Here we are again, ladies and goblins! Starting off another installment of Replacement Commanders. This series looks at all eight of the “alternate” Commanders from the Commander 2017 product, instead of the face eminence legendary creatures from each deck. From there, we break down the replacement commander based on the stats, colors and abilities of the card to see what kinds of strategies we can concoct, even if some of them are a little janky. Finally, we use EDHREC.com’s massive database and find all the most fun cards for each strategy we dream up. The overall goal is to look at new ways to play some of the coolest new Commanders on the block and expand our minds and creative capacity along the way!
Before we get started with this week’s article, I want to mention something that came up regarding the last article about Mairsil, the Pretender. Apparently, some of my research was out-of-date and the interaction with Quicksilver Elemental was stated not to work the way I wrote about. I apologize for the wrong information and plan on doing better in the future to ensure I take more time to get correct information. Thank you to those of you who commented to alert me to the incorrect information.
The first article of the series was centered around Mathas, Fiend Seeker and that is partially because I was excited to build the Bounty Counter Hunter himself for my own table. Having completed one article for each of the four tribes of Commander 2017, we are currently on our second go-around and it almost feels like we have come full circle, since this week we revisit the Vampire tribe by looking at Licia, Sanguine Tribune!
As I said in the beginning, the first thing we do in each of these articles is look at the card’s stats. This is not just power and toughness, but converted mana cost as well. The reason I specifically point this out is that we are going to need to remember that Licia’s combined stats may look skewed before we get to her abilities. As a 4/4 with first strike and lifelink for EIGHT MNANA I’d normally say that she’s a might terrible. It’s almost reminiscent of the old days of Magic when cards like Jerrard of the Closed Fist or Sivitri Scarzam were printed. Then we have to look at how her cost is reduced per life we gained this turn, her colors, and realize that this is a salvageable, if not simply a fun take on the “life matters” style of commander. Her final ability speaks to the Voltron player at most tables, where we can pay five life to load Licia up with three +1/+1 counters, with the minor restriction of once per turn and only during our turn. Spoiler alert for the rest of this article: her creature types (“Vampire soldier”) is going to be relevant when we start talking about some different strategies.
Licia was in a great release schedule, with Ixalan coming out shortly after Commander 2017. The influx of Vampires who care about life totals made it easier to see the synergies than digging through generations of old cards to find new interactions. Even Kaladesh had some awesome cards that we will probably consider about for the deck, but let us not get ahead of ourselves. Here is what the EDHREC.com generated “precon” style list looks like:
Looking at that list, the first strategy (and probably the most common one) people are running with Licia is “lifegain matters”. Many cards have unique effects if our life total is above a certain amount or even allow us to pay life to get a benefit. A prime way to ensure we have enough spare life to spend is with lifegain doublers like Rhox Faithmender, Alhammarret’s Archive, and Boon Reflection. What do we do with all of this life? How about draw some cards? Both Greed and Erebos, God of the Dead allow us to pay life to draw cards. Toxic Deluge is a great board wipe for a deck like this because it works off how much life we pay into it and we can control the creatures it kills. Since our Commander is meant to get huge (also by paying life) there is a good chance we can wipe most of the field while keeping Licia around to fight another day. My wife, who also plays Magic and is an avid fan of lifegain strategies, mentioned back in the day when we first purchased the Oloro, Ageless Ascetic precon when she played Serra Avatar and Wall of Reverence and the entire table thought it was cute how she could double her life total each round. She dropped Sanguine Bond the next turn and we all stared at her for a moment before deciding we had to stop her before she started picking us off one at a time with the combo. Looking at the “precon” list for Licia, we see both the Wall and Bond, so I would personally toss Avatar in there, maybe replacing Beacon of Immortality since the combination of Avatar and Wall will gain us more life than one instance of Beacon. Of course, some of the best ways to gain the life we need to spend it is hitting face with Licia herself, so Blade of the Bloodchief and Sunbond can make the Sanguine Tribune a monster on the battlefield.
Speaking of Licia being a monster on the battlefield, red and white coloring are still great for artifact strategies, so an equipment-based Voltron strategy like the one we did for Mathas, Fiend Seeker would work here as well. The only difference that I would outline is that, unlike Mathas, Licia does not come with built-in evasion abilities like menace, so we should consider using equipment to fix that omission. The “precon” list already has Whispersilk Cloak and Rogue’s Passage to help her hit blackjack, but anything that gives trample and/or deathtouch are fantastic additions. Trample helps us plow through chump blockers while deathtouch protects us by not fighting fair and letting Licia take blockers down without a chance to strike back. Sram, Senior Edificer for card draw upon casting equipments helps fuel the deck’s engine. Darksteel Plate, Argentum Armor and Hammer of Nazahn are all amazing weapons the Tribune would love to use. As I stated in my Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist article, my three favorite swords are Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow. Since Licia naturally gains +1/+1 counters, adding Mer-Ek Nightblade and Abzan Falconer would not be a bad idea.
Looking at our EDHREC.com generated list, one thing I noticed was that black was the dominant color, followed by white and with only a splash of red. We would see that change a bit for the Voltron-via-equipments strategy, but that is with colorless cards probably becoming the dominant category. I tried to think of a way to represent red properly when I realized that Licia was not just a Vampire. She is a Vampire SOLDIER. Most people will see Licia in our command zone and expect her to be our wincon. Going wide with dozens of 1/1 soldier tokens will surprise everyone at the table. Assemble the Legion, Captain of the Watch and Precinct Captain are ways to pump out well…legions of tokens.
Since Licia wants to deal with counters, no one can fault us for running Cathars’ Crusade to benefit our token generators. Darien, King of Kjeldor may not trigger off Licia’s “pay life” ability, but since we gain so much extra life, we can afford to let creatures hit us for the sake of an army, thanks to Darien. Mobilization can also help us pump out tokens while also granting our army vigilance. Armies may want to say a prayer before battle, so Purphoros, God of the Forge and Iroas, God of Victory will feel right at home in this deck. With so many little creatures rushing forward, I also like the idea of True Conviction working with Noble Purpose for double the lifelink effects. Deploy to the Front and Nomads’ Assembly can be a burst of cavalry while Martial Coup can be a board wipe that leaves us with an army. Since soldiers tend to die in battle, Goblin Bombardment, Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble may force our opponents to hold onto board wipes for fear of our retaliation. If we cannot have our soldiers gaining us life to help cast Licia, an alternative way to pay her high converted mana cost is something like Ashnod’s Altar or Phyrexian Altar if we need colored mana more than colorless. Since we mentioned having Cathars’ Crusade, many of our soldiers are going to have counters on them, so Abzan Battle Priest seems like it will help keep us alive and constantly recast our Commander. Last thing, I would replace a land with Path of Ancestry, naming Soldier for this tribal build.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes I judge a legendary creature at face value. When Licia was revealed during the Commander 2017 spoiler season, I disregarded her as a bland, battlecruiser-style Voltron commander. But after looking at her long enough (see: since the beginning of this series) I realize that I was limiting myself by not letting every detail speak for itself. EDHREC is a great tool to help us bring cards together for a synergistic theme, but we must identify the theme first to know what data to search up. We can play to creature types, color strengths, power and toughness or even just abilities and create something that will catch the table off guard and secure us the victory! We only have two articles left in this series.
Follow me on Twitter (@DM_Cross) to find the poll where you can help me figure out which Replacement Commander I will write about next and last between Ramos, Dragon Engine and Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith. Until next time, thanks for reading!