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Cecily & Othelm, EDH Friends Forever

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Ubbergen Castle by Aelbert Cuyp (1655). Zhur-Taa Ancient by Adam Paquette

Last week's column was a fun exercise in brainstorming around a card suggested by a reader, but until I get another reader request, I'll be back to covering the new legendary creatures coming to us from Wizards of the Coast. I seem to have missed out on the Street Fighter Universes Beyond cards, but now that the Stranger Things cards have been given their Magic versions, I'll be happy to jump on that bandwagon.

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the Walking Dead, Stranger Things or Street Fighter Secret Lairs. I'll also be the first to admit that my dislike for them is a bit weird now that I've gotten into altering cards. Painting Fozzie the Bear from The Muppets onto a Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma feels different to me than having a WotC-produced Negan, the Cold Blooded. I can't really explain why, but people don't always make sense. I am, however, excited to try to make sense today when I write about two new cards that aren't from "Universes Beyond", but from "Universes Within."

These are the in-lore versions of cards Wizards has created that belong to non-Magic IPs. For example, if Wizards eventually stoops to printing a Mister Potato Head Secret Lair with all manner of spiffy new Potato Head themed Mutate cards, they would also create alternate versions of these "MTG, but not really MTG" cards with characters that do actually belong in the deep, complex and storied world of Magic the Gathering. These UB (Universes Beyond) and UW (Universes Within) cards are considered the same card, just with two art variants, so you couldn't run both in a single commander deck.

Today I'm going to explore what I think is the first five-color partner pairing: Cecily, Haunted Mage and Othelm, Sigardian Outcast. For those of you who picked up the Secret Lair, these two correspond to the cards for Eleven, the Mage and Mike, the Dungeon Master. Whether you play Eleven and Mike or Cecily and Othelm, you have to admit that the prospect of playing five-color partners is pretty intriguing.

Cecily, Haunted Mage
Othelm, Sigardian Outcast

Cecily gives us a hand size of 11, and when she attacks I'll draw a card, lose a life and if I've got 11 or more cards in hand I can cast an instant or sorcery from my hand without paying its mana cost. Othelm lets me pay two mana, tap him and bring back a creature card in the graveyard that was put there from the battlefield this turn. It returns tapped, but that's a minor inconvenience for the kind of value we'll be getting.

Before I jump into this build, I should note that I didn't pick up the Stranger Things Secret Lair and I am basically flying blind here - not looking at other content creators' or deckbuilders' solutions for what to do with Eleven and Mike. I hope to find some good synergy and some creative ideas to build into today's list, but there's a chance I'll discover some "new" revelation for this pairing that someone else figured out last October when the Stranger Things Secret Lair hit the internet.

Othelm Advantage

As I look at Othelm and Cecily I don't see any obvious partner synergy.

This isn't a case where these two commanders work together on their own to create some amazing amount of value for a deck. I'm going to look at each of our partners individually, with an eye for what we are trying to do. That would be to draw lots of cards and find a way to win the game.

Othelm, Sigardian Outcast has me wanting to play creatures that will go to the graveyard so that I can bring them back. This recursion ability costs 2 mana and Othelm has to tap, but if I'm using this strategy to draw cards and ramp, that shouldn't be too difficult. Fortunately, there are a lot of creatures that can play right into this game plan.

Sakura-Tribe Elder
Burnished Hart
Uro, TItan of Nature's Wrath

Sakura-Tribe Elder is the poster child for what we want to do with Othelm. "Steve" can be sacrificed for no mana cost and then brought back with Othelm for the amount I spent to cast him. A lesser-known Elder, Yavimaya Elder, will draw a card and tutor up 2 lands to my hand. That isn't ramp, but will put cards in my hand and help me get my colors. This is a five-color deck after all, and I'm going to want to play both of my commanders. Burnished Hart is more mana intensive but puts two lands into play.

