Optimising Your Use of From the Vault: Lore in Commander / EDH (Part 2)
By Dante Boey
11th August 2016
Last week I talked about basic synergies and combos among some of the cards you will get in the upcoming boxed set, From the Vault: Lore (FtV: Lore). Today, I'll cover the finishers of this product, cards that can end a multi-player Commander game there and then, as well as cards that don't, like Unmask.
Control is a popular archetype in Commander. Control differs in EDH from more traditional constructed formats like Modern and Legacy in that it plays cards that literally control another player's permanent or spell, rather than relying heavily on countermagic. Seen in this light, Control features as a theme as well as a playing strategy in Commander. If you aspire to be a cunning blue mage, there are many staples that allow you to gain control of other players' possessions. Cards like Bribery, Control Magic, Gilded Drake and Commandeer can make your opponents' threats yours, foiling their plans and advancing your own.
Bribery,Control Magic,Gilded Drake & Commandeer
One particular Control staple stands out by his dominating prowess. He is Memnarch, the mad master of Mirrodin. And he can make your opponents mad (at you) as well.
In fact, old cauliflower-head is a popular Commander choice for competitive mono-blue decks with a heavy emphasis on artifacts. Games are completely shut down once Memnarch gains control of the entire board. For the purpose of my article however, I want to incorporate Memnarch into a five-colour shell. He would still function as a finisher, but at a total cost of 4UUU to gain control of every single permanent, it would be best if we are able to generate infinite mana.
Veterans of the Commander format will no doubt be aware of the following efficient two-card combo to generate infinite mana:
Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron
Once you have seven lands, three of which can produce U (one blue mana), and a mana rock (any artifact that can be tapped for mana) in play, you can cast Palinchron, which will then untap all your lands. Next, cast Deadeye Navigator and Soulbond both creatures. You should have a land that can produce U left untapped. Next tap your mana rock for at least one mana and the untapped land. You can now pay for the activated ability bestowed on Palinchron by Deadeye Navigator, exiling it and bringing it back into play, untapping all seven of your lands again. Tap all your lands to float mana and repeat this process until you have infinite mana. If you have Memnarch in play, you can now take control of the entire board.
FtV: Lore features another finisher, in the form of Mind's Desire. This powerful spell allows you to draw your entire library and play all your spells for free, potentially outright winning the game through a multi-card combo.
The key obstacle here is the ability to build a large enough Storm count. To accomplish this, we can again turn to the Deadeye Navigator / Palinchron Combo. With infinite mana, we can return Palinchron to our hand, cast it, and repeat this process for as many times as we want, fuelling our Storm count to a desired level (see what I did here?).
How do we consistently get Palinchron or Deadeye Navigator into our hand? This next legend provides an answer:
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Both of his triggered abilities are helpful, but the first edges out the second in terms of raw power. Whenever you cast a green creature, Momir Vig allows you to tutor any creature, of any colour, and put it on top of your library. If you slot in about twenty more green creatures in your deck, including Glissa the Traitor whom we discussed about last week, chances are high that Momir's first ability will trigger at least once while he is in play, helping you to amass combo components.
Want to win your EDH game in a stylish, epic fashion worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, look no further. Conflux from FtV: Lore allows you to tutor five cards at once! Of course, we want to take this effect to the next level. Is there a way for us to play all five tutored spells at once, after Conflux resolves? The answer is an emphatic yes, through cards like Omniscience and Tamiyo, Field Researcher. These cards allow you cast spells for free, although Tamiyo needs to be played after Doubling Season is cast, to allow her to immediately utilise her third activated ability.
Omniscience or Tamiyo, Field Researcher + Doubling Season
With Omniscience or Tamiyo's emblem in play, what are the five cards we can search for to end the game? If we are talking about an epic conclusion to an epic game, this red card should be considered:
Conveniently, Obliterate is one of the cards in FtV: Lore. Destroying a player's mana base, whether his lands or artifacts, will remove him from any meaningful participation for many turns. Obviously, you don't want your own stuff to be destroyed, so to create a one-sided boardwipe, you need to search for Avacyn, Angel of Hope as your white card.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
The original iteration of Avacyn, last printed in From the Vault: Angels, makes all your permanents indestructible, thus preserving your creatures, lands and artifacts.
For our blue card we'll pick Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. For us to successfully cast Conflux while Omniscience is in play means that our opponents don't have countermagic. However, they can still disrupt our plays by flashing in spells that take control of our permanents, for example. Casting Teferi will protect us from this possibility.
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Our black selection will be one I covered in the previous article, Beseech the Queen. With this spell and at least six lands, we can tutor again for Deadeye Navigator.
