This is the category for removal that leaves the target on the field, but of significantly diminished usefulness. These are the only sorcery-speed targeted removal I recommend for the deck, and there's a good reason. Certain commanders (Maelstrom Wanderer, for example) are too efficient for us to be able to handle with nothing but removal and counters. These commanders need to be removed permanently, and there are, to my knowledge, 4 ways to do that. The most straightforward method is via one of the pacification-style enchantments that neutralize it while keeping it on the board. This method is obviously weak to enchantment removal, but it's the simplest method. The other options are to price it out (often difficult, especially if the owner has a lot of mana), playing some variation of a meddling mage to prevent them casting it (which is also weak to removal, but requires the addition of another removal spell), or tricking the owner by, for example, using a temporary exile effect and countering whatever trigger would return it (be careful with this method, as some temporary exile effects will allow them to put their commander into the command zone and still return it) or putting it on top of their deck and then compelling a shuffle, which is obviously countered by an opponent who always returns the commander to the command zone - although if you're using, for example, tawnos's coffin this can enable you to price it off the field fairly quickly. Personally I recommend running one of these, and ideally a few tutors to ensure you can get it when you need it - they're sometimes useful just for being versatile, if sorcery-speed, and they give you the capacity to shut down commanders that can otherwise cause major headaches. Although I'd recommend you avoid playing it unless the game is 1v1, or nearly so. Otherwise you'll drastically cut down hate against your target, and give them major motivation to kill you. Although of course it can be necessary early if the game is particularly imbalanced.
Song of the Dryads/Imprisoned in the Moon
Probably the best of the neutralization tools, as it allows you to cast creature-only wipes and isn't countered by a sac outlet unless they can use it immediately. There isn't a significant difference between them, but I'd probably just pick one of the two since it's a niche effect and they're so similar. Best played, as much neutralizing tools, in the late-game, after the board is under reasonable control so you aren't forced to use a global wipe and free their commander.
Being weak to both enchantment and creature removal (to a lesser extent) makes these a step down from /[card=Imprisoned in the Moon]Imprisoned, although at least the creature will die in the board wipe. When I want to use a neutralizing removal, I want it to be as durable as possible to keep my opponents obnoxious commander out of the game permanently, and these don't necessarily offer that. I prefer deep freeze by a hair – more expensive, but it's a better counter to Voltron decks that can still function even with a 0/4 vanilla.
Worse than either of the above for leaving the creature with a point of power, which means it can still put commander damage pressure on us over a long enough game. Don't take half measures - that's what I learned from Breaking Bad. Run this only if you don't have access to better options imo.
Basically the same as lignify/deep freeze – protects it from a creature wipe, much like /[card=Imprisoned in the Moon]Imprisoned, but it can still be sacrificed and a chump blocker can be a step up. Downside is that it works in the same unpleasant way as /[card=Imprisoned in the Moon]Imprisoned if you cast a global wipe, since it protects the creature. Still weaker than those cards imo, but it's pretty close.
Vanishing is a strange way to remove a creature, but not necessarily a reliable one. Some commanders can get nearly full value even if they only exist during upkeep. Against others, though, It's pretty great that you can turn their commander off like a light switch if they try to attack you, and it's almost impossible for them to get rid of vanishing as long as you keep up the mana (sac outlets will save them, but at least they'll need to recast – the only other option is something with split second). Of course it does require significant mana commitment, but that's usually fine in the late-game, although it does diminish the reasonableness of casting this early. Personally I think /[card=Imprisoned in the Moon]Imprisoned are more versatile, but vanishing is also a strong choice.
These don't work against static or triggered abilities, but they're effective against anything that wants to attack or block, or use tap abilities. Unfortunately I don't think that leaves these versatile enough – you really don't want to dedicate many slots to neutralizing removal since it's all sorcery speed, so you want your answers to be as versatile as possible.
I consider these a step above tapdown removal, but not by a ton. Same criticisms apply, but if you have a very stable meta and know what you need to answer these might make sense. Downside relative to tapdown removal is that they can attack immediately if they remove the enchantment on their turn.
Worth mentioning separately because I dislike it. Moving around seems like a sweet add, but in practice it makes it more likely to eat removal, and it makes people hesitate to play their bombs and more likely to want you dead. Stick with removal that won't make you look like a constant headache for your opponents – the more invisible you are, the better.
Incubation suffers some of the same problems as prison term, but at least in my experience it tends to garner less hate, and it's a lot more powerful since we can return it to hand right before a wipe, or if you can broker a deal to free up their commander in exchange for something you want, or if they become a lesser threat. Plus in the 1v1 game it's a way to speed your clock up by multiple turns pretty easily. Not the most elegant or on-message card, but definitely powerful if you want to get some value out of this slot.
Nevermore is an effective way to keep a commander off the table in a permanent fashion, and can even be used to stop shenanigans before they get the chance to start (Maelstrom Wanderer, Prossh, etc). The downside is that they force proactive action from you – but they can create positive scenarios for us, since, if the commander is already on the field, it makes our removal much more threatening for our opponents, and thus dissuades them even more from rousing our wrath. That said, you shouldn't be courting too much favor from the sort of threat you're playing neutralizing removal against – you should helping the weaker players eliminate them. And a lot of the scarier commanders can't be allowed to survive long, even if they're not actively threatening you. But especially if you know you're going to be in very imbalanced games where you want to be able to cripple the threat ASAP, this is a powerful tool.
Nevermore, but better in casual (where combat commanders are more likely) and worse in competitive (where cmc rules). Generally I like nevermore more, but it's close.
Do you want to play nevermore, but your meta has multiple dangerous players? Ally with the weakling by handicapping multiple opponents at once. Good luck actually defending yourself once you've played this, though, and god help you if your ally turns on you and names Phelddagrif just to be a jerk. This is not the sort of thing I'd generally recommend because I think it puts too much attention on you, but it could have a spot if your meta requires locking down multiple commanders.
Theft effects in general don't play super well here – our goal is to be nonthreatening, not to take our opponents threats. And we don't want our opponents to be too shy about playing their bombs, we want to get them out in the open. If you want to play control effects, I'd probably look at a different deck. That said, this can do a decent job of locking down a commander, but the other opponents aren't always interested in seeing you with a scary card either – even if your ability to abuse it is significantly less than the owner.
Bouncing removal tends to make up for the downside of being temporary by also being extremely efficient and flexible. I recommend at least a couple for that reason, but don't go overboard or you might end up with a deck that doesn't have enough power behind it. Also they're usually very weak deterrents, but they do get some political clout by being temporary, since they can delay a combo and force the rest of the table to deal with it more permanently - ideally by killing the perpetrator.
These often are more powerful in fast, competitive metas, where a turn delay can make all the difference. In slower metas, these are less useful, although ones with added value can still be worth a slot.
This is the ultimate combo breaker – targets anything, no responses allowed. On the other hand, it's expensive and it's temporary. The feeling of protection this provides is great, though, so it's one of my top picks for this category.
Blink of an Eye/Into the Roil
I love the flexibility of these cards – cheap when you absolutely need to disrupt something, and with a nice value kick if it's late-game, which is when bounce tends to trail off in efficacy. Great for unknown metas, where you might need super-efficient combo breakers, or you might need good late-game value.
Chain of Vapor
This looks best in fast metas, since the cost is crazy low, but elsewhere the difference isn't very significant, although it's still nice flexible removal. The chain aspect is mostly upside since we don't have many nonlands we care about, and most of them are cheap and easy to replay anyway so they're pretty weak targets. I've rarely had people copy it, though – by the time it's late enough that sacking lands isn't a big deal, bounce isn't that effective either.
Leave in the Dust
The easier mana cost over Blink of an Eye/Into the Roil isn't worth the forced kicker imo, although this is still ok. Much less effective in a fast meta, though.
Similar to leave in the dust, I think this is a medium pick for the category. It's not bad, but I usually want more flexibility if I'm sacrificing permanence in my removal.
Capsize might look like a natural fit for the deck, but after many games using it I've realized it's exactly what we don't want. It immediately makes you a threat in a lot of cases, and because people know you'll use it when pressed they're less willing to use their own removal. Even if 1v1, it leads to games of tedious attrition that make your deck look like a trap – we want our endgame to look more haphazard and varied, so your opponents don't assume that a 1v1 is going to be impossible. If you're assembling a capsize lock or a forbid lock, it looks like that was your plan all along, instead of you just getting a bit lucky with having the right answers to shut them out.
Mostly a fun pick, but if your meta is Voltron-infested this is a pretty hilarious double-removal with value on top.
Expel from Orazca
The cost is good and the flexibility is great. Putting the card directly on top is decent, but not amazing, I'd rather we had the option to get a card back a la blink/roil in the late-game instead. This is still a solid choice, though.
Removal that can reliably hit any crucial target is, of course, the ideal for Phelddagrif, however they do frequently come with downsides and/or higher costs, so I don't recommend going strictly with flexible removal, although it should make up a decent number of slots to ensure you have the right tool for the job. Usually you should try to keep these in your hand as long as possible, exhausting your other targeted removal first. Your mana will be less and less precious as the game goes on, but your ability to respond with the right answer only becomes more and more important. The slower your meta is, the more of these you can afford to run.
A popular removal spell everywhere, 3 mana is a fine rate and the flexibility is amazing. Downside is mostly negligible, especially since the 3/3 doesn't match up well against Phelddagrif. Pretty much the definition of what we're looking for.
Giving an opponent 2 cards is a definite downside, but unless it's a 1v1 game it's not as big a downside as it looks like. It does have an advantage over beast within (generally) of tucking, but the downside is enough to knock it down a little. Still, it's a good reminder to always be judicious about your targets, don't go firing this off at the first random 5/5 to attack your face. The flexibility is what you're paying for here. Don't go waving this around, either, or people may well try to bait it to get the draw, if they have some dorky creatures that they'd rather were divinations.
I don't like Oblivion Ring. It gives your opponents a target for enchantment removal, it's sorcery speed, and it makes some of your best board wipes worse. That said, I want to talk about it because it's much, much better than Banishing Light and other similar neo-Oblivion Rings. Not because we're planning to abuse the trigger order, but because Banishing Light returns the permanent to your opponent in the unfortunate circumstance of your death, whereas Oblivion Ring leaves that permanent exiled forever if you're killed before the ring is. You don't want to incentivize your opponents to kill you, so if you really want to play this effect, stick with old school O-rings only.
I love the design of this card. For late-game threats you can dump it deep into their deck, but it has a low enough cost to be easy to keep up, and respond to early combos if necessary. It's also great for motivating your opponents to kill the person you want to kill, with pinpoint control to make sure they have just exactly enough time to finish the job. And it's got the all-important versatility. Basically auto-include.
A versatile card, but with a strange selection of targets. Hitting instants is a decent add, but it's not as important as in other decks because most instants are answers, which we don't care about unless it's a counter aimed at our removal. But hitting artifacts and creatures are both solid, and putting it into the deck is generally better than the grave. Cost is a little high, but it doesn't have any downsides and hits enough things to be an easy include.
This is a super cool card, but a tricky one to play. I recommend massaging the results by "helping" your opponents to see the best options. How it will generally play out in a 4 player game is like so: you want to collaborate with the person least likely to have their permanents picked, to each pick the scariest of the perms owned by the other two players. There's some wrinkles with how your opponents react, but under most circumstances you can ensure a 2 (or occasionally, 4) for 1 by helping your opponents see their best lines. That said, this is a sorcery, and if we really want efficiency we can just play a wipe. But there's something to be said for the low cost, exile, and your opponents inability to respond effectively to it.
This is another weird one, target-wise. The enchantment mode is unreliable, the fight mode is also unreliably, and the damage prevention method is pretty niche. The +1/+1 counter mode isn't very impressive, but it does knock a turn off your clock and extends to reach of the fight spell. I don't think the versatility quite gets there with this one, but it might be worth it if you're concerned about big burn.
Creatures are our most common target, since most people are building around their commanders and being able to eliminate them is often a good way to disrupt your enemy's plans. Creatures are also often a top priority because you want to kill them when they're attacking you. I don't recommend focusing entirely on creature removal, but creatures are an important enough target that I think it's worth including at least some to take advantage of the low cost of less flexible removal.
Swords to Plowshares
It isn't as flexible as some other removal, but it's extremely efficient, exiles instead of destroys, and the downside is negligible, especially for us. This is basically an auto-include in any version of the deck, unless your meta is extremely aberrant.
Path to Exile
Same as Swords, except that the downside is much more significant in the early-game, which is when hyper-efficient removal is at its best. Worth noting that you cannot use it to force a shuffle, so you can't disrupt vampiric tutor with this, although you do get to negate the downside if they choose not to get the land.
Downside is mostly negligible here, and the rate is excellent, alongside the classic white removal. Biggest downside is the lack of exile, and the token can occasionally be ammunition for a voltron deck, for example, but these are still excellent removal spells that you should always include imo.
This is a meta call, but it's very strong if you can rely on a forest, and it's not a dead card even if they don't, although it's definitely pretty bad - but if your final opponent doesn't have green, at least your own mana probably isn't at a premium at that point anyway. The temporary nature is a bit of a bummer, but there aren't a lot of other options for removal that costs zero, and you can use it to stall out an enemy's draw when it's 1v1 if you're worried about them drawing something dangerous.
The cost is nice and low, and the downside is relative small. The exile is a nice add too. While there is a small chance of backfiring if you hit a powerful creature, because they won't get an etb off it, and because we'll often have other removal, it's not necessarily a big deal if they hit something real.
Three is a lot to pay for creature-only removal, especially with a restriction, but the restriction is low enough that it'll hit the thing you want a significant majority of the time. The scry is a decent add for the cost, too. Not a favorite, but very playable, especially in slower metas.
This category theoretically includes artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, and lands, however most of the options available in these colors (among removal that doesn't hit creatures) is mostly artifacts and enchantments. Green does have a decent amount of land destruction, but it's almost entirely sorcery speed and quite narrow and weak, so we generally prefer to lean on strip mine and other lands to cover our bases for land removal, as those are instant-speed and have extra utility in being, y'know, lands. That leaves planeswalkers, which are both rare, and generally easy for us to play a support role in killing by removing blockers, and potentially in bashing with Phelddagrif.
This category is generally narrow enough that it shouldn't be used too extensively, but like other removal you trade flexibility for cost, so if you're in a fast meta and need very fast answers, you may need to sacrifice some of your more flexible answers for some of the more efficient ones here. Of course this makes balance more difficult and unreliable, though.
