Preorder MTG Murders at Karlov Manor today!
   Sign In
Create Account

Commanding the Wilds of Eldraine with Talion, the Kindly Lord


The last couple of weeks I've built decks designed for people who don't actually play Magic. I'd love for my partner to pick it up, and I have high hopes for my five-year-old, but my dad - he actually plays. When I first started playing back in Unlimited, he got interested and actually played with me. We went to a very early sealed tournament he ended up winning, and he let me trade away my Bayou for a Nightmare, a thing for which I will never forgive him. I played for a few years and while he never really bought in, he played often with me.

When I returned to the game several years later, he did too; he was my first competitor when I bought a big stack of cards to get restarted, he came with me to my first prerelease, and has since continued to play seriously along with me. He also edits all my articles for me, which is very nice of him.

We are, however, different players. He is both wackier than I and meaner than I. [Says the man whose Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck has been banned at multiple tables. Ed.] He often has suggestions for the decks I build for this column, and they're almost always designed to make the deck win better/more efficiently/stomp harder. Sometimes I take his suggestions, but often my response is the point isn't to build a deck that wins more, but something else. His brain just naturally goes for the win more than mine.

However, he also tends to like bad cards more than I do. One of his favorite cards is Swerve, which is, pretty much, not a great card, but he is convinced it actually is. (He's wrong.) [No, I'm right. I learned to love it in limited, where opponents always assumed I had it and it warped their play. Ed.] He enjoys cards which aren't great but he sees as good or which performed for him once in some specific situation.

So when I set out to build a deck for him with one of the Legends from Wilds of Eldraine, I had two choices: build a wacky deck or a mean deck. Take a look at the Commander and guess which way I went:

Talion, the Kindly Lord

There are, apparently, people building Group Hug strategies with this guy. We're not doing that. [Certainly not for me! Ed.] Instead, we're going to make the table miserable by punishing everything they do. Because what's better than making everyone suffer for their three-drops? Making everyone suffer for every drop they make. [Suffering is good for my opponents' souls, so I do it for them. Ed.]

Talion EDH | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Card Display

We encounter a couple of problems with our plan, but let's start with the nuts and bolts.

We need mana to pull this off. So, we're running 40 Lands and several mana rocks, 10 in all. That makes half the deck mana sources, and I'll tell you, in playtesting I have never felt like I'm drawing too many. I will happily keep a hand of nothing but mana with this deck. [FWIW, I run more in my Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire deck. Ed.]

Talion will draw us some cards, and we're leaning on that fairly hard, but as long as we're here, we may as well-run stuff like Faerie Formation. We've got a couple more ways, but the thing is when this thing works, we'll be drawing way more cards than we need as we watch our opponents slowly [and painfully.... Ed.] die to playing Magic.

Come to think of it, that Faerie Formation is also a decent win condition for us. We're going to win with some combination of damage from Talion, damage from our fleet of Faeries, and something weird like Bloodchief Ascension. A Prowled Notorious Throng will often get us there, but do keep in mind a number of the Faeries in this deck are not Rogues and thus won't trigger Prowl. The thing is, we're not really trying to win. We're trying to make everyone else mad. My dad loves doing that. [And one nice thing is that I'm old enough that folks won't show their anger at me! Ed.]

We have a couple of on-theme board wipes, a tempo play or two, and one Counterspell in Sublime Epiphany, but really we're going hard to just annoy the crap out of the table and not really worry about ourselves. So let's see how we're going to do that.

Mirror Gallery

We have three ways of making the Legend Rule not apply to us. They are Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Mirror Box, and Mirror Gallery. Mirror Gallery was the first, so I'm going to use that term to describe them all. We need to get a Mirror Gallery on the Battlefield, then we're going to start copying Talion again and again. The idea is to play him out choosing three (which is the most common Mana Value in Commander), then copy him for two, then four, then five and one, then go on up to ten, so basically every single spell our opponents cast will cost them two life and give us another card.

We can clone with Clone and the various other Clones we have, like Malleable Impostor and Mirrorhall Mimic. We can clone with Cackling Counterpart or Irenicus's Vile Duplication. We can copy with Stolen Identify, which is in my opinion a woefully underplayed spell with great power. It doesn't really matter how we do it, we just start copying and don't stop till we're up to ten.

A chunk of the deck is focused on getting us a Mirror Gallery; we really struggle until we have one. There are a couple of clones which get around the Legend rule (Irenicus's Vile Duplication, for example, makes a Token which isn't Legendary), but most clones will just die immediately without a Mirror Gallery, so we need to get it. We do so with a couple of tutors. We could run Demonic and Vampiric, and I actually had them in an earlier draft, but somehow Diabolic Tutor feels slightly less bad, or at least will paint fewer bulls-eyes on us at the very beginning. We also have Fabricate, which gets either Artifact, Lim-Dl's Vault, which lets us dig for a specific card at the cost of one life per five cards (totally worth it), and Ringsight, which specifically can get Sakashima.

Finally, we have a few cards which help our process. Virtue of Knowledge will let us choose two numbers when Talion or a clone comes into play. Storm of Saruman copies spells, not Creatures, so when we cast a Clone as our second spell we copy the spell, which gives us two copies. Virtue of Persistence is a bit slow, but the removal on the Adventure side isn't nothing and as a late game recovery from a board wipe it's pretty solid, getting back all our Creature-based clones. Bloodchief Ascension is also here, because it will become active really quickly in this deck and then just make people suffer even more, which is the whole point, I guess.

Then there's the Faerie Typal aspect. We have a number of Faeries, some of which help our gameplan actively (Shadow Puppeteers doesn't make copies or anything, but it does get people to start throwing damage around and lower life totals, which is great for us, and Obyra, Dreaming Duelist just wants us to play Faeries to hurt our friends), and some of which aren't bothered by what we're doing but aren't stepping up (Alela, Cunning Conqueror is a good reason for us to be attacking, but really is more about Faeries than making the table feel bad).

This is the most flexible part of the deck; it would be perfectly reasonable to do away with the entire Faerie Typal subtheme and just put good stuff in, or (probably even better) a boat load of answers to keep people from killing the board or doing things to us. Throwing up Propaganda-like defenses and having a grip of counters and removal would probably make the deck even stronger. I thought the Faerie thing was fun, though, and all these new Faeries are cool, so I wanted to include them. It's your deck if you build it: do it how you want.

So there we have it. A deck to make my dad happy as a clam, watching everyone at the table grumble as they take their two to cast their Commander's Sphere they need to get their third color. What is your thought on decks like this? Do you mind them? Do you play them? Is there a place at the Commander table for decks designed just to make the table suffer? [Are you nice to your elders? And in my defense, I'm only mean at the table (or at Mark); otherwise I'm a nice guy. Ed.] Let me know on socials!

Thanks for reading.

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist