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Zooming Out on Eruth


My daughter (all of four) has a book called Zoom. It's a picture book with no words at all. It starts with a picture of a pool party (I think. I may be wrong about where it begins). Then you turn the page and you realize the pool party is happening on the deck of a ship, sailing the ocean. You turn the page again and you realize the ship is actually a picture on a postcard. Each turn of the page zooms out even farther, creating yet another revelation about what you're actually seeing.

Magic is kind of like that. I remember seeing my first Wrath of God (in 1994) and 14-year-old me couldn't figure out why one would want to kill one's own creatures. I played a gr "aggro" deck which desperately wanted to have more creatures than the other guy, so killing my own creatures seemed stupid. The one friend I played the most with played a ub "control" deck, but it still won with creatures, often expensive ones. Why would blowing up his board be worth it either? It was a good thing neither of us played White!

Of course, now I fully understand the value of a well-timed Wrath of God. I also understand how a Legacy deck with Zero lands can win the game, how a graveyard can essentially become an extension of one's hand, and how life totals can be a resource. None of that is explained in the rules sheet you get when you buy your first precon, and it's certainly not apparent at first look. But the more we zoom out, the more we see how much more there really is.

Which gets us to this odd little Legendary creature from Crimson Vow.

Eruth, Tormented Prophet

We get a 2/4 Human Wizard for three mana, and then we no longer get to draw cards. Instead, we impulse draw them: we exile them and can play them only this turn. In exchange for not getting to hold on to our cards, we get to double up and impulse-draw two every time we'd draw a card.

At first glance, it seems to go against one of the basic ideas of the game, especially in Commander: draw lots of cards. Every Commander deck should include card draw, right? But what if we zoom out? What if we decide we don't actually need a hand? It's risky, sure, but if you don't want risk, you'd best go play Zur the Enchanter or something. Let's see what happens if we go all-in on Eruth's ability, and forget about keeping any of our cards.

Eruth, Tormented Prophet | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Let's make sure we completely understand. Every turn, instead of putting a card in our hand during our draw step, we exile the top two cards. We have access to them this turn, and after that, they remain in Exile for the rest of the game. Adios, bye-bye, no more. So, we probably want to stay aware of our mana costs, because once we run out of mana for a turn, that's that. We also probably want to run some ramp. We have some, in the form of several mana rocks; we went with two-mana ones which come into play untapped (which explains the awkward Fractured Powerstone, though you're all set if you decide to play Planechase), so we'll have access to the mana right away. We've also got a few artifacts which can be sacrificed for a land to our hand; it's worth noting Wanderer's Twig and Traveler's Amulet don't draw it, they just put it there, so it will actually go into our hand to be played whenever we can.

However, we are allowed to play a land from exile with Eruth, so hitting lands is a good thing. If we hit two off our draw, we'll have to let one stay in Exile unless we've managed to get out our Ghirapur Orrery. Everyone can play an extra land per turn with this out, so it will give some benefit, but the draw clause shouldn't hurt us too badly because most people don't get Hellbent in Commander.

Except for us. Since more often than not we'll have zero cards in hand, this means at the beginning of our Upkeep, when we have no cards in hand, we'll attempt to draw three cards... and instead, we'll impulse draw six cards. We'll then go to our draw step and impulse two more, giving us access to eight cards.

That's just the beginning. Consider a card like Faithless Looting. We pay r and impulse draw four cards, then we discard nothing because we have no hand! Frantic Search is more expensive, does the same thing (impulse draw four, discard nothing) but untaps three lands for us in the process. Brainstorm gets us six cards for u, and if we have nothing to put on top of our library, we just don't. If we do, we can decide what we'll impulse draw next turn. How about Breakthrough? We pay u, impulse draw eight cards (!), and discard our entire hand of absolutely nothing.

As long as we're talking risk, Nahiri's Lithoforming is super risky but potentially super exciting. We can sacrifice a bunch of our lands, then impulse draw two times that many cards and play that many lands back out.

It doesn't stop there. We can Curse ourselves with Curse of Obsession and impulse draw six cards every turn, then discard our hand of nothing. Grafted Skullcap gets us an extra two every turn. Magus of the Wheel will sac to impulse draw us 14 cards while everyone else discards their hands; Jace's Archivist does a similar thing but every turn. Experimental Frenzy and Future Sight both give us additional access to the top of our library. The whole deck is about churning through our library, getting access to as many cards as possible.

See the Truth is a bit unusual. Since we'll probably cast it from Exile, we'll get to keep the three cards, but they will go into our hand, since they're put there rather than drawn. Not a big deal, but worth noting.

Sage of the Beyond is great here, because we cast almost nothing from our hand, so everything will cost 2 less. That's really helpful when we're trying to wrench as much value out of our mana as possible.

We should probably try to do something else, though. I mean, just looking at every card in our library doesn't win us the game, does it? Well, with Thassa's Oracle maybe it can, but we might see that too early in the game to be able to pull out the win with it.

We can make some extra mana. Cards like Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, and Seething Song can bump up our mana and keep us going in a turn. Mana Geyser is expensive but normally worth it in a game with more than one opponent.

Once the game is rolling and we can both look at and cast a bunch of cards in a single turn, something like Grapeshot can throw some damage around. Mind's Desire can let us continue to play cards off the top for free. Spreading Insurrection is probably one of our best options because we can steal a bunch of creatures from our opponents and hit them with them. Empty the Warrens can give us a pretty reasonable battlefield as well.

We can do other stuff too. Kessig Flamebreather will throw damage around as we cast our spells. Harmonic Prodigy doubles up Eruth's triggers, Birgi, God of Storytelling // Harnfel, Horn of Bounty keeps adding mana and lets us keep it from phase to phase, and Crackling Drake can get pretty pumped up by all the spells we cast and didn't cast (since it counts spells in Exile as well). Wild-Magic Sorcerer will give the vast majority of first spells we cast Cascade, which is great since we get to cast more spells! Misthollow Griffin can be cast from Exile. We can activate Wandering Fumarole and attack with it.

The two big things we can do, though, are cast either Knowledge Pool or Possibility Storm. Let's go through both.

Knowledge Pool

If we play this, every player will exile the top three cards and put them under the Knowledge Pool. Then any time someone casts a spell from their hand, instead they have to pick a spell from the Knowledge Pool. We, on the other hand, will happily continue to cast spells from Exile, so while they're limited to only what's under the Pool, we get to play whatever we get.

Possibility Storm

Similar but different. Whenever a player casts a spell from their hand, instead they dig down to a spell which shares a type and cast that instead. So rather than casting this Vindictive Vampire, they get Brain Maggot. Rather than Banishing Light, they get Ajani's Welcome. They'll get good stuff, but it'll be impossible for them to know what's going on. We, on the other hand, will continue to simply cast our stuff from Exile and get exactly what we intend.

All things considered, this deck came in at under $150; while I didn't set any sort of budget for it, playing off-the-wall spells like this is a great way to keep budget down and still do rather absurd things. This is a great deck to have in your bag for when you want to mess with the table or are just feeling lucky. It's possible we want a few more ways to win, including (possibly) Laboratory Maniac, but it's not like we're definitely going to lose, we're just going to be running risky.

What would you put in your Eruth deck? Or would you rather have her as part of the 99 in a different deck? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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