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Conditions Allow – Etrata, the Silencer
Silence is Golden
Welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I pick a legendary creature with a drawback, and try to turn it into a strength. This week I’m taking a look at a legendary Vampire Assassin from Ravnica that garnered a lot of discussion when she was first released. There are plenty of other deck techs for her online, so I’ll be trying to put a unique spin on.
has a powerful ability, capable of eliminating a player in just three swings, if she can exile a creature with each attack. However, doesn’t stick around after making her kills. Whether a creature is exiled or not, whenever Etrata deals combat damage she’ll be shuffled into our library. We could send her back to the command zone, instead, but dealing with commander tax quickly becomes impossible.
Being able to keep EDHREC page, there are actually a surprising number of ways to do this. The most popular fall into two broad categories: blink and bounce. ‘s triggered ability will resolve even if she is removed from the field, ready to attack again the next turn.on the field is our major concern. If we check her
Playing Ninjas withgives you a lot of flexibility. You can choose to let Etrata deal damage and activate a Ninjutsu ability in response to her trigger going on the stack so that she doesn’t get shuffled away, or you can use Ninjutsu before damage is dealt to get the powerful effects of cards like . Ninjas also pair well with bounce effects like and . These can bounce Etrata directly, or let you easily reactivate Ninjutsu abilities. and would also be great cards for this strategy, as they make sure you will always have a Ninja to use with when she attacks.
Another popular strategy withis Clones. Clones of our commander are just as dangerous, but have no downside when being shuffled back into your library. is great for this approach. You can respond to the real Etrata’s trigger with to return the real commander to your hand while creating a token to threaten a second attack on your next turn. Of course, the best card for an clone deck is . Attack with the token copies each turn to keep constant pressure on your opponents. Alternately, hold the tokens back until you have enough to wipe a player out in a single turn.
I suspect, however, that you’ve heard all of this before. Clone and Ninja decks were being built foralmost as soon as she was spoiled, and there are a number of great videos talking about EDH decks for this commander. I want to try something new.
A Voltron by Any Other Name
This is a really cool twist on an existing archetype, but not one I’m going to delve into any further. For this article, I want to embrace shuffling Etrata into our library.is really a Voltron commander. Your primary win condition is your commander dealing damage to opponents. Instead of using Equipment to reinforce that strategy, however, you’re using bounce or clone effects to keep the pressure on.
There are a couple of cards in Magic that shuffle themselves back into your library.gets shuffled away when it dies, while and do so as they resolve. While this stops us from casting these cards from graveyards, it opens up different opportunities. is well known as an infinite turn engine when it’s the only card left in your library. We can take a similar approach with . The fewer cards there are in our library, the less of a downside Etrata has.
Finding Our Champions
There are a surprisingly large number of ways to accomplish this.is among the most expensive, but, with enough graveyard manipulation, we could make our graveyard contain only what we need before swapping it with our library. is a cheaper version of this effect. Exiling our library, however, makes it much harder to recover should our gameplan be interrupted.
Neither of these cards can compete with, though. lets us get exactly what we need and cuts our library down to those five cards. It doesn’t matter if essential cards have already been destroyed, either, since lets us search our library and graveyard. is another excellent way of paring our library down to a manageable size. It does cost twelve mana, however. Winning the same turn we cast isn’t cheap either, but doing so with requires nearly an infinite amount of mana. Or some level of .
So what five cards do we find when casting? I’m glad you asked. Most important are the extra turn spells.
These essentially function as extra combat spells for this deck, letting us attack each player withuninterrupted until we’ve won the game. That they shuffle themselves into our library is important, as it allows us to keep the chain of attacks going. is also going to need haste so that she can attack during each extra turn. is perfect in this role. Shroud is valuable protection against any last-minute removal, and the free equip cost helps us cut down on the mana required for all this to work. is another free haste enabler; it just requires a turn to deal with its own summoning sickness before we can use it.
We’re also going to need an extra draw during every turn. We’ll have a two-card library at the beginning of every turn, and we need both those cards to keep the combo going.and are straightforward ways to do this, but they can be dangerous, as well. If one of these cards is in play before we cast , we need to make sure that we cast with one card still in our library, otherwise we’ll deck ourselves out. gets around this problem by being a form of virtual card draw. Instead of actually drawing us our second card, lets us cast it from our library.
The final pieces of the puzzle are free draw spells. These are important for getting us through thepile and to the spells that actually win the game. Cantrips like and are also vital for getting us to the top card of our library after casting . The trickiest thing about actually selecting and ordering the five cards is knowing which of these free draw spells to choose, and where. will almost always be the top card of your library, as it draws the most cards and is the easiest to cast. If you have or in play, you’ll want to put next in order to leave two cards in your library after casting . This ensures that you don’t deck yourself out. Otherwise, will draw the final two cards. You’ll just need to have two disposable cards in hand to get rid of. If you have the mana necessary, works in this slot as well.
This leaves three spots among our five cards, just enough to find an extra turn spell, a draw engine, and a haste enabler. Once you castand a cantrip to draw , the goal is to cast to take an extra turn. After that, you can cast and , and then on the turn after. You’re then all set up to start attacking every turn with your commander.
The Rest of the Team
In order to support and protect this strategy, I’ve included a lot of counterspells. With fifteen in total, this deck should always have an answer to any problem it faces. Just be careful not to get too trigger happy.will already make players feel like they can’t play creatures. Countering every other spell they try and cast will only lead to bad feelings. Save your s and s for removal or game-winning spells. You’re going to need a lot of mana to make the line work, and you just need to make sure you survive long enough to get at least eleven mana.
There’s plenty of ramp in the deck to help us get there as quickly as we can. Alongsideand , this deck has the potential to make lots of mana rather quickly. Of course, this means that we’re playing , as well, which pairs with to ensure our opponents have creatures in play for to exile.
With a couple tutors to help findor , we have ourselves a deck.
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This was an interesting deck to put together.is a fun card to brew around, and it required some creative problem-solving for this deck. is a really fun and flavorful commander, as well. Normally, I think about her assassination target being the creature she exiles, but trying to get all three hits for all four players at once made me switch that perception. She’s now targeting my opponents directly. Like any good assassin, Etrata won’t reveal herself until the last minute, and won’t play with her targets. She moves straight for the killing blow, leaving no opening for retaliation or escape.
I also realized while looking at other deck techs thatdoesn’t actually care if the exiled cards are creatures. So exiling lands that are animated as creatures is a viable strategy. This is most often mentioned alongside , but I’m surprised doesn’t come up at all. is very easy to include, especially because the deck already wants to make a ton of mana.
But what do you think? What are your favorite cards for? This deck interacts less with Etrata’s shuffle clause than a more ‘typical’ build. Does this make it less interesting? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!