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Marisi Combat Tricks

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A painting of a mountain landscape at sunset, a dragon with a glowing, red maw flying in the foreground.

Twilight by Frederic Edwin Church. Volcanic Dragon by Chris Rahn.

I've unsleeved a lot of decks in the past week or so. My recent experiments with building a couple of vanilla commanders were ill-advised and wound up giving me more bad games that I usually like to have to suffer through. After a particularly sub-par Saturday and another disappointing casual night at the LGS, I wound up unsleeving Sivitri Scarzam, Jasmine Boreal, and the crazy Egg Lady, Atla Palani, Nest Tender.

My decision to take apart Atla Palani wasn't just the result of losing a game. I've played a lot of commander and I know how many games we wind up losing when playing decidedly janky, casual decks. Losing wasn't the issue. The issue was two-fold. I had grown tired of listening to people argue over how a field of eggs getting cracked actually resolves. I also wanted to build a deck around another very specific commander who was also in Naya colors.

Marisi, Breaker of the Coil

Marisi, Breaker of the Coil has some very interesting abilities. Your opponents can't cast spells during combat. Not only does that put you in a position where you don't have to worry about incoming combat tricks - you also don't have to worry as much about counter spells and removal when you are attacking. Like most players, I hate having my clever and devious plans foiled. I even hate having my simplistic and obvious plans foiled. Interaction is a core part of playing EDH, but nobody really wants their stuff messed with.

I'm most interested in Marisi's ability to play the role of Grand Abolisher during combat, but that's not all he brings to the party. Whenever a creature I control deals combat damage to a player, if Marisi is on the field that player's creatures will all be goaded. That means they have to attack and can't attack me until their next turn.

The more I think about it, the more I find it somewhat astonishing that I haven't built a deck around Marisi yet. I like goad as an ability and even built a Grenzo, Havoc Raiser deck a while back. It wasn't great, but it was fun to play with goad and I expect it will be fun to play with it again.

A Little Lifegain

Not all decks have a single card or interaction that winds up being the seed from which the deck grows, but this is one of those cases. To some extent this deck is going to exist because I really, really want to play one specific card and minimize the risk involved in trying to use it.

Evra, Halcyon Witness

Evra, Halcyon Witness is a 4/4 Legendary Avatar with lifelink and a neat ability. For four mana you can exchange your life total with Evra's power. If you're at 40 life, you can put yourself to four life and have Evra be a 40 power, 4 toughness creature. When Evra deals damage you'll gain 40 life, but there's a narrow window where you will be incredibly vulnerable. There are plenty of spells and lots of creature abilities that can deal out four damage in a pinch. Swinging with Evra to gain you 40 life and put you at 44 might not seem like a worthwhile risk, but the next time Evra deals damage you'll find yourself at 84 life. This is the kind of problem your opponents will have to deal with before things get really out of hand.

I never wanted to include Evra in a deck because I don't like exposing myself to that kind of risk. With Marisi all I've got to do is check to make sure there aren't any permanents on the field that could mess with my plans. A Maze of Ith or a Marath, Will of the Wild would easily be enough to mess with me and ruin my clever plans.

Some Combat Tricks

The Marisi / Evra synergy is pretty sweet, but the ability to engage more safely in combat tricks makes this a great deck to run a few more creatures that just love instant-speed shenanigans.

Feather, the Redeemed
Zada, Hedron Grinder
Mirrorwing Dragon

I had a Feather, the Redeemed deck that ran a bunch of infect creatures. It was fun, but I didn't wind up playing it that much. One thing I loved about Feather was her ability to let you play combat tricks and get them back. Haste-enabling cantrips were fantastic with Feather and would help to give you a nice little flow of card draw. I'm not including Feather in this deck because it's a great way to win games. I'm including her because I really enjoy decks that play with combat tricks and she synergizes well with that kind of game plan.

I also had a Zada, Hedron Grinder and really enjoyed how powerful his ability is. Both Zada and Mirrorwing Dragon will let you target them with a spell and copy that spell for each other creature you control. Mirrorwing Dragon actually lets your opponents get that "Zada effect" as well, but they are less likely to be playing a deck built to abuse that mechanic.

Expedite
Aggressive Urge
Lace with Moonglove

Anyone familiar with Zada, Hedron Grinder decks will know what kinds of craziness you can get up to when you start copying low mana instant spells for all of your creatures. With a decent board of creatures, Expedite gives haste and can draw you a lot of spells. A card like Aggressive Urge will give a little pump and Lace with Moonglove with grant deathtouch. Combat tricks are a lot of fun, and with creatures like Feather, Zada and Mirrorwing Dragon on the field they can go from being fun little tricks to a much more powerful strategy.

