There are some cards that seem to do everything you want them to do in your deck. Fallen Ideal, a black aura from Time Spiral and an homage to the card Fallen Angel, enchants a creature and gives it both flying and the ability to sacrifice creatures to temporarily increase its power and toughness. Fallen Ideal has shown itself to be an excellent card for my Shattergang Brothers commander deck I like to call “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”:

The overall game plan for this all-permanents deck is to play out small creatures then to sacrifice them for various benefits: drawing cards, making tokens, dealing damage and so on. Ideally I want to sacrifice creatures that can bring themselves back from my graveyard, like Reassembling Skeleton and Bloodghast, but almost any creature will do in a pinch.

The real trouble this deck gets into is when it has no way to sacrifice its creatures. Shattergang Brothers are very useful to that end, but sometimes the mana requirements for their activated abilities can be taxing. One of the benefits of Fallen Ideal is that it allows me to sacrifice creatures without spending mana to do so. The deck has several cards that have similar manaless sacrifice abilities, but there is always the threat that another player will destroy (or worse, exile) my sacrifice engine. Depending on how the game is going I may not have drawn a replacement engine or, in the case of my commander, I may not have drawn enough lands to recast it. Thankfully, Fallen Ideal gets around that in an interesting way.

Many players will be familiar with another aura by the name of Rancor, an enchantment that returns itself to its owner’s hand when it is put into the graveyard from the battlefield. Along with Rancor there have been a handful of other auras with Shattergang Brothers’ ability, and Fallen Ideal is part of that family of cards. In addition to having synergies with Shattergang Brothers’ ability to sacrifice an enchantment, giving my commander a continual supply of fuel, this family of auras also provides that same kind of staying power that many of the creatures in my deck have. When even the auras come back when destroyed, the deck clearly has resilience. There’s also some synergy to be had with triggering cards with constellation by recasting these enchantments.

The trouble with most of the auras like Rancor is that certain cards can exile the aura when its on the battlefield, meaning that it will never hit the graveyard and will never return to my hand. Interestingly enough, Fallen Ideal can still get around these potentially devastating cards. If you look closely at the ability to sacrifice creatures that this aura bestows it says “Sacrifice a creature” and not “Sacrifice another creature”. This distinction means that in a pinch the enchanted creature can sacrifice itself, taking Fallen Ideal to the graveyard with it. In this way Fallen Ideal can be put into my graveyard before it would be exiled, returning it to my hand, ready to be recast. This might not be the best course of action if the creature it is enchanting is more important, but having that trick available to me as an option opens up several possibilities, especially for a deck filled with disposable creatures.

One of the biggest strengths of Fallen Ideal in my deck is its ability to pull out a win from almost nowhere. Many cards in the deck produce tokens when nontoken creatures die, such as Golgari Germination, Pawn of Ulamog and Gutter Grime. With just one of these token makers in play I nearly double the number of creatures I can sacrifice in a single turn, and at +2 power for each one sacrificed that adds up remarkably quickly. When paired with any of my recurring creatures, ones that enter the battlefield with friends, or leave some of their own when they die, it’s not that unheard of to to give a creature 20 power or more in a single turn. Considering that the creature probably started the turn as a 1/1 that’s quite the boost. Fallen Ideal even gives the enchanted creature flying, making it that much more likely that it will connect with a player.

Unlike creatures with similar abilities, like Fallen Angel or Nantuko Husk, Fallen Ideal can come as a bigger surprise to my opponents; those creatures don’t usually have haste, so opponents have a whole round to deal with the threat. By enchanting a creature that can already attack my deck can punish a player for dropping their guard, or blindside a player who didn’t see my collection of small creatures as a threat. Because Fallen Ideal returns to my hand when it goes to the graveyard, it is also far more persistent than these creature counterparts, so if the first hit doesn’t do the trick I can rebuild my army and try again a few turns later!

My entire Shattergang Brothers commander deck is built around this idea that whenever one of my creatures dies I will get some value out of it, either by forcing my opponents to sacrifice their creatures, by replacing my creatures with tokens, or even just by returning whatever died to play. Having enchantments and artifacts that work in the same manner just serves to round out the deck. Oddly enough, the deck struggles when things stay alive; none of the creatures in this deck are particularly big or threatening and if they stick around they are little more than a nuisance. On the other hand, if they die I get to drain my opponents of life, get a large quantity of tokens, make a creature bigger, or I just get to dig deeper into my deck!

Having manaless sacrifice engines is remarkably important, and keeping them around is how this deck functions to its full potential. Fallen Ideal fits all of those criteria while being a win condition in its own right. Truly, it is an ideal card for this deck!




2 Responses

  1. James LaPage

    This is a sweet list – fairly similar to the Shattergang list I used to run (before it was stolen!)

    I think you’ve done a great thing focusing on enchantments and creatures, but your list looks a little light on artifacts. Do you ever find that that becomes a problem? I tried to go with a roughly even split of the three and I found that I was never quite effective enough at any of them individually to keep a tight hold on the game.

    • Ben Iverach-Brereton

      There haven’t been too many games where I’ve felt I needed more artifacts to sacrifice to Shattergang Brothers, but I also don’t play as often against decks with the Swords and other artifacts like that need to be removed ASAP. Compounded with the amount of mana rocks (Sol Ring, Chromatic Lantern, etc) that are in most decks, there ends up being a lot of fodder for most opponents on the artifact front.

      If anything I should probably look into more cards like Reclamation Sage; Acidic Slime or Seal of Primordium could be good additions to provide that targetted removal.

      That said, looking at your list I like the inclusion of Hammer of Purphoros. I might have to look into that one….


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