Last weekend, I got hit with a Lord of Tresserhorn. This doesn’t happen to me every weekend, or even every year. As many of you know, I’m a big proponent of winning via Commander damage, so it’s probably the sort of thing I deserve. It was the way it happened that got me thinking, though. My friend Ryan had cast Artful Dodge on his Lord of Tresserhorn to sneak it past my army of green and white creatures, which was a bit new to me. After all, “10-4 Good Buddy” and Artful Dodge are well divorced from each other chronologically, and only the very brave dare to dance with the Lord of Tresserhorn, so this isn’t happening every day.
It got me thinking, though—what Commanders would benefit from this kind of special treatment? Who deserves to be snuck through enemy lines for a high benefit?
Why, it’s Yidris, of course! So often I see Yidris played as a Wheel of Fortune combo deck or a Paradox-Engine-fueled storm combo deck and frankly, I don’t find those approaches terribly entertaining. After all, they mostly lead to long turns where nothing fun happens for most of the table, and that’s not my style. If we focus a little bit more on sneaking Yidris through and getting his trigger off once per turn—or maybe more than that—I think we can focus on good old-fashioned value and create a deck centered around what I think of as “unfair fairness.”
Before I get into the meat of the deck, I want to share the first thing I thought of when I decided I wanted to build Yidris: the Expertise cycle from Aether Revolt. After some soul-searching, I determined that only two would be any good in this deck:
Both of these are good enough to cascade into—unlike Yahenni’s Expertise, they won’t kill your board at a bad time, and unlike Kari Zev’s Expertise, they have a pronounced effect while allowing you to actually cast something of a reasonable size. The reason I’m so interested in these is because the cards they let you cast for free will get cascade from Yidris’s trigger. Value!
So to get us back on track, how are we going to get Yidris through? Well, we have a few options:
These are your one-shot effects to sneak Yidris behind enemy lines. Well, more accurately, they are two-shot effects. I’ve chosen them because they’re your most efficient options in terms of mana and cards spent. Flashback and rebound also act as decent fail-safes in case you cascade into these cards at an inopportune time.
Then you have your more permanent effects, in the form of either repeatable activations or attachments. Rogue’s Passage and Whispersilk Cloak are fairly common, and Thassa shows up plenty in blue decks, but Aqueous Form hasn’t seen much light since the Theros Draft format disappeared from our collective memory. I like it because it’s mana-efficient, but also because the scry gives you a little control over your cascade-related destiny.
I’ll take this moment to point out that I’m not going all-in on top-of-library manipulation. You won’t see Sensei’s Divining Top, Soothsaying, or Scroll Rack in this list. That’s just because I prefer to let the randomness of cascade do its good work instead of rigging the wheel to spin how I want it to spin. After all, the hits are much more fun when there’s some danger of a miss!
Okay, this may not be the best card in the world, but I just couldn’t resist slotting this in. Imagine Yidris, a four-armed Ogre Wizard who wields the power of the maelstrom, running across the battlefield with a bowl of soup cradled in his arms. “Comin’ through!”
So, step one is getting Yidris through. What do you want to do once he gets there? Well, ideally, you’d like to have him hit your opponent more than once. That’ll help you win in a couple ways. First, it helps you work toward a Commander damage kill and second, it gives you more triggers! More triggers mean more instances of cascade on anything you cast from your hand, which should help you get a leg up.
These are two easy ways to get Yidris into double-strike mode. As long as you’ve already given Yidris a good way to sneak through, this will really put fear into the rest of the table, so it’s a good thing that you should be able to generate a powerful board shortly after this.
On its surface, this seems worse than your double strike enablers. But when considered in conjunction with double strike, it makes more sense—with Strionic Resonator and double strike, you can get 3 triggers in a single turn! Of course, you only have 2 cards that give double strike to Yidris, but this will be a decent replacement for one of those in a pinch. Plus, you have other triggers!
Of course, double strike isn’t the only way to get more triggers out of Yidris. You just have to find other ways to break the rules—if you can’t get Yidris to hit more than twice each combat, you just need to make combat happen more than once per turn.
This is your suite of extra combat effects. Hellkite Charger would have the capacity to go infinite in this build, so I benched it for my build. These four are all great cards to cascade into post-combat, and World at War and Savage Beating both come back for a second run once they’ve done their thing, which helps you get the cascade machine rolling even harder in the future.
So if you’re not relying on Paradox Engine to generate stupid amounts of mana, how are you taking advantage of all these cascade triggers? Well, you have a few ways.
Both of these allow you to untap your land after hitting. Pretty simple, but it’s worth noting these are the reason I don’t play Hellkite Charger or Aggravated Assault in this build. Infinite attacks just aren’t my way of doing things in Commander.
These are the cards you want to have cascade. They don’t always have an immediate impact, so it’s best to get some additional value from them. That being said, once Yidris is up and running, these are fantastic. More spells per turn means more cascades per turn, and that just means more value, which is why we’re all here.
So with all of this crazy stuff in the deck, how do you actually win the game? I mean, maybe you can kill one player with Yidris, but beyond that, how are you going to take over in the late game? Well, you have a few options that I think are pretty reasonable.
Xenagos is great at amplifying the threat level of Yidris. With the ability to sneak through undetected and a doubled power level, Yidris can end the game for another player in 3 swings, or 2 if it’s got double strike. Of course, with sufficient support, this could all happen in a single turn.
You have a moderate army of creatures—some utility-focused and some battle-focused—but you should see a lot of them on the battlefield a lot of the time thanks to all the cascading. Sun Quan gives you a nice way to sneak not just Yidris, but your whole team through to finish an opponent off.
This is one of my favorite cards from Commander 2015, and if you’re wondering, it’s by far my favorite Goat. Pathbreaker Ibex turns that army of medium-sized creatures into an army of beatdown machines, but it doesn’t do so with the ruthless efficiency of Craterhoof Behemoth. (It also doesn’t have GGG in its cost, which is about 30% of why it’s here instead of Craterhoof.) As long as you have something beefy on the battlefield, Pathbreaker Ibex can make ten creatures feel like a hundred.
You may already know how much fun it is to cast Torrential Gearhulk, but you may not know how much fun it is to target something like (EDIT: removed the sorceries I accidentally listed, sorry! -Eric) Dig Through Time with it.
When all else fails, use other peoples’ cards. The Primordials cost more, but you know what you’ll get with them. Gonti is cheaper up front but requires payment later and has an added aspect of randomness. In any case, all three are great ways to reach outside your 99 and find something you need but won’t ordinarily have.
That’s all the discussion for this week. Here’s the list, along with The Bench—10 cards that didn’t make my list that might be helpful as replacements for cards you don’t have or inspiration for your own original build. See you next time!