Ephara, God of the Polis

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Post by WizardMN » 1 year ago

Ephara, God of the Polis

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Ephara, God of the Polis
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Introduction
This deck allows for something different with blue based control than just countering everything. Traditional blue based control typically expects to counter everything and bounce everything while continuing to draw a bunch of cards to always have gas. This deck goes in a different direction where the majority of the control elements are on creatures. While control is rarely fun to play against, this deck being light on counterspells makes it a little more tolerable.

The approach of this deck also allows it to function better in EDH than "traditional" blue based control. As many who play multiplayer EDH will attest, a true control deck is very hard to pull off. This is due to the game essentially becoming 1v3 which means, as control players, we just don't have the resources necessary to truly control the game.

That is not to say it is impossible, but this deck wants to play more of a tempo role. We allow things to happen and handle the resulting board state, and stack, when we need to. But this deck is not going to stop our opponents from doing everything. In fact, as you will see with a lot of card choices, we expressly want our opponents to try to build a board state and then just handle the board all at once. Which is why the introduction of White into the mix is such a powerful addition to the blue control cards.

Ephara stood out for being a draw engine and still allowing for a control game while focusing on creatures. This particular build relies on Flash creatures while remaining pretty light on any sort of Stax or Hatebear type elements. She also allows for a decent beater on her own. And, with Indestructible. she is tough to deal with.

Since creatures are the bulk of the control elements, and since we want them to have Flash, the cards to include in the deck are somewhat limited. But, there are a lot of powerful cards that fit the criteria for the deck so the bar is still pretty high for inclusion. Being a creature and having Flash aren't, on their own, enough to make the cut. And, the build still makes use out of plenty of creatures without Flash so not having Flash isn't enough to disregard a card either.
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Deck History
A long time ago, when I first started with EDH, I built a Rasputin Dreamweaver deck as my first UW deck. It was, in all honesty, pretty bad. I went pretty deep in on Instants and Sorceries with things like Archaeomancer and Scrivener to get them back. And then a few X spells to make use of the mana from Rasputin. It never quite worked the way I wanted it to and I wasn't the strongest deck builder at the time so I ended up taking it apart.

After quite a bit of time where I no longer had a blue control deck, I decided to build Thassa, God of the Sea. She was built with a more traditional blue mindset with a plethora of counterspells but also had a bit of a Voltron theme to it as she was the win condition. It was fun for me, but not so much for my opponents. It tended to be somewhat tough to deal with.

So, I revisited the idea of UW control and came upon Ephara as a good general for this. She allowed for a different axis upon which to play and I could build her with a lot fewer actual counterspells so it made it more fun for others to play against as well. And she was a built in draw engine which is always nice to have in any color.
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Analysis
Why You Should Play this Deck
  • You enjoy playing control
  • You like consistently drawing more than one card a turn
  • You like playing on other players' turns
  • You enjoy long, grindy games of Magic
  • Hones your threat assessment and board evaluation to become a better player overall
Why You Shouldn't Play this Deck
  • You don't like needing to be the person with the answers
  • You can't handle being patient with your answers
  • You want games to end quickly
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Strengths
The deck is filled with answers for a variety of situations and Ephara works to keep our hand full to make sure we have the answers in our hand at the right time. No matter what our opponents are doing, we will very often have something to stop them or, at least, slow them down. This allows the deck to play for the long game and be resilient against a number of different strategies.

Because our answers are often in the form of creatures, this gives us a lot of reach throughout the game. In some blue control decks, the control game is based mostly on Instants and Sorceries which leaves the pilot vulnerable to anything that actually resolves. In this deck, since creatures are plentiful, we get to use them as answers while also being able to use them for chump blockers as needed to save our life total.

Since a lot of our more reactive stuff has Flash or are Instants, we have the benefit of acting exactly when we want to. We don't need to tap out early and we can wait to see what other people do and then respond to it. We should always be able to keep up mana in order to answer any relevant threats that might come up.

And, finally, the deck allows for a number of substitutions based on the pilot's own meta. Because White has a lot of cards that answer a lot of different strategies, and Blue keeps our hand full, players can tweak this deck to include certain cards that work better in their meta. If there is something in the list that doesn't do as much in your meta, it is easily to swap it out for something better.
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Weaknesses
Because we are a control deck, even one based on creatures, we are still somewhat slow. We don't have the luxury of becoming aggressive to fight another aggressive deck. We do have answers, such as wraths and fogs, to help out, but those only do so much. If there are a couple aggro decks in the game, it could be tough to reign them all in. Importantly, enough one exceptionally fast aggressive deck can spell trouble if we don't have the right cards. Generally, this comes down to whether that player thinks we are a threat and we won't have a huge board state in the early game very often so we might be able to play a little politics to get them to attack someone else. But it is something worth watching for.

Our win conditions are our creatures so if we need to wrath, or an opponent wraths, it can set us back. This doesn't necessarily spell the end of the game for us since we can rebuild, but it can affect our overall game plan if our creatures keep getting blown up.

We don't have a lot to really protect our life total and we often have cards of our own that affect our life total (such as Mana Crypt and Ancient Tomb) which means that we very often get to a low life total in many games. This leads to being on the edge of losing for a few turns which can affect the choices we make. As such, the choices made before this point are very important and there are times when one might act too early or act too late which can cause problems in the later game.
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Alternate Generals
  • Brago, King Eternal - Because we have a lot of creatures with ETB triggers, Brago is another general who works well with creatures that can double up on ETB triggers. Since we are trying to time our creatures for a more control role, Brago doesn't work as well since he wants to blink for value but if that is a more desired play style, it wouldn't be too hard to modify the deck to play better with Brago.
  • Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage - Raff still allows for playing a similar game to Ephara while also being able to expand from just creatures and instants into Artifacts and anything Legendary (including Planeswalkers). It means you can still hold up mana and then flash in a Planeswalker for use on your own turn that you can then protect without having to spend mana up front and hope it survives the turn cycle.
  • Baral, Chief of Compliance - While this gets rid of White as a color, it does allow for a further expansion of Instants and Sorceries to have more of a "traditional" control role. Baral is cheap, makes other things cheaper, and allows for card filtering.
  • Niv-Mizzet, Parun - This swaps White for Red which can give more card draw, and more damage spells which allows for a better answer against established board states. Niv being 6 colored mana means he is even slower but if he lands, he is tough to deal with and can keep your hand full much better than Ephara can.
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Current Decklist

General (1)


1 Ephara, God of the Polis

Enchantments (1)


1 Land Tax
Approximate Total Cost:

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Card Choices
Lands
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Lands

  • Adarkar Wastes, Glacial Fortress, Hallowed Fountain, Irrigated Farmland, Mystic Gate, Nimbus Maze, Prairie Stream, & Tundra - Duals and mana fixing. The ones that produce colorless mana are also important for Eldrazi Displacer.
  • Ancient Tomb - Only colorless but helps us ramp. It is often a necessity to keep up with the rest of the table.
  • Emeria, the Sky Ruin - An easy way to recur creatures in the graveyard. Since it is a land, it doesn't take much room in the deck and doesn't really slow things down.
  • Kor Haven - A colorless mana source that also fogs a creature as needed.
  • Maze of Ith - Helps stop the biggest creature coming at us from dealing damage to us. It doesn't tap for mana
  • Mystic Sanctuary - This is just a recursion spell stapled to a land. It does introduce some odd sequencing if we don't have our 3 Islands yet, but the effect it has can be pretty good to get us a much needed spell back to our hand.
  • Reliquary Tower - This deck tends to draw a lot of cards and wants colorless mana for Eldrazi Displace. While I don't advocate going overboard with no max hand size effects, this one works well in this deck.
  • Temple of the False God - This is here as basically Ancient Tomb number two so the same principles apply here as to the Tomb
  • Terrain Generator - Since we often draw cards on other players' turns, we can use this to get a "free" land drop with any open mana we may have. Also, again, the colorless mana works with Displacer.
  • Winding Canyons - We are still a creature heavy deck but about half the creatures are without Flash. This gives us a way to flash things in when we want and to get an extra card draw out of the deal. And since it is a land, it takes up little in the way of the deck which is why this is preferable over something like Vedalken Orrery or Leyline of Anticipation.
Creatures
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Creatures

