Sometimes all it takes to make something old new again is a little time away. I’ve found that to be true with the old Theros block gods. A few weeks ago I wrote about Phenax, and this week I’ve got another deck based around one of those gods – and the theme resonates with this philosophy as well.
Ephara loves creatures that take a little time off the battlefield, which is to say, she’s all about that blink theme. Blink decks have gotten some significant upgrades since Fate Reforged came out, so I think it’s a good time to revisit Ephara and see just how much card advantage we can eke out. To be clear, here’s what we need to build a solid Ephara deck:
- Blink effects, especially repeatable ones that we can use outside our own turn.
- Creatures that will give us extra value for blinking them – so, ones with good enters or leaves the battlefield effects.
- Additional effects that will put creatures on the battlefield outside our own turn.
- The usual suite of disruptive options, mana rocks, and so on.
Let’s start by talking about blink effects. Creatures that blink other creatures (or themselves) are at the top of my want list for this deck, so we’ll commence with the following:
These are our creatures that can blink other creatures repeatedly. Angel of Condemnation doubles as removal if you’re willing to exert it, but the creatures you get rid of only stay gone for so long. Brago is often found as the Commander of blink decks, but since we’re focusing on the card advantage from Ephara’s trigger, he’s here in the 99 instead. Deadeye Navigator is one of the more obnoxious blink engines available, but if your group doesn’t pack instant speed removal or counterspells, they’ll have to learn somehow (or if your group doesn’t find it fun, it’s best to cut it). Eldrazi Displacer and Mistmeadow Witch are also easy to repeat, albeit in a slower, more costly way. Soulherder triggers at the end of each of your turns but doesn’t require any further mana investment, making it a really reliable option.
These are one-off blink options, but they’re still useful. Charming Prince and Flickerwisp return the creature at the beginning of the next end step, which can be useful to set up a chain of Ephara triggers. Blink one of these with the other (or Mistmeadow Witch, Angel of Condemnation, or any of the other “beginning of the next end step” options) and when it comes back, use it to blink another creature. That won’t come back until the end step of the next turn, guaranteeing you an Ephara trigger the following turn. If you do this with the Prince and Flickerwisp, you can keep the chain going indefinitely barring removal (or running out of cards in your library, I suppose.) Restoration Angel is more useful for getting additional value out of ETB triggers immediately.
Saltskitter is, quite possibly, the best way to get reliable Ephara triggers. As long as your opponents commit creatures to the battlefield, Saltskitter will do its best impression of Edward from Final Fantasy 4 and hide offscreen for a little bit. For once, the cowardly ways of the spoony bard are useful thanks to Ephara.
Creatures are awesome because of their reusability as well as contribution to board presence, but instants tend to be more cost-effective in terms of just blinking since we’re not bundling them with stats. Let’s talk about our best options:
These are my two favorite single-target options since they’re both reusable later. Ephemerate comes back next turn for free, whereas Momentary Blink trades higher mana investment for flexible timing.
Of course, why blink one thing when you could blink two? These three options pair well with cards like Archaeomancer and Mnemonic Wall that let us pull these back from the graveyard, and you’d better believe we’ll be including those in our list!
Sometimes you just need to blink the whole team. Maybe a Wrath is coming and you need to get all your creatures to the escape chopper, or maybe you’re just feeling greedy and want all those ETB triggers back. Either way, these two will get the job done.
There are a couple more permanents that are great at blinking – let’s feature them quickly.
A mainstay of Blink decks, Conjurer’s Closet has the same effect as Soulherder but without the creature attached.
Once Venser gets his spark, he gets really good at blinking things – if you lead with his +2, he starts at 5 loyalty, which is acceptable for a 5-mana planeswalker. His -1 can help eliminate players, and if you manage to get to his -8, you’ll almost certainly take over the game.
Now we know how we’re blinking things. Great! But what are we blinking? Where do we get all that value everyone talks about with blink decks? Well, let’s start with the best value of all: card draw.
Cloudblazer and Mulldrifter are the obvious headliners – two cards from the first trigger, with many more draws coming down the line. Elite Guardmage mutes the card draw a little bit but adds some more life to the picture, and Watcher for Tomorrow gets only a single card but provides options via the Hideaway mechanic. Remember, you get the card when Watcher leaves! (Also, remember that Hideaway brings Watcher for Tomorrow into play tapped.)
Of course, there are more ways to get value out of blinks. Agent of Treachery steals stuff, and blinking it is one of the best ways to get the draw trigger to actually go off. We already talked about Archaeomancer and Mnemonic Wall as they interact with the double-blink spells, so I won’t belabor that. Diluvian Primordial gives you access to other players’ spells, while Sun Titan can bring back the smaller blink enablers that might end up in the graveyard. Karmic Guide can bring back anything it sees fit, and if you’re excited about blinking it, why not respond to that echo trigger?
Catching up on land against ramp decks can be really helpful, and these three can help a lot with that. Just make sure to pack enough basics.
