Other People’s Decks:  MTGNerdGirl’s Magar Of The Magic Strings

Ready to pull some strings? Sheldon Menery highlights MTGNerdGirl’s Magar of the Magic Strings Commander deck and a series of epic plays.

Magar of the Magic Strings
Magar of the Magic Strings, illustrated by Tomek Larek

Sometimes you’re just tooling down the highway of Commander, listening to your favorite soundtrack, thinking about ways you’re going to abuse Thalia and the Gitrog Monster, and something makes you slam on the brakes to take a look.

So it was with the deck MTGNerdGirl brought to the Commander Rules Committee (RC) stream a few weeks back.  It was the kind of deck that can only exist in Commander and still be a viable choice to play.  It did its thing during our game to the point that I thought it would be compelling to share with you fine people. 

When she told me about what she wanted to play, I was initially skeptical.  I didn’t look at her decklist, just listened to the rundown of what the deck does.  It seemed like it would fit well into our more casual, battlecruiser style of game.  It absolutely did.  Take a look at the list (which is also over on Moxfield):

Magar of the Magic Strings
Test deck on 03-09-2023

Before I offer my take, let’s here what MTGNerdGirl has to say about the deck.

In Her Own Words

When was the last time you got hit by a Lightning Bolt in a game of Commander?

My guess is it hasn’t happened often!  Most Commander games are decided by synergies and cards that produce so much value that staples from two-player formats like Thoughtseize simply can’t keep up:  the two players you don’t target will be getting ahead of you in the exchange.  Without help, cards like these are unplayable in most decks.  Commander is supposed to be about diversity.  Can’t we find these cards a good home?

That’s why I love my Magar of the Magic Strings deck.  One of my stream viewers suggested the card to me because of the unusual play pattern it creates.  By reanimating your spells as 3/3 creatures, you turn your bad single-use burn spells into an engine that creates both creatures and recurring value.  Imagine casting Lightning Bolt to remove a blocker, then turning it into a 3/3, hitting your opponent with it, and getting three free damage to direct wherever you like.  Now we’re talking!

Not convinced?  Magar still works well with other cards that are already good in Commander.  Gamble, for instance, is widely played.  Try tutoring up the answer you need and not minding whether you discard it or not.  Then, add these cheap cards to spell-slinging staples like Guttersnipe and Young Pyromancer with established pedigrees.  All of a sudden, you’re doing real damage here.

This deck never fails to surprise the other players at the table, and that might be the best feeling in Magic.  I hope you enjoy the deck.

My Take

I’ll confess to having to read Magar four times before parsing it all.  Once you get it, the whole idea is easy to grasp.  We can reanimate instants or sorceries from our graveyard onto the battlefield as 3/3s.  They don’t have a creature type or name.  The big sentence is the triggered ability:  “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, you may create a copy of the card with the noted name.  You may cast the copy without paying its mana cost.”

If we keep the creature alive, we get multiple castings of the card, whenever it deals combat damage.  We’re casting the copy, so the creature stays right there, ready to jump back into the red zone.  The downside is if the creature leaves the battlefield, the card gets exiled.  Still, we’ll get two, three, four, or even more castings of a card, like MTGNerdGirl did on the RC stream. 

After the game, the first thing I looked for on her list was an extra combat spell, like Savage Beating, Relentless Assault, or World at War.  Instead, she went for some spells that can copy other spells, like Bonus Round and Howl of the Horde.  If I were to build something like this, I’d want to include at least Savage Beating.  It’s such a classic, and being able to hit with it and cast it multiple times is just absurd.

  Savage Beating

Discard and Rarities

MTGNerdGirl warned us before we started about the deck’s light discard, like Thoughtseize and Syphon Mind.  Some folks have a significant burr in their saddles about any kind of discard.  I’m fine with a little.  Given the number of graveyard decks that I play, it’s an opportunity to put what I want into the graveyard.  While I don’t want to play against recurring Mindslicers or Turn 2 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, discard here and there keeps us on our toes and spices up the game.  Her telling us demonstrated situational awareness and consideration of the other folks in the game, which was much appreciated. 

