Times of Day: The Morning by Caspar David Friedrich (1821).
Fblthp, The Lost by Jesper Ejsing.
It is rare that my column topics align perfectly with the header artwork I've prepared, but every now and then it happens. Today's column is a look at Fblthp, the Lost and in today's decklist and today's header art he is both totally lost and totally alone. We'll be exploring what a creatureless Fblthp deck might look like and how to try to make it as competitive as possible.
I try to build decks for a wide range of playstyles and power levels. Today's list is going to be way more expensive than my usual fare. Will my best efforts and the inclusion of a few pricier cards actually makes for a more competitive deck? I'll be leaning on you, dear readers, for the answer to that question. Many of you are more experienced than I am with more competitive lists and strategies and your comments are often enlightening and always welcome.
Meet Fblthp, the Lost
Before we dive into today's list, let's get to know the little guy we'll be building around today.
Our commander is a Legendary Homunculus named Fblthp, the Lost who was first depicted on the Gatecrash Instant Totally Lost. He has been featured on a number of other cards, sometimes hidden in the background like in the Guilds of Ravnica card March of the Multitudes. In War of the Spark he is apparently still Totally Lost.
This diminutive general is appropriately sized as a 1/1 and when he enters the battlefield we draw a card. If it entered from our library or was somehow cast from our library we would draw two cards instead. When it becomes the target of a spell, we shuffle Fblthp into our library or we can choose to send him to the command zone. That means you can't flicker him unless you use an activated or triggered ability to do so.
His first ability is what we'll be trying to squeeze some value out of, but it's not going to be easy.
Fblthp's Party Trick
Every commander worth playing brings something to the table.
They've all got some ability that you can build around to try to make their deck more interesting, more fun to play or simply more powerful. Some are built to win games. Some, not so much. Fblthp's best "party trick" isn't to lose himself in your library at the slightest provocation. We're going to find a way to make the most of his card draw ability.
Anyone familiar with Narset, Enlightened Master should be familiar with Proteus Staff. This little artifact costs three mana to play. For three mana, one of which must be Blue, you can tap it and put target creature on the bottom of its owner's library. That creature's controller then reveals cards from the top of their library until they reveal a creature card. The revealed creature is put into play and the rest go on the bottom of your library in any order.
With Narset, you often run the deck without any other creatures. That lets you use Proteus Staff on the end step before your turn to put Narset on the bottom of your library. You then reveal cards until you reveal her, you put her on the battlefield and then stack your deck however you like. Naturally, you would stack your library so that on Narset's next attack she can flop into so many extra turns, combat steps and voltron staples that you can kill the table. I never ran my Narset deck that way. It just didn't feel sporting, but my understanding was that the top Narset decks would use Proteus Staff as an easy way to set up a win.
With Fblthp if you run your deck with no creatures you will be able to put him on the bottom and then reveal cards until you get to him. You then put him onto the battlefield, reorder your entire deck and then you draw two cards because he will be entering from your library.
We should be able to set up a win pretty easily by essentially tutoring for two cards and controlling what the next few cards in our library will be. We probably don't have to reorder the entire library so long as we've set ourselves up properly. With the right combos and the enough counterspell support we should be able to close out the game.
Choosing a Combo
My experience piloting combo decks is that when your deck is running enough combos you often take what your deck gives you. You run tutors but you hope to draw naturally into part of a combo and then tutor for the rest. You don't usually tutor for one part of a combo and then hope to draw into other combo pieces unless you have a really good plan for doing that.
We're going to be running a few combos that have a variety of payoffs. We want to get our Proteus Staff out and use it to tutor up two cards, and we're going to be hoping that we've already drawn into part of a combo so that we can simply nail it down and win right away. Even if we can't win on that turn, we should have reordered our library, so we will have exactly what we need waiting for us on our next draw.
These should all be able to win the game, though running a creatureless deck will force us to get a little creative. Many cards we would normally rely upon just can't be included in today's list.
March of the Machines / Intruder Alarm
This is going to require using Proteus Staff. If you have the enchantment March of the Machines on the field, your noncreature artifacts become creatures. With Intruder Alarm on the field, you untap all your creatures when another creature enters the battlefield. When you use Proteus Staff you have to tap it, but when Fblthp takes his trip through your library and comes back onto the battlefield, not only will you essentially be tutoring for two cards - you will also untap all of your artifacts. That means that for as long as you can pay the mana cost for your Proteus Staff activation, you can tutor up as much of your deck as you like.
If you can draw your entire deck that means that you can win via Laboratory Maniac. That is, you could win via Laboratory Maniac except that we're not running any creatures in our list. Before War of the Spark that would have been an issue, but now you can just slot in Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and win the game with him on the field.
If for some reason you don't want to draw your whole deck and win with Jace, there are other combos you can go for.
With the "Dramatic Scepter" combo you play Isochron Scepter and imprint Dramatic Reversal on it. Then every time you use your Isochron Scepter to cast Dramatic Reversal it will untap all of your nonland permanents. If you've got enough mana rocks like the Sol Ring shown above, you can get infinite castings of Dramatic Reversal.
