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Around the Wheel: Sephara, Sky's Blade

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Sometimes it's time to move on to something new. And because the fashion that was in when I was 11 is now back, it's clear that everything old is new again, so I think it's time to do something old that's going to be new. When I first started writing for CoolStuffInc, I went around the color wheel, building a Commander deck for each color and color combination available. I think it's time to do that again. Last time, we used a strict budget to keep everything affordable. This time, the brakes are off. No budget. Let's do this.

Sephara, Sky's Blade

I like Commander. One of the things I like is how flexible we can be with deck-building, because we don't necessarily have to build to win. We can build to tell a story, because we like a theme or tribe, or just use the cards we've got to hang with a group of friends. But sometimes it's fun to pick a strong commander and build to her strengths; minimal themes, just good cards, making a good game. The nice thing about a commander like Sephara is she pushes us into a theme at least a little automatically. Assuming we want to use her secondary casting ability, we want fliers, and we probably want at least a few cheap ones. Let's start with the mana and work from there.

We almost always run 40 lands here in my columns, and we're going to run 40 lands here. Mono-color decks are nice because we can run more utility in our mana base, so we've got Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Foundry of the Consuls, and Rogue's Passage, to name a few. We can cycle a few of our lands if we draw them late. Mostly we want to hit our drops for the first five or six turns, because if we have to hard-cast our commander we'd like to get there sooner rather than later. Alternately, we want to start casting creatures quickly so we can get her out faster. We've also got a few rocks to help us along; not a ton, though. One in the first few turns would be helpful.

We're going to beat down our opponents with fliers. This is a red zone deck for sure. So we want to keep the fliers coming, which means we have to try to keep card parity in a color which doesn't like to draw cards very much. We've got Bygone Bishop, which helps, but mostly we're going to do this by making tokens and the occasional returning of things to the battlefield. If we look at each card that makes two tokens as two cards and each one that makes three as three cards, we can start to keep up. This is actually an important thing to remember in general: card draw is just one subset of card advantage. Drawing an extra card is one of the most obvious ways of gaining an advantage, but if we're making more cards than we're spending (say, getting two tokens for one card) or spending fewer cards than our opponents (if we cast Wrath of God, for example, when we have only one creature and they have 12, we've spent two cards to their 12, which is a 1:6 ratio of card advantage). When we're in a draw-disadvantaged color combination like Mono-White, it's worth it to find other ways to catch up.

Lyra Dawnbringer
Flying is a great form of evasion in Commander. I'm consistently surprised at how little it's valued, but most utility creatures don't have it, and players tend to run creatures for their abilities outside of things like Flying. The evasion is just a perk. By going all-in on the keyword, we're going to be able to attack a lot with less worry of blockers. With that in mind, the vast majority of our creatures are here with attacking in mind. We've got this big ol' 7/7 for a commander, but we've also got more angels kicking around with high power. Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade both make an appearance, mostly because we don't have any way to search for them so putting them together would be awesome. Lyra Dawnbringer, too, is pretty great, and we've got enough Angels her ability will be useful. We've got a bunch more non-legendary ones, too - we can give our attackers benefits, make birds, exile graveyards, recur creatures. All of them fly, and all of them kick butt. We have Aegis Angel instead of Avacyn, Angel of Hope as a stand-in. Aegis Angel feels more fair, draws less hate, and her CMC isn't as high, but if you want to jam Avacyn, go for it. Alongside our Angels, we've got a fleet of additional fliers, creating a veritable attack squadron. We start at one mana with little dudes that don't do anything but be creatures, really, and move up to wonderful taxing effects like Aven Mindcensor and Kinjalli's Sunwing. We do have a few creatures without flying, though. Geist-Honored Monk makes three flying Spirits, which is a perfectly good deal for five mana and one card but leaves an extra Vigilant grounder to block or just be annoying to our opponents. Magus of the Moat won't do any attacking if it's out, of course, but preventing our opponents from cracking back with their ground-based guys is totally worth it. Bishop of Wings will probably gain us some life over its existence, but since our Angels will be the target of a lot of point removal, it's nice to have a replacement to help us recast our commander or just get in the last few points of damage.

Magus of the Moat
White does a great job of answering anything. It can exile creatures, destroy artifacts, remove enchantments, whatever. That makes it a great choice for slow-rolling decks that take their time and take over a game. That ain't us, though. We're a fast attack deck, so we don't want to waste a bunch of spaces on answers. However, it's a good idea to have a few for occasional circumstances we need to get out of (Archetype of Imagination comes to mind, for example). Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares should really go in every White deck there is. We've also got a couple of board wipes like Fumigate and Cleansing Nova, and how is Winds of Abandon reasonable? Black has to come up with eight mana for In Garruk's Wake, and all that does is destroy their creatures! For six mana we can exile the entire opposing board and swing with our team. Seems good, since we'll probably kill them before they can use the land they get. Return to Dust gets two things for our one card (card advantage!) and Generous Gift is a Beast Within in White, which is probably where it belonged in the first place but is also fabulous, because it gets anything. Here's the thing, though. Save this stuff. Let it sit in your hand. Don't throw your removal at whatever. Better to send your team into an attack and lose a dude or two than waste your Path on a single 4/4 flier. Save it for the really big things we can't otherwise push through.

In part we're conservative with removal because we're actually running a trick. Rally of Wings will surprise the heck out of someone blocking your 3/3 with a 4/4 token. Plus you'll probably be swinging with more things, so you'll hit for a bunch of extra damage. It's our only one, but they don't know that. With some tricky play you can convince the table you've got it and push through all kinds of damage.

We've got other fun things, too. Smothering Tithe will certainly gain us some Treasure. Spirit Bonds will help us make more dudes, plus it'll protect our Angels nicely. Luminarch Ascension is always great, especially early when no one is doing damage. A few pieces of Equipment can make our commander a serious threat, as Haunted Cloak and Forebear's Blade both give her Trample. Moonsilver Spear makes it so any of our team can summon Angels. And Serra the Benevolent is here to watch over her feathered friends and us, since that emblem shouldn't be hard to get.


That should be a pretty solid, if very fair, list. We'll come out swinging early and often, and our commander will probably enter the fray much earlier than a 7/7 should, though she'll do it on her own terms, not with some sneaky trick. Just make sure to sandbag that removal for when we really need it.

Any thoughts on how to build Sephara? Any cards I missed you think should be included? While I'm asking questions, any suggestions for upcoming mono-colored decks? Blue is next!

One more thing I'm going to try to do every article. Most of the time I consider multiple ideas before settling on one, so I'm going to share the runner-up when I've got one. This week, it was Evra, Halcyon Witness. I thought there might be potential for a very cool deck that gained life and powered her out early, then clocked opponents for lethal in one hit. A bit of a glass cannon (or, my preferred phrase, a "handgun from Ikea"), but could be quite fun to put together. A bit like Phage, the Untouchable, without the absurd tap dance one must do to cast one's own commander.

See you next time! Thanks for reading.