Narset Transcendent is one of the most exciting new cards from Dragons of Tarkir. I’m always on the lookout for good control cards, and Narset appears to be just that. Narset doesn’t protect herself in the way that a traditional planeswalker does. She doesn’t bounce creatures, kill creatures, or make tokens to block. She does, however, start with an unusually high amount of loyalty—coming into play with 6, and increasing to 7 on the first turn she’s in play. Because she’s coming into play as early as turn four, it’s somewhat unlikely that she’ll die to the initial attack from our opponent.
Against a creature-based deck, for example, you can even minus Narset to give rebound to End Hostilities. This puts your opponent in quite a predicament. He or she won’t be able to profitably cast more creatures, since your End Hostilities will just kill them on your next upkeep. One of the biggest drawbacks to wrath effects like End Hostilities in a control deck is that your opponent can land big threats on the turn after you tap out to play them. Narset is able to mitigate a lot of that drawback in a case like this, although you’ll still be vulnerable to noncreature threats, most notably planeswalkers.
Speaking of planeswalkers, the fact that Narset is able to put planeswalkers into your hand is one of her most appealing qualities. Although you can’t get creatures, you can play a deck where virtually all of your ways to win are plansewalkers. Elspeth makes creatures, Sarkhan can become a creature, doesn’t it kind of feel like we’re cheating the system?
Here’s my first shot:
I chose to play a third color, red, because I wanted to have cheap removal spells, Wild Slash and Lightning Strike. Having cheap spells to cast with rebound the turn you play Narset is important. They also help fuel delve on Dig Through Time. Whichever delve cards you play with Narset are nearly always going to be the most impactful spells to give rebound.
I only included five counterspells in this list, despite the fact I typically like to play decks with a few more. Counterspells are a little bit worse when your opponents know they are in your hand, which they sometimes will from Narset revealing them. Also, Narset can’t effectively give counterspells rebound, which slightly decreases their utility in the deck compared to other spells.
Although I do feel like it’s optimal in a Narset deck to inlcude zero creatures, I put one copy of Prognostic Sphinx in this deck. While having creatures is a negative in general, I thought the upside of Sphinx in combination with Narset could really make up for it. Scrying 3 in advance of using the plus ability on Narset virtually ensures that she is going to draw a card, and potentially even set up a guaranteed draw on the following turn as well. I was also slightly worried that only having 3 Elspeth and 1 Sarkhan to win the game in a deck with five counterspells might sometimes have problems against a deck with tons of Hero’s Downfalls and Utter Ends. The one Sphinx will help there, and is somewhat easy to find if we get to the late game, thanks to Dig Through Time. I’m not sure the Sphinx will end up being worth it, but this is my first build and I definitely want to try it.
26 lands is fewer than control decks have been playing recently, but I think with the addition of Anticipate that it’s a reasonable number. I have absolutely no qualms with taking a land early in the game with Anticipate, and the fact that having fewer lands and more Anticipates make it more likely that Narset will draw cards is all that much sweeter.
Hopefully Narset turns out to be better than even I hope and will bring blue/white-based decks back to tier one in Standard. I’m not exactly sure that she’ll have quite that big of an impact, but I’m certain that she will be a valuable tool. What are your favorite Narset interactions or ideas for a Narset deck? Let me know in the comments.