With infinite castings and an Aetherflux Reservoir on the field you gain infinite life and can kill any player who doesn't have hexproof. With Brain Freeze you can put everyone's library into their graveyards, setting them up to hopefully lose on their next draw step. With mana rocks that tap for more than 2 mana, you get infinite mana.
Basalt Monolith / Rings of Brighthearth
We might be able to make infinite mana with our Dramatic Scepter combo if we've got extra mana rocks lying around, but these next two cards can definitely get the job done.
You can't use Rings of Brighthearth to copy Basalt Monolith's mana-producing ability, but you can copy its untap ability. You simply pay three mana to untap it, and pay another two mana to copy the untap ability. With both untaps on the stack, you let one resolve, then tap the monolith to make three mana, then let the second untap resolve and tap the monolith to make another three mana. Each iteration of this cycle will cost you five mana but gain you six mana. The net gain of one mana means that you can do it as many times as you like to create infinite colorless mana.
The most common answer for what you do with infinite mana is that you pour it into Walking Ballista and kill the table. I've chosen to have our dear Fblthp be both lost and lonely in today's deck so we'll need other options.
Blue Sun's Zenith will be happy to step in and let us force the opponent of our choice to draw a zillion cards. As long as they don't flash out their own Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or Laboratory Maniac, that should work nicely to eliminate them from the game. Blue Sun's Zenith shuffles back into our library, ruining any ordering we might have set up, but that also means that it's one Proteus Staff / Fblthp activation away from being used again! If we've got our own Jace on the field, we can target ourselves or use Pull From Tomorrow, which can't be used on opponents, to draw into the win.
High Tide Tomfoolery?
I threw a few cards in here that might have been ill-advised. In researching Blue combo decks that I'm less familiar with I came across Legacy High Tide.
In a Legacy deck you run more than just one of each of these cards and you rely upon a turn in which you draw into more copies of them and cast additional High Tides, Turnabouts and Time Spirals until you are at a point where you can mill your opponent out.
I think these are all solid cards and if you're lining up the top of your deck after a Proteus Staff activation they can all fit into a solid push to win the game. Of course that Time Spiral shuffle might be inconvenient, so this might be more of a non-bo than a combo. On the other hand, it is a way to reset your library so that you can recover some key pieces of a wincon that might have found their way into the graveyard.
For now they're staying in, but I'd love to get feedback on this particular set of cards. Would you keep them? Would you replace them with something better? Let me know what you think in the comments.
I know that I'm not a cEDH player at heart because I always want to build my decks with some level of protection against aggro.
Taking damage always makes me nervous and even though I know you should only really worry about that last point of damage I still like to find ways to deal with even non-lethal waves of attackers.
I'm running both Pongify and Rapid Hybridization as ways to deal with individual creatures, as will Maze of Ith. Propaganda will help keep large armies at bay or will at least force them to dig for enchantment removal before they can send all of their attackers at me. Cyclonic Rift, Aetherize, and Aetherspouts are in the list and are all ways to turn away an attacking army.
While we are creatureless, I hate to imagine that Fblthp will never have anyone to share his adventures with.
To help with this I'm running Mind Control and few similar spells. Aethersnatch can steal a creature spell right off the stack. It can snatch other spells as well, so if there's an overloaded Cyclonic Rift or an In Garruk's Wake that gets cast we can grab it. Supplant Form will bounce a creature and give us a copy of it. I suspect Fblthp isn't very picky about the company he keeps so he might not even notice that his new buddy isn't quite right (it's a token). He also won't care if his comrade is dripping with poison, so Corrupted Conscience will slot right in and give us a way to turn an opponent's giant threat into our own lethal threat.
My hope is that we won't need to rely on this mishmash of protection and threat removal but I always feel like it's best to have some answers in case your plan to combo off early doesn't as well as you'd like.
Digging for the Win
Fabricate is about as straightforward a tutor as you'll be able to find. Use it to grab your Proteus Staff. Use your Staff to line up a win. Transmute Artifact is expensive enough that I wouldn't include it if I weren't trying to push the limits of this list. It requires you to sacrifice an artifact, but it will also let you tutor for your Proteus Staff. Long-Term Plans will let you put a card third from the top of your library. If you play that before you play Fblthp, he'll draw a card when he enters the battlefield so you'll have one less turn to wait to draw your Proteus Staff.
Tamiyo's Journal is arguably too slow for this build, but it is a reliable way to get to your wincon if you're able to weather those few turns and dodge or counter artifact removal. Adding other clue-producing Blue non-creature spells might make sense if you're fond of this but it's hard to argue for devoting too much to a line of play that's based around clue tokens.
Whir of Invention is much more straightforward. Tutor up your Proteus Staff, and you can even tap your artifacts to help pay the casting cost. With the requirement of three Blue mana to cast it, this will often only find itself in a Mono-Blue build but it fits right in here. Tezzeret the Seeker has a -X loyalty ability that will let you tutor up your Proteus Staff and still have a loyalty counter left. If he's around on your next turn you can use Proteus Staff, untap it and a mana rock with Tezzeret's +1 ability and use it again to tutor up four cards and reorder your library.
