A Different Approach To Aminatou

This commander is quickly becoming one of the most popular new leaders in the format! Sheldon Menery provides the sequel to Bennie Smith’s interpretation of the new face of Esper!



polls have spoken. Aminatou, the Fateshifter will be the first deck that
I’ve built with a planeswalker as a commander. I was kind of hoping for
Lord Windgrace to win just so I could start playing Arixmethes, Slumbering
Isle a few days faster, but I’ll just put it into some other deck.

I’ve gone into this build with three goals in mind. One, to make Aminatou
important to the deck, not just a color choice. I want to get mileage out
of all three of her abilities. Second, I want to avoid cards which are in
the pre-constructed decks as much as possible. Obviously, the thematic
choice is to play Aminatou’s Augury since it’s named after her, but the
idea here is to go in a new direction of my own, not update the one out of
the box. Third, I’d like to use a heavy number of more recent cards (not to
the point of making it Modern-legal or anything, although that might be a
fun challenge), to include Commander 2018 cards which are in the
set but not in the Subjective Reality deck.

Aminatou has three distinct abilities, which leads us down three different
roads of exploration. The first, which draws a card and then puts a card
from your hand back on top of your library, suggest miracles-three of which
are in the deck. That’s a path we won’t head down. Instead, we’ll go with a
bit more of a “top of the library matters” theme, paired with advantages
for drawing cards and having a larger hand (although not down the Maro
Sorcerer road of my Phelddagrif deck; I even intentionally avoided
Psychosis Crawler for this deck). The second ability suggests a blink
theme, for which there are endless routes of exploration. We’ll choose a
few. The second ability plays into the third, since it blinks something own, not control. The third, extremely fun, ability shifts control
of nonland permanents left or right. This is the deck’s deepest
exploration-what to do when someone else controls everything you own. I
suspect that in my group, people will be intrigued how it will all play
out, so they’re more likely to not take aggressive action against Aminatou.
Here’s the list; afterward, we’ll talk about the individual card choices.

Aminatou's Demonic Fate
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 08-16-2018
Magic Card Back

Playing the deck will involve understanding when to make the choice of
playing some cards or holding them back. Conjurer’s Closet is one you want
on the battlefield as quickly as possible under normal circumstances. With
Aminatou, however, you don’t want to give it away, so if you know you’ll
being using her ultimate, keeping it in your hand until afterward is the
better choice. You have to always think about your lines of play in any
Magic deck; which direction you are going to (or want to) take with this
one will need additional consideration. Let’s talk about the individual

Legendary Creatures (6)

Athreos, God of Passage: Another card to really think about playing if
you’ll be using the Aminatou ultimate, remember that you can’t get rid of
it with Despotic Scepter, which is one of the reasons Tel-Jilad Stylus
showed up.

Demonlord Belzenlok: Drawing at least one card is worth the damage.

Erebos, God of the Dead: I like to draw cards, and don’t like you gaining
life. Voila.

Isperia, Supreme Judge: It’s not actual protection for you or your
planeswalkers, but it’s a way of helping recover. Sometimes, there are
attacks people make, like the Shadowmage Infiltrator. With Isperia, you can
volunteer to take one for profit.

Kothophed, Soul Hoarder: The ideal scenario with Kothophed is to use it for
a little card draw for yourself, then give it away when someone is low on
life. Makes me think I should have put Chromeshell Crab into the deck.

Toothy, Imaginary Friend: Be careful Toothy doesn’t come back to bite you.

Creatures (30)

Abhorrent Overlord: The deck has quite a commitment to black, so a fat
flyer that creates little friends is quite saucy.

Abyssal Persecutor: This was the card around which I started initially
thinking to build the deck. A 6/6 flyer for 2BB is good enough, especially
in the early game. Obviously, the play is to give it away with Aminatou; if
not, there are a number of ways to get rid of it should it become a

Agent of Erebos: A little bit of graveyard control, that’s copyable with
Estrid’s Invocation.

Angel of Despair: Part of the blink package that’s a big beater to boot.

Archfiend of Despair: When you have a commander that’s not a creature,
commander damage wins aren’t going to happen. That means that uncontrolled
lifegain from opponents is bad. Archfiend of Despair is a way to prevent
getting wrecked while doing some wrecking back. I’m not a Wound Reflection
fan, but since the Archfiend is a creature, it’s more vulnerable to

Ashen Rider: Angel of Despair’s stronger sibling, this is one you want to
think about playing if you’ll be using Aminatou’s ultimate any time soon.

Augury Adept: One of those cards that I try to find room for in decks but
often can’t make work, Augury Adept plays into the top of the library
control theme.

Big Game Hunter: Big game, it must be hunted.

Bloodgift Demon: Card draw in Demon form. It’s my friend Shea’s favorite
card, and since we haven’t played together in a while (he moved just far
enough away for it to be inconvenient), this one is a nod to him.

Burnished Hart: Esper decks need land ramp, and Burnished Hart is one of
the few options.

Chasm Skulker: Part of the card drawing theme, Chasm Skulker will also
provide small things for Demons to eat.

Demon of Wailing Agonies: One of the things which lieutenants suffer from
is that they get killed along with the commander when a board wipe happens.
With a planeswalker commander, that’s less of an issue.

Eldrazi Displacer: Blinky the Eldrazi was the first card I thought of after
Abyssal Persecutor, and you’ll see that it informed a number of other
choices of creatures with good enters-the-battlefield triggers.
Panharmonicon was in the deck in an early draft because of it, but ended up
getting cut for space late in the process.

Ephara, God of the Polis: I had Druidic Satchel in the deck for a while to
go along with Ephara, but it’s honestly good enough on its own.

Felidar Guardian: Blink chain technology?

Glen Elendra Archmage: Late in the drafting process, I realized that
creatures with persist return under their owner’s control. Glen Elendra
Archmage is already good, but if it happens to end up under someone else’s
control, it’s not that bad.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel: A win condition that doesn’t involve creature
combat, Gray Merchant is also something you don’t mind letting another
player have once its done its job.

Karmic Guide: Perfect thing to reanimate with Karmic Guide? Abhorrent
Overlord; you weren’t going to pay the echo anyway.

Knight of the White Orchid: Another land ramp tool, remember that it gets
any Plains card, not just basic ones.

Loyal Drake: Simple and good.

Mulldrifter: Sometimes, you just have to go with the classics.

Oreskos Explorer: Just like with Knight of the White Orchid, it gets more
than basic Plains.

Puppeteer Clique: Another creature with persist and an old favorite,
there’s nothing like an excuse to play Puppeteer Clique.

Reaper from the Abyss: A little bit of creature control that’s not a mass
board wipe, Reaper of the Abyss is also just a beating.

Restoration Angel: The last creature element of the blink package which
also goes with Aminatou’s ultimate, since it brings the creature back under
your control.

Shriekmaw: If you want to get really techy, you can play Shriekmaw for its
evoke cost, then use Restoration Angel to blink it out. When the triggered
ability resolves, it can’t find the original to sacrifice.

Solemn Simulacrum: Enough has been said already about Solemn Simulacrum, so
I’ll just remind you to vote. We have an important election coming up;
don’t be left out of deciding your future.

Sower of Discord: I know this is in the preconstructed deck, but it’s cool
enough to want to play.

Stunt Double: It’s also cool enough to want to copy.

Sun Titan: There are a few creatures to loop back with Sun Titan, like
Burnished Hart, but Wayfarer’s Bauble also seems like a good target.

Artifacts (10)

Conjurer’s Closet: There might be a line of play in which you run
Conjurer’s Closet out early for value, even knowing that you’re going to
use Aminatou’s ultimate, then just wait until someone inevitably blows it

Darksteel Ingot: A mana rock in an indestructible package.

Demonic Pact: When it comes to things you eventually want to give away,
Demonic Pact is a clever choice. It would be even funnier if you could give
it and Abyssal Persecutor to different people.

Despotic Scepter: A parachute should Demonic Pact get out of hand, it’s
mostly for killing stuff that I’ve given away that will inevitably come
back to hit me in the face.

Herald’s Horn: Especially once Arcane Adaptation is on the battlefield, the
dividends are huge. It also goes along with the top of the library

Sensei’s Divining Top: Speaking of which, I’m writing a note to myself to
always remember to put this on top before activating Aminatou’s ultimate.

Sword of War and Peace: Hand size matters, plus it’s protection for a
creature from Threaten (more like to be Molten Primordial in my group) and
Swords to Plowshares.

Tel-Jilad Stylus: Much the same as Despotic Scepter, as well as giving some
options for keeping things out of the graveyard and having them to recast.

Venser’s Journal: Another hand size matters card.

Wayfarer’s Bauble: Land ramp for the non-green set.

Enchantments (5)

Arcane Adaptation: The wheel behind the Demon theme, Arcane Adaptation
almost led me to also try Ninjas, but Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow really
needs to be the deck’s commander to get mileage out of it. That’s certainly
on the drawing board.

Estrid’s Invocation: It might seem that five other enchantments might not
be enough to play this, but there’s a sixth: Agent of Erebos. There are
actually three more: Ephara, God of the Polis; Erebos, God of the Dead; and
Athreos, God of Passage; although they’re a little awkward to copy.

Ever-Watching Threshold: If you have a planeswalker commander, you’ll want
some protection. This might not be enough to completely stop someone who
will do in your commander, but at least you’ll get something out of it.

Liliana’s Contract: It’s a long shot that a game ever ends with the
contract, but it’s worth playing anyway for the card draw. Plus, you can
give it away if you’re not doing Demons with it.

Norn’s Annex: More commander and face protection.

