Aminatou? Don’t Mind If I Do!

Bennie put out another poll this week, and you’ve spoken! This week, he makes a build with one of the faces of Commander 2018!

Commander 2018
is here! I hope most of you were able to get out and see some of the decks
in action. I got in some multiplayer games where we just played the decks
right out of the box to get a sense of how the cards played together and
had a great time. Each of us played the face planeswalker commanders and
each of them had a lot of cool things going on.

I personally played two of the decks so far. I went with Saheeli first and
after spending most of the game in a fairly non-threatening position
(contrasted by some crazy plays by the other players) I was able to swoop
in at the very end and steal the win in a classic Commander maneuver. Next
game I played Lord Windgrace, and I have to say that planeswalker is quite
good. The ramp ability is truly absurd, and I imagine a deck built from the
ground up designed to maximize Lord Windgrace is going to be quite fierce.
I got out Crash of Rhino Beetles several times (people kept killing it) and
got Worm Harvest going, but unfortunately none of them were able to block a
deadly swarm of Angels that took me out.

After watching my decks and all the other decks in action I can definitely
say I’m stoked to build brand new decks around many of our new choices.
Last week I decided to leave the choice up to my followers on Twitter, and
they picked Xantcha, Sleeper Agent from the Jund deck. I got such a good
response from the polls that I decided to run it back again for the next
week, only this time I took the Jund deck out of the equation.

Esper won! Then I opened up voting on the four commander choices. Now, I
was pretty certain I knew which one would win the vote – I would have put
money on it – but I was curious to see if any of the other choices would
keep things interesting.

I have to say that Aminatou, the Fateshifter was not the choice I was
expecting! I mean c’mon-there was Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow in the mix!
Ninja tribal? I thought for sure that would win.

Aminatou had other plans, apparently! Okay, so what is an Aminatou deck
going to look like? Well, first off, a three mana planeswalker comes down
pretty fast before the battlefield gets too cluttered, so that’s a big
plus. Next, let’s take a look at the three abilities.

+1: Draw a card, then put a card from your hand on top of your library.

It’s a little Brainstorm! Jace, the Mind Sculptor is one of the most
powerful planeswalkers ever created in part because of its ability to
Brainstorm each turn, so the fact that Aminatou does something similar is
exciting. Of course, one card isn’t digging nearly as hard as three, but in
exchange we have Aminatou gaining loyalty for the ability instead of
standing still. I think it helps to think of the ability as extending your
hand to the top of your library, and since there are quite a few cards that
care about the top of your library that sort of control is quite nice.
We’ll want plenty of those sorts of cards, and we’ll probably want some
ways to shuffle the library or scrying, so we can reset the top of our
library if we need to get rid of unhelpful cards or just get a fresh look.

-1: Exile another target permanent you own, then return it to the
battlefield under your control.

This offers up all kinds of interesting ideas. Magic players, in general,
and Commander players, specifically, love to play permanents that have
value attached to them entering the battlefield, so being able to “blink”
one on demand from your commander is awesome. I like that it lets you blink
your lands, so if you draw your Bojuka Bog in your opening hand before
there are any graveyards that need regulating (something I seems to do all
the time) that’s okay-Aminatou’s got your back. Another cool angle is the
ability lets you reclaim any permanent your opponent may have taken from
you (assuming you can target it).

-6: Choose left or right. Each player gains control of all nonland
permanents other than Aminatou, the Fateshifter controlled by the next
player in the chosen direction.

A word of warning-this ability is going to freak out your opponents. It’s
highly likely that if your loyalty gets too close to 6 six, then you’ll
become Archenemy, so be cautious. I’d also say maybe think twice before
pairing this with Teferi’s Protection because that’s just cruel. Instead,
my instinct is to offer that ability as a way to defend against a player
that has become too oppressive and has alarmed the table. You can mention
one way to break it up is to move control of the permanents to the next
player, who will then (hopefully) stomp the first player’s face in. That
way people might be willing to let you rack up the loyalty if you’re going
to play the hero.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

Top of the Deck

Aminatou itself lets us control the top of our deck, but it’s okay to add
redundancy with cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Brainstorm, and Ponder. I
also really like having lots of cards that let us scry since we can push
cards we don’t want away to the bottom of our deck.

I’m a big proponent of the Panoramas in general (see my article
Let’s Talk About Lands
), but they’re awesome in this deck as a way to reset the top of your deck
on demand while tapping for mana when you don’t need to. Of course, there
is the downside of also shuffling cards you may have scryed to the bottom
back into the mix, so keep that in mind when making the decision.

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign is a fantastic payoff card for knowing what’s
sitting on top of your deck. You’ll either be able to cast it for free or
draw it, and both choices are great. Of course, the biggest payoff for
controlling the top of your deck are the miracles.


