Magic Market Index for Feb 8th, 2018
 
Magic Market Index for Feb 1st, 2018
 
Magic Market Index for Dec 28th, 2018
  • 4

    posted a message on Phelddagrif: Show Weakness to Hide Your Strength
    Phelddagrif
    Show Weakness to Hide Your Strength



    Phelddagrif is the exploitation of multiplayer dynamics. He is politics become a weapon. He is capable of winning at the most competitive Grand Prix tables, while still playing fair at the kitchen table. Played badly, he is almost incapable of winning. Played well, he is almost incapable of losing.

    Core to the power of Phelddagrif is this simple maxim, from the card Disruptive Pitmage – "Show weakness to hide your strength." Nothing about this deck looks like it should work. Not even casually, let alone competitively. It breaks all the rules of deckbuilding. In a format where decks are recommended to have many avenues to victory, it barely has any. In a format where 1:1 trades are considered a necessary evil at best, more than half its nonland cards do just that. In a format where commanders can be incredibly powerful, it runs a commander famous for being the head of decks with no desire to win at all.

    No experienced player of commander could reasonably feel threatened by Phelddagrif.

    Which is exactly why it can win over, and over, and over.

    This guide isn't designed to simply give you a decklist, a few tips, and wish you luck. A solid understanding of how the deck works is critical to building it, personalizing it, and playing it. This deck does not give you a safety net – one wrong move can cost you a game, and nearly every lost game can be attributed to a mistake you made. Believe me, I've made many, many mistakes, and sometimes the solution wasn't apparent until hours later. Consider this guide an anthology of all my mistakes, and how you can save time and avoid them. But no matter how long you play Phelddagrif, there's always room to improve. Mastering Phelddagrif is almost synonymous with mastering the format itself.

    I hope this pretentious intro has sufficiently enticed you to read a whole lot of relatively dry strategy about a flying hippopotamus.


    Is Phelddagrif Right for You? Take This Quiz to Find Out!

    You might like Phelddagrif if:
    • You like difficult to play decks
    • You enjoy multiplayer politics
    • You like playing draw-go with few permanents on the board
    • Your meta has balance problems
    • You like slow games with lots of back and forth
    • You are on a budget – or not
    • You like being able to win a very high percentage of games

    You might not like Phelddagrif if:
    • You are an inexperienced player
    • You like your games to be easy and low-stress
    • You like quick games




    Other Political Commanders (and Why Phelddagrif is Superior)

    If you're unconvinced about the power of Phelddagrif but still want to play a political game, there are many other commanders you may have been recommended. Those recommendations are bad and here's why.

    Phelddagrif gives something quite rare in magic - the ability to directly benefit an opponent, at a low price. This might seem somewhat useless, and in a 1v1 game it generally is, but in multiplayer it gives you the ability to manipulate the game as you see fit, limited only by your ability to haggle and to properly read the board. This is what makes Phelddagrif both incredibly powerful, and incredibly difficult to play.

    But there are usurpers for the crown of "best political commander", and some people mistakenly believe that Phelddagrif has been overthrown. He has not. Here are some of the commanders you're most likely to hear people throw around when the topic of political commanders comes up.

    Queen Marchesa - The Queen is an interesting card. The monarchy itself is a political negative (since people will want to hit you to take it), at least until you've gifted it to someone else, but crappy little 1/1 deathtouch blockers are excellent political deterrents. In this regard, Marchesa is a completely passive political tool - she merely creates situations in which your opponents are motivated to attack each other, either to get the crown, or to avoid cutting their teeth on your army of assassins.

    Unfortunately this is a somewhat limited effect. Good at stopping dumb craw wurm decks, not so great at stopping combos, or noncombat damage, or tokens, or even flyers. And in the meantime, you're giving your opponents card advantage unless you're retaking the crown. One token per turn cycle is not a lot in a game of commander. If your opponents want to hurt you, they will. And you also lack blue, which gives you significantly more weak spots when dealing with enemy combos that can disregard your political game. Interesting card, fun, political...but not nearly strong as strong as Phelddagrif.

    Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer - I can respect Marchesa, but Gwafa just annoys me to death when he's mentioned alongside Phelddagrif. Gwafa is the anti-politics. He's where politics goes to die. Think for two seconds - after you pacify your opponents creature with an effect that's only active while your commander is on the board, what permanent is your opponent motivated to kill first? If your opponent is relying on combat and your commander disables combat, who are they likely to kill first? Sure, you let them draw a card. I'm sure they'll appreciate the help while they use it to pulverize you.

    Granted, you can use his ability on utility creatures to give your opponents cards for free. But you know who can do that much more effectively? Phelddagrif. Gwafa is a terrible commander and you should not play him if you have any interest in politics whatsoever.

    Zedruu, the Greathearted - On its face Zedruu looks like a solid political choice - donate a permanent, get some cards and life, everyone wins. In practice, Zedruu is not generally interested in giving away useful permanents. Your opponents will not be excited to receive an oblivion ring, and they won't thank you for it. Could you give away real permanents? Sure, but drawing many cards per turn is quite threatening, so even if they appreciate the land you've donated, they're probably still going to target your commander quite a bit. If you gave away something REALLY strong, like, say, blightsteel colossus, then sure, maybe then they'll focus on each other. Is it actually practical to do that? No, not really, no. She's got good colors and an interesting ability, but she's either not political or she's very bad. Either way, no competition for Phelddagrif.

    Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis - I go into more detail later, but suffice to say that K+T are not political. When you can't control the ability at all, no one is motivated to "be nice" to you. They get the same benefit either way, and it's not really a benefit anyway because everyone is getting the same thing. Plus you're still getting the most benefit, so no one is under any illusions that your commander is the spirit of altruism. You might get cut slack for playing a group hug commander by very casual players, or maybe savvy players who decide you aren't a threat because your commander is lame, but in terms of real politics, real ability to maneuver the game - K+T ain't it.

    Tasigur, the Golden Fang - I've played Tasigur a fair bit, and he's lacking one thing that Phelddagrif has in spades - the ability to fly under the radar. Recursion feels great when you know what you're getting back, but that comes at a cost. Your opponents are probably not total idiots, and the second or third time you activate his ability to recur the exact answer you need to stop them, they're going to catch on, and then you're going to become the threat to them - even if your only nonland permanent is tasigur, if he's drawing you multiple removals and counters per turn. Yes, he's certainly powerful, and the ability to summon answers with ally help is very powerful, but he gets very little slack, and he's forced to use his answers to defend his position much more frequently, in my experience. Can he play politics? Yes, in the right circumstances, absolutely. When you're far enough behind and someone else is getting scary, he can use politics to manipulate your opponents to give you the cards you need. But long-term, he wears his power on his sleeve. People will wise up to his strength, if they haven't from game 1, and you can expect most games to end playing archenemy, or close to it. The existence of powerful combo decks using him, as well as his power in other formats, doesn't help either. He's powerful, but he can't fade into the background like Phelddagrif can - which is our most powerful tool of all. And that's why Tasigur cannot compete with Phelddagrif - though he might be the closest.

    Gahiji, Honored One - Much like Marchesa, Gahiji just creates scenarios where your opponents are motivated to attack each other. And much like Marchesa, he's just not in good position to deal with decks doing stuff more complicated than bashing creatures together. Your opponents can do more damage to each other, sure, which is good if they're already trading damage - but it probably won't convince them to attack someone else if you're the threat. Plus his ability is most powerful for you when you're playing a bunch of tokens, which tends to be fairly threatening. He's barely political at all, to be honest, and not very powerful either. No real competition.

    Mathas, Fiend Seeker - There is some political benefits to be had with Mathas - he can hate on specific people by targeting their creatures, and he can motivate people to target the things he wants targeted. What lets Mathas down, besides his lack of blue, is how symmetrical his effect is, and how slow. One counter per turn is not a ton. Your desired opponent may well not have a good target - especially since commanders don't generally work with his ability. And while it's nice to think that someone might use removal now that you've marked the creature, in practice they don't get much benefit from it, since only the one player doesn't draw the card. It's almost as symmetrical as K+T. And there isn't much urgency to removing the creature that didn't already exist - the death trigger will happen sooner or later. Plus much of popular removal doesn't kill, but exiles, tucks, or bounces. This makes the card rather limited - a decent way to focus out one player by giving resources to everyone else, but not very effective at playing politics, especially not at high powered tables.

    Nin, the Pain Artist - Nin really doesn't get enough hype as a political commander. Honestly she's pretty cool. She's very efficient as a card advantage engine for both your and your opponents. That said, there's a few things that let her down compared to Phelddagrif.

    The first thing is that pesky ability to draw cards for yourself. Sure, her ability can be political, but most people will probably assume you're planning to use it all for you - which, let's be honest, is probably going to be true a lot of the time. And they're going to kill her a lot, on that assumption.

    The second thing is that red-blue is a middling color combo. White-blue, or blue-black in a pinch, is really where it's at. You really want the ability to remove all permanent types, interact with the stack, and wipe the board when necessary. Red has a few tools for creature wipes, though many are not super reliable against high-toughness creatures, and blue tends to bounce without killing. That makes you pretty weak to enchantments, and some creature boards.

    The final issue is that drawing cards for your opponents is...a mixed bag. If your goal is to legitimately help your opponents, because someone else is threatening to get out of control and you need help - then drawing cards is definitely a powerful way to do that. But, it's also very risky. You might just draw them into their own combo, or something they'll use against you. Phelddagrif is much happier donating life and hippos, which are much easier to predict. Giving someone cards is risky and unpredictable, and giving them lots of cards is even worse.

    Also, Nin, despite costing only 2 mana, is vulnerable to removal while Phelddagrif is essentially invincible. This further makes board wipes worse, and means you can be priced out of your commander by the late-game. Her ability requiring a tap exacerbates the problem. Cool card, but too explosive to live, and too unpredictable to create the kinds of balance we want to manufacture.

    Diaochan, Artful Beauty - It's pretty obvious right off the bat why Diaochan is not going to compare to Phelddagrif. Mono-red is really hard to police effectively with, as you are vulnerable to multiple permanent types, and can't interact with many dangerous spells on the stack. You also lack tutors to find the rare answers for those things you're weak to. So there's really no competition here, but Diaochan is still interesting to talk about. To me, the biggest letdown about her ability is being your-turn-only. If should could be activated any time, she'd be a much more useful political tool. Having an obvious answer in the command zone is fairly limiting too, though - no combo player worth their salt is going to play into Diaochan, which either means they'll go off in one turn before you can activate her, or they'll kill her to prevent you from using her to stop them. But all that aside, she does sit fairly nicely in terms of being nonthreatening and being able to manipulate the board, and could be interesting for a low-powered table. For competitive tables she's right out, though, and she's also a lot more limited in her ability to control the game, between being sorcery speed and only relevant against creatures.




    Deck History

    How this deck came to be, and what I've learned from it.

    This Phelddagrif list started with a simple question: how can I win as many games as possible in commander? Building a powerful deck seems like the obvious choice at first, but ultimately that's going to result in one of a few things – either your meta will refuse to play with you, or they'll adapt so that you're no longer the most powerful deck, or at least not by as much. So working backwards, I thought about what kind of win would be least likely to make me a target in future games. Killing everyone at once with a combo is right out. Overwhelming the table with a powerful board state also seems right out. Ideally, I'd want something that would appear as innocuous as possible, and would seem to win essentially by accident, after the other players had eliminated each other. I'd just happen to have just the right tools to eke out a win against the last player. This also means that only the last player would face my deck directly. No one else would feel like they lost to me, and wouldn't consider me more of a threat in future games.

    From that original idea, I started working on Phelddagrif, a commander that gets no respect competitively, but has enormous power in his capacity to influence the game politically. The deck would have as few scary cards as possible, while still being capable of defending itself if necessary with a wide swath of counters, removal, and board wipes. This ability to retaliate would be key – if anyone was committed to messing with me, they might be able to take me out, but they'd also guarantee their own loss as well. The deck's hallmarks were being unthreatening, yet dangerous to anger. It could block explosive plays to ensure that game went long, could make itself as unappetizing as possible to ensure that it stuck through until the end, and then it could play a straightforward 1v1 game with draw-go control, which was very winnable.

    As I played the deck, I realized that it was really good at a lot of things besides just winning, though.

    For one thing, it led to excellent games, because it was capable of shutting down powerful decks while benefitting the weaker ones, balancing a game that might otherwise have been very one-sided. Because it had such powerful control of most games, it could happily sit back and watch decks rise to the brink of victory before knocking them back down, which meant that other players got a chance to "do their thing", even if they didn't ultimately win with it.

    It was also very engaging and difficult to play, because of the risks of playing with such a small board presence and using mostly one-for-one answers that scaled badly if used at inopportune times, as well as the enormous breadth of possibilities when playing with a commander that could so easily manipulate other players' actions. I'd often realize hours later what I should have done to manipulate the game to a more ideal state.

    The most difficult part of building the deck was striking the right balance of power and subtlety when it comes to value. Some games would become unwinnable after exhausting removal and leaving me defenseless, but including powerful draw engines could easily make me the threat and force me to play an archenemy game, which went against the premise of the deck. Finding the middle-ground for generating value is the most difficult part of the deck, and the part that's taken me the longest to optimize.

    Crafting this deck off-and-on for so many years, and adding new understanding with each iteration, has really been a labor of love. I think this deck expresses what I love most about commander, and shows what I think commander can be as a format – one where clever play can be more important than raw power, and where social interaction can be as crucial as having the right cards.




    Political Basics

    Before we talk about how Phelddagrif, and the rest of the deck, work, I want to talk about politics in multiplayer games.

    One way to view games of commander is that every player has some chance to win, and all those chances add up to 100% (ignoring the possibility of a draw). That chance is based off your life total, your board state, your hand, your deck, how good of a player you are, etc. As the game progresses, those chances will change, sometimes drastically and sometimes subtly. Every action anyone takes will have some subtle (or not so subtle) effect on each players chance to win. Your goal is to perform actions that increase your chances of winning until they become 100%, at which point you've won.

    This model can be used to understand some things you've probably known intuitively already. It explains obvious things, like why it's best to play a land on turn 1 instead of passing the turn and discarding a card. But it can also explain things like why (in an oversimplified example that we'll come back to) using single-target removal is often considered an inefficient move. If you use removal on one opponents creature, you're down a card and they're down a creature, so both of your chances to win have taken a hit. Who, then, scoops up that chance to win? Your other opponents.

    But to look at that example again, the model can explain it's usually correct to use your removal against especially threatening cards controlled by especially threatening players. The most threatening player is the one who has the highest chance to win the game, so by knocking his chances down, you free up more of the percentage pie, as it were, which can be claimed by the other players. You've lost some value by using a card, but you can still gain better chance to win overall if you disrupt the leader's plan significantly enough. Yes, it's still even better for the other players who don't lift a finger and profit anyway, but this is, in simplified form, why using targeted removal isn't necessarily a bad idea. You just need to choose the right targets.

    The reason I bring up this win percentage model is to help explain how the deck works, and why it can be so effective while seemingly looking like a very poorly designed deck for a multiplayer format. Each player is trying to make moves to improve their chances of winning the game. The moves our opponents make will ostensibly always (at least attempt to) improve the mover's odds of winning, but they don't necessary have to hurt OUR odds of winning.

    A classic, rightfully-banned example is the card Trade Secrets. This can was extremely overpowered because it abused the nature of a multiplayer format. Ordinarily the targeted player wouldn't want the caster to draw more cards, but because the targeted player also got a benefit from allowing the draw to continue, their motivation to win was effectively hijacked by the caster to create a two-player game between them and the target, with the other players at a huge disadvantage.

    The goal of this deck is to see the game through our opponents' eyes, decide which actions they might reasonably take that will most benefit and least harm us, and then attempt to create a scenario such that they are as motivated as possible to perform those actions.



    Phelddagrif Basics

    Let's lay out the main tenants of what makes this deck tick, and then examine them all in greater detail.

    Here are the four main tenants of the deck:
    • We appear as nonthreatening as is feasible
    • We provide few targets for removal
    • We are capable of massive retaliation
    • We offer direct motivation for our opponents to perform actions we desire

    We Appear as Nonthreatening as is Feasible

    Obviously we're going to need to be at least a little bit threatening, or else it would be impossible to win, but every card in the deck should be carefully chosen to avoid the appearance of a threat. This means we don't create big boards, we avoid enormous hands, we don't excessively exert control over the game, and we even avoid cards that might cause our opponents to fear us in future games. In most versions of the deck, the only feasible way to kill someone is with Phelddagrif beatdown. Every time we win should be a factor of careful planning and having just enough control to deal with the final opponent and secure victory with Phelddagrif. This way it never looks like some trick, like we're a wolf in sheep's clothing – we are, in fact, a sheep. Just one who always manages to steer in the game carefully in the direction they need to win (which, in fact, sheep are not generally capable of doing, so apologies for the confusing metaphor).

    We Provide Few Targets for Enemy Interaction

    A simpler part of the card selection for this deck is to avoid anything that might reasonably be targeted for removal. Besides the fact that most removal is aimed at something because it's a threat, and we don't want to play threats, by playing few nonland permanents, and especially few creatures, means that we can force our opponents to use their removal elsewhere. Enemies using removal against each other is almost always a positive thing for us, so causing this to happen as often as possible is excellent for our chances to win, and dovetails nicely with our first goal.

    Our commander fits perfectly into this goal, as not only is Phelddagrif generally considered weak and not worthy of removal, not only is he virtually invincible because of his bounce ability, but his bounce ability also draws a card for a different opponent than the one targeting it, so they've effectively lost a card to accomplish less than nothing.

    We are capable of massive retaliation

    This point seems to be at odds with the other two, given that we don't have a lot of threatening tools to retaliate with, but there's one main exception – targeted removal. Well-placed removal can absolutely wreak havoc on the recipient's win percent, but it's not exactly threatening because it doesn't inflate our own win percent by much. While threats like Avenger of Zendikar may be capable of offering retaliation, they're still everyone's problem to some extent, even if it's attacking someone else this turn, it needs to be solved at some point. Removal, on the other hand, is directional. It only hurts one person. This is what gives us the double barrel of being both uninteresting to target because we're so weak, yet also very dangerous to target because we're so destructive. Those tools of destruction are also coincidentally excellent to have in circumstances where you need to disrupt combo, which makes this deck very powerful in metas where that can be a significant risk. When half your deck is answers, combo is going to have a hard time. Answers are basically agnostic about what you're using them against – whether you're killing a hermit druid or a craw wurm, the removal doesn't really care. Which makes the deck exceptionally versatile compared to other decks – it can put up a good fight even in competitive metas, but also doesn't crush weak metas easily. This is a deck you can play anywhere and have a good game.

    Phelddagrif also works with this gameplan, except by proxy – if we're out of removal, we always have the threat of offering massive support to a mutual enemy. Even if you take us down, you won't be able to win. And Phelddagrif also acts as a small, but significant, defense against attacks – large, nontrampling attackers can be negated by blocking and bouncing, against netting a card for a mutual enemy. Our opponents should always believe that messing with us is a bad move.

    We Offer Direct Motivation for Our Opponents to Perform Actions We Desire

    The last point is something that's almost unique to this deck, and it's why Phelddagrif is the deck's centerpiece. While the other points all deter our opponents for messing with us, it's our ability to motivate our opponents with positive reinforcement that lets us coerce them towards our more precise ends. Our opponents often have difficult choices to make, and being able to put our thumb on the scale is a tool that few decks have. Say someone is deciding whether or not to attack a threatening player – they do want the player dead, but they'll lose several useful creatures if they do so. It's a close call, but then we offer to give them three hippo tokens and four life if they go through with the attack. Now they're sold, and they're doing exactly what we want them to do, without any cost to ourselves. Or maybe we're fanning out a Fact or Fiction, and we want them to separate them into a strategically poor split – with a few cards of their own for motivation, they're a lot more likely to see things our way. What makes Phelddagrif so good at this is his ability to provide motivation in multiple different flavors, in any increment you can afford, at instant speed. Saying you'll help someone later on down the line might push them to do something, but offering rewards right here, right now is a hell of a lot better. You can join the action to the reward completely, as surely as Trade Secrets will let you draw more cards if you let your opponent do the same. This capability is so powerful that I think even experienced players can only really scratch the surface of it, because it can affect nearly every action your opponents take, multiplying your influence across the whole table. And, it's worth mentioning that removal and other tools can be used similarly – say, killing the blocker of a mutual opponent as long as they attack that player. The deck is absolutely packed with the ability to abuse this, and it's only limited to your own ability to see the plays you can reasonably convince your opponents to take, and your ability to persuade them to do so. With hippos.


