Holiday Gift Guide 2019
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What's in Your Toolbox?


Call the Gatewatch
Last week we took a look at tutors and how our outlook on them can be softened to an extent. What we concluded is that like anything, intentionality is what matters most. If you can’t trust yourself not to tutor for the same card every game, maybe cut the tutors; but, if they can be used as toolbox cards, they are very valuable. We’re trying to lower the deck’s consistency to 1/x game wins where x is the number of players at the table but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to consistently be able to do anything at all. If we have narrow tutors like Call the Gatewatch or Crop Rotation, we’ll be able to grab stuff we need in a pinch but will be less likely to be grabbing combo pieces or the same win condition every time. Sometimes against tougher decks we also want to be able to make hero plays because we’re going to need more than luck to beat tuned decks.

This week, I want to spend a little more time on tutors I like and the more I think about it, the more I like nearly 100% of creature-based tutors — even ones like Rune-Scarred Demon. They’re blinkable, can hold equipment, can be narrow and their power level can be high because the mana cost associated with body+tutor effect means they come down a little later and are therefore a little trickier to use than a card like Demonic Tutor. We talked a lot about Thalia's Lancers when it (they?) was (were?) spoiled. Being able to get Legendary permanents is solid in Commander since a lot of what we like is Legendary. We talked about Time of Need last week for the same reason. This week, I want to talk about a new card that doesn’t necessarily get Legendary creatures but which is going to be very exciting in a lot of decks. Maybe you’ve seen it.

This is a very narrow tutor. Like Trinket Mage, this gets a very small number of cards out of your deck, but if you look at the 3-drop artifacts we like to play in Commander, you start to see just how good a toolbox card this can be. What exactly can we grabble with this goodie-grabbler?

Mana Rocks

Coalition Relic
Chromatic Lantern
Basalt Monolith

Banners, Chromatic Lantern, Commander's Sphere, Coalition Relic, Basalt Monolith, Borderposts, Obelisks, Cluestones, even Extraplanar Lens — this crafty card can get a lot of mana rocks. While I always feel like there is more friction getting to 3 mana and I tend to like Signets and Farseek effects more, being able to get a rock that ramps you to 6 or 7 or gets you a color you need can keep you in a game. Casting Trophy Mage for a Chromatic Lantern seems like a fine play in a pinch or out of one. Since there are bound to be more tempting targets in the deck, this play helps you out of a bind, sets you up to ramp faster or just generally demonstrates that Trophy Mage isn’t just a second copy of a combo piece.


Sword of Fire and Ice

“Sword of” is a prefix that applies to a lot of sexy cards. You have the regular cycle of two-colored swords, many of which are very powerful in Commander. On top of that, you have Sword of Vengeance which is solid in Commander as well. Sunforger isn’t a Sword but that’s OK because it’s Sunforger and it’s a toolbox card in and of itself.


Ashnod's Altar
Phyrexian Altar

Ashnod’s and Phyrexian Altars, to be exact. You’re on your own if you need Altar of Bone, but tutoring for a tutor would be silly anyway.


Ensnaring Bridge
Damping Matrix

Ensnaring Bridge and Crawlspace are going to put a real damper on their plans. Speaking of damper, Damping Matrix is 3 CMC. Forcefield has won me plenty of games over the years, though it’s pretty expensive and mana-intensive.


Tangle Wire
Orb of Dreams
Static Orb

Like the hoser category, stax cards hose your opponents even more. Smokestack itself costs 4 but other cards like Tangle Wire, Mana Web, Orb of Dreams and Static Orb are all great targets. I don’t play these cards much in my 75% decks but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them.


Spear of Heliod
Hall of Triumph
Adaptive Automaton

You can’t grab Glorious Anthem, true, but being able to snag Spear of Heliod, Hall of Triumph and Adaptive Automaton is hardly shabby.


Horn of Greed
Staff of Domination

Cloudstone Curio and Crucible of Worlds came to my mind immediately when Trophy Mage was spoiled. These are cards that are very powerful and are the heart of advantage engines. It’s tempting to run Trophy Mage as an extra copy of these cards. Getting them is the right play a lot more often than not, so if you find yourself only getting Crucible when there are other targets in the deck, perhaps re-evaluate. However, it’s good to be able to find your good cards and you need the help against tuned decks. Getting your best tool more often than not doesn’t mean you don’t have a good toolbox, it just means you have a default mode that you can ignore if you need something else more desperately. Horn of Greed is another great card in this category, as is Staff of Domination. Heck, even Scarecrone is great in the right context.

Combo Pieces

Umbral Mantle
Staff of Domination
Ashnod's Altar

Like strong utility cards, we want to make sure we’re not always searching for our combo pieces. However, being able to have access to Umbral Mantle, Staff of Domination and Ashnod's Altar at will is very helpful. If you’re not always grabbing the same card, I feel like these interactions are perfectly acceptable in a 75% context. The new card Scrap Trawler appears to have some combo potential, while we’re on the subject.

Here is the url for the gatherer search I did to comb through every 3 CMC artifact in Magic history.

I’m sure you want a deck list. I’m really tempted to give you a Tiny Leaders list but I haven’t heard much about that format lately. I do want to make sure we have some juicy targets for Trophy Mage but I also want to jam a few other creature-based tutors. Why not Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage and Trophy Mage all in the same deck? There’s no reason why not, that’s why. As long as we’re running Blue, expensive stuff, let’s run the Bluest and expensivest commander ever — Memnarch. And what could be more 75% than Memnarch? Finally having a card that can find our Vedalken Shackles, that’s what! Let’s see a deck list.

Don?t be such a ?narch ? Commander| Jason Alt

This deck is set up to maximize your Mages as well as activating Memnarch. Memnarch is our boy and we’re going to try and do what we can to steal their team. Getting cards out of the deck to help us accomplish this aim means our tutors, while narrow, are going to do a lot of work.

There’s not much we can get with Trinket Mage, but that was always kind of the point. It’s obviously much better in Legacy where it’s just spare copies of Phyrexian Dreadnought or Sensei's Divining Top or Grindstone but that can also snag us Pithing Needle and other nastiness out of the board. I think being able to get Sol Ring, Mana Vault and Sensei’s Top when we need it is non-trivial. Yes, I put Top in the deck. Don’t make me regret it. Trinket Mage has targets and can really ramp your mana if you snag a Mana Vault, so ramping from 3 mana on turn two to 8 mana on turn three is a big play and can help us outpace our opponents.

Trophy Mage has a lot of juicy targets here. We talked about all of them above, but it’s worth looking through the deck to see what we’re running from that list. I set up the mana base to benefit from both Extraplanar Portal and Crucible of Worlds specifically. Cloudstone Curio helps with our mages so we can tutor for a bunch of cards, and bouncing an Eldrazi isn’t too shabby, either. We can even get some mana rocks to get the ball rolling on ramping to our big spells.

Treasure Mage
Speaking of big spells, there is a lot of opportunity for Treasure Mage. We have quite a few tempting targets and you should be able to find something very strong that can help wrap the game up quickly. I added enough expensive artifacts that we’re not always going to want to grab the same thing with Treasure Mage. Go grab something huge and use it to win the game. Hopefully when you cast Treasure Mage, you can bounce Trophy Mage back to your hand with Cloudstone Curio and keep the shenanigans going.

We have Thada Adel, Acquisitor and Shackles but I obviously want more swipey cards in here. Memnarch being so good at swiping made me cut cards like Bribery for more artifacts, but I could easily jam them back in.

What do we think? Is this a good way to showcase our newest narrow tutor? What’s your favorite creature-based tutor? I would say mine is Stoneforge Mystic because I bought a bunch for a quarter each when they spoiled Sword of Body and Mind, but maybe not since I sold them for $2 each before they spoiled Batterskull. Maybe Godo, Bandit Warlord. Yeah, that’s a good ‘un. Leave me thoughts, criticisms, Christmas cookie recipes, whatever, in the comment section. Thanks for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for more hot takes about Aether Revolt spoilers. Until next week!

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