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Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam in Commander


The Windmill at Wijk Bij Duurstede by Jacob Van Ruisdael (1670). Seal Away by Joseph Meehan.

This week's column is another dive into one of my favorite kinds of deckbuilding challenges: a puzzle that desperately wants to be solved. In Commander it's not all that hard to break commanders wide open, go infinite, make crazy amounts of mana, and win the game. My problem is that I'm partial to finding interesting and offbeat ways to win games. I've written up lots of tired old combo decks, and this could just be another in that grand tradition, but I think I've managed to find a fun and amusing way for this deck to close out a game.

Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam

Drafna's abilities mean I can cast a Sol Ring for 1 mana and before letting it resolve I can tap Drafna, pay 3 and get a token Sol Ring!

Who doesn't want two Sol Rings?

My first thought when I looked at Drafna was that there had to be a way to make infinite mana by bouncing and re-casting mana rocks. In Magic, nearly anything is possible, but what I didn't expect was that I'd end up centering this deck around a mana rock that I would normally never even consider running in an EDH deck. I also chose to skip over what might be one of the most powerful artifacts ever printed, because apparently I'm a hipster and I don't want to win games on "easy mode".

What is this wincon I'm chasing and which combo staple have I chosen to leave out?

Don't worry - we'll get there, but first let's look at the backbone of today's list.

For Those About To Rock...

We salute you!

This deck is going to run a lot of mana rocks. A few of them only make colorless mana, but the most important ones can produce colored mana.

Arcane Signet
Commander's Sphere
Gilded Lotus

Those might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but making colored mana is what I need to be able to pay to bounce an artifact back to my hand using Drafna's first ability. It's just one piece of the puzzle, but it's an important one.

Dramatic Reversal
Isochron Scepter
Doubling Cube

Running as many mana rocks as I have in Drafna positions this deck nicely to run the Dramatic Scepter combo, which involves imprinting Dramatic Reversal onto Isochron Scepter. Every time you cast Dramatic Reversal you untap all of your artifacts, so all of your mana rocks and your Isochron Scepter can be used again and again. So long as you're producing at least 3 mana, you can generate infinite mana. This is another piece of this puzzle, but it also doesn't win the game on its own, even with Drafna on the field.

Doubling Cube is another really interesting card in Drafna. It costs 2 mana and for 3 mana can tap to double the amount of mana in my mana pool. With Doubling Cube and Drafna on the battlefield, if I can produce 11 or more mana, I can go infinite.

The math looks something like this:

  • 11 - Mana in my Mana Pool with Drafna and Doubling Cube in play.
  • 08 - Mana after paying 3 to double the mana in my mana pool.
  • 16 - Mana after the mana in my pool gets doubled.
  • 14 - Mana after paying 2 to return Doubling Cube to my hand.
  • 12 - Mana after re-casting Doubling Cube, so that I can do it again!

If I start with 10 mana, I can still get infinite artifact ETBs and casts and can run up a nice storm count.

If I can make infinite mana, that opens up all kinds of other possibilities.

Greasing the Wheels

Making my artifact spells cost less will make everything I'm trying to do just that much easier. I can bounce and re-cast any artifact in my hand or on my side of the battlefield as many times as I like. Foundry Inspector, Etherium Sculptor and Jhoira's Familiar all help with that.

Saving one mana isn't bad, but it's a far cry from what I'm looking for. It's better than paying full price, so I'm running the cost reducers shown above along with The Immortal Sun, Cloud Key and Stone Calendar.

Ugin, the Ineffable
Training Grounds

Saving two mana on my colorless spells is too good to pass up, so Ugin has a place in today's list. Saving on casting costs is great but saving mana on my activated abilities is another way I can try to grease the wheels on this convoluted plan. Heartstone and Training Grounds will let me pay one Blue mana to bounce an artifact. The more I can drop my mana costs for executing my Doubling Cube loop, the easier it will be to pull off.

Going infinite with Doubling Cube is fun, but what if I could go infinite with just Gilded Lotus? I'd need to be able to pay two mana to bounce and re-cast that expensive mana rock. It's not going to be easy, but there might be a way to do it.

My dream of bouncing Gilded Lotus, re-casting it and somehow making infinite mana gets a little easier when I only have to pay a Blue mana to bounce it, but I'll still need to drop that card's casting cost from five mana down to one mana in order to go infinite. That would require a lot of cost reducers, as nearly all of them reduce my casting costs by just one mana.

This all seems impossible until you remember that Drafna can tap to copy artifact spells. I can cast a Jhoira's Familiar, copy it, bounce the original Jhoira's Familiar on the end step of the player to my right and on my turn so taht I can cast and copy it again. At that point I'll still only be saving three mana on my Gilded Lotus so I'll still need to do it again. This is looking more like a fun windmill to tilt at than a solid plan to actually win games, but I enjoy having a difficult thing to try to accomplish in a deck.

Greasing the wheels on this deck's game plan looks like it will make it easier to land a Doubling Cube infinite mana combo than a Gilded Lotus infinite mana combo, but it's fun to have a few odd things to try to do with a deck. If you were more competitively minded, you might focus on Dramatic Scepter or other more compact infinite mana combos, but I enjoy a bit of jank in my brews.