Thoughtseize Hurl Through Hell

One of my favorite features of the deck is the number of cards that we don’t regularly see in Commander games.  MTGNerdGirl has opted for a really tight mana curve in order to cast multiple spells or get activations off of Magar in a turn.  The one that really struck me is Hurl Through Hell.  It’s an instant, so we can cast it at end of turn, then have the creature available to us when our turn starts.  In the worst case, we’ve overpaid a little for exiling a dangerous creature.  In the best case, we’ve flipped the script on someone—imagine having Sheoldred, Whispering One and then suddenly becoming the victim of Sheoldred!

I’m also a fan of the mini-storm theme, enabled by that tight mana curve.  Because the spells on the battlefield are cast, they add to the storm count without eating up mana.  We don’t need to wait for a lethal Tendrils of Agony or Grapeshot in order to take advantage of the cards—especially since there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be casting them again.

The Deck in Action

When MTGNerdGirl played the game on stream, Jen and Doni from FilthyMtgCasuals were sitting in for Scott and Gavin, who had other commitments.  The two of them are always up for a game that can turn silly at any moment.  I was playing my Rith Next 99 deck (I’ve renamed the Do Over Project to be more accurately descriptive). 

Doni and I both got off to sort of slow starts, but then I got Lurking Predators going, happy that MTGNerdGirl was casting spells left and right. I was getting value, although perhaps a little below EV on a deck with 38 creatures in the 99.  The game went back and forth for a while.  Doni stayed alive on consecutive turns as I smashed into him with a Xenagos, God of Revels-fueled Rith by playing Respite and then Tangle the next turn.  He and I both died to MTGNerdGirl’s final spasm, Blood for the Blood God!, but she couldn’t keep up with Jen’s battlefield, which included lifelink creatures.  It was the kind of game you remember for a long time afterward and I’m glad we got there.  In the end, it was a perfect Commander game.  Everybody did stuff, something epic happened, and someone eventually won. 

Staying My Hand

There was a point in the early- to mid-game where I had the opportunity to really blow out MTGNerdGirl and I chose not to.  She had three instants and sorceries on the battlefield (who doesn’t love saying that?) and I had Sudden Disappearance in my hand.  By targeting her, she would have lost the three of them for good.  While she was the most active player in the game—she was doing more things than the rest of us—she was a bit behind resource-wise.  Making this play at the time would have effectively taken her out of the game in any meaningful fashion without some serious comeback capability, which I suspected the deck doesn’t have.  

Sudden Disappearance Howl from Beyond

I had another play that took out just one of the doublers—I’m pretty sure it was Howl from Beyond—which was appropriate to the situation of slowing her down some while not knocking her out (it was a little too early for that).  Plus, it was her first time on the stream and I didn’t want to be a rude host.  MTGNerdGirl was a delight to have on and I hope it’s not too long until she agrees to again join us. 

Fests and Cons

Speaking of joining us, she’ll be one of the Special Guests at CommandFest Orlando, at which I’m also appearing.  If you’ve never before been to a CommandFest, I highly encourage you to swing by.  The vibes are great and it’s been my most recent experience that folks settle into the levels of play which will maximize their experience relatively quickly.  The only reason I didn’t come to the one in Richmond instead is that Orlando is on my back door.  It’s not even an hour drive over, which is way better than getting on an airplane, despite the fact that I’ll truly miss the SCG crew.

As far as the SCG crew goes, I got the chance to hang out with them at SCG CON Charlotte.  It was an excellent weekend filled with marvelous games.  I took seven decks, although I played just five of them for most of my twenty games.  One of them was Maarika the Most Brutal, because it can have the types of plays like the one that I’m going to describe.  It happened the first time I ever played the deck (back at SCG CON Indy—I think there’s just something in the air when we get together under the SCG banner), so it’s a definite sign that something epic is always right around the corner. 

A Most Brutal Beat

It was late in a long game, there were lots of permanents on the battlefield, and two players had been eliminated.  It was down to just me and Logan, otherwise known as Tech Support to the Stars.  We both happened to be at 75 life.  His came from combat.  Mine mostly came from Grey Merchant of Asphodel, then Saw in Half, with Fake Your Own Death on the Grey Merchant. 