Fists of Flame
Pressure Point
Shelter

A card like Fists of Flame will give me even more pump and more card draw. Pressure Point can be used safely on Feather on an end step to draw a card and again on an opponent's creature to tap it to get our attackers through and draw another card. Shelter, Stave Off, and Gods Willing will all give a creature protection from the color of our choice, giving us another way to get an attacker through to damage an opponent and goad their creatures.

Getting Damage Through

The creature suite for this deck didn't start very large. I added Beast Whisperer for card draw and Burnished Hart, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Solemn Simulacrum for ramp, but the really spicy additions were the guys who should help me goad my opponents' creatures.

Lynx
Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa
Harbinger of Spring

I've got a few little flyers like Uktabi Drake and Uktabi Faerie, neither of which you should be familiar with, but also added in a few creatures with landwalk. Lynx and Jedit Ojanen of Efrava both have Forestwalk, making them unblockable by an opponent who controls even a single Forest. Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa will let any creature we have with power 2 or less get damage through on any opponent without a flyer available to block. Harbinger of Spring has protection from non-Spirit creatures. We'll never use his Soulshift 4 ability, but we'll be happy to get some free shots in on any opponent who doesn't happen to have a spirit available to block.

I'm also running a few creatures with the myriad keyword.

Caller of the Pack
Herald of the Host

When these creatures are attacking an opponent they create a copy of themselves attacking each other opponent. If we can get our opponents to have to attack each other they'll be less likely to have blockers and if things go well we can keep these guys swinging and goading them every turn until they find removal.

Taxing Attackers

We may want to keep our opponents attacking each other, but one way to help do that even without using Marisi's goad ability is to play creatures that will force them to pay mana to attack us.

Archon of Absolution
Baird, Steward of Argive
Windborn Muse

Archon of Absolution has flying and protection from White, making it a capable attacker. It will also force opponents to pay one mana for the privilege of attacking us with a creature. Baird, Steward of Archive will also tax them one mana for each attacker. Windborn Muse has flying and will tax the two mana for each attacker. This kind of effect might not stop a voltron deck but any deck that goes wide should have trouble throwing all of their creatures into the fray unless they attack someone else.

A Small Helping of Goodstuff

When you pull apart a bunch of decks, you wind up with a lot of cards you have to sort. I wound up sorting through a few piles of cards from older projects along with the leftovers from Sivitri, Jasmine and Atla. Not all of the cards in Red, White, and Green that I went through were ones that would make sense in a deck like Marisi, but I was happy to see plenty of cards that would fit right in.

Because I generally build my decks in paper, rather than just brainstorming fantasy builds or building for online play, I restrict myself to what I've got lying around. I'm not trying to build a cEDH deck and I'm not even trying to build a deck that can reliably hang with top tier decks. I'm building what I hope will be a fun casual deck that has a few tricks up its sleeve and will mostly play a fair game of Magic.

Heroic Intervention
Teferi's Protection
Krosan Grip

Heroic Intervention is the kind of card I should run in every deck. When I spotted it going through my loose cards I made a mental note to include it in one of my next projects because its way too good to leave in a binder. Teferi's Protection is also incredibly powerful and will reliably get you out of jams if you leave up enough mana to use it. You might wind up dying just when you phase back in, but it's way better to have it than leave it out.

Krosan Grip joined a bunch of other removal spells to give me some way to interact with artifacts and enchantments. It can be tempting to just go all in with creatures, but when some 1-drops a Food Chain, Isochron Scepter, or other combo piece, or just uses Mind Control on your commander, it's nice to have an answer.

The Decklist

Do good cards, a fun strategy and some basic deck-building concepts like running removal, draw and ramp make the ingredients for a powerful deck that will crush Commander tables? Probably not, but my goal is to make a deck that I will personally enjoy playing. It won't always work because most casual and semi-competitive decks don't always fire on all cylinders, but I should have a puncher's chance in most games.

Marisi Combat Tricks | Commander | Stephen Johnson


It's worth noting that I'm not above using combat tricks to help someone else's combat. Did I goad your creatures so they have to attack on your turn? Maybe. Will I use Kessig Wolf Run to help your attacker be just a little more effective? I just might do that, and I might even use my instants to help you out if it suits my purpose. This isn't the kind of deck that I'm using to try to win as many games as possible. I'll be trying to have fun, and sometimes that fun comes through messing with other players' plans. Sometimes it even comes from helping someone else do better, even if I'm eventually unable to bet them in the end. I'll be trying to have fun and what is fun to me may change from moment to moment and game to game.

Final Thoughts

I'm finishing up this column on Thursday night before CommandFest DC. If all goes well, I'll be spending the next three days playing dozens of games of Commander against all kinds of opponents.

I brought a blank book with me which I will be using to log notes about my games. My hope is to have something interesting to share with you next week from the many games I'll be playing and the many people I'll be meeting. I've got lots of crazy ideas but it's likely I'll just do my best to jam as many games as possible and find something interesting to write about.

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

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