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An Army of Yoshi

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Are you stressed out?

Going through hard times?

Have a case of the Mondays?

A loyal pup can go a long way toward easing a bad day. How about a legion or two? If Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful represents the unwavering devotion of one four-legged friend, what "Power of Love"-level force would a multitude of said canines bring to the table? It's time to find out. Cloning legendary creatures in Magic the Gathering is no easy task, but one mysterious stranger is here to help with that...

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces
The belly-rubs are sure to be epic.

Partnering Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful with the tricky likes of Sakashima of a Thousand Faces gets around that pesky Legendary-rule, opening up all manner of Clone-like possibilities. As a format, Commander sees many a 'Go-Tall' strategy where a Commander is pumped to battlecruiser-sized proportions. Far less common is the 'Go-wide' approach. Oh sure, token swarms are nothing new, but I'm talking going wide with our very own Commander. Turning your trusty general into a canine Champion of the Parish with a whole bunch of copy cats to stack atop each other. Or, in the case of Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful, copy-dogs.

Today's deck will attempt to transform our Turn-1 Commander into a veritable army, stacking up a series of ever-growing pets to overrun opponents. This strategy essentially sets our opponents' life totals to 21 right off the bat, as we're seeking to stack up Commander damage from multiple instances of Yoshimaru. And that's where Sakashima of a Thousand Faces comes in. Not only does this legendary clone pop counters onto Yoshi, but he allows all our other clones to become the aforementioned pooch. Each thusly doles out Commander damage with every swing. And with each subsequent clone played, our legendary army of doggos grows all the larger, making that 21-damage threshold all the easier to reach.

Phantasmal Image by Nils Hamm

It's like this, but with more fleas

Let's start by breaking down our Commander:

Day of Destiny
Otawara, Soaring City

1. Like his ancestor, Isamuaru, Hound of Konda before him, Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful has the unique distinction of being one of only 1-drop Legendary creatures in all of Magic the Gathering. Fewer than 15 exist, and even among them, cards like Mikaeus, the Lunarch certainly don't want you to play them as 1-drops. While most of these creatures trade off their cheap mana costs with lowly stats, Yoshi comes with a built-in ability to grow himself over time as we play more and more Legendary permanents. Pairing him up with Sakashima of the Thousand Faces and various clones certainly helps this, but to further pack on the counters, we'll along bring in a variety of Legendary-synergies (Day of Destiny, Heroes' Podium, etc) and other incidentally-Legendary cards to further enhance our team of good boys. Even Legendary lands boost Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful (and his clones), making easy inclusions like Otawara, Soaring City and Eiganjo Castle all the more impactful.

Sword of the Animist
Blade of Selves
The Ozolith

2. That our first Commander can be consistently cast turn one also makes equipment like Sword of the Animist, Mask of Memory, and Sword of Hearth of Home far more valuable, as Yoshi can pick them up and start swinging for value very early on. Once Sakashima of a Thousand Faces arrives, cards like Mirror Mockery and Blade of Selves allow for explosive bursts of both Yoshi copies and +1/+1 counters. As the game progresses and Yoshi (along with any clones) stack up +1/+1 counters, cards like The Ozolith help ensure the boosts don't go to waste.

Mirror Box
Mirror Gallery
Guardian of Faith

3. When it comes to our other Commander, Sakashima of a Thousand Faces is the man making this crazy clock tick. Without his ability, we'd be forced to hang onto but a single Yoshi. That said, even masters of disguise need help, so we'll bring in Mirror Box and Mirror Gallery to provide redundancy for occasions where Sakashima isn't available. We're heavily invested towards protecting Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, as keeping him alive is vital towards keeping all our Yoshimaru's alive. We want to steer clear of mass blink effects (Ex. Ghostway), as while they can shield the team from a wrath, having all shapeshifters leave and then reenter the battlefield simultaneously means they've nothing of ours to target upon reentry, which will outright kill any of them that can't target an opposing permanent. Poor Mirror Image will reappear as a 0/0. As such, mass-phasing effects like Guardian of Faith and targeted protective spells like Blacksmith's Skill and Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier are vastly preferable.

