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Convertible Commander: Lavinia of the Tenth


Recently, my Gathering Magic colleague Daryl Bockett wrote a great article arguing for the long game, at least in Commander. He lays out several reasons why he prefers a long game, lasting more than an hour. Among other things, he points out a long game reduces the importance of high-powered, high-cost cards. His example, early Mana Crypt, or even just a $400 mana base, means a fast start; if that fast start leads to a game-ending combo, those of us without Bayous and Candelabra of Tawnoses are left behind. In a long game, though, those fast starts matter a lot less, because everything gets smoothed out over time and the game is more fair, and probably more fun, for everyone.

So as long as we’re working with a budget, what can we do to make sure we’ve got a long game to play? There are control decks we can build which frustrate everyone else at the table, or we could just run a suite of counterspells, but maybe there’s another way to go about it.

Lavinia of the Tenth

This capable lady does a pretty good job of slowing the game down. Not being able to use most mana rocks or go crazy with a bunch of tokens will cause many players looking to win quickly to stumble. She’s not going to stop a big angel by herself, though, so it’s not like we’re just locking down the whole board, even if we manage to figure out a way to get her to enter the battlefield every turn. Honestly, detain may be too weak for EDH, but it also might be a great middle ground between “destroy everything at the table” and “let everyone do exactly what they want”. Let’s take a look at what a deck led by her could look like.

Lavinia of the Tenth ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Homeward Path
We’ve got a few ways to slow the game, lots of ways to temporarily answer problems, and several methods to flicker a permanent so we can have Lavinia do her thing when we need her help.

I know I’m a broken record on this, but we’ve got our 40 lands. Seriously, if you’re not running 40 lands, just try it once. You’ll see how much smoother it makes your deck work — you can actually cast your spells on time, and you have few games where you’re mana or color hosed. Of course some decks work on less, and a few need more, but 40 is a good baseline. A bunch of our lands tap for two colors, some of them hunt for a basic, and a few have some useful effect, like Homeward Path for getting back something stolen with Yasova Dragonclaw or whatever. A few mana rocks make the cut as well — we’ll want stuff to do in the early game, and making some extra mana is worthwhile. Sol Ring is specifically useful, because it plays nicely with a couple of other cards in the deck.

There are some killer creatures in here which draw cards when they enter the battlefield. This is perfect for a deck which wants to flicker its cards. Mulldrifter entering the battlefield every turn is great for card advantage. We’ve also got stuff like Mind Unbound and Tamiyo's Journal, which sort of quietly give us cards until we’ve suddenly overwhelmed the table with our hand size. Windreader Sphinx works well since a good number of our creatures fly, and we’ve got some small ones, plus we’ll be flicking, so Ephara, God of the Polis does work too. Bident of Thassa even helps, since we’ll often have something to crack with.

Dragonlord Ojutai
We’ve got some big fliers to end the game. Really, quite a few of them. Chancellor of the Spires, Dragonlord Ojutai, Diluvian Primordial, they’re in there, and they’re ready to swoop in and beat some face. We’ve also got Brago, King Eternal hanging out in here, and he can get pretty silly; with Strionic Resonator and Sol Ring out he can flicker everything indefinitely. Add to that a detain creature and we can detain the entire board. With a card-drawer we can draw our entire deck. With that Primordial we can cast every instant and sorcery in our opponents’ graveyards. You get the idea. Azor's Elocutors would also be a fun way to win, and not completely beyond possibility, because we can keep people from attacking so much with detain. It’s a good distraction for opponents, too; it’ll make everyone focus on it, because they’ll be worried it’ll go off and win the game, so they’ll throw a kill spell at it or whatever.

We’ve also got a ton of answers, but they’re the kind designed to make a long game, not make everyone sad. Sure, we can cast the occasional Day of Judgment, but we don’t have Mana Drain on an Isochron Scepter or anything similar. We’re a little fragile — we may be one Conjurer's Closet being destroyed away from letting our opponent launch his token army at the table. But we can Oblivion Ring or Detention Sphere something. We can Arrest a creature, or use Azorius Arrester. Lots of detain, lots of slowing things down, with the occasional Swords to Plowshares to handle something seriously nasty.

Deadeye Navigator
And tons of ETB effects. Because we’re able to flicker so much, it makes sense to have lots of them. Diluvian Primordial is a great example, because when it’s soulbound to a Deadeye Navigator it will do some damage, but there are lots of things which will do good work when entering the battlefield every turn. Primarily, we’re trying to make detain work, because detain does a good job of keeping the game going and fair while not keeping our friends from playing the game.

Of course, we’re convertible commander, so how do we convert this one? We change only the commander. We’ve got a few options. Brago, King Eternal is a reasonable choice, but so is Isperia, Supreme Judge or Dragonlord Ojutai. Each of them will offer a brand new experience, because they offer different approaches. Brago is going to be a bit more combo-rific, and Isperia would be a great choice for lower-powered decks. The Dragonlord, meanwhile, is an option when we feel a bit more like attacking earlier on. Frankly, switching out the commander of any deck can be a good way to breathe some new life into it without a whole lot of work.

The nice thing is this makes the budget even less painful — this one comes in at just under $100, which is pretty reasonable for an entire deck which can play with various commanders in different styles.

Sun Titan
There are a few cards which didn’t make it in but could be fun options. Sun Titan is almost always good in White decks as a finisher and value card, plus when it can flicker it can do a lot, but Subjugator Angel fit the theme a bit better. Aviary Mechanic and Topplegeist are both reasonable options for the early game; if it turns out there are a couple too many mana rocks, these would be reasonable replacements. Martial Law got cut for Aetherstorm Roc; the creature count is on the low side and, done correctly, they do the same thing, but either (or both) is a reasonable choice. Cataclysmic Gearhulk was a bit too rough for our deck, but with a modified build might be really amazing, though a bit more like Stax than this deck is trying to be. Finally, Torrential Gearhulk is good in the same way Sun Titan is (it’s a quality card), but due to its cost in Standard right now is out of our budget. If you’ve cracked one and don’t have a place for it, this would be a good one. Also, Spell Queller and Panharmonicon are both seeing play now, and have price tags to match, but both are great when a lot of cards are flickering in and out. They’re shoo-ins for a Brago, King Eternal deck, that’s for sure.

How do you slow the game down and make it, as Daryl puts it, more like a full length movie and less like a sitcom? What would you do to make this deck work? Have you ever used detain in a Commander deck? And what else would you like to see get the Convertible Commander treatment? Please let me know in the comments. I really pay attention to them, just like all the authors here!

In the meantime, get comfortable, shuffle up, and grab a drink, because this is going to be a long, fun game.

Total cost: $97.16

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