Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill by Pieter Claeszoon (1628). Cat Dragon by Cynthia Sheppard.
I opened up a couple of collector's booster packs of Strixhaven recently, and while I wasn't blown away by their contents, I found myself in possession of an extended art version of both Losheel, Clockwork Scholar and Codie, Vociferous Codex. I took apart my Hamza, Guardian of Arashin deck and built Losheel because card draw is hugely important in Commander and I wanted a mono-White deck in my arsenal. I didn't immediately start working on Codie, but I knew I wanted to find some interesting angle on building that weird little book.
You can't play permanent spells.
That line bothered me. There was something I could work with there, but at the outset I wasn't sure what. Codie's activated ability is basically cascade but you only cascade into instants and/or sorceries. That is where Codie gets really interesting.
I generally don't dig into other content creators' treatments of a card before I write, but Codie was going to be an exception. I was able to find out that the upcoming Modern Horizons II expansion set includes a card that might well catapult Codie into the top of the cEDH tier list. Profane Tutor is a Black tutor with suspend that you'll be able to cascade into with Codie by casting a one-mana spell. The cEDH end of our format is all about consistency and if you can regularly tutor up Ad Nauseam in a deck with a ridiculous number of one-mana spells, you're going to do well in competitive Commander.
I didn't want to even try to build a cEDH deck. That's not really my jam, but I did want to see if I could build a Codie deck that would be able to win games and would be interesting and maybe a little unconventional.
You Can't Play Permanent Spells
You, my dear Codie, are NOT the boss of me. You don't get to tell me what I can and can't play UNLESS you happen to be on the battlefield. Then sure, you get your way.
I'm the kind of guy who will always put the shopping cart back where the shopping carts belong. I am generally a rules follower, but I do have a rebellious streak. You don't get to tell me what to do unless you have a very good reason for doing so. If we don't see eye to eye, I'm unlikely to just buckle under and do what you want.
My first major takeaway from reading Codie is that most people will probably want to build their Codie decks around the plan of not running any permanent spells. Codie instant and sorcery tribal could be a lot of fun. I like not knowing what's going to happen sometimes. Playing a Codie deck with zero permanent spells would leave you never knowing what's going to happen next. Play Storm Herd after a Codie activation and you could cascade into an extra turn spell, or maybe just a Brainstorm.
If everyone else is going to build Codie with tons of instants and sorceries, I had to wonder what a Codie deck would look like if it had lots and lots of permanent spells. Those creatures, artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers would be stranded in your hand if Codie was on the field, so the deck would have to be built in such a way that you'd only ever need to activate Codie once or twice and you would win the game.
To be clear, I'm still not talking about cEDH. This deck would take some time to get to where it's going and in cEDH you have to be able to threaten a win quickly. Still, I had a direction. I would see if I could find a way to build a winning Codie deck that has way more permanent spells than any other Codie deck you'll ever see.
The Power of Codie's Cascade
The problem with regular cascade is that you exile cards until you exile a card with a lower mana value and then you cast that card for free. With a 100-card deck, it's hard to use cascade in a way that will let you control what you cascade into. You can use a tutor that puts cards onto the top of your deck to set up your cascade. My old Ramos deck used to use Conflux, Maelstrom Wanderer and the tutor Congregation at Dawn to line up creatures for a Wanderer's two cascade triggers, but Codie's cascade isn't a true cascade.
Codie will have your next spell cascade into ONLY instants and sorceries.
What that means is that it's possible to set up a deck with a target wincon that is made up of instant and/or sorcery spells. Most wincons that fit that description are going to be at least two cards and they are going to require some specific things to be on the battlefield to work. My next step was to find that wincon, and since I enjoyed my Ramos, Dragon Engine deck so much I decided I would take a page from that deck's game plan.
With Ramos, my wincon involved cascading into enough spells with Maelstrom Wanderer that Ramos would be at least 9 power. Tainted strike would not only give it Infect, but it would also boost its power by one. Chandra's Ignition would be cast targeting Ramos and would have Ramos do damage equal to its power to every other creature and each opponent. Barring any surprises from my opponents, that would kill the table pretty nicely.
My Ramos deck's wincon would ideally involve 10 cards in all and would work something like a Rube Goldberg device. It started with Ramos on the field and the tutor Conflux resolving to put a card of each color into my hand. It wasn't just a cheap Blightsteel Colossus / Chandra's Ignition table kill and I really liked that it was weird and complicated. If my wincon for Codie was going to be Tainted Strike and Chandra's Ignition, that meant I'd have to have a few other pieces to this puzzle in order for it to actually work.
You might have noticed that my wincon involves cascading into both Tainted Strike and Chandra's Ignition. What that means is that I'm going to have to find ways to untap Codie so that I can use his ability not once but twice. If I take 4 mana and funnel it through Codie two times, that will give me two of Codie's pseudo-cascade triggers when I cast my next spell that turn.
