake or Talrand, and go to town. I didn’t add utility land on top of Reliquary Tower in order to keep Vedalken Shackles going strong. Between Tower and Journal, draw with abandon.

Stolen Identity
I don’t mind a certain number of Time Walk effects, but Time Stretch and Walk the Aeons both seemed problematic. They were cut to make room for good cards that are on theme, and I don’t think the deck was weakened.

I almost cut Stolen Identity when I cut a ton of creatures until I realize you just cipher onto a Drake and bounce opposing blockers. You don’t need to copy anything of yours when you can “borrow” an opponent’s best creature. In fact, you will rely heavily on borrowing opposing dudes given my decision to cut all but one of ours. Bribery, Vedalken Shackles, Desertion, and Rite of Replication—you have a lot of fun ways to make opponents’ best creatures your best creatures. Rite of Replication often reads, “You win,” which I think is a necessary inclusion in a 75% deck. It’s easy to thwart, but it’s potent if it resolves. I like that sort of effect a ton because it gives you game against tough decks and doesn’t require weaker decks to raise their games all that much to combat it. Best of all, if the game goes long, as it so often does with 50% decks, you can say, “Time to shuffle up.”




What do we think? Did I find a creative way to make a few changes to the deck so it was less oppressive? Did I break any of the rules I established for us? Do you have an idea for a direction you’d like to see the deck go? Want to make a case for including something I cut on principle? Want to argue in favor of Mana Maze? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Thanks for reading!


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