Recently I deconstructed a few of my old Commander decks that I felt were… okay. I had either played them once and hadn’t picked them up again, or I was tired of playing them. From the ashes of those four decks came a new one, with Aminatou, the Fateshifter in command. Aminatou seeks to answer the question “how many times can I get value from one card?”
I’ve never built a Commander deck helmed by a planeswalker before. I’ve played the preconstructed decks they were printed in, but until now I’ve never decided to build one of my own. Aminatou, the Fateshifter made the cut, so to speak, due to her -1 ability that “blinks” a permanent you own. If you don’t already know, I happen to have a deep love for enters-the-battlefield triggers… Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Impact Tremors?
After piloting the first draft of this deck at a game night, I found that it did quite a variety of things, eventually leading to my victory three hours later. I had basically made “Esper Good Stuff,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the problem was that I basically twiddled my thumbs and gained some life until I drew Keeper of Keys or Grave Titan (or until Soulherder got big without dying). To remedy the situation, in this article I’ll be laying out my ideas for an even better version of Aminatou, the Fateshifter, using my favorite strategy of them all: tokens!
Blink and You’ll Miss It
To understand how this deck will operate, we first need to look at exactly how Aminatou, the Fateshifter‘s -1 ability synergizes with creatures in our deck list. First and foremost, we want to have creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects. We also want to play creatures with abilities that are similar in function to Aminatou’s -1 ability.
Grave Titan and Sun Titan have enters-the-battlefield abilities that are extremely powerful. They can repeat their abilities by attacking, plus we can blink them after attacking to trigger the ability again (and “untap” the Grave Titan).
Keeper of Keys is also very strong; not only can it make our creatures unblockable, it can also steal the monarchy away from another player who’s obtained it. Speaking of the monarchy: Palace Jailer is a powerhouse in this deck! For Aminatou, his ability is superior to cards like Fiend Hunter because the creature he exiles doesn’t rely on him staying on the battlefield. If we blink him, we can exile multiple creatures, and they all stay exiled until we lose the Monarchy. Cloudblazer is another all-star in this deck; drawing two cards each time we blink it should keep our hand full well into the late game. The life gain is nice, but it’s only really meaningful when combined with Angelic Chorus (more on that card later).
There are a handful of creatures that care about leaving the battlefield, rather than entering it. Creatures which have death triggers are not what we’re looking for here; we specifically want creatures who care about “leaving the battlefield.” Boreas Charger and Reveillark are good examples of this. These abilities do trigger when they die, but most of the time we’ll be blinking them to trigger their ability. Reveillark is quite powerful, as it rebuilds our battlefield two creatures at a time (and many of our creatures come in under two power). For example, Soulherder is a card that frequently gets targeted with removal. If it doesn’t get exiled, Reveillark can bring it back to the battlefield practically every turn. Creatures with small power but high-impact abilities become much more powerful with our kit of abilities that reuse and reanimate them.
The Core Players
Now that we have an idea of what we’re going to be blinking, let’s talk about the cards that assist Aminatou, the Fateshifter do get the blinking done. Relying on her -1 ability to achieve this effect can work, but full reliance on your Commander is a recipe for disappointment.* Aminatou could die to a wide variety of things, including the use of her own ability!
*How do I un-tag myself from this picture? – Bob
Restoration Angel, Felidar Guardian, Soulherder, and Oath of Teferi are in this deck as backup blinkers. Something that might not be obvious at first is that we can chain these blink effects with one another: Using Aminatou’s -1 ability and targeting Restoration Angel gives us multiple enters-the-battlefield triggers for anything that cares about that (like Soul Warden or Angelic Chorus). Felidar Guardian is especially useful because it can reset Aminatou’s loyalty, since the ability we use most often is a minus-loyalty ability. Soulherder is an eventual win condition and another way to blink our creatures every turn. Even if all our blinkers are already on the battlefield, Soulherder‘s ability will start another chain of blinks on each of our end steps.
Lumbering Battlement might seem weird at first, but this beast is extremely powerful. Lumbering Battlement can exile all of our non-token creatures upon entering the battlefield. Using Aminatou’s -1 ability to blink him will immediately return them all to the battlefield. This inherently is quite nice as it’s a potentially repeatable Eerie Interlude that doesn’t kill all of our tokens. If one of those creatures just so happened to be Restoration Angel we can actually go infinite.
Long story short, Lumbering Battlement‘s ability and Restoration Angels ability both go on the stack at the same time when Lumbering Battlement is blinked. This means we control which ability resolves first. If we have Restoration Angel‘s ability targeting the beast and let Lumbering Battlement‘s ability resolve first (meaning Restoration Angel is exiled before its ability resolves), we will go infinite! Alternatively, we can use the battlement as a pseudo board wipe shield by hiding all of our creatures under him at instant speed with Restoration Angel!
Oath of Teferi provides an enters-the-battlefield blink effect, and it lets us activate Aminatou, the Fateshifter more than once in a turn. Brago, King Eternal, Flickerwisp, and Charming Prince round out our arsenal of blinkers.
On top of the permanents with blink effects, we also have a few instants and sorceries that accomplish the task. Since they’re not permanents, they’re less valuable to us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Eerie Interlude is very powerful in a variety of situations, especially as a reactionary card rather than a proactive card. The pauper all-star Ephemerate also works wonders in this deck and is easily the cheapest (mana-cost) way to do what we want. Momentary Blink is… also in the deck. It’s decent.
