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Fly The Friendly Skies With Sephara

Before Commander 2019 season starts in earnest, Bennie Smith takes a look back at one of Core Set 2020’s most intriguing build-around cards: Sephara, Sky’s Blade!

This weekend we got a few sneak peeks into some of the goodies we’ll be getting in the upcoming Commander 2019 preconstructed decks, and full-blown previews start today! But before we leave behind Core Set 2020, I wanted to share one more legendary creature I’m very excited about—Sephara, Sky’s Blade!

There’s no doubt that Sephara’s text box and stats pack a huge punch. A 7/7 flyer with evasion is no joke and can kill an opponent with commander damage in just three hits. The lifelink is incredible too, helping to buff your life totals from opponents who want to kill you before you can kill them. Of course, the very best of the bunch is giving all your flyers indestructible, so even if they’re tiny in size, they can hold down the fort while Sephara goes on offense.

All that alone would make Sephara at least a bit interesting for Commander, but the alternative casting cost really pushes it to another level. Tapping four flyers is certainly a real cost, but it’s not like having a 7/7 flying creature with lifelink is a shields-down moment. Shaving off six mana is a huge cost savings, and well worth leaning hard into the theme of building “flying tribal.”

Let’s get brewing!

Cheap Flyers

The first order of business is to fill as much of the deck as we can with flyers that can help cast Sephara and then benefit from gaining indestructible. I started the ball rolling with as many cheap flyers as I could. We want a good chance of casting a flyer on the first four turns and simultaneously casting Sephara on that last turn. That’s seriously big game.

I like having Ornithopter available since we can hold it in hand until the turn we want to cast Sephara, potentially surprising our opponents who weren’t expecting Sephara a turn early.

Where possible, I like creatures with more than just flying, so I was glad to scoop up cards like Hope of Ghirapur, Topplegeist, and Hovermyr. Serra Avenger is the perfect card to cast on Turn 4 prior to casting Sephara.

Goldenglow Moth does great work as an indestructible blocker, blunting the usefulness of many attacks.

I like Boreas Charger and Vesperlark providing some recovery from mass removal if Sephara has been neutralized.

Other Flyers

Some flyers higher up the curve to cast after Sephara can be big game too. Karmic Guide and Reveillark can bring back creatures that might have died before you had a chance to set up with Sephara.

I really like Sublime Archangel since the play pattern will usually be a bunch of small indestructible creatures that won’t be attacking anyway, so why not give them all exalted to boost the size of Sephara? Four creatures to cast Sephara, and then drop Sublime Archangel and that’s +6/+6 to Sephara when you attack. A 13/13 with lifelink? Sign me up!

Flying Matters

Serra the Benevolent from Modern Horizons is the perfect card for this deck. She boosts flyers and makes flyers, and since Sephara makes them all indestructible you’ve got plenty of defense to protect planeswalkers.

Speaking of indestructible blockers, I think Brave the Sands can do a lot of work here, letting you free-roll all-out attacks while they become even more effective and keeping out attacking damage.

Protect the Queen

Adarkar Valkyrie and Aegis Angel are slam-dunk inclusions here, protecting Sephara so that she can keep protecting the rest of your creatures. Field of Souls is a bit of a fail-safe measure in case your opponents conspire to get rid of Sephara first and then do a wipe of the battlefield. At least you’ll have replacement flyers to recast Sephara!

I’m a bit torn on Spirit Bonds because it’s very mana hungry, but the incredibly low mana curve of the deck pushes me to give it the green light, since you can quickly build up to four flyers with Spirit Bonds and enough mana. And if you’ve got extra mana, you can always sacrifice one of your Spirits to give Sephara indestructible until the end of the turn.

Planeswalkers

Thinking about Serra the Benevolent led me to thinking about including more planeswalkers since they can provide a source of card advantage that might otherwise be lacking in mono-white, and we should have no shortage of protection for them from combat damage. Gideon Blackblade’s +1 ability can be quite helpful in a variety of situations. Gideon, Martial Paragon’s +2 ability does a nice job of resetting any creatures you’ve tapped to cast Sephara to either attack with the small boost or to just be blockers. And since we’re playing a couple of Gideons, why not play Gideon of the Trials and take advantage of that emblem?

We do have Grateful Apparition to give us some proliferate triggers if we can sneak in some combat damage.

Mana Ramp

Since we’re playing such a low mana curve, ramp cards aren’t as crucial here as they are in other builds, but I’ve included some number of them so that casting Sephara the hard way isn’t out of the question. Since our mana curve is so low, I thought Aether Vial can do some good work, activating to put a cheap flyer onto the battlefield at the end of our opponent’s turn to avoid sorcery-speed removal.

Card Draw/Selection

I’ve included many of the card drawing or card selection cards you’d expect from a mono-white deck, and I’m particularly excited by Bygone Bishop given the low mana cost of our flyers and the fact that Bygone Bishop flies too!

Interaction

We’ll round things out with removal spells and other interaction. I paid particularly close attention for these sorts of cards that were also flyers, like Remorseful Cleric, Aven Mindcensor, and Wispmare.

Angel of Jubilation has been creeping into more of my decks lately. Its “Players can’t pay life or sacrifice creatures to cast spells or activate abilities” ability can prove quite disruptive to some popular strategies.

White has plenty of “Destroy all creatures” spells and I’ve included a lot of them here since Sephara mostly breaks the synergy. I really like Divine Reckoning since Sephara can be your choice of what avoids the destruction, but then she protects the rest of your creatures while your opponents will just be left with one creature each.

Sweet deck! Let’s see how close we are to 100 cards.

Converted Mana Cost

Number of Cards

0-1

20 (including lands that don’t produce mana)

2

20

3

10

4

9

5

6

6

6

7+ and X

0 (plus commander)

72 total cards plus 38 mana-producing lands equals ten cards too many, so we need to make some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.

I do like Kirtar’s Wrath because it will often leave behind a couple of Spirits you can use to recast Sephara, but of all the battlefield sweepers, I like it the least. Requiem Angel is like a Field of Souls but attached to a flyer, yet I think I prefer the cheaper four-mana enchantment. Of all the planeswalkers in my original list, Ajani, Wise Counselor is probably my least favorite.

We’ve got a ton of low-cost flyers and still seven cuts to make, so I’m going to trim a few of the lower-impact ones at two mana.

With three more cuts to make, I’m going to trim a couple of the vanilla 1/1 flyers. And with one final cut to make, I’m going to give Darksteel Mutation the boot. I’ve been high on that card for many years, but when Commander 2019 gets here I think its usefulness is taking a big blow after seeing two of the cards in the sneak peek this weekend. I’ll talk more on that next week, but for now that brings our deck to the magical 100 number!

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:


What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Core Set 2020 or Commander 2019 that should find a home here, let me know!

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!

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I’ve been writing about the Commander format and Magic: The Gathering in general for nearly two decades. Visit the Star City Games article archives for tons of content dating back to January 2000!

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