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Arcane Adaptations

Arcane Adaptations

I’ll be the first to say it. Of all the Commander 2017 decks, Arcane Wizardry has the lowest power level right out of the box. Each of the Commanders in the deck want to do very different things, and there’s only so many cards you can design to allow them to overlap. Kess, Dissident Mage is effectively a Snapcaster Mage every turn allowing you to rebuy your spells over and over. Mairsil, the Pretender, on the other hand, is a brewer’s dream, combining stacks of activated abilities to cause chaos and confusion each turn. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist is the flagship Commander, but wants to go in more of a Wizard tribal direction. This means that playing the deck as is can lead to some frustrating games where you’re trying to do one thing but drawing all the pieces for the other game plans. It’s an easy way to get smashed by the other more streamlined strategies where all they have to do is play creatures of their tribe and turn them sideways.

However, once you start trying to modify it, it becomes clear that this is the deck with the most potential to be absolutely broken. Each Commander has its own combos that take an otherwise fun design and break them in half. I’ve had tremendous fun toying around with Mairsil and the hundreds of possible combos he enables, but few of them are particularly friendly on the pocketbook. For a cheap, fast, and fun upgrade to the deck, Inalla is the way to go.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand why Inalla is so powerful. Whenever a nontoken Wizard enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay one mana to make a token copy of it with haste that exile themselves at the beginning of the next end step. This gives you double the triggers on creatures like Bloodline Necromancer and Sea Gate Oracle for a ton of additional value. Most importantly, since Inalla has Eminence, her ability triggers from the Command Zone, so you don’t even need to have her in play to get the triggers!

For the more hardcore Commander players out there, let’s address the elephant in the room. One of the best creatures to include in any Inalla deck is Wanderwine Prophets because on its own it can give you infinite turns with Inalla’s Eminence ability. When Wanderwine Prophets enters the battlefield, it puts two triggers on the stack: Champion a Merfolk and Eminence. You stack the triggers so Eminence resolves first putting a token of Wanderwine Prophets into play. This puts a second Champion trigger on the stack, so you exile the original Prophets. Then you let the first Champion trigger fizzle. From there you attack an open opponent with the token, putting a trigger to sacrifice a Merfolk to get another turn on the stack. You sacrifice the token, putting the original Prophets into play, triggering Champion and Eminence once more. You repeat the process and when the end step hits and you have to exile the token, the original Prophets returns to play, triggering Champion and Eminence a third time. You repeat the process, and then on your new free turn you attack again, getting the “take an extra turn” trigger again, and doing the same thing you did on the previous turn. Repeat these steps until the opponent loses.

Did you get all that? Basically, for an initial investment of nine mana (six for Wanderwine Prophets and three for both Eminence triggers in the first turn) you get to hit the opponent over and over until you win. While this isn’t completely broken in that any instant-speed removal or even just a blocker can halt your plans, the fact that this is effectively a one-card combo for infinite turns is nothing to scoff at.

There are also plenty of other tricks that you can pull off using Inalla’s Eminence ability that are just good old fashioned value. For example, with Venser, Shaper Savant you can cast Venser, have him bounce himself, then use the Eminence trigger to make a token that will bounce whatever spell or permanent you want. This lets you use Venser over and over to stop some an opponent in the middle of a combo or in response to a big attack. As well, with creatures like Trophy Mage and Trinket Mage you can get twice the tutoring, getting you everything from mana rocks to fuel further tokens or artifacts like Cloudstone Curio to set up even more bouncing value plays.

Another unique thing about Inalla’s Eminence ability is the way it plays with cards with Exploit, like Sidisi’s Faithful and Gurmag Drowner. With these creatures you are paying an additional mana to get twice the Exploit triggers. Furthermore, with Profaner of the Dead you get to Exploit and still keep it around even if it’s the only creature you have in play. You simply let the Eminence trigger resolve first, then Exploit the token to bounce all your opponent’s creatures with three or less toughness.

