Taniwha are legendary creatures stemming from Māori legend, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. As I'm certainly no expert in said mythology, I refer you to the experts! The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
"In Māori mythology, taniwha (Māori pronunciation: [ˈtanifa]) are beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers (giant waves). They may be considered highly respected kaitiaki (protective guardians) of people and places, or in some traditions as dangerous, predatory beings, which for example would kidnap women to have as wives."
Both protective and dangerous: seems fitting for a legendary card that is powerful in it's own right, but with a heavy drawback. No conclusive evidence of a Taniwha's existence has been found, but in MTG Lore, clearly they exist! Their introduction during the Mirage block seems appropriate as well as their phasing ability: a never-seen but diligent protector.. or a fearsome beast from the sea that is the last sight you ever see.
Their main drawback befits their volatile and dangerous legends, though perhaps not as much as they could: certainly, the constant upkeep and gifts of mana befits an honored (and feared) protector, though the complete loss fits more as an enemy destroying everything around. It is a flavorful and dangerous ability- doubtless the main reason that Taniwha is a card few are even aware exists!
Glad you asked! Unlike almost any other commander, Taniwha is dangerous both to the opponent and yourself, with a steep cost attached to it- and it's only even there half the time! As many players, particurarly those attached to blue decks, enjoy a game where they control each outcome and draw, shaping the game slowly to their eventual win, Taniwha doesn't even warrant a second glance for them. Why run something you can't rely on, that may even prove actively detrimental?
Here's some reasons for and against:
You may enjoy playing Taniwha if:
You think playing an unknown general would be a blast!
You think that mono blue control sounds boring and typical.
Swinging into the red zone with a gigantic trampling beast brings a grin to your face.
Hearing people comment on your commander choice.
Presenting a very small target and potential politics- why attack the loser playing Taniwha? He won't do anything, right?
Turning drawbacks into wincons.
You may hate playing Taniwha if:
Drawbacks on your cards shouldn't exist. You're supposed to have all sorts of good things happening!
Relying on general damage and swinging monsters sound like a lame plan.
Card advantage is the name of your game.
You are a soulless beast who only wants to play cards from the Top 50 lists- Teferi's Curse? Bah!
You want to win within the first half dozen turns on the back of an infinite combo.
On to the meat of the deck! This deck was originally made on MTGO as a strictly budget mono-blue list, with the only expensive cards being those I already owned- as such, some of the cards (Islands) may have some things to toss in, but it's still a work in progress.
Several months ago I stumbled back upon MTGSalvation while surfing the 'net on lunch at work. I'd made an account here back in '09, but hadn't been too active and eventually forgot about the site. More recently, I'd started playing MTG again- first for a few months at my FLGS, then getting MTGO so I'd have something reliable and fun to do whle off work. With this surge in interest, I started looking into my favorite format..EDH. The Decklist Database gave me so many ideas, and the Hidden Gems provided, well...hidden gems! Doing using the 'show all commanders of this color' on that database, I stumbled upon Taniwha.. this poor, overlooked, and extremely odd commander. I fell in love.
About a week ago at this point, I decided to finally get around to making the deck as part of a cycle of mono-color decks I've been doing (Jaya Ballard and Molimo are my others at this time). Being on a strict budget, Taniwha appealed even further. With my eyes on theme before function, I picked up several of the available phasing cards, then started wondering how to get around/make use of Taniwha's ability.
Some of my choices revolved around meta calls from all the MTGO games I've done prior- Torpor Orb in particular has been murderous to so many decks and earns its' spot in almost every deck I make. Another good example is Jester's Cap, which depending on the deck can be of little use, but in some cases destroys combos and exiles the removal that you need gone. If your Torpor Orb is shutting down the Animar player, you don't want them drawing Relic Crush, after all. The Clone package is another prime example- a tremendous number of decks on MTGO right now are Lazav, with the other hexproof commanders each having a good following. For now they serve as good removal, though I don't care to rely on that strategy more than necessary.
