I’ve always loved control decks. I feel most at home in Magic when I have multiple options in any given scenario, and when I can set the pace of the game to my needs. Even in my early casual days when it was more looked down upon, I’d always have a removal and counterspell package in any deck I could get away with it just to give me more options for staying ahead of my opponents. However, controlling opponents became trickier over time as I began to face new and better opponents, some of which utilizing strategies I wasn’t prepared for. The first time I played against a graveyard deck, I was convinced it was overpowered because I didn’t realize how important having some graveyard hate was as I faced more competitive decks. However, as I became more familiar with Magic, EDH, and how to play control against different strategies, I began to figure out what I needed to have answers for, as well as when.
Even so, my playgroup increased their skill and decks further as I did, and as I was approaching the world of cEDH I found that after a point I was having an extremely difficult time playing dedicated control lists. Combo decks I played were getting too fast or resilient, stax lists were optimized so they could set up a board before I could stop them, and in multiplayer games I simply didn’t have the resources to stop more than one player from initializing their game plan. I tried many commanders, changing the ratios of card types, tried going for faster and slower lists, and everything in between. Despite this, nothing quite felt right. I was ready to accept that competitive control EDH lists relied on your opponent drawing badly to win, until I discovered Tasigur.
Tasigur is a commander that most people have played with or against at some point. He’s cheap in both mana and money, has a powerful and always relevant activated ability, is in a great color combination, and even has a decent body (wink). These strengths, as well as the ability to get more value out of 1-for-1 control spells with his ability and the fact that infinite (colored) mana plus Tasigur wins the game means you can run a highly competitive control-combo list with him at the helm. In this article I’ll be discussing control Tasigur and highlighting my semi-budget cEDH list. This list isn’t perfectly optimized for cEDH because this is currently my only EDH deck, I play against a variety of decks and skill levels, and I also have budgetary restrictions. However, I’ve played this deck against many well-tuned cEDH decks including Zur, Gitrog, Kess, Prosh, Yidris, and more, and I’ve never felt as though this list couldn’t compete. If/when I optimize this list, I’ll likely make another post discussing my changes to the list.
The goal of this deck is to disrupt your opponent(s) enough to prevent them from winning while you ramp and gain card advantage until you can get to isochron scepter and dramatic reversal and the ability to produce three mana from non-land permanents (at least one of which being green or blue) to produce infinite mana. With that mana, you use either tasigur to get and recur every card from your deck infinitely or seasons past plus a tutor and anything else you can loop with it to win. There are many loops, so I’ll let you find them for yourself, but almost any card advantage spell, tutor, or recursion spell will allow you to get all cards from your library into your hand. When you have the combo, you can cast Beast Within infinitely to destroy all permanents, then Reality Shift infinitely to exile the tokens they have until every opponent runs out of cards in their deck. Praetor’s grasp can be used as a substitute to Reality Shift if that has been exiled, and if you don’t have either you can always use your infinite counterspells and removal to win through combat damage. If you have to use this last option, remember to use riftsweeper and/or seasons past each turn to put at least one card in your deck before your draw phase. If the combo is disrupted your options are either using riftsweeper to get pieces back, or to attempting to win through attrition and combat damage from the few large creatures this deck contains. You can also use reanimation spells and praetor’s grasp to steal win conditions from your opponent’s deck if you don’t think you have the cards to win in your deck.
This deck plays a fairly typical control game, with a large counterspell package, removal and board wipes, ways to stay ahead in card advantage, tutors, and a small number of cards to serve as a win condition. This control deck also uses ramp to stay ahead of its opponents, as well as to combo with isochron scepter and dramatic reversal. What makes Tasigur stand out as a control commander in EDH is his ability to provide card advantage with excess mana, as well as being a decent blocker or attacker for often very little mana. Delve allows you to use your many cheap 1-for-1 cards you cast early, lands that go to the graveyard, and card advantage cards, to rush out Tasigur since he covers many of control’s weaknesses. It can be tricky to decide what to exile and when to cast him, but unless you’re confident he’ll stay until your next turn you typically don’t want to cast him without leaving enough mana for a removal spell or counterspell, and it’s often good to keep in your graveyard not only the cards vital to the deck but also cards that you’d like to see returned to your hand later in the game. What that means varies from game to game, but as a rule of thumb I like leaving at least one answer to my opponent’s win condition in my graveyard whenever possible.
WHAT TO PRACTICE
This deck takes a fair amount of practice to learn all the intricacies and synergies, but the two most important aspects to winning with this deck are threat assessment and resource management. Threat assessment is always important in reactionary decks, but especially as the decks you face become more dynamic and powerful. Using a counterspell or removal spell at the wrong time is a very common way for this deck to lose. Typically, unless you’ll lose the game without stopping a card or you know you won’t have a better answer for it later you can let a lot of cards resolve and rely on board wipes and the strength of this deck’s late game to keep you alive. Resource management is likely the most difficult part of this deck, as you’ll need to both build value to eventually stabilize as well as leave mana up to answer threats. A lot of what this comes down to is knowing your opponent’s deck as well as knowing how badly you need to be progressing your board. Tasigur makes this somewhat easier, as he can be cast for cheap to leave mana open and his ability can be used at the end of your opponent’s turn. However, playing him intelligently requires you to learn when to pay more mana for Tasigur to leave things in your graveyard as well as when to use his ability at times other than your opponent’s end step.
The rest of this article will be brief discussions on a few synergies and cards, as well as a few cards I decided not to include in my list. Please keep in mind that my list was made to handle as many different decks as possible on a semi-budget, and therefore isn’t perfectly optimized for cEDH. I’ll try to mention when I made choices because of that, and a few possible alternatives.
