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Dorothea, Back with a Vengeance


I don't know why, but I feel like cheating today. Let's cheat, shall we?

Dorothea, Vengeful Victim // Dorothea's Retribution

A 4/4 Flying Commander for two mana (wu, specifically) seems absurd. It's less absurd, though, when we realize we have to sacrifice her at the end of combat if she attacks or blocks. We don't even get to keep her through our second main phase!

The flavor here is quite clear, of course. Because Dorothea also has Disturb, which allows us to cast her from our Graveyard for her Disturb cost, but flipped over into Dorothea's Retribution. It's an Aura and it's not nothing, because it allows whatever creature it's enchanting to make a 4/4 Angel token tapped and attacking whenever it attacks. Of course, we have to sacrifice the token at the end of combat just like the original Dorothea, and we have to Exile Dorothea's Retribution if it would go to the graveyard, but still, potentially powerful. Also super flavorful, because the ghost keeps coming back until it is fully and truly banished.

It's worth pointing out this card almost certainly warrants inclusion in a Geist of Saint Traft deck, since Dorothea's Retribution is essentially Geist of Saint Traft number two, but we're not going to do that.

I want to kill people with Dorothea. She's vengeful, after all, and it seems like something she'd like to do. Also, she's overpowered for her cost and naturally evasive, but if we keep attacking she'll keep dying and get more and more expensive every time we cast her. We can get around her pesky sacrifice trigger, though. How? I'm glad you asked.

Fair warning: We have to get fairly into the rules here. I'm going to be relatively detailed, so those who don't know any of this can get a clear sense. If you already understand how it works, you can probably gloss over it - but keep in mind a refresher is never a bad idea.

Dorothea's ability is a triggered ability. Triggered effects are things that happen when something else happens. Common ones happen at specific phases of a turn, like the beginning of your upkeep or end of turn. There's also stuff like whenever an opponent sacrifices a creature or plays a spell. The key words to look for to determine if something is triggered are "at," "when," and "whenever." "At the beginning of your upkeep," "when [this creature] attacks," "whenever an opponent draws a card." An event occurs which triggers another event, hence, triggered ability.

One of the keys to triggered abilities is they use the stack, and therefore every player has a chance to respond while the ability is still on the stack - in other words, it exists, but it hasn't resolved yet. The stack resolves in reverse order (think about counterspells. Someone casts a Craterhoof Behemoth. It goes on the stack. In response, you cast Dissolve, which also goes on the stack. Dissolve resolves first because it was last in, which counters Craterhoof, so there's nothing left to resolve), so everyone has an opportunity to respond to Dorothea's sacrifice trigger... including us.

That means if we can figure out ways to take her off the battlefield with her sacrifice trigger on the stack, we can keep that trigger from resolving and she isn't sacrificed. Let's start with putting her back in our hand. If we do that, we'll have to recast her, but she'll only cost wu each time.

Crystal Shard
You're Ambushed on the Road
Neurok Replica

Crystal Shard is probably our best option. It's repeatable, it costs u (we just don't pay the 1), and we can find it with Trophy Mage. If we can get that out relatively early, we can protect Dorothea from just about anything, and with her sacrifice trigger on the stack, we can activate it to return her to our hand. She'll bounce because the Crystal Shard's trigger will resolve first, and when the sacrifice trigger resolves, it will find there's nothing to sacrifice. You're Ambushed on the Road and Neurok Replica do the same thing, just once. We have a few more ways to do that in case we haven't found one of our more repeatable ones so we don't have to wait to start attacking. Sanctum of Eternity (a land!), Portal of Sanctuary and Erratic Portal are our other repeatable effects.

Returning Dorothea to our hand is likely our most common way of getting around her sacrifice trigger. We have lots of ways to do it, and it reduces Dorothea to costing only two mana each turn. But there are a couple others. The first is blinking.

