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Rhoda and Timin: Partners in Possession

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Before an unholy matrimony,

Before the threat of endless night,

The greatest threat to Innistrad was Eldritch in origin...

Emrakul, the Promised End by Jaime Jones

Rhoda, Geist Avenger by Randy Vargas

Regardless of format, conquering a game of Magic requires a combination of luck and board control. We do our best to mitigate variance, but the only element fully in our hands is the ability to affect the board. Once a battlefield bends to our whim, it's only a matter of finishing things off with a threat. Which brings us to today's Commander duo: Timin, Youthful Geist and Rhoda, Geist Avenger, a one-two punch of enabler and finisher.

Timin, Youthful Geist
Rhoda, Geist Avenger

Partner Commanders bring inherent card advantage with them, as possessing two generals is analogous to drawing an extra card. Ideally, partner commanders are designed to be individually weaker, balancing this advantage. That generals like Vial Smasher the Fierce, Thrasios, Triton Hero, and Tymna the Weaver are mainstays of cEDH (Competitive Commander), illustrates how powerful adding even one extra general, even a tonned-down one, can really be.

Vial Smasher the Fierce
Thrasios, Triton Hero
Tymna the Weaver
Let the groans begin.

Timin, Youthful Geist and Rhoda, Geist Avenger differ from the above in that they can only team up with each other. Unlike the original mix-and-match Partner Legendaries, Timin and Rhoda are designed to directly synergize. Both are at their best when on the field simultaneously. In conjunction, the duo provide the combination of board sway and finisher that most control decks shoot for. They also point us in a precise direction: Tap/Untap Tribal.

Order of Whiteclay
Verity Circle
Gideon's Avenger

Within Innistrad lore, Timin, Youthful Geist and Rhoda, Geist Avenger first met during the events of Eldritch Moon. The arrival of Emrakul, the Promised End introduced the natives to a new flavor of terror: Cosmic Lovecraftian dread blended with David Cronenburg-esque body horror. Combination "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Color out of Space", with the former's theme of humanity overwhelmed by an otherworldly juggernaut and the latter's ghastly mutations. The sheer presence of Emrakul, the Promised End warped the minds and anatomies of living beings around her, turning reasonable human into enslaved abomination. Even for Innistrad, things got ugly.

Hanweir, the Writhing Township by Vincent Proce

At least one town seems to be going with the flow.

The funny thing is, while Emrakul easily corrupted living beings, much of Innistrad's population was already dead. Zombies and ghosts were immune to the titan's influence, making them the unlikely, but wonderfully thematic heroes of a horror-themed plane. While necromancers and stitchers could simply point their zombies in the direction of the Eldrazi, the incorporeal nature of spirits gave them a unique strategy: human possession. Human defenders willingly allowed themselves to be possessed, shielding them from Emrakul's corruption. One such partnership, a spectral alliance between Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Geist of Saint Traft, was enough to bring down the dreaded Brisela, Voice of Nightmares during the Battle of Thraben, the final showdown for the fate of the plane. It is during this battle that Rhoda, Geist Avenger bonded with Timin, Youthful Geist, and the two have remained companions ever since.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Geist of Saint Traft
Invocation of Saint Traft

We've covered our Commanders' story. Now let's break down their mechanics:

1. Timin, Youthful Geist: Though Timin's stats as a 3/4 Flyer for five mana are nothing special, his strength lies in the frequency of his triggered ability. Each turn, Timin will nullify the most dangerous potential attacker. This keeps you safe, but can also be used for politics, as you protect everyone else at the table from dangerous attackers. Later on, rampant tapping has the potential to go on the offensive, tapping an opposing board to grant Rhoda, Geist Avenger an unhindered assault. Combined with other mass-tappers like Sentinel of the Eternal Watch and Tidal Force, control of each combat phase is within your reach.

Sentinel of the Eternal Watch
Tidal Force
Sunblast Angel

2. Rhoda, Geist Avenger: Like Timin, Rhoda's stats are unimpressive on their own. A mere Hill Giant with Vigilance. However, she's unlikely to stay small for long, as her ability triggers off all noncombat creature tapping. Our deck has ample means to tap down a team and grow Rhoda into a monster (Cryptic Command, Sleep, etc.), but opposing mana dorks (Ex. - Noble Heirarch, etc.) and Commanders with a tap ability (Ex. - Lathril, Blade of the Elves, Anje Falkenrath, etc.) will also gift Rhoda with +1/+1 counters. Combined with classic protective elements like Swiftfoot Boots and Whispersilk Cloak, and Rhoda's "Voltron" potential becomes very real, only this giant robot also happens to have ghostly backup.

Cryptic Command
Citadel Siege
Sleep

3. Thus far, we've talked about tapping down the opposition. Useful, but there will be instances where no good enemy targets are available. We'll make the most out of our plethora of tap effects via recruiting creatures who benefit from tapping/untapping. If the battlefield is open, these creatures can easily tap themselves via combat. The problem is, for most of these creatures, having to enter combat to tap/untap is a drawback, as it falls to you to keep them alive if you want to get the most out of their abilities. Resources that allow us to tap/untap these troops safely allows for repeated activations, boosting card advantage (Fallowsage, Knacksaw Clique), recursion (Order of Whiteclay, ramp (Scaretiller), utility (Surgespanner), and more.