These are our more disruptive/defensive blink targets. They run the gamut from counterspells and removal to more niche effects like redirecting spells or sending attacking creatures toward different players. Of course, other players will spend time playing around these triggers when you have mana up – and that’s exactly what you want.
Of course, most of these cards rely on ETB triggers, and I think there’s one card we should make sure to include to support them. After all, if you’re going to use these types of cards, you might as well amp them up a bit, right?
Gotta have Panharmonicon. These triggered abilities are already powerful, but doubling them will make them even more impactful.
That’s the core of the deck! I’m budgeting for 36 lands, which puts us up to 77 cards in the maindeck so far. What’s the plan for the final 22 slots? Well, let’s get some obligatory zones filled out real quick:
The colorless options here are nods to Eldrazi Displacer, with Thought Vessel also being important since we’ll be drawing a ton of cards.
A wide range from wraths to single target removal, with the ability to hit multiple different permanent types. Solid!
We won’t need too much countermagic here, but having a few solid options is really important to keep opponents guessing.
Angel of Finality is my favorite blink target as far as graveyard hate goes. Stonecloaker is more of a pinpoint tool, but given that it also helps trigger Ephara, it’s a meritorious inclusion. Scavenger Grounds doesn’t even take one of our precious nonland slots, and I’m fine with having it even if we don’t end up with other deserts in our manabase. Finally, Tormod’s Crypt is just an easy Seal of Graveyard Hate that we can pull back with Sun Titan if we’re lucky.
We’ve got five nonland slots left, and with those, I’d like to include some cards that will help us trigger Ephara by putting some creatures on the battlefield as well as a couple of ways to close the game out.
These three token generators ensure that excess mana turns into Ephara triggers while also helping you amass an army. This is pretty important, since many of our creatures are not built for the combat step.
These two cards alone can turn your army of low-stat blinking friends and tokens into a formidable force. Every time you blink a creature or make a token, you’ll get a Cathars’ Crusade trigger – just make sure not to blink anything that you want lots of counters on. Dictate of Heliod is just a big double-anthem, but instant speed puts it over the top for me.
Let’s talk about land selections now that we’ve filled those five slots. I’m especially interested in lands that provide tokens, so we can start there.
These three all make tokens, albeit at varying rates and with varying degrees of usefulness. Still, drawing more cards with Ephara makes even the low end of these (looking at you, Springjack Pasture) more useful.
We’ll have too many cards a lot of the time, and we’ll also need colorless mana for Eldrazi Displacer.
Feel free to replace these with Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, or whatever works best for you. Just, please, try not to play Field of Ruin in Commander. You actually ramp the players you don’t target past yourself and the opponent whose land you’re ruining.
I know I’m making the library look smaller and smaller with these cycling lands, but I promise they’re great.
That’s about it for utility lands here! At this point, I’m ready to slot in the mana fixers and call it a day. Here’s the full decklist! As always, sound off in the comments or tweet at @RagingLevine with your ideas, and I’ll see you next week!
Commander: Ephara, God of the Polis
1 Agent of Treachery 1 Angel of Condemnation 1 Angel of Finality 1 Archaeomancer 1 Boreas Charger 1 Brago, King Eternal 1 Cavalier of Dawn 1 Charming Prince 1 Deadeye Navigator 1 Diluvian Primordial 1 Draining Whelk 1 Duplicant 1 Eldrazi Displacer 1 Cloudblazer 1 Elite Guardmage 1 Flickerwisp 1 Karmic Guide 1 Kor Cartographer 1 Lavinia of the Tenth 1 Mistmeadow Witch 1 Mizzium Meddler 1 Mnemonic Wall 1 Mulldrifter 1 Portal Mage 1 Reflector Mage 1 Restoration Angel 1 Saltskitter 1 Seht's Tiger 1 Soulherder 1 Stonecloaker 1 Stonehorn Dignitary 1 Sun Titan 1 Watcher for Tomorrow 1 Azorius Signet 1 Cathars' Crusade 1 Conjurer's Closet 1 Crush Contraband 1 Dawn of Hope 1 Dictate of Heliod 1 Disallow 1 Displacement Wave 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Eerie Interlude 1 Ephemerate 1 Generous Gift 1 Ghostly Flicker 1 Ghostway 1 Illusionist's Stratagem 1 Luminarch Ascension 1 Mind Stone 1 Momentary Blink 1 Mystic Confluence 1 Negate 1 Panharmonicon 1 Path to Exile 1 Sacred Mesa 1 Sol Ring 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Talisman of Progress 1 Thought Vessel 1 Time Wipe 1 Tormod's Crypt 1 Venser, the Sojourner 1 Island (335) 9 Plains (331) 9 Island (335) 1 Azorius Chancery 1 Castle Ardenvale 1 Command Tower 1 Flooded Strand 1 Glacial Fortress 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Irrigated Farmland 1 Lonely Sandbar 1 Moorland Haunt 1 Prairie Stream 1 Reliquary Tower 1 Scavenger Grounds 1 Sea of Clouds 1 Secluded Steppe 1 Springjack Pasture 1 Strip Mine 1 Temple of Enlightenment 1 Wasteland