    Putting all four of these points together, and hopefully you can start to see how we're able to maneuver the game to our desired ends. Our opponents don't care about us, they can't target us, they don't want to risk angering us, and we can motivate them to do exactly what we want.



    Gameplay Basics

    This outlines our plan for every game, from the mulligan to the final attack.


    Step 1: Development and Balance

    Early in the game, we have a few basic goals. We want to develop our board by hitting land drops and eventually playing Phelddagrif, and we want to keep the game from swinging too wildly out of balance. This means we're vigilant for any sign of a fast combo, or some early threat that might represent a problem for us. Early-on we have fewer resources, so it can be crucial to stop things before they get out of hand. If we're in an unfamiliar meta, it's especially important to be able to read our opponents and their decks to determine who is most likely to be a threat. You should be familiar with common combos, deck archetypes, commanders – the more knowledge you have of the format, the better equipped you'll be for this stage of the game. Ideally we shouldn't have to answer anything yet, but we should always be prepared to if necessary, and we should be getting a feel for what each player is trying to do.

    As far as opening hands, we're usually looking primarily for lands. Five land hands are great. Six lands can even be acceptable with a good versatile answer, or an early value engine. Seven can be playable if you know that no one is playing a fast deck. Our goal is to avoid the scenario where, turn 4, we miss a land drop and are forced to either jettison an answer or use it on a subpar target. This also means cheap permanents like Telepathy, Exploration, and the like can be very welcome in our early hands – although we'd still like to see a minimum of 3 lands. Exceptions exist if you have cards that can set you up to get future lands, such as Sylvan Library, Land Tax, or Sensei's Divining Top.

    Step 2: Being Robin Hood

    Once we're far enough into the game that threats have started emerging, we should start deciding how we want the game to play out. Some players may emerge as especially dangerous, and we'll want to make sure they're eliminated before they manage to slip past our answers and assemble a way to win. Other players may be especially weak, and we want to keep them in the game as long possible - these players are our targets. Because we don't have any quick way to kill anyone, we're going to rely on our opponents killing each other, with our assistance to move it along. We're essentially playing Robin Hood – from the rich and powerful, we ransack their win conditions and leave them with nothing. For the poor, hippos, hippos and more hippos, and maybe some cards and life too. The more pronounced the disparity between the strong and weak decks at the table, the more aggressive we should be in pursuing this goal. Of course, you should be careful not to overinvest in your target player(s), lest they decide to use those resources against you, and try to keep answers to their potential moves in case of betrayal.

    Step 3: The Endgame

    Eventually your little uprising will be complete, and only the weakest player will remain alongside you. Or possibly a few players, if you've accidentally made yourself the threat. Either way, now it's time to actually try to win. Since Phelddagrif is our only feasible way to win with most versions of the deck, we're usually going to need at least 4-5 turns per opponent, depending on any buffs you might have from lands and such, and more if our opponent has disruption (unless it's worth counter-disrupting, but simple removal usually isn't worth one of our counters). This is why it's so critical to narrow the field to one opponent as quickly as possible. Yes, with good value engines you might able to hold of multiple opponents, possibly even with ease, but this makes you look bad for subsequent games. Instead of being viewed as a non-threat, you're viewed as a slow threat which is perhaps best killed early before you become too powerful. The goal is to be just powerful enough that you can safely assure a win.

    At this point, we're a lot more likely to use what removal we have, since every threat is now aimed at us. Of course this doesn't mean kill everything on sight, but it should be treated like any 1v1 game with a draw-go control deck – focus on priority targets, get card advantage where you can, try to outsmart your opponent. Phelddagrif is basically a perfectly competent 1v1 control deck in a lot of ways, and it plays like one when the game gets to that point.


    That's basically the broad brushstrokes of why the deck works, how to play it, and of course why Phelddagrif is the only commander for the job. Now let's look at what the rest of the deck is made up of to accomplish this gameplan.



    Deck Composition

    Integral to the success of the deck is following this general outline for composing the deck. Some deviation is acceptable, of course, and a meta call, but I'd recommend sticking pretty closely to this outline, at least until you're confident enough that you know what you're doing.

    Targeted Removal

    The beating heart of the deck. It's what enables us to be dangerous and interact with the game, without becoming the threat. These usually make up a large percentage of the deck, usually around 20-25 slots, to ensure that we have the right tool for the job as often as possible.

    Counterspells

    Counters are removal for the things that targeted removal isn't effective against – instants and sorceries, creatures with etb effects, permanents with activated abilities we'll otherwise be unable to stop, etc. Counterspells are a more proactive and less reactive way to answer permanents, so we like them less as a card type, but they are a necessarily evil for stopping certain threats and aggressive moves against us. We usually want around 10-15 of these.

    Board Wipes

    Sometimes a simple targeted removal can't do the job, and we need a bigger gun, which is where board wipes come in. Board wipes don't fit into the political gameplan, but they do fit into the control gameplan. Much like counterspells, they are necessary for dealing with certain kinds of threats and must be included for the deck to operate reliably in most metas. This usually takes up about 10 slots, or fewer if you have tutors that can hit them in a pinch.

    Value

    Unless you play Phelddagrif perfectly, you're probably going to need to make up for lost value at some point. You are mostly trading 1:1, after all. So we usually employ some manner of tools for recouping that value, while being careful not to play anything that might attract unwanted attention. If you're using repeatable sources, this should be fairly light especially with tutors, but if you're using single-use instants and sorceries you can go a bit higher. Anywhere from 7-15 total.

    Lands

    Since we're not playing manaless dredge, we're going to need lands. Sort of stands to reason. Do note that we often have quite a few lands, and quite a few utility lands in particular, because it's a good place to get extra value, and playing a land every turn saves us from being forced to use cards injudiciously, or discard them to handsize, especially in the early game. We generally run 35 lands minimum, up to as many as 45.


    Those are the five primary categories that define the deck. Anything outside of these categories should usually not be included, though there are some exceptions. The numbers are rough – the balance between them will vary based on your playstyle and meta, because you want your answers to be tailored to the threats you expect to see.



    Decklists

    These decklists shouldn't taken as gospel – this is just to show how one should structure the deck. The deck is exceptionally flexible on budget, so it can be made almost as cheaply as desired, so long as the general structure is left intact. I highly encourage you to try your own favorite cards, as long as they fit into the structure of the deck. This deck is extremely flexible and open to customization. But if you want a starting point, here are a few tried and true lists.


    Budgetless Decklist

    BudgetlessMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    Commander (1)
    1 Phelddagrif

    Targeted Removal (22)
    1 Swords to Plowshares
    1 Path to Exile
    1 Pongify
    1 Rapid Hybridization
    1 Reality Shift
    1 Nature's Claim
    1 Beast Within
    1 Oblation
    1 Song of the Dryads
    1 Unexpectedly Absent
    1 Commit // Memory
    1 Bant Charm
    1 Wipe Away
    1 Into the Roil
    1 Blink of an Eye
    1 Council's Judgment
    1 Krosan Grip
    1 Submerge
    1 Chain of Vapor
    1 Deglamer
    1 Rending Vines
    1 Consign to Dust

    Counterspells (12)
    1 Mana Drain
    1 Counterspell
    1 Arcane Denial
    1 Force of Will
    1 Cryptic Command
    1 Nimble Obstructionist
    1 Summary Dismissal
    1 Out of Bounds
    1 Render Silent
    1 Mystic Confluence
    1 Disallow
    1 Voidslime

    Board Wipes (10)
    1 Rout
    1 Hour of Revelation
    1 Cyclonic Rift
    1 Tragic Arrogance
    1 Wrath of God
    1 Supreme Verdict
    1 Play of the Game
    1 Cleansing Nova
    1 Comeuppance
    1 Evacuation

    Value (11)
    1 Telepathy
    1 Pulse of the Fields
    1 Pulse of the Grid
    1 Dig Through Time
    1 Sylvan Library
    1 Whispers of the Muse
    1 Wildest Dreams
    1 Intuition
    1 Mystical Tutor
    1 Mirage Mirror
    1 Wargate

    Other (3)
    1 Exploration
    1 Teferi's Protection
    1 Stonecloaker

    Land (41)
    1 Arch of Orazca
    1 Kor Haven
    1 Thespian's Stage
    1 Arcane Lighthouse
    1 Detection Tower
    1 Alchemist's Refuge
    1 Scavenger Grounds
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Mystifying Maze
    1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
    1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
    1 Tolaria West
    1 Memorial to Genius
    1 Command Tower
    1 Forbidden Orchard
    1 Path of Ancestry
    1 Sea of Clouds
    1 Bountiful Promenade
    1 Krosan Verge
    1 Mystic Gate
    1 Arid Mesa
    1 Flooded Strand
    1 Marsh Flats
    1 Misty Rainforest
    1 Polluted Delta
    1 Scalding Tarn
    1 Verdant Catacombs
    1 Windswept Heath
    1 Wooded Foothills
    1 Savannah
    1 Tundra
    1 Tropical Island
    1 Temple Garden
    1 Hallowed Fountain
    1 Breeding Pool
    1 Forest
    2 Plains
    3 Island



    Budget Decklist





    Tricks and Tips

    Understanding how the deck works a great start, but there are lots of things that might not occur to you if you haven't played this deck extensively. Here are some of the things I've learned over years of playing Phelddagrif - though I'm sure there are many more out there waiting to be discovered.

    Honesty is the Best Policy

    Something I see some players do that absolutely drives me up the wall is controlling a powerful card and/or board state, and trying desperately to convince everyone that they aren't a threat, and that someone else's relatively innocuous card is really the threat. It's transparent, and I immediately distrust anything they say and target them even more than I otherwise would. This tactic might work on newer, unsuspecting players, but it won't work on experienced ones. Our goal is to actually be nonthreatening, not to pretend to be.

    When analyzing the table, be as objective as you can without hurting your own image. If there's something legitimately dangerous on the board, it's to your benefit to point it out, of course. But if you're the one with the big hand, it's usually best, in my experience, not to try too hard to deflect this point. Maybe say that you have a lot of lands in hand, if that's at least mostly true. If someone says something like "I think he (you) is going to win", I'd say something like "Well, I'm definitely going to try" or "I'm in a pretty decent position, yeah, it's still anyone's game though." Don't volunteer extra information, but don't try to deflect and say "No, I think he's the real threat" unless it's actually reasonable. Gaining the table's trust is key to being able to direct them in the direction you want to.


    Personality Matters

    This is a broad topic that will inevitably vary from group to group, but be aware that your demeanor can have a big impact on how well this deck performs. You should be friendly, joking, having a good time. After all, you're mostly a spectator, stepping in to interact only when necessary. When you counter something, I'd recommend saying something like "Sorry, I really can't let that resolve," rather than being vindictive or gloating. The more lighthearted, the better.

    This is even more important if you're winning or losing. Your demeanor shouldn't give anything away. If you know you're on the brink of victory, don't smirk too much about it. If you're on the brink of defeat, don't get salty. Remember that this deck is generally not capable of fighting an archenemy game against opponents of similar power levels, so it's crucial that, on some level, your opponents are fine with you winning. Some players enjoy cultivating fear in their opponents because of their powerful decks and skillful play, but that's not what you should be aiming for here. Remember, you want your win to look like an accident, not a carefully orchestrated plan. Play the part. It's more fun to be lighthearted anyway.


    Don't Play Too Seriously

    This is related to personality, but especially in casual groups you don't want to constantly be deep in the tank, trying to plan out your moves, saying "resolves" or "I'll allow it" every time you elect not to counter something, etc. If it's a close game and you need a good think, then go ahead and take it, but don't do it often or you'll ruin your façade of casual play. It will remind people that you're a force to be reckoned with, and raise your threat profile. The perk of having so many answers is that we can usually allow things to go on for a pretty long time before we're forced to react, which means we don't need to be in the tank about every spell. Being able to play fast and casually, while still maintaining control of the game, takes experience and skill, but it's an important part of making this deck perform optimally.

    There is also, I think, benefit to being able to attribute luck and opponent misplays as much as possible to your victory. After a game, a lot of time I'll point out that, if my opponent had played better they might have won, or I'll attribute win to a lucky topdeck. Sometimes this is true even if, for example, I topdecked a board wipe just when I needed it – despite the fact that I already had a different board wipe that would have done just as good of a job. Resist the urge to reveal how many counterspells, removal, and whatnot you had saved up at the end of the game. Your opponents don't need to know just how in control you were.


    Don't Play Group Hug

    "But DirkGently," you say, "isn't Phelddagrif the group hug commander?"

    Now listen up you little puke, Phelddagrif is far more than some stupid toy for casuals to jerk...ahem...sorry about that. Phelddagrif often has a reputation for being a group hug commander, but I'd like to differentiate group hug from politics by comparing him to Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. K+T are group hug, while Phelddagrif isn't, for two reasons.

    The first is that Phelddagrif isn't symmetrical. If someone is being an obnoxious thorn in your side, or if they're just playing a scary deck, you can and should avoid providing them resources with Phelddagrif until they shape up and fly right. Phelddagrif lets you focus the benefits where you want them to go, while K+T will keep aiding your enemies even as they're killing you with the resources you're giving them.

    The second is that Phelddagrif isn't mandatory. If K+T are on the board, their effect is happening, even if you really don't want it to – say because you're the threat and you don't want each of your opponents to draw a card. Phelddagrif does nothing until you want to, which means only when it's advantageous. If you're stuck playing archenemy, you don't need to give hippos to the enemy.

    There are lots of cards that are often run in Phelddagrif lists, such as Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, Heartbeat of Spring, etc. which we studiously avoid. Think about it from the perspective of your enemy. You aren't aiding them exclusively – you're helping everyone equally – so they have no particular reason to want you alive. And attacking you will have no impact on whether they continue to get those benefits. So it really doesn't move the needle whatsoever in terms of whether or not they want to hurt you. There's no great political reason to play Howling Mine, unless your opponents are simpletons who only think as far as "Ooh, you're letting me draw cards, can I be your best friend?"

    There is a little merit to the idea that, in a meta where one person is significantly scarier than the rest, that providing all players with an equal number of cards provides more total resources to fight the threatening player. You might try experimenting with a couple of them if that's the situation you're in – although I do think the possibility for them to backfire is pretty significant.


    Don't Overuse Repeatable Effects

    It's tempting, when trying to generate value, to rely on something that can be reused frequently. A great example of this is Capsize, a powerful card that's a favorite of control players. The problem is that it's predictable. Your opponents will be able to work out whether they can beat you before getting capsize-locked out of the game, and if they can't, they'll band together to try to stop that from happening. It also means that they'll know what to play around. If you're always playing new cards, that's much harder for them to do. In general I'm pretty down on repeatable effects, especially those that directly affect the board in some way. Repeatable effects, when used for value, should have a semi-random outcome – ideally drawing a card.


    Always Consider Your Meta

    This deck can play virtually anywhere and get a reasonably close game, but that isn't to say that tailoring it to your meta isn't a good idea. In particular, budget can make you a target – if everyone else is running basics while you're running ABU duals and fetches, you're going to raise you threat profile a fair bit. Luckily, weaker metas with poor fixing are also less likely to require fast answers on your part, so budget fixing should be fine. And the same is true for answers and value engines – play to the level of the table. If that table is competitive, don't hesitate to run Sylvan Library, but if it's casual that's probably not necessary. This isn't a critical point, but it can be worth keeping in mind if you expect to play in a stable meta. I think this is a deck that operates fantastically well on a budget – I run a version where no card costs more than $2, and it wins a very high percentage of games against much pricier decks.


    Don't Play Other Wincons

    Something I've dabbled with is running alternative means to win with Phelddagrif, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not worth it. For one thing, those cards can often hog spots in your deck that could be a crucial answer instead. For a more important thing, your opponents will be much more suspicious of you in future games. If you keep winning with, say, Laboratory Maniac or Approach of the Second Sun, your opponents will be a lot more motivated to kill you, and they'll eventually prepare some sort of answer to disrupt you. For one last thing, it's just not necessary. Phelddagrif is a virtually unkillable 4-6 turn clock with flying and trample as necessary. Yes, it's a bit of a grind at the end, but you don't want your opponents to fear that you'll suddenly win, which means you want a slow, grindy wincon. If you absolutely must speed it up, try lands that buff Phelddagrif, or tools like Krasis Incubation or Orzhov Advokist that can dramatically increase the clock without making it come out of nowhere.


    Don't Play Permanent Hindrances if Possible

    Remember that your goal is to motivate your opponents to do what you want, so it's crucial to think about how they're likely to react to every card you play. With that in mind, you want to avoid cards that will be ongoing problems for your opponents. It's tempting to play cards like, say, Rule of Law that will make it much easier to keep certain decks in check, but that motivates the players who are hampered by that effect – probably most of them – to either remove the permanent or kill you. That's why we don't want our disruption to linger. Granted, our opponents will probably realize that we're packing lots of disruption, but the fewer reasons we have to make them come after us, the better. Sometimes permanent, stax-style disruption can be a necessary tool for certain metas, so don't discount it entirely, but it's not what we should aim to do with this deck unless it's absolutely necessary.


    Be Invisible

    Of course we're always going to attract some attention when we step in to block our opponents from winning, but besides avoiding ongoing obstacles for our opponents, we should also make ourselves as unnoticeable an obstacle as possible. That means you shouldn't block every powerful card – partly because it attracts attention, and partly because it's just not possible. It also means you should avoid cards that attract a lot of attention – cards like Rhystic Study, for example, make your opponents acutely aware of your presence every time you ask "Are you going to pay one?" In general you should aim to interfere as minimally as possible, but keep in mind that, in a game where one player is significantly more powerful, you'll need to be more aggressive in your efforts to disrupt them, and your visibility will necessarily rise as a result.


    Information Flow

    Controlling information is an interesting element of this deck. Once upon a time, I used to frequently reveal removal to my opponents in an attempt to dissuade them from attacking me or making other moves, but that straightforward approach doesn't always work. For one thing, once people know what you have, they can play around it. They can wait on their real threats until you're tapped out, or they can keep attacking you with unimportant creatures to force you to use it. Or they might attack you with their best creature anyway, just because they don't like being manipulated. As a general rule of thumb, I would say don't reveal an answer unless you would definitely use it. For example, if they're choosing a target for Cruel Ultimatum, unless they're especially angry about being manipulated, go ahead and reveal your counter. If they decide you're too big a threat anyway, you haven't lost anything, and if they choose someone else, then you got what you wanted. But of course, this still has the downside of revealing a counter to the rest of the table, who is now motivated to play around it. So the best first line of defense is always being an unappetizing target in the first place. If your opponents merely suspect you have a counter and decide not to target you for that reason, that's even better.

    Board wipes should almost never be revealed, especially sorcery-speed ones. You've motivated your opponents to do whatever it takes to force you to play it ASAP so they can return to building up their boards, to attempt to find a way to protect their board if they have such a card, to hold onto their best threats for later, or to simply attempt to kill you before you get the chance to use it. If someone is very far ahead, you might reveal an instant-speed board wipe in order to motivate them to attack elsewhere – especially if targeted removal will be ineffective – but the effectiveness of that could go either way. As before, only reveal if you would have used it anyway.