Clever Impersonator
Mirrorhall Mimic // Ghastly Mimicry
Phyrexian Metamorph

4. That said, one of the biggest strengths to a shapeshifter is its versatility. Our primary agenda is to multiply Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful into a Commander 'Go-Wide' army, but that doesn't mean our legion of clones can't copy other sorts of appealing permanents, too. Massive enemy threats or value engines are easy choices for cards like Clever Impersonator and Phyrexian Metamorph, but don't hesitate to copy your own cards for extra ramp (Knight of the White Orchid, Loyal Warhound) or card advantage (Welcoming Vampire, Esper Sentinel).

In summary, our gameplan is simple, but can take twists and turns along the way. To amass our adorable army, both Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces lay a solid direction, but their follow-up clones and any response to threats depends entirely on the game state. I'd recommend keeping a tight grip on protective spells, employing them only when truly necessary. Yoshi is inexpensive to cast from the Command zone, but keeping more than one of copy alive requires keeping Sakashima safe, too.

Quasiduplicate by Dmitry Burmak

Dude? Dude!

An Army of Yoshi | Commander | Matthew Lotti


We've ample rewards for casting Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful on our first turn, as the doggie can immediately start swinging, pick up equipment, and begin stacking counters off of Legendary lands like Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire and Academy Ruins. Seeing a Mox Amber within our opening hand also makes turn one Yoshi a fantastic start. That said, don't hesitate to slam down that turn one Esper Sentinel or Sol Ring if they appear. Once our first commander is in play, we'll want to start building up our mana base via traditional rocks (Azorius Signet, etc.), creatures with etb-effects that can be copied later on (Loyal Warhound, Knight of the White Orchid), and/or early equipment (Ex. - Sword of the Animist). As our mana base develops, we can begin the master plan of deploying Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, protecting him, and following him up with additional clones of Yoshimaru. All the while, we'll be sending the O.G. Yoshi into the combat zone, chipping opponents for increasing amounts of Commander damage while building up the rest of our forces. Remember, as long as we're attacking with Yoshimaru, any Yoshimaru, our opponents' life totals are effectively 21.

Stunt Double
Glasspool Mimic // Glasspool Shore
Vizier of Many Faces

A copy of a copy of a copy: With Sakashima of a Thousand Faces allowing us to disregard the Legend rule, we're free to go nuts with dopplegangers. For starters, cards like Spark Double, Mirror Image, and Glasspool Mimic // Glasspool Shore can copy our own creatures, of which Yoshi will be a likely candidate, but plenty of other good options exist, too. Pull the lens back, and Stunt Double, Phantasmal Image, Mirrorhall Mimic // Ghastly Mimicry, Vizier of Many Faces, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter allow you to copy any creature, including enemy targets. Once Phyrexian Metamorph and Clever Impersonator enter the fray, other friendly or opposing permanents outside of creatures become options.

Pack Leader
Herald of Secret Streams
Welcoming Vampire

Synergizing with our goal of a Yoshi-army, the tribal-centric Pack Leader ensures all our various pups get a boost and remain safe while attacking away. He'll do the same for Loyal Warhound, too. The rapid counter-accumulation upon Yoshi and his ilk makes Herald of the Secret Streams a frightening surprise, bypassing any blockers opponents might've mustered in defense. Having our shapeshifters enter the battlefield as Yoshimaru also helps ensure Welcoming Vampire provides us a steady card flow, drawing us into additional clone-effects to keep the army growing and hand supplied. Once an army's established, Guardian of Faith's phasing effect can ensure everyone's kept safe without counters getting lost or mass-resetting our shapeshifters.