We'll need ways to get our magic stick back out of the graveyard if someone blows it up. We won't be able to save it from exile, but it would be deck-building malpractice to not include any recursion.
Argivian Restoration might seem obscure and old but for four mana it will bring Proteus Staff back and save you from having to cast it again. Reconstruction only costs one, but with Proteus Staff's three-mana casting cost it works out to the same mana investment as Argivian Restoration. Buried Ruin is an auto-include in the land base of any deck that relies upon having key artifacts on the field.
While staying creatureless, I've tried to include a variety of card draw and token generation sources so that we're not too much of a glass cannon. We're not going to have strong battlefield presence but we want enough to be able to survive until we can combo off.
Fblthp, the Lost | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Fblthp the Lost
- Instants (28)
- 1 Aetherize
- 1 Aethersnatch
- 1 Aetherspouts
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Brain Freeze
- 1 Counterspell
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Dramatic Reversal
- 1 Fact or Fiction
- 1 Force of Will
- 1 High Tide
- 1 Jace's Ingenuity
- 1 Long-Term Plans
- 1 Mana Drain
- 1 Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Opportunity
- 1 Overwhelming Intellect
- 1 Pact of Negation
- 1 Pongify
- 1 Pull from Tomorrow
- 1 Rapid Hybridization
- 1 Supplant Form
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Turnabout
- 1 Unsubstantiate
- 1 Whir of Invention
- Sorceries (8)
- 1 Argivian Restoration
- 1 Fabricate
- 1 Reconstruction
- 1 Recurring Insight
- 1 Reshape
- 1 Time Spiral
- 1 Transmute Artifact
- 1 Tunnel Vision
- Enchantments (11)
- 1 Corrupted Conscience
- 1 Followed Footsteps
- 1 Intruder Alarm
- 1 March of the Machines
- 1 Mind Control
- 1 Mystic Remora
- 1 Power Artifact
- 1 Propaganda
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Take Possession
- 1 Thopter Spy Network
- Artifacts (16)
- 1 Aetherflux Reservoir
- 1 Basalt Monolith
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Isochron Scepter
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Panharmonicon
- 1 Paradox Engine
- 1 Proteus Staff
- 1 Rings of Brighthearth
- 1 Sapphire Medallion
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Tamiyo's Journal
- 1 Thought Vessel
There are plenty of cards in here that you could drop out to save money if this list is a little pricier than you would normally build. I think Proteus Staff, the Dramatic Scepter combo and the March of the Machines / Intruder Alarm combo are essential, but beyond that as long as you're following the basic gameplan you can absolutely cut corners and still build this basic deck.
Finding Your Playstyle
I've seen well-respected Commander writers describe the Fblthp Proteus Staff deck as being tired and predictable. They couldn't imagine writing about it, much less building and playing it.
This deck's main goal will be to land Proteus Staff and use it to line up a win. If you can't get that to work, you've got a few other ways to try to get past the finish line first, but I don't think this is the kind of deck that will constantly surprise you each time you play it.
If a deck that can protect its wincon with counterspells and combo off sounds like fun, and you like the idea of abusing the Fblthp / Proteus Staff interaction, this deck might be worth looking at.
For some players this will be a tired old approach to playing Commander, but some of you might have never experimented with infinite mana combos and cards like Dramatic Reversal and Isochron Scepter. I don't think anyone is going to look to Fblthp Staff as the next great combo EDH deck, so if you're interested in this playstyle and would like to play a bit of an oddball commander he might be worth trying out.
Don't let anyone tell you that this is a tired, old playstyle or deck type if it isn't tired and old for you. That doesn't mean your friends will enjoy playing against it. They might hate it - especially if it works well but ultimately it's up to you to figure out how you like to play and to determine if Fblthp Staff combo is your kind of deck.
I'm still unsure on how well I've done with this list. The goal was to put together a resilient combo shell that can use Fblthp's ability to interact with Proteus Staff in a creatureless deck to tutor up two cards - or four cards if you were lucky enough to get Panharmonicon on the field.
Whether that's your kind of deck or not, I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's list. I'm not sure I'd play it though if I pull Fblthp from a booster pack I might give it a whirl just for fun. I'll probably make my list more of a budget build with the plan of adding more expensive cards if it proves to be fun enough to play more than a few times.
What would you do with Fblthp, the Lost?
Would you put creatures into the deck? You can't target him with flicker spells, but a Deadeye Navigator build could help you get more ETB draw triggers.
Are there ways to abuse his abilities that I missed? Inquiring minds (particularly mine) want to know!
I'll see you back here next week. I'm still considering taking a look at Niv-Mizzet Reborn. He's definitely the second-best 5-color commander out there, second to Ramos, Dragon Engine of course, and I'm eager to take a crack at seeing how strong a build I can throw together with New Niv at the helm.
That's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading!