Have you ever been in that rut? You have the same old decks, the same old opponents and the same old metagame. You have hit a Magic funk. Basically a Magic version of writer’s block has seeped into your life and gaming world, and it’s hard for you to break out of the monotony. Do you remember when Commander (with its singleton and hundred-card nature) used to beckon to you and whisper kind thoughts of never-ending joy? When Commander looked like a freshly fallen snow as-yet untouched by anyone? And now it’s like a Crash of Rhinos has broken through and trampled the snow into a listless grey powder. Gone are the innocent days of Commander, lost into the fond farewell of yesterday.
Most Commander players these days that I’ve encountered are veterans of the format for months or years. When is the last time you played against someone who was new to the format? I’m not sure about you, but for me, it’s been months. Ever since Wizards of the Coast began to endorse the format with special decks, the nature of the format has shifted imperceptibly. Things have increasingly gotten “solved” to a strong degree in many places both online and in real life.
As such it’s a bit of a rut in some places, and you need options to push things to break out of the rut. Knock out the sides and open this thing up!
And what’s a great way to do that? Randomly determining your Commander, that’s what!
So let’s randomize this thing over at Gatherer. The first card is… a Swamp! From 5th Edition. Alright. Then we get another Swamp from Scars of Mirrodin. Our first non-Swamp card is Otherworldly Journey, and then Morselhoarder and Skull Catapult (the Ice Age one). A card that I really like, Spite // Malice is next, and the top ten also includes Phyrexian Ironfoot and Fractured Loyalty. 11th is Jeskai Infiltrator, and then Worldheart Phoenix before our targets arrives at the 13th spot. The first legendary creature is flipped over, and it’s a very playable but off-the-wall choice.
Why hello, Hikari.
Let’s unpack my latest random dream:
Hikari, Twilight Guardian is a four-powered flier for an admittedly heavy five mana. That’s an Air Elemental. No one just has an Air Elemental as their leader, so this Commander needs to do something good, right? As a Spirit printed in the Kamigawa Block, it obviously will likely have a Spiritcraft trigger. And this one does! When you cast a Spirit or Arcane spell, then you flicker your Hikari right off the battlefield and return it at the end of your turn – it’s not a quick flicker, it’s a delayed one.
It’s a pretty insular card, and the deck is going to be forced into mono-white just because of the flip. So what are we looking at?
You might think that a deck built around a limited ability like Hikari, Twilight Guardian and with just one color of options is really just going to have one major path to victory.
The obvious way to build a Hikari deck is to include a bunch of sweepers and then sweep the board, flicker out Hikari to keep it from dying, and then swing when Hikari returns. You could run stuff like Day of Judgment, Final Judgment, or Mass Calcify alongside all of white’s great defensive cards, and then a variety of instant Arcane spells to keep Hikari from dying to them. And that’s your deck. Swing with Hikari on a (mostly) empty board, perhaps give it some equipment to kill a bit more quickly with Commander damage, and then win. Hikari the Obvious.
That’s one option, certainly. And I’m sure you would be okay with it. I mow down a Hikari Control deck that’s simply an iteration of the Sweep and Keep strategy. (Sweep and Keep is a deck that runs mass removal that their creatures either dodge and avoid, or ignore – examples include a deck with small-powered creatures alongside something like Retribution of the Meek, a group of Protection from Black creatures in a Pestilence deck, or even a bunch of indestructible creatures in a Wrath of God deck). We could mine that direction. That’s a useful vein. Sure it might not be as rich or as deep as the famed silver mines of Cerro Rico in Potosi, but it’s something.
But there’s another option. Another trail to blaze that sparks my imagination. I could run a deck with a lot of triggers for when various creatures arrive on the battlefield and then just Flicker the crap out of my Commander, netting a bunch of triggers. In this shell, Hikari is a guaranteed Flicker for every Spirit or Arcane spell I can conceive of. If it’s white, then I can toss it in.
So I begin to grab the engines that’ll work when my guy arrives at the battlefield. The first card that leaps to my mind is Angelic Chorus. It’ll net you some serious life over time as you begin to rack up the triggers, so it’ll work in this shell. And we have Archon of Redemption for a similar effect. So that’s the sort of direction I want to mine…
But there simply aren’t a lot of mono-white triggers of this sort. Now if you combine this with other colors you can unlock a lot of interesting options, from Aura Shards to Dire Undercurrents and Elemental Bond. We don’t have those colors to lean on. So what else gives in my Hikari colors?
We do have Spirit Bonds. It’s very flavorful, since it both makes Spirit tokens when stuff arrives and you can sacrifices your many, many Spirits to give indestructible to any non-Spirits you may have for a turn. You just need to add a white mana each time your Hikari flickers into and out of play. Go go Spirits!
Next up is Cathars’ Crusade. If we wind up with a decent number of creatures it seems like another solid play as well, racking up the Hikari, Twilight Guardian triggers for more and more fun. And if you like that, we can rock Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit to give out a single +1/+1 counter via support when stuff hits the table. And don’t forget that Lil’ ‘Fenza is on-theme as Spirit herself (in her post-death form in the new timeline).
So it looks like we have enough triggers to push this theme. So let’s hit it up!
- 1 Waxmane Baku
- 1 Patron of the Kitsune
- 1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
- 1 Soul Warden
- 1 Blinking Spirit
- 1 Yosei, the Morning Star
- 1 Myojin of Cleansing Fire
- 1 Innocence Kami
- 1 Windborn Muse
- 1 Eternal Dragon
- 1 Brass Herald
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Nikko-Onna
- 1 Twilight Drover
- 1 Guardian of the Guildpact
- 1 Celestial Crusader
- 1 Whitemane Lion
- 1 Saltskitter
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Flickerwisp
- 1 Spirit of the Hearth
- 1 Kor Cartographer
- 1 Archon of Redemption
- 1 Glimmerpoint Stag
- 1 Suture Priest
- 1 Gallows Warden
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Court Street Denizen
- 1 Custodi Squire
- 1 Jeskai Barricade
- 1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
- 1 Terashi's Verdict
- 1 Terashi's Grasp
- 1 Shining Shoal
- 1 Baku Altar
- 32 Plains
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Otherworldly Journey
- 1 Long-Forgotten Gohei
- 1 Ethereal Haze
- 1 Blessed Breath
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Blasting Station
- 1 Genesis Chamber
- 1 Angelic Chorus
- 1 Charge Across the Araba
- 1 Spiritual Visit
- 1 Cloudstone Curio
- 1 Flickerform
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Door of Destinies
- 1 Mass Calcify
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Sudden Disappearance
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Staff of Nin
- 1 Rousing of Souls
- 1 Spirit Bonds
- 1 Obelisk of Urd
And there we go! Lots of stuff works here, and we have some wonkier things as well.
Take a look at Saltskitter.
Saltskitter isn’t exactly the most common or dominating creature in Commander’s long history. It likes to hide. Did another creature arrive on the battlefield? Oh no! Then exile the Saltskitter and bring it back a turn later! Imagine this with Hikari. You flicker out Hikari. When it comes back, the Saltskitter will trigger and head back and then come back next turn. It’s constantly blinking in and out, especially in this shell. In here, the Saltskitter plays a nice, mana-free role to hit up the same set of triggers that Hikari smashes. Cathars’ Crusade to pump the rest of the team? Suture Priest? Blasting Station? You get the idea. So despite the fact that Saltskitter has to be one of the most “worthless” creatures in the history of Magic due to its “hideaway” fear, it works very well in this deck. I like finding the Saltskitters of Magic.
So the deck ideally wants to play Arcane/Spirit stuff to get its Hikari triggers on. Obviously one of the bags of tricks I wanted to upload to the deck are those that also have various effects that trigger when a similar condition is met. The problem is that a lot of the mono-white stuff is junk for Commander. Do you really want to run Kami of Tattered Shoji? Yay for flying, I suppose. So I included the obvious ones. Baku Altar can tap to make Spirits tokens as you ratchet up those triggers, and even an Innocence Kami or Waxbane Baku has an adequate role to play in tapping stuff down and giving you time to develop your board. But I stayed clear of Jade Idol and such. (If you want to tap stuff down, don’t sleep on Court Street Denizen in here.)
However this is one absolutely amazing Spiritcraft trigger we added to the deck.
Why is Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens so great here? Any of the various cards that you run to Flicker out Hikari will also make a 3/3 flying Spirit token for free, no extra mana needed. And that’s a pretty keen ability, it gives the deck added levels of power and persuasion. People have to fear attacking because you could drop an instant Arcane spell of some sort and make a 3/3 blocker. Oyobi is a great friend of Hikari!
Now don’t forget that you can play a Spirit to trigger these various effects as well. Plus if you want the added flexibility of speed-trigger usage, then I added in a couple of ways to flash your stuff out: Winding Canyons and Vedalken Orrery. Both cards let you cast the creature, not just put it into play, so they’ll trigger Hikari and Friends. And the flash is an even better fit for the deck because we added in a bunch of creatures with various enters-the-battlefield triggers.
There are a few cards in here that most Commander players know and appreciate. Karmic Guide is probably the best, since it’s also rocking a Spirit body. Play it, reanimate a great dead creature, and then Flicker it for more reanimation fun times. Or you can flash it in with the Orrery to get something back that’s important to blocking or taking care of a problem now, so I see the Guide as a typical mono-white support card for this deck. Now I didn’t want to layer in too many non-Spirits that might normally be seen, so you won’t find Sun Titan or similar stuff here (although you could certainly head down that path if you want to). But the Guide was a nice start.
