Etrata’s Greatest Hits

She’s one of the most unusual creatures we’ve ever seen, and she’s on her way to Commander! What sort of tricks does Bennie have up his sleeve this week?

Guilds of Ravnica
‘s release was this past weekend, and it was awesome finally getting to
pick up some more cards for Commander and Standard deck ideas. It’s been a
lot of fun brewing up Commander decks around our bumper crop of new
legends. This week I’d like to work on a deck around a very strange card
indeed-Etrata, the Silencer!

First off, what an awkward name for a Magic card-everyone keeps wanting to
call her Errata, the Silencer. In fact, I was half-tempted to build a
Commander deck where all the nonland cards had errata, but the research and
time it would take to pull off that awesome meta flavor victory was beyond
my desires. I’ll leave that for the hardcore theme fans out there.

Etrata is a card I suspect was designed specifically not to be a commander.

She’s got an intriguing “you lose” condition that seems very slow to pull
off, especially given that she wants to shuffle back into your deck each
time she exiles a creature and puts a hit counter on it. If Etrata is your
commander you can instead choose to put her in the command zone, but that’s
going to increase the commander tax each time you successfully attack with
Etrata. I like the utility of it as part of your maindeck in a grindy
casual or Brawl deck, but on the surface it seems that Etrata would make a
bad choice as a Dimir commander.

Is there a way to make an Etrata Commander deck into something good? That’s
exactly the sort of challenge that gets my brain working! I mean, you could
just use her as additional removal options in a controlling Dimir deck that
may focus on winning some other way, such as milling everyone out. But I’m
more interested in leaning hard on the hit counter victory method and
seeing what we can do.

On a side note, Etrata, the Silencer was one of the new Guilds of Ravnica commanders featured on

a recent episode of Game Knights

. Unfortunately for special guest Olivia Gobert-Hicks who was playing
Etrata, her deck wasn’t very cooperative and couldn’t get much going before
Josh Lee Kwai killed everyone with his insane Emmara deck.

Let’s get brewing!

Etrata Triggers

First off, let’s figure out a more efficient way of using Etrata’s
triggers. Strionic Resonator or Illusionist’s Bracers lets you get an extra
trigger from Etrata, and if you’ve got both of them, you can basically
one-shot fill an opponent so long as they have enough creatures. Equipping
Etrata with Helm of the Host lets you keep creating copies of Etrata with
the Helm that can do the dirty work for you while Etrata sits back and
watches the carnage unfold. Identity Thief and Sakashima the Impostor are
ways to copy Etrata and get in for an attack without losing your O.G.
Fleshwrither gives you some options-you can transfigure to get Sakashima or
Identity Thief, or you can attack with your actual Etrata, shuffle her into
your library, and then transfigure to bring Etrata back to the battlefield.

One last thing I’d like to pay attention to-Etrata is unblockable, and her
triggered ability keys off combat damage, so I’m including a couple of
enchantments to take advantage of that with Coastal Piracy and Larceny.


Another way to cheat on Etrata is to respond to her trigger so you don’t
have to shuffle her into your deck or put her back in the command zone. One
way to do that is with “blink” spells like Displace, which exiles Etrata
and brings it back. Since Etrata is now considered a “new” copy of the
card, you don’t have to shuffle her into your deck. This is definitely the
most efficient way to work around the trigger, but I worry about
purposefully putting Etrata into exile, and then someone using a card like
Stifle to shut off the ability to put her back on the battlefield. If I’m
not mistaken, this leaves Etrata permanently marooned in exile and rather
messes up the whole point of the deck. Instead, I’d rather focus on ways to
bounce Etrata back to your hand so you can replay her. Bounce effects can
often play double duty bouncing cards your opponents control when that is
needed. Things like Seal of Removal, Waterfront Bouncer, and Select for
Inspection can handle opposing problems when you’re not bouncing your own
Etrata. Fumble is a fantastic spell in the right situation – blunting
someone’s Voltron commander – so it’s nice to have the option of using it
instead with Etrata.

One thing I’m particularly excited to use here are Ninjas. Ninjutsu is an
ability that can be used at any point while a creature is considering
attacking, and that includes after damage has been dealt and triggers have
been put on the stack. You can swap the Ninja for Etrata and, while the
Ninja’s combat damage ability won’t trigger, you get Etrata back to your
hand to recast.

Supplant Form is a great bounce spell that effectively replaces Etrata with
another Etrata and leaves you a follow-up Etrata for next turn.

Etrata Protection

Of course, your opponents won’t be sitting back and letting you get away
with Etrata shenanigans unimpeded, so you can expect push-back, especially
when trying to kill Etrata before it deals combat damage. Luckily, we’re
playing blue so we can offer some protection in the form of counterspells,
like Swan Song, Arcane Denial and Force of Will. Another angle is to play
instant speed copy spells or abilities so that we can copy Etrata if she’s
going to be dying anyway, cards like Mirrorpool, Cackling Counterpart, and
Stunt Double. Soul Separator is a very weird card that I’ve not yet found a
good place for it, but I figure it might do good work here-if Etrata is
dying, let it go to the graveyard where you can use Soul Separator to make
a 1/1 Spirit Etrata token along with a 3/5 Zombie token.

Mana Ramp

If we’re going to be doing Etrata shenanigans we probably want to do it as
soon as possible, so I’m including Mana Crypt in addition to Sol Ring for
the potential turn 2 Etrata, as well as a few two mana rocks for the turn 3
Etrata. Black Market and Geode Golem are here for the longer term casting
of Etrata from the command zone.


While Etrata does a pretty good job knocking off problem creatures,
sometimes your opponents will overwhelm you with choices. Black and blue
offer a generous selection of removal spells, and I’ve found room for them
here. This is especially helpful for commander creatures since they won’t
usually sit in exile with hit counters on them. If you’re playing blue, you
definitely want to find a spot for Imprisoned in the Moon, which is a great
way to temporarily stop some of the most problematic commanders.

Card Draw

I’m definitely going to want to take advantage of some draw engines to keep
the gas flowing. I feel like I might be a little short here, but one Pull
from Tomorrow or Blue Sun’s Zenith in the lategame will give you all the
gas you need. I like Sygg, River Cutthroat here since Etrata is just big
enough to satisfy Sygg’s life loss trigger.

Dimir Goodstuff

I’ll round things out with some overall good stuff cards available in
Dimir. I almost never make use of actual tutor cards like Vampiric Tutor
and Demonic Tutor, but I’m going to make an exception in this deck. Etrata
is super slow and grindy, so being able to go get a few enablers, like Helm
of the Host or Striotic Resonator, is necessary. Phyrexian Reclamation is
almost always an auto-include in black decks, but if you’ve got ways to
kill Etrata instead of bouncing her, you can just return her to your hand
with Phyrexian Reclamation and recast her.

Crucible of Worlds is here so we can reuse Command Beacon, a great way to
get around a high commander tax. Akroma’s Memorial is a sweet way to give
Etrata’s haste and protection from some forms of removal. Sword of Feast
and Famine works great with our plan to bounce Etrata after she deals
damage and recast her since the Sword damage trigger will untap all of

And lastly, there’s Blackblade Reforged. One way opponents may try to get
around Etrata’s “you lose the game” trigger is to just not play a creature
while they wait to draw into a way to stop Etrata. Since Etrata can’t be
blocked, you can just equip and with enough lands, just kill with commander

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

Let’s start by looking at our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

75 total cards plus 38 lands equal 13 cards too many, which isn’t bad.
Let’s start at the top of the curve and work our way down.

Between Toxic Deluge and Damnation, I have some sweepers, but I think
overall Etrata will likely keep people from flooding the battlefield with
too many creatures so it’s probably okay to cut Life’s Finale.

Larceny is an easy cut here since I’m not the biggest fan of making
opponents discard unless I’m doing something crazy with cards like Waste
Not. I’ve got a fair number of counterspells available, so I think I’m
going to bench Force of Will. And while Doom Whisperer is always going to
be a house in just about any deck, I’ve got to make some hard cuts and
that’s one of the hard ones.

I’ve got a fair number of instant speed, copy my own creature cards so I
think trimming a couple are okay.

Crystal Shard does the same job as Erratic Portal but a mana cheaper, so
I’m okay to cut that. Aetherize can bounce Etrata in a pinch but is best as
a way to bounce a bunch of an opponent’s attacking creatures. I’ve got
black mass removal for that, so I think we can cut it.

Propaganda is used to keep us from being swarmed, but I don’t think that’s
going to be as big a problem with this deck, so I think it’s safe to do.
Soul Manipulation is a neat counter and recursion spell, but the three-mana
spot is always tight in Commander decks, so I’m giving it the boot.

Of the bounce spells I think Snap is a good one to cut since it’s just a
one-shot effect even though getting it for free is quite nice. With only
two more slots left… I’ve decided to cut the tutor spells. I know, I know,
I said above that I made the rare exception to include them here, but
something needed to go, and, in the end, I just liked all the other spells

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Etrata, the Silencer
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-09-2018
Magic Card Back

So, what do you think? What sort of cuts do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

Starcitygames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun


Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent


Lord Windgrace

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle


Grand Warlord Radha


Arvad the Cursed


Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg


Squee, the Immortal


Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer


Etali, Primal Storm


Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded


Zur, the Enchanter

(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open


The Locust God


Karona, False God

(All the Deserts), Nicol Bolas,

Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True


Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable


Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas,

Child of Alara

(5 Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon)

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander