The Kitchen Table: Equinaut Commander Update 2014

Abe updates his Equinaut Commander deck with considerations from Magic 2014, Theros, Commander 2013, and Born of the Gods. Check out the new list!

GP Richmond

What do Fleetfoot Panther and Equilibrium have in common? They are both all-stars in one of my longest-running decks! Equinaut is a deck that I designed more than a decade ago using both of those cards to create crazy bouncing situations. Today a Commander deck featuring these cards is still one of my favorites.

I’ve written more than a dozen articles on this thang. It’s a fun deck! It self-bounces, locks down, and abuses a variety of engines. Then it bounces opposing creatures, creates tempo, and wins. And it does it all on the backs of cards like Equilibrium, Aura Shards, and Whitemane Lion, creating powerful game states!

Occasionally I like to update my deck en masse after a few sets have been released. Last April I added cards from the previous year to my deck. Those included Blind Obedience, Deputy of Acquittals, Soul of the Harvest, Bronzebeak Moa, Alchemist’s Refuge, Somberwald Sage, Deadeye Navigator, Emancipation Angel, Restoration Angel, Prime Speaker Zegana, Master Biomancer, and Cathars’ Crusade.

Almost all of those changes have worked really well. In particular, Blind Obedience, Cathars’ Crusade, Deputy of Acquittals, Master Biomancer, and Prime Speaker Zegana have all been powerful additions to the deck. They will remain in forever. I call them my forever friends (though I might be tempted to pull the Obedience someday).

Soul of the Harvest is fine and better than the previous Primordial Sage. I’ve blown out games with Bronzebeak Moa. Restoration Angel does yeoman’s work but can be a bit slow with the mana. Because they flicker, Emancipation Angel and Deadeye Navigator can be a bit hit or miss. Somberwald Sage can sometimes help with mana. But the two Angels, Deadeye Navigator, and Somberwald Sage have been the least impressive of the additions. They might be on tap for replacement sooner or later.

If you love the idea of Equinaut, let me throw a trifecta of links at you.

First we have my most recent Equinaut primer. Written a few years ago, it’s still thick with crunchy bits about how to play the deck and what cards to consider.

Second is the first iteration of the Commander Equinaut deck you’ll find below.

Finally, here’s the update of this deck ten months ago.

So if you want to play catchup, you certainly can. It’s not required reading. You already have the gist of the deck. We use self-bouncing and triggers to play and replay cheap creatures in order to abuse the triggers. Then we use these same triggers to begin a tempo lock of opponents by self-bouncing Mystic Snake or using Blind Obedience, Equilibrium, or Opposition in various ways. That’s the deck in a nutshell!

A lot of great cards have been printed for Equinaut in the last ten months. The last update I did was after Dragon’s Maze and Magic 2013 were printed. Since then we’ve had Magic 2014, Theros, Commander 2013, and Born of the Gods. There are a good number of cards that make compelling arguments for their inclusion in Equinaut. A few are virtual locks, but others have interesting cases to make. Unlike Judge Judy’s typical caseload, the conclusion is not foregone based on the litigants.

Let’s begin with Magic 2014 and move forward in time.

In a deck that has as many mana needs as Equinaut does, a two-drop that makes all three colors is vital. I already run Gemhide Sliver and Utopia Tree. My other mana tappers are Birds of Paradise, Werebear, Somberwald Sage, and Noble Hierarch. Well, Manaweft Sliver is already improved over our Gemhide friend. But there is a better option coming, and it might be an even better choice. We’ll just have to wait and see. But Manaweft Sliver has to be a thought.

This is a deck in love with two-drops of power. It basically runs feats, treats, and beats. Kalonian Tusker meets the 3/3 power for two mana threshold that you want from guys like Watchwolf and friends. The deck already has eleven two-drops. Now, unlike the others, Kalonian Tusker just has a high power/toughness ratio. Its mono-green nature is a weakness in a deck with Tolsimir Wolfblood, Wilt-Leaf Liege, or even Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. Is it enough? And if so, what would it replace? Equinaut doesn’t have a lot of open spots.

