Underdog’s Corner — Evra, Halcyon Witness

The Start of a New Age

Hello everyone and welcome back to your favorite spotlight series for the under-appreciated! If you have never read this column, welcome! There are many reasons why a commander could be under-appreciated: it could be because of obsolescence, or it’s too expensive, or maybe it could be because of narrowness. Regardless of the reason, I’m here to give those legends a fighting chance.


Dominarian Dominance

If you have missed it, the long-awaited return to Dominaria has finally occurred, and with it came forty-four new legends… You didn’t read that wrong: 44. That’s a massive amount. To put that in perspective, Dominaria is home to 6% of all legal legendary creatures in the game. With that massive pool, there are going to be stand-outs. Muldrotha, the Gravetide leads the pack with 233 decks as I write this article, and after her Jodah, Archmage Eternal comes up in second place with 136 decks. After those two, many other commanders are on pace to be popular and impactful. However, we’re not here to talk about them: we’re hear to talk about the Underdogs. 18/44 of the new legends don’t even have a double-digit number of decks on the site yet, and I’m here to give those a chance. For the next several articles, I will write about the legends who have already started to fall behind. If you want to see you’re favorite underdog featured, let me know! However, the first spotlight for these new Dominarian legends belongs to Evra, Halcyon Witness!


Evra, Halcyon Witness

Before Dominaria’s spoiler season officially began, the Chinese version of the release notes was leaked online. From here, people began deciphering as much of the new information as they could before the leak was taken down, and then Wizards surprised us by releasing the text file for all languages for the sake of misinformation not being spread. From there, we saw the majority of the legends in the set, and Evra immediately grabbed my attention and stood out as something incredibly unique.

So what does Evra do to elicit this reaction?

“Lifelink”

All right. Simple enough. But a 4/4 Lifelinker isn’t much to write home…

“{4}: Exchange your life total with Evra, Halcyon Witness’s power”

…about…

Well, that is certainly something. It took me longer to grok that ability than I care to admit, but when I connected the mechanical link between Evra’s two abilities my eyes shot open. The effect is so wildly powerful and unique that this line of text captured the imagination of the possibilities of many fellow players. Ideas emerged, and talks of one-shotting people with your life total made everyone’s Timmy heart sing… From there, the “hype-train” slowed down a bit. The harsh reality of both Evra’s mana cost and being mono-white tempered the excitement, and the result is seeing Evra sit at 4 total decks on EDHREC. However, I’m here to try to bring that enthusiasm back and give Evra the best chance she has to swing around our life total.


Protection from… Well, Everything

Let’s start off with a reality we need to expect once we’ve chosen Evra as our commander: Evra has a massive target on its head, and we should expect a removal spell to be aimed at it the moment it hits the table. If Evra is allowed to stay on board, it’s likely that a player is holding removal for when Evra is pointed in their general direction. Either way, unless we protect our investment (Evra is six mana… in mono-white), we’re going to have a bad time. So how do we go about this?

No Spells Allowed

Luckily for us, one of white’s signature abilities is changing the rules of how players can cast spells. Every time I have seen Grand Abolisher land on the table, it has made my life difficult. For {W}{W}, we’re able to shut off nearly every point of interaction our opponents’ have, and we can carry out our turn without interruption. Until recently, this has (thankfully) been a unique effect. That was until Commander 2016 introduced Conqueror’s Flail which is an equip-able Grand Abolisher. Costing only two mana to both cast and equip, the flail gives us a second method to shut down meddling opponents. Fun fact, zero (of the four) decks are currently running the flail. However, that’s still only two ways to shut down spells, but luckily mono-white has some tools to help out with that problem. Not only can Recruiter of the Guard be used to tutor the Abolisher, it’s also a fantastic toolbox for many of the other cards that will be mentioned later. Along with the recruiter, we can find the flail on demand with cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Enlightened Tutor. These, just like Recruiter, have more applications in the deck outside of finding these key cards and are incredible inclusions.

While I’m a fan of the above cards, I’m not a fan of non-permanents that accomplish this effect. Abeyance, Orim’s Chant, and Silence don’t solve any problems we have. If we cast any of these, we’re forcing a removal spell (that won’t be stopped), and we’re down a card. All of them could have situational use depending on your meta especially if you have a built-in Isochron Scepter package.