Take a look at Custodi Squire. It’s a Spirit, it has a sufficient body for swinging and blocking, a cheap enough cost to be useful, and it always brings back a card when you play it. Have you ever played with Will of the Council cards? I think you’ll find that Custodi Squire is very reliable at returning something pretty solid. You can make deals with an opponent to bring back something to handle a mutual enemy’s threat. I find that unless I want to bring back something very powerful and crazy, I almost always retrieve my initial target. Remember that in a four-player game, you start the voting. Most players will just vote the same and you’ll move on. If you selected a solid card, the foe to your left may grab something really weak for you to take. Now they are in a bad spot. If the next player chooses a third card, and then the fourth can choose a fourth and you’ll grab four cards and made a new friend. If they third players chooses the same card as the second chose, then the fourth can tie the vote by choosing the same card you did and you get two cards instead of one. No one wants to see that happen with a Custodi Squire, and since just one person voting your way gives you what you want, you’ll usually get it after folks get some experience with the card (barring something pretty nasty). And it’s a Spirit to boot!
What other enters-the-battlefield stuff did I toss in? Well, there are a few here and there. At first I was thinking about Knight of the White Orchid, but then I remembered Kor Cartographer which is more reliable and repeatable. Brass Herald comes down and reveals the top four cards and will put any Spirits there into your grip. The Herald is obviously here to provide a strong +1/+1 effect to your Spirit Team, but if you want to Flicker it a few times and try to get some useful card advantage from it, no one is going to blame you. And there are moreso besides.
And don’t forget that you can do a bit of self-bouncing. We have some triggers that want things to be cast, so putting that creature back into your hand for another play is pretty good. Cloudstone Curio will let most of your creatures self-bounce another on arrival – feel free to bring back a cheap Spirit like Lil’ ‘Fenza for another drop and set of triggers. You can also self-bounce with a few Gating creatures – Whitemane Lion and Jeskai Barricade. When either arrives on the battlefield, they can bounce another of your friends… the Lion can even bounce itself, by the way! Because they inherently have flash, you can play one to save a creature from targeted removal, to block and then bounce it back to keep it alive, to create a big blocker with the Barricade to block something and stay alive, to get another stack of triggers, or to self-bounce a creature with an enters-the-battlefield ability that will give you some more gas. From Restoration Angel and Kor Cartographer to Custodi Squire and getting more life off an Archon of Redemption, you can find a lot of reasons to bounce someone back to your hand for another go around the Ferris Wheel.
We also have a pair of interesting self-bouncing Spirits. Nikko-Onna is great as a creature with a useful enters-the-battlefield ability, and you can bring her back to your hand anytime you play a vital Spirit or Arcane spell. That will itself trigger other Spirit or Arcane triggers as well as give you another chance to blow up an enchantment or to trigger other effects like Cathars’ Crusade. Another self-bouncer is the original Blinking Spirit, originally printed way back in Ice Age. Good old Blinky returns itself to your hand for no mana, just bring it back to hand and keep replaying it. As a Spirit, it meets all of the qualifications that you need to push your deck around and you’ll get cool points for running it.
Now what about the Arcane stuff?
Obviously I ran every conceivable Arcane spell that makes sense. Clearly a card like Terashi’s Verdict isn’t the best ever printed, but it’ll be fine. Terashi’s Grasp is a slower three-mana sorcery, but it will still blow something up, no worries. Ethereal Haze may not be the best Fog variant in white, but it works. Charge Across the Araba might not be as good of an Overrun effect as others (such as Swell of Courage or Dictate of Heliod) but it works. That’s what’s important. Having Arcane stuff that works.
There were a few cards on the cusp that I excluded. Cleanfall is a Tranquility effect that counts as Arcane, but a lot of our best engines are enchantments; I didn’t want to hurt my ability to go off with Angelic Chorus or Spirit Bonds. If you want to push a tapping theme then Terashi’s Cry would make sense, and perhaps Hundred-Talon Strike would make a compelling case… but I didn’t feel that they had enough power for this Hikari build.
Anyways, I included some additional Flickering support (such as Flickerform) as well as some bigger and feistier Spirits to win the game. There are some great Spirits printed over the decades that can bring some heat – like Eternal Dragon, Spirit of the Hearth, and Yosei, the Morning Star.
Now there are certainly other places to dig. You could add in some cards that make a tribal creature of your choice or will help any tribe as you see fit. You could certainly add in cards such as Volrath’s Laboratory, Adaptive Automaton, Urza’s Incubator, Shared Triumph, and Riptide Replicator.
You could run equipment that would help you win quickly with Hikari, or Spirits such as Celestial Kirin, Flickering Spirit, or Belfry Spirit. How about Thunder Totem as a mana rock? Or perhaps Aether Shockwave? A great trick would be welcome. I’m positive you’ll find the goods!
I hope that you enjoyed today’s Random Commander challenge. Keep yourself fresh! Break out of that rut!
And most of all, enjoy yourself!
Did you like today’s random-tastic fun? Want to see the whole series? Here are all of the previous random commanders that we’ve done:
8). Iroas, God of Victory – It’s God Time on the Random Commander Challenge. Let’s craft a red zone inspired deck that’ll make Ares downright proud.
14). Gerrard Capashen – The leader of the Dominarian Alliance against the Phyrexian Invasion, and overall protagonist for Magic for like a jillion years is
here! Lifegain? Tapping effects? Gerrard’s Battle Cry? Howling Mines? We got it!