Easier on the mana, this hate bear works very well with the bouncing theme. Even when your opponents replay the creatures you bounced, this brings them back tapped. I’ve seen how valuable this is on Blind Obedience, and a hate bear that does it too has some strong interest. If this were 2/2, it would make a better case, but I don’t like early beaters that can be held back by a humble Silver Myr. Every two-drop I run either taps for mana or is at least a 2/2. Can the Sovereign make the cut in a tight two spot, competing against the Tusker and another beater to be mentioned?

Wow. This card does a lot of things that Equinaut loves. Untapping my creatures and lands each turn brings back my squad that attacked, increasing my defense. That’s a powerful ability because I can tap out and then have mana later on to save my team and do my fun tricks. At the multiplayer table, I can repeat the mana-hungry Equinaut tricks turn after turn. But then it gives my whole team flash too, and that’s even better. This is a deck that really benefits from flashing out stuff to trigger all of our things. As a super special bonus, this set of abilities is stamped on the body of a creature. I don’t have to cut a card from my creature count to run it! It’ll even trigger my other stuff when played. It’s obviously a downright essential engine for my deck.

After talking about the value of a two-drop that taps for all of my colors, we then have this home-run hitter from Standard, which is obviously better than Utopia Tree due to hexproof and the bigger butt. (Although I’ve swung with an inflated Tree off Cathars’ Crusade +1/+1 counters before and this has defender, so it’s not always better. But yeah, we all know it’s better.). It will unquestionably make the cut in my deck somewhere. But will Utopia Tree remain? And if so, what will it replace?

When Watchwolf was printed, it was the biggest revolution in my deck. Having a 3/3 beater that quickly in Selesnya colors really powered the deck. I would get random Watchwolf wins from the deck. Watchwolf is cheap, wins games, and is one of the iconic parts of the deck. And now in every 60-card Equinaut deck I build from here on out, there is a replacement. As a four-of in 60-card decks, this is the next level of power, so it’ll make the cut. And Watchwolf certainly is not coming out. So what does?

Mana is very important in this deck, so I run all of my best lands. Are the Temples good enough to make the cut? I’m not sure yet. While the scry is certainly relevant, I’m not convinced that the tempo loss is worth it. I like playing mana bodies early. My deck is very sensitive to mana needs. The Temples might be too many for its liking. However, it’s possible that a Temple might replace Celestial Colonnade or Stirring Wildwood and maybe a Refuge.

I had several thoughts when I first encountered Ephara. Among them was “where do I get a copy for Equinaut?” I have lots of creatures entering play, so I should typically be drawing two extra cards off Ephara a turn (once on my turn for something small followed by one flash creature for an effect at the end of someone’s main step). Even at a slow pace, I should get an extra card at the rate of Honden of Seeing Winds or Staff of Nin. That alone is worth the price of admission. Add on the fact that once in a blue moon she’ll trigger and swing (not very often though) and she’s a hard enchantment to bring down. She’ll do some damage.

And then we have this little steam-powered beauty. Karametra is another engine to trigger as I play creatures, which I do a lot. Plus she’s much more likely to swing for damage since my creatures tend to have Selesnya’s colors in larger numbers. And my deck guzzles mana like a pig at a water hole. So here’s the question: is Karametra too much too late? I’m getting lands, but only after I’ve had enough time to develop my mana and play her. In other words, is she perhaps too much like Boundless Realms tends to be? Is Karametra a “win more” card that only serves to do important things when I already have control of the board? These are important questions to ponder as I consider the next iteration of Equinaut. But I have a more important question by far to raise:

Who will be my commander?

Ever since I built it, this deck has run Jenara, Asura of War as its commander. Two reasons prompted this:

1) Jenara flies. Even after intentionally adding more flying bodies to the deck, I have these flyers: Mulldrifter, Shrieking Drake, Restoration Angel, Serra Avenger, Birds of Paradise, Karmic Guide, Stormfront Riders, Draining Whelk, Emancipation Angel, Drift of Phantasms, and Stonecloaker. That’s not exactly a flying section of beaters. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve won with a pumped Jenara swinging for victory in the skies (remember, her pumping works well with Commander rules).

