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Around the Wheel: Narset, Enlightened Master

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I've been playing Magic: the Gathering for a long time. I started in Unlimited, played for a spell, then dropped it as my friends and I started role-playing and playing music together. Picked it up again for a bit during college, remembered why I liked it, but couldn't get anyone to play. Took another break, then found my way to a Shards of Alara prerelease at my local comic shop, Sky High Comics. The owner, Dave, and I had some stuff in common, and the community there was cool and helpful. I've been playing ever since. And all that time, I've been collecting.

It was at Sky High I built my first Commander deck - Anowan, the Ruin Sage, for those keeping tabs - and upgraded it to Sheoldred, Whispering One. The format was getting its legs under it outside of the judge community, and I was hooked, like many others in the shop. I started building decks like crazy, and I also started collecting in earnest, but this time, with an eye to EDH. That meant I was only going for one-ofs (no need for playsets) and I was looking for battlecruiser cards, not fast Standard staples. I started collecting Planeswalkers early and often, and have made a point of trying to collect as many as I can, y'know, just in case.

A few years ago I was in the middle of a major collection reorganization (I actually built a piece of furniture purely designed to hold my Magic collection, which was a great decision and has been helpful ever since - I highly recommend it and am happy to offer help) and subsequently spent a lot of time going through old cards I hadn't looked at in a while. As I was working through my rare binders, I discovered I had a bunch of planeswalkers, and decided they needed a home. One look at this woman and I knew I'd found it.

Narset, Enlightened Master

She can't handle all the superfriends, but she can handle a lot of them, and built correctly, she casts them for free. We're going to do a highly updated version of her today (among other things, we now have a lot of cheaper planeswalkers and several at uncommon and the like, so we can run a lot more of them than I did). Let's start by going through the deck presented today, and at the end I'll talk a bit about the theory behind my version and how it works.

We're back to 40 lands, thank goodness (the last few articles have had fewer than 40, which is a rarity for me). We're trying to maximize planeswalkers, and we want to have Narset's hits be as spectacular as possible, so we're forgoing any ramp in exchange for power. That means we need to hit our land drops for the first six turns to cast on time, and we need to be careful, because we're running a lot of comes-into-play-tapped lands. (You could spend a ton more money on a faster mana base, which is fine but probably unnecessary unless you're trying to tune her into the winning-est version.) So, we can play our tapped lands up till turn five and hold that one basic or whatever till turn six. For utility, we don't have much: a Rogue's Passage (which can be helpful for keeping Narset alive when she attacks as the board starts to clog up), a Karn's Bastion (because Planeswalkers like to Proliferate), and a Temple of the False God, which is one of just a couple ways we can get Narset out before turn six. If all goes well, we won't need our lands to do anything else, though we'll take a free Scry out of a land when we can get it.

Narset is one of those funny decks where drawing cards is actually not helpful, because we want to cast our spells for free off a Narset trigger, not cast them for mana from our hand. So, we're not running any specific ways to draw cards. A few of our 'walkers have "draw a card" as one of their abilities, but in general avoid it unless you know you're drawing a land, since we can't "cast" lands off Narset triggers. However, once she starts rolling, we'll be getting plenty of spells every turn, and most of the time we'll want to cast most of them, so we shouldn't fall behind on the card advantage game.

How we win is kind of up to the cards we get. We're going to assemble a team of Aven... no, wait, I mean a League, bent on just... no, that's not right. We're going to summon a pack of Planeswalkers! They're going to help us win, and often in surprising ways, so it's paramount you have read the cards and know what each ability does; it's not unusual to use the ultimate on a 'walker more than once in a game with this deck, but also sometimes something is surprisingly useful, like the Lightning Helix on Ajani Vengeant or the Wall that Teyo, the Shieldmage creates. It's also not unusual to have six, 10, or more 'walkers on the field at the same time, and this creates highly complex and interactive board states. Know your cards, pay attention, and keep on top of what's happening - you'll figure out how to win. Sometimes it'll be the multiple Soldier tokens from Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and other times it'll be a sword-wielding Thopter from Tezzeret, Artifice Master, and sometimes it'll be a Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker-turned-into-a-Dragon. Narset herself with a bunch of counters and pumps from the 'walkers can do it. Oh, and Aggravated Assault plus Sword of Feast and Famine goes infinite, so there's that.

Our answers are pretty simple. We have a suite of board sweepers (if we're lucky we'll have one in our actual hand so we can cast it when we want, as opposed to when we hit it). That's... well, that's it. The various Planeswalkers have their own random removal abilities, but we're honestly not that worried about what anyone else is doing. If someone beats us before we get rolling, good on them. If they don't, they're probably going to have a tough time getting through our wall of tokens and various other random things.

Finally, we're running a bunch of Red cards that give us additional combat steps. This is important, because they allow us to attack with Narset a second time and get a second trigger. Ideally, we hit one on our first attack so we don't have to cast it, but note that Response // Resurgence doesn't untap our creatures, it gives them Vigilance. That means if we hit that card, we can take a second attack, but Narset won't be part of it. We've got a few things that help our 'walkers, like Oath of Gideon and Oath of Teferi, plus The Chain Veil for additional activations. The Contagions - Clasp and Engine - allow us to Proliferate some more, which is excellent once we've got a few Planeswalkers out, and Inexorable Tide is fun, just stack your triggers. Strionic Resonator is worth its weight in gold here, and is probably the only card I would say the deck simply must have to be played. And Shark Typhoon, because every. Single. Spell. Triggers it. That's hilarious, and worth running.

Narset Superfriends | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


For those of you counting, that's 34 Planeswalkers. That's a lot of Planeswalkers. And the deck should be fun, though really, you need to know your cards, and your friends should probably be the patient sort, because you're likely to take some long-ish turns, figuring out the optimal way to use your abilities and such. This isn't a deck to play if you don't know your cards, because you will bore your friends to death.

My version was designed to win games. Normally, while I try to build in a way to win, I don't build to win, specifically - I design to play, with some sort of theme or goal along the way. I want my decks to be interactive, fun, and play mostly fair. But when building Narset, I threw that building constraint out and, in addition to all the extra-combat-steps stuff, I put in all the extra turn spells I had as well. Mu Yanling, Ral Zarek, and Teferi, Timebender are worth considering for this route, as are all the normal sorceries. Adding those in makes it a lot more common to chain Narset triggers; there was at least one game where I attacked once and closed out the game by just getting lucky with all the hits. The way I justified this was no ramp and no Haste. In most cases, I do nothing until turn seven, at which point all hell breaks loose. Kill me first or I'm going nuts.

The other way to consider changing the deck is to increase the speed by adding some ramp so she's hitting sooner or give her a few ways to punch through. My version relies on having a place to send her or having to recast all the time, but a Trailblazer's Boots, Steel of the Godhead, and Whispersilk Cloak would go a long way to making sure she hits all the time.

I'll warn you, though, my friends now just don't let me get that far; they know they can beat me if they whip me quickly, so they gang up to make sure I don't get to go off. At least they're appropriately frightened.

What did I miss? What would you add? How would you build Superfriends? Let us know!

I seriously considered for this week Vadrok, Apex of Thunder. There's got to be a good way to balance tiny noncreature spells with enough Mutate creatures to make a reasonable deck, but I couldn't find it. If you've got it, point me at it, yeah?

Until then, go assemble your team.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

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