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Minn, Wily Illusionist in Commander


A View of the Maas at Dordrecht by Aelbert Cuyp (1645). Dragon from Path of Bravery by Chris Rahn.

I don't think I've ever built an Illusion themed deck before so when I decided to build Minn, Wily Illusionist, I wasn't sure what I'd end up with. I didn't know how much support there would be for creating Blue Illusions and I wasn't sure how heavily I would end up leaning on shapeshifters, many of which have the changeling ability, giving them all creature types.

I was sure of one thing, though. I loved the art on this cute little fella.

Minn, Wily Illusionist

Tying card draw to creating creature tokens in Blue, and then tying those creatures' death triggers to the ability to plop a permanent down onto the field both sound pretty good. I'm not going to go full hipster and try to sell you on Gnome tribal, and I'm not interested in Wizard tribal, so I think Illusions are the way to go.

A gatherer search for creatures in Blue with the Illusion subtype yielded 84 results. A Gatherer search for cards in Blue with "Illusion" in the rules text yielded 28 results. Those results surely have some overlap, and some of those cards definitely won't be worth running. At first glance I think this could work, but I don't get the feeling that Minn's ability is going to open up any truly broken strategies. This could be one of those weird lists where one of its all-stars is a card few Magic players have ever heard of. Krovikan Mist for the win? Maybe Minn can make that dream into a reality.

Illusionary Creatures

One of the more inconvenient things about Illusions is that a lot of them have the odd habit of disappearing when you get too close to them. In Magic terms, that translates to having to sacrifice them when they get targeted.

Phantasmal Bear
Phantasmal Dragon
Phantasmal Dreadmaw

I left out a lot of these guys, but Phantasmal Bear, Dragon and Dreadmaw all represent pretty decent power for the mana I'd have to put into them. Gossamer Phantasm joins the list, but I didn't want to go too heavily in that direction, as there's no real upside to having to lose a creature because someone targeted it with a spell that would otherwise tap it or do something equally trivial. They're a risk, but I wanted to give them a try.

Mistform Warchief
Illusory Ambusher
Draining Whelk

I didn't expect to find a tribal cost reducer for Illusions, but Mistform Warchief does the job quite nicely. I could tap it to change its creature type if I wanted to save my mana for something else but being an Illusion to begin with is very convenient for this list.

Illusory Ambusher gives me a little instant-speed blocker with card draw if something big is headed my way. I'll make a 1/1 Blue Illusion creature token if I draw two or more cards so it sort of replaces itself. Another Illusion with flash in this list is Draining Whelk. I don't know how often I'll be able to leave six mana up, but I like this card for being an Illusion enough to keep it in this first draft.

Krovikan Mist
Toothy, Imaginary Friend

While the Illusion creature tokens Minn creates will always be 1 toughness, Krovikan Mist will have a power and toughness equal to the number of Illusions on the battlefield. I threw Dismiss Into Dream in just for Krovikan Mist. Dismiss Into Dream is an enchantment that turns each creature my opponents control into an illusion with that Achilles' Heel problem of getting sacrificed whenever it gets targeted. Krovikan Mist is a flyer, so my bet is that there will be games where I can drop Dismiss Into Dreams and swing an enormous Krovikan Mist at someone thanks to all the other creatures on the board.

Toothy, Imaginary Friend might not be able to bring Pir, Imaginative Rascal to the party, but Toothy is an Illusion and could draw me a few cards. I'm not running Deadeye Navigator, as too many of my guys would go poof in response to the soulbond trigger, but I am running Palinchron. That Illusion not only untaps seven lands when it enters, it can also combo off to make infinite mana under the right conditions. I might not be running Deadeye Navigator, Palinchron and Great Whale, but I am running High Tide. Palinchron and High Tide can launch me into infinite mana for a single turn, though this deck isn't designed to funnel that much mana into a win.

Illusion Creature Tokens

Minn, Wily Illusionist makes 1/1 Illusion tokens, but it also lets me drop permanent cards onto the battlefield. There's a decent chance I'm underestimating how much value a deck like this would be able to generate from that ability. To really go all-in on that, I'd probably want a lot more permanents in my deck, but I decided to load up on spells that can draw me cards.

I can only draw my second spell per turn once in a given turn, so Minn's ability to make token creatures is pretty well-throttled. I'm loaded up with ways to draw extra spells, but I tried to focus on ones that can be used at instant speed. That way if I'm able to do something on an opponent's turn, there's a good chance it will draw me a card and there's also a good chance I'll have something around or in hand that can draw that second card.

