In this month's Word of Command, we investigate a powerful new mechanic introduced in Shadows over Innistrad, and how Clues can aid a deck in myriad ways. Expanding on the concept of expanding one's hand through card draw, the Tariel deck from last month is given a suite of cards for card advantage.
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Commander Gets a Clue
Drawing cards is especially important in a game of Commander, where you cannot as easily count on depleting your opponents' resources faster than yours. Deciding what types of draw effects one runs, and how many, will ultimately depend on that player's deck strategy and flow. The investigate mechanic adds some new card draw options to consider when building a deck, as there are several advantages to the Clues that are not readily apparent.
This article will go over what benefits a Clue's delayed draw gives, other benefits that can be gained from Clues, and look at some of the notable Clue generating effects in Shadows Over Innistrad. We will also look at how Clues fit into existing draw options, and finally wrap up by adding a draw package to the Tariel deck we started last time.
Analyzing the Clues
These advantages make Clues fit in well in a variety of different strategies. Aggressive builds can allow Clues to stack up in the early game, only to cash them in later when they begin to run out of steam. This allows them to spend their mana on more aggressive options earlier in the game, rather than diluting their speed. On the other hand, control decks can hold a full grip of cards and leave mana open, then break their Clues in an emergency if none of their current answers fit the situation, or simply cash in their Clues with available mana if no answers were needed that turn. This flexibility is what makes Clues unique.
Examining a Clue from a Different Angle
Trail of Evidence
Drawing in Style
One of the first things to look at is whether the deck's goal is more aggressive, or more controlling. Whether it wants to win quickly, or through a game of attrition. Faster decks will want more mana-efficient spells that give immediate impact, such as Night's Whisper or Harmonize. Decks that want to play a longer game, or that want to keep a steady inflow of cards, instead favor cards like Phyrexian Arena. Even in longer attrition builds, there is a difference between passive control decks, or active decks which may seek to gain increased value from an engine, perhaps by using cards like Deathreap Ritual.
A Night's Whisper in the early game can be snuck into a turn that would otherwise have some dead mana for extra advantage, or can act like a cheap Phyrexian Arena with immediate payoff. Yet topdecking a Night's Whisper in the late game is still not bad, since it amounts to having two topdecks instead of one. Similarly, the fixing cards can be used to grab a land or a cheap drop to smooth out early turns, or they can be used to bypass those into selecting a better spell when topdecked late.
Rush of Knowledge
On the opposite end of the equation are large draw spells like Wheel of Fortune, Promise of Power, and Recurring Insight. These spells are great for decks that routinely empty their hands and want to fill them back up immediately. Aggressive decks may run them so as to not waste an early turn developing a card that gives advantage over time, instead refilling their hands before they run out of steam. Cards like Shamanic Revelation also allow Aggressive decks to over-commit to the board, immediately benefiting from that position. Likewise, Storm-style combo decks can run these spells in order to dig deeply and quickly though their decks, as well as to help go off on a major turn.
Value Over Time
Cards like Phyrexian Arena or Staff of Nin can generate a lot of value for a low mana investment if left unanswered. These cards hope to trade away immediate value in hopes of getting highly efficient for their cost the longer a game goes on, with little or no further investment from the player as time goes on. Cards like Greed, Mind's Eye, or Erebos, God of the Dead also fit into this category. While they can provide greater benefit the more investment is added to them, the gains are strictly linear. This class of cards fits well into control decks playing for the later game.
Last but not least, cards can provide value by generating added synergy. If a deck runs a high creature count, a card like Grim Haruspex which adds card draw to those creatures likely adds about one card for every three cards that player draws. This appears worse than a Phyrexian Arena, which gives much better value at the same cost, until we factor in other synergy. By running a large amount of reanimation, players can get extra value off each creature they play, often netting many more cards for each card spent. Since each creature is being run is already good value for its mana cost on its own, its mana effectiveness can scale very effectively.
Applying Card Draw
|Tariel, Reanimator Draw PackageMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
7 Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
1 Salvage Scout
2 Relic Seeker
3 Bygone Bishop
3 Phyrexian Rager
4 Graveborn Muse
5 Bloodgift Demon
3 Phyrexian Arena
4 Spiteful Visions
2 Night's Whisper
3 Read the Bones
3 Toil // Trouble
While Wheel of Fortune effects are in color, and help with the reanimation theme, they tend to be a more aggressive approach to the situation, by actively seeking to place reanimation targets and reanimate quickly. Though we have an Animate Dead in the list, we are not running the full suite, so we are better off slowing down the strategy. This means that Black's Phyrexian Arena effects will be more up our alley, with some small draw in Night's Whisper effects to smooth out early turns. We start by adding Night's Whisper, Read the Bones, and Toil // Trouble for the cheap spells. I am a bit concerned by Sign in Blood's double black cost, so we will skip it for now. We will also add the suite of Phyrexian Arena, Graveborn Muse, and Bloodgift Demon. A copy of Phyrexian Rager will help provide early game presence, and can be used without reanimation if needed. We will avoid Underworld Connections since we do not have any land synergy, and we do not want to use up too many slots on this effect. Instead, this leaves us room for adding Spiteful Visions. Spiteful Visions is a great card in that it is an arena effect for us early, while also adding extra pain to other players who want to draw more cards than we do. This helps to slow down the game, in line with our strategy. Remember, since we are going slow, we do not need a lot of cards all at once, we just need them consistently.
Overall, I prefer the more active sacrifice-based draw in Grim Haruspex effects, especially since we have a minor sacrifice theme as well, but that level of activity goes against the strategy we are setting up, and would require a much greater dedication. It helps to diversify our draw strategies, so we want to add something other than just the Phyrexian Arena suite. However, the sacrifice theme makes us extremely vulnerable to graveyard hate. The arena effects can keep some form of draw on the battlefield, which can alleviate this dependency, while the creature versions play well with our reanimation. We can still add a small subset of the sacrifice theme, though, with the ubiquitous Skullclamp, and also add a Relic Seeker, since we now have the capability to get both land ramp and card draw from our equipment. I am still following a moderate budget, so we will not include Sword of Fire and Ice or Sword of Light and Shadow, though both would fit the deck well.
We will also add the new Bygone Bishop to our creature suite. While its slot will be eventually solidified or cut based on how many three-cost creatures we run, we have a decent density right now, and its slow draw fits well with our deck's archetype. It also plays well with Oversold Cemetery, and other synergies may present themselves as we flesh out more recursion in the deck.
In order to recover our equipment, a copy of Salvage Scout will fit well in the deck. We will also add Pulsemage Advocate at this time, since he can be a powerful reanimation tool. In a pinch, Order of Whiteclay could fit a similar role, although I prefer to use him in a list with the Swords or some other powerful equipment due to the capability to use his ability as a form of vigilance, and to compensate for his lower stats.
The List So Far
The deck is now at 33 of 59 non-land cards (excluding the commander), which still leaves us plenty of room to fit in win conditions and further define the strategy that we would like to shape, adding in slots for removal, some bigger game-enders, and some utility 'flex' pieces to clean up loose ends and make the deck run smoother.