    By contrast, you want your opponents to know everything about each other. This is why Telepathy is arguably the best card in the deck. If someone is sitting on a nasty combo or a powerful card, our opponents knowing about it can only motivate them towards disrupting that combo or killing that player. Knowing what your opponents have also enables you to use your answers on only the things that matter. Omniscience might be a terrifying card, but if the controller doesn't have anything in hand that synergizes with it, it might not be worth answering. You also get to know what answers your opponents have, so you can force them to answer the threats rather than yourself by passing them priority.


    Let Things Get a Little Out of Hand

    Especially if you're new to the deck, I recommend keeping a very loose grip on the reins. Of course some threats are going to require answering – instant-win combos, cards that will make you discard your hand, etc. – but many cards considered "most answer threats" can be safely ignored. This is especially true if the power level of the decks isn't too high. A Consecrated Sphinx is totally fine if it's controlled by someone with a fairly weak deck. Leaving these threats alive gives your opponents a chance to answer them, a chance to get more value from your board wipes, and most importantly a chance for your opponents to be the threats. You want the other players to engage with the threat, damage to be dealt, fur to fly, etc. Let them wear each other out. Remember that the better control you have, the less you have to use it, and we have amazing control with this deck. Sit back a bit and see what unfolds. A lot of the time a light touch is the best choice, especially since it lets you stay as invisible as possible.


    Don't Be Invincible

    When people think of the archetypical control deck, they think of one that won't let anything attacking them survive, anything targeting them resolve, etc. People fear and hate that deck. For that reason, it's important not to appear invincible to your opponents. If they attack you for a few points of damage, don't sweat it. Don't make it look like you don't care at all, but don't swear vengeance on their family either. Usually an "aww, rude" is about the right tone to strike if they give you a decent-sized hit, or destroy one of your permanents. If you appear to be reasonably vulnerable, they'll be a lot less trepidatious about allowing the game to go to a 1v1 against you, and a lot more likely to fight with each other. That's not to say you need to take everything, of course – if it's a serious blow, by all means block it. But don't get hung up on every little transgression made against you, and don't make a retaliatory threat about every move someone might make against you. If they continue to target you, then make it clear that you do have teeth, but don't be quick to anger.

    The Third Place Rule

    One easy to remember, general rule of thumb, if you're running into problems getting targeted, is to try to aim to be in third place as much as possible. What do I mean by that? I don't just mean life totals, I mean your general status in the game - board presence, lands, life, hand size, etc. All the stuff that goes into threat assessment. You should try to aim to be in third. Why third? First place is an obvious no, the rest of the table will generally target first place. One of our major goals is avoiding being in first place, so I hope you've been paying enough attention to recognize why we're doing that. Second place can also be problematic, though, because second place is generally the spot that the first place is looking when they're deciding where to put some hurt. Why not fourth place? Well, fourth place is sometimes the easy target, and if the game is relatively balanced players will sometimes go after easy prey to reduce the complexity of the game, and we don't want that either. Third place is the least noticeable, least likely to get attacked spot, on average. So as a general rule, aim for third, and you'll come out on top. Eventually.


    "But what if they figure out what I'm up to?"

    A common concern with how this deck operates is that the opponents will figure out how it works, and then easily dismantle it by teaming up against you. This is possible, but unlikely. In fact I usually don't mind talking to my opponents about even some of the theory of how the deck works, and it's not a big knock to the win percent. If this seems strange to you, then allow me a metaphor.

    Phelddagrif, as a deck, is like climate change. Most people agree that climate change is a problem, and that something ought to be done about it. And we'll all piss and moan about how ridiculous it is that more isn't being done, and some people are telling us that, unless we make massive changes, we're all going to be dead in a few hundreds years or whatever, but nothing much ever seems to HAPPEN. Because even though we'd LIKE to help fix the problem, fixing the problem is a big personal inconvenience. If our countries were to institute the kind of sweeping legislation that scientists recommend, it'd really hurt competitively in terms of trade. Maybe we commit to doing a little teensy tiny something, but it feels like we're all playing a sort of game of chicken where no one wants to commit too much to doing anything until everyone else has already done more.

    If you can't see the parallels, your opponents may know that you're a problem, that eventually it's very likely that you'll be the winner, but there's always more pressing problems to deal with, and if they dedicate a lot of resources to fighting you and the other players don't, they're going to be at a huge disadvantage because you can put them in a miserable spot competitively by removing everything they care about and funding their enemies who are more cooperative. Sure, if everyone collectively agrees not to be swayed by your bribes, to keep fighting you with everything they've got and not let up until you're really, truly dead, then they can take you out. And if the whole world could agree to put aside short-term gains in order to really commit wholeheartedly to combating climate change, we could probably solve it. But that doesn't seem too likely, now does it?




    Tricky Situations

    Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things can go…bad. Here are some of the common situations I've run across, and how I feel is best to handle them.

    Group Slug

    One particular type of deck that can be very annoying to deal with is the "group slug" deck, with the prime example being Purphoros. Purphoros does not "do" politics. He doesn't care whatsoever about what you're doing, he's just going to keep making tokens until everyone else is dead. This can put you in a situation where you're forced to react to him even when he's no threatening you specifically, and it can put you in that situation a lot.

    One excellent silver bullet against this kind of strategy – at least the damage-based slug – is Pulse of the Fields. As long as someone has high life, you can happily climb back up to a nice comfortable total without too much fuss, and Phelddagrif can help keep someone else's life total high. If you can keep ahead of the Purphoros player's damage, he might give you an easy win by killing the other players. You might even use Phelddagrif to give Purphoros tokens to kill your opponents faster.

    Another strong silver-bullet is Song of the Dryads or Imprisoned in the Moon. With Purphoros permanently-ish eliminated, the threat is neutralized and you should be fine. This is also effective against other group slug commaders that use discard or other means to control the game, such as Liliana, Nath, Savra, or Shattergang – although you might be able to simply ignore those more easily if you have good value generation.

    Barring those cards, your only option is to outrace him, but Phelddagrif is quite slow. Because he's also threatening the other players, you can use Phelddagrif's ability to give them hippos to ensure they have enough ammunition to pressure his life total, and use your disruption to slow him down. This is your general strategy for most decks that are too threatening to face in a 1v1 matchup, such as Maelstrom Wanderer and Prossh.


    Three-Player Games

    Phelddagrif is really best used in four-plus-player games, but sometimes you'll find yourself playing a three-player, or one player might be eliminated quickly and leave a three-player as a result. The smaller the game, the harder it can be to stay invisible. The worst-case-scenario is when one of the other two players is far behind, and not a significant threat, leaving a functional 1v1 before you're prepared for it. Our deck generally fares well in 1v1 games because of how many answers we run, but it still puts us in the position of needing the right answer quickly. In this scenario it can often be critical to use Phelddagrif to help boost the weakened player up, which can help keep the field more even under the guise of trying to have a “good game”. It's also worth noting that having efficient answers and efficient value engines is a lot more important here. In general these sorts of games are very winnable, but they can be a bit more brutal because we're forced to expose the strength of our deck in order to fend off the other player, which can make us look more threatening in future games, and it often means we're slowly beating down both enemy players, the strong one followed by the weak. In general I would avoid three player games if possible, the politics are much less predictable because your opponents are much more likely to see you as an immediate impediment to them, and less as a spectator.


    "I See What You're Doing"

    One thing I love about this deck is that, even when people understand what it's doing, it still basically continues to work. But over many games, people will catch on to how you're abusing politics to pit them against each other, or at least they'll notice that you're winning a lot, especially if you're doing a poor job of playing fast and casual. All you should really need to do here is acknowledge it and downplay it a little – "Yeah, I have gotten pretty lucky, haven't I?", "Yeah, I think you could have won that last game if I hadn't topdecked that board wipe", or even "Politics can be good, you should try it." Pin the key to your success on luck, or bad play from your opponents – which in fairness, is always always a significant element – if possible. But even outright acknowledging that the deck is good and that it plays well with politics shouldn't generally hurt you too badly – if anything, it puts the onus on them to play better politics themselves. The only things you really shouldn't do is to try to brush it off entirely, or to gloat about your victories. Both for your own future winrate, and because it's lame.


    People Who Refuse to Play Along

    Some people resist being manipulated to the point of violence. If you threaten to kill their creature if you attack them – well, they're definitely attacking you now. If you give them hippos, they're sending them right back in your face. There's no bargaining, no arguing, just constant pain.

    This is pretty rare, and is most likely a result of you screwing up and being a cocky jerk at some point, but how you handle it is going to depend on a few things.

    First, how strong their deck is. If it's a strong deck, then just treat them like the threat they are. Arm their opponents. Destroy their key permanents. Counter their spells. Make sure to remind them that you're doing this because they refused to play politics. It's kind of unlikely that they'll change their mind, but at least the rest of the table will understand your side of the issue. Nobody likes to get targeted constantly for no reason.

    If their deck is weak, then you probably can't play the same way. Try to play mostly normally, removing things that obviously need removing and maybe being a bit more aggressive towards them than normal, but not targeting them to excess. Maybe try finding a common enemy with significant threats at some point, and offering lifegain or something as a truce. Use honest threat evaluation to try to explain to them why they need to be more concerned about other players.

    If multiple people are ganging up on you, then the same applies even more. One thing that can help is to burn off your answers a bit, keeping your hand size lower. This is risky if the field is competitive, but if people are going all aggro against Phelddagrif then it probably isn't. As a last resort you might even reveal your whole hand –you have no board wipes, ideally – to show them that you aren't assembling some sort of combo. Try singling one of them out and trying to make a deal with them for a truce. With only one person targeting you, you can probably survive. Or ally with the other members of the table and stuff them to bursting with hippos in an attempt to kill your pursuers, or at least force their attention elsewhere.

    Finally, if all else fails, and the table is set against you and cannot be talked out of it, bargained with, or beaten – then it's time to lose. This deck was never made to fight that sort of fight. If you want archenemy-style control, then go play Child of Alara. If you want to stick with Phelddagrif, make sure you're not being an unpleasant person to play against, and do your best to figure out why they're so against you. Try asking them. Consider playing a precon deck, or a deck you've intentionally made to suck, if there's just no solution except to lose more often. And if none of those things work, then maybe it's time to find a new playgroup.