  • Angel of Finality - Grave hate is important in a lot of match ups and there isn't a good one with Flash that nukes an entire graveyard. Remorseful Cleric might be a better option actually, so this could change into that in the future.
  • Angel of the Dire Hour - A mass sweeper that gets rid of indestructible creatures, leaves a decent body behind, and draws us a card is very good. The mana cost is high but it will often play a vital role in longer games. It doesn't work well with blinking but it is still worth the slot.
  • Archaeomancer - Even with our large creature suite, we still run a lot of instants and sorceries and this helps get them back. It also allows for a "loop" with Eerie Interlude or Ghostway.
  • Cartographer's Hawk - This is an interesting "test" slot for now. It might end up being that Kor Cartographer is worth looking at again but this is 2 mana, hopefully ramps, and works to trigger Ephara and potentially Barrin, Tolarian Archmage. The reliance on our opponents being faster than us with ramp is not ideal though so testing will hopefully show if it is worth it.
  • Charming Prince - This is a cheap creature that has a bit of utility included. It isn't the most powerful card, but it can do good work over the course of a game.
  • Cloudblazer - Cards and life are important to this deck and this gives us both. It is also not the worst to clone with our Stunt Double or reanimate with Karmic Guide.
  • Dream Eater - A creature with card filtering and bounce with a decent, flying, body can help get some beats in or save some important life points.
  • Eldrazi Displacer - One of our more important utility creatures. It allows us to get more mileage out of ETB triggers, get more card draw with Ephara, and acts like an expensive fog when needed.
  • Faerie Artisans - Another important card as it gives our opponents reason to re-think their plays since we will get a (temporary) version of any creature they cast. Generally, their ETB triggers and Ephara's trigger are enough to make the Artisans a stand out card.
  • Gilded Drake - A way to steal our opponents more powerful creatures and works well with Venser and Capsize. Interestingly, Gilded Drake has one of the weirder Oracle Texts out there, Since the trigger targets, one could expect the trigger to fail to resolve if the target is gone. This would mean no exchange but no sacrificing either. However, the trigger will resolve even if the target is illegal. Basically, this means that you will sac the Drake if you can't exchange it with something so keep that in mind.
  • Karmic Guide - Since we are very creature heavy, a way to reanimate our creatures is good. It isn't necessarily super important to do so, but it can help us get out of a jam depending on the effect we need at the time.
  • Leonin Relic-Warder - This is a cheap creature to deal with problematic artifacts and enchantments that can't just be destroyed. Coupled with Eldrazi Displacer it gives us a way to permanent exile stuff and exile more than 1 thing. Without Displacer, it isn't quite as good but can still be important to slow people down.
  • Mulldrifter - A better Divination (with Ephara) at worse is pretty good and can be instrumental in allowing us to dig for answers. And, if we have the mana, just getting a flying blocker can be important too.
  • Phantasmal Image - Another clone but a cheap one to do a few things. It is similar to Gilded Drake in that we get our opponent's creature but don't actually take theirs. It also gives us additional ETBs for our own stuff. It doesn't work with Eldrazi Displacer unfortunately, but the power of a 2 mana clone can't be ignored.
  • Recruiter of the Guard - This is a cheap creature to trigger Ephara that gets us a better creature. The creature we want to get will vary depending on the game state but it is very flexible to get us what we want.
  • Remorseful Cleric - While this doesn't have flash, it does give us some additional grave hate (beyond just Angel of Finality). It is also cheap enough that it rarely feels bad to spend the two mana on our turn to drop it in, draw a card with Ephara, leave it up to threaten graveyards, and still have mana left over for any more of our reactive cards in hand. If we ever get a full "exile graveyard(s)" stapled to a creature with Flash, this will easily be cut for that. But this is serviceable for now.
  • Resolute Archangel - Because our games tend to go very long, and we run Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt that hit our life total, having a "reset button" can turn the game around. I know in one game, I gained 80 life off getting the Archangel down 3 different times so this card was instrumental in winning.
  • Restoration Angel - Another blink effect with a body.
  • Sea-Dasher Octopus - This is a Flash creature that can also help us draw cards. The mutate ability is likely dependent on the board state and whether we can mutate it with a flyer (which would be ideal). It doesn't do a lot from a reactive side of things, and the deck is built with a fair amount of card draw as it is, so it might end up being redundant. But, being cheap and repeatable card draw is appealing.
  • Selfless Spirit - This is another two drop, similar to Remorseful Cleric, that doesn't do a lot when it enters but being 2 mana means it is in the right range to be able to drop it in without a huge tempo loss. And its effect is also very powerful. If someone tries to wrath our board we can crack it to save everything. Or, even better, we can crack it prior to our own wrath making ours even better.
  • Selfless Squire - A fog that triggers Ephara and can grow very large. It is rare where this is less than a 15/15 at least and it is a great way to blank an alpha strike *and* be able to swing back at the player.
  • Snapcaster Mage - Mage lets us re-use our Instants and Sorceries. Counterspells or wraths that can be used twice can really help reign in our opponents.
  • Soulherder - This is another way to blink things and it also grows very large over the course of the game so it allows us a late game method of actually ending the game.
  • Spell Queller - Queller is basically another counter spell like Venser below that can also "counter" uncounterable spells. It is worth noting, due to the existence of one-shot effects like Banishing Light, that Spell Queller's text is reminiscent of Oblivion Ring. However, it still doesn't work quite the same way. Blinking the Queller can't exile a spell forever since it will just come back and have to target the spell still on the stack. If you can bounce it, or flicker it until end of turn, that will work to exile it forever. Just don't try to target it with Eldrazi Displacer and think it will work like Oblivion Ring.
  • Spellseeker - Another tutor that basically gets Mana Drain or Cyclonic Rift. Every so often, it will grab either Path or Swords
  • Stonecloaker - This borders on the repetitive nature of things but being able to exile a card in a graveyard at Instant timing is useful. And, in a pinch, I can use it to draw a card for 3 mana.
  • Stormscape Familiar - Makes our spells cheaper. There isn't much to this one but can allow us to save up some much needed mana, especially in the early game or at times when we are casting multiple spells in a turn cycle. Can also help get Ephara down a turn earlier.
  • Stunt Double - An all around card that changes function every game depending on how things are going. This is another that can often turn games around depending on what is on the field.
  • Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir - This is another way to get our non-Flash creatures out at Instant timing. He is also very good at stopping counter wars with opponents or even just stopping them from interacting with us.
  • Thassa, Deep-Dwelling - Thassa is effectively another Soulherder in that she gives us another way to re-use our ETB triggers of things like Resolute Archangel or Charming Prince[/card].
  • Venser, Shaper Savant - A flash creature with a very strong ability. I have often cloned him with Stunt Double just to get another use out of him and repeated uses with Displacer is also very powerful. At worst, if there is nothing better to do, his ETB trigger can also bounce himself. So, if you have nothing better to do with 4 mana, or just need a card with Ephara, you can cast him and bounce him to make sure Ephara triggers at the next upkeep.
  • Whitemane Lion - This risks games being somewhat repetitive if Lion is just cast over and over to trigger Ephara but not to a ridiculous degree. It becomes more concerning with this card over Venser and Stonecloaker due mostly to the mana cost. More importantly, it can help save some of our creatures from being destroyed and blinking it with Displacer can offer a way to save multiple creatures in the face of a wrath.
Artifacts
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Artifacts