There aren't many artifacts or enchantments that are outside the range of this under most circumstances, and even if it's a bit of a blank you can probably fire it off on a sol ring or something for the cantrip. 3 is a solid price for the effect, although double green is probably the hardest to get since we rarely need much green. But overall this is a solid choice for the category.
Unravel the Aether/Deglamer
Two mana is baseline for artifact/enchantment removal, and tuck is generally superior to destroy in a vacuum. If you need fast answers to artifacts or enchantments these are fine, but I wouldn't go overboard with this type of effect.
The gain 4 is mostly irrelevant, and the mana saving is a nice boon, even if it's a bit wasted here. There's not of a lot of reason not to run this over the alternatives - it's a significant step up in fast metas, and only very slightly worse in slow ones.
Consign to Dust
A nice value removal for a slower meta, too expensive for a fast one. If you want some value from your removal this is a good choice. If you want to handle fast combos, it's a bad one.
Everyone knows this is good, and it's good here too. Three mana is a lot, but because you don't need to worry about fighting an ensuing counter war it's less of a problem than for consign to dust, for example. I like this more than Nature's Claim for that reason – I'd rather not fight the counter war at all, than fight it and win. Top of the line for the category in most metas.
This is a little tough to categorize since it's also a solid value card to tutor for your value engines while affecting the board, and you can even help your temporary allies with it if you want to. As a removal spell it's trash – sorcery speed, expensive, fails if they have a backup target – but in terms of overall value it's quite good. Not great for fast metas that require fast, reliable answers, but for slower metas where you're looking for late-game value, this can be legitimately great.
Forsake the Worldly
Exiling is nice, and cycling is ok. I'm not a huge fan of cycling in this deck, because you don't really know what you're going to until a threat emerges, but if you're in a serious pinch and need a board wipe, or need a counter, it's a Hail Mary I guess, or if you're stuck on mana in the early-game.
Value removal for slow metas. In general double removal isn't a huge add, since we usually only have one priority target, but if you really need to send someone back to the Stone Age this can usually do a good job. Don't be too afraid to landcycle it early if you're missing drops.
More value removal for slow metas, although I like this more because of the flexible cost. In the 1v1 game this is an absolute beating if it resolves.
Return to Dust
I'd rather sun Sylvan Reclamation than this, because we really want that full-value flexibility. This is still solid, and I like the rate on the value, but the lower cost usually isn't that relevant for the point in the game where double-exile is valuable.
Between this and Return to Dust, it's pretty close, but because archetypes like enchantress and artifact tribal exist, where this has a hard time finding two good targets, I think I give the edge to Return to Dust. As usual, four mana disqualifies this from fast metas.
Return to Nature
Grave hate is hard to find, and often very important, so this is a major addition for the same price as naturalize and the like. I think the flexibility here is just enough for this to make the cut in virtually every version of this deck.
They counter spells. That's about it.
The classic. Two mana is a good rate for the effect. Almost always makes the cut. Having good fixing does help, though.
Dismiss/Void Shatter/Faerie Trickery
Meta dictates whether these are worth it, but personally I'm not a huge fan. They sometimes aren't fast enough for fast combos, and the value is pretty minimal for the extra mana. If you're concerned with recursion then this might be worth it, but usually I'd rather find my grave hate elsewhere, since you can't always save the grave-hate counter for the recurrable spell, and end up blowing it on some regular old spell.
Force of Will
Having one last trick up your sleeve is always great, although the price is pretty high. Don't ignore the ability to hard cast, it can be very relevant for the types of games Phelddagrif tends to create. This probably isn't necessary for most metas, but unlike the cheap, soft counters this one is also a passable, if wildly inefficient, counter in a slow meta, and a lifesaver in a competitive one. It's main weakness is lacking a middle-of-the-road option that doesn't either butcher you on CA or on mana.
These are ok counters with a little value added. Nothing too fancy, but scrying is a nice form of pseudo-card-advantage for a deck that's focusing on having the right answers at the right time.
Slightly niche, but this hits a decent number of value points between blocking storm, blocking people who are just dumping a bunch of spells (although people usually don't make their best one their third, but whatever), hitting uncounterables, and exiling recursion spells. Four is a lot for a hard counter, but this one does do quite a lot.
Pact of Negation
Pact is at its best when you're resolving a combo of your own, which we aren't, although it's still a nice first volley in a counter war. On paper it looks good since it helps avoid us get caught with our pants down, but in practice you're usually only countering a spell occasionally, and you'd rather pay the mana now, when you're probably fully untapped, than next upkeep when you'll have to endure a full cycle with most of your mana tapped. Plus it just kills you if you're trying to stop an early combo, barring the counter-war scenario. But that said, free counter without card disadvantage is still pretty nifty.
Out of Bounds
Four is a lot, but usually it's not hard to convince someone to pay the extra as long as they have it to spare. I mean, why wouldn't they? They probably want to see the spell countered too, and then you don't have the counter to use on their spells, so it's a win-win. In fast metas it might be unlikely for someone to have the mana up, but being able to counter for 1 mana and keep up mana for other answers and Phelddagrif activations is nice. It fits basically into a similar camp as Rewind, except with fewer consequences if you lose a counter war.
For fast metas, sometimes you need to run niche answers to keep the cost low enough to be expedient. Generally these aren't great for slow metas.
This is an automatic "no" outside of very fast metas, but I'm sure there's some meta where countering a sol ring or a dark rit is basically mandatory.
Instants usually aren't our biggest problem, since most instants are answers, but this is still solid for a counter war. If you're in a very combo/control meta this is decent, but in general I think instants are among the least important types to counter.
Sorceries and enchantments are both significantly more likely to be threats, so the added versatility is enough to make this passable even in a slower-paced meta. The downside is pretty small with Phelddagrif on our side, and also pretty small generally. But also we'd usually rather pay a little more and get a more flexible counter.
This would be a pretty solid counter if it weren't for the risk that Phelddagrif will get targeted with removal and forced back to the hand. Luckily in the early-game when Phelddagrif isn't down, the 1 mana is more likely to be enough to counter the spell, but again, saving mana by making our spells narrow and unreliable isn't a deal we're looking to make.
Both fine counterspells at relatively easy costs, though since they don't save any cmc over more versatile counters like counterspell and mana drain, and since the only spot that shaving a mana off the cost is really going to be crucial is a competitive meta where your fixing is likely to be quite good...I think these are just marginal. Noncreatures are more likely to be an issue than creatures, but flexibility is great and there's not a huge benefit here for sacrificing it. Still, in the right meta, there's nothing wrong with them, and veto might actually be a good inclusion if you're particularly worried about enemy counterspells.
The nice thing about ability counters is that they let us wait as long as possible – if that mindslaver isn't targeting us, then we can happily let it resolve. They're also often cheap and/or come with some nice upsides. The tradeoff, of course, is that they're a lot more narrow and often only a temporary solution. But nothing is funnier than countering a planeswalker ult with a stifle.
These are all roughly the same card with minor variations. The fact that they cantrip is great if you want to cycle them, since you can always just counter a Phelddagrif activation if you need to. They are quite narrow, though, so if you don't see any obvious targets on the horizon then I'd probably go ahead and cycle.
Hard-stopping certain combos is nifty, as is hitting triggered abilities, but not being able to cycle is a significant knock. This isn't bad, but I'd generally rather have a more versatile spell if I'm sinking a real card into it.
Roughly the same boat as trickbind. The low cost is great, but not something we're focusing on. Although both of these get a big bump in fast combo metas.
Generally I don't like these sorts of repeatable effects since they can lock people out of their strategies and force them to come after you, but this one has a bit of fun play to it with the return to hand clause. It does risk your opponents targeting you with removal, though, which is generally bad even if it fails. Keep them fighting each other.
Easily best in category imo. Cycles without support, hits triggered abilities, even doubles as a chump blocker. Unless the 3 mana is a big hurdle for you, this is a pretty easy one to include imo.
In terms of raw power, temporary counters are not generally what we're looking for, but they can be politically useful for turning the table against a particular opponent in an attempt to eliminate them or disrupt them before they get the chance to recast it. While I like this idea I've found that they generally fail to do this as well as I'd like, because the other players either lack the resources to put significant pressure on the offender, or because they don't see the threat as clearly. They're interesting to try out, though, maybe give them a shot.
The weakest of the counters in this category, but it does replace itself. Unfortunately I just don't know that it's worth a card slot, as it increases the risk of late-game flood if you're relying on this sort of thing, and some of the scariest spells aren't terribly expensive. Also it's pretty ineffective vs low-cmc commanders, as replaying from the hand doesn't include commander tax.
On a par with remand in my opinion, you're more likely to delay the inevitable successfully but you're out the card. There's a little play to be had with this and, say, path to exile but otherwise I'd rather just play a hard counter in most scenarios. It can be nice to know what your opponent's next draw will be, though, and it can be solid to cast against anything in the 1v1 stage to stall them out for a turn.
Delay is a bit spicier than the other two in my opinion, simply because it virtually guarantees a significant, well, delay in which you can try to rally the table to punish the offender. It's also more effective against commanders, since they either let their commander sit out for a few turns or accept it as a hard counter. This is still significantly worse than a hard counter in the 1v1 game, though, unless you're about to close the game out.
We usually want a counter to be a guaranteed answer to any problematic spell, but if your meta is exceptionally low to the ground it might be necessary to use hyper efficient soft counters to deal with spells in the very early turns of the game. Outside of that, though, I don't think these have much use for the deck.
This solves a lot of problems at very low cmc in competitive metas, but it's just way too garbage in casual, average, or basically anywhere that isn't expecting the game to end by turn 5. If you need to run it, I think you'll probably know. Otherwise I wouldn't work so hard to keep a low cmc.
Basically the same as spell pierce, but even more. Solves competitive storm decks. If that's something you're worried about, run it. Otherwise, soft counters with such a low payment requirement aren't really worth it, but more importantly the restriction of instant or sorcery is significantly more restrictive than noncreature.
Another counter for the competitive crowd. Being able to get people when you appear tapped out is great, but only forcing one mana means it's not reliable enough to be used outside of the hyper competitive sphere.
This is one soft counter that's still ok even if you're not in a fast meta, because the secondary mode is pretty decent. It's a soft counter in the early-mid game, and it's a decent way to find whatever you need in the mid-late, even at instant-speed if you need a specific type of answer.
These are counters that generally cost more than counterspell, but come with some extra benefits. These are better in slower metas, but a lot of them are fine even in fairly fast metas, because we're playing draw-go so often.
This is best if you have a strong manabase, but you probably do if you're shelling out this much for a counter. Doubling as removal or as a fog, and a cantrip if there's nothing more exciting to do with it. Among the best value counters.
Really solid value counter for a slower meta. 5 is a lot, but the fact that you can happily cast it at end of turn as a draw 3, and doubles as a strong, if temporary, creature removal is great. As the counter mode becomes less relevant, the draw 3 becomes quite strong. It's a little heavy on the value and light on the counter, but it's still a great card for most metas.
Untapping lands can be nice if you need to counter multiple spells in a turn, or counter and remove, but I think I'd rather just pay less, especially if your opponent is able to counter your counters. There is a little fun value if you untap a value land, but usually that's going to require a pretty absurd amount of mana.
Normally an incredible counter, but we don't have a ton to do with the colorless mana on our turn. Most likely is a board wipe, but don't throw one out just to take advantage of the mana. Better would be a value engine like the flip artifacts, but if you don't have a good way to use the mana, just don't.
Relatively card-advantage-neutral (where most counters put you down a half card or so) outside of 1v1, equally as effective and a more flexible cost than regular counterspell. There's really nothing to dislike about this, and it's an auto-include for every Phelddagrif deck. This isn't as exciting as cryptic command, for example, but it's good enough for metas at any level of power.
The things said about mana drain apply here – sure, colored mana is easier to use (for instance, to cast Phelddagrif) but it's still not worth the high cost in my opinion, because you often won't really have anything you're desperate to cast on your turn. And at 4 mana, you'd really better be getting a payout. On the plus side, at least you can always dump the mana into Phelddagrif, if you have a target you're desperate to empower.
This works out much better than plasm capture, even at the higher cost – having the mana available on tap is much more effective, and after a good swindle we're basically never tapped out unless we wipe out all artifacts (which at least we can cast off the treasure). Of course, the high cmc means this is only for slower metas. Worth noting that there's a little bit of fun synergy with this and treasure map, although that's not particularly likely to come together.
Exactly card-advantage neutral, but at the somewhat lame cancel mana cost. Still, it's a decent mix of efficiency and value, that doesn't make you feel quite as bad about firing it off at a medium-value target if you need to dig for something else.
Forbid lock is the antithesis of what we want to be doing. If your opponents know you have a counter, they're either going to bait you into playing it by targeting you, or they're going to be prepared with a counter-counter, which is obviously pretty rough if you've just discarded two cards. Plus, if you're synergizing with life from the loam or something, you've probably just made yourself a major target without any reasonable plan for actually winning. It's great if the game is 1v1, but most of our spells are great in 1v1 anyway. All that said – Forbid is alright if played as a cancel with upside, basically only buying it back if you're in 1v1. It's tempting to build around it to buy it back repeatedly, but if you assume you'll be buying it back on average 0-1 times, then you might find a spot where it's acceptable here.
Four is a lot to pay for a cantripping counterspell, but if you're in a slower meta, this suffices as a value-added counter for the draw-go deck.
I like silence a fair bit as an add, since it's a great way to shut people down who try to bait you with a conqueror's flail or whatever, before playing their actual bomb. It's also just generally a good way to shut down shenanigans. Slightly pricey, but especially in imbalanced metas where you need to bring major hate on one specific player, this can be a real winner.
The retarget mode is mostly useless unless your opponent casts time stretch or mind twist, since our permanents rarely the targets of anything in particular. The copy mode is alright and can give us card advantage off copying a draw or a tutor, but I think it can push us towards alternate wincons like copying a kicked rite of replication, which can put your opponents ill-at-ease for subsequent games, and make you look like more of a threat. And of course the counter mode is overpriced. There's some fun utility here, but at the end of the day I'd rather just have a guaranteed card off dismiss.
These are my favorite kinds of counters – rather than give some extra cards or mana or whatever, they give you ultimate flexibility, countering spells or abilities, or having other alternative modes. Having the right answer at the right time is key for Phelddagrif, so these are all good inclusions.
The markup on these is pretty low for the added flexibility, so they're both great inclusions. Somewhat lesser in a fast context, but even then, these are pretty hard to pass up on.
