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Saruman's Caress of Steal



Ever wish your commander could both help you steal their cards and reward you for using cards to steal their cards? Just me? That's fine, I'll be over here playing dumb, Battlecruiser Magic with your cards. Is there a place for dumb, Battlecruiser Magic anymore? I don't know. I think the format has gotten pretty fast and I think that Sol Ring is getting a lot of the blame for it. I didn't start the Sol Ring discourse with my article about why I personally don't love playing it and the discourse has gotten very interesting in the past few weeks with smart people from all over the community weighing in. I don't think Sol Ring is the reason Commander feels two turns faster than it used to, and I don't think cutting Sol Ring will improve the format, I literally just don't want to run it because I don't think it's that fun. However, there are some decks, let's call them "Durdly Esper junk" that really need the mana and don't have a way that lets them play a ton of extra lands to do it. Now, personally, I think an Esper deck that runs a ton of card draw and therefore likely has a lot of extra lands in hand should run Walking Atlas, but I think we all know I have opinions about how to build that conflict with what a lot of other people think.

Sometimes I have conflicting thoughts, though, because this week I am going to suggest a deck that not only will run Sol Ring, but which will want to run up to 4 Sol Rings. "But Jason," I hear you tweeting, trying to get me fired, "the format only allows you to bring one copy of Sol Ring to the table, you absolute sack of hazardous waste." While that's true and hurtful, I maintain you actually CAN bring 4 copies of Sol Ring to the table, and you do that by letting your opponents bring them to the table in their decks so you can borrow them later. One Ring might rule them all, but if Sauron had a whole set of them like a Thanos glove, Isildur would have been the one who ended up getting cast into Mount Doom, with one slap. I plan to do a bunch of tricksy little hobbit tricks to take their rings and use them to cast big spells.

Since I'm, I guess, romanticizing a version of Sauron where he won easily, let's lean into the whole villain angle and build around one of Middle Earth's nastiest turn-coats - Saruman the Blue, Black and White.

Saruman of Many Colors

I'm sure you see why I am so jazzed about him, now. Ward is excellent on a creature that is sure to have a target on its back, the ward cost makes his abilities better, casting big, dumb spells like Bribery and Blatant Thievery ensure you can get something very good out of their yard to cast and you get to cast their spells, including their Enchantments. This is going to be slow, mana-hungry and so, so worth it.

We will have to run a lot more "play this so you don't die before you get to eight mana" spells in this deck, which is a bummer, but we also get to play a ton of fun spells and we can load up on ways to take their cards. I haven't been running a ton of spells like Bribery and Praetor's Grasp since the start of the pandemic, but if you're going to do some playing in person, Acquire for their mana rocks feels like a good way to start with your mana-hungry deck. Knight of the White Orchid and Weathered Wayfarer are on the menu. This is a preDH deck almost - a lot of the cards I'm mentioning are old enough to completely forget the password to a door THEY suggested the party go through. That's good; show those whippersnappers that life isn't all Thoracles and extortion committed dockside. I am going to take so, so many of their cards since we double dip whenever the second spell we play each turn helps us steal something from them. I don't love board wipes, but I sure do love a good Aetherspouts or Settle the Wreckage so you're not punishing everyone, but rather the person with the audacity to attack the great Saruman. There is enough card draw, countermagic and removal to get us to the late game alive, and that's when the fun REALLY starts.

Casting expensive spells increases your odds of getting something good with Saruman's trigger, and luckily, all of our fun stuff is expensive. We could mess around with trying to make our stuff playable as a Sorcery so we could trigger it on their turn, which has some merit to it, but I'm not going to focus on it. It's a fairly stock idea and you came here for the spice. All of that said, let's see how spicy I can make it.

The Caress of Steal | Commander | Jason Alt

Card Display

This looks like a ton of fun. I had to play a bunch of cards like Swords to Plowshares that I don't necessarily love, but one-mana spells are going to be the key to this deck's survival.

I feel like I might need more card draw - it seems almost audacious to run Reliquary Tower and Thought Vessel with as little as I have. Hopefully we can keep our hand stocked by letting their cards do the heavy lifting and we can hold back removal. You may notice I didn't include Propaganda or Ghostly Prison - there is a very good explanation for that. I didn't want to run anything that would make Cunning Rhetoric worse. I play Rhetoric in a lot of decks, and this is the best deck for it yet.

I like the idea of using X spells to dial in exactly how much mana I want to spend, especially on their turns. Casting an Instant like Brainstorm then Dominate on an attacking creature and getting another one of their spells seems like cheating, and Drown in Dreams can do a lot of similar work. I didn't want to burden the deck with too many, but a few go a long way and they can really customize your experience, especially if they're swinging at you and you look defenseless.

What do we think? Too evil? Not evil enough? Too 2017 to compete in your playgroup? Let me know on Twitter or write it in blood on my wall leading to a years-long cat and mouse game where I try to track you but you're always one step ahead. Until next time!

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