I'm also running Dawntreader Elk, Embodiment of Spring, Oashra Cultivator, and Springbloom Druid, though some of those are better than others. My goal is to have as many ways to leverage Othelm's ability as possible to ramp. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath might turn out to be an all-star in this deck, gaining me life, drawing a card and letting me put a land into play untapped.

Using these creatures to ramp early is going to be important, both because it will set me up for a stronger mid game, and because the more activity I can do with permanents, the more cards I can keep in my hand. I need to load up my hand if I'm ever going to use Cecily's attack trigger.

A creature like Uro immediately made me think about the Evoke keyword. Evoke lets you cast a creature for a cheaper cost but you have to sacrifice it immediately. Othelm will see that it went to the graveyard from the battlefield that turn and will let you bring it back for 2 mana, giving you two ETB triggers, often for less than the cost of casting the Evoke creature for its normal casting cost.

Mulldrifter
Shriekmaw
Foundation Breaker

Mulldrifter will draw me 2 cards, but if I cast it for its Evoke cost and bring it back I'll get four cards and still get that flying 2/2 body. Shriekmaw will let me destroy a nonartifact, nonblack creature with each ETB trigger. Artifact and Enchantment removal is important, though when it's tacked onto a creature you usually lose the ability to deal with problems at instant speed. My hope is that getting two triggers will make up for the lack of instant-speed interaction, at least at more casual tables. Foundation Breaker will let me destroy an artifact or an enchantment. Ingot Chewer will chew up an artifact for me and Wispmare will let me destroy an enchantment.

There are other creatures with Evoke, but I tried to avoid ones that require me to discard a card and ones that have two of the same color in their Evoke cost. I want to keep in mind that my ideal scenario has me using Othelm to bring the creature back so I have to plan to pay that 2 extra mana in addition to paying the Evoke cost.

Intruder Alarm Loops

It's worth mentioning that with Intruder Alarm on the field, I'm confident there are loops you could set up. All you'd need is that powerful enchantment and a way to generate mana to pay for the activation cost.

Intruder Alarm
Mana Echoes
Ashnod's Altar

Intruder Alarm will untap all creatures on the battlefield when a creature enters, but at the cost of having creatures not untap on the untap step. Since Othelm taps to bring a creature back that just went to the graveyard, he is perfect for this kind of strategy. Mana Echoes can generate mana equal to the number of other creatures I control that share a creature type with the creature entering the battlefield. This isn't a tribal build, so that's not going to be a guaranteed source of mana. If it was a human tribal build, I'd be able to create infinite colorless mana if I had at least 3 other humans on the field, so a 5/c Humans deck is nothing if not tempting to build.

Ashnod's Altar will let me sacrifice a creature to add 2 mana to my mana pool, which would pay for my Othelm activation. Building around this strategy in a more focused way would have me wanting to play Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, Altar of Dementia, and the usual staples of any good ETB focused deck. That could be fun, and a human Tribal deck might have more than enough synergy to make it work, but this first draft isn't that deck.

I've got a healthy focus on ramp and removal, tuned to be able to work with Othelm to get extra activations, but so far I haven't dipped into what I can do with my second partner commander. Cecily, Haunted Mage isn't just there for the colors. I'd love to see if I can cheat some big casting costs with her attack trigger.

Cecily, Enlightened Master

Comparing Cecily, Haunted Mage to Narset, Enlightened Master is probably being overly kind to Cecily. She isn't going to be crushing tables the way Narset can when she's having a good day, but I really do want to play some spells that normally cost a lot of mana for absolutely nothing.

I've loaded this deck up with card draw staples, but at this point I'm still not sure if they are enough to get to that magic number of 11. I have grown used to building decks with a relatively low mana value, so I often find myself without too many cards in hand. If this draft doesn't work, I could see loading up even more on card draw, as it's incredibly important.

If I can attack with Cecily, I'll be able to draw a card, lose a life and if I have eleven or more cards in hand I'll cast an instant or sorcery for free. What I'll cast has a lot to do with what I have on the field or in my graveyard.