Beseech the Queen for Deadeye Navigator
Finally, our choice for the green card should be Eternal Witness. Cast her, bring back Conflux from our graveyard and recast Conflux for free with Omniscience in play. With Deadeye Navigator, we can Soulbond with Eternal Witness, activate the ability Soulbonded on the Witness for 1U at least one more time, and cast Conflux from the graveyard again.
So, let us recap. With Omniscience in play, we cast Conflux. If it resolves, we first cast Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. If he resolves, our opponents cannot cast countermagic or instant spells to disrupt our plays. Next, we'll cast Avacyn, Angel of Hope to protect our permanents. Then we'll cast Obliterate, destroying our opponents creatures, lands and artifacts. Next, we'll cast Beseech the Queen, searching our library for Deadeye Navigator and casting it. Finally, we'll cast Eternal Witness and Soulbond her to the Navigator.
Omniscience + Conflux
Cast, in order:
- Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- Beesech the Queen for Deadeye Navigator
- Eternal Witness Soulbond to Deadeye Navigator
As the Witness enters the battlefield, we'll bring back Conflux from our graveyard. We cast Conflux again. We search for Time Warp (a blue spell) and Near-Death Experience (a white spell). We cast Time Warp. We take an additional turn, untap our lands and activate Eternal Witness' Soulbonded ability once, bring back Time Warp from our graveyard and cast it, activate her Soulbonded ability again, bring back Beseech the Queen from our graveyard and cast it, searching for Phyrexian Processor. We cast Near-Death Expereince. We cast Phyrexian Processor, paying enough life until we're left with 1. We take another turn. At the beginning of this turn, we win the game.
Time Warp +Near-Death Experience +Phyrexian Processor
Is this finishing combo needlessly convoluted? Yes. Is it epic? Hell yeah! Moreover, it utilises synergies already found among many of the cards in FtV: Lore, including the Near-Death Experience / Phyrexian Processor combo I spoke of last week.
Now, what 5-colour Commander can make good use of all the cards I've mentioned? The Reaper King and Sliver Overlord are good fits. The former can let you control the board if you transform all your creatures into scarecrows through cards like Conspiracy and Xenograft. There is also a two-card combo of Grand Architect and Pili-Pala (a scarecrow) that will allow you to generate infinite mana to finish the game with Memnarch. The Sliver Overlord has a built-in tutor ability, which is good, because many quality slivers have a green colour identity. This allows them to trigger Momir Vig's green-creature enters play ability, letting him tutor for an additional creature multiple times.
Reaper King and Sliver Overlord
There are two more cards from FtV: Lore that I would like to talk about. Cabal Ritual is a neat little accelerant that enables us to cast expensive spells using less lands. In Commander, it is not difficult to amass seven cards in our graveyards and achieve Threshold. When that happens, a costly combo piece like Omniscience (which costs 7UUU) can be cast with just seven lands, one of which should produce B (1 black mana) and three others that should each produce U. With mana rocks, the process can be speeded up further.
Finally, we have Unmask. Now, I know I seem critical of this card since the first article, but that's because cards like this don't do much in multi-player Commander games. You need to have many cards that allow you to pick a card from an opponent's hand and discard it in order to consistently draw and play them early. Every card only affects one opponent at any one time. A discard strategy is powerful in constructed duelling formats that allow you to field four of the same card against one opponent, but in EDH cards like Unmask are not very efficient. You spend one card to take away one card from one of your opponent, but it means your remaining opponents have one more card in hand. Besides, Unmask costs too much for what it does. At 3B, you can only get rid of one card. You can exile a black card in hand to cast Unmask for free, but in essence you are merely trading two cards for one. If I have four mana open, I would rather cast Phyrexian Processor, pay a little life, and have the option of summoning beefy Minions later in the game.
Having said that, Unmask is not useless. Before you cast a game-ending spell, you can first cast Unmask to check a blue-aligned opponent's hand for counterspells. If he has only one, discard it and then safely play your spell. Make sure none of your other opponents are playing blue, though.
Thus ends my little primer for getting the most out of From the Vault: Lore in your EDH deck. I've advocated playing all fifteen cards in the same five-colour deck for multi-player games, but of course the final decision rests with you. Needless to say, there are enough powerful cards in this product to augment your deck no matter who your Commander is, making its purchase worthwhile. I hope you found my exposition useful. Until the next time we meet, happy duelling!
[From the Vault: Lore will be available for retail on the 19th of August. This premium boxed set will be extremely limited, so pre-order at the Dueller's Point website to get the best deal and avoid disappointment.]