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No One Expects the Shanid Inquisition

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Suspicious of silent subterfuge slinking sneakily under your sovereignty's spotlight? Scared of surreptitious spies of synthetic stature snaking their slimy schemes into the structured statehood you've strove to shape? Find yourself using excessive alliteration?

Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge is here to sniff out the seditious sleepers skulking stealthily and sidestepping skepticism.

Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge

His intentions are as subtle as his mace.

As a Commander, Shanid asks only that you stuff as many other Legendary cards in your 99 as possible. For each played, lands included, he'll reward you with Magic's most alluring proposition: Repeated card advantage. Keep the legendary lands and creatures coming, and Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge will draw you more of them, which then draw you more cards, and so forth.

Within the tomes of Dominaria United's lore, Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge is an Argivian knight of violently-suspicious disposition. Upon discovery that Phyrexian sleeper agents had infiltrated the plane (again), King Darien XLVIII appointed noble Stenn, Paranoid Partisan to lead investigations. Nefarious sleepers needed to be discovered and dealt with quickly, before their numbers could multiply at the cost of Argivian lives. Stenn, in turn, unleashed Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge upon the countryside to sniff out Phyrexians. While the Mardu knight's heart might have been in the right place, his mace was just as likely to find innocent skulls as it was Phyrexian ones.

Evolved Sleeper

Does blood or oil flow through those veins?

Why was a once well-meaning cause twisted into a pseudo-witch hunt? Was Shanid just that vicious, using his noble mission as an excuse for bloodshed? Or was something more nefarious afoot? You'll get no spoilers from me, folks. Such tensions are what make for compelling storylines. Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge no doubt vanquished a few Phyrexians, but at what cost? How many villages met the torch under his cynical eye?

Shanid is as much a walking-Pyrrhic victory in cardboard as he is in character, reaping riches for you with each Legendary card played, but burning chunks of your life total along the way. He might call it collateral damage. We just call it life loss. Let's not allow our greed for extra cards to overshadow our survival. All the extra cards in the world are of little good if we're too dead to cast them. 40 starting life gives us a lot of time, and Shanid provides the extra cards to draw into resources, but it's up to us to ensure said resources keep us ticking amidst the card advantage bleed.

Ratadrabik of Urborg by Nino Vecia

We don't wanna end up looking like this guy.

Time to explore further. Let's break down our Commander:

Arvad the Cursed
Garna, Bloodfist of Keld
Winota, Joiner of Forces

1. Before we even consider card advantage, Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge first provides all our Legendary creatures with Menace. This favors aggression on our part, pushing us to press the attack. Mardu features quite a few combat-happy Legends (Arvad the Cursed, Garna, Bloodfist of Keld, Winota, Joiner of Forces to complement this evasion.

Magda, Brazen Outlaw
Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

2. Keeping aggressive requires a steady stream of creatures, most of which will need to be smaller in order to flood the board (Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer). Normally, this is a dangerous proposition in Commander, as smaller creatures get outclassed quickly, need to take down three opponents, and are at thrice the risk of enemy sweepers. Shanid's card draw really shines here, rewarding us for the lower casting cost Legends by keeping cards flowing. We'll often be able to cast 2 or more per turn. Drawing card after card not only lets us maintain pressure, but also rebuild quickly in the event of a wrath.

Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Kor Haven

3. Legendary lands also help, drawing extra cards for zero opportunity cost. About 50% of our entire land base is Legendary, ensuring this trigger happens often. Of course, this also limits the number of color-fixing lands in our deck. Many legendary lands produce only colorless mana (Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Kor Haven, etc.), so we need to be careful to play out lands in proper sequence and rely on Treasure tokens and mana rocks to smooth things out. Once Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge arrives, our card draw/turn is likely to double, if not triple, so future land issues shouldn't be problematic so long as we can keep our Commander alive.

Koll, the Forgemaster
Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms
Embercleave

4. While reviewing Legends of the more aggressive/less expensive variety, I ran into a ton of equipment-centric characters (Koll, the Forgemaster, Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms, Akiri, Fearless Voyager, etc.). Fitting, given the unique hardware Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge carries. Where's our cool "Clockwork Mace" legendary equipment? Fortunately, there are many legendary equipment available to pair with these swordsmen (Embercleave, Blackblade Reforged, Sword of the Animist, etc.), further allowing Shanid to reward us with cards, and making our smaller creatures substantially more dangerous in combat. Our troops are already going to be attacking like there's no tomorrow, so we might as well hand them Excalibur while they're at it.

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder
Shadowspear
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim

5. Finally, as noted early on, we need to be mindful of our life totals. Constant attacking will draw payback from opponents, and we'll also be losing life from Shanid's ability. Having sources of repeated lifegain like Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim and Kembal, Consul of Allocation goes a long way towards keeping us alive. Our penchant for combat also synergizes well with Lifelink, both in creature (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, Danitha, Benalia's Hope, etc.) and equipment (Shadowspear, Mask of Griselbrand, etc.) forms.