Drafna Payoffs

Even if I can't make infinite mana, being able to loop an artifact a half dozen times is the sort of thing I should be taking advantage of.

Efficient Construction and Sai, Master Thopterist can flood the skies with 1/1 Thopter tokens by creating a Thopter each time I cast an artifact spell. They won't have haste, but it's still a fine way to threaten a win. Kappa Cannoneer is also in the deck. It might not kill the table, but if I can make him big or even lethal, he'll represent an unblockable threat. Also, he's probably the coolest Turtle printed since Archelos, Lagoon Mystic, so he's definitely got a place in today's list.

It's all well and good to have wincons in a deck, but you have to draw into them. Fortunately, there are some great cards with synergy for Drafna's game plan that should help get us there.

Vedalken Archmage
Thought Monitor
Azure Mage

Vedalken Archmage will have me draw a card every time I cast an artifact spell. Thought Monitor will draw me two cards when it enters the battlefield and it's an artifact creature so I can bounce it and re-play it if I have enough mana. Azure Mage might seem unassuming, but she's a fantastic infinite mana outlet that will let me draw cards if I have mana to play into her activated ability.

At the start of this column I promised that I had a weird card to use to win a game, and that there was a staple that I should be running that I decided to leave out. There's also a staple in Blue infinite mana decks that I chose to leave in. These choices are mine, and to some extent they're a bit arbitrary. These are all great cards and you could run all of them if you wanted to.

Staff of Domination

Well, "great" might be an overstatement for one of them.

As they say, one of these things is not like the others.

Staff of Domination is the card I decided to leave out of today's list. It is a great card and could make this list better, but it always feels a little too easy for my taste. I've got one in my Elfball combo deck, but I didn't include it in this list.

How could I when I've got a card like Meteorite to run instead?

Am I joking? Well, maybe a little... but hear me out. You can use Drafna's ability to bounce your Meteorite to your hand and play it again and again, killing the table in 2 damage increments with one of the worst mana rocks ever printed!

How could I resist?

If you think I've lost my edge, that would suggest I had one to begin with, but have no fear - I did include a little fellow named Memnarch. This artifact Wizard can take infinite mana, turn every permanent on the field into an artifact and then put all of those artifacts under your control. That means creatures, enchantments, planeswalkers and even lands!

You won't be engaging in land destruction. Memnarch is worse - he deals in land relocation. Nothing upsets a Magic player like having their lands stolen, but at least you should be able to convince the table to scoop up so you can start another game.

Drafna's Meteor Showers

This deck has a healthy suite of counterspells and a decent number of tutors because it's aiming to land a combo and win by having a big, stormy turn where there's a lot going on. You're not going to win a lot of games through combat with this build, but if you enjoy the kind of deck that tries to build up and launch a big combo with spells to protect it, this might be the deck for you.

I wouldn't blame you one bit if you dropped out Stone Calendar and threw in Staff of Domination. You might even want to throw in Solemn Simulacrum, Ichor Wellspring or Spine of Ish Sah so you can bounce those and try to squeeze a few extra ETB triggers out of the deck. As with all my lists, you should absolutely adjust them to match your playstyle and fit into your meta. This is a starting point, not a finished, polished, perfect list.

If you wanted to tune this list up, you would probably add in more interaction, as higher-powered metas tend to have more things you'll have to stop before you can try to push out your own wincon. This list is already sporting some expensive cards but adding more stack interaction in blue is rarely a bad idea. Moving towards a Laboratory Maniac / Thassa's Oracle / Jace, Wielder of Mysteries wincon might also make sense if you're also adding in Staff of Domination so you can draw your deck for the win. If you were going to try to push up towards cEDH you'd have to ask yourself if you might not do better with Arcum Dagsson or Memnarch in the command zone. You might even switch over to Urza, Lord High Artificer, as cEDH is more about winning than about playing niche commanders and weird combos that end in a meteor shower.

To tune this list down, you'd likely drop the expensive counterspells and you might even drop out Memnarch. Land theft is rarely appreciated in casual circles. I'm not sure if it's worth dropping out combos entirely, but I might consider a combo build that was designed to ONLY win with Meteorite to be sufficiently janky and weird to be worth a try.

Final Thoughts

This list has a decent assortment of what I think it needs to get the job done. You've got artifact mana ramp, interaction, recursion, ways to cast your artifacts at instant speed, and enough tutors to give you a decent shot at finding a wincon. I still find myself wondering if there are too many artifacts, if I skimped too much on card draw, if I set the mana curve too low, and so on. It takes me quite a few games to really get a feel for how a deck is going to play and what I need to change to make it really play well.

For a more casual meta, you could probably build a much more combat-oriented artifact deck around Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam and have a lot of fun. Playing out a Wurmcoil Engine in the mid-game, and later being able to bounce it and replay it with the mana to make a copy sounds like fun to me. This deck is running Freed From the Real and Mirran Spy as ways to untap Drafna so you can use his copy ability more than once per turn. Whether you're making extra copies of Gilded Lotus, Thought Monitor or even a Wurmcoil Engine, there is definitely fun to be had copying artifact spells with Drafna.

If I've missed any obvious auto-includes, given you any neat ideas for your own list, or turned you on to the idea of dropping Meteorites on the heads of your tablemates, let me know. If you're on the CSI Facebook Page please leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

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

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