Kiora's Follower can tap to untap Codie. Retreat to Coralhelm will let me untap Codie with a landfall trigger. Illusionist's Bracers will let me take one Codie activation and turn it into two cascades.
Aphetto Alchemist will tap to untap an artifact or creature. Disciple of the Ring will let me pay a mana and exile an instant or sorcery from my graveyard to do a bunch of different things including untapping target creature. I'm also taking a page from my elfball combo deck and running Sword of the Paruns and Umbral Mantle to let me untap the equipped creature for three mana.
Staff of Domination would work for this as well, but I decided to leave it out of this list. I've found that it really draws attention when it hits the table and my goal is to try to fly under the radar until I'm ready to go off. If you have one lying around and you want to run it, go right ahead.
Codie's Perfect 10s
Codie isn't going to hit the field until I've got at least one 10-power creature on the field. That should be obvious. I can't cast permanent spells with Codie out so I've got to make sure my plan is ready to be executed.
Ten-power creatures aren't that easy to come by, but Codie, Vociferous Codex is a five-color commander so I've got lots of options. Some of them cost less than their advertised mana value or allow me to basically split up my mana investment over more than one turn.
I might not have a huge graveyard, but there's a good chance I'll be able to knock a few mana off of my casting cost for Ghoultree if I've got mana dorks, a Solemn Simulacrum or Burnished Hart in the bin. Primeval Protector will rarely cost its full mana value, as my opponents will probably have at least a few creatures on the battlefield. Etched Monstrosity is a 5/5 on the turn it comes out, but I can pay to turn it into a 10/10 and also draw three cards.
Apex Altisaur can be used as removal, as it fights an opponent's creature when it enters the battlefield. Its enrage trigger will let me keep fighting each time it takes damage, but I'll want to stop before it dies so I can use it later on as part of my wincon. Colossus of Akros is a great blocker on the ground. I'm unlikely to ever need to pay its 10 mana Monstrosity ability to put 10 +1/+1 counters on it, but it's nice to have that option available. Colossus Hammer is also in the list and can equip to pretty much any of my creatures to make them big enough to use with my wincon.
If all I have on the field is Codie, I can use Bounty of Might to give it +9/+9 by targeting Codie with all three of that spell's +3/+3 boosts. Making Codie or another 1/1 on my battlefield into a 10/10 until end of turn will work just fine for this wincon, as the spells I cascade into can be cast until end of turn. Codie's cascade isn't a normal cascade, which would cast the spells immediately, ignoring their normal timing restrictions. Codie's cascaded instants and sorceries can be cast after the triggering spell has resolved.
I don't love having so many of my target creatures have high casting costs, so I've also included a few cheaper creatures that should grow over time. Managorger Hydra, Sunscorch Regent, Taurean Mauler and the legendary Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker all gain +1/+1 counters as spells are cast. In a multiplayer game it isn't hard for any of these creatures to get up to 9 power.
Protecting The Win
By protection, I don't mean protecting my permanents, though I could see an argument that this list really wants Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves in it. I'm talking about ways to protect the win. This deck's wincon is really quite fragile. All you need to do is remove the 10-power creature in response to Chandra's Ignition being put on the stack. A simple Swan Song will easily ruin my plans, and once those spells are in the graveyard there's really no guarantee I'll pull into Archaeomancer, Mnemonic Wall or Underworld Breach so I can try again.
There are cards you can play and nobody raises an eyebrow. If you're ever at a table with me and any of these lockout pieces hit the table, there's a reasonable chance that I'm up to no good. Even if I'm just locking my opponents out of casting spells on my turn with Dragonlord Dromoka, it's essential to have some sort of proactive measure to try to keep my tablemates from messing with my plans.
I can't very well run counterspells in this list. If you haven't figured out why - you'll understand soon, but my counterspell support will have to come from permanents. Sacrificing Glen Elendra Archmage, Spiketail Drake or Spiketail Drakeling might be enough to stop a control player from interrupting me, but my real goal is to lock everyone else out of my turn.
Why can't I run counterspells to protect my win?
It's very simple. This deck's plan is to get Codie onto the battlefield, get a 10-mana creature, and then cast a six-mana spell. That mana must be an instant or a sorcery because I won't be able to play permanent spells.
It's important to not just play bad spells in this six-mana slot, but to be honest most 6 mana instants and sorcery spells aren't that great. I chose to lean towards removal and card draw, as those are both incredibly important things to play in Commander. I could have thrown in Karn's Temporal Sundering and Part the Waterveil, as extra turns are powerful, but all you really need is the ability to reliably put a six-mana spell on the stack so that you can trigger Codie.
If you had counterspells in your deck, they would probably not be six-mana counterspells, and you really need to know that you're going to cascade into your wincon every time. That's the whole point of this build.