In review, we're mainly an aggressive deck, looking to win via creature swarm and equipment synergy. Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge functions to get the team through enemy defenses and keep the supply-lines full. As the game drags on, our ever-full hand will allow for quick recovery from board wipes, and what sweepers we run (Urza's Ruinous Blast, Ruinous Ultimatum)) do nothing to our own army.

Embercleave by Joe Slucher

No One Expects the Shanid Inquisition | Commander | Matthew Lotti


Akiri, Fearless Voyager
Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei
Aurelia, the Warleader

Weaponlord(s): No, I'm not talking about the underrated SNES fighting-game (look it up), but the critical mass of Legendary creatures who collect all things sharp and pointy. Our deck deploys Akiri, Fearless Voyager, Akiri, Line Slinger, Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist, Astor, Bearer of Blades, Bruenor Battlehammer, Danitha, Benalia's Hope, Godo, Bandit Warlord, Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei, Koll, the Forgemaster, Reyav, Master Smith, Sram, Senior Edificer, and Wyleth, Soul of Steel to directly synergize with equipment. Heck, Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms loves equipment so much that half the time he is one.

To further amp up the combat phase, we bring in some additional aggressive Legendaries to support their equipped-counterparts. Aurelia, the Warleader doubles up on combat steps, Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, Arvad the Cursed, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt make attackers more potent, and Captain Lannery Storm and Magda, Brazen Outlaw increase Treasure. Winota, Joiner of Forces is at her best here, as about 2/3rds of our creatures are non-Human and the remaining third Human, giving us a good chance to hit free creatures with each attack step. With all this combat going on, creatures are bound to be dying, so Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle and Ratadrabik of Urborg are on hand to provide recursion.

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
Prosper, Tome-Bound
Queen Marchesa

Lastly, while Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge does a fine job at card advantage, ask any Magic player and they'll tell you: You can never draw too many cards. Keeping a full hand is important to staying in the game, so Queen Marchesa, Prosper, Tome-Bound, Garna, Bloodfist of Keld, and Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant are on call to keep the cards coming. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer's Dash ability pulls double duty, allowing you to play enemy cards, make treasure, and repeatedly draw extra cards off Shanid.

Blackblade Reforged
Hand of Vecna
Mask of Griselbrand

Armory of Legend: Choose your weapon carefully, good warrior. A safe choice may be Shadowspear or Mask of Griselbrand to offset Shanid's life loss. Yes, I'm aware that Basilisk Collar isn't Legendary. It may not draw you an extra card, but it'll go a long way toward gaining back lost life for a cheap equip cost. Or perhaps you prefer the reckless approach, throwing life total to the winds and equipping Hand of Vecna at a discounted blood price? Legendary status alone is enough to draw the full benefit from Blackblade Reforged and Tenza, Godo's Maul. You also seek the blood of your adversary, so in that light, The Reaver Cleaver, Sword of the Animist, Wand of Orcus, and Umezawa's Jitte all reward aggressive tendencies.

Fighter Class
Day of Destiny
Dihada, Binder of Wills

Further wartime support comes in the form of equipment-tutors Fighter Class and Steelshaper's Gift. Or, rather than suit up a singular soldier, strengthen the entire team with a timely Day of Destiny. Need more cards? Then look to Weatherlight and Dihada, Binder of Wills to seek out additional heroes (or villains, perhaps?) to join your cause. While the latter's Planewalker status seems ill-suited to a deck more concerned with aggression over defense, Dihada's loyalty ability turns any Legendary creature into a personal champion that can not only protect her, but first swing in for damage and lifegain.

Teferi's Protection
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Primevals' Glorious Rebirth

Supporting Spells: Keeping Shanid alive is key towards keeping our card-engine alive, so while the majority of our deck is focused on pure offense, defensive cards like Teferi's Protection and Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire are included in case of emergency. Late game, Primevals' Glorious Rebirth can suddenly bring an entire fallen army back to life for the closing attack. Just be mindful of what you exile to Eater of Virtue. If we'd rather be proactive and blow up the battlefield ourselves, both pieces of artillery happily ignore our own army. Urza's Ruinous Blast and Ruinous Ultimatum ensure only enemy creatures fall to the blastwave.

Sword of the Animist
Mox Amber
Relic of Legends

Mana Support and Rocks: Mana-wise, we're still able to keep the Legendary-theme afloat. Taking the direct approach, Sword of the Animist fetches up lands as we play out our aggressive game plan. Mana rocks Mox Amber and Relic of Legends are at their optimal in such a deck, though we still bring aboard additional rocks (Talisman of Heirarchy, Fellwar Stone, Arcane Signet, etc.) to ensure our mana develops smoothly. Treasures generated by The Reaver Cleaver and Smothering Tithe also offer explosive bursts of mana to accelerate our gameplan.

