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Epic Experiment – Kung Fu Oju-Taigam
Good Morning, EDHREC! I’m Bernardo Melibeu and this is The Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual cards, effectively changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up in front of your own face is half the fun.
In this article we’re going to look at the Taigam of the dankest timeline: Taigam, Ojutai Master.
First, we need to understand our commander, so let’s take a look at his abilities:
Instant, sorcery and Dragon spells you control can’t be countered.
Observation 1: This is a control-killer ability. Being able to safely cast spells will eventually win the game. There’re even Dovescape locks possible here.
Observation 2: We’ll focus on the instant and sorcery part of this ability, since we aren’t playing red for the Dragons portion to be relevant.
Observation 3: This makes Approach of the Second Sun really strong. The inevitability is haunting.
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell from your hand, if Taigam, Ojutai Master attacked this turn, that spells gains rebound.
Observation 4: Goes well with extra turns. There’s even a infinite turn combo.
Observation 5: Taigam needs to survive the attack to be able to rebound spells.
The Old Formula
With that in mind, let’s go to Taigam’s EDHREC page and see how folks normally build him.
We can see that most of those cards are generic goodstuff ‘spells matter’ cards, which means that the average Taigam, Ojutai Master deck is about spellslinging and getting the most value from it.
Extra turns spells are great with Taigam because they can give you two turns, turning Time Warp into Time Stretch. If paired together with recursion spells like Call to Mind and Relearn, things get crazier; you could take up to 7 extra turns with one of these. With both, it becomes an infinite turn combo.
The Epic Ingredients
While there are a lot of good cards in the average Taigam, Ojutai Master’s list and we’re using a good number of them, this is not how we make science.
To abuse Taigam’s second ability, we are going to use combat tricks and become a spellslinger Voltron.
Combat tricks aren’t very often used in Commander because, like burn, they’re one-shot effects and they don’t scale well with the increased number of life points and opponents. But how does that work with Taigam’s rebound ability? We attack and after combat we pump him? No, Taigam only cares if he attacked or not, so we can pump him after he’s declared as an attacker (usually after he gets tapped). This is what it looks like: declare Taigam as an attacker, explicitly keep priority after the attack was declared, and cast any number of spells. It’s very important to not give the idea that you’re passing the priority both in the declare attackers step and after casting pumps spells, since, if you do and your opponents do as well, you will not be able to cast any other spells before blockers are declared.
We have two kinds of pump spells: the ones that give Taigam power, and ones that give him evasion.
The first type is a combination of lackluster and effective. What? They sound pretty weak since they’re usually +2/+2 effects for one mana (see cards like Built to Last, Lithomancer’s Focus and Moment of Triumph), but after a while they start snowballing. Phalanx Formation is one of the most effective of our arsenal. Feat of Resistance and Mighty Leap are both efficient pump and double as ways to give evasion.
Evasion in a Voltron deck is very important because it doesn’t matter how much damage our commander can do if he always gets chump-blocked by a dork or a token. Be that as it may, we still need to strike a balance between the number of evasion spells and the generic plus-power pumps. Too little of the former and there’ll be times that we can’t connect, but too many of them and they start piling up in our hand (remember that we really only need to cast one evasion spell every two turns). Because of this, we have some permanent effects like Steel of the Godhead, Aqueous Form and Gryff’s Boon that drastically reduce the number of evasion spells needed.
Aside from these pumps, there are other “team players” that also help us. Mother of Runes and Bastion Protector protect us against removal (though be careful when naming white or blue). Silverblade Paladin is a great way to give double strike to our commander. Niblis of Frost helps clear the way of blockers. Finally, there’s Surrakar Spellblade which overperforms in this deck by being able to hit our opponents and drawing a lot of cards. There’re also two extra turns spells for the extra reach they give us.
Now, all we have to do is add some ramp, removal and draw spells, and there we go! This Epic Experiment is complete!
Kung Fu Oju-Taigam
Now we’re ready to kick our opponents in the face with our fists!
This deck is really low on converted mana cost, which means that it’s a really color-intensive deck. We should avoid colorless-producing lands and mana rocks. (One exception is Mind Stone, which can cantrip in the late game if needed.)
While we mainly rely on our commander as the win condition, there are a few other standalone wincons as well. Talrand, Sky Summoner and Monastery Mentor can swarm our opponents with tokens while we’re pumping Taigam. Rise from the Tide is different in the sense that it doesn’t need to be cast early for it to be effective, which is great since we can use it as a haymaker. This spell is the reason why we’re not running Treasure Cruise (though feel free to yell at me in the comments about that decision).
Honorable inclusions for the list are: Tidespout Tyrant, Sphinx-Bone Wand, Skywise Teachings and Myth Realized. All of them need cards in hand, just like Mentor and Talrand, and are more expensive than the two.
This deck has a lot of redundancy in its pieces, especially in the early game where we’re short on mana. The average hand consists of: 2~3 lands, 1~2 cantrips, 1 mana rock and 1~2 pump spells. It’s very important to play a mana rock on turn 2 to be able to play Taigam on turn 3. Our first attack will do about 5 to 7 commander damage, and since we’re rebounding our spells, the second has the potential for a lot more. By the third attack we need to have drawn some cards, otherwise things will start looking grim. Lucky for us we’re running a ton of card draw effects that can be rebound off our commander (though it’s not really luck, because we specifically built the deck that way).
In the mid game we aren’t as constrained on mana as before, and we’ve gone through several cards in our deck, so at this point we’re either chaining spells and drawing cards like a madman or we’re humbly hitting for 5 to 7. Finding a permanent source of evasion is crucial here, since we’ll run out of those at some point. Cards like Niblis of Frost, Talrand, Sky Summoner and Monastery Mentor can help us close the game, as it gets exponentially difficult to end it only on commander damage the longer the games goes. But don’t worry, we’re also one extra turn effect away from finishing an opponent or two.
The late game is hard, as people start doing their crazy stuff while we’re holding a hand full of combat tricks. While it’s still true that we have a lot of card draw, if we can’t keep our commander alive, all the evasion Auras will go to waste, and shortly after that, so will our cards. If by this point there are still three players with a low amount of commander damage, we’re in a bad position. We can maybe go for the win with a few extra turns or Rise from the Tide, but even that isn’t guaranteed. If we’re in this position, remember that not all games are winnable.
I said in the past that this series is about experimentation and that there’re a lot of room for changes, but I think this list in particular has the most room for customization. From the pump suite to the finishers, there’re a lot of space to change. For example, you may want to add more artifact protection/evasion with cards like Darksteel Plate and Trailblazer Boots, or you might want to try Metallurgic Summonings as a way to recur spells, You might want more extra turns or less extra turns. Each choice comes with a cost, which you’ll need to think hard about. For example, adding more Equipment means you’ll be safer against removal, but at the cost of tempo and explosiveness. Having more finishers means less reliance on the Voltron aspect, but also means that you’ll have less pumps or removal. Which choices are best for you? You’ll have to experiment!
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! Please fell free to leave any suggestions in the comments section. Do you have any questions about the list? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know!