  • Azorius Signet, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, Talisman of Progress - Standard mana rocks. We don't need to go too heavy on these but speeding the deck up can allow us to keep up with some of the faster decks at the table.
  • Sensei's Divining Top - This is far more important in the early game to ensure we get the cards we need, when we need them, but it can also work later when we are drawing cards on our opponents turn so, when we have extra mana, we can get our pick between the top 3 cards. And, while we don't have a lot of shuffle effects, it works very well with anything that can shuffle your library. If you choose to add Fetches or use any of our tutors a few times, it can be used to get the best of three cards and then shuffle the rest away
Instants
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Instants

  • Capsize - Repeatable bounce. There isn't much to say about it. It does cost quite a bit of mana but it is still good to have in our back pocket. One thing that is worth mentioning though is that it is possible for Capsize to not resolve if the target becomes illegal. If this happens, you don't get it back in hand since Buyback only works if the spell resolves. Keep this in mind when you want to bounce a creature but the controller has a sac outlet on board.
  • Cyclonic Rift - The quintessential blue mass bounce spell. While there is a lot of hate for this card, it does help end long games by allowing us to attack with our army of small creatures. However, I find it is used most often defensively so it tends to actually makes games go on longer, though we still get to play so that is good.
  • Disallow, Insidious Will, Mana Drain, Summary Dismissal - This is our entire counter magic suite. This deck does not go super heavy into the counterspell realm because it doesn't really need to. So, instead of going heavy on counter magic, these cards are included based on additional utility.

    Disallow is flexible, counter spell that allows for an answer to a variety of different threats. Insidious Will can do a few different things depending on what the situation calls for. And Summary Dismissal deals with uncounterable spells as well as any abilities we need to stop. Mana Drain is our "normal" counterspell and is here for ramp.
  • Eerie Interlude, Ghostway - Mass flicker that both saves our creatures from removal and lets us re-use ETBs.
  • Ephemerate - Single use blink isn't often what we want to see in this deck. Cards need to be more useful than "blink something once". Ephemerate gets the nod for a) being 1 mana, and b) being able to be cast twice. It is here mostly because we have a fair number of ETBs we want to use more than once and we also have a number of creatures that we just want to be able to protect from spot removal.

    It also works very well with Archaeomancer to be able to blink something on the first cast and then blink 'Mancer on the second to just get the spell back to use again.
  • Fierce Guardianship - This is a Negate that will very often be free for us. Because we are already holding up mana fairly often, this likely comes into play more in counter wars than anything, but having it and still leaving up potentials for other plays is nice. Interestingly, depending on how this performs and the situations it can get us out of, it might lead to taking a closer look at something like Force of Will. We aren't counter heavy as it is but if a free Negate opens up new lines, a free Counterspell should do even more.
  • Heliod's Intervention - This is kind of a flex spot for now. The idea is that it scales well to deal with quite a few artifacts and enchantments and also gives us the option of gaining life. Due to how important Resolute Archangel has been for winning games, having a second source of mass life gain can be important.
  • Muddle the Mixture - This does two things for us: it is a tutor for some of our things we want to get at specific times (Cylconic Rift, Winds of Abandon, Remorseful Cleric, etc.) but it also ups the counter magic count in case we get against a combo deck.
  • Mystical Tutor - Tutor is similar to Muddle but it gets us a lot more of our silver bullets. Each game will play out differently so it is likely this will get something different each game though Rift is likely to be the top of that list more often than not.
  • Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares - Our instant timing creature removal. Being one mana is what allows for this to be included over other Instant timing removal spells.
  • Teferi's Protection - An answer to everything. There is so much this card does that it wouldn't feel right not to include it in this type of deck.
  • Unexpectedly Absent - Absent is a more universal removal spell. While it isn't really permanent, we can scale it to get rid of something for a reasonable amount of time. And it deals with nearly anything (that doesn't have Shroud or Hexproof) so it can be an important way to deal with Indestructible stuff.
Enchantments
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Enchantments

  • Land Tax - Land Tax is here to allow us a better chance to hit our land drops. Our land ramp is minimal for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that these colors aren't that great at it anyway. This gives us the ability to make our land drops each turn and possibly ramp with Terrain Generator. It can also significantly thin our deck to get lands out of the way when we really don't want to draw them. If someone still has more lands than us, that is.
Sorceries
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Sorceries

  • Cleansing Nova, Supreme Verdict, Winds of Abandon - These are our all important wraths. While there are plenty of options, these are the ones I decided to go with for a number of reasons. Verdict is uncounterable, Nova can blow up more than just creatures if we need it, and Winds exiles. The traditional Wrath of God is absent here but is another good effect if it is preferred over any of these or one's meta simply dictates having more wraths.
  • Hour of Revelation - This goes beyond the "normal" wraths above as a way to completely clear the board. While it doesn't do a lot against indestructible it gives us a way to reset things in case out opponents get out of hand and we just need to slow people down.
  • Terminus - Terminus is another way to deal with Indestructible creatures. It also works out reasonably well for us in that we don't really mind our stuff going back to our library as then we can draw it again. With Top or a blind draw off Ephara we are able to cast it for the Miracle cost somewhat often.
  • Timetwister - While this does refill our opponents' hands, it is still good for us. While it can't just be fired off because of the threat of our opponents getting better hands, it is still preferable to refill our hand if it is empty or bad at the cost of maybe giving our opponents better hands than it is to just hope to draw out of our situation in other ways.

    Casting this turn 1 or 2 to completely mess with our opponents' starting hands is also fun and can be strategically advantageous. And, combining it with Cyclonic Rift later in the game can cause a true "reset" of out opponents' boards since they can't just recast their cards.
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Important Cards
  • Angel of the Dire Hour - While her ability doesn't really work with blinking, she is a big enough body that also deals with a lot of hard to deal with creatures. It has almost never failed to turn around a game.
  • Eldrazi Displacer - This is just a cheap and easy way to get use out of our ETBs over and over as needed. Since we have so many creatures with ETBs, this allows for a lot of utility even after we have already cast a lot of our stuff.
  • Faerie Artisans - This is a free way to trigger Ephara and gives us quite a few good creatures and/or ETBs. Being able to copy our opponents' biggest creatures can help us from getting blown out and, when combined with Displacer, we can then keep those tokens indefinitely. We do this by flickering the Artisans after it triggers to get us a token, but before it triggers again to give us a different token. This works since any trigger from Artisans only exiles the tokens *that object* created. And since flickering means it comes back in as a new object, there is now no longer anything that will exile any tokens created with previous Artisans.
  • Resolute Archangel - Due to the long game this deck wants to play, as well as our own Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt, we will often find ourselves at a very low life total. This gives us a way to reset the timer, so to speak, which often becomes insurmountable for our opponents in the late game.
  • Cyclonic Rift - Similar to the others to help save us from an overwhelming board state, this also allows us to act offensively but getting rid of blockers or anything else that might stop us when we try to attack. Also has a very powerful interaction with Timetwister to ensure that the threats our opponents have don't come back right away.
  • Eerie Interlude - This helps saves our board while also allowing for ETBs to be re-used. If someone tries to wrath, or if we try to wrath, we can safely put our creatures in exile first so we are the only ones with a board when the smoke clears.
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Notable Omissions
  • Mistmeadow Witch - Another blink effect, but it is expensive and only returns things at the end of the turn. This prevents good use out of things like Venser, Shaper Savant to deal with something right then.
  • Deadeye Navigator - This is a reasonably powerful card, especially in a deck like this, but it is also another card that is repetitive and boring. If you are looking for power, this might be an easy include.
  • Counterspell - This is actually a spot for pretty much any counterspell not already in the list. This is an acquiescence to the fact that the current list is very light on counterspells. It isn't necessarily wrong to include more so it is something to keep in mind if you feel your list would benefit from more counters.
  • Brago, King Eternal - This is another one that is like the Witch above: it seems to work well in the deck but the inability to time the ETBs (as well as needing to actually connect in combat) leads to this one being excluded.
  • Momentary Blink & Ghostly Flicker - Single use blink generally isn't good enough for the deck. Ghostly Flicker has some decent use with Archaeomancer but that isn't enough to spend a slot on it.
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Budget Alternatives
  • Mana Drain - Counterspell is the obvious swap. This deck is actually very light on counterspells in general and Mana Drain makes the cut due to the ramp it provides. It isn't necessary to be a counterspell in this spot if you don't want it to be.
  • Timetwister - I prefer Twister effects to both refill my hand (at the cost of refilling my opponents hands too) and it gives me the option to mess with my opponents' hands on turn 1 or 2 with some mana rocks. Day's Undoing could be worthwhile and Windfall might be a suitable replacement if you still want the effect. Otherwise, this is one to just cut for something else entirely.
  • Tundra - Any dual land is fine here. Or City of Brass or Mana Confluence. Tundra is not something that is definitely needed and almost any land can be put in its place.
  • Teferi's Protection - This doesn't really have a great replacement. Seht's Tiger, Eerie Interlude, and Ghostway each do parts of the spell but nothing really does everything Protection does. And the Tiger is the only one not already included in the deck so it could make a reasonable substitution if blanking an attack or stopping something targeting you are the more important parts of Teferi's Protection. Again, it isn't absolutely necessary.
  • Gilded Drake - Of the cards in this list, this is arguably the one needed the least. It works well with Venser, Capsize, and a couple other spells, to get more use out it, but it isn't exactly earth-shattering when it goes off. Repeatable theft is nice, but not necessary. Being that it is an expensive card, you can either find a different, but similar effect (Blue has plenty of theft effects) or just replace it with an actual removal spell.
  • Snapcaster Mage - He is here for two reasons: recast something from the graveyard and as a creature to trigger Ephara. The more important piece is getting use of another spell so Mission Briefing would be the first choice of replacement. It isn't a creature but effectively does the same thing. And, in the case of wanting to cast Cyclonic Rift specifically, it actually does it better since you can Overload off Mission Briefing while you can't off Snapcaster Mage.
  • Cyclonic Rift - While there isn't a great replacement for this card since it doesn't affect us, we mostly want it to deal with board states that we can't just remove. So, Evacuation would be the first choice (though it only hits creatures) and Devastation Tide would be the other. Though it is a Sorcery, it still gets rid of everything on board.
There are a number of other cards that might be over budget for some players and, for the most part, they can be changed or removed entirely without too much consequence. Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt can be any other land or rock. They will slow the deck down slightly by their exclusion, but the deck can function fine without them. Mystic Gate can be any land that produces both colors and Sensei's Divining Top isn't at all critical to the deck's execution as it might be for other decks.

There is very little else that is absolutely critical to the operation of the deck so if something is outside your budget, or you just don't want to play it, it can be replaced with something more to your liking.
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Starting Hands

Generally, our starting hands can be a bit aggressive depending on the artifact ramp or whether we have Sensei's Divining Top in our hand. We also really want to be able to produce both colors of mana but, at the very least, we want blue.

Below are a few starting hands to go over different things to look for when deciding whether to keep a hand.

Hand #1



This is an interesting hand. As mentioned, Top tends to make hands on the edge into keepers and I think that applies here. While Snapcaster and Karmic Guide aren't really what we want here, being able to cast Top and filter cards for more lands is enticing. Along with the Familiar, this could help us cast Ephara on curve (since we do lose a turn by trying to Top and because the Stream is tapped).

So, realistically, we would play the Plains and then Top. At the beginning of our next Upkeep, we would Top in search for a land or artifact ramp. We would then play the Prairie Stream. If we didn't hit a land last turn, we either spin the top again to see the new third card or just go with the Familiar. Since we didn't draw a land, Familiar doesn't actually do much so it depends on what we did get. But I would probably spin the top again and try to use that to get us on track.

With that being said, it is still a risky keep so this is one that, if you are not comfortable with the possibility of missing a land drop, just throw this away. There is nothing here we absolutely need.

Hand #2



This is actually a decent hand based mostly on Timetwister. The idea here is that we would just get to turn 3 and probably fire off the Twister. We refill our hand, hopefully get something better, and then cast Ephara next turn. At the same time, since we cast it early enough, we likely mess up our opponents plans for the hands they have.

Obviously our first couple draws can change our mind and, if that happens, Disallow and Venser can be useful to stop whatever our opponents have to start the game. And, if someone else dumps their hand in this time, it can be correct to hold off on the Twister. If we do that, we can just cast Ephara turn 4 and try to draw into more gas.

Hand #3



3 lands and both our colors is nice. No ramp or early interaction isn't as nice, but if we can get to 5 lands, we can let the Nova get us out of trouble.

This is definitely a questionable hand but the lack of early game interaction and no real ramp means I would be more than likely to just shuffle this in and try again.

Hand #4



Three 4+ drops and 2 mana is not a good combination. Familiar is our only real saving grace in this hand but for us to even consider banking on that, we really need both colors. Since we only have blue mana and only Venser can be cast after the Familiar with our mana, assuming we draw another land, this is easily a hand to ship away.

Hand #5



This is a snap keep and is arguably one of our more powerful starting hands. Mana Crypt into Signet which gives us our blue mana for the Familiar to cast all of this turn 1. Ephara comes down turn 2. However, at that time, we don't have a lot of stuff to do beyond countering something (if we get our second blue mana). We would hope to draw into more things but I don't think there is a good reason to throw this hand away,
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Strategy

The deck expects to run the long game. There is almost no way for the game to end early as a result of the machinations of this deck. We want to focus on everyone else and what they are doing so we essentially try to police the game. But, since we are trying to police the table, we need to recognize that we won't have answers for everything at all times. Which means we need to have patience with our spells as well as good threat assessment to know what needs to be dealt with first.

Beyond that, we are pretty well equipped to get some shots in with our creatures once they are on the field. In some cases, we need to leave things back as blockers but we can try to slowly grind down our opponents' life totals, even if it is with only one creature a turn.

Another quick note is that we have a fair amount of exile effects in this deck. These cards help out a lot against Indestructible creatures that otherwise survive our wraths and any other removal others players may have. It also gives us a way to supplement our other cards as a way to interrupt graveyard interactions which can be important in games where players use their graveyards for anything. Since that seems to be every deck nowadays (even ours to a lesser extent), having these options can really slow down dedicated graveyard decks.

Early Game

The early game is all about getting Ephara on the battlefield. It is rare, outside of playing against turn 2-3 infinite combo decks, where we really need to answer a lot of things early. So, we should ramp and try to get Ephara down as early as possible. This gives us a way to move into the control role or even just getting to the point of flashing things in for value to draw with Ephara.

We don't need to start running out spells just because we can, though we might need to just to draw some cards. Beyond that, patience is rewarded here and it is not uncommon to get to the point of having 4-6 mana (hopefully some of this being mana rocks) and never actually cast anything beyond some of our smaller creatures. It all depends on what our opponents are doing, but we don't plan on stopping everything; just the more powerful stuff.

At most, we will generally focus on removing individual threats. This means firing off our Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Capsize, etc. to deal with specific threats. We do have a tough time dealing with very aggressive early games so our plan for that is to take out whatever engine we can with spot removal (removing Krenko, Mob Boss before they untap for example).

We can also fire off a counter spell if needed. Mana Drain and Disallow can stop some early aggressive threats but that is only 2 cards in 99 so it is tough to bank on. But, with our spot removal and counter magic we should hopefully have at least one answer to an aggressive threat if we come across one.

Gilded Drake can also help here too, though it does give them a 3/3 Flyer. It depends on what is being stolen to determine if this is a good trade (for you anyway) but often a 3/3 flyer hitting us for a few turns is preferable to a lot of things. And, we can bounce/flicker it later to get something even better later on so it isn't a waste to fire it off early.

Otherwise, we just take our beats. Extremely fast, aggressive starts are tough to deal with so we might need to change our game plan a little just to stem the damage we take until we can get to something to slow them down. This might mean we need to cast some of our creatures to get some blockers just to stay alive.

It is important to note that we are not really trying to avoid casting things to put on the board entirely. We have Stormscape Familiar, Charming Prince, Spellseeker, Recruiter of the Guard, Solemn Simulacrum, and a few others that we will often try to get down early. These give us much needed blockers to try to slow the drain from our life total early on and we still want them so we can draw from Ephara.

What we do want to avoid is casting things like Eldrazi Displacer or Faerie Artisans at this time since we still expect the board to go away. It might be necessary to run them out or, if our opponents are starting somewhat slow and we don't think we need to wrath any time soon, we can run them out and try to get some use out of them. The decision on whether these come down early is dependent on reading the board state and the game to see if it makes sense to do so. In some cases, if we happen to get focused on, it might become necessary to run these cards out as chump blockers.

Mid Game

If we can wait, and if we have them in hand, this is about the time we want to really start thinking about countering things. We are light on counter spells so, if we have one in hand, we need to be absolutely sure it is worth countering. But, there is almost always something worth countering by turn 6 or 7.

In an ideal situation we would also have a wrath we can fall back on at this stage. We do only have 3 wraths (4 if we count Cyclonic Rift) so we need to recognize the limitations in expecting one and play our hands accordingly. While Ephara, and a few other cards, can potentially get us to a wrath, it is never guaranteed so we might have to make the decision at this point to start playing less conservatively and start filling the board. This gives us ways to interact on board and it will trigger Ephara to dig deeper. We still can't go on the offensive here, but just playing defense is prudent so we can stay alive.

And, if our opponents have been building things slowly, we can afford to wait even longer. 10 power on the board for one opponent isn't generally enough to be a cause for concern and we can rely on things like Selfless Squire if we need to blank one attack. We want our opponents to overextend as much as we can get away with so not having a wrath immediately can still work out with our other forms of protection.

Otherwise, after a wrath, or if our opponents are slow enough, we might be able to control things individually and get some creatures on the field. Dream Eater to blank an attack and give us a blocker (or attacker if we can afford it) is good. Stunt Double can copy something big our opponents have and at Instant timing.

Soulherder will often come down around this time as well. This gives us some added value with reusing ETBs, can give us a big creature as needed, and allows Ephara to trigger to draw cards. It isn't necessarily worth fighting over this card, but it can be in the right circumstances so it is best not to just run it out and let it die. Having some sort of protection for it may be worthwhile.

Late Game

And finally, as the game starts to dwindle and people are getting to low life totals (including ourselves) or maybe even leaving the game entirely, we want to start trying to pressure for the last few life points people have. One of the best plays around this time is Resolute Archangel to reset our life total. Our opponents have slowly been spending resources to get us down so undoing all of that is a huge blow to them and a boon to us.

Beyond that, maybe another wrath if needed (coupled with either Teferi's Protection or Eerie Interlude to save our stuff) or even just a Cyclonic Rift to clear the way for our creatures. Since our creatures, beyond Ephara herself, are pretty small it does take a little work to get in a lot of damage so we need to pressure when we can at this stage. The game may go on a while longer while our opponents rebuild but we can start to spend our removal spells less judiciously and we can afford to be a little more aggressive with our spells as ways to just clear the way for our attackers.

Basically, we want to work to end the game and can be a little more aggressive in doing so, but it is important that we recognize the need to fall back into a control role if our opponents rebuild faster than we can answer them one for one. It will often come up where we will need to start playing the long game again and be patient with our attacks but at this stage, we should be able to close out the game in our favor.

Overall Strategy

While the above gives a rundown of the games as it progresses, there are a number of specific interactions worth calling out that can help with navigating the deck through different types of games. It is important to recognize that the deck has the tools to make for a successful game if we understand the potential threats that can come up and try to be prepared for them.

For example, Winding Canyons is a card in this deck more for the "just in case" type scenarios. This comes up because about half of our creatures don't have Flash but we still want to be able to play on our opponents' turns.

For example, if our opponent all of a sudden Alpha Strikes us when we don't expect it, we can flash in Recruiter of the Guard to get our Selfless Squire or we can flash in Spellseeker to get our Cyclonic Rift. Even flashing in Angel of Finality in response to some sort of graveyard interaction can be important.

Something to keep in mind is that we have a lot of cards that can be played offensively or defensively. Eldrazi Displacer is an excellent example of this. Because our deck is so focused on ETB effects, and playing a more tempo oriented game, it can be common to get stuck in the mind set of wanting to only target our own creatures to get more use out of their ETBs. However, Displacer causes the blinked creatures to enter tapped which makes it a good "removal" effect if we are trying to attack. If we get our Selfless Squire above we now have a huge creature but one that can be chump blocked easily. With Displacer, we can remove any potential blockers to get that attack through.

With Displacer, it is also important to note that it can be instrumental in just protecting our board. It is possible our board isn't flooded with creatures, and we do only have a few big beaters, so leaving up 3-6 mana just to protect those creatures from spot removal is a good idea. Whether they have good ETBs or isn't as relevant as just keeping them around so it can be a good idea to play a little cautiously here to make sure we have ways to stop our stuff from getting removed.
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Synergies
Eldrazi Displacer is one of our better ways to interact with the board. Which means it becomes necessary to pay attention to the sources of colorless mana you have available. Sometimes this can cause weird issues with Sol Ring, Ancient Tomb, and Temple of the False God. It is tempting to want to get the most use out of these sources by activating Displacer twice. But, unless you have the necessary mana, it is important to only use this mana when you can absolutely afford it. Even if that means "losing out" on a potential activation.

In addition to the comments made above, Displacer gives us a few repeatable loops with our board. We can blink Venser Shaper Savant as a way to bounce spells as long as we have 3 mana. He also lets us deal with the board as well. In reality, this interaction is likely one of the strongest in the deck. While it does take a bit of mana to set up to begin with, once they are both on the field you will often use this interaction multiple times in a turn cycle. Again, don't overextend with this by just blinking Venser to get an Ephara trigger but, if played right, this can often change the course of a game in your favor.

Displacer with Resolute Archangel can often be necessary to keep you in the game as well. Or with Mulldrifter and Cloudblazer to draw cards. Displacer works with a lot of our cards so keeping it alive is preferable for the long game.

Soulherder fills a similar role though one that is not as reactive. Instead, it gives us additional use out of our ETBs (which is mentioned in the card notes above) but it also grows fairly large with Displacer, Restoration Angel, Winds of Abandon, and anything else that exiles. This is actually one that can help us win just by virtue of attacking. If it survives that is.
Angel of Finality works well with either of the two blink cards above to keep graveyards empty. This is nice because even if a graveyard isn't teeming with cards, it can still be right to exile a graveyard to get rid of a specific card and this interaction allows us to be proactive about keeping graveyards empty.

Archaeomancer and Ghostway/Eerie Interlude is a powerful interaction as well. It gives us "infinite" blinks at the cost of 3 mana each time. Since Archaeomancer can get us back either of these cards when it re-enters we can always have them at the ready if we need them. It also allows us to be a bit more aggressive with these cards as we can fire them off just to reset our life total if we want, or to bounce something with Venser, or whatever else we want to do.

One of the more devastating interactions involve Timetwister. That is with combining it with Cyclonic Rift. I would say this is one of my favorite plays with the deck. Casting Rift means our opponents still have all their cards so they can just recast them again during their next turn. And, undoubtedly, our opponents are thinking the same thing. So, when we untap and cast Timetwister it is not only powerful but also demoralizing.

With Timetwister we also have the ability to more permanently remove troublesome permanents with our spot removal. Perhaps Cyclonic Rift not overloaded to get rid of a big threat or Dream Eater, Venser, Shaper Savant, or Capsize to do the same right before we shuffle up and draw 7. It isn't as flashy, but when someone has a Purphoros, God of the Forge with a number of tokens producers or a 40/40 trampler that we can't block or otherwise remove, being able to bounce it *and* shuffle it away so we don't have to worry about it just coming back down the next turn can go a long way.
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MTGO Recordings

This section just references Magic Online games played with this deck. It might be fun to keep a tally of different games and the text summaries are elsewhere in the thread.
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06/24/20 Game
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07/03/20 Game
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07/04/20 Game
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07/04/20 Game 2 (Replay glitched so ending is not present
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07/06/20 (Replay glitched so ending is not present
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Credit & Thanks

pokken has been an invaluable resource for bouncing ideas off of or for providing new ideas. While our Ephara decks are quite a bit different for a variety of reasons, their input has been appreciated. You may want to check out their list here for more ideas or even a different way to build Ephara.
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Change Log
Change Log
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10/12/2017

CUTS


1 Sun Titan
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10/19/2017
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11/07/17
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01/20/2018
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07/05/2018
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07/14/2018
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10/25/2018
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03/17/2019
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06/15/19
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07/10/19
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11/05/19
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11/10/19
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12/04/19
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12/10/19

CUTS


1 Plains
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02/25/20
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05/24/20
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06/30/20
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Post by pokken » 1 year ago

I am not sure I ever had this discussion with you but I think your White count is high enough you would get more mileage out of Stormscape Familiar than Thought vessel. It's especially strong for powering out Eerie Interlude loops on everyone's turns, and of course the old whitemane lion (if you ever want to jam that; stonecloaker alternatively for now).

It's debatable whether it's better than Kor Cartographer (your other expendable ramp card) but I don't think so given how much you can get ahead by blinking it over and over.

The cost reduction effects in general tend to get a lot more mileage in this deck than you'd expect because there are lots of spells you want to cast over and over again and that combined with ramping to a turn 3 Ephara *and* being a flying creature, it's usually better than a 2 mana rock.
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Post by WizardMN » 1 year ago

After seeing people's opinions on Reliquary Tower (which I absolutely want in this deck) I am starting to see where Thought Vessel may not pull its weight as much as I think. Being a rock is nice but if I can get acceleration with a creature over "just" not having a max hand size, it might work better in this deck.

As for the Familiar, it currently works with 22 of the cards in the deck. That, and coming down on curve to accelerate out Ephara a turn earlier, might be enough to try it out. It is a creature which works with Ephara (when coming down later) and it is cheap so I never feel like I need to leave up mana for it.

It is certainly worth a try so I will update the list and see what happens.

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Post by pokken » 1 year ago

Yeah, I am always disappointed to see the 2 mana rocks late game in this deck, so I'm always looking at creature options. At one point I tried the full raft of mana myrs and it was tough getting blown out -3 or so mana on a wrath, so I rolled back to just a mix. But silver myr and stormscape familiar have both been great at that ratio. I basically never see them both and so a wrath typically sets me back no more than one mana (unless it's enchantment/artifact).

the list of guys I tried btw in case it's useful:
Atlas had a very strong late game, but it was really sketchy early since it required you to have 4 lands in 10 cards to get Ephara, which made for a lot of sketchy keeps or hands that had to be sent back.
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Post by WizardMN » 1 year ago

Per the above conversation as well as other conversations, I am making the following changes:
07/10/19
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As discussed, Containment Priest ends up hurting us much more than it helps us so I want to move into something else that might be more relevant. Mindcensor seems like a good swap as it can stop some opposing ramp or tutoring which prevents explosive plays that can hurt us.

Thought Vessel is nice for the ramp and the max hand size but Familiar seems like the ceiling can be higher. It is worth a try as it is a creature as well so it works with Ephara decently.

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Post by WizardMN » 1 year ago

I played this deck last night and don't have a lot to share. The game was going along alright but I got into a tough spot with only 5 life left. Overall, the game still felt like I was in control and I had a few tricks up my sleeve to continue to stay alive and I was able to still control the game a little with a few creatures but I didn't really get much beyond Teferi and Venser.

I never had any super good plays as the game was all about just surviving. In the end I lost mostly because of The Great Aurora. I drew 14 cards and got 3 lands; all Plains. I had floated 6 mana before it resolved so I got to cast a Torrential Gearhulk to flashback a Cyclonic Rift to bounce an opposing Hapatra but that was it.

Before the Great Aurora resolved, I had Winds of Abandon I was going to fire off as the board state was pretty out of control but it got shuffled away. I am not sure if that would have changed much, but I would have followed it up with Day's Undoing (mostly to get rid of a Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger someone tutored up) but I think I would have still been in a pretty good position.

In any case, I lost basically right away after my turn. I never saw either of my new cards, but I also don't think I ever missed either of the cards I cut. So, I do believe they were the right additions (or, at least, the right cuts). Hopefully I can play some more to try to get them later.

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Post by WizardMN » 1 year ago

I played a 5 player game with this the other night (man I hate 5 player games). I don't remember all the different generals.

I ended up using Cyclonic Rift twice, Mana Drain twice, and a number of other things just to stay alive. I ended up at 4 life towards the end and I was digging hard for my Resolute Archange.I finally found it but I have eliminated 2 other players by this point and another player was eliminated as well so it was just me and another player.

I was able to get off a cool "combo" with Gilded Drake and Capsze. With Teferi on the board, I could cast the Drake to steal a creature, bounce the Drake, and steal another. All of the low, low price of 8 mana :P

This did allow me to steal 3 things from the last player that I needed to steal so I could stay alive and start beating down. I ended up winning off this line.

One thing I regret in the game is the player playing Avacyn, Angel of Hope got her down and suited her up with Worldslayer. Now, he claimed not to know this blew up lands too, but I am not sure how much I trust that. In any case, I exiled Avacyn before she could connect. However, I could have run away with the game at this time if I had let her connect, exiled her with the trigger on the stack (so they blew up their own lands as well) and then cast the Teferi's Protection in hand.

In 2 other games, a different player had tried to combo off with Worldgorger Dragon and we stopped it (I directly stopped it once and informed the other player how they could stop it with their board) and they scooped since all of their stuff was gone. I would have liked to have done the same here since I had never played against these players before it would have been fun to just let games end because the players lost to themselves. Oh well.

All in all, the deck performed very well. Seht's Tiger made an appearance towards the end of the game to help keep me alive but I wouldn't mind some additional, incidental life gain somewhere. I might think of adding in Charming Prince at some point. 3 life isn't a lot but being able to flicker it and get other uses out of it can be important.

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Post by pokken » 1 year ago

Charming Prince looks pretty interesting. I really do like the 2 CMC guys. I especially like how it's got reasonable value to just run out early on curve and scry 2 or gain 3. Flexible cards are great.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

I finally picked up a Charming Prince and really want to give it a shot in this deck. I actually have a fair number of cards I am willing to cut:
Of these, Voidmage Husher, Toothy and Elspeth are top of the list. Toothy are just seemed slow and has never really been as powerful as I expected it to be. Elspeth is also slow and often her wrath effect leaves too much alive. And the Husher, while good against certain things, often just feels like a dead card far too often.

The rest aren't necessarily cards I want to cut (Venser is on the line though) as they all do good work in the deck. They just happened to be the ones that I could see cutting if I absolutely needed to.

In any case, I think swapping Toothy for Charming Prince is the way to go here. I like that Prince is cheaper and offers a bit more utility that seems like it could work well for the deck. So I will give that a try for now.

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Post by pokken » 11 months ago

I don't think cutting ramp for prince is something you wanna do. Toothy surely offers the least utility and this deck rarely is lacking for cards.

That said I think Aven Mindcensor is fairly questionable, for me it always does nothing or gets instantly removed and often draws a disproportionate amount of hate. Its really meta specific whether it's good or not, but I would also consider that.

I have recently cut both the planeswalkers, as I found Venser, the Sojourner often lost me the game even if he ultimatted, as just casting him usually turns the table against you. [card}Elspeth, Sun's Champion[/card] I wound up cutting because I rarely want to commit 6 mana to anything unless I am trying to win, and I found that people are playing a lot fewer fatties where it'll clean up most of the board -- instead there're a ton of lower value creatures I really need to kill (e.g. combo dudes or utility creatures like Oracle, for example).

Just a kind of pivot in my meta anyway has been that people are playing a lot more efficient creatures; the fatties are still there, but Elspeth's minus usually gets her killed by the remaining dudes, and she's not good enough for just her plus (in my opinion).
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Post by ISBPathfinder » 11 months ago

Have you considered or tried out Saltskitter before? I always found it to be a really sweet tech card draw outlet for Ephara.
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Post by pokken » 11 months ago

ISBPathfinder wrote:
11 months ago
Have you considered or tried out Saltskitter before? I always found it to be a really sweet tech card draw outlet for Ephara.
I can only speak for myself but I found Saltskitter to have a lot of problems.
1-- much like browbeat effects, your opponents have control over the trigger and when it happens, so if they are ahead or don't play a lot of creatures you can spend 4 mana get nothing for a turn cycle.

2-- it's an unreliable blocker despite its 4 toughness booty.

3- it doesn't progress your board state and is a poor attacker (you surely never want to bother pumping or putting a sword on it)

It has a ton of advantages though, being wrath proof if you're willing to sacrifice another creature, and in lower power metas where people are always trying to build their boards it is a free draw on other people's turns.

Its power level can vary from being rhystic study levels of card draw to being mystic remora in a casual pod.

I ultimately stopped playing it because of how inconsistent it was. Medium-high ceiling, low floor.

As a bonus not being tutorable by anything is annoying.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

pokken wrote:
11 months ago
I don't think cutting ramp for prince is something you wanna do. Toothy surely offers the least utility and this deck rarely is lacking for cards.
Yeah, the Familiar is likely towards the bottom of that list above in terms of what to cut, but only providing ramp means I could see it coming out for something more impactful in the future.
That said I think Aven Mindcensor is fairly questionable, for me it always does nothing or gets instantly removed and often draws a disproportionate amount of hate. Its really meta specific whether it's good or not, but I would also consider that.
I haven't played with it enough and having Flash is a benefit for the deck. I mostly put it in the list not because of how effective it is (or isn't) but most because it is my only "hatebear" type of effect in the deck and it seems out of place.
I have recently cut both the planeswalkers, as I found Venser, the Sojourner often lost me the game even if he ultimatted, as just casting him usually turns the table against you. [card}Elspeth, Sun's Champion[/card] I wound up cutting because I rarely want to commit 6 mana to anything unless I am trying to win, and I found that people are playing a lot fewer fatties where it'll clean up most of the board -- instead there're a ton of lower value creatures I really need to kill (e.g. combo dudes or utility creatures like Oracle, for example).
Yeah, my thoughts on Elspeth exactly. She is good to get a trigger from Ephara on each on my turns (well, the turn after mine), but doesn't do a lot for the board state itself. Venser I have considered because he is leads to boring/repetitive boardstates and tends to draw a lot of hate. I think from a power level Venser is still pretty high.
ISBPathfinder wrote:
11 months ago
Have you considered or tried out Saltskitter before? I always found it to be a really sweet tech card draw outlet for Ephara.
I think my issues with Saltskitter are more or less what pokken said above. It becomes inconsistent to get draws off Ephara and it never actually sticks around to do anything since it can be played around super easily. Faerie Artisans is my card for this effect and I think it is better in almost every relevant way.

Essentially, Saltskitter is "just" a draw a card effect and doesn't really do anything beyond that. In the majority of cases, I prefer to approach cards the other way around: find something relevant and see if it can help out with triggering Ephara (usually by having Flash).

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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

I got to get in a game with this last night against Atla Palani, Nest Tender Pre-Con and Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain.

Nothing stood out too much as "great" or "bad" plays. Just, "normal" plays :). My first play was to cast Gilded Drake to steal Jhoira and get a draw from casting Sensei's Divning Top. The Jhoira player killed her though so they could recast her. Then I got Ephara down shortly after and then just cast a few things like Cloudblazer, Spellseeker (getting Cyclonic Rift), and Archaeomancer (getting back Cyclonic Rift). I also cast a Supreme Verdict around this time.

Jhoira was getting out of hand and had quite a bit on board even after casting Cyclonic Rift the first time. Part of this was the combination of Urza, Lord High Artificer and Mycosynth Lattice. So, I cast Stunt Double to give me my own Urza. I never used his Mind's Desire ability but the mana production was very good.

Jhoira attacked me with their Urza token so I flashed in Selfless Squire to prevent the damage since theirs was a lot bigger than mine. Then, at the end of Atla's turn, I Rift-ed and was able to attack with my 2 tokens (I blinked Stunt Double to copy Urza again) and Squire for lethal to both players. Granted, my tokens were much smaller now with Lattice gone, but it was still enough.

Venser, the Sojourner made an appearance and did some decent work to blink something. The first thing he did was blink a land and then I got one other thing. And then he died so, all in all, not all that impactful, but decent. I also got down Toothy since I meant to swap it for a proxy of Charming Prince while I wait for the Prince in the mail, but I forgot to do it. I ended up drawing 3 cards off it through a blink effect (which just put the 3 counters right back onto it) but it didn't do anything more since the game was wrapping up.

I think this game does validate some of the choices in cards above that I am thinking of cutting. I don't think there was ever a time when I ever wanted to see those cards as ones that I felt would be important. The problem ends up just being finding different cards to put in their place. I do know I want Brazen Borrower in this deck so I might cut Voidmage Husher for that.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

Another update to the list:
11/10/19
Approximate Total Cost:


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Post by pokken » 11 months ago

I have been very pleased with borrower. Looking forward to seeing what you think.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

I still haven't cast Borrower so I am waiting to see what it ends up doing.

I played this again tonight against Zurgo Helmsmasher, Niv-Mizzet, Parun, and Gargos, Vicious Watcher. Niv did very little in terms of advancing the game and Zurgo struggled a little on land. Gargos though was ridiculous. There was a lot we had to do to answer them.

I started with 3 lands and a Stormscape Familiar which let me cast Ephara on turn 3. Then, I missed a land drop. I then cast a Mana Drain to counter a Bear Umbra followed up by drawing a Mana Crypt. This let me cast my Solemn Simulacrum and something else. I drew a card and finally got a land. I then cast a Kor Cartographer to get another land. Niv then cast Evacuation number 1 to deal with Gargos.

I recast everything and drew a card. I was able to cast a Day's Undoing in there as well which helped out immensely with getting my lands. Niv soon after cast Evacuation number 2. I recast everything else again. And then Niv recast Evacuation for the 3rd (and final) time. All of this gave me a lot of time to get moving. I was able to steal a Hellkite Tyrant as well, with my Gilded Drake to make sure they didn't steal my Mana Crypt.

I then had to cast a Supreme Verdict to answer Gargos's board again (they got to rebuild quickly each time their board was bounced). I had cast a Recruiter of the Guard to get a Selfless Squire to hold them off a little as well.

At one point Gargos attempted to blow up some of my lands and Mana Crypt with Terastodon but I was able to counter it with Nimble Obstructionist which ended up being very important since I needed the Kor Haven they were trying to destroy.

Towards the end game, it was just Gargos and myself left. I had Teferi on the board so I was going to exile the Swiftfoot Boots on Gargos and steal him with Gilded Drake. Instead, Gargos cast a Hydra Broodmaster and then went to Monstrous it. I responded to this by flashing in Gilded Drake thanks to Teferi to steal the Hydra. This meant that I got the Hydra with all the counters on it (when the activated ability resolved). More importantly, it meant that I controlled the Hydra when it became Monstrous so I controlled the trigger to create the Hydras. So, I ended up getting a 17/17 and ten 10/10 hydras all for the low, low cost of 1U. Gargos scooped it up after that :)

The deck played very well overall even if I did miss a land drop or two early on. The only card I saw that I didn't want was Voidmage Husher. There are just too many things this doesn't do anything against and 4 mana for a 2/2 isn't a good rate. I need to find a different card for this slot.

