Pre-constructed decks are a great way to get into EDH, but they’re rather underpowered compared to a normal home-brew EDH deck. With that in mind, we’re going to do a series over the next few weeks on upgrades we’ve made or would make to the Commander 2018 pre-con decks. This is less an attempt to “fix” the decks, and more a guide for how we take the pre-con decks, and build them into something we could sit down with at a higher powered table.

I’ll be starting this week with my personal favorite Commander from this set: Aminatou, the Fateshifter.

So the first thing I tend to do when given a commander to build is to find an archetype that I think will best fit that commander. For Aminatou, the first thing that jumps out at me is Esper Control. As a former Brago player, I know the power of a good flicker outlet, and with Aminatou, I can flicker things I don’t control, too. This will come into play later, but for now, I’m looking for anything nice that I can flicker to remove permanents, or otherwise slow down my opponents’ game plans. Combine that with a good shell of counterspells, removal, and cantrips, and you wind up well set up to lock down the board, giving you time to find your finishers.

Reflector Mage, Magic, Oath of the GatewatchCounterspell, Magic, Eternal MastersBrainstorm, Magic, Commander 2018

The next thing I look for is a win con. Two immediately jump out at me. The first is that Felidar Guardian+Aminatou is pretty similar to the Crazy Cat Lady combo with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai that was huge in Standard back when Aether Revolt first came out. While this doesn’t provide its own outlet the same way Crazy Cat Lady does, we have an outlet in the form of Altar of the Brood. Using Aminatou’s -1 ability to flicker Felidar Guardian gives me another Felidar Guardian trigger, which I can use to flicker Aminatou. This results in an infinite loop, which gives an infinite number of Altar of the Brood triggers. This will mill my opponents infinitely, which should result in a win.

Felidar Guardian, Magic, Aether RevoltAltar of the Brood, Magic, Khans of Tarkir

The other one jumps out at me from my cEDH experience, and that’s Teferi Chain Veil. Aminatou’s -1 ability lets me reset Teferi, and means that as long as I start with an untapped Chain Veil, I can go off without any permanents that tap for more than 1 mana. This is an advantage over the normal combo, which needs to produce at least 5 mana from 3 permanents. The combo goes as follows: with Teferi, Aminatou, and Chain Veil on the field, float 3 mana. +1 Aminatou, and then use Teferi’s -1 ability to untap 4 mana worth of permanents. Tap those permanents to float another 4 mana, and then use that mana to activate the Chain Veil. +1 Aminatou again, then untap Chain Veil and 3 mana producing permanents with Teferi’s -1 ability. Use that 3 mana and 1 from the mana initially floated to activate Chain Veil again. Repeat this process until Teferi is at 1 loyalty and has 1 more activation available, with no mana floating. -1 Aminatou to flicker Teferi, who should now have 5 available activations (1 normal, and the 4 from Chain Veil activations). +1 Teferi twice, then -1 him twice, floating 4 mana the first time, and untapping Chain Veil and floating 3 mana the second time. Now repeat this loop, making sure to +1 Aminatou as necessary. This loop will give me infinite mana and put my entire library into my hand. Note that by the time I have no cards left in my library, I’ll have enough extra mana to simply recast Aminatou as necessary without using her +1 ability. This leads to a fairly quick with with Laboratory Maniac, by casting Laboratory Maniac and then using Aminatou’s +1 ability one last time to win the game. There are a few other ways to loop the combo depending on the circumstances, so adjust accordingly.

Teferi, Temporal Archmage, Magic, Commander 2014The Chain Veil, Magic, Magic 2015 (M15)Laboratory Maniac, Magic, Innistrad

Now that I’ve found win cons, my next step is figuring out how to stitch the whole thing together. The first step is to put a bunch of tutors into the deck, to give it as much consistency as I possibly can. I’m personally running Demonic Tutor, Lim-Dul’s Vault, and Mystical Tutor, and would be running Vampiric Tutor if I owned one. Additionally, since both win cons require artifacts, I’m running Fabricate, Whir of Invention, and Enlightened Tutor.

Demonic Tutor, Magic, Duel Decks: Divine vs. DemonicMystical Tutor, Magic, Eternal MastersLim-Dul's Vault, Magic, Commander 2013Vampiric Tutor, Magic, Eternal MastersFabricate, Magic, PlanechaseWhir of Invention, Magic, Aether RevoltEnlightened Tutor, Magic, Eternal Masters

My next step is the Esper Control Shell. I’m throwing in counterspells, removal, and various hate cards, focusing on permanent based removal, since Aminatou will enable me to reuse it. Ashen Rider is an easy way to exile at least 2 permanents, and Reality Acid enables removal of even hexproof threats. Ravenous Chupacabra is good creature removal, and Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are fairly standard cheap creature removal. Negate and a few others will round out my counterspells, and I should be able to get a decent Esper Control Suite in this deck. We also need some board wipes, so I’m adding Toxic Deluge, Merciless Eviction, and Cyclonic Rift.

Ashen Rider, Magic, TherosReality Acid, Magic, Planar ChaosRavenous Chupacabra, Magic, Masters 25

Swords to Plowshares, Magic, BattlebondPath to Exile, Magic, CommanderNegate, Magic, Magic 2014 (M14)Toxic Deluge, Magic, Commander 2013Merciless Eviction, Magic, Commander 2017Cyclonic Rift, Magic, Return to Ravnica

I’m also going to make sure to add plenty of cantrips to smooth out land drops and make my way through the deck faster. The deck already contains a Mulldrifter, but I’m going to add Cloudblazer for repeated draw, as well as Oath of Jace and Trial of Knowledge. The deck already contains Ponder, but I’ll add Preordain, Opt, and Frantic Search, as well as a few others.

Cloudblazer, Magic, KaladeshOath of Jace, Magic, Oath of the GatewatchTrial of Knowledge, Magic, AmonkhetPreordain, Magic, Magic 2011 (M11)Opt, Magic, IxalanFrantic Search, Magic, Urza's Legacy

The mana base is going to be standard Esper. More fetches are better, and I’m running every fetch I have except Wooded Foothills. I’m running the 3 shocks, and a few cycling lands for draw power. I’m also running Isolated Chapel, Arcane Sanctum, Command Tower, and the basic fetches (Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse). I’m running a few other multi-colored lands, and I’m rounding out the rest with basics, but construct your own Esper mana base in accordance with your budget and power level.

Flooded Strand, Magic, Khans of TarkirWatery Grave, Magic, GatecrashIsolated Chapel, Magic, Magic Modern Event Deck

Here’s my decklist: It’s still a work in progress, so definitely check back later for updates. Good luck with your Aminatou deck, and I hope the guide helped!