Urborg
Hammerheim
Flagstones of Trokair

Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge ability to allow us to draw card off 'Legendary Landfall' is what really puts the card over the top. Enough on-color legendary lands exist to simply replace most basics with what amounts to free card draw with added flexibility (Urborg, Hammerheim, Flagstones of Trokair, Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, Sokenzen, Crucible of Defiance, Eiganjo Castle, Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep, Shizo, Death's Storehouse). Granted, we still need to bring aboard colorless-only legendary lands to maximize the count for Shanid, so cards like Geier Reach Sanitarium, Kor Haven, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea are also included. To ensure we don't deny ourselves the needed Mardu color trio, any non-Legendary land must produce two or more colors of mana to warrant inclusion. The on-color fetch (Bloodstained Mire, etc.), filter Fetid Heath, etc.), shock (Sacred Foundry, etc.) lands, along with tri-color cards like Nomad Outpost and Savai Triome, are of vital importance.

Plaza of Heroes

Say hi to the new format staple, folks.

Plaza of Heroes is also incredible here, as it'll both produce all necessary colors and can protect any of our creatures. Couldn't ask for more out of a land. Doesn't even come into play tapped!

Mask of Griselbrand by Jason Felix

This guy always wins the office Halloween contest.

Budget Options

Though their numbers are few, there exist a handful of master swordsmen capable of crafting katana from raw steel. The time, dedication to craft, and literal centuries of experience that live in these smiths is invaluable. They literally forge a piece of history. This is the primary reason a real katana costs thousands upon thousands of dollars. Magic's cardboard-equivalents may not be quite as expensive, but can still cut deep into our wallets. Here are substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank in their quest to break their foe. 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 an oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander. One of the aspects that makes it special. Mix and match card choices to your heart's content!

Zurgo Bellstriker
Norin the Wary
Tiana, Ship's Caretaker

Creatures: Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer: $95.00

Yea, everyone knows Modern all-star Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer commands a ridiculous price tag. He synergizes well with our deck, but if we're looking for a similar effect, both Zurgo Bellstriker and Norin the Wary serve a similar function at budget cost. If you're looking for additional 1-mana Legendaries to really speed up your deck, check out Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Kytheon, Hero of Akros, and Hope of Ghirapur.

If you're look for more creature-generation to go along with all the equipment, check out Legion's Landing, Baird, Argivian Recruiter, Cadric, Soul Kindler, Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor, and Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia. Alternatively, if you're in the market for more Equipment-centric creatures, look to legends like Tiana, Ship's Caretaker, Balan, Wandering Knight, Danitha Capashen, Paragon, Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant, and Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale.

Akroma's Will
Kaldra Compleat
Open the Armory

Supporting Spells: Mox Amber: $52.00, Smothering Tithe: $26.00, Teferi's Protection: $25.00, Steelshaper's Gift, Shadowspear: $20.00, Umezawa's Jitte: $20.00

The loss of Mox Amber and Smothering Tithe doesn't hurt too badly, as other mana rocks and sources of Treasure tokens are readily available (Relic of Progenitus, Treasure Map, etc.). Teferi's Protection can easily be swapped out for a Akroma's Will, Grand Crescendo, or Your Temple is Under Attack.

Making up for lost Legendary equipment and support like Shadowspear, Steelshaper's Gift, and Umezawa's Jitte hits our strategy directly. Kaldra Compleat and the trio of classic Kaldra pieces (Sword of Kaldra, Shield of Kaldra, Helm of Kaldra) all fill the equipment roll, while Whip of Erebos, Spear of Heliod, and Hammer of Purphoros support the team as a whole. Open the Armory also does a fantastic impression of Steelshaper's Gift.

Kher Keep
Shivan Gorge
Inventors' Fair

Mana Options: Volrath's Stronghold: $100.00, Bloodstained Mire: $40.00, Gemstone Caverns: $38.00, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: $35.00, Shizo, Death's Storehouse: $34.00, Hammerheim: $25.00, Arid Mesa: $25.00, Urborg: $24.00, Marsh Flats: $22.00, Sacred Foundry: $20.00, Blood Crypt: $20.00

Losing on-color lands like Bloodstained Mire and Sacred Foundry hurts, but enough alternatives exist to fill the gap. For fixing, consider cards like Shadowblood Ridge, painlands Caves of Koilos, Sulfurous Springs, and Battlefield Forge, and some of the more recent on-color duals like Shattered Sanctum, Sundown Pass, and Haunted Ridge. To replace expensive legendary lands, look to cards like Kher Keep to generate extra troops to carry equipment, Shivan Gorge and Keldon Necropolis for chip damage, and Inventors' Fair for lifegain and tutoring.

Be your legend carved into steel or the smashed remains of a Phyrexian sleeper, be ever mindful of Nietzsche's quote: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Go forth and slay your dreaded enemies at the Commander table, but keep an eye on that life total to ensure you don't become your own worst monster. Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge started on a heroic path, but found himself becoming very sort of villain he sought to destroy along the way.

Thanks for reading, and may you ever use your sword (Or bow. Or axe) for good.

-Matt-

@Intrepid_Tautog

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist