Some say we should save the best for last. I don’t know if we’ve done that, but I can definitely say, without a doubt, that we’ve saved the strangest.
With Inalla and Mairsill keeping most brewers busy, our last installment of Let’s Brew for Commander 2017 has taken a dip away from the new-hotness holding everyone’s attention to do something completely different yet again, as we take on the task of exploring Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand – or, as I like to call him, “Sul-Taigam.”
Sul-Taigam satisfies many of the criteria I’ve outlined with some of the other decks. He’s a strange, under-the-radar design like Nazahn. Combined with Oju-Taigam and the dark, vibrant color palette, the storytelling through alternate timeline and art is reminiscent of Licia. And, much like O-Kagachi, Sul-Taigam’s raw, advantage-based abilities make for a very strong foundation.
That said, there is still a lot of unsolved space, and it’s not just with his Commander 2017 compatriots. Despite its ties to the strongest colors in Magic, Blue-Black has been severely lacking in options for utility-based, “generic” Commanders that can be adapted to various format archetypes. Although we’ve seen Phenax Mill and Grimgrin Zombie decks steadily rise in popularity, other recent, less-optimal choices like the Silumgars (Dragonlord and the Drifting Death), or even old mainstays like Sygg, River Cutthroat and Dralnu have been too kitschy to fit the needs of Dimir in Commander.
For me, the challenge and task here is not to prove that Sul-Taigam can flex into any of the Dimir archetypes, but to demonstrate that synergy and flexibility now coexist in Dimir, and we don’t have to compromise our plan at the expense of our Commander.
To start, our plan begins with a theme. Not tribal, mechanical, or narrative-based. We’ve already gone there, and done that.
This deck is what we’ll call “Blue-Black Hands.” Not because we’re interacting with hand size, like Maro, but because Taigam was once Sidisi’s Hand, and because taking this word literally is about the coolest/weirdest/most fun thing we can do. Boom! A Hands Theme Deck!
Let’s talk about what that means. Obviously, a theme based around hands means we’re choosing cards that have the word “hand” in them. It means using hand-related verbs, like grabbing, touching, and clutching. It means we’re picking Equipment that can only be put on or used by hands. (Sorry, Lightning Greaves!) And when there weren’t enough cards that fit these specific criteria, I went through and picked out cards featuring the most prominent, five-fingered, humanoid hands I could find.
I know it sounds daunting, suboptimal, and maybe even like a disaster. Fortunately, between a rock and these extremely rigorous, self-imposed restrictions, I found an interactive, casual, fun, and extremely funny Commander deck to play. (Honestly, I don’t know how I did either!)
Making decisions about ridiculous deck designs like this looks risky (and it certainly was), but not as daring as one might think. Having experience and extensive knowledge of Magic’s card pool is great, but knowing specific, reliable cards makes the unknown a lot more palatable. Not “staples,” per se; just cards that you want to attribute to a design intuitively.
In this case, those cards were Sign in Blood, Night’s Whisper, and Skeletal Scrying. Nicknamed “The Lady Fingers Suite” by an old colleague of mine for their surprisingly consistent artwork, these three were the first to make the list. I love drawing cards, and Sign in Blood has been a personal favorite since the days when I didn’t really spend a lot on Magic. Ponder, Impulse, Sleight of Hand, and Amonkhet’s Painful Lesson soon followed, shoring up card advantage to manage the game when Taigam isn’t on the battlefield.
This deck also has access to a hefty amount of removal and disruption. The disembodied hands of 10th Edition’s Evacuation will be the most comforting, but there are some other great tricks. Griptide and Grip of Desolation are great for dealing with big, pesky indestructible creatures, while Confirm Suspicions and Hindering Touch are universal counterspells that will stop an opponent from winning in the late game.
Truth be told, this deck is all about timing and tempo. We want to be able to draw cards, play our removal, and dig into spells like Commandeer, Aethersnatch, Kefnet’s Last Word, and Legerdemain, effectively trading our mediocrity for something great. With Ring of Three Wishes and Clutch of the Undercity, we have some bare bones tutelage that will get us there if our card advantage can’t. Distant Memories is a card that has real potential to be an all-star. Both a Transmute target for Clutch of the Undercity and a fun sidegame, there’s a good chance our opponent(s) will have no idea what we’re doing, even if they’re familiar with our plan, so we can really play to our strengths – picking a card that could be great for our plan, knowing that if they don’t want to give it to us, we can draw into a similar spell.
While I think this deck’s biggest strength is its potential for underestimation, I do have a simple set of goals in mind: to have many laughs, to have enough wins to keep the deck together, and to demonstrate Taigam’s extreme design flexibility. I see Sul-Taigam as the “fun uncle” to The Scarab God in terms of the casual/competitive metagame moving forward, and I believe Taigam’s popularity will grow, no matter which design direction you take it.