This is a very flexible counter, although I don't think the flexibility of hitting multiples, hitting uncounterables, and exiling is enough power over disallow to be worth the extra mana. Still a solid inclusion for metas with the 4 cost isn't a choking hazard.
Commit // Memory
This is a personal favorite of mine, simply because the flexibility of being a universal removal spell AND a universe counter is so incredibly versatile. Sure, it's temporary, but it does also come with a wheel effect if you really want to disrupt people (I don't generally recommend using it, since incremental card advantage is kind of our thing, but it's there if you just need to shake things up a bit). Cost is a bit high for fast metas, but otherwise I think it's absolute gold.
Is there a limit to what I'd pay for versatility? Well, if there is, it's probably six. Time stop takes the power of Summary Dismissal and adds a fog and a silence, but the cost is high enough that I just feel uncomfortable slotting this into my deck as a counterspell. For a slow meta, this is powerful, but I think I'd rather just run a value counter so I don't end up paying six mana for a glorified dissipate.
Especially in lower-powered metas, creatures are often the most crucial type to deal with, and creature-only wipes often come with the lowest rates or significant upsides. They also generally leave all the permanents we care about alone, although they are weak against creature-light strategies.
A little overpriced on both ends, but the flexibility is perfect. For faster games with scarier decks, an early wipe can be clutch. For slower metas, being able to wipe at instant-speed to a lethal combat, or even noncombat, situation is a very powerful tool. This is a pretty easy inclusion in most phelddagrif decks.
Instant-speed is great, and hitting planeswalkers can sometimes be relevant (although usually you can hippo them to death via your allies), but the cost is high enough that it's a bad idea for fast metas. The scry is nice, but unless you badly need to dig for value, or if you know for sure you'll need to wipe before any more creatures get played (I.e. if someone has infinite creatures on board already), then it's usually not worth casting on your turn imo.
6 mana is a lot for a board wipe, and the miracle value kind of runs counter to our plan of waiting until the exact opportune moment (although miracles do happen, of course – sometimes you need it right when you draw it). This gets significantly better, however, with sensei's divining top, or other tools to set it up for either an efficient wipe on your draw step, or ideally converting it into a hyper-efficient instant-speed wipe. That said, those tools aren't super common so I think this generally is a bit weak, although not awful if you have a modest amount of topdeck control.
Wrath of God
The gold standard of board wipes. 4 mana is obviously a great rate. Killing creatures only, and sorcery-speed, with no other upside, is the minimum of what we're looking for here, but the cost is low enough that this is an excellent card. At 4 cmc it can potentially answer an early combo, and it makes it easier to keep mana up afterwards, or play it with flash off Alchemist's Refuge. Mana matters.
Day of Judgment
There aren't enough regenerators to make this a significant step down from Wrath of God. If you're running Yavimaya Hollow, you can potentially keep Phelddagrif, or an ally's creature, alive through it, which can be an upside, although of course the same can ruin it. Still a great price, though.
Probably the best board wipe, at least for creatures-only. If one thing tends to eat counters, it's board wipes, so the reliability is a great add, and at the same rate as the already-great Wrath of God.
As far as upsides from wipes go, this is a favorite for me. The cost increase isn't too much, and then often gains double-digit life. For lower-powered metas this can be better than Wrath of God, but it's a decent step down for higher-powered ones.
This was backbreaking when tuck was part of the game, but now it's just a decent 5-mana wipe that gets around indestructibles and death triggers. Not a bad wipe but nothing particularly special either.
Assuming you're playing a 4-player game, this is near-Wrath of God levels, since by the time the cost goes up it's probably too late in the game to care. That said, there's not much reason to run it over Wrath and Day, but it's fine.
A niche wipe. If voltron decks are popular in your meta this can be a great upside, but otherwise the cost makes this worse than the 4-mana wraths.
This is a stand-in for the broad category of board wipes that have an upside in the form of board presence afterwards, at increased cost. I'm against these because they give your opponents targets for removal, and they also make you the de-facto threat, creature-wise, as the only one with creatures left. Sure, they can block in the future, but it's not reasonable for the cost in my opinion.
Slaughter the Strong
Another category that isn't worth it, in my opinion, is creature wipes that allow certain things to live. It might look tempting to decimate boards while keeping Phelddagrif alive, but Phelddagrif is perfectly made to survive a wipe already by returning to hand, and board wipes like Slaughter the Strong leave holes big enough to drive a truck through for a lot of decks that only need one or two dangerous creatures to survive.
A fine board wipe, albeit one that doesn't do anything we're particularly excited about, since Phelddagrif returns to our hand on our own, and EOT so we can avoid spending valuable sorcery-speed mana on the ability. Certainly solid in 1v1, where letting our opponent draw a card is a decent downside, but anytime prior to that this is almost strictly worse than a 4-mana wipe in my opinion. But at the end of the day, all of them are fine and if this is easier for you to acquire it probably makes little difference unless your meta is fast enough that wiping on 4 is likely to be important.
Granted, there is only one of these that's in here, so you might think it's stupid to make an entire category for one card. But damned if I can think of anything else to do with it.
Gust is the lone non-creature-only wipe that merits consideration in the deck in my opinion. It's instant-speed and has a potentially solid upside. Meta call if you want a cheap way to wipe noncreatures and the lifegain is relevant to your interests. If you're not running many enchantments or artifacts yourself this is often an upgrade to cards like Return to Dust or Sylvan Reclamation, but it's worse if you're relying on them for value.
Phelddagrif doesn't generally play much to the board, in fact the less the better in my opinion, especially since it lets us take maximum advantage of the power of global wipes, that destroy all (or most) nonland permanent types. These are often the best option for when we need to fully reset a board that's gotten out of control, or an ideal starting move when we're ready to move to the 1v1 endgame and want to leverage our control pieces to maximum card advantage.
Play of the Game
Outside of a hyper fast meta, this may be the best wipe in the format. Hits everything, removes it permanently, and can cost next to nothing if you can get someone to collab with you – and usually there should be at least one other person interested in doing that. I also like that this sort of thing keeps you honest – if people aren't collabing with you, it's probably because you're too threatening.
Six is a lot for a board wipe, but it's not too far off par and the cycling is occasionally, though rarely, relevant. Leaving alive planeswalkers is a small drag, but on the plus side it kills animated lands, which most global wipes don't kill. Global wipes on the whole are quite good for this deck, so unless you urgently need low cmc this is a solid option.
Hour of Revelation
For a non-budget deck this is probably the best wipe in the game. 3 mana, kills everything. Pretty insane, frankly. Only downside is the high white cost, which is not a big deal with a fetch/dual manabase usually. It's significantly more likely to fire at 3 in the late-game, so there's some sliver of decks that won't run it because they absolutely need every answer in their hand to be deployable before turn 3, and I pity those people. But for those of us in sane metas, this is an auto-include.
There are occasional scenarios where this underperforms, but generally it's very strong and is the only good wipe that doesn't force you to bounce Phelddagrif making it an ideal setup to finish someone off. And there are lots of other upsides too, to offset the occasional game where your opponent only has one creature, or a sac outlet to control what you pick – it gets around indestructibility, it hits all permanent types, it lets you keep your own value stuff alive such as telepathy, and it only costs 5. Don't forget how this works, rules-wise – your opponents get the opportunity to sac stuff in response, but once it's resolving and you're picking things to keep alive, it's too late.
Everything-wipes are still good even if they cost 6, simply because it's exactly what this deck wants to be doing when things get too hairy. No sense dealing with half the problem. This will be a miss for faster metas, but it's a fine card for slower ones, even if there are a decent number of better options in this category.
This is one of the strangest wipes, to the point that I feel weird even giving it a grade. With no collusion, this is a pretty solid wipe, costing a bit less and leaving some mostly-useless permanents around, which may well include some of yours. The complexities arise in a few cases – if one player is hugely ahead (perhaps in a way that isn't solved simply by wiping his board) then the other players can conspire to leave some of the better permanents owned by the other players alive to help kill him, which is great. But on the flip side, if there isn't a clear archenemy, the other players may be incentivized to make deals amongst themselves to keep their key permanents alive. Because of this, I have not had ideal experiences with it, and I generally don't play it – but the right politician could potentially make this an excellent wipe.
Urza's Ruinous Blast
Low cost, exiles, leaves Phelddagrif alive. But it also leaves enemy commanders alive and requires Phelddagrif on board which might be tough if you want to fire this off turn 5 without lowering the shields. Bit of a meta call.
Disk stands in for oblivion stone and all the other on-board board wipes. They're great in many other decks but they're bad here because we don't develop anything of much significance. When they come out, people are generally motivated not to play anything else important until it's gone, which means if they want to advance the game they need to pressure you into setting it off, and we don't have much to defend ourselves in most cases, so they generally have to be set off immediately. Disk is especially bad since it's weak to removal, although the others cost enough to set off that they often can be too. Avoid.
Flexibility is more powerful than other decks than it is here, since we often don't have many permanents that we particularly care about preserving, making global wipes generally the superior option. They can be worth it if you're preserving certain value engines, though, and they don't come up much of a price difference for the good ones.
The general strengths of the spell are weakened by Phelddagrif generally not caring about much of his own stuff, but it's still nice to have the flexibility. Although in most cases I'd rather just have a global wipe like akroma's vengeance. But maybe this is better for you if you want to run a lot of on-board value.
Less flexible than the command, but a full mana cheaper makes this better imo. Being able to hit any specific thing makes this worth the extra cost in my opinion.
Generally-speaking, temporary solutions are not what we're after, but wipes that bounce are more likely to come as instants, bounce more permanent types, and come at lower prices, so a few of them make the cut.
Everyone hates it, but there's no denying the efficacy of Cyclonic Rift. Being able to disrupt a combo early, with a massively powerful instant-speed global wipe that leaves us untouched late make this is no-brainer unless you're on a budget.
It's pretty disappointing that this costs the same as Sublime Exhalation considering how much weaker the effect is. Were it an instant I'd be down, but at sorcery speed this is garbage.
Making a wipe instant-speed makes it a lot more exciting to me, and the cost isn't too bad on this one. It's no Cyclonic Rift, but it does the trick when you need to stop a lethal attack, or some slower combos.
Engulf the Shore
Lowering the cost of Evacuation by one is nice, but the downside is significant here. For low-cmc combo pieces this might do the trick, but targeted removal would be better. For big fatties, this often won't get the job done. We also want a decent number of utility lands, which also weakens this.
Especially in lower-power metas, the most crucial time to be able to wipe the board is when someone is swinging lethal in your face. Fogging and board wiping at sorcery speed is a good option, but saving a card and leaving the other players' boards up can be a reasonable option in a lot of places. Their weaknesses are that they don't work well against combo decks (although wipes often don't) or decks winning outside of combat, and they're significantly weakened when played around, so don't go letting anyone know you have one.
Arguably the best of the combat wipes – fogs, while leaving the other players to fend for themselves, and often wipes whatever's coming at you, and it's relatively cheap. But it has all the weaknesses of most combat wipes – only interacts with certain types of decks, and it's weak when played around.
Settle the Wreckage
Settle the Wreckage is in a weak spot here because low-powered decks will often have lots of basics to get value from, especially if they're using tokens, which risks putting them too far ahead on mana to be safe while thinning their deck, and high-powered decks that run fewer basics aren't likely to be reliant on combat. It's still a nicely guaranteed wipe even against indestructible, unlike comeuppance, and the cost is reasonable, but I think the risk is high enough that it's not my favorite. Worth noting that it also can be used with Phelddagrif as a roundabout way to ramp someone else enormously, though this is probably a pretty risky move unless your target's deck is quite weak.
Trading the risk of ramping your opponent with the downside of only removing attackers temporarily, and ups the cost by one. It can also be nice to know what your opponent is going to be drawing for the next couple turns. This can be decent, but the high cost, temporary nature, and weakness outside of combat holds in back.
This is a weird one since it's roughly comeuppance, except that you get all the etbs of whatever you're blocking. So it's a bit of a value play. This is more of a meta call in my opinion, since it's definitely not worth it unless you're getting solid etb value, but it can be a fun blowout in the right spot.
Big Single-Shot Draw
One thing that's great about big draw is that, for your opponents, it's over and done with quickly. You draw a bunch, and that's scary, but then you don't do anything particularly scary, and other things on the board probably become more important to deal with. That said, this type of effect can still be pretty fraught. A seven card hand is acceptable, but a twenty card hand is generally not, and will likely make you in a threat. And going down to fewer than a couple cards is very dangerous, given our inability to defend ourselves without a hand, and using a big draw spell to refill to seven is a bit weak sauce if we already had four. So finding a good spot for them can be difficult, but they can also be a savior in a weak point, and they are flexible. Still, I wouldn't suggest going deep on these, since they can really gum up your hand.
This is probably the best of the bunch – flexible draw, with a nice bit of life attached, castable eot or in response to something requiring an answer. Potentially can rot in your hand for a bit, but if it is you're probably doing alright with your grip other answers.
Blue Sun's Zenith
Shuffling into the deck is pretty relevant for the sorts of games this deck plays, as is the ability to target opponents. Whether being able to one-shot someone with a massive draw spell breaks the image of the deck is up to personal preference – personally I kind of like sticking to the "can only win via Phelddagrif beats" model for the deck, but this does pull a nice double duty if you want a faster wincon, although of course that comes with the risk that people will smell you out in later games. It can also be used to actually help someone else, although of course this should be done with great caution (ideally just use Phelddagrif to do this).
Stroke of Genius
Loses the shuffle-in ability relative to zenith, which can be a plus since it makes it a bit less threatening as a potential late-game wincon. Mana cost is easier, but that rarely matters since you're probably casting this end of turn anyway – but if you need to dig for a counter right now or lose the game, it might be relevant.
Pull from Tomorrow
Pretty close to revelation, the discard is usually meaningless and it's easy to get big x values. Lacks the ability to target, which could be a plus or a minus, depending.
If this were an instant it'd go up a full point, but seven is a ton to tap on your turn, and the lack of flexibility is a big knock against it. It's very easy for this to rot in your hand. Would not recommend.
This is almost always stronger, and cheaper than overflowing insight. Still not the sort of thing I like, but if you're in a very grindy, slow, value-oriented meta it might be a reasonable choice.
I really don't recommend this type of effect here – while it's very powerful, it will immediately make you the threat, and it's also a very expensive sorcery. You basically need to have a plan to win the game after you play this, which drastically reduces the places you can play it and make it a first-class hand-gummer.
