Commander Top 10: Atris, Oracle Of Half-Truths

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Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths, illustrated by Bastien L. Deharme

I haven’t done a Dimir commander for Commander Top 10 in a while, and Theros Beyond Death offers a spicy choice:  Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths!

What’s cool about this card is that its triggered ability starts a mini-game with one of your opponents. Worst -ase scenario, you’re just going to get raw card value if you just snag whatever pile has two cards, even if the best card goes to the graveyard.  But what really gets fun is if your opponent decides to try to trick you into picking a single card that’s face-down but is actually not the best card. That’s part of the fun of this mini-game and I imagine it will lead to some memorable interactions.  

And that’s not even mentioning political deals you can make where you can convince an opponent who’s a temporary ally to make a three-card pile for you to select to help dig for an answer to the game’s current Archenemy.  Or you can declare a truce if they make a three-card pile for you.  And then there’s the decision whether to make it a face-up or face-down pile.

One thing we’ll want to do is include cards that will let us retrigger Atris’s ability since each time you do, you’re generating value.  And regardless of how each mini-game plays out, it’s clear that Atris’s ability is sometimes going to put cards into your graveyard, so having cards that care about that sort of thing are going to increase the value of Atris’s trigger. 

A quick note to remember: You choose just one target opponent to look at the top three cards of your library and put them into piles. Other players can’t look, but they may attempt to offer advice without knowing what cards are there. The player who looks may also tell other players truths about those cards, or half-truths, or outright lies.  And you don’t have to reveal the cards in the face-down pile if you put it into your hand.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

1. Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

The returning champion! Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is a fantastic new card that does awesome work in any deck with creatures that has creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities, especially since Thassa’s trigger happens at the beginning of your end step so you get to use it the same turn as you play it.  Even if you don’t have such a creature available, it can reset a tapped creature that you attacked with, so you have a blocker available.  If your devotion count isn’t high enough to be a creature, Thassa being an indestructible enchantment means that it’s pretty difficult to interact with, so the trigger is pretty reliable.  And let’s not forget the activated ability is a solid mana sink for the late-game.

I’m including plenty of other permanents that can help us leverage more Atris triggers:

Conjurer’s Closet comes a pretty close second to Thassa, and Panharmonicon is a slam-dunk inclusion.  I usually avoid playing Deadeye Navigator because of its combo potential and being very difficult to interact with, but I’ll make an exception here since we’re just using it to grind more value from Atris.

Blade of Selves on Atris is fun even if you can’t attack with the copies due to the legend rule, but you still get an Atris trigger for each other opponent you could attack.

2. Teferi’s Time Twist

There are some handy spells that can also give us extra Atris triggers, and one of the best is Teferi’s Time Twist.  While other ones exile the permanent and bring it right back to the battlefield, Teferi’s Time Twist is a cheap way to duck out until the beginning of the next end step, dodging sorcery-speed removal and giving the target a +1/+1 counter when it returns. 

I’ve included some other spells that we can use for more Atris triggers too:

The copies of Atris from Quasiduplicate and Cackling Counterpart will immediately die to the legend rule (unless you’re copying a nonlegendary copy from Helm of the Host), but sometimes you’ll just want that value anyway.  Both of them are also playable from the graveyard, so if they end up there from an Atris trigger that’s free value.

3. Crucible of Worlds

A fair number of two-card piles are going to include a land card and end up in the graveyard, so Crucible of Worlds will be a great way to recoup the card and keep land drops flowing.  We can also take advantage of lands that sacrifice for an effect and then replay them later with Crucible.

I’m including plenty of other cards that let us bring things back from the graveyard, whether from an Atris trigger or just the normal course of a game:

I really like some of the reanimation options here like Beacon of Unrest since often an opponent will try and get you to put a really good creature in the graveyard from Atris, and then you can bring it back with one of these spells.

4. Syr Konrad, the Grim

Is there anything Syr Konrad, the Grim can’t do in Commander?  He slowly whittles away at opponents’ life totals with triggers from just the normal course of the game, but in this deck he gets the added value of complicating the piles for Atris triggers—if you choose someone with a low life total, they may be loath to put a creature in a pile you won’t take.  Or you can simply put the pile with a creature in the graveyard, just to turn the screws a bit.

I’m including some other cards that do fun things with your graveyard:

Lazav, the Multifarious also complicates Atris triggers. If you put a good creature in the graveyard, Lazav can just become that creature on the spot.  Dimir Doppelganger can do the same sort of thing but can also choose creatures from your opponents’ graveyards.