I initially started out with all the miracles but made a couple quick cuts
after thinking about them. For instance, I don’t think I want to return all
my nonland permanents even if it wrecks my opponents more, so Devastation
Tide got cut. I like these choices because they’re more surgical and there
aren’t too many of them to clog up your hand and the top of your deck, but
enough that they’ll show up when you need one.

Enters the Battlefield

Okay, here’s the bread and butter of our deck, all the value and then more
value with Aminatou! I really the ones that have a scry ability attached
like Augury Owl since that synergizes with our top of the library theme.

Brago, King Eternal is a nice way to leverage nearly all of our permanents
with enters the battlefield abilities that we want to play anyway. Speaking
of, Primordial Mist pairs up nicely with blink effects-if the card you
manifest is a permanent, you can basically turn it face up without costing
you mana, and if it also has an enters the battlefield trigger that’s so
much added value.

One card that might be a little too vicious is The Eldest Reborn. Paired up
with Aminatou you basically have The Abyss with Cunning Lethemancer
attached – but just for your opponents. The saving grace is that you may
just want it to finish the chapters so you can steal a planeswalker or
creature from an opponent’s graveyard. Just make sure you don’t blink it!


Speaking of good blink targets, how about planeswalkers? Use one of Jace
Beleren’s abilities, exile it with Aminatou, then use one of the abilities
from the “new” Jace Beleren. Seems fair, right? Yeah, I think we want a
fair number of added planeswalkers, especially ones that can manipulate the
top of your library too, like Liliana Vess, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, and
Teferi, Temporal Archmage.

Add to the mix the Oath cards for Esper and you’re cooking with gas. Blink
an Oath of Gideon and you get some token creatures. Blink a planeswalker
and Oath of Gideon gives it an additional loyalty counter.

And then when we look at Oath of Teferi and The Chain Veil? Wow, that’s
some crazy stuff we got going on!


We’ll want a fair amount of removal spells at our disposal since the
typical route to killing off our planeswalkers will be attacking them with
creatures. Some of these cards have removal effects attached to an enters
the battlefield trigger and that’s just bonus value for Aminatou.


We’re playing blue, so we’ll want a few ways to just say “no” to keep our
opponents honest. With all the top of the deck manipulation we should have
one when we need it without loading up with too many.

I added Blind Obedience to the mix to keep haste creatures from
unexpectedly raining on our parade. Seems wise, no?


Some typical ramp and a few new gems. Isolated Watchtower gives us another
scry ability while letting us catch up a bit if any of our opponents are
ramping too hard, as does Boreas Charger. Both can also be blinked for good

One cool thing I realized-if you’ve transformed Treasure Map into Treasure
Cove, once you’ve used up your Treasure tokens you could blink Treasure
Cove to get back your Treasure Map. Besides, you may want to keep on
scrying with Treasure Map.

Esper Goodstuff

Let’s round things out with some good cards that don’t really fit any of
the other categories. Phyrexian Reclamation and Retrofitter Foundry are
nice cheap spells that are helpful at many stages of the game. Skullstorm
is a potent game-winning spell that’s nice to have in this deck since you
have lots of ways to shuffling it away if you draw it early or digging for
it when you need it lategame. Aminatou’s Augury is similarly absurd.

Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make out cuts.

Let’s start by taking a look at our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

83 total cards, plus 36 lands, equals a whopping 19 cards too many! Let’s
look at the top of our mana curve. I like all of the big splashy spells at
the top of the curve, so let’s get down to the six-mana spells and the
first of the hard cuts.

These are great cards, but Banishing Stroke is definitely less powerful
than most of our other miracles. Noxious Gearhulk is awesome and I’m sure
I’m going to miss the lifegain, but it’s hard to beat the exile attached to

Some more tough cuts at five mana, but we’ve got a lot of our planeswalker
suite here so other things had to hit the cutting room floor.

Ouch, some more hard cuts at four mana, but the cards that remain I feel
are just better.

Shaving a few more cards lower down the curve–I think these are safe cuts.
We’ve got a lot of scry power in this deck so Crystal Ball and Omenspeaker
can be trimmed.

The last cuts were tough and I’m not entirely sure they’re the right ones
to go, but they seemed a little less vital than other choices.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Aminatou, the Fateshifter
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 08-13-2018
Magic Card Back

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone
another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?

If you’re an Aminatou fan, be sure to check out Sheldon Menery’s column
later this week!
At the end of his column last week
he ran a poll to see which of the face cards from Commander 2018
he should build a deck around, and as fate would have it… Aminatou, the
Fateshifter won that poll too. How weird and creepy is that?

Anyway, make sure you check out which direction he went, compare and
contrast, and see what works best for you!

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)