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The Historic Bird Is The Word

Dominaria has more legends than virtually any set modern Commander players have ever seen! Bennie Smith keeps the legendary parade rolling with another new deck!

When it comes to Commander, Dominaria is the set that keeps on
giving. I’ve written about eight legends from the set so far, and there’s
still plenty left to choose from. Which legends are you having fun with
these days? Last week I wrote about Grand Warlord Radha, a legend that
certainly encourages more aggressive play. This week I’m going to shift
gears and sketch out a deck that’s all about synergies and value. Let’s
hear it for the Bird: Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle!

Now, me and graveyard recursion go way back like car seats. When I first
started playing Magic, I fell in love with green’s big, mean creatures.
However, they were constantly getting killed by my rude opponents. One day
I was lamenting to a friend that I envied black’s ability to get creatures
back from the graveyard, and he said, “you know, you could put black cards
in your deck that let you get back your green creatures.”

That day, a Golgari mage was born. Grinding value out of my graveyard has
been something I’ve loved ever since.

Over the years it’s been neat that white has gotten in on the graveyard
recursion action. Angelic Renewal. Resurrection. Enduring Renewal. Breath
of Life. Karmic Guide. I had a Standard deck back in the day that did fun
things with Reveillark.

So, when I opened Teshar as one of my Prerelease foil promos, I knew that
I’d be building a Commander deck with it eventually!

Now, Teshar looks like a four-mana creature, but generally you’re going to
want to cast it when you have mana to cast Teshar and something historic at
the same time. This is assuming you have a creature in the graveyard
already that you’d want to bring back to the battlefield. If you don’t have
a creature in the graveyard you’d want to bring back already… well, what
are you doing with a Teshar deck?

Okay, let’s get brewing!

Mana Ramp

First up, let’s make sure we have a fair amount of mana acceleration. Now,
the way this deck is going to want to play out, we’re going to want to have
lots and lots of cheap historic spells to cast, so the overall mana curve
is probably going to be much lower than the average Commander deck.
However, we also want to make sure we have enough mana soon enough to cast
Teshar and the historic spell for value. Thus, we want a mana acceleration
just like other decks. Lucky for us, almost all the ones we want to play
are artifacts, which happen to be historic-can’t you smell the synergy
cooking? I had the good fortune of opening Mox Amber in a pack recently, so
I think I’ll include it here.

Scuttlemutt is an old favorite of mine-it slices, it dices, it makes mana.
In a mono-color deck it’s often handy to be able to switch colors of
permanents. Additional pluses of Scuttlemutt in a Teshar deck-it’s a
three-mana creature for recursion, and it’s historic for triggering Teshar.

Removal

Next up, removal spells. White has plenty of quality removal spells that
most Commander decks want such as Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God.
But in a Teshar deck I like creatures that sacrifice to destroy things,
like Felidar Cub and Lieutenant Kirtar. Lieutenant Kirtar is yet another
card that does double duty here, a historic card that can be brought back
from the graveyard. I like that Mageta the Lion, Steel Hellkite, and Major
Teroh all provide historic triggers for Teshar.

You may have noticed Strip Mine, Encroaching Wastes, and Dust Bowl on my
list. Now, I’m not usually one for land destruction cards in Commander. I
think stifling people’s ability to play their cards leads to some very
unfun games. But I have noticed lately that the density of very dangerous
lands out there has increased. While I have some ramp spells, I don’t have
access to Gaea’s Cradle, Cabal Coffers, and the like, so to curtail the
mana madness somewhat I thought it wise to include some ways to shut that
down. Plus, when you don’t need to trade them in to destroy those lands,
you can tap them for colorless mana to activate Eldrazi Displacer!

Card Draw

Every good Commander deck wants to keep the cards flowing, and even though
my plan is to grind value out of my graveyard, I still want some gasoline
in case I’m left driving on fumes. Mentor of the Meek is particularly nice
because it’s a three-mana creature that can be brought back with Teshar,
and it will trigger off other creatures entering the battlefield from
Teshar.

Self-Sacrifice for Profit

Alright, we’ve chosen cards that check off those first three important
boxes. Now let’s dig deeper into creatures we can self-sacrifice for profit
and that we can get back with Teshar triggers. You can run Benevolent
Bodyguard or Vigilant Martyr out early to protect Teshar directly. Salvage
Scout and Restoration Specialist are awesome in that they can get back
artifacts from the graveyard that will then trigger Teshar, potentially
getting them right back to be used again.

All that value, I can’t stand it!

Legends

Artifacts aren’t the only thing that triggers Teshar, so what about Sagas?
Well, I looked at the white Sagas and ultimately decided they weren’t
really what I was interested in. Triumph of Gerrard seems much better
suited to a more aggressive deck. History of Benalia loses a lot of its
impressiveness in a bigger format like Commander outside of a dedicated
Knight deck. And I don’t think it would be very fun at all to run Fall of
the Thran. But while the white Sagas are a bust, there are plenty of solid
white legends to choose from. Kytheon, Hero of Akros, Thalia, Heretic
Cathar and Danitha Capashen, Paragon hit that sweet spot of being both
historic and recurring with Teshar. Baird, Steward of Argive is like a
Ghostly Prison that triggers historic.

