Commander Single Card Strategy #2

Last time I wrote about the subtly useful Distorting Lens; this time, I’m writing about another one of those situationally-useful cards that doesn’t do anything on its own and is easy to overlook — Sundial of the Infinite!

Hello, everybody and Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday season, culminating with much fun and merry-making. I thought I’d kick off
2012 with another Single Card Strategy for Commander ( you can read the first one here). Commander is
such a huge, wide open, and crazy format that includes so many fun and wild interactions that even someone like me is constantly being surprised by
cards my opponent plays. I know I personally find it a point of pride to find funky, off-the-radar cards to put into my Commander deck to surprise
people with, so I hope this feature can provide fun “tech” that you can then go on to use to spice up your own Commander brews. Between the SCS
feedback form and the comments below, I hope to discover some nice hidden gems and interactions from you as well!

Sundial of the Infinite

Last time I wrote about the subtly useful Distorting Lens; this time, I’m writing about another one of those situationally-useful cards that doesn’t do
anything on its own and is easy to overlook — Sundial of the Infinite! While Distorting Lens isn’t all that difficult to suss out plenty of great uses,
Sundial of the Infinite is the kind of card that takes a bit more gray matter effort to unlock all of its cool possibilities. In fact, I’m fairly
certain I’m going to miss a bunch even though I’m digging in pretty deep on the uses for this card. I’m willing to bet a lot of you readers can chime
in with some of those uses I missed in the comments below.

What does it say?

{1}, {T}: End the turn. Activate this ability only during your turn. (Exile all spells and abilities on the stack. Discard down to your maximum
hand size. Damage wears off, and “this turn” and “until end of turn” effects end.)

What does it mean?

According to Gatherer:

Ending the turn this way means the following things happen in order:

1) All spells and abilities on the stack are exiled. This includes spells and abilities that can’t be countered.

2) All attacking and blocking creatures are removed from combat.

3) State-based actions are checked. No player gets priority, and no triggered abilities are put onto the stack.

4) The current phase and/or step ends. The game skips straight to the cleanup step. The cleanup step happens in its entirety.

If any triggered abilities do trigger during this process, they’re put onto the stack during the cleanup step. If this happens, players will have a
chance to cast spells and activate abilities, then there will be another cleanup step before the turn finally ends.

Though spells and abilities that are exiled won’t get a chance to resolve, they don’t count as being “countered.”

If Sundial of the Infinite’s ability is activated before the end step, any “at the beginning of the end step”-triggered abilities won’t get the
chance to trigger that turn because the end step is skipped. Those abilities will trigger at the beginning of the end step of the next turn. The
same is true of abilities that trigger at the beginning of other phases or steps (except upkeep).

The earliest that you can activate Sundial of the Infinite’s ability is during your upkeep step, after abilities that trigger “at the beginning of
your upkeep” have been put onto the stack but before they resolve.

Basically, Sundial activation takes you straight to the Cleanup phase. Commander players are probably pretty familiar with the awesome spell Time Stop,
and Sundial works in a very similar fashion but only during your own turn.

So why would you want to pre-emptively end your turn when it’s going to happen naturally anyway?

You Can’t Lose!

One blatant use of the Sundial is to get around the awful “you lose” triggers that happen during your turn. What immediately springs to mind is Final
Fortune, a sweet Time Walk variant that cheaply gives you another turn, but makes you lose at the end of that extra turn. Put the “you lose” trigger on
the stack, activate Sundial and you get that extra turn free and clear. There are two Portal variants as well (Last Chance and Warrior’s Oath) but
they’re sorceries, which ain’t bad — but they can’t be imprinted on an Isochron Scepter — HO! There are a couple odd-ball corner cases as well (Pact of
Negation and its ilk, Soul Echo) — but my favorite is Phage the Untouchable, which can’t be cast from the Command Zone without you immediately losing
the game. Platinum Angel was the only real “out” we had previously if we were gutsy enough to play Phage as our Commander, and now we’ve got Sundial.

Why, yes, I am going to take up this challenge and finally build my Phage deck.

Rule Your End Step With An Iron Fist!

The best use of Sundial is to “break” cards that have abilities that trigger at the beginning of the next end step, or at the beginning of your next end step, abilities that you’d like to avoid. Since we’re talking about Commander here, I’ll go ahead and point out that you want
Sundial of the Infinite in your Sedris, the Traitor deck since it works so sweet with his ability. The unearth ability can only be played as a sorcery,
brings the creature back from the graveyard, gives it haste, and says “Exile it at the beginning of the next end step or if it would leave the
battlefield” (this is the current Oracle wording, which is a bit different from the printed reminder text).

The key thing to look for is that word next. Say you’ve got Sedris in play, and you want to bring Nekrataal back from your graveyard with
unearth. Bring him back, go ahead and attack with him and, if he survives, go to your end step (the next end step). Put the exile trigger on
the stack, then go ahead and activate Sundial to sweep that trigger right off the stack and keep your Nekrataal around indefinitely (though keep in
mind that if he leaves play it will still trigger that other exile effect, so his additional borrowed time is still borrowed).

Another Commander that’s going to love Sundial is Zirilan of the Claw, who taps to tutor up a dragon and put him into play at instant speed. According
to the current oracle wording, that dragon has a short lease on life: “Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.” However, as long as you
activate his ability during your own turn, put the exile trigger on the stack and activate Sundial, you can keep the dragon around indefinitely.