Momentary Blink

We've only got a couple ways to do this, and none of them is repeatable (something like Conjurer's Closet doesn't blink at the right time), but this does work. It means we don't have to recast our Commander. It's a little tricky, but the rules make it so when a creature leaves the battlefield and returns, it's a whole new instance of the card. That means the sacrifice trigger, which is looking for the Dorothea that attacked this turn, can't find her. Mostly these function as additional ways to prevent the sacrifice if we don't have one of our repeatable options on the 'field.

Gift of Immortality is our only enchantment, but it works really well with Dorothea. If she's enchanted, she can go ahead and sacrifice herself, and she'll automatically return to the Battlefield, and then get the Aura back on her

But there is one more way.

Sundial of the Infinite

This quirky little guy has the odd side-effect of clearing the stack when it's activated. So, we attack, we allow damage to resolve, then with Dorothea's sacrifice trigger on the stack we end the freaking turn. That clears the stack of her sacrifice trigger and... it's the next player's turn. There are some downsides to this, like we don't get a second main phase, but there's a pretty big upside, too. If we wind up in a situation where Dorothea has ended up in our graveyard and we've cast Dorothea's Retribution, ending the turn allows us to keep our sacrificial Angel tokens! (There's probably a deck in here too. Use Strionic Resonator to copy the triggered effect and make extra Angels. Anointed Procession can double up too. Then you end the turn and keep them all, making a huge flight of permanent Angels.) We can search this one up with Tribute Mage, too, which is nice. Plus, any opportunity to use Sundial of the Infinite should be taken!

Okay, so now we have an undercosted, overpowered flying Commander. What are we going to do with her?

We probably want to attack. The problem is, 4/4 isn't actually that big. It's big for two mana, sure, but it'll take six hits per opponent to kill at that rate, and we only have one Dorothea. If we can get her power up to seven, it turns that six-hit clock into three hits, which is much better. It seems to me Grafted Wargear would be great here. It gives the Equipped creature +3/+2 and it Equips for the low low cost of 0. If it becomes unattached, we have to sacrifice the creature it's attached to, sure, but we're bouncing her anyway, so there won't be anything left to sacrifice. While we're at it, O-Naginata, Stitcher's Graft, and Loxodon Warhammer are also in the deck, ready to pump Dorothea up to killer levels, and Hero's Blade will auto-equip every time Dorothea enters the battlefield. Seems like that should work.

Since we want to attack with her the first turn she comes into play, we also have a number of ways to give her Haste, with Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots joining Chariot of Victory and Haunted Cloak. It's possible we'll not be able to recast her in our second main phase, so having ways to grant her Haste around are quite useful. But who wants to pay mana for Equip costs all the time?

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist
Auriok Windwalker
Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms

We have a number of ways to Equip for free, which is especially nice if we want to try to pump her above seven. With something like Halvar around, turning her into a one-hit killer isn't out of the realm of possibility. We also have ways to search for Equipment (Deadeye Quartermaster) and benefit from casting it (Puresteel Paladin). As long as we're Equipping for free, we may as well have some extra fun with it and run Argentum Armor.

We deal with opponents' creatures the same way we deal with Dorothea: we bounce. Mostly what we need to do is clear the skies for Dorothea, so we can bounce their one flyer and connect. We've always got Rogue's Passage if things get too crowded. But we're not wrathing and we're not killing stuff, because we need to be faster than that. We also need to be careful with threat assessment and make sure we take out the person most likely to take us out first.

The rest of the deck is creatures which draw cards when they enter the battlefield. They give us chump blockers, clog up the 'field, and are great to have around if we end up with extra ways to return things to our hand, because our recast will draw us more cards. We're not going to be drawing ten cards a turn or anything, but we should be able to keep our hand filled enough to keep going.

One nice thing? The deck is only around $93 total. If you cut the Seachrome Coast you can get it down to around $80.

The gameplan is straightforward but tricky: play Dorothea, attack for Commander damage, then bounce her or otherwise avoid her sacrifice trigger to do it again next turn. Buff her up and repeat until all opponents are dead.

How would you build Dorothea? Spirit Tribal? Flight of Angels? I'd love to hear about it, and I'd also like to hear about any tricky decks you've got which take advantage of the rules. Please let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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