The flexibility of this card is extremely clutch – in the 1v1 game, a straight-up praetor's grasp is a fine thing to have, but in the midgame being able to retrieve a board wipe or a niche removal spell for three is an acceptable if unexciting rate. I don't recommend getting back a big grip of board wipes in the midgame, but you can definitely use it to get a board wipe plus some value engine that was previously destroyed, or maybe a good piece of spot removal that you can rattlesnake.
There are a few problems with this spell. Which is unfortunate, because it's super awesome. The first problem is that, with any kind of tutor, the game quickly becomes repetitive and you quickly become the threat, unless you intentionally misplay. The second problem is that your opponents know what you returned. It's still a really cool card, and it's certainly powerful, but I think it ends up being too threatening.
Small to Medium Single-Shot Draw
These are probably the least threatening form of value for the deck. They don't attract much attention and they do a good job. That said, they still have hand-gumming potential, and they aren't necessarily reliable. I think there's a good case to be made that relying on this sort of effect is the most "pure" way to build Phelddagrif, but I like to use a small number and rely more on some of the less-threatening repeatable engines.
Fact or Fiction
Good old FoF has some big upsides and big downsides in this deck. On the plus side, it can often be a straight-up draw five if you're staying out of the limelight and bribing the card separator. On the down side, it lets everyone see the answers you just drew, which means they can play around them or try to force you to play them by aggressing against you. For more casual metas this is just bonkers, but for more competitive ones (and I mean literally competitive, not just fast) this can bite you in the butt.
The fact that only one opponent knows what's in the face down pile can actually be a big bonus here – if you've got him in your pocket, you can get away with four face-down cards and laugh all the way to the bank. But under "normal" circumstances, it's a fairly weak draw spell for four, although not terrible. This is definitely on the "fun" side of Phelddagrif, but it's by no means a bad card, either.
Being a sorcery is a decent hit, but it's not as bad as the expensive ones, and the flashback is just great. More of a casual meta card, where tapping four on your turn isn't going to be a big deal.
This will be an ancestral recall exactly when you need it – when you're low on answers and want to draw into some gas with all your mana up. Not much else to say, this is clearly among the best single-shot draw effects in the format.
Dig Through Time
Dig is even better than cruise imo, simply because the selection gives you excellent odds to get an answer you need now. Where cruise can sometimes end up drawing two lands and an answer that's not currently useful, Dig will reliably find two very relevant cards. As an instant, it's also much more comfortable to just hardcast, or even cast in response to a must-counter spell or a must-kill attacking creature. Pretty hard to cut this one, imo.
Opportunity/Dragonlord's Prerogative/Jace's Ingenuity
These are solid draw spells, in about the right amount, and at instant speed. Nothing wrong with them, but they aren't much above the curve of the X mana draw spells, so I'd usually rather have the flexibility of the X spells.
Decent draw spell, but nothing special. If you aren't discarding a land, it feels pretty mediocre, and of course it's a sorcery, although that's less of a deal for a 3-drop of course.
Another decent draw spell. Good if you're trying to include a lot of low-profile draw. I'd give the edge to Harmonize, since it makes it easier to keep blue mana up.
Glimmer of Genius
Another solid one, scry 2 draw two is close to draw three, but being an instant is a fairly big deal.
You can presumably count on at least one opponent to give you an answer you really need, and we play basically zero bricks so whatever you get will be good. Of course revealing the cards is a significant downside, but three gas cards for three mana is no joke.
This is a bit clunky for the deck. We don't want to be in a position where we're trying to empty our hand to make room for the draw, but we also don't want to be casting it when we're almost out of answers and desperate. Overall I'd rather just play a more expensive instant and eot it when we need it, rather than trying to guess when we'll want it.
Visions of Beyond
It's hard for this to be bad, but twenty cards comes up pretty rarely with everyone playing bojuka bog and scavenger grounds and the like. Having a card that cantrips early if you need to, and can be a draw three late seems like a great split card, but in practice it's too often a cantrip for my taste.
Flash of Insight
A sillier Dig through Time, basically. It's definitely tempting to see it in that light, but it's significantly clunkier on both sides. Being able to cast it from the grave to hit a counter is extremely sweet, though, but it can sometimes be tough to dig very deep on the back side because of the blue restriction.
Getting back anything is surprisingly useful, and the cost is obviously solid. I prefer Wildest Dreams for the late-game flexibility, but this might make the cut if a lower curve is important to you – although recurring answers is a competitive meta is probably a bad idea anyway, since your opponents will surely play around them. So probably ditch the idea entirely in that environment.
This is a pretty interesting card for the deck, giving us 3 things we want – a literal rattlesnake to threaten blocks, recursion for some strong answer, and a way to empower our temporary allies. That said, it can be tough to find a good spot to play it sometimes, but as long as you get back something decent you could be pretty happy. The biggest downside is that it does potentially draw removal from our opponents – but then again, who really wants to burn hard removal on a 3-drop that already got great value? Whether you're interested will probably depend on whether you're willing to run any non-Phelddagrif creatures, as this is one of the best.
I've only gotten to use this in limited, but it seems pretty strong for Phelddagrif. Being able to cast from the grave is excellent, since it gives us a larger virtual hand without looking as threatening, and being an instant on both sides means it's super easy to cast to top off our hand. Definitely the sort of thing Phelddagrif is interested in.
Here's where we leave the relatively safe waters of single-shot effects, and take a look at some of the repeatable value engines that Phelddagrif can play. These are frequently dangerous to play, because it's easy for a value engine to get a little too powerful and start getting unwanted attention. It's important to remember that, even if you can get value, it's not necessarily correct to. Don't empty your hand just so you can fill it up again – if you don't need to draw more cards, don't. Looting is always correct in 1v1 magic, but here we want to attract as little attention as we can while still keeping our card advantage on point.
Kefnet the Mindful
Right off the bat, we have a dangerous draw engine. Kefnet is strong, but the fact that he can be used repeatedly makes it easy for him to get out of hand in the late game, plus he's a difficult to remove threat. While I like the idea of him in theory, he's a bit too threatening for casual games in my opinion, and probably too slow for competitive ones.
Pulse of the Grid
This is one of my favorite engines, because it's necessarily self-limiting. You can't get ahead of your opponents, you can only catch up to them. Even sweeter, you can use Phelddagrif to pump someone's hand full of cards to ensure that you can get value out of this. Being in the hand makes it difficult to interact with, too. It can sometimes be a problem when your opponents are low on resources in hand but have big scary boards, but generally I think it's among the best engines for the deck.
Draw a card when you play Phelddagrif. Decent, but it's expensive to trigger if you aren't bouncing Phelddagrif for other reasons, and of course it doesn't really help much in a 1v1 game if you're letting your opponent draw as well. Cost is nice, but I'd rather have a draw engine that draws when I need draw.
How I wish this card worked for the deck. It looks so perfect – crew four, turns into a land, gives lots of draw-based options – but unfortunately the recursion ability totally screws it up. In super casual metas you might be able to avoid being the threat, but if people are paying any kind of attention they'll notice that you can just keep recurring board wipes all day and you'll instantly become public enemy number one. Then it's a long, grindy game while you wipe the board constantly while pecking in slowly with Phelddagrif – a game your opponents will remember when you're making deals next time. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one like the plague.
Bounty of the Luxa
The draw every other turn is nice, but the mana is generally difficult to get much use out of, which makes this a bit weak compared to other draw-every-turn options in my opinion.
"Do you want to pay one? Do you want to pay one?" Everybody hates this card, and for good reason. Yes, it's strong, but it attracts a lot of attention and will ensure you're never far from your opponents thoughts. It's nice that the draw is optional, so you can just hibernate with it for a while if you've got a full grip of goodies, but your opponents will probably wonder why you're doing that eventually.
This is a bit more like a single-shot draw than Rhystic Study, and tends to be less hated on. I'd recommend playing this fairly late, although sometimes that can mean people actually do pay. But you should be able to keep the upkeep payments for as long as you need to refill your hand, while keeping up with whatever answering you need to do in the meantime. It does have a little of the Rhystic Study stigma, though.
Four is a nice cost for a draw-every-turn card, and if your opponents aren't paying enough attention they might think it looks like a group hug card. It's pretty slow since you generally don't want to play this without eight lands or so, but it's a strong engine that doesn't generally draw too much hate. The fact that it's mandatory is a downside, though – avoid playing this until you're reasonably confident that you'll be able to use the steady influx of cards.
Honden of the Seeing Winds
Pretty much identical to Kumena's, except that you can play it earlier in slow metas where you can afford to. The other shrines, unfortunately, are pretty unimpressive for what we're trying to do, so if you're trying to build this deck seriously then I wouldn't bother with them.
Besides the fact that you can fuel enemy graveyards with this, or fuel enemy hatred if you mill something good, this is also problematic because it's likely to draw you significantly more cards than you need, and it's not optional. Stellar if the game is 1v1, but too dangerous in multiplayer in my opinion. You'll quickly either have to start using removal all over the place, or discarding good stuff and making your opponents aware of how gross your hand is – if they weren't already aware from all the drawing you're doing.
Generally we're looking for something that actually generates new cards here. Filtering is nice, but all of our cards are useful and it's hard to be sure what to pitch in many games. Your opponents can learn things from what you discard, too, and that's rarely good.
Paying 2 to draw is fine, but it's mostly just worse than Kumena's. If you're running all the fetches this can get a bit better, but honestly one a turn is usually more than enough. This is optional, though, so that's a plus.
The Immortal Sun
This is a bit wasted here. Six for a draw every turn is ok, but the +1/+1 is pretty irrelevant, but planeswalker lockdown can make us a target for anyone playing them, and the cost reduction is nice but by the time we have enough to cast this and stay protected, it probably doesn't matter that much.
Staff of Nin
Six is just too much for this sort of engine. It's an alright temporary option, but you should replace it with more efficient options.
Whispers of the Muse
There's a little potential to get out of hand here, but at a whopping six mana it's not too likely to cast it more than once, and having it hiding in your hand means people are usually more likely to forget about it if you're not bothering to cast it once your hand is full. The option to cantrip early is also a nice touch, and shouldn't be overlooked if you're just trying to play lands. Being scalable is a big part of what makes the card great – just fill up when you need to.
It's very easy for this to overfill you, but luckily the draw is optional. This attracts a little too much attention for my tastes, but if you want a way to keep your hand topped off at all times, this can definitely do the trick.
Sword of Fire and Ice
If you want to do a sort of Voltron Phelddagrif build, this is probably high on your list. I don't like being forced to attack someone to get my draw going, though, and you'll make an enemy of anyone whose commander has two or less toughness pretty quickly.
Nezahal, Primal Tide
Hard to interact with, protects itself from board wipes, draws tons of cards – what's not to love? Well, at least in my opinion, this falls pretty far afoul of the power level for this deck, and the draw is not optional so you'll quickly be forced to either start killing things unnecessarily, or build up a big scary hand that will make you the threat. Phelddagrif isn't big on fat creatures – I'd recommend against Nezahal.
I kind of love clues in this deck. You can happily sit on a grip of five or six cards, but with a much larger virtual hand. Tracker is a decent way to get them, and if you're just accumulating clues he's not necessarily a huge threat. I don't love him enough to ignore the "don't play creatures" rule, but if you're not interested in that rule, he's a solid pick.
This is pretty expensive for a draw, but I almost prefer clues to straight draws in this deck, and the ability to tutor isn't useless if you're able to sit and hoard clues. There's no getting away from the fact that it's an expensive, sorcery-speed spell, though.
Trail of Evidence
This is probably the best clue generation for the deck – low cost and fueled by our primary card types. It can be a weak topdeck if you need gas immediately, but on the other hand if you have at least a few spells in hand it can get the ball rolling quickly. A bit slow for a fast meta, but not by much.
Pretty expensive way to draw if you're in a hurry, but for a slow game this kind of clue generation is quite strong. The option to use it for mana is, of course, nice, but we don't generally dedicate slots to ramp.
This might be the only deck to play this silly card seriously. Letting a temporary ally and yourself draw two cards a turn is no joke. Obviously this is pretty slow for a fast meta, but for a slower janky one, this can definitely be a strong card. It is a creature, though, and that sucks.
Arcanis the Omnipotent
This falls pretty hard into Nezahal territory – draws too many cards, is hard to interact with, and generally scares people. At least the draw is optional, but it's pretty obvious if you're skipping it. Ten mana to play him with protection is pretty heinous too. Skip it.
This is a pretty efficient option for once-per-turn draw, but at the end of the day I'm rarely looking for hand replenishment that early. I'll happily wait a bit longer for something that's more durable and less likely to die in a board wipe.
Costs next to nothing, gives you excellent selection, keep your hand exactly as topped off as you need it, synergizes powerful with Pulse of the Fields when necessary, and it never forces you into having a big hand. This is nearly perfect for what we're looking for – the only downside is that, as a known powerful card, it can sometimes attract attention.
Curse of Verbosity
This one is tough to grade. If it's a dog pile on one overpowered bastard, this is the bee's knees – you get tons of gas, your allies get tons of gas, and you motivate attacks exactly where you want them. Outside of that environment, though, it's easy for this to overdraw you, and you don't always have enough control over who's getting to draw. If the game shifts away from that person as the threat, you can inadvertently push power too far in the wrong direction. I also don't like that your opponents get to dictate your draws. Keep this in mind for metas where one player in particular is going to be the perma-threat, but probably leave it out for balanced, casual metas.
Pretty basic draw. Does what you need at a good rate. Weak for metas where you're forced to answer things frequently, but if you've got more downtime, the mana cost isn't a big deal and this can be quite solid.
It might seem a little optimistic to rate this significantly down from arcane encyclopedia, but with how long games can go it's not all that surprising that you can get a lot more than three draws of a single engine. Being able to scry if your hand is full is a nice bonus, though, and the cost is quite nice.
More of a single-shot draw than a repeatable engine, but a sum of scry 1 three times, and then draw three cards is a pretty solid deal for the cost, plus it's a colorless land after that, and you can always crack treasure for mana in an emergency. The biggest problem is that it's a weak topdeck if you need some gas quickly, it's not high impact, and it plays badly with global wipes. I like being able to top off my hand, but I think there are better ways to do it.
This is kind of a souped-up Tamiyo's Journal that doesn't require any cost to crack the clues, you get to know what the draws are in advance, and the clues can sometimes chump block before they turn into removal and ruin someone's day. It does work badly with creature-only board wipes, but at least your manifests are unlikely to be big removal targets for your opponents.