    Card Glossary

    This section is intended to give a comprehensive look at the options available to Phelddagrif - both the good stuff, and the bad. Of course, unusual build restrictions may force you to go outside of the list, but as long as you understand what makes the deck work, you should be able to integrate all sorts of interesting cards into your deck. This list should cover most cards that would be commonly included in this deck, though, as well as cards I consider tempting mistakes.

    Targeted Removal



    More than anything else, targeted removal is the core of what Phelddagrif is about. Targeted removal is the rod used opposite the carrot of Phelddagrif himself. Efficient targeted removal gives us the most capacity to punish anyone aggressing against us, and to disrupt enemy combos, while giving us as much time as possible to verify that the target is, in fact, a problem that we need to deal with. Targeted removal is much maligned in multiplayer because it's card disadvantage, but that's not quite true. While actually using removal is card disadvantage, in practice the amount of disadvantage you put yourself at is relative how many threats actually demand removal from you. And the more removal you have, or are perceived to have, the fewer threats are likely to come your way, because other people don't want to be at a disadvantage themselves, either. Targeted removal is a rattlesnake, a means of motivation, and a combo disrupter. It's our bread and butter, and any Phelddagrif deck should be using at least twenty of them.


    As far as what we're looking for, it's going to depend on the power level of what you're playing against, as usual. Faster, more combo-oriented metas, especially those with anti-disruption tools like counterspells, are going to require more efficient removal, which will mean a decrease in flexibility and value. Whereas slower metas can afford to use more expensive removal that gives flexibility and value. I would encourage every variety of the deck to have at least a few of the most efficient removal (stp, pte, pongify, rapid hybridization) and some of the most versatile (beast within, oblation). It also should be noted that virtually all targeted removal should be instant-speed. Being able to respond to aggression immediately is paramount for using removal as a deterrent, and of course it's even more important against combo. The efficiencies of targeted removal are almost all lost if you're forced to use it preemptively.

    Neutralizing Removal

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Lignify/Deep Freeze Rate3

    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.

    Darksteel Mutation Rate3.5

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Claustrophobia/Waterknot Rate2.5

    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.

    Faith's Fetters/Arrest/etc Rate3

    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.

    Prison Term Rate2.5

    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.

    Krasis Incubation Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Gideon's Intervention Rate3.5

    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.

    Null Chamber Rate2

    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.

    Treachery Rate2.5

    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.


    Bounce

    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.


    Wipe Away Rate4

    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 Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Repulse Rate3.5

    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 Rate2

    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.

    Fumble Rate2.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.



    Flexible Removal

    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.


    Beast Within Rate5

    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.

    Oblation Rate4.5

    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.

    Oblivion Ring Rate2.5

    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.

    Unexpectedly Absent Rate5

    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.

    Bant Charm Rate4.5

    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.

    Council's Judgment Rate3.5

    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.

    Dromoka's Command Rate3

    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.



    Creature Removal

    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 Rate5

    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 Rate4.5

    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.

    Pongify/Rapid Hybridization Rate4.5

    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.

    Submerge Rate3.5

    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.

    Reality Shift Rate3.5

    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.

    Skywhaler's Shot Rate3

    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.



    Noncreature Removal

    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.


    Rending Vines Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Nature's Claim Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Krosan Grip Rate4

    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.

    Pir's Whim Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Sylvan Reclamation Rate3.5

    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.

    Dismantling Blow Rate4

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Crush Contraband Rate3

    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.



    Counterspells

    Counters are generally worse than targeted removal when dealing with permanents because they force us to be more proactive with answering threats, but they're a necessary evil because they can deal with threats where removal is ineffective – instants, sorceries, powerful ETB effects, combos that can continue to go off in response to removal, etc. Use counters sparingly, but always try to hold one up as much as possible.

    As far as what we're looking for in counters, unless you're in a highly powered meta, cost is generally less crucial than most decks, because we're usually playing draw-go, which means we value flexibility and value more highly than most control decks. We also don't generally value redirection or spell theft effects, as we're rarely the target of anything ourselves, and we don't want our opponents spells to dictate when we become threatening by gaining control of something powerful. So mostly we're looking for straightforward counters.


    Straightforward Counters

    They counter spells. That's about it.


    Counterspell Rate4

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Dissolve/Sinister Sabotage Rate3.5

    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.

    Mindbreak Trap Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.



    Type-Restrictive Counters

    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.


    Mental Misstep Rate1.5

    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.

    Dispel Rate2

    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.

    Swan Song Rate3

    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.

    Stubborn Denial Rate2.5

    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.



    Ability Counters

    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.


    Bind/Squelch/Interdict Rate3.5

    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.

    Trickbind Rate3.5

    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.

    Stifle Rate3.5

    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.

    Voidmage Husher Rate2

    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.

    Nimble Obstructionist Rate4.5

    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.



    Temporary Counters

    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.


    Remand Rate3.5

    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.

    Memory Lapse Rate3.5

    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 Rate4

    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.



    Soft Counters

    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.


    Spell Pierce Rate3

    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.

    Flusterstorm Rate2.5

    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.

    Daze Rate2.5

    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.

    Supreme Will Rate3.5

    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.



    Value Counters

    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.


    Cryptic Command Rate4.5

    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.

    Mystic Confluence Rate4

    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.

    Rewind/Unwind Rate3

    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.

    Mana Drain Rate4.5

    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.

    Arcane Denial Rate5

    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.

    Plasm Capture Rate3

    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.

    Spell Swindle Rate4

    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.

    Dream Fracture Rate4

    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 Rate2.5

    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.

    Dismiss Rate3.5

    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.

    Render Silent Rate4

    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.

    Insidious Will Rate2.5

    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.



    Flexible Counters

    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.


    Disallow/Voidslime Rate4.5

    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.

    Summary Dismissal Rate4

    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 Rate4.5

    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.

    Time Stop Rate3.5

    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.



    Board Wipes

    Board wipes are generally played for two reasons. The first reason is that it enables us to deal with situations where targeted removal can no longer get the job done – massive token armies, hexproof creatures, or just numerous dangerous permanents. The second reason is that it can give us significant card advantage, which is especially important as we move towards the endgame and prepare for a 1v1 fight. Most frequently board wipes are used in the early/mid game if we lack other tools to deal with large boards or particular threats, and then in the 1v1 game more liberally, whenever it gives us a significant card advantage. Particular notice should be payed to Phelddagrif here - often you'll want to bounce him eot the turn before a board wipe to maximize the mana you can keep up afterward, although you may want to get one last attack with him before bouncing him in the late game. Or you might simply let him die if it's 1v1 and it's more important to deny your opponent cards than to save a couple mana.

    As board wipes are less effective as combo breaking and retaliation, it's usually best to be somewhat sparing with them, and instead run tutors which can hit them if necessary.


    Creature Wipes

    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.


    Rout Rate4.5

    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.

    Fated Retribution Rate4

    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.

    Terminus Rate3.5

    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 Rate4.5

    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 Rate4.5

    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.

    Supreme Verdict Rate5

    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.

    Fumigate Rate4

    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.

    Hallowed Burial Rate3.5

    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.

    Sublime Exhalation Rate4

    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.

    End Hostility Rate3.5

    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.

    Phyrexian Rebirth Rate2.5

    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 Rate1.5

    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.



    Noncreature Wipes

    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.


    Fracturing Gust Rate3.5

    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.



    Global Wipes

    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 Rate4.5

    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.

    Akroma's Vengeance Rate4

    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 Rate5

    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.

    Tragic Arrogance Rate4.5

    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.

    Planar Cleansing Rate4

    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.

    Fortunate Few Rate3

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Nevinyrral's Disk Rate2

    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.



    Flexible Wipes

    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.


    Austere Command Rate3.5

    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.

    Cleansing Nova Rate4

    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.



    Bounce-Wipes

    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.


    Cyclonic Rift Rate5

    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.

    Coastal Breach Rate2.5

    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.

    Evacuation Rate4

    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 Rate2.5

    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.



    Combat Wipes

    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.


    Comeuppance Rate4

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Aetherspouts Rate3

    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.

    Mirror Match Rate2.5

    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.



    Value

    Ideally every game of Phelddagrif could be won simply by skillful use of carrots and sticks to maneuver the game into a place where it's a winnable 1v1, but realistically that's probably not feasible – or at least, it requires really, really skillful play. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to be able to win even if I occasionally don't find the perfect political line at every juncture. So to make up for some of the slack left by poor play or unlucky draws, we usually have some number of slots dedicated to shoring up cards lost, so we can ensure that we still have answers for every scenario. This is by far the most complicated and treacherous part of the deck, though – some value engines will make you into a threat, which generally won't end well for us (and even if does, it breaks the perception of the deck for future games), and some value engines just won't be able to keep up. So finding the right middle ground of value is crucial, and this is the part of your deck you should do the most fine-tuning of until you find a spot where you can keep up with powerful late-game plays from your opponents, while not becoming too threatening yourself.


    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.


    Sphinx's Revelation Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Overflowing Insight Rate2.5

    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.

    Recurring Insight Rate3

    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.

    Praetor's Counsel Rate1.5

    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.

    Wildest Dreams Rate4

    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.

    Season's Past Rate2.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Fortune's Favor Rate3.5

    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.

    Deep Analysis Rate3.5

    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.

    Treasure Cruise Rate4

    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 Rate4.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Compulsive Research Rate3

    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.

    Concentrate/Harmonize Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    Another solid one, scry 2 draw two is close to draw three, but being an instant is a fairly big deal.

    Manifold Insights Rate3.5

    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.

    Ancestral Vision Rate2.5

    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 Rate2.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Regrowth Rate3.5

    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.

    Skullwinder Rate4

    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.

    Chemister's Insight Rate4

    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.



    Repeatable Draw

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate4.5

    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.

    Elemental Bond Rate3

    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.

    Conqueror's Galleon Rate0.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Rhystic Study Rate2.5

    "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.

    Mystic Remora Rate3

    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.

    Kumena's Awakening Rate3.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Patient Rebuilding Rate2.5

    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.

