Double Masters is here and the prices on so many great Commander staples are already coming down to more reasonable levels. Included among the reprints are 25 legends, and to be honest many of them aren’t all that fun to play in Commander. I was glad to see another print of Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, a very cool Simic legend from Commander 2018, so be sure to check out the write-up I did for that commander last week! This week, I’m turning to a very interesting legend to choose as your commander: Braids, Conjurer Adept!
That upkeep trigger is powerful; there’s a reason why Show and Tell is a spell featured in potent Legacy decks, since cheating out a high-cost spell way ahead of schedule can just end games. Braids definitely has some risk built in, though. If you cast her on your turn, then each opponent will get to benefit from the trigger before you do. And given that Commander is a format for big, splashy haymaker cards, odds are pretty good that somebody is going to drop something huge and scary onto the battlefield.
Nah, that’s just The Fear talking. We’re going to hope they drop something huge and exciting onto the battlefield! I mean even if an opponent makes us pay for giving them a card on the battlefield for free, it’ll be a glorious, crazy mistake that may very well make for a hilarious story we can recount for the ages. No guts, no glory!
Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared for our opponent dropping something huge. In fact, we can bank on it. Now, the optimal, efficient, Spikey blue player approach to this dilemma would be to load our deck up with ways to steal whatever huge monster our opponent just played – Control Magic, Treachery, nonsense like that. But c’mon—that’s just dumb and boring. What kind of Commander player does dumb and boring?
No, what we want to do instead is load our deck up with Clone effects! That way we let our opponent have their big splashy fun—and then we get to have that fun too! That should lead to some interesting and complicated battlefield situations, right?
We’ll also want a few big, splashy creatures and artifacts of our own, in case what our opponents put onto the battlefield isn’t all that exciting. And no, you won’t find Eldrazi in my list—big dumb indestructible creatures are big and dumb and thoroughly boring. If any of our opponents are playing those type of big, dumb and boring creatures then we’ll copy them or have ways of dealing with them. Otherwise, my choices will be far more interesting.
Before we get to it, let’s check in on the Double Masters release notes for Braids:
If the permanent you put onto the battlefield has an ability that triggers at the beginning of your upkeep, it won’t trigger during that upkeep.
Okay, let’s get brewing!
1. Sakashima the Impostor
Mono-blue has no end to cards that are riffs on the original Clone, so many that I actually don’t even have room for it. Sakashima the Impostor is definitely one of the better ones because you can copy your own legendary monster, but in this particular deck is rises to the very tip top due to Sakashima’s activated ability. Since the Braids ability lets you “play” threats or copies of threats to the battlefield, odds are pretty good you can leave up the four mana you’d need to activate it. Maybe an opponent is trying to kill Sakashima because you’ve copied something huge? Or maybe someone’s put something even better on the battlefield you’d rather copy instead? Sakashima’s got all the Clone angles covered!
Vesuvan Doppelganger and its morphing version Vesuvan Shapeshifter also let you switch up what you copy if a better choice comes along. I’m a little hesitant about Spark Double since it’s limited to only copying my own creatures, but I figure if I copy someone’s legendary creature with one of my other Clone effects, it might be handy to make a second copy of it with Spark Double.
Sakashima’s Student has real blowout potential: say you’ve copied a flier with Phyrexian Metamorph, but then someone has put Lord of Extinction onto the battlefield with Braids. You can attack someone with no fliers with the Metamorph, but before damage is dealt, use Sakashima’s Student’s ninjutsu ability to swap out and then copy Lord of Extinction. Boom!
2. Consecrated Sphinx
For big, threatening creatures of our own, one of the best is Consecrated Sphinx. While it doesn’t have imposing physical stats, it does provide with some potent card-drawing, and keeping our hand stocked with good cards is the best way to ensure we can leverage Braids to our own advantage over the course of the game. This is assuming it lives; in my experience, it very rarely lives long enough to provide more than a few cards, especially since you have to spend six of your own mana to cast it.
In a Braids deck, though, we don’t have to cast it. We can drop it onto the battlefield during our upkeep and have all the rest of our mana available to protect it.
Thryx is awesome because it’s got flash and built-in cost reduction, so if we need to cast anything large the hard way it could be a little cheaper. And Frost Titan seems like a nice large threat that could ice down someone’s Eldrazi or something else that’s tough to deal with.
3. Paradox Haze
I wanted to play some cards to better leverage the Braids ability than our opponents, and one of the best is Paradox Haze, which gives us two upkeeps and so two Braids triggers. Double the fun!
Strionic Resonator is another way you can double the fun on the Braids trigger, though I imagine we’ll be able to take advantage of it with some creature we copy along the way too. Winding Canyons is a way to get a little greedy with Braids, casting her with flash during the end step of the player to your right so you can untap and get to take advantage of the ability first. Riptide Laboratory is a way to protect Braids from removal since you can bounce her back to your hand, and you can also use it to bring back Braids in case you’re worried about an opponent using Braids for something you don’t want to see.
Crystal Shard can do that too, or also bounce a Clone card back to your hand to reuse if there’s a better target on the battlefield.
Of course, sometimes an opponent is going to put something onto the battlefield with Braids that doesn’t at all play nicely, like an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. If they decide to attack you, even if you’ve got a way to deal with it, you’re still going to suffer from the attack trigger.
