Hello and welcome back to your regularly scheduled visit to the Underdog’s Corner! I hope you enjoy your stay, but please keep an eye on your wallet, your phone, your foil commanders, and other valuables that you may have upon your person. This week we’re taking a visit to the secretive guild color combination of the Dimir. Rogues often find their home within the shadows of these blue-black decks, and these trouble-makers often come well equipped to thieve on demand. While our general today isn’t quite the secretive rogue that will empty your pockets, he does employ their ilk to serve on his behalf. You will find that his collection spans a number of interests, and it only continues to grow as time creeps past his ancient frame. The infamous Dragonlord Silumgar is the subject of our latest entry, and I hope by the end of this article that I will have escaped the greedy gaze of our legend with nothing lost.
Coming in as the 12th most-played blue-black commander, Dragonlord Silumgar gives us a different edge to work with than his peers. While many Dimir commanders fall into the often maligned mill archetype, Silumgar cares solely for the living. He also covets a larger prize than our run of the mill, looking even towards those that can traverse the Blind Eternities… Let’s see what Silumgar brings to the table:
“When Dragonlord Silumgar enters the battlefield, gain control of target creature or planeswalker for as long as you control Dragonlord Silumgar.”
It’s a very simple plan: Silumgar threatens to steal the best creature or planeswalker on the table at all times. Just as Silumgar lies on his throne, he can lie in the command zone until he feels bothered to move. It’s very appropriate for an aged and slothful dragon lord.
While the heist only holds while Silumgar is in play, that gives us ample time to take advantage of whatever card Silumgar sets his beady eyes on. After his ability resolves, we can take time to appreciate our newest addition. We can observe all of its facets, its weaknesses, its uses… and then we can break it in two. Being in black offers many sacrifice outlets, and if a creature seems threatening, we can immediately remove it through sacrifice. While this is one use, Silumgar is more than a glorified removal spell; he can bring an alternate approach to normal game situations.
I’ve always wanted to build a deck around copying and stealing people’s cards. The idea originally came to me when pulling my third Villainous Wealth from what felt like as many packs. However, we leave the old Tarkir timeline behind to focus on the new. Blue-black has always been the color combination I knew I needed to fulfill this dream. While some other generals such as Lazav, Dimir Mastermind or the increasingly popular The Scarab God can fill this niche, Dragonlord Silumgar nestles into this strategy seamlessly while remaining under the radar. However, our serpentine sovereign offers a bit of a wrinkle that we can leverage over the others.
Dragonlord Silumgar gets to leverage “enters the battlefield” (ETB) a bit more than its peers. I don’t mean to say that we get “enters the battlefield” triggers from the stolen creatures, but more than we can abuse those effects in general. EDH All-Star Deadeye Navigator fits perfectly with this idea. At the same cost of Control Magic, any creature we steal with Silumgar becomes a permanent addition to our board. Deadeye Navigator also lets us “reset” whatever target Silumgar has set his eye on. While Deadeye is the most prominent of these effects, it’s not the only one.
While we can look through our general’s EDHREC page for suggestions, we have another new tool as our disposable now. Recently the Magic: The Gathering search engine Scryfall has partnered with EDHREC, and I hope to convey a bit of my excitement for this development. Scryfall is a dynamic search engine that can be used to find cards quickly to fit our theme. The idea is to use keywords to find redundant effects like Deadeye Navigator.
This is what I used to search Scryfall.com. If you don’t know the syntax, “o:” refers to oracle text and “id:” refers to color identity. Using these parameters and using the EDHREC Rank filter, we can see the most popular effects including these keywords. We get Conjurer’s Closet and Ghostly Flicker from our search, and both of these can make major contributions to our strategy. While this particular search only yields two cards that fulfill our criteria, this is just a fraction of what you can accomplish with an EDHREC-powered Scryfall.
With a focus on taking advantage of ETB effects, what else can we include to buff our gameplan? The obvious answer is the ever-popular Panharmonicon since it directly synergizes with our blink sub-theme. One interesting tidbit is how few Silumgar decks include this card; only 18% of Silumgar decks currently play this premiere ETB-doubler. This is extremely low to me. Brago, King Eternal, another blink-focused commander (albiet more-so), has 69% of decks that include the Pipe-Organ. Another card that will help us leverage this ETB advantage is Faerie Artisans. Getting a copy of every creature ETB-effect that our opponents use as well as keeping a blocker is so strong. If we blink our Artisans, we can also permanently keep our artifact copies. So that’s sweet!
With our build already focusing on abusing ETB effects and taking our opponent’s cards, what better subtype to include than clones! We have a vast array of clones at our disposable, and narrowing down how many and which you include will likely end up being personal and meta preference. The two I advocate for are Clever Impersonator and Phyrexian Metamorph. Being able to copy any nonland permanent with Impersonator is incredibly powerful, and even copying an opposing artifact with Metamorph is incredibly useful. These two should definitely be included. I’m going to advocate for Clone Legion as this is an EDH article, and for many EDH is all about big, splashy effects. Creating an identical army as the best boardstate (even if it’s yours) is easily enough to swing the tide in your favor.
Now that we’ve covered a lot of effects that let us double up, copy, and re-use these triggers, let’s take a look at effects that make this build so appealing to me. Keeping up with big, splashy effects Mind’s Dilation is a massive enchantment that let’s us cast our opponents’ card whenever they cast their first spell of the turn. This is a reversed Lurking Predators, and the best part is we always get at least one trigger from it. Even if we don’t cast the spell, it slowly exiles potentially useful cards from our opponents’ decks.
Keeping a theme of reasons that I am excited for this build, Praetor’s Grasp lets us take ANY card from any opponent’s deck and cast that pending we have the correct colored mana. This is a three mana pre-emptive answer to obvious combo pieces as well as just playing mind games. The feeling of an opponent fretting over what card you’ve taken is one of the best in Magic. I got to experience that first hand with the next card.
Meet Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Currently, Gonti is the second most-played mono-black commander, but they’re also the number one card in my heart. Quickly after they were spoiled and getting to play it in a pre-release, Gonti immediately become my favorite card in Magic. Seeing my opponent become worried about what I took was a highlight of that event. I even played Gonti incorrectly and forgot about the line of text that makes them so good! Any card that Gonti takes from an opponent’s top four can be cast as long as it’s exiled, and with any colors of mana. I’ve had a problem recently of trying to use and re-use Gonti’s ability in every single deck I build.
Thada Adel, Acquisitor is another card that can steal from our opponent’s deck. The best part about Thada is that nearly every single deck has valuable targets for Thada. 78% of all 200,000+ decks on EDHREC play Sol Ring, the six non-green signets appear in the top 25 most played cards in all recorded decks (which helps with color-fixing for casting opponents’ cards), and the turn after Thada comes down she can find and cast a Thran Dynamo on-curve. That’s a really powerful advantage, and the decks she is most likely to connect with (ie, blue decks) will likely contain plenty of valuable targets.
Hostage Taker from the newest set Ixalan offers an effect similar to Thada Adel in a way. Hostage Taker can exile an opponent’s artifact or creature, and then we can cast it to take permanent control. Hostage Taker is a winner both mechanically and thematically, and I’m excited to test it out with Ixalan releasing this coming Friday.
That does it for this week! Below is a preliminary decklist for my take on Dragonlord Silumgar, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about our surreptitious serpent. I think these types of builds are interesting, and I would love to hear your experiences with Silumgar or this type of build.
Thanks for joining me for the 16th round of the Underdog’s Corner!