Big Hands, I Know You’re The One

When it comes to drawing cards, Bennie Smith likes keeping them all! Enjoy the ride as he goes big in Commander with Tishana, Voice of Thunder!

It was super-cool that U.S. Nationals was held right here in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia a few weekends ago. What was even better was finding out that my friend and Magic Historian Brian David-Marshall would be in town for the event. While everyone knows that Brian is deeply ensconced in the Pro Magic community, what you may not know is that BDM is a huge fan of Commander! It always amuses me listening to the Top 8 Magic podcast he does with Mike Flores; whenever Brian brings up Commander, you can practically hear Mike’s eyes glazing over. Quite a few people who play competitive Magic just do not grok the appeal of a casual format like Commander, so it is always fantastic to run across big names in Magic like BDM enjoy both sides of the game.

I first met BDM about ten years ago when he was in town for a big Magic event; I believe it was a Grand Prix. I had heard through the grapevine he was just getting into Commander, so I asked if he would be interested in playing a game Saturday night. We ended up roping Pro Tour Hall of Famer Mike Turian to join us in a three-person game. Brian had his newly made Momir Vig, Simic Visionary deck. If I remember correctly, Turian had never played Commander but was curious to try it; since I had a couple of decks with me, I let him pick one. He chose my Jacques le Vert Naya deck and crushed us with it. I had built it to be my fun durdle deck, but Turian is a master and showed us that any Magic card is a dangerous weapon in his hands. We had a great time.

I reached out to BDM about sneaking in another Commander game this time around and he was up for it, so Saturday night Wendy and I met him in the lobby of the hotel a lot of the Nationals staff were staying in (a cool place called The Graduate). BDM got Magic coverage maestro Corbin Hosler to join us with Karador, Ghost Chieftain. BDM of course played Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. Wendy played my modified Edgar Markov Vampire tribal deck, and I brought out my beloved Feldon of the Third Path deck. Before the game even started, Corbin started talking smack to Brian about recurring Bojuka Bog and exiling Brian’s graveyard, and being that my Feldon deck was much more graveyard-centric than a Simic deck, I felt a twinge of worry about my deck choice. However, Feldon has some great tricks and uses some awesome old-school cards I thought Brian and Corbin would appreciate, so I stuck with it.

Based on what I drew, my gameplan was to play out the cards in my hand and then switch gears into Feldon mode and start with graveyard shenanigans. Well, the first part of my game went according to plan, but the turn before I was going to cast Feldon, my graveyard was exiled by Bojuka Bog. Then someone wiped the battlefield. I was out of gas, no Feldon shenanigans to speak of, and the top of my deck offered up nothing interesting for quite a few turns. It did not take long before I was eliminated from the game and turned into a ghostly spectator.

Wendy and her Vampires, however, were having a grand time feasting on Brian’s and Corbin’s life totals. Corbin spent a lot of time dealing with Wendy’s threats and getting in the occasional digs at Brian. Brian mostly just drew lots and lots and lots of cards. He cast Praetors’ Counsel so he had no limit to his hand size and drew even more cards. He tried to assemble the classic “Pickles” lock with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter, but thankfully, someone killed Brine Elemental. He did some funky things with Ixidon, turning all the creatures on the battlefield into facedown vanilla 2/2s, and eventually killed Corbin. Tidespout Elemental came down and started making Wendy pick up all her lands. Eventually Brian used the ultimate on Karn Liberated to start a new game with Wendy, only Brian got to start the game with Whisperwood Elemental and another big creature, and it did not take long to finish things from there. BDM certainly dominated the end-game in decidedly Simic fashion!

Afterwards he mentioned that he played one Commander game where he killed one player and then used the ultimate on Karn Liberated to start a new game. He killed another opponent and managed to use the ultimate on Karn Liberated again to start a new game, but his opponent conceded before BDM could officially tick off a “Karn-ception” victory, killing a different opponent in each level of the games.

Karnception… now that is one for the Bucket List, eh?

Speaking of Simic, Ixalan brings us a brand-new U/G Commander to build decks around, doesn’t it? If ever there was a Simic legendary creature that might push Brian off Momir Vig as Commander, it might be Tishana, Voice of Thunder!

Unlike Admiral Beckett Brass and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, Tishana, Voice of Thunder is not explicitly looking for you to build a tribal deck around her. That has not to say you cannot build a sweet Merfolk deck with Tishana as your Commander, but you are not limited to that. Tishana is just a great collection of abilities stapled to a slightly expensive (in Commander terms) card that could see play either in a stack of 99 or from the Command Zone. I read one Ixalan set review that pointed out Tishana, Voice of Thunder was actually an improved Regal Force, a card that has seen action in competitive 60-card formats. We are all used to being skeptical of cards that cost more than six mana, but it gets your attention when framed that way. Let us take a closer look at that text box.