2) Jenara is the cheapest possible general, which helps because I can play her to trigger my stuff quite easily. So yay, Jenara!

She’s been workmanlike, but two new Bant generals were released in Commander 2013 that are arguably good choices too. Let’s take a look.

In addition to having a decent size of 4/4 with vigilance and trample, Roon grants another flickering machine to the deck. Roon aids the deck in several directions.

First of all, he can restart a self-gater that had to gate something else. Sometimes I play Whitemane Lion to bounce and save Momir Vig from dying, and then my Lion is stuck out there doing its best Grizzly Bears impression. This can restart the Lion or other friends by flicking it back. Secondly, I can use Roon to repeat a good enters the battlefield trigger, such as Mulldrifter, Civic Wayfinder, or Masked Admirers. Finally, I can trigger my things (many work with enters the battlefield language) like Soul of the Harvest, Aura Shards, and Cathars’ Crusade. All of that is brilliant, right? So Roon is a strong consideration.

This fair Bird Wizard makes another case. He shares many of the same benefits of Jenara, as he flies and costs just three mana. Now, he doesn’t have the self-growth of Jenara. I’ve won at least twice with her post-sweeper effect by dropping her, pumping her a few times, and swinging on an empty board. Derevi can’t do that. But he can essentially flash out from the command zone for four mana whenever I have need, and that gives me instant access to my triggers for the duration of the game. That’s something Jenara can only dream of.

Now, the tap/untap permanent ability is okay. You know, I could bounce one defender, tap the other, and swing or something. It has some value, but the ability is not the key to unlocking Derevi. It’s the flash instant ability that’s clearly a tasty addition to my deck.

Both can take my deck in a different direction and make clear arguments to be my next commander. Clearly both Derevi and Roon have better synergy with my deck, so it’s time for Jenara to head to the sidelines. She’s not good enough to keep her spot in the deck (unless I pull Serra Avenger, which I’m not sure is a trade worth making). So thank you for your service, Jenara.

Derevi or Roon? Roon or Derevi?

Basically, here are the options. One works really well with my triggers, while the other is a pseudo-trigger himself. If I add Roon to my deck, Derevi obviously would not make the cut. If I move to Derevi as our leader, Roon remains an option but not a very good one. There are better options on the above list. For example, I’m unsure about Karametra, but I’d rather add her in than Roon.

The lady or the tiger?

I was still uncertain as I wrote this, so I decided on a test. I grabbed both cards and held them face down with one in each hand. Then I imagined who would be the leader of my deck. Who would lead us as our commander? I shuffled the two cards and then flipped them up—whichever I instinctively moved toward in my heart became our new leader. Sometimes Commander is about emotion!

The cards were shuffled, I flipped, and . . .




Welcome our new Bird Wizard overlord!

I made the following changes to my deck.


Jenara, Asura of War Werebear Gemhide Sliver Somberwald Sage Hinterland Harbor Graypelt Refuge Masked Admirers


Derevi, Empyrial Tactician Temple of Mystery Sylvan Caryatid Manaweft Sliver Prophet of Kruphix Misty Rainforest Temple of Plenty Ephara, God of the Polis Fleecemane Lion

I don’t swing with my mana guys that often, and I’d rather have the 0/2 defense of Utopia Tree than the 1/1 Sliver. Prophet of Kruphix will be a lot better than Somberwald Sage in the mid to late game. The other changes are obvious. I’ll hold off on Karametra, God of Harvests for now and keep her on the radar. I’m also holding off on Kalonian Tusker. Imposing Sovereign just doesn’t have enough juice.

Here’s Derevi’s Equinaut:

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
Abe Sargent
Test deck on 03-03-2014
Magic Card Back

And that concludes or exploration of all things Equinaut. I hope that you enjoy the new digs!

GP Richmond