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The Great Catsby: Phabine's Unusual Thesis Enchantment

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Readers!

Today I'm going to barely talk to you about an exciting new commander that promises to help you achieve your goal of swarming the board with tokens. The reason for that is that I basically already made that deck and the decklist will be very similar to this one. We don't HAVE to copy and paste the decklist, but I could, making this my shortest and probably last article as a Coolstuff writer, something I have been the whole time it's been Coolstuff plus a bunch of years before when we were still Gathering Magic. Since I'm not trying to get fired but I did decide to write about a commander that is so similar to one I already wrote about that I could call it a day, what am I planning to talk about to make this article worth reading? Fortunately for me, I have something, and it's something I've wanted to talk about for a while and couldn't find the right commander for it. Was Kitt Kanto the right commander for it? I actually didn't think so at the time but now that I'm taking a second swing at the same concept in a short period of time, I realize that, fortuitously, having a commander with Red in it and which generates expendable creatures is the perfect venue for such a discussion. Before I derail us going on a wacky expedition to whatever the New Capenna equivalent of The Valley Of Ashes is, why don't I show you the commander so we can all see why I am electing to take a pass on building to her unique abilities and instead using this as a venue to talk about a pet peeve of mine. I promise that's a thing you want.

Phabine, Boss's Confidant

We could get really cute and build a group hug deck with this commander for sure. We could do a bunch of nonsense with Scroll Rack and Sensei's Divining Top to try and juice the results. We could even try to build some wacky pile that uses Plow Under to remind everyone why Panoptic Mirror is banned, but let's not do that, either. What I really want to do is build basically the exact same deck as our Kitt Kanto deck and then modify it to make it even more 75% than it was. How do we do that? Simple - we get back to our roots and pick a Thesis Enchantment.

The Thesis Enchantment this time around is not going to be one that plays to Pahbine's strengths particularly, which sounds like a bad idea but let me explain. Phabine is a good enabler for a conversation about an increasingly problematic concept in Commander: balancing a deck's perceived power levels. I say perceived because there really aren't discrete power levels, it feels almost like the main difference is what a player wants out of the game. Some people want to win the game and don't care how much money it takes, some people just want to have a few beers with their friends and laugh when someone's Wheel of Misfortune gets Deflecting Palmed at their face. I'm not going to get into which way to play Magic is better, but it's worth noting that one of those groups needs to be reined in a lot more than the other, and there is a pretty simple way to do that which flirts with one of casual Magic's greatest taboos. I'm going to blow up their land.

Not all of it! I said it was fortuitous that I had access to Red, not White, so that should have been your first clue that I'm not blowing up every land. My plan is to blow up the lands that deserve it the most, and that brings me to the Thesis Enchantment.

Shivan Harvest

Blowing up lands is taboo in Commander to be sure, because people don't like adding a half hour to the game, playing miserable draw-go turns while they try to rebuild their resources and feeling dead to the board. When you cast Armageddon, a card that is legal in Commander while Biorhythm is not, you essentially steal time, the one resource we can never get back, from 3 other people. People don't like that. "75% theory" accidentally seems apt here because if you figure you're in a 4-player pod, 75% of the game should be someone else's turn. This leaves you with a measly 25% of the game to yourself. When someone else starts taking long turns, shutting your cards off to narrow your range of available plays or otherwise upsets the 25:25:25:25 ratio, people get upset. We've talked about this a bit before, but look at the cards on EDHREC that people said in a survey (we broke a million responses this year) made them upset. Mass Land Destruction. Extra Turns. Stax. You upset people a lot by messing with their 25%.

So why am I so OK with Shivan Harvest that I'm using it not only as the thesis for the deck but as the Thesis Enchantment for the article? It's simple - Shivan Harvest only hurts people who deserve it. Shivan Harvest turns a player with a Gaea's Cradle into a schlub like everyone else, playing fair Magic with lands that tap for one mana. Harvest turns that $700 Volcanic Island into a crater in the ocean, rapidly filling with water. Harvest does much less to impede and to even threaten someone using basics. The precon that contains Kitt Katto and Phabine the mean token Queen has 16 basics out of 38 total lands - that's a 42% score. If you were to blow up every non-basic in play, either with Harvest and a lot of mana or with Ruination or something, you will hurt the precon player less than the player who spent $5,000 on their deck. Perhaps we're not fast enough to slow them down with their huge advantage, but we might impede their plans. We might get that Cabal Coffers or that Serra's Sanctum. I might get to add another tally to the running total I'm writing directly on the copy in my Angry Omnath deck of times I used Shivan Harvest to destroy their Homeward Path. If I could impress upon you a play that is very 75%, using Shivan Harvest to blow up Homeward Path is one you could tell someone who's never heard of 75% building and have them understand what it's all about. Well, not ALL of what it's all about, but like a good three quarters of it.

If we have a way to deal with non-basics, we're going to naturally remove some of the advantage that the more optimized players have gained and maybe we can even tilt the table in our favor. We scarcely need lands - if you bought Cryptolith Rite and Citunal Hierophants before they went way up in price you have a lot of mana in a token deck, and it's ready to do some work. Tokens give you a mana from Rite and a body to throw on the Altar to bring lands down, making a Red-containing token deck the ideal venue to test this concept. That's what I was trying to tell you earlier.

So how do we optimize our Kitt and caboodle (sorry) from a few weeks ago to be the perfect non-basic land murder machine? Here is what I came up with.

Non-Basic Land Murder Machine | Commander | Jason Alt


This is bound to be a real good time. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of a card that deserves its own paragraph but I didn't find until I was already well into building the deck - From the Ashes

From the Ashes

It seemed kinder than Ruination but also, at the same time, it REALLY punishes people who run 2 or 3 basic lands in their decks and rewards people who have more. You could conceivably really kneecap the players at the table with the most expensive decks by blowing up more lands than From the Ashes will allow them to replace, bring them in line with the less expensive decks. Add that to cards like Dust Bowl and Shivan Harvest and we potentially have a way to keep any really spicy lands like Cabal Coffers from taking over the game. Is all of this a thinly veiled justification for wanting maindeck ways to deal with Homeward Path? I'll never tell.

This deck should play pretty similarly to the way Kitty Katty played, but I think this is the perfect venue to showcase this conversation about non-basic lands. Targeting non-basics is one of the only ways to do a "sort by price" on your removal targets, and any card that disproportionately impacts the more experienced players who spent more money is worth a look. This is 75% after all, and we're used to forging our own path.

That does it for me this week. Thanks for reading, and if you have any bad beats stories about non-basic lands, leave them in the comments section. Until next time!


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