Power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand: Ah, Tishana joins a distinguished club of creatures all modeled on the classic card Maro. The original Maro was designed by Mark Rosewater and was given his nickname Maro: Ma(rk) Ro(sewater). Since then there have been quite a few creatures where power and toughness are determined by hand size so we might want to include them in our Tishana deck.

You have no maximum hand size: If there is one universal truth about Magic players, it is that they love to draw cards. Thus it’s no surprise that cards like Reliquary Tower are incredibly popular, and having it stapled onto Tishana is sweet. I mean, what is better than a 7/7 Tishana? How about an 8/8, 10/10, 20/20, or 50/50 Tishana!

When Tishana enters the battlefield, draw a card for each creature you control: Okay, so here is the new and improved Regal Force clause, though thankfully the “green” restriction has been jettisoned so you can draw cards for each creature no matter what the color. Sweet!

Okay, let’s start brewing…

Creatures with Card Draw

Since Tishana’s card-drawing ability is linked to the number of creatures you have on the battlefield, the first cards I looked for were creatures who could replace themselves. That way you could develop your battlefield while keeping your hand flush with cards for Tishana’s power and toughness. Not only did I snap classic “cantrip” creatures, but also ones that can keep filling your hand with even more cards as the game goes on. I am particularly happy to find a home for River Hoopoe, a card with gorgeous artwork, an adorable creature with decent stats, and a fun name to say. Whoooo-poooooo.

I am suffering serious Standard withdrawals with Tireless Tracker’s rotation out of the format, so I am eager to find new homes for it in Commander. Of course, Tireless Tracker pretty much goes into any green deck that plays lands, so…

Other Card Draw

Green and blue also offer lots of raw card-drawing spells and engines not necessarily tacked onto a creature, so I included many of those as well. With Tireless Tracker in the mix, I am happy to drop in Ongoing Investigation and Ulvenwald Mysteries for some additional Clue-fueled shenanigans. Greater Good is a potent card-drawing spell in any green deck with big creatures but it plays particularly well in a deck with a fair number of “Maro” creatures, especially when one is your Commander. When power and toughness are tied to hand size,and you can sacrifice a creature to draw cards equal to its power (and then discard three), it can be easy to start nearly doubling the power of any “Maro” creatures that are still on the battlefield. Rishkar’s Expertise can do a good one-shot Greater Good impression with a “Maro” creature, with the spell you cast for free a sweet bonus.

Hand Size/Card Draw Matters

Even though Tishana has the “no maximum hand size” clause tacked on, I thought it would be wise to have the added redundancy of Reliquary Tower and Thought Vessel, which you get free tacked onto a card used for mana. Venser’s Journal is not free, but the lifegain you can get from it can keep your opponents scrambling to beat you with creature damage.

Let me tell you a quick story about Spontaneous Generation. Many years ago, before Commander or EDH was a thing, I had a group game deck that used Maro and Greater Good to “go off” and draw lots of cards. I also has Spontaneous Generation that could turn your large hand into lots and lots of Saprolings, which you really would not want to sacrifice to Greater Good, but I had another plan for those Saprolings, and it involved Elvish Farmer and Fecundity. When I drew all those moving parts, the engine was fun for me and horrifying for my opponents, to the point that a friend would kill every Elvish Farmer I played for the longest time.

Speaking of Greater Good and “Maro” creatures, Empyrial Plate does a great job of turning any creature – maybe River Hoopoe! – into a Maro. Equip to an actual Maro and you get to double its size. Now that is the very definition of good times!

By the way, if you have never played Psychosis Crawler with Greater Good, I suggest you remedy that.

Simic Good Stuff

Green and blue offer up quite a few great utility spells we can pepper in here. After all, if the plan is to draw many cards, you want to draw cards that do stuff other than just draw more cards. For the counterspells, I mostly chose ones that replace themselves (at least) to keep with the theme of keeping your hand full. I was also excited to include Rite of Replication, Spitting Image, and Progenitor Mimic to keep the “Maro” creatures flowing. I mean, playing Rite of Replication kicked on your Psychosis Crawler with a Greater Good on the battlefield should strike fear in even the most smugly secure opponent.

I would like to take a moment for a Public Service Announcement: you can expect to see Conqueror’s Galleon is most Commander decks from now on, so prepare yourselves. I think the card has fantastic utility for just about any Commander deck that plays creatures with four power or greater, particularly when the Commander fits that bill. The value that Conqueror’s Foothold offers in a format that typically goes long is incredible. I have been picking up copies while the card is cheap and plentiful because I will be using lots of them for the foreseeable future.

Okay, so here is the full list:

Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-23-2017

If you like drawing cards, Tishana is the commander for you! What do you think? How would you go about building it differently?

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)