Instants (4)

Cauldron Haze: I had thought of Cauldron of Souls for when I give away my
creatures, but then I realized I might also have to give away the Cauldron,
too. Enter Cauldron Haze as a little Wrath protection.

Cloudshift: The effect of Restoration Angel in instant form.

Cyclonic Rift: One of the few battlefield control cards in the deck, it’ll
leave us with someone else’s creatures on the battlefield PLUS our own
stuff back in our hands. And, you know, it’s just good under normal

Teferi’s Protection: Be to be perfectly honest, this was a last minute
addition (replacing Saving Grasp) when I remembered that it is an instant.
I was thinking the whole time, “man, it would be cool to activate
Aminatou’s ultimate and then respond with Teferi’s Protection.” Well guess
what, me? I can. And it’ll be a beating for someone, so tread carefully.

Sorcery (4)

Cleansing Nova: It’s nice to have options that aren’t Austere Command.

Damnation: I considered one of the higher-cost board wipes, like In
Garruk’s Wake, but in the end decided on the cheaper mana cost because it’s
more likely to be able to save my commander.

Echo Storm: I’m not convinced that we’ll be casting Aminatou all that many
times, but if so, imagine having three or four Conjurer’s Closets!

Merciless Eviction: It’s also nice to have options that exile stuff.

Planeswalkers and Gods (3)

Sorin, Grim Nemesis: “How bad could it be?” asks the person who lets you
get to nine loyalty counters on Sorin. “No one’s gained life because of
your damn Erebos.”

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: This one is all about the first ability and then
seeing if anyone is silly enough to let you get to the emblem.

Venser, the Sojourner: Emblems like this are a good reason to not have
planeswalkers as commanders.

Fellow Commander Columnist Bennie Smith also ran a similar poll and got
similar results, so he built an Aminatou of his own. We slightly differed
on the ultimate ability; his thought was that it would scare players. It
might on an obviously bad-for-them gamestate (like with Teferi’s Protection
involved), but I think for the most part that folks will embrace the chaos.
Bennie went with a great deal more top-of-the-library control and went for
the Miracles angle which I intentionally avoided. Bennie also felt as
though The Eldest Reborn would be too vicious when paired with Aminatou. It
seems strong but not too terrible. I very much like his choice of Blind
Obedience for protection against hasty creatures (plus its other
advantages). All in all, even though we went somewhat different directions,
he built a fine deck. Check it and his discussion of it out

Question of the Week

This week’s question comes from Shabbaman on the

official Commander forums


All joking about unbanning Recurring Nightmare aside, have you recently
tested this in your group or store? I recall you mentioned you were
planning to, but I don’t recall reading about the results. It does
sound like a fun exercise.

That was several years ago now. I had put a slip of paper into the sleeve
of a card in each of my black decks to note that’s what I’d replace with
Recurring Nightmare. The intention was to make notes on whether or not RN
would have been a good card to draw in that situation, which obviously
discounts crafting the deck around it with tutors and whatnot. The idea was
to see if Recurring Nightmare could unintentionally wreck games. The short
answer is that while the testing wasn’t extensive, it didn’t yield any
definable results. At some point, I abandoned it for a number of reasons,
like note-taking slowing down games, cards marked for replacement actually
got replaced by legal cards, and whatnot.

I encourage anyone interested to try it out with their own suite of decks.
If you end up with result you think we’ll need to hear, feel free to reach
out. For now, the card will get brought up at every meeting and we’ll
assess whether or not we think the environment is safe for it-since the
environment changes all the time.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers


Kresh Into the Red Zone


Halloween with Karador


Dreaming of Intet


You Did This to Yourself




Heliod, God of Enchantments


Thassa, God of Merfolk


Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead


Forge of Purphoros


Nylea of the Woodland Realm



Evil No. 9.


Lavinia Blinks


Obzedat, Ghost Killer


Aurelia Goes to War


Trostani and Her Angels


Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind


Zegana and a Dice Bag


Rakdos Reimagined


Glissa, Glissa


Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club


Gisa and Geralf Together Forever


Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox


Angry, Angry Dinos


Animar’s Swarm


Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point


Ikra and Kydele


Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky


Demons of Kaalia


Merieke’s Esper Dragons


Nath of the Value Leaf


Queen Marchesa, Long May She Reign


Rith’s Tokens


The Mill-Meoplasm


The Altar of


The Threat of Yasova


Zombies of Tresserhorn


Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free


Saskia Unyielding


Breya Reshaped


Yidris Rotisserie Draft Deck



Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele


Kynaios and Tiro


Ikra and Kydele



Adun Oakenshield Do-Over


Animar Do-Over


Glissa Do-Over


Karador Do-Over


Karador Version 3


Karrthus Do-Over


Kresh Do-Over


Steam-Powered Merieke


Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over


Mimeoplasm Do-Over


Phelddagrif Do-Over


Rith Do-Over


Ruhan Do-Over


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