Knacksaw Clique
Ghostly Pilferer
Surgespanner

4. Final Note: While cards like Authority of the Consuls and Blind Obedience appear to be natural inclusions, they do not trigger Rhoda, Geist Avenger. These enchantments cause enemy creatures to enter the battlefield in an already-tapped state, bypassing our Commander's effect. When building around Timin and Rhoda, avoid this sort of card.

Authority of the Consuls
Blind Obedience

WARNING: These will not work.

Now that we've had an overview, let's dive into deck specifics! What sort of ghostly shenanigans can Timin and Rhoda can tap their way into?

Rhoda, Geist Avenger by Randy Vargas

Rhoda and Timin: Partners in Possession | Commander | Matthew Lotti


White/Blue is the perfect color combo for this strategy. When it comes to slowing down and locking up the game, Azorius springs to mind. The defensive tools of White combined with the card advantage of Blue can craft excellent long-game control. Our tap/untap synergies sync with this strategy, blunting threats while we build resources, then becoming evasion-enablers once we've established a solid board state. The ability to tap/untap permanents at will is flexible, and thus deceptively powerful. Let's explore some of those applications in detail.

Puppeteer
Giant Killer
Tempest Caller

Who ya gonna call?: Starting off with creatures, we'll first enlist additional tappers to back up Timin, Youthful Geist. The more we have, the more combat is under our control. Straightforward tap engines like Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Tidal Force, Puppeteer, and Giant Killer provide a repeated effect, while Tempest Caller is intended as a close-out card, wiping out blockers and making Rhoda, Geist Avenger lethal in the late game. With all these enemy creatures getting tied up, cards like Gideon's Avenger and Sunblast Angel become even better.

Fallowsage
Scaretiller
Surgespanner

Next, because viable enemy targets won't always be available (or optimal), we'll bring in troops who benefit from being tapped/untapped. Fallowsage, Arbiter of the Ideal, Surgespanner, and Scaretiller actively reward us for tapping them, especially if we can do so outside of combat. The presence of Scaretiller warrants sacrificial lands (Prismatic Vista, etc) and cycling lands (Irrigated Farmland, etc.) to get a ramp engine going.

Knacksaw Clique
Puresight Merrow
Order of Whiteclay

The Shadowmoor/Eventide block introduced the Untap symbol, which turned untapping into an activated ability cost. Combat was the easiest way to get these creatures tapped in the first place, so it fell to the player to protect their often-fragile stats. The risk of having to send these creatures into combat is greatly diminished by our suite of tools. Such creatures include Knacksaw Clique, Puresight Merrow, and Order of Whiteclay, which pairs nicely with Burnished Hart.

Weathered Wayfarer
Ghostly Pilferer

Finally, while they don't possess the ability to untap themselves, Weathered Wayfarer and the thematically-fitting Ghostly Pilferer further reward us for doing so. Tools like Puppet Strings and the aforementioned Puppeteer are happy to assist with this.

Immovable Rod
Curse of Chains
Verity Circle

Charge up the proton packs: When it came to creatures, we started off with pure tap-engines, so let's do the same for our noncreature armory. Repeatable tappers include Scepter of Dominance, Immovable Rod, Citadel Siege, Puppet Strings, Narcolepsy, and Curse of Chains. The latter two allow the enchanted creature to briefly untap before immediately getting tapped down again, providing a continual source of +1/+1 counters for Rhoda, Geist Avenger. We could also add Verity Circle to this category, but its primary intent is card draw. With multiple outlets with on hand to target creatures, Dismiss into Dream becomes a removal machine.

Ensnare
Octopus Umbra
Blustersquall

Next up: Spells that tap creatures en masse. Many of these can be used defensively, but unlike the repeated tappers, they're mainly one-shots whose primary role is to grow Rhoda, Geist Avenger while clearing blockers. 'Alpha-strike' enablers in the likes of Cryptic Command, Sleep, Deluge, Ensnare, Blinding Light, Icy Blast, and Blustersquall. Octopus Umbra can similarly clear the path of blockers, and has the added bonus of boosting and protecting Rhoda, Geist Avenger.

Sands of Time

Reserved List card under $6 alert!

Finally, Sands of Time is a fascinating engine that'll act as a headache for your opponents, but often a boon for you. It's also that rare breed of Reserved List card that hasn't grown to absurdly-expensive prices, so consider picking one up if it gets your brewing-gears turning.

Gideon Jura
Generous Gift
Darksteel Mutation

Supporting Spells: Being equipped to repeatedly tap the opposition effectively nixes some of the drawbacks among our support cards. For instance, Gideon Jura can provoke a board of attackers and we can, in turn, tap down said attackers to protect him. Once our turn rolls back around, Gideon can then to kill whatever scares us most, or simply provoke someone's team all over again. When it comes to other sources of spot-removal, we actually prefer cards like Darksteel Mutation, Ravenform, and Generous Gift, as they leave bodies behind. All the more targets to tap down for value.