Jaheira's Respite Avenger of Zendikar Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar Nyxbloom Ancient Marionette Master Verdurous Gearhulk Pitiless Plunderer Myr Battlesphere Wurmcoil Engine Spinning Wheel Kick

It looked rough for me.  Logan had eighteen creatures and could give them flying, vigilance, and lifelink during combat due to Odric, Lunarch Marshal, dealing 80+ damage.  I had just passed my turn after casting Avenger of Zendikar, without even a land to make my nine Plants bigger.  I also had Pitiless Plunderer and Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar on the battlefield.

Logan swung into me with his whole team. Fortunately, like Doni was in the above game, I was prepared to defend myself.  I cast Jaheira’s Respite.  Not only did it Fog the combat, it got the remaining fifteen basic lands out of my deck—and triggered Avenger of Zendikar fifteen times.  Even with the monstrous Plants I would have, it wasn’t going to be enough to even be a speed bump for Logan on the following turn.  After combat, he tightened the screws by casting Avacyn, Angel of Hope.  Now I couldn’t even battlefield wipe out of this.

Choice of Fifteen

My draw was empty, but I had boatloads of mana and could activate Shadowheart Justiciar to draw fifteen cards. It got truly interesting when one of them was Nyxbloom Ancient.  It was, of course, the first thing I dropped.  I stared at the Spinning Wheel Kick that I already had in my hand before the turn started and lamented Avacyn’s presence.  I went into the tank longer than I should have; if I had been playing with folks I didn’t know all that well, I would have scooped.  But we’re friends, and Logan was trying to help me solve the puzzle.  And then I came around to it. He’s tapped out and/or hellbent, so there’s no interaction coming. 

The next thing I cast was Marionette Master, fabricating the three counters onto it.  Then I cast Verdurous Gearhulk, putting its four counters on Marionette Master.  Next in the hit parade (remember, I had copious amounts of mana courtesy of Jaheira’s Respite plus Nyxbloom Ancient) came Myr Battlesphere, giving me a few artifacts to get rid of and trigger Marionette Master. 

Marionette Master Spinning Wheel Kick Wurmcoil Engine

Then came the haymaker:  Spinning Wheel Kick, using Wurmcoil Engine (and its deathtouch) to kill most of my own team:  all my artifact creatures and everything else besides Pitiless Plunderer and Marionette Master.  The first wave of Marionette Master triggers wasn’t enough to kill him, but the Pitiless Plunderer triggers created enough Treasure tokens to sacrifice, getting the last bits of lethal damage off Marionette Master.  It was one of those ways I hope many Commander games will end—even if I’m on the other end of it.

More Decks, More Fun

In addition to bringing the Maarika deck to SCG CON, I took along the new deck I built a few weeks back, which started as Jetmir, Nexus of Revels (mostly as described in the decks from last year I finally managed to assemble), but have turned into a deck that plays with Jared Carthalion as the commander and Jetmir as the secret commander in the 99.  It played extremely well, in that it was always in games (and won its fair share). Most importantly, it provided a compelling experience for the other players at the table. 

My most epic win of the weekend was with my Muldrotha, Gravely Speaking build.  It was a long, swingy game with three fun players.  One pair of them was David, a long-time player, who had brought along his friend Aaron to his first event.  Aaron’s been playing for about a year.  The Muldrotha deck looked like it had sewn up things with a massive battlefield until David, whose hand was empty, topdecked Farewell

Farewell Ashaya, Soul of the Wild Otawara, Soaring City

I ended up saving Ashaya, Soul of the Wild by channeling Otawara, Soaring City and bouncing it to my hand.  Trouble was, I had two cards left in my library.  I managed to kill David with one card left and Aaron with my library empty.  It really was the kind of game one remembers for a long time and keeps us coming back.

Pure Play

SCG CON is always a delight.  Unlike the prior two, in which I spent a fair amount of time away from the tables, this time it was nothing but.  I jammed games all weekend, basically from open to close every day.  It was fun to switch things up, although I’ll likely go back to doing seminars and whatnot should I get invited to future shows. 

As always, we have a channel on the Commander RC Discord server dedicated to discussing my articles.  Drop on by just to say hey and check out the dozens of other channels we have for topics from Commander philosophy to deck brewing and even off-topic things like TV and Film, Music and Theater, and TTRPGs.  Hope to see you there soon. 

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