Aether Spellbomb

Anticipate, Brainstorm and Opt are standbys for card draw, and are joined by a host of counterspells that can grab me an extra card. This isn't a control deck, but it should be able to do a little policing and if I'm able to catch someone with a counter that draws me a card, I'll be happy to have something like Aether Spellbomb around. In that vein, Conjurer's Bauble, Mind Stone, Relic of Progenitus and Soul-Guide Lantern can all serve a role but also provide extra ways to trigger Minn and get another Illusion.

I don't often go in for Planeswalkers, but Mordenkainen and Jace, Cunning Castaway both make Illusions so I just couldn't pass them up. I'm also running Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, even though it draws my opponents cards, and Arcanis the Omnipotent, even though it tends to draw removal. I decided to lean towards a lower budget build for this list, but if I were looking to push the power level up I think Consecrated Sphinx would be a nice fit even though it's not an Illusion.

La Grande Illusion

I hate to say it, but with the built-in limit of one Illusion per turn, I have the feeling that the ceiling of La Grande Illusion might not be as "Grande" as I'd like. This list is meant to be a relatively fair deck, with a few pretty good cards, but not the typical goodstuff I often throw around in this column. To keep the focus on Minn and on the Illusion tokens, I didn't take my usual left turn at Albuquerque to end up at combotown. Palinchron and High Tide might be able to do the combo dance to be sure but that's not the point of this deck. If that's your jam, you'd want to add in some mana sinks and the Deadeye Navigator combo suite, but then you'd end up playing a very different deck that might not even want Minn, Wily Illusionist at its helm.

I think legendary creatures like Minn are really great for Commander, but mostly because they give us the opportunity to build at different power levels. I don't want every new legendary to be "pushed" and while it's exciting to build around cards like Chulane, Teller of Tales when they come out, I'm glad we also have cards like Minn. It's certainly possible I missed some glorious Illusion combo that is fun, convoluted, and way more powerful than I could ever have imagined, but so far I'm not seeing it. I think this is a solid, odd, niche legendary that can let you do some goofy things with Illusions, but which tops out at a relatively modest power level even when tuned up with fast mana and Blue staples.

Paths Not Traveled

I should note that I was sorely tempted to include Ixidron, because... well... because Ixidron.

There are very few cards quite like Ixidron, but while it is an Illusion, it also would affect my nontoken Illusions and that seemed like a poor plan. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just take a look at Ixidron. I'm not saying your mind will be blown, but yeah - if you're relatively new, your mind might just be blown.


How can you not love Ixidron? Minn creatureless card draw might be an entertaining take on this commander and would actually play well with a creature like Ixidron in the mix.

I definitely think it would be interesting to run Minn, Wily Illusionist as all non-creature card draw OR as a deck full of creatures with the illusion subtype. The former plan would put a little too much weight behind Minn's role in your game plan, leaving you vulnerable if Minn got sidelined. The latter would ignore the power of having those tokens that get +1/+0 for each other Illusion you control.

Did I hit the sweet spot between the two strategies?

I certainly tried to, but I suspect I'd have to do some serious playtesting with this list to really know how well the two strategies came together.

Runechanter's Pike
Amorphous Axe

The last "path not traveled" option that I didn't explore is to really abuse Minn's ability to put permanents onto the battlefield. Using equipment to pump up my Illusions in a way that doesn't increase their toughness could allow me to use something like Skullclamp to draw cards and plop more stuff onto the battlefield. Skullclamp is generally just amazing, so I could see a deck built around this kind of plan working well, but I'd also worry that you would run out of creature tokens too quickly. Minn's ability to generate new tokens is pretty well throttled - this is not the next incarnation of Talrand, Sky Summoner.

Final Thoughts

Do you have a casual enough meta, or are you a chill enough EDH player that you could enjoy a deck like this? Do you think there are ways to really crank up the power level that somehow escaped my notice? Let me know in the comments. As often as I'm able to play, I also love to hear from readers and I know there are always going to be things I miss in my columns.

I should note that if you're interested in Minn, you should definitely check out Jumbo Commander's dive into Minn. My column had already been started when it became clear he was covering Minn, so if you prefer to see more variety in our offerings here, well - so do I. We CSI writers do occasionally overlap though and I wasn't in a position to be able to scrap this column at the last minute.

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

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