When Precognition Field got spoiled I was excited – future sight is a very powerful effect, and this covers the most common types of cards in the deck and doesn't require a reveal. But after some more thought, I realized that it's not nearly as good as it looks. Our goal is to have the right answer at the right time, and future sight effects are best used by casting the top card as frequently as possible. We can only use the top card when it's the right answer for the situation, which is quite infrequently, and we don't want to be motivated to play the top card all the time just because it's "free". Sure, you can burn the top card, but you'd have to be willing to burn a lot of cards in order to get a significant chance of this working, and the exile cost isn't much less than the draw cost of, say, Kefnet.
Search for Azcanta
This is another one I was quite excited about, but in my experience it plays a lot worse than you'd like. The fact that you have to reveal means it pretty quickly makes you a major threat, and you can't really afford to take board wipes, for example, unless you plan to use them soon. Solid for the 1v1 game, but too attention-grabbing for multiplayer, sadly.
There are two things making this a difficult sell for the deck. The first thing is that the value is immediate. If you get a removal spell, then you'd better have a good target or you get no value. You have no way to accumulate value unless you happen to hit value, so mostly you're looking for draw. But you could just skip the middleman and run a draw engine instead. The second problem is that the cards you hit may not work well for what you need. They could be too powerful and threatening, or they may synergize with cards in their owner's deck that you can't use very well. It's definitely a fun card, and if you're in a casual meta I encourage you to try it out, but I don't think it's reasonable for a competitive one.
Oracle of Mul Daya
If this worked like precognition field it'd be a great card, but when you have to reveal everything you draw you're in for a rough time. There's basically no amount of card advantage that makes this downside worth it, imo. Plus it's a removal target, which isn't what we want either.
For just one mana, we get guaranteed land drops for basically ever. This requires that you're running a significant number of basics (which isn't necessarily a positive thing, but if you need to play around blood moon and company then you should do what the meta demands). The downside is that, since you're only getting basic lands, it doesn't help much for restocking our removal and keeping us in the game when things go late.
Crucible of Worlds
You need a full complement of fetches to make this worth it, and even then it's a bit mediocre. It's nice that it gives you virtual hand size, but much like land tax it doesn't do much to help when you're running out of gas, and it comes at three time the price. But on the plus side, you don't need as many basics, and there's no risk of overfilling your hand. It can be a threat with strip mine, but it's a very slow threat by the point in the game where we're trying to win, so as long as you don't abuse it, it shouldn't be too big of a deal.
Much like land tax, this only does basics, but the fact that, late-game, when getting basics is less interesting, this turns into a maze of ith is a pretty solid tradeoff, and it means we don't need large basics numbers to get good use out of it. The mana cost activation is usually pretty irrelevant, but whether the maze side justifies the slot will depend a bit on meta, and it's not a particularly powerful draw engine – more of a rattlesnake with a little free card advantage thrown in.
Life from the Loam
It kills me to rate one of my all-time favorite cards this low, but loam engine is a bit weak here. I've tried it with and without cyclers, and the cyclers almost always turn us into a threat since it becomes repeatable draw that's hard to stop. Without cyclers it just doesn't feel super worth it – you need a lot of fetches, first cast usually sucks, and you're usually not super interested in trading draws for lands in the late-game since you don't know what lands are going to be dredged into the grave until you sacrifice your draw. The fact that the lands are revealed isn't a big deal, usually, since they're just lands, but much like land tax this loses a lot of value in the late-game – and unlike land tax, it only really WORKS in the late game.
Repeatable Card Filtering
Filtering, rather than draw, can be a good choice if you're trying to find repeatable value that isn't as threatening as straight-up draw. Reception may vary, though, since it might look like you're sculpting some sort of combo.
Sensei's Divining Top
Top is an excellent tool for a low cost. It's decent without fetches, but I really wouldn't recommend it unless you're playing fetches, to be honest – which, given the cost, you probably are. The biggest knock against it is that, as both a known powerful card, and as a card that constantly attracts attention by being activated frequently, it can be perceived as more of a threat than it really justifies. In a high-powered meta that's probably irrelevant, bigger threats will come along, but if you're in a budget meta this might look scary to people who are only vaguely acquainted with the card.
Sensei's Diving Top on a budget. Well, that's not quite fair – speculation is much more powerful if you don't have fetches, and when you can cast this many times in a turn without being too tapped out it's a strong tool. Don't get too overzealous about crafting the perfect draws, since repeated castings can make you look pretty threatening, but if you cast this only once every turn or so it's a nice way to filter. Not for fast metas, it's too slow and being sorcery speed is a big knock early-game.
The mana for activating top is usually not an issue for us, and losing out on the virtual top card is a not insignificant downside (plus it plays much worse with global wipes). On the plus side, it's less well known and less attention-grabbing, but I still prefer top for sure.
Scry 1 isn't enough value for me, and the 1 mana discount isn't usually a huge deal either. Putting both together is decent, but I don't love expensive enchantments that die to our global wipes.
This is really low cost to include in the deck, and it has some nice synergy with some of the land-fetching draw engines (although that can risk being too threatening). It can often feel like it's pretty useless when you're sitting on a full hand and hoping to draw lands, so you don't have to discard or play something at an inopportune time. Still, as I said, low cost to include, so there's not much downside to including it, and it can bail you out if you're flooding. Too slow for fast metas, though.
Old school top. The heavy mana costs are perfectly acceptable here (although maybe don't tap ALL the way out, since your opponents might exploit that window), but there's something about digging twenty cards deep that can look threatening to the other players. Digging super deep can be nice, but since we've really only got minor variations on the same cards for the vast majority of our deck, it's not as powerful as it appears. Like guile, it loses points for dying to your wipes relative to top.
Another solid tool for hand filtering that doesn't quite rise to the level of top. At least it can grab you an emergency counterspell, so it's probably better than Mirri's Guile. Like similar cards, this is really only recommendable if you're running deep on fetches (and ideally light on global wipes).
Brain in a Jar
A fun option if you want your deck to look especially harmless. Being able to flash board wipes is nice, but trying to control the number of counters looks difficult, and the mana savings is usually not going to be especially important. The scry alone is pathetically weak for the cost, so I have a hard time seeing this really performing seriously.
The loot is not the main event for this card, obviously, but it's an important part when you're trying to get back into the game. The flip side has the potential to be insane, since we can funnel it into massive hippo armies to siege the threatening players, but of course you should be careful about who you give that power to, and have protection with a wipe ready to undo the damage afterwards. The other primary use for the flipped card is massive X draw spells, which are going to be a threat whichever direction they're pointed. Could also be used with one of the pulses, or whispers of the muse, or something like that, all of which will also rightfully make you the threat. Using it for casting regular spells is pretty weak, since you need mana at many different times to respond to things, and it flips too slowly to be important when you're on an early mana crunch. Regardless of how you're using it, people are probably going to be rightfully worried about it, which is not a place you want to be – although it's also a fun little mini-game.
These are cards that give you value by reducing the number of things you need to care about, and giving extra incentive for your opponents to attack elsewhere. I don't really like this sort of thing for the deck, because I think you should strive to accomplish the same effect by playing a politically savvy game, and I think some of them can make you look impervious, which can translate to threatening for a lot of players.
This is a huge threat for a Voltron deck, but pretty mediocre in most other circumstances. It's weak against tokens, it's weak against noncombat decks. I like that you aren't totally invulnerable, but I think it's too close for comfort. Also it's a big money card, which can sometimes make people wary of you.
Propaganda/Ghostly Prison/Sphere of Safety
These are all strong cards that can motivate your opponents to go elsewhere, but I do think the effect is somewhat redundant with the structure of the deck. Obviously sphere is a few steps down if you aren't playing heavy enchantments – which you probably shouldn't be. In general I think this sort of thing can make your opponents WANT to attack you more, and I'd rather I focused on playing such that my opponents didn't want to attack me at all, rather than be unable to do so (I do appreciate that this is a soft redirection rather than a hard one, though – there's a reason people usually have positive experiences with these cards. They basically do what this deck is trying to do, except without the user having to play so carefully).
You can probably guess my concern about this card just from the name. Voltron decks cannot beat this card, so that can be a big problem, but it's a solid way to force overextension into a board wipe in the 1v1 game. It's hard to get rid of, but it's also expensive, so you might be able to avoid looking threatening as long as people have enough creatures that they can convince themselves they can go wide enough to beat it. Obviously too slow for fast metas.
Maze of Ith
Maze is similar to invulnerability, except it's less mana intensive and easier for people to see their way around (also it targets, which kind of sucks). It can be decent for re-routing attacks, but it can definitely draw hate – partly because, now that they can't, people are more likely to want to attack you, and partly because it's a well-known powerful older card.
This is more my speed than Ghostly Prison and company – rather than force your opponents to attack elsewhere, you gently encourage them with free stuff – much less likely to cause the "now that I can't, I want to attack you" effect. Luckily the counters aren't usually a big deal for us to handle with all our removal - and in fact makes their creatures more valuable, which gives our removal more leverage. I also like that, unlike other effects, this lets you know well in advance if someone's planning to attack you, so you can prepare accordingly. But, on the downside, it's a creature, which makes it more vulnerable to our wipes (our opponents are unlikely to care enough to remove it specifically). Also worth noting that it speeds up our Phelddagrif clock significantly. If this weren't a creature it'd be a staple of the deck for casual metas.
Pulse of the Fields
I may have cast this more than I've ever cast any other spell in the game, outside of combos. So it's surprising that I'm still not sure what I think about it. On one hand, holy crap is it a lifesaver. This can bring you back from the brink of death and makes your life total almost irrelevant – in no small part because of Phelddagrif's ability to grant life to your opponents. On the flip side, though, I've had people target me extensively because of this card and how powerful it is. Part of me thinks the deck should avoid it, and part of me thinks it's won me a ton of games that otherwise would have been very difficult. I'm leaning towards the side of it being very good, but this is definitely a tough one for me to look at objectively. I'd lean towards including it, but not tutoring/casting it unless it's a slugfest sort of game where you need it – it's pretty hard to beat, for example, Purphoros without it.
Repeatable Board Presence/Control
These are cards that offer a way to either repeatedly remove enemy cards, or create your own board presence. I also can't say that I love these, because I think it's easy for them to become threatening, but they're included for completeness.
Sacrificing Phelddagrif to flip this (unless you have Okina or something) is a bit of a bummer, and making 4/4s every turn I think has a hard time being relevant in many games of commander. The mana ability of the land is pretty sweet too, though, so overall I don't hate this. But then, I've always been a sucker for flip lands.
Jitte is probably among the most overreacted-to cards I've ever played. People I've played against react to a Jitte like I just resolved Omniscience. Which is probably just as well, because it's not really flexible to be good in this deck anyway. If you're going Voltron Phelddagrif, though, maybe this is your cup of tea.
This does two things I really don't like – first, it lets your opponents know exactly what to play around, and it also makes you a major threat if you put a counter or removal on this (which, realistically, is just about the only thing you CAN put on it). This is a posterchild for why I'd rather play draw – we get the same effect, but without telegraphing everything to our opponents.
Pulse of the Tangle
The most awkward and least enticing of the three pulses we can play. Being a sorcery is a huge downside, and it's also pretty capable of looking quite threatening, especially if it's known to be in your hand before the 1v1 game. If you want to win in a more novel way than beating down with Phelddagrif, this is definitely a cute way to do it (just donate the final opponent a ton of hippos, and then cast this to your heart's content) but I think it's a bit too niche and slow to justify inclusion.
Act of Authority
You know I hate sorcery-speed removal, but the fun part of this one is that it can be used to keep shenanigans in check for a long time, while deflecting the blame onto your opponents. Its presence will probably cause your opponents to hold back their real threats at least until they have control of it, though, which isn't what we're trying to accomplish. It's also significantly worse if you have value artifacts or enchantments you want to stick around. But the power is definitely there.
Esoteric Value Engines
These are all the value engines that were too unique to justify their own category. They're naturally some of my favorites. Always keep ‘em guessing.
This is probably my favorite card in the deck. Knowing what your opponents have gives you enormous value. You have massively improved threat assessment, you know exactly what answers to save for what threats, and your opponents get to know that as well. I can't imagine the deck without it. One quick note – symmetrical reveal (such as Revelation) is a whole different ball game, and not one we want to play, for reasons that have already been detailed ad nauseam.
This is one of my favorite probably-bad cards in the deck. The discount ability is sometimes useful, but the thing I like about it is the minigame to try to flip it. Remember that you can attempt to flip in response to removal, or you can flip it off the trigger from casting a global wipe that would have destroyed it. The flip side isn't actually that amazing here, though – it makes your board wipes and counters much harder to stop, but otherwise its main application is in double removal and in doubling medium-sized draw spells. Draw spells being a lot more useful, since it's more universally beneficial. I don't necessarily think this is a great pick – it definitely can draw hate because of potentially powerful it is with more powerful spells that we aren't running – but it is a lot of fun, so I run it a lot anyway.
Mirage Mirror is definitely one of the neatest cards to come out in recent years. It looks fairly unassuming, but in practice it's absolutely nuts. For one thing, it's extremely hard to remove, because it can turn into a land at any time, which most removal misses – and a lot of the removal that hits lands misses creatures. For a second thing, it enables you to copy some of the strongest cards in the game your opponents might be playing – copying necropotence, for example, is straight-up bonkers since you don't have to suffer any of the downsides. Biggest downside is that there is some temptation to use this as an engine to win the game if, for example, your opponent plays an eldrazi, and it can sometimes cause people to sandbag their threats, but I think it's super cool and too fun not to use.
Spurnmage Advocate/Shieldmage Advocate
There are a total of five advocates, and the other three were left off for being too oppressive to artifacts/enchantments (nullmage), too hard to activate (pulsemage), and too useless (forcemage). Spurnmage is interesting because it can be a massive deterrent against attacking you, which is good, but it can also be a massive deterrent against attacking in general, which is bad, so make sure you're clear about what sorts of attacks you're going to use it on. Shieldmage, on the other hand, doesn't have such a powerful (and timing-restricted) ability, so we can focus fully on the interesting part of the card – returning cards from an opponents graveyard to their hand. The value of this is going to depend a lot of what sorts of things your opponents play – returning targeted removal will generally be great, returning ramp spells and time magic will probably not be, unless you need to help them a lot to take down some other opponent. There is some risk of this becoming too threatening if you're using it to counterlock or striplock someone out of the game, but given that you need at least one partner in crime it can't get too off the rails, and it does deflect some of the blame onto someone else. Of course I'm never going to love these because they're high-priority removal targets and quite slow, plus they're reliant on having a good conspirator who has the right tools, but they're such an interesting way to generate card advantage that I think they merit a mention.