Niambi, Esteemed Speaker
Mangara, the Diplomat
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade

Finally, we bring in a few other Legendary creatures to provide utility while boosting our main pup. Niambi, Esteemed Speaker can save a creature from removal, allow us to reset a shapeshifter of our choice, or pitch an unneeded Legendary land for a Divination effect. Similarly, Mangara, the Diplomat is likely to draw us two (or more) cards after arriving to the party. Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is also brought into to hamper any combo or free-spell shenanigans our opponents might pull to sweep the game in a degenerate manner. In true Azorius fashion, she's all about making sure everyone plays by the rules...

Sakashima the Impostor
Sakashima's Will
Helm of the Host

Well, except us, that is!

Rites of Replication: Creatures aren't the only way to clone an army. The world of spellcraft offers countless tools to craft a token-based battalion. Cackling Counterpart, Quasiduplicate, Sublime Epiphany, Zndrsplt's Judgment, Clone Legion, Saheeli's Artistry, and Metamorphic Alteration all offer additional copies of Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful with bonuses on top. Up the scale to multiple copies, and we enter the realm of Rite of Replication, Blade of Selves, Followed Footsteps, Dollhouse of Horrors, Mirror Mockery, and Helm of the Host. Especially nasty with effects like Blade of Selves and Rite of Replication are how all copies of Yoshimaru will stack counters off of each other upon entering the battlefield, resulting in an avalanche of +1/+1 counters spread across multiple bodies, all of whom contribute to Commander damage. Or you could simply swing with the entire team (plus a stolen creature) after turning them all into Yoshi via Sakashima's Will. Just ensure you've a Mirror Hall, Mirror Box, or Sakashima of a Thousand Faces out and protected before attempting such craziness.

Sword of Hearth and Home
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Heroes' Podium

With most of our clones looking to copy the Shiba Inu, cards like Day of Destiny and Heroes' Podium become increasingly deadly as the game progresses. With enough Legendary build-up, Urza's Ruinous Blast can operate like a pseudo-Plague Wind. The Ozolith provides yet another Legendary permanent to pump our team while later allowing us to recycle all the +1/+1 counters they've built up. Other than ramping, Sword of Hearth and Home can conveniently reset one of our shapeshifters to a more valuable target. Just avoid targeting Sakashima of a Thousand Faces with a bunch of puppies running around. The multitude of said puppies also makes Kindred Discovery quite the card draw machine once it gets going.

Akroma's Will
Vanquish the Horde
Cyclonic Rift

Supporting Spells: Keeping Sakashima of a Thousand Faces around to bypass the Legend rule is key, so ample defensive spells like Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier, Blacksmith's Skill, Teferi's Protection, and Akroma's Will are brought in for defense, though the later can just as easily act as a finisher. The oft-discounted cost of Vanquish the Horde pairs nicely with our mass-protection effects, allowing us to protect the team while sweeping away opposing forces. Our other mass destruction comes in the form of the incredibly-flexible Farewell and Commander MVP Cyclonic Rift.

Mystic Remora
Search for Glory

Wrapping up support, we include a Mystic Remora to assist with repeated card draw, keeping us fueled as the game goes on for a modest cumulative upkeep. It's also a very nice pairing with the our Hall of Heliod's Generosity. Our deck may lack snow lands and sagas, but the numerous Legendary cards of multiple permanent types makes Search for Glory an excellent tutor effect, regardless.

Mox Amber
Honor-Worn Shaku
Archaeomancer's Map

Mana Support and Rocks: turn one Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful welcomes Mox Amber into an excellent start. The plethora of Legendary creatures also makes Honor-Worn Shaku into rock that scales in power over the game. These synergistic pieces aside, the menu of Sol Ring, Thought Vessel, Arcane Signet, and other on-color rocks round out our mana acceleration.