5. Necrotic Ooze

I just love Necrotic Ooze but having just one copy for your deck makes it tough to do a lot of good in Commander.  But in this deck, with (hopefully) constant triggers from Atris, I’m hoping that I’ll find Necrotic Ooze and a good creature or two that the Ooze can borrow abilities from often enough to make it worthwhile!

Speaking of good creature abilities:

Tut draw would be to end up with Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born in the graveyard and Necrotic Ooze (or Lazav, the Multifarious) on the battlefield.  Use Bloodline Keeper’s ability to tap and make a 2/2 Vampire token creature, then use Grimgrin’s sacrifice a creature to untap ability, and do that over and over to add a whole bunch of +1/+1 counters on Necrotic Ooze.  That will certainly garner some attention from your opponents.

Okay, what joker put Nexus of Fate in my list of good creatures?  Oh wait, that was me! I added Nexus of Fate because even if it gets put into the graveyard with Atris, it’ll just get shuffled back into the library and eventually you’ll get to take an extra turn here and there.

6. Jorubai Murk Lurker

Did you ever think you’d see Jorubai Murk Lurker in a Top 10 list?  Granted, a big part of why it’s here is because of #5’s pick of Necrotic Ooze, since the lifelink is an activated ability that can be borrowed by the Ooze. But I just like that it can come down early, be a decent blocker, and then once you have a creature of size out there you can give it lifelink.  Don’t forget, you can target anyone’s creature with the ability, so if you’ve got an opponent that’s low on life maybe you can work out a deal on an Atris trigger.

I’m including a few other ways to enhance your creatures too:

Shadowspear continues to impress and is particularly helpful with black’s removal to take down creatures that are indestructible or have hexproof.  And Blackblade Reforged is a great way to make Atris an actual formidable battlefield presence in the late-game.  These two pieces of Equipment find their way into nearly all my Commander decks.

7. Doom Whisperer

While think having too many cards that manipulate the top of your deck is a bit cheesy and spoils the mini-game of Atris’s trigger, I’m willing to make an exception for Doom Whisperer.  Spending four mana on Atris and ending up with a 3/2 creature doesn’t give you much presence on the battlefield, but on the next turn casting Doom Whisperer and having a 6/6 flying creature with trample?  Now that’s a commanding presence!  And the card selection is a great way to convert some of the lifegain from Jorubai Murk Lurker or Shadowspear into good card selection.

Even though I’m leaning on Atris to provide a lot of card velocity, I’m including some other card draw or card selection cards in the mix too:

Dimir House Guard is here mainly to go tutor up my beloved Necrotic Ooze with transmute, and with it in the graveyard Necrotic Ooze can use the regeneration ability to avoid some removal.

8. Carrionette

When I was searching the database for interesting cards that interact with the graveyard, I was thrilled to stumble across this old chestnut from Tempest!  If it ends up in the graveyard from an Atris split, any opponent that has a formidable creature on the battlefield has to worry about tapping down too low on mana if you’ve got four mana available to activate Carrionette

I’m including some other, more traditional removal spells in the deck too:

Walking Ballista is another card that’s pulled onto the list due to Necrotic Ooze—its ability is a nice way to use up all those +1/+1 counters you’ve added to the Ooze. 

I also like Avatar of Woe here since there’s a good chance with enough Atris triggers (along with some of your opponents’ dead creatures) that Avatar of Woe will cost six less mana to cast.

9. Spellskite

At some point your opponents are going to recognize that they need to stop you from the continuing value engine of Atris, and so they’ll be pointing more and more removal its way to lock you out with commander tax.  That’s why I like Spellskite to give Atris and other significant creatures in the deck (cough-Necrotic Ooze-cough) a bit of a buffer.

I’m including some other cards to interact with your opponents too, pretty much what you’d expect:

10. Solemn Simulacrum

I’ve got most of the usual suspects for mana ramp in the deck, including the awesome Solemn Simulacrum.  It rises to the Top 10 in this deck due to the graveyard recursion cards that should enable us to get to recast it at least once in a game.

I leaned pretty hard on two-mana ramp cards like Arcane Signet here since that will allow a Turn 3 Atris to get the value engine online early, hopefully before your opponents are in a position to interfere too much.

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 Theros Beyond Death that should find a home here, let me know!

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