Tutors are arguably value, but the only tutors we generally want to run should operate as a split card of either answers or value, whichever is needed – tutors that only hit one of the above are generally not worth it. Because we aren't playing black, the vast majority of these cards require revealing the card, so if you're going for an answer you should probably be prepared to use it right away. In terms of which targets I value most highly, being able to get a value card or a board wipe are generally my top 2, since those are generally the ones that you're ok getting at sorcery-speed. Counters, on the other hand, are the least useful to be able to fetch, since you usually need them before you can cast the tutor – but they're a good thing to be able to get on an instant-speed tutor.
Muddle the Mixture
Muddle is somewhat unique in that it's sometimes useful as a spell in its own right, which is a leg up on the competition. It can hit board wipes, removal, counters, and value. Its main targets are cyclonic rift, life from the loam, unexpectedly absent, pull from tomorrow, arcane denial, and Search for Azcanta.
Drift of Phantasms
Drift is rarely useful as a spell, but three does have a lot of great value generators. It's lacking in board wipes (unless you run o-stone), though. Its main targets are beast within, Mirage Mirror, Pulse of the Fields, Pulse of the Grid, Sphinx's Revelation, Teferi's protection, and Disallow.
Enchantments are pretty limited here, since there aren't any reasonable counters or board wipes to be had, and really only the neutralizing removal. But hey, it does hit my favorite, Telepathy. Other good targets are Exploration, Imprisoned in the Moon, Land Tax, and Sylvan Library.
Nice low cost, and lots of good targets. You can hit virtually any counterspell, Cyclonic Rift for a board wipe, pongify or a bounce for targeted removal, and Whispers of the Muse or Pulse of the Grid for value.
Spellseeker has most of the same targets as Merchant Scroll, albeit a bit more limited - Arcane Denial, Cyclonic Rift, swords to plowshares, and Whispers of the Muse are the main ones. It can also hit Life from the Loam, though, which is nice, and it provides a body to chump with.
This might be more accurately deemed a value engine itself, but with our selection of utility lands it doesn't have as versatile selection as other tutors, but it's very efficient and offers excellent value long-term. Prime targets are Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, and Strip Mine.
I've experimented with this a decent amount, and I think the long setup is going to be unacceptable if you're not either using it to always tutor a value engine, or planning to draw it immediately via a draw tool you already have. It's the only tutor that doesn't require revealing it, though, so that's a nice perk.
Hour of Promise
Lands offer limited abilities, and this lacks the efficiency of Weathered Wayfarer. It is a better topdeck in the late-game, though. Primary targets, like wayfarer, are Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, and Strip Mine.
Reap and Sow
Tacking land destruction onto a land tutor is a pretty mediocre add, but it's occasionally useful. The land entering untapped is nice, but it's still weaker than Hour of Promise imo. As before, primary targets are Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, and Strip Mine.
Adding instant speed is really interesting, since it can work as a single-target fog with Kor Haven, surprise grave-hate with Scavenger Grounds, or surprise land destruction with Strip Mine. And of course it can also hit Arch or Lighthouse. Sacking a land is a bummer, but except for early-game it's not usually a big deal.
Technically this can hit a ton of value engines, but the best use imo is to hit lands (Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, Strip Mine) and low cmc utility like Telepathy and Exploration. The biggest weakness is that it can't hit any counters or board wipes (unless you run o-stone) but it can hit Imprisoned in the Moon for removal in a pinch.
Low cost and eot activation is nice, though the targets are limited. As before, main targets are Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, and Strip Mine.
I'm not a super fan of this being unable to hit any counters or wipes, but it is very efficient and hits many value engines. Main targets are Imprisoned in the Moon for removal, and value engines like Mirage Mirror, Telepathy, Exploration, and Sylvan Library.
The vast majority of spells in our deck are instants and sorceries. This can get any counterspell, any boardwipe, any targeted removal except the neutralization ones, any single-shot draw, Pulse of the Grid, Whispers of the Muse, and Life from the Loam.
There are a few ways to go with this. For one, you can go grab some random garbage (or, ideally, something you want in the grave like loam or moment's peace) and the answer you need right now, and show them to someone other than the owner of the threat. Option two, get three of the same thing and show them to anyone. Option three, get a perfect setup and bribe the target with Phelddagrif. It's especially nice to set up a good loam, although as I've said before I don't think loam + cycling is a good route to go, so maybe just forget I said that.
This doesn't get much play, but it does hit a good number of important targets for us. Telepathy, Swords to Plowshares, Nature's Claim, Exploration, Whispers of the Muse, Swan Song, and if you want a better value engine and have mana to burn, you can use it to hit mystical tutor, crop rotation, or enlightened tutor to find any card in the deck.
Distant Memories is basically the poor man's Intuition. It gets absolutely zero play, but it does get a little extra value here since we can make it a bad diabolic tutor by bribing someone to put the card in our hand. Unfortunately Diabolic Tutor is still a pretty mediocre card, and it's worse when you tack on the cost of bribes. So despite this being the perfect home for it...it still kinda sucks.
I'd argue worse than map since you're paying the cost on your turn, but it's a better turn 2 topdeck? Main targets Kor Haven, Arch of Orazca, Arcane Lighthouse, Scavenger Grounds, and Strip Mine.
Preventing combat damage for a turn isn't generally a good value proposition, but the way things often go in commander (splinter twin, craterhoof behemoth, etc) sometimes just preventing damage can be a great silver bullet for what a lot of decks are doing. I wouldn't dedicate very many slots to it, because it doesn't really do anything, but it can be very useful in combat-oriented metas, especially those with a lot of burst – although an instant-speed board wipe is usually preferable.
This is easily my favorite fog – it's not so powerful as to be oppressive, but it's annoying enough to send that attack elsewhere. Single-shot fogs will often be forced out, but when you've got a whole second barrel on your fog shotgun (this is a bad metaphor), suddenly you're a lot less appetizing. I'd run this unless your meta is very noncombat focused.
This can be nastier than Moment's Peace in some scenarios, when the rest of the table is able to gang up and take them out while they're tapped out. That's a pretty low-power-meta scenario to happen, though. I'd rather have the second wave of fog to protect me from two bursty turns.
This is another buyback spell in the self-control club. Running this with crucible and going for infinite fogs is absolutely going to make you the target, and grind the game to a long, tedious halt. Of course you could just pretend it's moment's peace and skip the buyback on the second or third time, but then people will probably just be wondering why you did that, and then assume you have some equally nasty backup plan that they need to kill you to stop. You can maybe smooth this over with, you know, talking, but I think it's best not to resort to that sort of thing when you can let the board state convince everyone you're not a threat, instead of your sweet lies.
This sort of works as a Moment's Peace with some potential removal attached, which is nifty. Can make you the threat, though. I really want to see someone win off infinite spiders after a splinter twin combo, that would be hilarious.
Having a multi-function fog sounds amazing, unfortunately the other two modes are pretty lackluster. We don't have creatures worth regenerating, and player-targeting spells are pretty rare (and also, hopefully, not aimed at us). Still better than a regular-old-fog, but not by a ton.
Combining a fog with a way to absolutely wreck mass LD, save you from big burn spells including Torment of Hailfire, and even block mind twist and other targeted discard spells, is pretty excellent. The only downside is that you'll be unable to respond to anything until your next turn – but it's safe to say that, if you're firing this off, you probably didn't have other good responses anyway, and you should be safe from most anything until you get your lands back.
This deck has a difficult relationship with grave hate. We need a way to block certain things from the grave, but it's narrow enough that it's difficult to dedicate slots for it. Also, most good grave hate tools are permanents, which means all the usual bad things about our opponents being able to play around them and making us threatening to them. Finding the right line to walk can be difficult, but I'd say a good starting place is to remember that your job is not to stop everything, only the critical things. So even if you could easily stop recursion, don't do it unless it's absolutely necessary. It's not an ideal position to be in, since your opponents will still be aware that they're under your thumb, but unfortunately I think it's the only real option with the current grave hate tools we have.
Stonecloaker violates several of our most important rules – don't use repeatable effects to screw people over, and don't play removal targets. I think he's still the best option for the slot, but it's important to keep in mind what I said above – only use him when necessary, at least until the 1v1 game.
Rest in Peace
The nuclear option. Basically guaranteed to make any grave-based, or even grave-adjacent, decks your mortal enemy forever. I don't like it for that reason – but if you know the archenemy is a grave deck, then I guess you may as well sucker punch the crap out of them.
This is probably the closest we get to an on-message grave hate. It's a surprise from the hand, gives us virtual cards from the yard, and it even helps a little against self-decking against mill. Grave decks can be so persistent that it won't necessarily be enough, though, and it's a full card's worth of commitment that doesn't guarantee any lasting control. Great choice versus occasional recursion, bad choice against Meren.
Scrabbling Claws/Phyrexian Furnace
Cantripping is nice, but the first mode is annoying and basically requires constant use to be effective, which violates our goal of doing as little as possible, and the second mode just doesn't do enough to hamper grave decks imo. Yes, it doesn't require much of you to run this card, but I don't think it's worth clogging the deck with semi-effective tools to niche situations, even if they replace themselves.
Relic of Progenitus
My problem with Claws/Furnace still applies to the first mode, but the second mode is at least a pretty reasonable solution to the problem and it still comes with a cantrip. Still not necessarily going to be enough versus most grave decks, and I don't like that it's a permanent, but it's arguably the best of the permanent options, especially in a fast meta.
This isn't quite rest in peace level of grave hate, but it's not too far off. One interesting wrinkle is that the exile is part of the resolution of the ability, so if you can figure out a way to bounce this (Capsize? Wait, don't play Capsize) you can potentially reuse it. If you're going to try that hard, though, you're definitely better off just playing Stonecloaker.
People suggest ramp pretty often to me, and I don't think it's particularly important here. Good answers are mostly cheap, board wipes are cheap enough that they're castable by the time they're necessary, and we don't want to tap out for a ramp spell anyway. That said, a few merit consideration.
Whaaaat? Yep, you heard it here, Sol Ring is not that good in this deck. We gain little from early ramp except becoming a potential threat, colorless isn't always very useful, and it's eventually going to get picked up in a global wipe anyway. I can't fault you for including it, but I don't think it's really worth it, shockingly.
Even more shockingly, the actual best card in the format isn't even worth playing here. The incremental damage is a potentially huge deal over the enormously long game we're playing, and as with sol ring it doesn't really do anything we need. There is a little merit to the argument that, with a sword of Damocles hanging over your head, your opponents may feel less inclined to feel the need to kill you on their own, but a savvy opponent shouldn't really think that's likely to happen.
It speeds up the clock by multiple turns if left as a dagger, it gives a favored opponent some chumpers, and of course it can be a pretty strong land when flipped. The mana costs actually work out well here – the turn you flip it, you've paid 2 to equip but get back 3, and you can split the cast and equip cost so you aren't tapping out at an inopportune time.
The one kind of ramp I do like in this deck is the sort that helps you empty your hand, so that you can have as lean and mean a hand as possible. Every spot in your hand dedicated to a land is another undeserved notch up you get in everyone else's threat assessment. Explosive starts with these can sometimes attract attention, but you can always sandbag a little if you don't need the land right away. Another nice wrinkle about these is that they share many of the same tutors as Telepathy, which makes them solid backup targets for those tutors if you've already drawn it.
Mill can sometimes be a concern for this deck, because we're best set up to deal with combat-oriented win conditions, which mill often isn't. We're also necessarily dealing ourself "mill-damage" constantly through the game, and we aim to play a very long game, so mill exacerbates that as well. Mill, outside of infinites, is not generally considered a powerful strategy, but commanders like Phenax can pose a real threat to us. It's probably not a high priority to worry about, but then there are several powerful silver bullets that can substantially reduce the risk, ideally without sacrificing deck strength too much. Do note that these tools don't work against Oona or other exile mill, though - you'll just have to kill them the old fashioned way.
This does a solid job of protecting you from mill, as long as you don't draw it. Once in-hand, it's an alright card - helps a lot that it cantrips - but it's not a great piece of grave hate since it's sorcery speed, and besides adding three cards to your deck it doesn't really help protect against mill anymore at that point. If you're concerned about mill this won't hurt your deck much, but it can be unreliable in a long, grindy game.
Nexus of Fate
This is a new one for the deck, and an interesting option. It doesn't exactly protect you from mill in the traditional sense, but if your library gets milled out, provided you've got 7 mana, you can generally win the game as long as you can get Phelddagrif through. As a value card it's pretty meh, it does enable you to interrupt extra turns, and it's a way to reset your mana (although keeping 7 up is probably plenty), but the biggest boon is that it continues to protect you from mill if you draw it, and even if it's countered, which makes it probably the best anti-mill card available. Its popularity and power in recent standard formats can raise some hackles, but being a mostly one-shot spell people should probably give over it pretty quickly. The bigger problem is that it's a 7-drop that doesn't really do anything except replace itself, in most circumstances.
What's that? You don't want to kill someone over six-plus turns with a flying hippo? Well I think you're playing the wrong deck, but here are my top two alt wincons for the impatient.
I don't like the precedent this sets for future games, but making a few dozen hippos and then turning them all into 4/4s you control is a hysterical use of Phelddagrif's ability, and a very fast way to kill some people.
Approach of the Second Sun
This is way less fun, and way more likely to draw hate on subsequent games imo, but casting is, into a big draw spell, into this again on the same turn is definitely one (boring/reliable) way to win a game.
Lands are excellent value engines since they are generally low impact, not too threatening, and don't die to your global wipes, but the more you lean on colorless-producing utility lands the less reliable your mana will be for casting answers. So it's usually worth having a strong assortment of fixers, to ensure you can still cast what you need to. As far as the actual fixing split, you'll have to look at your deck to decide, but generally I prefer white and blue to be well covered, with significantly less green – although green activates Phelddagrif's best political ability, so balance as you see fit.
It taps for our colors and it's not terribly expensive. You should probably play one.
Path of Ancestry
Seaside Citadel, except that whenever you cast your commander you scry. Great combo of fixing and value. I don't advocate running a lot of etbt lands, but this is one I'm happy to make an exception for.
ABU duals (Savannah, Tropical Island, Tundra)
Original duals are a double-edged sword – they're obviously great lands, but they also can look intimidating at casual tables. This goes back to tailoring your deck to your meta – slower tables where ABU duals are a liability are the exact tables where you probably don't need lightning fast fixing anyway. And that's the general mantra of this section – make sure your deck value fits within acceptable boundaries for your meta, and you should be fine.
Fetchlands (Arid Mesa, Flooded Strand, Marsh Flats, Misty Rainforest, Polluted Delta, Scalding Tarn, Verdant Catacombs, Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills)
These are the best fixers in the game, bar none. They get any two colors, they shuffle your deck, they thin out the lands a teensy bit, they can get basics in case of nonbasic hate – they're just all-around amazing lands. That said, they can make your deck look expensive and overpowered (although a lot less so than ABU duals, although obviously they're best used in tandem with them) so only use them if they won't raise any eyebrows. Should go without saying, but run all nine if you can. And be smart – crack for basics if you smell nonbasic hate, crack for etbt duals eot if you don't need the mana for other purposes earlier, etc.
Shocklands (Hallowed Fountain, Breeding Pool, Temple Garden)
These are pretty mediocre if you don't have fetches, so for budget players, probably don't bother with them if you aren't planning on acquiring fetches as well. In a 3-color deck they're alright draws but nothing special, they're mostly useful for their fetch synergy.
Cycling Duals (Scattered Groves, Irrigated Farmland)
I actually like these a fair bit, they're good fetch targets and they're a much better draw lategame than other lands. They drop a bit if you aren't running fetches, but then the etbt matters less in slower metas too, so they're solid basically anywhere.
Slowlands (Prairie Stream, Canopy Vista)
I don't see much application for these. They aren't terrible, but realistically if you need fetch targets you can afford at least shocklands and cycling lands. These enter tapped at the worst time, and in a three color deck it can be very late before they enter untapped, especially with a non-budget manabase. I guess they're ok duals for budget decks, but they're nothing special.
Checklands (Sunpetal Grove, Glacial Fortress)
With a dual/fetch manabase these are pretty reliable. They're good but nothing special.
Fastlands (Seachrome Coast, Botanical Sanctum, Razorverge Thicket)
Better in a fast meta (shocker) but nothing too exciting. There's usually better options, especially at this price point.
Battlebond Duals (Sea of Clouds, Bountiful Promenade)
Generally solid draws, the only time they won't enter untapped is when it's very unlikely to matter.
Manland Duals (Celestial Colonnade, Lumbering Falls, Stirring Wildwood)
We're not really looking to win via land beats, but having a random chump blocker for a lethal attack can occasionally be relevant, or if you need a way to smack an opponent for a couple damage for the kill. Not a great bonus on an etbt dual, and definitely not worth the price on Colonnade, but a decent option if you want value on your fixers.
Temples (Temple of Enlightenment, Temple of Mystery, Temple of Bounty)
I'm actually a sucker for these. Early you can dig for lands, late you can dig for anything except lands – so it's almost draw a half card. Not as good for fast metas, but for slower metas I think these are a good amount of value for a fixing land.
Bouncelands (Azorius Chancery, Selesnya Sanctuary, Simic Growth Chamber)
Getting a free card seems great off a land, but the biggest weakness is that, on the early turns, you often will have a full grip, and that card will go to the discard. If you have an early exploration/burgeoning/telepathy/etc I actually do like these quite a bit for slower metas, though. Some people think they're strip mine targets, but that's a pretty poor use of a strip mine when there are multiple opponents. So if your opponent does that, either they're an idiot or they really hate your guts.
Filter Lands (Mystic Gate, Wooded Bastion, Flooded Grove)
These lands kind of annoy me just because of how complicated they can make tapping mana, but they're pretty decent I guess. Mystic Gate is realistically a step above the rest of them, because double green is rarely important.
Painlands (Adarkar Wastes, Brushland, Yavimaya Coast)
Taking random damage is something we generally want to avoid, since we play for the very, very long game, but once you have a decent set of lands you probably won't need to tap it for damage anyway. Alright fixers but nothing special.
Odyssey Filters (Skycloud Expanse, Sungrass Prairie)
Being able to use these to turn otherwise annoying colorless mana into something useful actually makes me like these a bit. Getting both colors at once usually sort of negates the advantage, but they're decent, especially if you want to convert your mana into maximum eot Phelddagriffing.
Revealands (Port Town, Fortified Village)
Unless you're going pretty big on basics, you probably won't be able to put these into play untapped very often. They're alright but not great.
You'd better have fetches and duals to make this good, and even then it's just alright. Kind of cool, but I'm not a huge fan. Usually we're playing enough nonbasic lands that this isn't necessarily reliable enough.
I don't usually like giving up slots for ramping, but when it comes on a land that also fixes like crazy, I'm a lot more interested. This is obviously a bit slow, but it's a great value and great fixing at the same time, so unless your meta is very fast I'd give it a recommendation.
Only hitting basics and costing significantly more to activate is a bummer, but this is still a solid value fixing land, and entering untapped is great. Biggest knock is that it doesn't really help us get Phelddagrif out more quickly like Krosan Verge does, but being able to activate it right away is actually a great deal.
Krosan Verge for the cheap crowd. Losing the ability to hit duals, or even multiple colors, is a huge knock against this card, but it's still a 2-for-1 in a land. Very poor for fast metas, but acceptable for slower ones.
It's pretty rare for this not to tap for at least two of our colors, and likely all three. Even if no one else is in one of your colors, someone's likely to have a rainbow land of some type. Solid card, but it makes me nervous I'll run into the all-rakdos crowd and feel stupid.
I don't think I like this land as much as I ought to, but it's definitely best for the deck that already has excellent fixing. This is for the deck that can't decide if it wants to cast a turn 4 Cryptic Command or Hour of Revelation, not the one just hoping to have its colors by then.
I don't like taking random damage. It adds up over a twenty-plus-turn game. That said, you can safely leave this as your last tapped land every turn and you'll probably be mostly unharmed, while still having all your colors available at all times. Seems like overkill for three color, though.
It taps for any color, and the downside is actually what we're planning on doing anyway? Sign me up. Worse in 1v1, but that's usually late enough that who cares. Or you can use it to cast a board wipe that kills the token anyway.
Not as awful as it looks, since it's still an untapped colorless and the activation cost is usually fine, but it's not particularly exciting either. Maybe run it if you really want to get value out of your crucible/loam engine or something.
Can't say I've used this. Green fixing is less enticing, and always taking damage sucks for aforementioned reasons. Being able to crack for a card is a nice upside, but there are other lands that crack for two cards (although they don't also fix). The combination is probably enough to justify a slot, especially in a fast meta where you need quick answers and some sustained value.
Storage Duals (Calciform Pools, Saltcrusted Steppe)
I have some personal prejudice against these, because I just hate tracking counters on lands, but I don't think these really justify the slot. I can see running them if your build focuses heavily on the draw X spells, especially as a kill condition, but they're also the slowest, most telegraphed possible way to ratchet up to lethal, and super easy to disrupt with strip mine and company. And if you aren't doing that – bad news, it looks like you're trying to do that, so expect the hate.
Vivid lands (Vivid Creek, Vivid Grove, Vivid Meadow)
I hate these stupid things. I don't know why WotC keeps shoving them into precons so hard. I don't like tracking the counters, and I don't like always-etbt lands with no value. I'd probably take guildgates over these, if only to keep your mana simpler.
If you're on a budget and don't mind etbt fixers, this obviously pretty top shelf. Not for fast metas, but this is a great fixer for slower metas where your manabase needs to be a bit less obtrusive.
Guildgates, Gainlands, and other ETBT duals with no significant upside
If you're on a tight budget, realistically I think it's best to include some of these rather than go all-basics. If the rest of your meta is super budget you don't need all this pricy fixing anyway. This deck is sweet enough that it can handle a mediocre manabase and still rule. (But if you have the budget of course you should run good fixing lands, what are you, crazy?)
Lands are an excellent place to get value from. We want to run a pretty large number of lands in most forms of the deck, since we want to hit a land drop every turn so we aren't discarding or forced to use removal on subpar targets early, so being able to put those to later use is clutch if we're running out of answers. Utility lands often hit a sweet spot of being low impact enough to avoid attracting too much attention, while also being difficult to interact with, and of course providing mana. We really want to get maximum use out of our slots, so pushing value onto the lands is a good way to double up.
Being able to turn cards into draw engines is an extremely powerful and on-message thing for us to do. Unfortunately, most lands of this nature are either very restrictive, or single-use. Except one...
Arch of Orazca
Let's start things off with a bang, with one of my favorite new cards for the deck. Drawing one card per turn is rarely overpowered in the late-game, but it's enough to give you very good odds of having answers to whatever your opponents are doing, and you don't have to activate this if you're already doing fine. It's funny to look at this side-by-side next to Conqueror's Foothold – Foothold is obviously more efficient and provides more options, but considering this requires no effort, this is only marginally worse, and it doesn't have the same issues with threat level at all. Auto-include imo.
Sea Gate Wreckage
I really wanted this to be good for the deck, but I'm not sure I've ever activated it. Going hellbent is absolute suicide in virtually all scenarios, so it's not worth it for an extra draw every turn. Sure, it helps when you're most in trouble, but you're still probably going to lose anyway.
I have a hard time wanting to run enough basics in a three-color deck to make this remotely justifiable. Going up to twenty still makes this deeply mediocre compared to Arch, and your manabase is going to be trash. Leave this for mono-colored decks.
There's part of me that thinks paying three for sylvan scrying is a bit stupid, which is true. On the other hand, you can keep hands counting this as a land, which you can't do for scrying. I think ultimately this is probably pretty overrated, but it's still a decent inclusion. The secret is probably not breaking your back to use the tutor option. Also it's sweet with Loam.
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
I don't like symmetrical draw, but when it comes on an otherwise-functional land, and is optional, it's a lot more interesting. One could reasonably make the argument that, if it's archenemy, giving your team three cards vs the archenemy's one is a pretty solid option. I think this requires some skill to use properly, and it's definitely capable of backfiring, but if that's your style of play I think this is one of the best options for the effect.
Glacially slow (wink) but a decent value engine and fixer. This is obviously unplayable in fast metas, and of course you need a decent number of basics to make it good, but if those are both true I think I'd want to play this.
Like scrying sheets (Except this actually scrys), this requires a lot of basics to reliably give extra cards – though significantly less, given that you get to scry first. However, I think you probably don't want to chance the reveal unless you already know it's a basic, or else you might flip a board wipe or something else that you'd really rather people didn't know about. So mostly this is here for the scry 1, which is decent, but by the time this is active (if it ever gets active – hitting a land drop every turn off land tax or similar is likely to eventually outpace even some ramp-heavy decks) there are more powerful options available.
Memorial to Genius/Blighted Cataract
For all but the fastest metas, these are excellent. They're pretty close – cataract is a much better late-game topdeck, but memorial can be better earlier if you're working on getting your colors, and then later when it costs a little less to activate. I really like having those virtual cards in hand hiding in my manabase.
I leave no stone unturned in my search for value lands. This can be pretty awful in your starter, but later-game it's a decent value engine. Think of it like a colorless land that requires you to already have an island, except that it's worse against strip mine (which probably no one should be aiming at it, hopefully).
Threshold is easy enough to get, and the damage is less annoying when it's eventually getting sacrificed anyway. Whether the triple loot is worth it sort of depends on how much empty drawing you tend to do – land tax, life from the loam, etc. Of course it's very powerful with crucible and especially loam, but you should be careful not to go too overboard with that synergy if you want to avoid being the threat. Without those empty draw tools, I don't think this is worth the tradeoff.
Cycling Lands (Lonely Sandbar, Secluded Steppe, Tranquil Thicket, Remote Isle, Drifting Meadow, Slippery Karst, Desert of the Mindful, Desert of the Indomitable, Desert of the True)
These all get pretty out of hand with Life from the Loam, so I recommend you don't put them together in the same deck (or at most one). With Crucible they're good but totally fair. Without that motivation to abuse the hell out of them, I don't really think they're worth the inclusion – not because they're bad, but just because we have so many good utility lands that do more.
Board Presence Utility
Most of these exist as a way to either screw with combat, give your opponent extra resources, or speed up the Phelddagrif clock. As such none of them are particularly crucial, but they do give you some nice extra options for manipulating the game state.
Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
It's hard to dislike a land that has virtually zero downside. It speeds up the Phelddagrif clock by a full turn with one activation, and it can be used on other players' legends to assist them too. It doesn't come up super often, but it's basically a free inclusion in the deck.
As Okina, this requires basically nothing of you, but preventing two damage is significantly less enticing, especially when our commander can easily save himself with his own abilities anyway. If you expect no nonbasic hate and aren't running land tax etc (or already have a ton of basics), then there's not much reason NOT to run this, but there aren't a lot reasons to do it either – you're probably more likely to use it on enemy legends than Phelddagrif.
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
I think this is probably still worse than Okina – if nothing else, we can give Phelddagrif the jankiest of vigilance by bouncing and replaying him – but this can definitely do nasty things with other commanders, and even untap some of our sweet legendary lands (mostly the flip lands, but also Kor Haven and other sweet utility lands of yore). Hell, you can ramp Phelddy's 6 turn clock all the way down to 4 turns with this and Okina, basically sacrificing nothing fixing-wise.
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
There are a total of six lands that I'm listing that mostly serve to speed up Phelddagrif's clock by one turn. This is one of my favorites, behind Okina, because while it does enter tapped, it can also be used to great effect by turning all your hippo tokens into 2/2s.
Novijen, Heart of Progress
Whether you prefer this one Oran-Rief is a matter of preference, but Oran-Rief is a lot easier to safely activate after casting Phelddagrif, and also makes one fewer 2/2 hippo token for your ally. Whether etbt or colorless is better is personal preference, but I kind of prefer etbt, simply because it means more mana is available for Phelddagriff activations. Note that this can also be used to pump other enemy creatures (as can Oran-Rief, but only the green ones).
Forge of Heroes
Similar to Novijen, except you ditch the activation cost and the ability to buff up your hippos (although you can still buff enemy commanders). Personally this is my least favorite of the bunch, but it's still ok.
In practice this works out the same forge of heroes, except it can't target enemy commanders, it fixes in a pinch, and it can potentially speed the Phelddagrif clock up a LOT if you're willing to let him die a couple of times. Note that you don't need to be casting him from the command zone to get the buff, so once you let him die a couple times and recast from the command zone, for every future time you replay him from your hand after bouncing him, he can come back as a sweet 7/7 for that nice 3-turn clock.