    Monastery Siege Rate2.5

    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.

    Seer's Sundial Rate3

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate2.5

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Mind's Eye Rate3.5

    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 Rate2.5

    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 Rate2

    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.

    Tireless Tracker Rate3

    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.

    Tamiyo's Journal Rate3.5

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Magnifying Glass Rate3.5

    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.

    Diviner Spirit Rate3

    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 Rate2

    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.

    Loyal Drake Rate3

    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.

    Sylvan Library Rate4.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Arcane Encyclopedia Rate3.5

    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.

    Sunset Pyramid Rate3

    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.

    Treasure Map Rate3

    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.

    Primordial Mist Rate4

    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.

    Precognition Field Rate2

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Chaos Wand Rate3

    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 Rate1.5

    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.

    Land Tax Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Thaumatic Compass Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Mystic Speculation Rate3.5

    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.

    Mirri's Guile Rate3.5

    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.

    Jace's Sanctum Rate3

    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.

    Oona's Grace Rate3.5

    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.

    Soothsaying Rate3.5

    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.

    Scroll Rack Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Azor's Gateway Rate2

    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.



    Defensive Value

    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.


    Forcefield Rate2.5

    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 Rate3

    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).

    Invulnerability Rate3

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Orzhov Advokist Rate4

    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 Rate4

    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.


    Golden Guardian Rate3.5

    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.

    Umezawa's Jitte Rate2

    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.

    Isochron Scepter Rate1.5

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate3.5

    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.


    Telepathy Rate5

    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.

    Primal Amulet Rate3.5

    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 Rate4.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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

    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 Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Idyllic Tutor Rate3

    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.

    Merchant Scroll Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Weathered Wayfarer Rate4

    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.

    Long-Term Plans Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate2.5

    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.

    Crop Rotation Rate3.5

    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.

    Wargate Rate3.5

    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.

    Expedition Map Rate3

    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.

    Enlightened Tutor Rate3

    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.

    Mystical Tutor Rate4.5

    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.

    Intuition Rate5

    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.

    Dizzy Spell Rate3.5

    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 Rate2.5

    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.

    Sylvan Scrying Rate3

    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.



    Other Stuff

    In general this deck sticks to a pretty strict diet of removal, counters, board wipes, value, and lands, but there are a few other types of cards that bear mentioning. These are still in some sense answers and value, but don't fit neatly into the other categories.

    As with all things in this deck, you can customize this deck to your meta and your preferences, as long as you follow the same basic blueprint. So if you need specific answers to handle certain issues where you play, you should feel free to experiment with creative solutions.





    Fogs

    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.


    Moment's Peace Rate4

    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.

    Tangle Rate3

    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.

    Constant Mists Rate2.5

    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.

    Arachnogenesis Rate3.5

    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.

    Dawn Charm Rate3

    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.

    Teferi's Protection Rate4

    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.


    Grave Hate

    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 Rate4

    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 Rate2.5

    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.

    Memory's Journey Rate3.5

    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 Rate2.5

    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 Rate3.5

    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.

    Silent Gravestone Rate3

    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.



    Ramp

    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.


    Sol Ring Rate3

    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.

    Mana Crypt Rate2

    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.

    Dowsing Dagger Rate3.5

    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.

    Exploration/Burgeoning Rate4

    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.



    Anti-Mill

    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.


    Gaea's Blessing Rate3

    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 Rate3.5

    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.



    Wincons

    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.


    Ezuri's Predation Rate3

    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 Rate2.5

    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

    Lands are especially important to us, for a couple reasons. The first is that we run quite a few global wipes, which means lands are the permanent type we can count on the most. The second is that they let us develop in a safe, nonthreatening way. Most of the early turns are simply playing lands and holding up answers we don't play, so hitting land drops every turn is critical, both to ensure that we're prepared for the late-game, and to avoid hitting max hand size. As such, and because we play little, if any, ramp, we tend to play more than the normal number of lands, usually at least 40, but you shouldn't feel shy about running as many as 45, especially in slower metas where you generally won't need to play any answers until at least turn 4-5.





    Fixing Lands

    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.


    Command Tower Rate5

    It taps for our colors and it's not terribly expensive. You should probably play one.

    Path of Ancestry Rate4.5

    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) Rate4

    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) Rate5

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate2

    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) Rate3.5

    With a dual/fetch manabase these are pretty reliable. They're good but nothing special.

    Fastlands (Seachrome Coast, Botanical Sanctum, Razorverge Thicket) Rate3

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate2.5

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate3

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate3

    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) Rate3.5

    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) Rate2.5

    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.

    Nimbus Maze Rate2.5

    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.

    Krosan Verge Rate4

    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.

    Blighted Woodland Rate3.5

    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.

    Myriad Landscape Rate3

    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.

    Exotic Orchard Rate3.5

    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.

    Reflecting Pool Rate3.5

    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.

    Mana Confluence Rate2

    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.

    Forbidden Orchard Rate5

    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.

    Bant Panorama Rate2.5

    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.

    Horizon Canopy Rate3.5

    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) Rate2.5

    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) Rate1.5

    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.

    Seaside Citadel Rate3.5

    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 Rate2

    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?)




    Utility Lands

    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.



    Draw Utility

    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 Rate5

    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 Rate2.5

    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.

    Scrying Sheets Rate2.5

    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.

    Tolaria West Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Thawing Glaciers Rate3.5

    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.

    Isolated Watchtower Rate3

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Soldevi Excavations Rate3

    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).

    Cephalid Coliseum Rate2.5

    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) Rate2.5

    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 Rate4

    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.

    Eiganjo Castle Rate3

    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 Rate4

    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 Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Opal Palace Rate3.5

    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.

    Gavony Township Rate3.5

    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.

    Pendelhaven Rate3

    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.

    Yavimaya Hollow Rate3.5

    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.



    Defensive Utility

    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.


    Kor Haven Rate4.5

    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.

    Mystifying Maze Rate4

    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 Rate3.5

    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.



    Removal Utility

    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.


    Strip Mine Rate4

    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.

    Wasteland Rate4

    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.

    Dust Bowl Rate3.5

    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.

    Rishadan Port Rate3

    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.

    Scavenger Grounds Rate4

    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).



    Interaction Utility

    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.


    Arcane Lighthouse Rate4.5

    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.

    Detection Tower Rate3.5

    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.

    Alchemist's Refuge Rate4

    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.



    Esoteric Utility

    Some utility just doesn't fit into a nice, easy category. These are them.


    Reliquary Tower Rate2

    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 Rate3

    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 Rate2

    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).

    Mistveil Plains Rate2.5

    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.

    Moonring Island Rate3.5

    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.

    Thespian's Stage Rate4.5

    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.

    Vesuva Rate3.5

    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 Rate2.5

    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 Rate3

    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.

    Deserted Temple Rate2.5

    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.

    Gemstone Caverns Rate3

    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.

    Terrain Generator Rate3

    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.


    Changelist

    A quick overview of what's new in Phelddagrif - stuff I'm testing, new cards, etc.

    Newest Set Additions

    Guilds of Ravnica brought us a couple decent options:

    Chemister's Insight - really nice draw spell for us, as the combination of instant speed, moderate mana cost, and ability to split itself across multiple turns (making it easier to keep us topped off without getting a huge hand at once and looking threatening) is all excellent. On the other hand, it's not drastically better than, say, jace's ingenuity, which wasn't that exciting. Overall it's a nice option for decks looking to play single-shot draw (double-shot, in this case) but it's by no means an auto-include.

    Dawn of Hope - I think this probably falls into the problematic domain of being too much inevitability to avoid becoming threatening late-game, while also being too slow to have any competitive chops. It's very nice with pulse of the fields. It can do an ok job of deterring attacks by making blockers constantly, but most plans are going to be able to either evade or go wide enough to render it irrelevant defensively at some point. This is another ok option for draw, but it's not a card I'd expect to get played over, say, kefnet, the mindful, which was already not my favorite style of draw engine to begin with. It's a little bit more versatile than Keffy, but it's also a lot slower and harder to use.

    Guildmage's Forum - Another in the pantheon of cards that accelerate the Phelddagrif kill by a turn, while being otherwise mediocre lands. Oran-Rief I think is still superior, for producing colored mana and for being able to synergize with hippo production. So I don't think this makes the cut. Especially in the budgetless build, where the mana production ability is so overpriced next to the excellent fixing lands.

    Mission Briefing - Probably the toughest card to review from the set. It's not a terrible replacement for decks playing regrowth (which I have in the past) - it's much, much better at recurring counters and removal without tipping your hand (though trying to cast counterspell or, even worse, cryptic command is going to really test your fixing), and basically equivalent at recurring board wipes since it's rarely correct to recur a board wipe in advance anyway (with a little added bonus of surveil, plus targeted grave hate is less effective at countering it). The biggest bummer is that it can't recur most of our value engines, which is commonly what we're trying to recur. I haven't been running regrowth for a while, and I tend to doubt this makes the cut either, but it's not terrible.

    Sinister Sabotage - Arguably slightly better than Dissolve. Neither are particularly interesting counterspells, but they're playable for a budget build (and obviously superior to, say, cancel)


    Old Cards Under Investigation

    Right now the main thing I'm curious to test, hilariously, are some of the classic group hug cards, such as howling mine. Politically, I don't think they give any real benefit in terms of deterring hate from you (I'm sure there are people who will consider it a favor, but any savvy player will not), but in an archenemy situation they can give significantly more fodder to the allied forces than they do to the opposition. Which, given that you're generally one of the allies, is a good idea in theory.

    I'm currently on vacation and then moving to the UK, though, so I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to test them out and make some decisions.