Ezuri's Predation
In Garruk's Wake
Ruinous Ultimatum

If my value train has fallen too far behind my tablemates' boardstates, I might want a one-sided boardwipe. Hoarding cards in my hand may result in me having less permanents on the field. These cost a lot of mana, but if they go off and nobody heroically intervenes to save their guys, I should be in a really good position.

Storm Herd
Eerie Ultimatum
Expropriate

If I've managed to play out an Impact Tremors and especially if I'm at a higher life total than my opponents, I might be happy to cast Storm Herd. For 10 mana, or for nothing if I cast it using Cecily, I can create a number of 1/1 White Pegasus creature tokens with flying equal to my life total. If I've weathered a few boardwipes and have a full graveyard, Eerie Ultimatum might fit in nicely to return a mess of permanents to my battlefield. If I just feel like playing a ridiculous card I might be happy to cast Expropriate and get at least one extra turn and possibly a permanent from each of my opponents.

Conflux

This deck isn't loaded up with huge mana spells because it's also got a bunch of tutors. I want to be able to pick my big mana spell rather than get stuck with whatever I've drawn into. If I've gotten to the point in the game where I can hardcast one of these spells, I can use Conflux to grab a card of each color. Then I can start with Expropriate, and on my first extra turn drop Impact Tremors and use Cecily to cheat in Storm Herd. With Conflux, the possibilities are endless, and you can very much design your own custom wincon suited to your commander and your deck.

It Takes Two, Baby

When I put together these first drafts, I find myself endlessly wanting to tweak them. As I write this paragraph I just dropped out Diligent Farmhand and threw in a Thought Vessel so I have a way to have no maximum hand size. I could see dropping another creature and running Reliquary Tower as well, but at some point you have to call it done, or at least done for now. This deck's goal is to durdle along in the early game, trying to leverage my interaction and use Othelm, Sigardan Outcast to get extra triggers. If I can weasel my way to the mid or end game, I'll be trying to line up a few Cecily, Haunted Mage castings to close out the game. I expect Storm Herd will be a favorite closer for this deck, but I'm sure there are better, more effective choices you could make. I just have a soft spot for Storm Herd.

Cecily and Othelm | Commander | Stephen Johnson


The more I think about it, the more I love the Intruder Alarm plan, but I do have a soft spot for combos. If I can kill the table all at once, that means nobody sits out and has to wait for the next game to start. My biggest concern is my lack of instant speed interaction and the possibility that a card like Hushwing Gryff could slow me down a lot. If you wanted to speed this deck up, you could add fast mana, shift to cheap instant speed interaction and develop a better plan to close out your games. I just want to play goofy spells and drop a Storm Herd with Impact Tremors on the field, but I'm sure there are better plans. Hitting an Intruder Alarm combo might be fun too, but this version isn't single mindedly focused on that as the wincon.

Final Thoughts

I find myself wondering if I've simply followed in the footsteps of deckbuilders who designed decks around Eleven and Mike over the past few months. If I did, that's OK. This list is where I would start, but I don't want you to think that this list is a solid, tuned, tested, played and refined example of how you should build around these partners. It's a first look and it is my own - untainted by the good (and bad) decks that have been paraded out by other content creators.

If there's some amazing synergy that I missed, I would love to hear about it. Any of you who have built Eleven and Mike should consider yourself invited to show us what you were able to figure out for these intrepid young heroes. Tell us what you found or what I missed in the comments below.

If my comment at the beginning of this column had you wondering if you can put in a reader request for me to build a deck and write about a commander or commander pairing of your choice - you must assuredly can. Just leave a comment and if you're lucky or I'm looking for ideas I may jump on the chance to write about your suggested commander. I can't guarantee I'll be able to shed new light on your pet legendary creature, but I'll do my best to find an interesting angle for the deck.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!


Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Stranger Things' Legendary Creatures!

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