Building Commander Decks With Time Spiral Remastered

Sheldon Menery showcases the best of Time Spiral Remastered for Commander with a focus on forgotten gems and desirable reprints.

Lotus Bloom, illustrated by Mark Zug

While Time Spiral Remastered might be primarily a set built around a Draft environment, there are plenty of great cards in it for Commander players to build with and around.  From much-needed reprints like Damnation and Pact of Negation to cards newer players might not be familiar with, like Phthisis and Yavimaya Druid, there are plenty of weapons for the Commander player’s arsenal.  Let’s talk about some of those build strategies with some of the available commanders from the main set, a few of the coolest combos from the main set and the bonus sheet, plus some favorite individual cards from both.


Sliver Legion

The most obvious is a tribal deck led by Sliver Legion.  There are 25 other Slivers in Time Spiral Remastered alone to consider before even branching out into other sets.  The list includes favorites like Gemhide Sliver, Harmonic Sliver, and Might Sliver, but don’t sleep on some of the grindier cards like Darkheart Sliver and Necrotic Sliver, the latter of which can find a home outside of tribal decks as well, like in a Karador, Ghost Chieftain build. 

There’s also Virulent Sliver, which might make a poison strategy viable.  Unlike infect, which replaces damage with poison counters, the poisonous ability triggers on combat damage being dealt.  This gives the strategy some legs — even if you don’t get there with poison, you’re reducing the player’s life total nonetheless. 

Once we get outside of Time Spiral Remastered, your choices do become legion.  Fellow Commander Rules Committee (RC) member Gavin Duggan has a particularly spicy build that likes to make use of Psionic Sliver and one or more of the Sliver anthems (built in with Sliver Legion) or Sliver Hivelord.  That way, there are no awkward attack scenarios and the damage can pile up pretty quickly.  You can add Essence Sliver for some pretty significant lifegain as well.

We’ll talk about Vesuvan Shapeshifter in other contexts as well, but its inclusion in Time Spiral Remastered reminds us that we can double up on Sliver abilities if we like with it and other Clones.  While some are redundant (having double trample doesn’t help much), that redundancy lets you not get blown out with targeted removal on one with a critical ability, like flying.  Others, like the Anthems, make things far more savage.  Adding multiple Fungus Sliver effects to the aforementioned Psionic Sliver, for example, can get out of hand pretty quickly. 

Jhoira of the Ghitu

Jhoira of the Ghitu is another relatively well-known commander, popular for its ability to (eventually) do big dumb things for a very low cost and investment in time.  Common strategies involve suspending something immense, like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and a complete battlefield sweeper, like Obliterate or Decree of Annihilation (especially the latter of which you’ll want to resolve before your huge thing).  Suspending Omniscience is also a relatively well-known tactic. 

Then there are cards which remove time counters, like Jhoira’s Timebug, Clockspinning, and Timebender.  Paradox Haze will also speed things up for you, giving you an additional upkeep.  As far as newer cards, Sphinx of the Second Sun will give you that extra upkeep plus lots more. 

The fun with Jhoira, however, is to find the not-so-common paths.

It’s not particularly easy, because it doesn’t make much sense to suspend small things.  You’ll want to keep the cards which remove time counters and then give a shot to high-mana-value cards which don’t get regularly played.  If you like living on the edge, Eternal Dominion seems like a clever one to go along with that Paradox Haze.  You won’t be able to cast new things off Jhoira, so you’ll want to include things that put cards directly onto the battlefield, like Quicksilver Amulet, another nice way of getting around high mana costs anyway.  Since you’re not casting stuff, you might also consider Nullstone Gargoyle, which will at least make playing noncreature spells pretty awkward for everyone else. 

One of my favorite high-mana-cost cards that doesn’t seem much play is Myojin of the Seeing Winds.  It’ll fill your hand up (plus some!), giving you more stuff to suspend.  Play it alongside cards that get their power and toughness from your hand size, like Body of Knowledge and Aeon Chronicler (which also has suspend) for some big beats.  Platinum Emperion is an underplayed card that can definitely keep you alive in the face of overwhelming attacks.  Stormtide Leviathan will also protect you a bit while dishing out unblockable beatings.  In the end, the less common version of Jhoira can be all about playing your Timmiest pet cards. 

Dralnu, Lich Lord

If you like living even farther out on the edge, then Dralnu, Lich Lord is a card for you.  It’s especially risky in a world in which Tergrid, God of Fright exists.  You’re not in colors that give you access to damage prevention, like The Wanderer or Mark of Asylum, so you’ll have to be quite creative.  You’ll definitely want to leverage the control abilities of blue and black, using lots of instants and sorceries so that you can flash them back later using Dralnu’s ability. 