The deck was also made with multiplayer politics in mind- while a mono blue deck, particurarly those like Arcum Dagsson will often have the entire group up in arms against the player to stem the tide of counterspells and time warps, Taniwha doesn't only fly under the radar.. he often gets completely ignored by it. People just don't take him seriously at all, particurarly when backed up by 'bad' cards such as Shimmering Efreet and Dream Fighter. It's easy to look at these and say "Hm, that guy's just playing some silly phasing theme deck. I'll beat him last, after dealing with Mimeo over there.." As such, the number of bomb cards that demand answers is fairly low, and those which affect multiple players evenly are prioritized.
The deck runs a light counterspell suite for a blue deck, with only 4. These are best used to protect Taniwha while swinging in- I often keep back my counterspells when opponents are dropping bombs back and forth, as it will make at least one player angry.. and the others worried that you'll stat counterspelling them next. Of course, in a 1v1 match the priority changes to removing bombs before they remove you.
This deck (and Taniwha in general) as two real ways to win. As an evasive and extremely large body, Taniwha makes a strong choice for a Voltron-style commander. Importantly, he presents a three-swing clock for your opponents.
One of the most important cards when pursuing this win condition is a rather odd one- nishing" target="blank">Vanishing. Doubling as soft removal and protection in one, it has a third mode in conjunction with Taniwha- together, you can determine if you're attacking or phasing out for your next turn. The card makes most removal miss him as long as you keep UU open, as well as phasing out after your first attack.. only to phase in ready to go next round.
Of course, the Swords of X/Y give a more specific form of protection and enhancement to him. Given a sufficient budget, I would likely include all four- however, I don't see them as strictly necessary and can be cut for budget purposes. With damage all but guaranteed to go through, even blocked, the swords will activate each turn. Unfortunately, a land untap will mean nothing if Taniwha is swinging, except for a potential one land played that turn.
It is important to remember two things- first, phasing out also takes along any auras or equipments attached to the creature, taking them effectively out of play and saving them from wipes... and preventing them from re-equipping the following turn. Second, this deck has only one other evasive creature Shimmering Efreet and relies mainly on Taniwha for both win conditions. If cards like Oblation and Chaos Warp are thrown around like candy and you can't trust counterspells, adding further evasive creatures would be a wise decision.
If you're playing against extensive pillowfort and control, however, you do have a backup plan- perhaps a primary plan if you prefer it. This plan revolves around the use of Sunder and/or ldslayer" target="blank">Worldslayer in conjunction with Taniwha to destroy or bounce the opponent's field, notably the lands. Of course, this strategy might not see much approval in a given meta- use of it is entirely a personal call.
This is the strategy that turns Taniwha's greatest drawback into his most assured win-condition. During your upkeep, you can respond to his land-phasing ability by tapping your lands. Let the trigger resolve, then cast Sunder for a one-sided land wipe.
Worldslayer is easy to do damage alongside Taniwha- however, it has the rather significant drawback of a 5 equip cost at sorcery speed. This means that either you'll need to have the mana to both cast and equip Taniwha in a single turn, or have sufficient mana rocks or berg" target="blank">Iceberg charges to equip it while your lands are gone.
Taniwha gone? Don't worry, you still have a wincon! Teferi's Realm and Sunder can still provide the one-sided wipe you wanted. With 3UU in rocks, you can phase out all your own lands during your upkeep, as well as your opponent's. On their turn, the lands phase back in.. but only theirs. During their turn you can cast Sunder to uproot their mana base while yours remains safe.
Both Vodalian Illusionist and Vanishing are extremely powerful cards with applications in almost any situation. Useful both as an on-command shroud and a removal that even affects the opponent's commander, these bad boys get you past board wipes, tucks, and that Wurmcoil Engine staring at you from across the field.
In addition to being solid and versatile cards, both of these as well as their various other counterparts in the deck make use of the "I'm silly, ignore me!" strategy I mentioned earlier. People that see a phasing theme deck simply aren't woried about it- it's a 'silly' mechanic that doesn't actually lose them in any cards directly. Don't underestimate them. No other card, not even Chaos Warp, can completely remove the opponent's Omnath or Aanimar from the picture for a round or more. You can't tutor it. You can't replay it. All you can do... is wait.