Venser Planeswalker also came down and flickered Solemn and Cloudblazer so he was reasonable. But I was at a point in the game where I don't think I really need any of that. The best thing he did was turn on Ephara. I am still on the fence with Venser as well.
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Post by pokken » 11 months ago

Venser has been too slow for me for a while.

I have a raft of ideas for the husher slot but I would recommend just going whitemane. It's honestly too good with recruiter and soulherder.

Second choice remorseful cleric.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

I am not a fan of Whitemane since it doesn't really *do* anything. Bouncing itself is alright though saving a creature is better. I am not sure I really want either one though. It seems monotonous.

Cleric though is a good idea. It sounds like a familiar suggestion (maybe you suggested it before) so I will probably just go with that for now.

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Post by pokken » 11 months ago

What I am finding with lion is that it is great at protecting specifically soul herder..if you go recruiter, soul herder, blink recruiter get lion pass -- that sequence only costs 8 mana which is quite achievable and it passes with either of those engine pieces protected from sweepers or removal.

And yeah i believe I did suggest cleric previously. Feels like less desperate for you with the timetwister effects but still a solid body with a useful ability.
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Post by WizardMN » 11 months ago

Trying out the following:
12/04/19
Approximate Total Cost:

As mentioned, I feel Husher just isn't pulling its weight and Flash isn't enough to keep it around. I am going to try out the Cleric in its place to see if that seems to work out better.

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Post by WizardMN » 10 months ago

I played this against Gargos, Vicious Watcher, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, and Rhys, the Redeemed. The Ravager deck was my own deck that I lent to another player. That decklist is here
I was able to get Ephara down on turn 4 so not quite as fast as I would have liked but it still worked out. The turn prior to this, I cast Spell Queller to exile Bolas when he was cast so I didn't have to discard anything.

From there, I just slowly built up some card advantage by casting smaller creatures with Ephara on board. I also left up enough mana so threaten a counterspell which made Gargos point his "Fight" elsewhere. At the time, I didn't have a counterspell but I did have Venser, Shaper Savant (which everyone knew about because Bolas cast Commit on it when I tried to stop Gargos from landing. Not sure why, but whatever. I drew it again by the next turn thanks to Ephara.

I actually ended up with a pretty good board state with Faerie Artisans, Soulherder, Charming Prince, and something else. Soulherder blinked Prince the first turn so I just gained 6 life with that interaction. One cool play was casting Gilded Drake to steal Gargos (or some other big Hydra) and then blinking Charming Prince with Soulherder which then let me flicker the Gilded Drake I had given away. I had planned on stealing something else the next turn, but Bolas wrathed the board so Gilded Drake went away (for now).

Bolas soon cast a Timetwister so I cast Cyclonic Rift in response. This came 2 turns after Bolas cast their own Rift but Gargos rebuilds exceptionally quickly. Then, as icing on the cake, I flashed in Alms Collector. Everyone but me was left without a board and 1 card in hand. I ended up with 10 cards in hand. It felt pretty good :)

There was very little my opponents could do from here but they certainly tried. Gargos actually still was able to rebuild reasonably well given the circumstances since they had some cards exiled with Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. But, it still wasn't enough. I wasn't able to take immediate advantage of their lack of board/cards since I didn't have a lot right away but after 3 turns or so, I ended up with Eldrazi Displacer on the field and then I cast Gilded Drake again to steal something. This was probably my favorite sequence in the game as I was able to steal with Drake, blink Drake (to get it back), steal something else, etc. I did this 5 times before Bolas destroyed Displacer but it was too late. I just used Gargos's creatures to kill the other two players.

I felt that, beyond the kind of slow start, this played out very well. I never really felt I was struggling to stay relevant even in the face of a more aggressive deck that is Gargos. My spot removal took care of Gargos early and I could hold my own against it for the most part it. I did get Remorseful Cleric down which did nothing (except draw me a card) but it is a cheap card so it was nice to be able to throw out as a blocker and to draw a card. This game didn't see a lot of graveyard recursion so its use was minimal anyway but I still like it better than Voidmage Husher.

The only card I ended up seeing that wasn't all that exciting was Aven Mindcensor. There was one situation where it should have stopped a tutor (with Cultivate) but I was complaining to a player about the Secret Lair boxes and I missed it :). It was one of those things that is easy to overlook and it is on me to remember my own cards. Beyond that, which wouldn't have done much anyway, I either never had it down at a time where it would have mattered or nothing happened that it would have stopped. I think the card is just out of place in this deck and I want to find a different card to replace it. Nothing really stands out as a card to swap it with so I might just leave it there as a flex slot until Theros releases in a couple months.

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Post by pokken » 10 months ago

Do me a favor and try whitemane lion in that Mindcensor slot while you wait :)

Pretty sick game. I know that any game in which I am left with an unchecked blink engine (soulherder, displacer) is going to be a good game (for me). And Drake destroys most decks if you reuse it, which I love -- I muddle for it a lot :P

You also got me pumped hoping they make a judge promo alms collector some day. It's on my really want to try list. Might have to gove it a go anyway since wheels are running rampant in my meta.
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Post by shermanido37 » 10 months ago

Alms Collector is a meta card, much like Aven Mindcensor. In fact I see all hatebears as meta cards, and listed them with my impression of them as an Ephara player here: viewtopic.php?p=48515#p48515
For example, my meta doesn't have a lot of wheels, so Alms Collector wouldn't be very useful, however there are a bunch of gradual card draw engines like Phyrexian Arena, so Spirit of the Labyrinth is very useful, and there are a lot of tutors and ramp so Aven Mindcensor will always find something to do.

---

I'd also like to offer my two cents on your list.

I can see that you have a bunch of big creatures with powerful effects, which is not my cup of tea but a pretty cool plan anyway. However I disagree with your specific choice of cards, as there are plenty of fatties that achieve the goals you're setting better than what you have. If you're looking to set up a board state God-Eternal Oketra is undeniable and very hard to get rid of, if you're looking to kill stuff Cavalier of Dawn is your friend, if you want to spend a lot of mana to pressure your opponents Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is your man.
With your respectable amount of noncreatures and cards that care about them, I'd probably slot in Monastery Mentor. It's an amazing card advantage engine with Ephara that also gives you a bunch of blockers to defend from aggression. Pokken can testify to its utility.
Also, never mind that I disagree with wheel effects, but I just don't see running two of them without Smothering Tithe. It's fantastic in general and phenomenal with wheels.

However I do realize that the bunch of cards I suggested were pretty expensive, so I'll offer some budget alternatives:
Generous Gift is very flexible in Ephara, destroying whatever we want or saving our stuff from theft while giving us a token and a card - you could even target Ephara with it in order to just get a flash blocker and a card. I think a ton about including it.
A good option that goes well with noncreatures is an enchantment package. Stuff like Mystic Remora, Planar Collapse, Solitary Confinement (has literally won me games), and the must-include Sacred Mesa along with Hall of Heliod's Generosity. Seriously, if you only take one suggestion, it has got to be Mesa. That card is just a powerhouse.
I can also attest to the power of Whitemane Lion.

For cuts I would suggest the cards that make you look like a Brago deck. In my experience they are win-more here and don't really offer a ton of value or utility. They are: Mulldrifter, Cloudblazer, Kor Cartographer, Resolute Archangel, Solemn Simulacrum, Duplicant. A somewhat situational hatebear I'd cut is Seht's Tiger.

Hope my suggestions helped! More takes on Ephara are always interesting.

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Post by pokken » 10 months ago

Wiz's meta is really weird -- knowing what I know about it, I am kinda behind Resolute Archangel. that card's serious business at squashing aggro fatties. I contemplated that one myself for a while and I play it in Aminatou where it's been fairly good.
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