Then there’s Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light. Both are
fine creatures in their own right, but who doesn’t want a chance to get
Brisela, Voice of Nightmares on the battlefield?

Artifacts

Let’s round the deck out with lots of cheap artifacts to help trigger
Teshar. I really like Scrap Trawler here since it’s a three-mana creature
that can help you get back artifacts from the graveyard to cast again and
trigger Teshar. I have an old, hashed up copy of Argivian Archaeologist.
I’m thrilled to have a good deck for it. I don’t play it much because it’s
so fragile for its mana cost, but if any deck will make good use of it,
this one will. I also love the new call back to Argivian Archaeologist,
Daring Archaeologist. I like to call the card Indiana Joan, and when I get
back an artifact from the graveyard with her triggered ability I’m going to
say, “This belongs in a museum!”

Thraben Inspector and Stoneforge Mystic are honorary artifacts since they
come with artifacts attached to them and can be brought back with Teshar.
I’ve also included Salvaging Station along with some cheap artifacts it can
bring back from the graveyard like Urza’s Bauble and Mishra’s Bauble.

Mono-White Goodstuff

We’ll round things out with some general good stuff cards you’d want in a
mono-white deck. Emeria, the Sky Ruin complements our recursion plan quite
nicely once you get later in the game. Mother of Runes is a powerful
protective card that often gets swept away by mass removal, so it’s
particularly nice that Teshar can keep bring it back.

Sweet deck! But wait…there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make our cuts.

Let’s start by taking a look at our mana curve:

1 mana: 19

2 mana: 15

3 mana: 14

4 mana: 11+Commander

5 mana: 6

6 mana: 5

7+ mana/X-spells: 2

73 total cards, plus 37 lands, equals ten cards too many. I’ll start first
by looking higher up my mana curve first. The top of my mana curve is
already pretty lean, and I like all the cards that cost six or more. But
thinking about it, Salvaging Station is trying to do what Teshar already
does better, and if I cut it, then I probably can go ahead and cut one of
the Baubles, so let’s cut Mishra’s Bauble.

At four mana we’ve got some great cards, but we might be able to cut a few
things. One thing that jumps out is Weatherlight, which can’t be crewed by
Teshar alone. I’m not sure of the math of what percentage chance of hitting
each time, but I can imagine the occasional miss being pretty sad. Let’s
cut it for now.

Auriok Salvagers is another card like Salvaging Station that is trying to
do what Teshar already does better. Plus, it’s a bit of a mana hog when
you’re not bringing back Lion’s Eye Diamonds. Hit the showers, dude.

Three mana is pretty well stocked. Here are three I could see cutting, but
not all three.

These all have base value by being historic and creatures that Teshar can
bring back. I kind of want to keep Wild-Field Scarecrow since I’m playing
Scarecrone. Pilgrim’s Eye flies and helps you keep hitting your land drops.
Bottle Gnomes gains you life… and is cute as heck. When’s the last time you
thought about playing Bottle Gnomes? The Mirrodin era flavor text
always cracked me up: Reinforcements… or refreshments? Sigh… sad
to say, but I think Bottle Gnomes is going to be the best cut here.

Okay, moving on to two mana. These three cards all do the same thing.

Do we really need all four? Should we trim one or two? They are all
functionally identical, so it doesn’t matter which one or ones we choose.
I’m going to just keep two of them, and I’m going with the Unicorn and the
Cat Beast.

Seven down, we still need three more so let’s look at the zeroes and ones,
of which we have a whopping 18. Kytheon, Hero of Akros and Legion’s Landing
are two cards that probably work better in decks more aggressive than this
one. I think both would probably be fine here, but we still need to make
some hard cuts so I’m going to go ahead and make some here.

That leaves one more! Looking at my mana curve after the cuts, I’m showing
thirteen for both two and three mana, so let’s look at three mana again.
Pilgrim’s Eye survived the first round cut, but now that we need one final
cut and three mana looks like the place for it due to mana curve
considerations, I think it’s going to get the boot. I’m certainly open to
suggestions though; what do you think?

Commander


So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone
another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?

Don’t forget: #SCGCON is
less than a month away! I’m so excited to be a part of the

Commander Celebration

alongside Sheldon and the Commander Vs crew, so if you love Commander make
sure to come to Roanoke and play with us. There’s also going to be some
great artists, great cosplayers, The Professor from Tolarian Community
College, and even Gavin Verhey from Wizards of the Coast will be dropping
in!

Speaking of Sheldon, make sure you check out his most recent column,
What Decks Are Coming With Me to SCGCon
. Which nine decks will he be packing for the weekend? And for more Dominaria goodness, be sure to check out
the Commander Vs crew as they build Commander Pauper decks
around an uncommon legend from Dominaria. Justin smashes with
Grunn, the Lonely King; Stephen fires up everyone’s favorite Frog Spirit,
Yargle, Glutton of Urborg; Jeremy, grinds value with Tatyova, Benthic
Druid; and Jonathan gets aggressive with Valduk, Keeper of the Flame!


New to Commander?


If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling
)

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers

)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts

)

Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)