-Dramatic Reversal & Isochron Scepter: I chose this combo over Palinchron partially because my lands aren’t optimized, partially because this combo takes less mana to initiate, partially because both cards have some use on their own in the deck, and mostly because I don’t have Palinchron or Phantasmal Image and didn’t want to dish out an extra 40 dollars when I already had to buy so many other pieces. Isochron Scepter works great with tutors, counterspells, and removal, though keep in mind that using it in this way means you’ll have to destroy and return isochron scepter in order to combo off after. However, if you’re getting enough value from the scepter, your opponents will want to destroy it as much as you! Dramatic reversal is far less useful on its own, but it can occasionally serve as ramp, and you can use it to get extra deathrite shaman or top activations, or just as a combat trick.
-Razaketh & Life // Death: In this deck, Razaketh is often played to win the game, as he can easily tutor for every combo piece in your deck plus counterspell protection if needed. While this deck rarely has enough creatures to sacrifice to allow for that, the life side of life // death allows you to use your lands as extra creatures, and if you tap them before sacrificing them you can still use the mana to cast your combo pieces. If you have no mana rocks in play and tutor for Mana Vault and a signet, you only need three colorless mana to play your full combo including activating isochron (or 3 colorless and a green if you need to cast Life//Death). While dedicating to sacrificing your lands for a chance at your combo is risky, if you time it right you can feel very safe doing it.
-Eldritch Evolution: This card is incredible in this deck. There are neat utility evolutions such as a one-drop elf into eternal witness or eternal witness into seedborn muse, but the primary use of this card is sacrificing Tasigur to get Razaketh, or occasionally Kederekt Leviathan or Nezahal. Evolving Tasigur into Razaketh often allows you to combo off the same turn you get him due to the massive cost reduction, and when you get infinite mana you’ll be able to play Tasigur again anyways. Kederekt Leviathan is mostly tutored for against Voltron or other aggressive decks, while Nezahal is either because you desperately need card advantage or because you lost your combo and you want a large creature to win with
-Kederekt Leviathan: This is mostly in the list to deal with non-cEDH decks, I found that I was losing to creature heavy decks without him due to my limited number of board wipes. These types of decks don’t exist nearly as much in cEDH, so feel free to replace him with a card that better counters your meta if desired.
-Crop Rotation: I didn’t include this card for a while since I don’t have urborg or cabal coffers. However, the ability to search for a bojuka bog, strip mine, or alchemist’s refuge at instant speed and put 2 cards in your graveyard proved to be quite powerful, and so I left it in for the utility. It’s ability to fix your mana if needed is just icing on the cake. Pretty good in this list as it is, but will become even more powerful as I fill out my lands.
-Dimir charm: A card I severely underrated but came to love the more I played it. There are a fair number of powerful sorceries and utility creatures with low power in EDH that this card hits, and recurring it is nice as it’ll almost always do something. The last ability is decent for card selection and filling the graveyard, but is often best used on your opponent after they tutor for a card and put it on top of their library.
-Mystic Remora: Usually draws more cards than you pay mana, the hard part is knowing when to cast it. If your opponent doesn’t run much early non-creature ramp it can be good to wait until turn 2 or 3 to play this card, when your opponents are beginning to cast their spells. This also allows you to have more mana at your disposal each turn if you decide to keep it out, as playing it on turn 1 often limits you to only 1 excess mana per turn until you sacrifice it.
-Mental Misstep: I used to joke about running mental misstep in EDH. I was so wrong. The obvious play of countering a sol ring is in fact very powerful, but it’s also one of very few cards that can efficiently deal with Sensei’s Divining Top. I’ve also hit Serra Ascendant, mother of runes, mana vault, path to exile, swan song, mystic remora, one-mana tutors, relic of progenitus, goblin welder, aether vial, berserk, and many more with it. Even in casual edh it’s always found a good target. The card is obviously limited, but I’ve almost never had a game where it didn’t make a significant enough impact to be worth a card slot.
-Nezahal: Budget Consecrated Sphinx, serves as an alright replacement and is more resilient but it’s rarely as explosive in terms of card draw.
-Buried Alive: Budget Entomb, it’s definitely worse but it can be nice to get both Razaketh and Kederekt to my graveyard, so I can have both a board wipe and the tutor for all my combo pieces at the ready.
-Animate Dead & Necromancy: Good reanimation in general, very useful when paired with Buried Alive. Both incredible with Kederekt, as reanimating him causes everything (including the reanimation enchantment) to return to their owners’ hands, causing Kederekt to be sacrificed. Especially funny with Necromancy since it’s instant speed. Dance of the Dead might be better than Necromancy since it’s one less mana but instant speed kederekt is too fun for me to pass up on.
-Riftsweeper: This is a meta and a deck-specific pick. My playgroup runs an above average amount of exile effects, and due to this version of the deck being pretty reliant on its combo, I decided to include this. If you don’t find you need it or you build a list with better alternative win conditions, this can go easily.
That’s the deck! Obviously if you have mana crypt, chains of Mephistopheles, snapcaster, urborg and cabal coffers, etc. you’ll want to swap those in. My lands aren’t great either, the deck would run a lot better with a full set of fetches and filter lands but I’m working with what I have right now, and the deck is still fairly consistent in this form. I hope this helped clear up Tasigur’s playstyle and deckbuilding options, and if you like the sound of him, give him a shot! If you play Magic like I do, he may become your new favorite commander.
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