Bloodline Necromancer is a card that stuck out like a sore thumb in spoiler season since most people couldn’t decide if it was better in a Vampire deck or a Wizard deck. While it’s included in both of the pre-cons, I can say with authority that it’s far more powerful with Inalla at the helm. With the inclusion of Ashnod’s Altar you can cast Bloodline Necromancer and with the Eminence trigger on the stack, sacrifice it to gain two colourless mana. After the Eminence trigger resolves, you use the token’s “enters the battlefield” ability to bring the original back, triggering Eminence again. From there you just keep sacrificing the original Necromancer to create infinite colourless mana and infinite hasty tokens.

Finally, the most explosive card you can add to this deck to full abuse the Eminence trigger is Dualcaster Mage. Dualcaster Mage is already known for being the engine behind several infinite combos, such as using Ghostly Flicker for infinite mana or Rite of Replication for infinite copies of Dualcaster Mage, and while the Eminence trigger isn’t always necessary to get the ball rolling it certainly makes things even crazier. The Ghostly Flicker combo works by casting Ghostly Flicker targeting two of your lands, then casting the Dualcaster Mage in response. Dualcaster Mage then creates a copy of Ghostly Flicker targeting another land and Dualcaster Mage, thus blinking Dualcaster Mage making yet another copy of Ghostly Flicker. Repeat this process while floating mana and you’ll have infinite mana in no time. Most importantly, this can all be done at instant speed, so if your opponent is doing something spicy like casting a Diabolic Tutor, you can do all this in response, then have the final Dualcaster copy the Tutor to find an instant-speed win condition, such as Blue Sun’s Zenith. The Rite of Replication combo works in a similar way since you cast Rite targeting a creature, and then have Dualcaster make a copy targeting Dualcaster. Each subsequent token creates another copy of Rite, thus creating infinite tokens. To end the loop, just have the last Rite target the original creature you were targeting.

Another way to build Inalla is go more of a tribal Wizard beatdown direction. There are plenty of Wizard cards that either boost the power of your Wizards, such as Sage of Fables or Docent of Perfection, or have uses for having multiple Wizards in play, such as Supreme Inquisitor or even Inalla herself. People tend to overlook the fact that Inalla actually has a second ability, so by tapping any five Wizards you control while she’s in play, you can have a player lose seven life. While that doesn’t seem too crazy since you start with 40 life, with cards like Paradox Engine and Dramatic Reversal you can untap your Wizards over and over to quickly drain away an opponent’s life total.

If you opt for that build, there are plenty of ways to get multiple Wizards into play. For example, Stonybrook Banneret and Herald’s Horn each decrease the cost of your Wizards by one mana, which makes it far easier to cast multiple creatures a turn. Docent of Perfection, on the other hand, nets you a 1/1 Wizard every time you cast an instant or sorcery, and then if you have three or more Wizards it transforms and gives +2/+1 and flying to each of your Wizards. To tutor for whatever specific Wizard you need for a situation there is Vedalken Aethermage which has the unique Wizardcycling ability. This lets you discard it and pay three mana to search your deck for a Wizard card. If you’re in the mood for some raw card advantage, Riptide Director lets you draw a card for each Wizard you control so you can keep your hand full of gas. Finally, to push in those last bits of damage, Anathemancer is an excellent way of punishing greedy manabases by dealing one damage to an opponent for each nonbasic land they control. When you double it up with Inalla’s Eminence you’re looking at some serious late game damage.

There are dozens of ways to build Arcane Wizardry, and every way is hilarious. It’s easy to upgrade and incredibly flexible, and you can suit it to however you want to play. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist has some serious potential as a Commander, and her power only stands to grow as more Wizards are printed. I see Inalla quickly becoming a staple Grixis Commander, so if you want to go infinite cheap and efficiently, Arcane Wizardry is the deck for you.