The place my brain goes to with Dralnu is exchanging control of it at opportune moments.  Chromeshell Crab is a classic which you use as an instant, so responding to someone’s Blasphemous Act by giving them Dralnu would be a complete blowout.  You could do the same with Djinn of Infinite Deceits, although that’s a trick that they’ll (likely) see coming.  The Trickster-God’s Heist from Kaldheim will also work. 

Puca’s Mischief is a pretty much unknown card that often creates hilarious game states.  The cards don’t need to share a type; the mana value of the thing you get simply has to be less than the one you give away, so you can swap Dralnu for someone’s Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe.  Because Dralnu gives flashback to instants and sorceries, you can also use cards like Legerdemain and Switcheroo, and then cast them again when you inevitably get Dralnu back.  Sudden Substitution can also create some wild interactions. 

Following that theme, you can go completely down the exchange route, with cards like Magus of the Mirror, Shifting Borders, Profane Transfusion, Soul Conduit, and for some really wild times Cultural Exchange.  In the end, Dralnu is difficult to build around, but the epic game state results will be worth it.

Saffi Eriksdotter

Saffi Eriksdotter (with the cool new art) is a card that I play with some frequency yet have never thought of as a commander.  She always seems better in a deck that likes to recur things from the graveyard multiple times over the course of the game, getting lots of mileage out of cards like Reveillark and Karmic Guide. 

To make use of her as a commander, you’ll want to be able to cast her a number of times.  The first card that occurred to me to go with her is Myth Unbound, making it cheaper to do so.  Command Beacon also makes sense.  Her best power is bringing back other creatures, especially those with great enters-the-battlefield triggers.  There actually aren’t too many in Time Spiral Remastered in her colors (although you might get some mileage from Stonecloaker), so we’ll have to look elsewhere for the hits. 

In green and (predominantly) white, you have more than 1,000 choices for Human creatures.  I’d go with a curve that leads up to Harmonious Archon with Angel of Glory’s Rise as a backup.  You also have 192 total choices for Humans with enters-the-battlefield triggers, from Banisher Priest to War Priest of Thune.  Get some landfall action in with Maja, Bretagard Protector and create more tokens with Increasing Devotion, add Sanctuary Lockdown, and you’re off to the races.  Sigarda, Heron’s Grace will give Saffi and all your Humans hexproof for some additional protection. 

Radha, Heir to Keld

Radha, Heir to Keld might get overshadowed by her newer, more muscly incarnations Grand Warlord Radha and Radha, Heart of Keld, but I’d be happy to have a Stompy deck led by the original and containing the other two.  You can even use your commander and the Grand Warlord’s attack triggers to fuel Heart of Keld’s activation.  From there it’s suit-to-taste, but it seems like Boldwyr Intimidator makes excellent use of the mana from your commander’s triggered ability, turning up to two creatures into Cowards, who then can’t block. 

Elf tribal featuring Beast Whisperer seems like an excellent way to produce a tight curve and dangerous aggro deck.  You could certainly get into an Overrun or Overwhelming Stampede for a big finisher.  Continuing the Boldwyr Intimidator line, you also have Warrior tribal with nearly 500 choices in your colors.  That selection includes the somewhat-underplayed Archetype of Aggression; Champion of Lambholt; Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs; and Neheb, the Eternal to name just a few.  It also opens you to Fynn, the Fangbearer and Bow of Nylea as finishing blows. 

Card Combos

The best-known combo among Time Spiral Remastered cards is the famous Pickles Lock, featuring Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter, ensuring that your opponents never get another untap step.  It’s expensive the first time, but when opponents aren’t untapping, you have some breathing room.  Even on its own, Brine Elemental can be a finisher in a 1v1 situation or a circumstance in which you have multiple opponents at lower life totals.  I use it by itself in my Pako and Haldan deck.  Combine with Cryptic Command or Turnabout to clear the initial path.

Speaking of well-known, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts will create an arbitrarily large number of creatures for you.  With the Zealous Conscripts trigger, target Kiki-Jiki.  In response, tap Kiki-Jiki to make a copy of Zealous Conscripts, which will then generate a new trigger.  Repeat until you want to stop.  The Conscripts have haste, so you can battle right away. 

Tolarian Sentinel and Reality Acid gives you permanent destruction in mono-blue.  You have to discard a card, but it effectively turns any card in your hand into a better Vindicate, since they have to sacrifice it.  You’ll want to be a little careful that your opponent doesn’t have a sacrifice outlet, but that’s usually something that you’ll see in the first place. 

You can go even one better, repeatedly exiling permanents with Mangara of Corondor and Crystal Shard.  Activate Mangara and then respond by activating Crystal Shard, targeting Mangara.  Unlike many similar abilities, exiling Mangara is part of the effect, not the cost.  When the ability resolves, it will do as much as it can; even if Mangara is no longer on the battlefield, the targeted permanent will be exiled. 

Main Set:  Individual Cards

The main set is loaded with great singles.  Here are my picks for my favorite of each color, multicolored, and artifacts.

White — Angel’s Grace

Angel’s Grace

I have such fond memories of this card saving my bacon on multiple occasions.  Sure, your life total is at one, but it can’t likely be countered, making it in many cases more useful than Holy Day. 

Blue — Draining Whelk

Draining Whelk

In Commander, counterspells have to do something additional in order to be useful.  Draining Whelk fits that bill, as it also gives you a big, flying beater.  One of my favorite plays ever was Twincast on someone else’s entwined Tooth and Nail, getting Draining Whelk as the first creature.

Black — Sudden Spoiling

Sudden Spoiling

One of my favorite cards of all time. I look forward to this reprint introducing a new generation of players to its wonders.  It’s marvelously flexible, sometimes serving as a Fog, sometimes as creature removal, and always entertaining.

Red — Greater Gargadon

Greater Gargadon

An inclusion in my Kresh, the Bloodbraided deck since its release in original Time Spiral, Greater Gargadon rarely fails to provide value.  Sometimes, I’d prefer that it stay suspended to I could keep sacrificing stuff to it.

Green — Hypergenesis


Sure, folks see it coming and everyone gets to do it, but you know that you’ll be prepared for it and the battlefields it creates will never be boring.  Since you suspend it, you’ll have time to draw some cards beforehand, which hopefully will include Gather Specimens.

Gold — Saffi Eriksdotter

Saffi Eriksdotter

I know I talked about her a great deal earlier, but she really is a favorite card.  I still think she’s more compelling as one of the 99, but that’s hardly a strike against her.

Artifact — Akroma’s Memorial

Akroma’s Memorial

Despite a reprint in Magic 2013, the price of the card had gotten a little steep, so this is one I’m happy will be a little more affordable for folks.  The keyword soup usually means it’s lights out for someone. 

Bonus Sheet:  Individual Cards

New-border cards in old-border frames make an outstanding bonus feature.  Collectors will rush to scoop up new versions of old favorites.  Here are my top picks by color.

White — Mirror Entity

Mirror Entity

A card that goes into any tribal deck with white, Mirror Entity and a little bit of mana can provide some big beats.  It’ll slot nicely into that Saffi Eriksdotter Humans deck we talked about above.

Blue — Paradoxical Outcome

Paradoxical Outcome

I’m a fan of the card because it makes you think about how you’ll need to play it.  It’s certainly a decent response to a sweeper, especially if you have no maximum hand size.  My favorite way thing to do with it is combo it with Reins of Power.

Black — Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

In general, I like the newer borders better, yet for some reason find Gray Merchant of Asphodel stunningly dark and foreboding in the old one.  The purple mana symbol doesn’t hurt.

Red — Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

One of the most socially important Magic cards of all time, Alesha is also simply another card that I find makes a more powerful artistic statement in the old border.

Green — Evolutionary Leap

Evolutionary Leap

I love sacrifice outlets, and Evolutionary Leap provides an inexpensive one while giving additional value.  It’s a great card for your Muldrotha, the Gravetide decks, regardless of which direction you’re going.

Gold — Consuming Aberration

Consuming Aberration

A creature with power and toughness greater than its mana value is already a big win.  Consuming Aberration continues to help make itself even larger.  It won’t ever be as large as Lord of Extinction, but close enough.

Artifact — Panharmonicon


I’m a sucker for enters-the-battlefield triggers, so Panharmonicon gets my strongest support.  There’s also something to be said for the old border Solemn Simulacrum — and there’s every reason to play both. 

Time Spiral Remastered is a set for everyone.  It brings back some old favorites, providing players who were around then a bit of nostalgia alongside a new way to enjoy them.  It offers newer players a glimpse into the past and perhaps their first access to some cards we veterans have enjoyed for many years. 

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