Man, talk about a pathetic use of this sweet land. Being able to activate this eot to buff the Griff is exactly when we'd like to do it, although it's certainly not very efficient, and it's all for naught if you're forced to bounce him. I'd rather get other kinds of value from my lands (cough Arch), but if you really want a faster win this is a decent choice.
One last entry in the no-downsides club. Mostly this is just useful for buffing your little hippos, which is hilarious if people don't see it coming, but I think there's usually better uses for the slot.
Regenerating Phelddagrif through your board wipes can help speed up the clock significantly, and avoid giving your 1v1 opponent card advantage, but the more amusing use is to regenerate enemy creatures through any player's removal, so they can use them to kill your other opponents. Bit of a niche use for a utility land slot, but it's definitely a powerful one, and one I'd be even more apt to use if I was using a smattering of good value creatures like Skullwinder or Tireless Tracker.
Putting powerful defensive tools on lands can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, most opponents will attack elsewhere if they know you can prevent the damage without expending a card. On the other, some decks will find these very offensive and may try to remove them, or remove you. They are pretty excellent bang for buck, though, so they definitely warrant a mention.
An excellent defensive tool, much better than maze of ith in my opinion – it taps for mana, and it doesn't prevent the damage being dealt TO the creature, so it's fair game to gang block and take down with hippos (in this scenario it's attacking an opponent). This can sometimes become threatening to bad Voltron decks, but as long as it doesn't, it's a freaking land that sends attacks elsewhere and costs you almost nothing to run.
Bad Kor haven is still amazing. Sometimes this is even better if you're eating tokens or, god forbid, blinking stolen creatures. It can also be used to help allies by retriggering ETB effects in some scenarios. From my understanding, your opponents can put a blinked commander into the command zone, so stifle won't strand a commander if your opponent is savvy – but it works fine against non-commanders.
Prahv, Spires of Order
I couldn't believe that this was still good here, but shockingly it is. Good enough to eat premium removal from an opponent on one occasion. Being able to prevent noncombat damage is cute, but pretty niche. Getting through hexproof absolutely destroys voltron decks, though. I'm not sure it's reasonable to run all three of these cards, but it's definitely reasonable to run this if you don't want to shell out for a Kor Haven and you're in a slow meta.
Land destruction isn't in blue's pie, and it's only in white's pie for mass LD (which is very bad for us), and most green land destruction sucks. So we tend to lean on our lands to remove other dangerous lands, to avoid committing cards strictly to land destruction. I recommend only 1-2 of these, but ideally with a tutor or two to be able to hit them if necessary.
Trading a land is rarely a move you want to be making, but this doesn't require much of you and it hits anything. I'd usually recommend running at least one way to kill lands, and this is a solid pick. Just be careful you don't go overboard with strip locking anyone out – that won't make subsequent games nearly as nice for you.
It's pretty rare to want to kill a basic, so this is basically the same as Strip Mine (except that it costs a lot more, so why would you bother). In the case where you're playing against the earthcraft/squirrel nest combo, or Estrid, the masked, then I guess you get to feel stupid though.
With the number of lands we often have, this can motivate some unpleasant games where you lock an opponent out of the game, so some intentionally poor play might be required. Obviously this is weaker in metas where the cost is going to be a problem, but otherwise it can definitely be better for the repeatability, though it can also make you more threatening. Meta call versus Strip Mine.
This is much less good than Strip Mine, imo, because it posits you as the impediment to victory for one of your opponents, whereas Strip Mine does its damage and leaves. This does have the ability to switch targets, though, which is nice in more balanced metas where the threat can change repeatedly over the course of the game.
Grave hate is something that can be difficult to find slots for, so getting it for free on a land is excellent. I don't think that I'd ever want to run any other deserts to fuel this, since they basically all suck, but you can run the cyclers if you really want to. This can have a somewhat negative dynamic against graveyard decks where they're waiting for you to pop it before committing to the grave – I'd recommend that you let them get away with basically whatever they want unless it's absolutely life-threatening, and be chill. You don't want to lose your control, but you also don't want to look like you're trying to screw them as hard as possible. One tactic I like to use with grave hate is to tell them you'll happily let them reanimate X but not Y – you're the policeman, but you're not unreasonable. Tricky line to walk, though. Note that you can't recur this unless you have a way to save it at instant speed (you probably don't).
Being able to interact is crucial to our goal, and these lands ensure our ability to do this. They can be threatening to some decks, but I think at least one is a necessity for dealing with hexproof commanders.
This deck needs to be able to target things, and enemy hexproof commanders like Narset can be an absolute nightmare when every cast virtually requires either a board wipe or a counterspell. Having this in the deck gives you a solution, and better, a way for your opponents to have solutions too. If you know your meta isn't running hexproof creatures then this could be a waste, but otherwise I'd consider this an important piece of the deck.
Compared to Lighthouse, the biggest knock is that it doesn't enable your opponents to target the creatures. Its only upside is that players lose hexproof, but very few of our cards, if any, care about that. Oh, and it has no effect against shroud, which is also a big deal thanks mostly to lightning greaves. This card is ok but there's no real reason to run it while Lighthouse exists.
I wouldn't run Leyline of Anticipation, but getting similar value off a land (which taps for mana, doesn't cost anything, and also doesn't die in global wipes) is a much better deal. The majority of our spells are already instants, but dedicating a land slot to enable us to instant-speed all our board wipes is not a bad deal. If you're already running mostly instant-speed wipes then this is probably not a reasonable inclusion, but otherwise I think it merits inclusion.
Activating for cheaper is nice and all, but I don't like throwing lands away, so I'd lean toward refuge over this pretty heavily. All the same quibbles about refuge apply here. I'm not in love with the effect, and a colorless land that also requires sacrifice is too high a price to pay imo.
Some utility just doesn't fit into a nice, easy category. These are them.
This is going to look ridiculous, but bear with me. Seven cards is plenty. Yes, it sucks to discard, but leaving out Reliquary Tower keeps you honest – don't be the guy with twenty cards in hand going "What do you mean, 'I'm threatening'?" Drawing a bajillion cards makes you look scary and you shouldn't be doing it. Sure, sometimes it sucks if you get stuck on mana early and can't play things and have to go to discard, but this just doesn't gel with what the deck wants to do and how you want to present yourself at the table.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
This is a meta call – if counters are a major concern, by all means run this, but I wouldn't run this just anywhere. For one thing, it's very slow. For a second thing, chip damage is real in a long game. For a third thing, unless you've got telepathy (the card. Or, I guess, the real thing) you don't really know which spells to protect with this. For a fourth thing, some spells can't be protected anyway (i.e. swords to plowshares). For a fifth thing, that counter will just be sitting there waiting for later if you protect your spell this time. It absolutely has its place, if your meta is very control heavy – protecting your board wipe can easily be the difference between winning and losing – but jamming this into the deck sight unseen isn't necessary a great idea. We usually have the tools to win counter wars anyway.
Cavern of Souls
Phelddagrif does not get countered, so this is a waste of time (okay, in fairness he has gotten countered a couple of times, but that was usually because my opponent had some creature-only counterspell and I didn't have any other targets).
This is fetchable and provides something we're at least a little interested in – unfortunately it's a little let down by the fact that we rarely have a second white permanent. If you look at your deck and you have a decent number of activators, then maybe go ahead, but most builds I think this does nothing.
Blue permanents are a lot more common in the deck – Telepathy, Imprisoned in the Moon, Trail of Evidence – and the effect is actually pretty amazing specifically in combo with Telepathy, giving us even more perfect information. Not being forced to reveal it is hilarious too – might be worth straight-up lying that it's some nasty combo piece just to freak the other players out and make them kill the recipient. Try it and let me know if it works.
I'm probably overrating this a bit, but man do I love this sort of effect. Clones attract so much less attention that the original. Especially sweet, you can use this to copy flip lands, or enemy lands like the coffers half of urborg/coffers. And of course it can also be used to fix, although that's by far its lamest use.
Not being able to change knocks this down drastically for me – I want to be able to play my lands ASAP and figure out how to abuse them later. Still some fun utility, but you might have to just make this a boring dual land if it's your only land on turn four.
Flagstones of Trokair
If you're running into a lot of land destruction you could use this. But it's probably a waste of time, because if someone casts Armageddon and you can't either counter it or wipe the board in response, you've almost certainly lost either way.
Magosi, the Waterveil
Skipping our turn is often not a huge deal, but unfortunately neither is getting an extra turn. The one cool thing about it is that you can use it to squeeze an extra turn in between opponents (or even before an opponent's extra turn), which could give you some flexibility. Possibly worth trying out. People might assume you're trying to combo it, though.
If you've got a lot of flip lands (who doesn't?) and/or other strong utility lands like Haven and Arch, getting double value might be worth running a colorless land. My reservation here is that, while those lands are often tolerable once a turn, they can look significantly more threatening when done twice, and this exists only to do that exact thing.
For fast metas, getting a better chrome mox in the starter can be reasonably justified. And honestly, losing an answer early usually doesn't matter that much because we're usually overflowing our hands in the mid-early game anyway, when no significantly scary threats have been deployed and we're running out of land drops. That said, getting a mox doesn't really matter that much to us either.
Exploration is a useful effect for emptying our hand of lands, so that we aren't any more threatening than we need to be. Terrain generator almost does an admirable job of this, if only it didn't have that pesky word "basic" on its text box. As such, it's really only suitable for budget decks that are running a lot of basics, since there aren't enough payoffs for basics to justify gimping your manabase on purpose. But in that spot, it can be decent.
Quote from lyonhaert »I appreciate your attempts at this kind of deck. Haven't tried the hippo build myself yet, but I appreciate the previous Tasigur version.
Fogs like Tangle or Spore Cloud can leave someone vulnerable to another party, especialy if turn order is favorable. Then there are effects like Sleep that manipulate the game with heavier hand.
I think effects that manipulate vulnerability (such that who you want to get damaged is damaged by someone else) are very useful in politicking playstyle. If you Sleep someone's army with a defensive reason ("I don't want to get attacked my all that!") and they get hit in the face by other opponent's creatures, in my experience they're going to remember the opponents that attacked them, not you. One of my favorite cards for this in the Tasigur deck is Head Games. The most overt thing I've done with it was give one opponent Cyclonic Rift, Revoke Existence, and color-fixing. It took them a couple turns to use both, but the guy who had an army that got Rifted came after the opponent who cast it rather than me.
I see this limitation in awareness of who really caused something in a lot of players when the causes are less direct. So I think that's something to explore. I think placing opportunities in opponents' hands to draw ire from other opponents (away from you) is one of the keys to the approach, and possibly more potent than rattle-snaking StP.
Quote from lyonhaert »Yeah, politics work differently in my group, too. I can't really negotiate action-for-action (yet?) because everybody assumes I'm up to something and their overall risk assessment of the board state at a given moment is always skewed by emotions if they were attacked, milled, made to discard, or had something countered/removed.
However, I am able to anticipate how they think, so they can be manipulated to some degree (which is why I loved cards like Head Games in the Tasigur version of this kind of deck). But mostly I just have to rely on control.
I imagine negotiation would work much better in an LGS where I'm always playing with different people.
Quote from aslidsiksoraksi »On the general idea of a political deck, what do you think about cards like Head Games and Cruel Entertainment? Obviously they are outside the colors of Pheldagriff, but they do a good job of having other people beat each other up while mostly leaving the blame off you. For example, in one game I played Mystic Remora then gave my opponent a ton of targeted removal with Head Games. I draw a few cards and he destroys all the important stuff that I would have liked to seen destroyed (I don't have any real creatures), and he gets all the blame. The problem I'm seeing tho is that these cards are a little more overt in their messing with the game state, so maybe less effective. And I've seen Cruel Entertainment just have no effect when players make deals between themselves.
A more to-the-point question: how valuable do you think the color black is in a political deck of this sort?
Quote from DirkGently »But on the other hand, maybe it's wrong to build the deck on the assumption that my opponents are going to ignore known sources of repeatable CA just because I haven't used them recently. Once the game is on the verge of becoming a 1v1 game, I know I'm likely to be concerned if one of my potential 1v1ers has a repeatable draw engine available to them, and may seek to prolong the 3-player until they're weakened further by destroying the source or just reducing their current resources or life total.
Bottom line: I think repeatable draw is powerful but plays on people's stupidity, and makes it a little too easy to win. The goal of this deck is to defeat savvy players as well as scrubs, and to do it because of correct threat assessment, not in spite of it.
Quote from DirkGently »Outside of the endgame scenario, this deck plays a lot of wipes, and post-wipe the only thing that likely matters is land and cards in hand, and this deck tends to have a lot of both, which does paint a target on my head, especially with powerful lands like azcanta and foothold. But then, it doesn't matter too much if I have a target on my head when nothing is on the table, I guess, and once cards start hitting the table I can likely fade into the background a bit. When the table is pretty ground out of resources, though, having azcanta or similar makes it very hard not to look like the threat.
...and to do it because of correct threat assessment, not in spite of it.
And obviously the goal here is to avoid being the threat at all costs.
Quote from lyonhaert »These are the parts that popped out at me the most while reading this. You don't have to assume that your opponents are going to ignore a land with an effect you haven't used in a while. They could be assuming that you forgot it's there since you haven't used it and therefore isn't a problem. I've seen players forget about a Rogue's Passage just because I'd only been tapping it for C with other lands for a few turns in a row. This isn't so much that they're not savvy, but that it's just part of how the brain typically works when other things have happened to pay attention to ("out of sight, out of mind"). It doesn't matter whether they're savvy and have made an incorrect assumption or they're a scrub and don't know better. It only matters that ignoring it is the pattern they exhibit and that you are taking advantage of the patterns they exhibit.
...and to do it because of correct threat assessment, not in spite of it.Could you elaborate on the distinction?
The Kansas City Shuffle, to me, is the essence of this design. The subterfuge is that you play your opponents against each other even if they realize it, because they can't ignore the other opponents who are more actively attempting to knock them out of the game than you are.
Quote from DirkGently »I wouldn't say it's unrealistic or unlikely to assume that people will ignore my lands if I don't use them. I think it's pretty likely, actually. But I think that's mostly because, and I know I'm generalizing here, most commander players are not actually very good at magic, and it seems a little cheap to take advantage of that. If this deck is a trap, I think it's more interesting to try to create a trap that works even on the skilled player - to see if we can create a scenario where even taking the correct play will result in you losing.
Quote from DirkGently »I think working on this deck might accidentally be turning me into a supervillain. I have a strange urge to buy a hairless cat and a high-backed chair.