Righteous Fury
Doomskar
Out of Time

Switching gears to mass-removal, old school sweeper Righteous Fury will often function as a Plague Wind with added lifegain. Our other mass removal spells, Out of Time and Doomskar, are included for their low mana costs, allowing us to follow up a spell, or in the case of Out of Time, slowly return creatures to tap down for value.

Borrowing 100,000 Arrows
Storm of Souls
Sudden Salvation

We round out our utility spells in true Azorious fashion: defense + card advantage. Storm of Souls is an excellent tool in our deck, as most of our creatures are small to begin with, so the spirit-like stats are no big deal. Actually, the added evasion our fallen creatures return with is quite useful, especially in regards to Rhoda, Geist Avenger, who we know won't stay little for very long. Another solid sweeper follow-up is Sudden Salvation, which allows us to save multiple permanents with added political application. For card advantage, Borrowing 100,000 Arrows and Betrayal further reward us for executing our game plan. True, Rhystic Study couldn't care less about what's tapped vs. untapped (except maybe for enemy lands), but its sheer power makes it an easy include.

Smothering Tithe
Springleaf Drum
Midnight Clock

Mana Support and Rocks: Smothering Tithe's inclusion follows the same lines as Rhystic Study: It's simply too powerful an effect to pass up. These cards are considered nigh-auto includes for a reason. More on-theme ramp includes Springleaf Drum to work with Puresight Merrow and company, newer ramp n' rocks like Archaeomancer's Map and Midnight Clock, and staples like Talisman of Progress, Azorious Signet, Arcane Signet, and Mind Stone.

Fabled Passage
Tolaria West
Wasteland

As with our ramp and rocks, our land base contains many expected White/Blue players: Hallowed Fountain, Sea of Clouds, Azorious Chancery, Mystic Gate, etc. Noteworthy is our preference toward lands that either sacrifice themselves or cycle to the graveyard, as Scaretiller can make for quite a machine. With the humble scarecrow, Wasteland and Ghost Quarter provide repeated land destruction. Scavenger Grounds forever keeps graveyards empty. Fabled Passage, Prismatic Vista, Flooded Strand, and Myriad Landscape now behave as if you had a Crucible of Worlds in play. And lands that were cycled away for cards (Secluded Steppe, Lonely Sandbar, Irrigated Farmland) brought right back into play. Tolaria West can be Transmuted up to help you find any of these lands, depending on what you need the most.

Dismiss into Dream by Sam Wolfe Connelly

Budget Options: If Ghostbusters taught us anything, it's that businesses involved with the paranormal aren't cheap. Poor old Ray had to take out a second mortgage on his house! Magic is similarly expensive, though hopefully not that much, so here are some 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 an oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander.

All in all, this is actually a fantastic build for budget-conscious players, as you'll see very few cuts are needed, none of them really take away from what the deck is trying to do, and the replacements are ample.

Minister of Impediments
Niblis of the Breath
Fatestitcher

Supporting Spells: Smothering Tithe: $35.00, Rhystic Study: $35.00, Cryptic Command: $20.00

Right out of the gate, we're in luck on two fronts. For one, no single creature card in our deck is worth more than $10, and second, the only non-creature spells that break budget are format staples, as opposed to the synergistic cards that help our deck run. As such, strong as these staples are, swapping them out for thematic alternatives is no great pain.

Aura of Dominion
Glimpse the Sun God
Freed from the Real

A plethora of other creature (Minister of Impediments, Gideon's Lawkeeper, Nibilis of the Breath, Fatesticher) and non-creature spells (Glimpse the Sun God, Aura of Dominion, Freed from the Real, Turnabout) are available to synergize directly with Timin and Rhoda's plans.

Dust Bowl
Flood Plain
Remote Isle

Mana Options: Ancient Tomb: $57.00, Flooded Strand: $40.00, Mystic Gate: $30.00, Wasteland: $30.00

Cutting the budget on mana isn't the end of the world either, as multiple options exist to fill the gaps. Dust Bowl or Tectonic Edge slide in for Wasteland. The 'slow-fetch' Flood Plain, or even a simple Evolving Wilds, can replace Flooded Strand. If you'd like to bolster up your cycling land count, Remote Isle and Drifting Meadow are available for pennies. Or you could simply opt for go-to budget Azorius choices like Prairie Stream, Glacial Fortress, Nimbus Maze, and Skycloud Expanse.

Order of Whiteclay by Steven Belledin

Always remember your SPF-30 when going out in the sun.

I hope you've enjoyed today's spectral summation of all things tapping and untapping. In the future, I'd like to see more Partner Commanders in the vein of Timin, Youthful Geist and Rhoda, Geist Avenger, as such cards tell an interesting story alongside their interesting synergies. Next time you shuffle up at the Commander table, here's hoping this ghostly duo has the final say over all things combat-related. That is, if you ever even let combat happen in the first place.

Thanks for reading, and may you always find a friendly ghost when you need one!

-Matt-

@Intrepid_Tautog

Limited time 35% buy trade in bonus buylist