Foresight for Commander - A Budget Sphinx Tribal Commander Deck
- Ryan Scicluna
Ravnica Allegiance introduces a new sphinx with a powerful ability. Sphinx of Foresight allows you to scry 1 at the beginning of each of your upkeep. Furthermore, if Sphinx of Foresight is in your opening hand, you can reveal it to scry 3 during your first upkeep. Can these abilities make Sphinx of Foresight good in the commander format?
The Use of Foresight
Scry allows a player to look at the top card of their library and decide whether to keep it on the top or put it at the bottom of their deck. First introduced in Fifth Dawn in 2004, scry became a popular ability making appearances in multiple sets from MTG's history. Looking at cards from your library before drawing them and having the opportunity to change your draws is a very powerful ability in any format. Combine this is with the ability to draw multiple cards per turn and you are basically choosing which cards you want to draw instead of leaving it to RNG. Making gameplay decisions based on information regarding your future draws gives you quality advantage your opponents can't really deal with (unless they shuffle your library before drawing, which is rare).
In order to fully maximise the scry ability, I decided to build a sphinx tribal EDH deck with Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign as commander. By playing a number of sphinxes at a reduced cost (thanks to Unesh's ability) we get a Fact or Fiction effect (again, thanks to Unesh's ability). This means that we have a powerful draw engine where, even though our opponents will choose how to sort the piles, we will at least draw between one and five cards. Making sure to have the cards we want in those piles will be key in overwhelming our opponents with value.
The deck has a subtle scrying theme which complements the sphinxes in the deck. A number of cards that allow us to scry at various points in the game. For Example Retreat to Coralhelm and Eyes everywhere are enchantments that guarantee a scry 1 at least when we play a land or during the upkeep. Geist of the Archives also lets us scry at the beginning of our upkeep. In the deck I included cards specifically for scrying so that we can combine them with Unesh's trigger when sphinxes enter the battlefield. These include: Preordain, Mystic Speculation, Foresee and Serum Visions. If we have enough mana we can even pay the buyback cost on Mystic Speculation so we can play it each turn. Zhalfirin Void is a land that lets us scry 1 when it enters the battlefield. Alternatively I choose to include Dig Through Time, Ponder and Telling Time as they are spells with similar effect to scrying which provide us with a lot of card advantage. Since we are playing blue, I had to include some counterspells that also let us scry at the end such as Dissolve and Condescend.
A recent mechanic is modeled after scry and will work nicely here – surveil. Instead of putting the cards on top or bottom of the library, we can choose to leave the cards on top or send them to the Graveyard. As a result, considering it is also a sphinx, I included Dream Eater in the deck. Dream Eater can be played at instant speed, letting us Surveil 4 and if Unesh is online, we get to go through another 5 cards (possibly digging through 9 cards). Of course speaking of sphinxes, Sphinx of Foresight is not the only sphinx that lets us scry. Cloudreader Sphinx and Horizon Scholar have a scry trigger when entering the battlefield. Alternatively Prognostic Sphinx has a scry trigger whenever it attacks. These again pair up with Unesh to make sure we filter through our draws and get what we need.
A sphinx tribal deck needs an army of sphinxes and for this deck I decided to keep it budget friendly. This means that a fan favorite like Consecrated Sphinx will not be in this list but can be considered as an upgrade for those who already have a copy. After going through the 36 sphinxes that are legal in a mono blue commander, I decided to settle on these:
Guardian of Tazeem
Sphinx of Lost Truths
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Arbiter of the Ideal
Sphinx of Magosi
Sphinx of the Final Word
Sphinx of Uthuun
Chancellor of the Spires
12 Sphinxes (+5 other which we discussed in the paragraph above) might not seem like a lot of creatures for a tribal deck. However, we have a lot of card draw and filtering, so we should be able to get to them without any problems. Another justification for this low number of sphinxes is the card Call to the Kindred. This enchantment will allow us to cheat sphinxes into play, triggering Unesh at least once per turn. The sphinxes chosen are mostly personal preference as most Sphinxes are fairly similar, so you can mix and match depending on budget and collection. I specifically chose creatures that where sitting in my rare binder and cost less than 3 Euro.
Counters and Removal
We are already running a number of counterspells, however, I included some more which help us protect our board or get rid or specific threats before they hit the field. Counterspell,
Arcane Denial, Dissipate, Commit // Memory and Insidious Will are cheap counterspells that always manage to do their job. For spells that we do not manage to counter, I included spells that can mess up our opponents plans in a massive way. Curse of the Swine, Wash Out, Aetherspouts and Inundate can take care of multiple threats in one go. Capsize can deal with a single threat or with enough mana (and paying the buyback cost) multiple ones. Imprisoned in the Moon, Pongify and Reality shift can deal with specific single targets that might have evaded our counterspells. Clever Impersonator can become a copy of any permanent including our opponents' threats so we can use them against them or double down on our own threats.
In order to play sphinxes we need to make sure to have enough mana to cast them. Unesh already reduces their cost by two, however, we need to make sure to generate mana in order to cast sphinxes while also be able to play our counterspells or instant speed spells. For this reason I included artifacts such as Sol Ring, Thought Vessel, Sky Diamond, Gilded Lotus, Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo. Caged Sun and Kefnet's Monument double our blue mana and let us tap our opponents creatures respectively. Warden of Evos Isle, though not an artifact, reduces the cost of all flying creatures we control making our sphinxes even cheaper to cast.
How Do We Win?
This deck tries to control the board as much as possible and accumulate card advantage but how does the deck actually win? Beating our opponents with our sphinxes. Most Sphinxes are huge beaters with evasion. A 5/5 creature with flying can be nuisance but having multiple 5/5 flyers is a big deal. Before we get to that point we need to maximise our advantage. Cards like Panharmonicon and Bident of Thassa accumulate more advantage as the game progresses, while Adaptive Automaton and Gravitational Shift can both boost the power of our sphinxes. Rite of Replication and Helm of the Host let us copy our sphinxes creating an army, each time triggering Unesh and giving us more card advantage. Sphinx's Tutelage is a fun card that can mill our opponents if left unchecked. Although depending on our opponents strategies, this may help them.
Sphinx of Foresight inspired me to look at scry and make a deck out of it. Combining this with a sphinx tribal approach made sure to generate a lot of card advantage, which opponents rarely could keep up with. Having said that, the deck is build with a budget player in mind. If money is not an issue here are some cards to consider as upgrades:
Thassa, God of the Sea
Sword of Feast and Famine
The Immortal Sun
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Although not necessary needed for the deck to work, these cards can definitely add more power to the strategy, protect Unesh on the field or generate even more card advantage. The deck is fun and not supper oppressive, so opponents will not be scared as soon as you start gaining advantage with the sphinxes giving you a chance to win out of nowhere. Just make sure not to fall in the pitfalls of a mono blue strategy, countering every spell each opponent plays. That is a good way to make you an enemy number one at the table, so be sure to talk and negotiate with other players on various threats.
What do you think about the deck? Is scrying powerful enough in commander? What are suggestions to make the deck more competitive?
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