Unless you just end their turn once the triggers go on the stack, that is! Time Stop used to be the sole way blue could do that, but Core Set 2021 brought an improved version, Discontinuity! Discontinuity has the added flexibility of being able to end your own turn for just two mana, which can come in handy if another player decides to do something during your end step that would wreck you if it resolved.
It can even be a combat trick if your opponent has a spell or effect that would destroy your attackers.
I’m including a lot of other ways to mitigate your opponents from using the Braids ability to put a gigantic threat onto the battlefield and then attack you with it. Maze of Ith and Labyrinth of Skophos are visible countermeasures that will often encourage opponents to just attack each other. I also really like Portal Mage to redirect an attack from a huge monster away from you and towards the opponent it should have been attacking instead. Since Portal Mage is a Wizard, you could even use this again and again with Riptide Laboratory!
Arcane Lighthouse and Shadowspear are ways to take away pesky hexproof from a big threat so you can handle it if you need to, and Homeward Path is there in case an opponent didn’t get the memo on stealing other people’s toys.
When Braids isn’t dropping a huge monster onto the battlefield, it can drop a sweet artifact for free! And some of the best artifacts in the game are Equipment cards. What I love here is that dropping it for free means more mana available for the equip cost, and this is particularly nice where the mana cost of the Equipment is expensive but the equip cost is cheap. Such as Deathrender! What’s nice is that you could put it onto the battlefield with Braids and then equip it to Braids for just two mana. If Braids dies, you’d get to put whatever creature in your hand onto the battlefield with Deathrender equipped to it!
I’m including a bunch of other great Equipment cards:
6. Mirage Mirror
I’m including a few other non-Equipment artifacts and the best of the bunch is Mirage Mirror. This card already impresses me every time I play it, but not needing to pay the original three-mana investment thanks to Braids means you can easily hold up mana to activate it. The primary function in this deck will be as another way to Clone something huge that someone’s put on the battlefield, but it can also be used to copy a land like Maze of Ith, or an enchantment like Fiery Emancipation.
Trading Post and Spine of Ish Sah are already both individually good cards (that get so much better if you get to put them on the battlefield for free with Braids), but if you get both onto the battlefield you can sacrifice Spine of Ish Sah to draw a card and then return Spine to your hand to replay and enjoy its enters the battlefield trigger again and again!
7. Fierce Guardianship
Some player’s sense of irony is going to mean that, once everyone else has gotten to use Braids to drop something for free, they should target Braids with a removal spell like Swords to Plowshares or Terminate before you yourself get to enjoy the benefit. Luckily, we’re a blue deck and can say something about that, and if we don’t have mana up, we can still say no with Fierce Guardianship.
I’m including other ways to interact with your opponents’ fiendish plans:
Sublime Epiphany came very close to bumping Fierce Guardianship from the top spot here—this card is just nuts! If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this ultimate modal spell — that could counter someone else’s Braids trigger, bounce a monster they put on the battlefield earlier, and then copy one of your own big monsters — then you need to remedy that!
8. Cyclonic Rift
Another form of interaction is removal spells, and when your opponents might be playing some giant monster that would otherwise be difficult to handle, removal is critical. Everyone hates Cyclonic Rift but there’s no doubt that it’s needed for our deck in case the battlefield has spiraled out of control. Plus, if we’ve been able to copy a few huge monsters along the way, Cyclonic Rift could legit be the spell that wins us the game on the spot.
Fumble is a great card that gets additional mileage in our own deck considering we’ve got a fair number of Equipment cards, so we could bounce a creature or Clone we control to our own hand, and if it’s equipped with something we could attach that Equipment to another one of our creatures.
Since this is at instant speed it could be an awesome combat trick or response to a removal spell that might otherwise blow us out.
9. Blue Sun’s Zenith
We won’t always be lucky enough to draw Consecrated Sphinx to fuel our hand with cards and keep dropping things for free with Braids, but luckily for us blue has no shortage of card-drawing spells. One of the best of the bunch is Blue Sun’s Zenith, which can be cast at instant speed and then shuffled back into your deck to potentially draw later.
10. Gilded Lotus
I don’t play Gilded Lotus in most of my decks, but in this deck the potential of using Braids to ramp from four to seven mana for free is just way too amazing not to play it.
I am including nearly all of the usual suspects you’d expect in a nongreen monocolor deck:
Chromatic Lantern is here to provide access to different colored mana in case something we’d want to Clone has activated abilities that need colors other than blue.
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Vesuvan Doppelganger
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Consecrated Sphinx
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Sakashima's Student
- 1 Clever Impersonator
- 1 Gigantoplasm
- 1 Stunt Double
- 1 Vizier of Many Faces
- 1 Portal Mage
- 1 Spark Double
- 1 Spectral Sailor
- 1 Thryx, the Sudden Storm
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Stop
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Crystal Shard
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Paradox Haze
- 1 Pongify
- 1 Akroma's Memorial
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Negate
- 1 Rite of Replication
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Champion's Helm
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Trading Post
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Rapid Hybridization
- 1 Strionic Resonator
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Reality Shift
- 1 Mystic Confluence
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Pull from Tomorrow
- 1 Mirage Mirror
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Fumble
- 1 Sword of Sinew and Steel
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Run Away Together
- 1 Tome of Legends
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Fierce Guardianship
- 1 Discontinuity
- 1 Sublime Epiphany
Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:
The mana curve here is much lumpier than I’d normally be comfortable with, but since Braids is a cheat on mana, I’m okay with it.
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Jumpstart or Double Masters that should find a home here, let me know!
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