The exact list you run doesn't matter too much provided you follow the basic plan. Get a creature to at least 9 power. Get a way to untap Codie or double its trigger. Get a six-mana instant or sorcery into your hand. Get a way to protect your win, or just hope you catch your opponents with their pants down (tapped out and unable to stop you). Play Codie. Use Codie's ability twice. Play your spell. Watch Codie ignite in a fiery, infectious explosion that would make Guy Montag proud.
Fahrenheit 451 | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Codie, Vociferous Codex
- Creatures (28)
- 1 Apex Altisaur
- 1 Aphetto Alchemist
- 1 Archaeomancer
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Colossus of Akros
- 1 Disciple of the Ring
- 1 Dragonlord Dromoka
- 1 Etched Monstrosity
- 1 Ghoultree
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 1 Grand Abolisher
- 1 Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker
- 1 Joiner Adept
- 1 Judge's Familiar
- 1 Kiora's Follower
- 1 Managorger Hydra
- 1 Mnemonic Wall
- 1 Primeval Protector
- 1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Spiketail Drake
- 1 Spiketail Drakeling
- 1 Sunscorch Regent
- 1 Taurean Mauler
- 1 Utopia Tree
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Wizard Replica
- Instants (11)
- 1 Back for More
- 1 Banishing Stroke
- 1 Bounty of Might
- 1 Opportunity
- 1 Prying Eyes
- 1 Scour the Laboratory
- 1 Supplant Form
- 1 Sylvan Bounty
- 1 Tainted Strike
- 1 Waterwhirl
- 1 Will of the Naga
- Enchantments (5)
- 1 Leyline of Anticipation
- 1 Mystic Remora
- 1 Retreat to Coralhelm
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Underworld Breach
- Artifacts (10)
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Chromatic Orrery
- 1 Colossus Hammer
- 1 Conqueror's Flail
- 1 Illusionist's Bracers
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of the Paruns
- 1 Umbral Mantle
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- Lands (41)
- 2 Mountain
- 3 Plains
- 3 Swamp
- 5 Forest
- 8 Island
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Bountiful Promenade
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 City of Brass
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Forbidden Orchard
- 1 Godless Shrine
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Luxury Suite
- 1 Morphic Pool
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Sea of Clouds
- 1 Spire Garden
- 1 Steam Vents
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Watery Grave
The mana base for this draft is something I grabbed from another deck and tweaked a bit. Since I'm in five colors, I'm running Chromatic Lantern, Chromatic Orrery and even Joiner Adept to try to make my colors work out so I can actually cast my spells. I threw in Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery because I had a feeling I'd want to be able to keep my mana open to pretend I have interaction. There will be lots of turns where I don't have spells I can cast, but giving my spells flash gives me flexibility and the illusion of being able to do more than I probably can.
I already admitted this isn't a cEDH build, but it might not even be a high-powered build. If you enjoy the tension and excitement of playing a deck that can blow up the table out of nowhere and you enjoy builds that are a little off the beaten path, this Codie deck might be for you. If your wincon gets interrupted, you can always try to murder your tablemates the old-fashioned way: with your assortment of 10+ power creatures.
I don't always get to play these decks ahead of time, but I am very happy to be able to tell you that I played this version of Codie in my online Tabletop Simulator playgroup. One game is just one game, but the deck's game plan worked like a charm. Other people's boards were scarier than mine and I was able to fly under the radar and get a Kiora's Follower and later on, a Dragonlord Dromoka onto the battlefield. I had a Taurean Mauler at over 10 power when a tablemate went infinite and made a few of his creatures arbitrarily large. His castings made my Taurean Mauler huge as well, and his Darksteel Forge kept anyone from trying to wipe the board. He wasn't able to swing on the turn that he comboed off and that gave me the turn I needed to use my Codie and a Opportunity to cascade into Tainted Strike and Chandra's Ignition to get the win.
The feeling of waiting for my turn, with my heart pounding in my chest and the knowledge that if nobody noticed or did anything to my Dromoka, I would be able to win, was really exhilarating. That suspense is one of the rewards of playing a combo deck that non-combo players don't always appreciate or understand. I also really love playing decks that kill the table all at once so nobody has to sit and wait.
It felt great to see a deck able to execute its plan in its very first game and the guys seemed to like my oddball approach to a commander that usually leads deck-builders down a very different and rather obvious path. I'm sure they'd get tired of it if I played this list too often, but it was gratifying to see my win not met with groans but with surprise and maybe even a little admiration for my out-of-the-box thinking.
If you're still with me, I'd love to hear about any interesting things you've done with Codie or any other commander where you went in a totally unexpected direction and it worked to your advantage.
That's all I've got for today! Thanks for reading and I'll be back next week with my first Modern Horizons II article.