The key is to make sure you put that “next end step” trigger on the stack to satisfy the card’s requirements, then wipe it away with the Sundial before
it resolves. There are all kinds of otherwise great cards that just get even better if you keep your eyes peeled for that crucial word “next” and think
about using it on your own turn with a Sundial cocked and ready to rock. How’d you like to keep Mimic Vat tokens around indefinitely? What about
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker tokens? Elemental Mastery tokens? Nacatl War-Pride tokens? Some huge creature you put into play with Sneak Attack or
Impromptu Raid? That big-ass 6/12 trampling Construct token you put into play with Stone Idol Trap? A creature you’ve reanimated with Corpse Dance,
Apprentice Necromancer, Dawn of the Dead, Puppeteer Clique or Postmortem Lunge? The creature you’ve cast Berserk on and attacked with this turn? The
Dragon Whelp you’ve pumped too much red mana through?

Heh… keep your Rocket Launcher around! Keep your new Memory Jar hand! Keep your Slave of Bolas or the creature from Treachery Urge forever! Make
Cauldron Dance the Sickest Card Ever!

There are also all sorts of effects that exile cards until “the beginning of the next end step.” Put the trigger on the stack during your next end
step, and then activate Sundial to keep them gone forever. I’m thinking of cards like Planar Guide, Voyager Staff, Mistmeadow Witch, Astral Slide,
Flickerwisp, Galepowder Mage, and Glimmerpoint Stag.

All of these cards have the magic word next in the Oracle wording.

Contrast this with Ball Lightning, which says “At the beginning of the end step, sacrifice Ball Lightning.” You can use the Sundial to keep Ball
Lightning around past the end of your own turn, but it’s going to trigger again during your next opponent’s end step (unless he’s doing Sundial
shenanigans too). Not exactly super-useful, but you never know what corner cases may arise.

Lastly, keep in mind that people looking to play a spell or activate something at the end of your turn run a huge risk when you have Sundial. Now, if
they really want to cast Putrefy on your Commander, they’re going to have to do it on your main phase when they’re sure you’ve got things you really
want to do on your remaining turn more than saving your Commander. Otherwise, when they put Putrefy on the stack during your end step, you can just
exile it with Sundial.

Main Phase Shenanigans

The beauty of your main phase is that you’ve got pre-combat and post-combat main phases, where you make sure you do everything you want to do before
you get to Sundial shenanigans that you may want to do before your end step. What immediately jumps to mind is if you are using Geist of Saint Traft as
your Commander. Make sure you’ve done all the main phase stuff you want to do prior to combat, and then when you’ve attacked you can keep the angel
token around by putting its exile trigger on the stack and end the turn with Sundial. Another idea is if you’re playing a Commander with first strike,
(Mirri, Cat Warrior; Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer; Tsabo Tavoc) and are getting gang-blocked by enough creatures to kill him or her. Here’s how you work

  • First strike damage is dealt
  • State-based effects are checked (and creatures with lethal damage die)
  • Any applicable triggers caused by dying creatures are placed on the stack
  • Active player gets priority
  • Active player activates Sundial
  • The turn ends once Sundial resolves

In fact, Sundial is pretty effective at countering any disastrous combat tricks or traps your opponent springs on you when you attack so long as there
isn’t anything else you wanted to do during your turn.

And speaking of combat, if for some reason you’ve got a creature that has to attack and you’d rather keep him back on defense (say, a
Darksteel Juggernaut), just end the turn before you take your combat phase.

Sundial can help you ignore playing permanents that have enters-the-battlefield drawbacks, letting you effectively “stifle” your Phyrexian Dreadnought
or Eater of Days (for serious style-points). Play bounce-lands like Golgari Rot-Farm, but don’t worry about having to return a land to play. Cast
creatures like Shriekmaw that have evoke, manage your triggers right and end the turn before you have to sacrifice it. Play Glacial Chasm and not pay
the land sacrifice.

Another subtle thing to keep in mind is using the Sundial in conjunction to a spell or effect that destroys something you want to get rid of without
allowing your opponent to make use of it. Say your opponent has a Woodland Cemetery in play and you’re worried he’s ramping up to something really bad
during his next turn (maybe you’ve even peeked at his hand). You’ve got a Dwarven Miner in play. Activate the Miner, targeting the fetchland, and when
your opponent sacrifices it to fetch a land, end the turn with Sundial. They’ve got a Greater Good in play and a Lord of Extinction just itching to be
sacrificed to draw a ton of cards, and you don’t want them to draw a ton of cards. Hit the Greater Good (or Lord) with Mortify, and if they sacrifice
the Lord to Greater Good to draw cards, end the turn.

Who Needs A Draw Step For The Rest Of The Turn?

Another use for Sundial is to get around cards with upkeep effects that you want to avoid… but sacrificing the rest of your turn is a pretty steep
price, so you better make sure the effect is worth it. If you’re the kind of griefer who likes to play Smokestack, Destructive Flow, or Mana Vortex in
Commander, then Sundial is the card for you!

Then there are cards you want to keep around for a few turns while ducking the effect yourself, cards like Primal Order, Karma, and Magus of the Abyss.

Just keep in mind there are cards in the format that blunt the drawback of skipping the rest of your turn: play Seedborn Muse, Consecrated Sphinx,
Vedalken Orrery and Burgeoning and you’ll hardly even miss not having a turn!

The main thing to remember with using this in Commander is that Sundial is just one card out of your ninety-nine. I wouldn’t try and make a “Sundial
Commander deck” chock full of cards that are only going to be good with Sundial. Instead, take a look at the cards you have in your deck that are good,
but get even better with Sundial in play. I have a feeling you’re going to find quite a lot!

Special thanks extended to my good friend Jay Delazier, and Nikorasu of MTGSalvation, for their strong Sundial-fu. Thanks as well to my good friend and
local judge Nicholas Turk for making sure I didn’t trip over the rules and terminology too badly. If I screwed up despite their efforts, it’s totally
my fault.

What do you think? Hit us up with your Sundial ideas in the comments below!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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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:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:

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