You can't always keep up with the plays of the decks ramping like crazy with their green mana, or dropping multiple free spells of their Maelstrom Wanderer Don't try. You're the blue player- play smart. This pair of cards makes people playing ramp hold onto worthless cards, and those who vomit out creatures have to watch their lands. Notably, Overburden is one of the very few ways this deck has to deal with either goblins or elves- both of which have high creatures-to-land ratios and therefore suffer more.
But be careful with them- not only does Overbuden affect you, using them too recklessly may make you a target when you can't afford to be. Excercise caution. If the other players are about to be overwhelmed by Krenko or Azusa, play these and make yourself allies. They'll use the more stable board position to help you.. unless they're goblins/elves too! In that case, you're in the wrong group.
Torpor Orb is the most noticeable and prominent meta call in this deck. Having played MTGO for several months at this point, the number of decks that rely on ETB effects is downright staggering. This card has earned several ragequits from players who aren't able to cope with it- backed up with Jester's Cap to strip their artifact removal, entire decks can be completely ruined.
As mentioned earlier in this post, Lazav decks have been a constant opponent since his release in Gatecrash. Along with other hard-to-kill commanders such as Sigarda and Thrun, the clones are an excellent way to keep them from overwhelming your field. These can also provide solid cards as backup, and a form of punishment for people playing bombs like Consecrated Sphinx. The rules on these will be changing, soon, however, and so their spot will be in question.
This deck is making a concious effort to avoid the typical bombs- both due to my distaste for "Goodstuff" decks and as a political move. Consecrated Sphinx may as well be the poster child for that category,and so I avoid it.
Without a doubt, Chaos Warp, Oblation, and similar tuck spells will ruin this deck, as it's highly dependant upon it's commander. There are ways around this, however- Vanishing, Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots all help to keep Taniwha safe from harm, as well as your available counterspells. However, if one resolves against Taniwha, you are definately in a poor position. In metas where these are commonplace, cards such as Long-Term Plans and/or fetchlands to shuffle the deck would be a wise inclusion.
In a mono color deck without any true board wipes, any deck that vomits hordes of creatures, namely Ezuri, Slivers, and Edric, you are likely to be overwhelmed in short order. I'm not honestly sure how best to counteract this, other than removing their combo pieces with cards like Vanishing and Teferi's Curse and slowing them down with Propaganda. This is something I would very much appreciate input on.
Pillowfort/stax decks are a potential problem as well- though I run into few of them on MTGO, these are a potential meta call and should be addressed as such. This iteration of the deck has little way to deal with enchantments/artifacts. However, cards such as Rebuild and Hurkyl's Recall, as well as adding Oblivion Stone could help to curb these problems if they exist in your local meta.
I knew a guy who ran Taniwha a while back, his deck was similar to yours. I think he ran a lot more mana rocks though. Do you think you have enough? Also, Venser's Journal could be pretty good, especially when you Sunder.
Props for running such an underused card.
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Check out my articles about EDH on MTGO HERE
Most recently looking at Morinfen!
Mana vortex sadly doesn't exist on mtgo, where I play.
I'll keep an eye out for those three, particurarly the coldsteel, thanks! Plume is, imo, an extremely underrated card for mono decks in particular. Also consider how many people have blue in their decks during multiplayer- it leads to surprisingly significant life gain over time. Also, it produces blue instead of colorless, which is also important.
I've added a section to the bottom of my post keeping a list of things that have been suggested thus far and if they're specific to voltron or land bounce/destruction. I'll plan to try out the cards when I have a chance. Particurarly, I need to determine what other lands might be good additions- snow-covered with Scrying Sheets would be good but potentially expensive. Hall Of The Bandit Lord would be useful to give Taniwha haste.
Maybe I should make a list for straight Voltron and straight SunderSlayer instead of the multipurpose I have now.