    About the Author

    DirkGently has been playing commander since 2009, and Phelddagrif since 2010. He plays primary in Seattle, Washington. His biggest competitive accomplishments are top-8ing two PTQs, in Khans of Tarkir limited and Ixilan limited. He thinks writing in the third person makes him sound smarter, and he doesn't like elevators. The amazing alter was contributed by his girlfriend, who is great.
    Posted in: Multiplayer Commander Decklists
  • 2

    posted a message on Best Black Politics general?
    Of course, you never can trust people these days :p Naturally being aware of what might happen down the line is important threat assessment - that stony silence looks fine up until they play a mycosynth lattice. A savvy player might hold up removal or a counter as insurance, while benefiting from the situation until it becomes necessary to intervene. No reason to go trading cards 1:1 until it becomes YOUR problem. And in the land equilibrium case, you can probably bet the wort player is a lot more interested in dealing with it than you are. Let them exhaust their resources solving it, at least until it becomes a significant problem for you and it's clear the wort player doesn't have the right cards. You get the idea.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 2

    posted a message on Best Black Politics general?
    If you had a land equilibrium and I knew one or more of the other decks was a ramp deck (say wort, the raidmother) and my deck wasn't particularly high-mana or had a lot of artifact ramp, then I could certainly see being in favor of it. After all, it's going to push the wort player to fight the stax player, and I'm not particularly hampered, this seems like a pretty good tradeoff.

    And then there are other things that might not affect me at all, but might affect certain players a lot. Like, say, stony silence if I'm playing a deck with very few artifacts. No skin off my back. Stax away.

    Politics is kind of nebulously defined in commander, but personally I would apply it to any situation where you're considering the reaction of the table when making decisions. In 1v1 you're motivated simply to make the best play, which will give you as much advantage and your opponent as little as possible. But in commander things aren't so simple, sometimes it's worth letting someone else have an advantage because it hampers someone else, or even because it can take the heat off what you're doing or planning to do. Being able to read the table like this is, imo, core strategy to the format and not optional for anyone trying to be good at the game, regardless of what type of deck they're playing.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 2

    posted a message on The Boros Commander Problem
    Quote from Taleran »
    That would be an entirely new design space I don't think there is an effect in the game that prevents the playing of lands.
    territorial dispute comes to mind.

    Oh god, why does that come to mind? I don't think I've ever played that card, or seen anyone play it, hell I don't know if any living human has played that card. Yet it came to mind in seconds.

    I swear, if I could figure out how wotc made magic cards so easy to remember I'd be able to memorize the library of congress in a week.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Combatting Ramp
    Quote from Taleran »
    A card can be multiple things at the same time.
    It's about as much of an anti-ramp card as tooth and nail, or any other win-the-game card, is. I mean I guess winning the game does stop ramp, you've got me there.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Combatting Ramp
    Quote from Taleran »
    Hold on did I just see that you could top deck a mass draw spell in response to a Mind Twist on this page and you will be fine afterwords? Let alone the fact that Mind Twist is a card that only targets one player and not all the lands in play, and not alone the differences of finding one of those spells depending on what kind of deck you are playing.

    The amount you are behind is a different level of magnitude.

    If you gave me the choice in 90% of Commander games of Mind Twist my hand or cast Armageddon I am picking the latter every single time.

    And yeah, who thinks you can just recover after discarding to Mind Twist? I'm in topdeck mode, and I just have to draw a Reforge the Soul or Blue Sun's Zenith or Damnable Pact or Shamanic Revelation (lol u sux white) to fix that? I call bull***** on that. Yeah, I can fix my problem that way, but what are the odds of me doing so? Even the green options all depend on my board state.
    I wasn't trying to make a direct comparison between which I'd rather have happen to me, rather simply to illustrate that discard is at least possible to recover from quickly. Whereas for most decks there's no possibility of recovery from a geddon when behind on board.

    Obviously which is actually worse for you depends on your deck and what's currently going on. The fact that mind twist only hits you is a big difference - perhaps a better point of comparison would be mindslicer. But I think this points to mind twist being the superior anti-ramp card, since you can single a player out rather than setting everyone back (assuming you aren't playing geddon as a wincon, which is more likely the case).

    And sure, maybe the ramp player has a slightly thinner deck from tutoring lands which gives them slightly lower chances to topdeck them, but that's not nearly as relevant as the current board state. Unless they've cast boundless realms specifically, they're probably looking at like a difference of a single-digit percentage at worst in terms of drawing, and most of the time when geddon resolves drawing isn't very relevant anyway since the board state is all that matters. One uncontested planeswalker or a gilded lotus is worth a dozen lands in hand.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 3

    posted a message on Combatting Ramp
    The problem with saying that MLD is just another form of resource punishment is that land, unlike other resources, is very difficult to replenish. Someone hits you with mind twist? Topdeck a big draw spell and you're fine. Someone hits you with a board wipe? No problem, if you've played it smart you might have a hand full of creatures to reload. With MLD, short of a counterspell or a handful of other pretty specific tools like faith's reward(which requires keeping up 4) or splendid reclamation(which still needs some mana to cast post geddon), there is basically no way to interact with it. Otherwise your plan is to keep playing one land per turn at best until you're back in the game, which is way too slow to be relevant if the MLD player has planned ahead by either having a wincon on board, or a decent amount of artifact mana. You can be sitting on a handful of land just in case someone plays geddon, and it's still going to mean nothing most of the time. So this argument of punishing players for not planning ahead or whatever is nonsense.

    And the idea that you're punishing ramp is similarly ludicrous. Well-placed MLD wins the game by punishing people for not having board presence, not for playing ramp specifically. If the ramp player has already deployed a big threat or two then they probably don't mind it at all. On the other hand, someone playing a non-rampy deck could easily get knocked out of the game just as easily as the ramper, if they don't have much on board. Plus, of course, any non-land ramp isn't affected by MLD. If your group enjoys MLD and thinks it's a fair wincon, then go ahead and play it, I've got nothing against players who like playing high-powered decks against other high-powered decks. But it's not a ramp punisher. It's a punisher for anyone who doesn't currently have a significant board presence or artifact mana.

    If you want to punish ramp specifically, you've got a few options:
    -play aggressively to hurt them while they're powering up
    -they have a lower threat to mana ratio, so having answers can slow them down a lot
    -there are a handful of cards that hurt ramp players while not locking people out of the game, like natural balance and keldon firebombers, as long as your group is cool with them
    -play targeted LD like strip mine to deal with the coffers and gaea's cradles of the world
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Going Infinite and "I Win" Combos Outside cEDH.
    Quote from Cainsson »
    Having the combo doesn't mean I have to tutor and cast it as soon as possible tho. You can build competitively and still play casually.
    I've seen this inversion of the EDH mantra a couple times and it really bothers me. It's supposed to be "build casually, play competitively", not the other way around.

    Mostly I just don't understand how people could have fun following the inverted mantra. The reason the EDH mantra works is that competition is FUN. Trying your best to win at a game is a pastime that's provided enjoyment for humans since time immemorial. And as long as everyone is playing toned-down decks that don't have easy "I win" buttons, it's a good, satisfying game. I can't speak for everyone, but I wouldn't have any fun playing a deck that I knew I could win with, but intentionally held back.

    I've used this analogy in the past and I think it's apt - playing a (powerful) combo deck and holding back is like bringing a NASCAR racer to your buddy's homemade go-kart competition and trying to match your speed. It's condescending, it makes the competition feel meaningless, and I don't understand how it could possibly be fun for you. I'd much rather bring the slowest go-kart of the bunch, and have to fight tooth and nail in order to stand half a chance.

    Not to say that "playing competitively" means you're acting like it's day 2 of a GP or something. Take-backsies as long as no hidden info from your opponents was revealed, etc. is all fine. I just mean that I'm always trying to find the best play. It still doesn't need to be taken super seriously when all is said and done.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Going Infinite and "I Win" Combos Outside cEDH.
    Well, not using combo, it's the only way I can be satisfied. If I use a combo...tch, over too quickly.

    Apologies to Mandy Patinkin.

    I have complicated feelings on combo.

    On one hand, I find (at least well-known efficient combos) to be a really boring way for a game to end. I think people who are play competitive decks in casual games, especially if they don't make any disclaimer or apology about it, to be in poor taste at a minimum. I think that combos are the easiest way to win at basically every level of deck strength because it reduces the opportunity for your opponents to respond - and the tide of threat and response is a big part of what makes magic great, so limiting that ability, especially in combination with cards like teferi or conqueror's flail, significantly reduces the enjoyment I get out of those games. But it's definitely very strong.

    But what's interesting is that, while I think some people gravitate towards combo because they're building too competitively, I find a lot of people include them - or at least claim to include them - for almost anti-competitive reasons. A lot of them are in this thread. Generally the reason is given as something like "I don't tutor/play it early, but if the game is going on too long and it needs to end, then I'll tutor/play it." That is, they presumably have games which they could have won but chose not to, in the name of creating an enjoyable game. Which is kind of fascinating to me, since it's almost treating the game like it's D&D or something - about trying to create an experience first rather than an actual competition. Which I'm sure is how some people see the format, but for me, I like commander because the competition first, which creates an experience that I enjoy. And I hate tabletop RPGs because it feels too much like making your own fun. If I knew how to have fun I'd just be doing that. Games give me a structure that I can understand, and then fun naturally happens while following that structure (if it's a good game).

    Personally I almost never feel like the game has gone on too long. I can happily play a game that lasts for hours and hours. But I also generally pack combo-breakers and I can threat-assess like a champ. Which might be why my games always last so long, come to think of it.

    Anyway, I basically never pack combos. The vast majority of people I've played commander against - and I realize this is going to sound condescending as hell - aren't really at the same level as I am, in terms of how much time they spend on magic in general or commander in particular, or how well they "get" the game. In limited I have plenty of opponents that are on a similar level, but commander I usually feel like an adult playing against children. I win too many games already. If I played combos I'm pretty sure I'd be completely insufferable.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • 1

    posted a message on Most fun commander?
    Quote from MRdown2urth »
    Group hug?
    How do I downvote a post? I'd like to downvote a post please.

    For me I think the most fun of my 90+ decks to play has been Kaervek (Read the thread in my sig if you want the details about HOW it makes things fun). If you don't want to do weird political stuff, though, then my next suggestion would be zirilan.

    Phelddagrif is my favorite deck but, if I'm being honest, by the end of most games everyone else is exhausted and wants it to end. 3 hours is a short game for Phelddy.
    Posted in: Commander (EDH)
  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.