Let’s Get Some Dudes
We’ve got a solid foundation of cards that will blink our creatures (and occasionally other permanents) like crazy. What can we fill this deck with to allow us not only to create a bunch of tokens, but also create an actual win condition?*
*I don’t understand… what is a “win condition?” – Bob
First and foremost, Anointed Procession is an absolute must-include. We don’t have access to green, so we can’t use all the token-creating enhancers like Parallel Lives and Doubling Season. This is our only doubling effect, so it’s definitely in.
Divine Visitation is another great enhancer, which will turn our token generators into Serra Angel generators instead! Considering most of our token generation doesn’t create anything bigger than 2/2s, this is exactly the kind of card we want to have on the battlefield. With Aminatou on the battlefield, we should be able to blink a token creator after casting Divine Visitation. Unless an opponent left up mana for instant speed enchantment removal, we’re going to make at least one 4/4 angel.
Generating tokens with enters-the-battlefield abilities isn’t a cheap venture. Most of the creatures we want cost at least three mana, since we get a minimum of two creatures from a single card. There are some enchantments which do virtually the same thing as the creatures I’ve picked out, but we want to use creatures in order to maximize our blinking potential. Aminatou, the Fateshifter can blink any permanent we own, but most of our other blinkers only target creatures. In order to consistently blink several cards a turn, we need to stick with creatures.
The exception to this rule is Hidden Stockpile. The Revolt keyword fits beautifully into this deck, since a blinked permanent has to leave the battlefield before it can come back. However, Revolt only exists on two worthwhile permanents in our colors: Hidden Stockpile and Countless Gears Renegade. These two make wonderful inclusions, and they bring down our average token-making mana cost.
Moving up to the three-mana slot, we have cards like Blade Splicer, Aviation Pioneer, Eldrazi Skyspawner, and the brand new Alirios, Enraptured from Theros Beyond Death. These all bring a single token with them, and they can be blinked for decent value. Blade Splicer and Alirios are quite powerful for blinking, considering each gets us a three-power token.
Once we look above three mana, we start finding much more powerful blink targets. Four mana opens the door to Master of Waves, who guarantees us at least one elemental tokens (two if we control Aminatou, the Fateshifter) but can usually provide many more. Master Splicer and Wing Splicer synergize with Blade Splicer, giving us a very minor Golem tribal theme. Whirler Rogue gives us two Thopters, plus it can make a large creature or two unblockable.
Moving up to five mana and beyond opens the doors to a wide variety of powerful token generators, which I’d recommend looking through yourself to put your own spin on things. My personal choices are these: Grave Titan is great value and a staple in most black EDH decks. Geist-Honored Monk should be big at all times, but is at minimum a 3/3 who brings along two spirits. Reverent Hoplite from Theros Beyond Death has scaling potential, which should never be understated. Lena, Selfless Champion is similar to Reverent Hoplite as it scales up, and since most of our token generation comes from nontoken creatures she will often bring a hefty army with her. Myr Battlesphere brings four tokens with it no matter what, making it a very strong option for building a battlefield from scratch.
Pay the Bills
We have blinkers, and we have tokens, so now what? It’s time to pay the utility bills!* Intangible Virtue is a must-have in any token deck that includes white. Panharmonicon pushes this deck over the edge to crazy town, and it enables a few infinite loops with our blinking creatures. Angelic Chorus and Soul Warden are powerhouses that can gain us back all the life we lose in combat and then some! Genesis Chamber turns our opponents’ creatures into token creators, but it’s much more powerful in our hands. Throne of Geth and Flux Channeler help keep Aminatou’s loyalty in a safe range. Clever Impersonator is whatever we want it to be, and if we blink it that could be something different every turn!
*I think he means it’s time to “talk about cards that don’t make tokens, but help with that strategy, giving our tokens extra utility.” It took me a minute to figure it out too, don’t worry – Bob
There are only a handful of board wipes and removal spells in this this deck. Devastation Tide might seem like a peculiar pick for a token strategy to use, but Aminatou, the Fateshifter has a +1 ability that I’ve neglected to mention so far; we can use it to put Devastation Tide on top of the deck. However, Magic Law dictates that we must act surprised when we draw it: After all, it is a miracle. Deputy of Detention can single-handedly crush another token deck’s dreams. It also can remove all the Genesis Chamber tokens from someone’s battlefield if they’ve managed to make them dangerous. The aforementioned Palace Jailer can temporarily remove a threat or two, especially if we hold a defensive position. Noxious Gearhulk is removal on a stick, and it can be repeatedly blinked to kill stuff and gain life.
Venser’s Got Nothing On My Girl
Venser, the Sojourner is another card we could have included, but when it was all said and done he just didn’t make the cut. Another honorable mention is Crafty Cutpurse and the “hunted” creatures (like Hunted Phantasm or Hunted Horror). Basically, we can blink/cast a Hunted creature, then in response blink/cast the Cutpurse, meaning we create the creature tokens instead of our opponents. They didn’t make the cut because the cards aren’t good enough by themselves, but the interaction is too much fun to leave them out of the article.
I’m looking forward to taking this mix of my two favorite strategies (enters-the-battlefield and tokens) and overrunning my opponents; I hope that you have the same experience if you opt to build this deck. Join me next time when I brew up Rowan Kenrith and Will Kenrith pillow-fort storm.