Vesuva
Academy Ruins
Hall of Heliod's Generosity

Moving onto lands, aside from the expected Azorius duals one would expect (Hallowed Fountain, Flooded Strand, Sea of Clouds, Glacial Fortress, Mystic Gate, etc.), we run a large suite of Legendary lands to take full advantage of an ocean of Yoshi. Real estate like Castle Eiganjo, Otawara, Soaring City, and Kor Haven help protect our team. Lands like Flagstones of Trokair and Oboro, City in the Clouds replace or save themselves from destruction. Hall of Heliod's Generosity and Academy Ruins provide repeatable recursion. We even up our card advantage game via Mikokoro, Center of the Sea and Geier Reach Sanitarium. Or drop a Vesuva and copy whatever land's most helpful to the cause. All these lands will provide our general with a +1/+1 counter, but Animal Sanctuary can do so repeatedly.

Helm of the Host by Igor Kieryluk

Budget Options: As anyone with a dog or cat can tell you: a pet is expensive. Now imagine multiplying said pet, and you can just feel the wallet straining. Magic the Gathering is no different, as the more power you seek to imbue into a deck, the greater the price tag. Fortunately, with such a large menagerie of cards to choose from, less pricey alternatives are bound to be available. And so here are some pet-friendly substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank on cardboard. All cards over $20 will be noted and recommended for swap-outs. If anything seems interesting, regardless of price tag, give them a roll in the main! Creativity is a oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander. One of the aspects that makes it special. Mix and match card choices to your heart's content!

Gigantoplasm
Mentor of the Meek
Clone

Creatures: Esper Sentinel: $30.00

Esper Sentinel is a powerful draw-engine, no question, but his absence is easily filled. If we're in the market for card advantage alternatives, Mentor of the Meek and Sage of Fables will do the job. If you'd rather increase your clone-count, look to cards like Gigantoplasm, Quicksilver Gargantuan, or the original classic, itself: Clone.

Tome of Legends
March of Swirling Mist
Rootborn Defenses

Supporting Spells: Teferi's Protection: $42.00, Cyclonic Rift: $36.00, Blade of Selves: $30.00, Kindred Discovery: $25.00, Mirror Gallery: $23.00, The Ozolith: $20.00

Among our noncreature spells, the loss of Cyclonic Rift is no surprise, but the most painful cuts are those that directly assist our strategy. Even though Mirror Gallery is a strictly-worse Mirror Box, it's effect is rare enough to warrant inclusion. In its absence, we'll need to increase the number of protective elements to keep Sakashima of a Thousand Faces safe. Sadly, our best protective spell (Teferi's Protection) also falls outside budget, so we'll have to turn to the likes of March of Swirling Mist, Brave the Elements, and Rootborn Defenses for mass protection. Counter magic like Swan Song, Negate, and Dawn Charm can also be effective tools towards keeping the team (or ourselves) alive.

For card advantage, Tome of Legends can easily build up counters as we copy Yoshi, hopefully keeping a steady stream of cards coming throughout the game. Or we could increase are clone production via repeated Populate triggers from Song of the Worldsoul.

Skycloud Expanse
Mistveil Plains
Blast Zone

Mana Options: Oboro, Palace in the Clouds: $80.00, Mox Amber: $50.00, Flooded Strand: $42.00, Mystic Gate: $38.00, Prismatic Vista: $29.00, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: $28.00, Minamo, School at Water's Edge: $27.00

Outside of the staples Flooded Strand and Mystic Gate, which we can easily swap out for any number of budget Azorius alternatives (Port Town, Skycloud Expanse, Irrigated Farmland, etc.), our Legendary lands and rocks take the biggest hit, financially. Cards like Mox Amber and Minamo, School at Water's Edge are incredibly powerful, but ample alternative mana rocks (Mind Stone, Prismatic Lens, Commander Sphere, etc.) and utility lands (Blast Zone, Scavenger Grounds, Mistveil Plains, Myriad Landscape) can take their place.

Blade of Selves by Alan Pollack

In closing, I hope you're able to craft an entire legion of furry warriors to wreck havoc on your opponents. The combination of Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces can lead to a unique spin on Commander damage, one where you can literally spread the love across opponents in each attack phase. Death by cute puppy stampede. I suppose there are worse ways to go.

Thanks for reading, and may you never find yourself without a canine companion.

-Matt-

@Intrepid_Tautog

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