Can’t Touch This

Before we talk about more ways to protect Evra, let’s revisit that harsh truth. Evra is going to die…a lot, and sometimes we won’t have the means to protect it. However, these choices are not “dead” cards by any means without Evra in the game. These all still have powerful applications, and drawing them should never feel bad.

Like Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots was one of the defining cards of the format for me for a long time. While I don’t run it as often anymore (and I’ve had recent conversations about when I should), it’s a snap include in this deck. While Evra is obviously the primary beneficiary of the equipment, we can also use it to protect important utility creatures like our next talking point. Speaking of equipment that goes the distance, Whispersilk Cloak is another consideration as Evra will quickly threaten commander damage with it out.

Mother of Runes is a phenonemal Magic card. If you play white and you don’t have one, go buy yourself a few copies right now. She’s just that good. Giving a creature protection from any color at instant speed in incredible. This means we can blank single target spells, blockers, attackers, damage-based sweepers and more. Because of that utility she is a 4-of in the Legacy version of Death and Taxes. Also, she’s a one-drop. Play her.

Next up is a card that I forgot existed until I started writing this article. Rebuff the Wicked is a counter spell in mono-white, and not only that, it’s also a single mana. This means we have access to a one-mana answer to any threat that could take preemptively take Evra down. Like Mom, Rebuff is also useful for protecting any other key cards that we’re planning to play. If you’re looking for another white counter, Lapse of Certainty can prove to be useful. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate the use of these cards as I think they’re too narrow. However, I think if we look at Evra like a combo deck, we can define their value more clearly: we’re likely to hold these counters in hand until we’re about to “go off.” These counters aren’t going to be used lightly and doing so is likely a waste of resources.


Life is Right

Let’s review a rule that’s going to be important in order to leverage Evra.

701.10c: When life totals are exchanged, each player gains or loses the amount of life necessary to equal the other player’s previous life total. Replacement effects may modify these gains and losses, and triggered abilities may trigger on them. A player who can’t gain life can’t be given a higher life total this way, and a player who can’t lose life can’t be given a lower life total this way (see rules 118.7–8)

Essentially, “exchanging” life just means you gain or lose life to get to that amount. There are some tricks to take advantage of that, like activating Evra twice with a Rhox Faithmender out, but mostly it’s going to be corner-case. However, there is one unique interaction you should be aware. Thanks to this rule, Children of Korlis becomes a one-mana safety valve. If our defenses fail or we’re at a point where we’re desperate, Children of Korlis is our fail-safe to put us back into a stable position.

If the direction wasn’t obvious, there’s going to be a lifegain subtheme to this deck. This gives us access to a wealth of powerful options as well as alternate win conditions. First off, one card that isn’t in a SINGLE Evra deck as I’m writing this is Cradle of Vitality. For two mana, any large instance of lifegain becomes a massive boost to any creature you control. For our lifelinkers, this lets up continually double their size each turn (if either survives long enough for that to happen.) As for our commander, if you’re able to cast Evra, that means you can use both its ability and Cradle’s ability in the same turn. While it may be tempting to double the size of Evra once it connects, it may be better to spread the love so as to avoid a massive blowout… Actually, forget that. Go for broke and double Evra. Go huge or go home, right? (Use this strategy at your discretion.)

As for alternate win-conditions, these two shouldn’t be a surprise. Aetherflux Reservoir appears in 58% of “Lifegain” decks on EDHREC, and Felidar Sovereign appears in 48% of eligible decks. These two give us a bit of extra reach if Evra isn’t able to connect or if we stall out. Notably, Aetherflux Reservoir works exceptionally well with the previously mentioned Children of Korlis. This allows us death-star two players for the price of one. Combine any of the recursion available to us like Sun Titan or Dominaria stand-out Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, and we can threaten to kill an entire table with just 51 life.


Peace of Mind

That is it for this week! If there was ever a candidate for an underdog, it’d be our 6-drop that teeters on the edge of victory and defeat every single activation. Good luck to all you brewers out there that are making them work! I hope you have enjoyed our first foray back in Dominaria as it is the first of many! If there is a new underdog from the set you’d like to see covered, let me know! Below is my take on Evra so let me know how you would approach them.

Evra, Halcyon Destroyer

Commander (1)
Artifacts (18)
Creatures (31)
Instants (7)
Enchantments (4)
Sorceries (3)
Lands (36)

Thanks for joining me in the Underdog’s Corner!

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Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician.