The Metaworker: Damia, Sage of Stone James LaPage November 16, 2016 The Metaworker In the last installment of The Metaworker, we refurbished a Dralnu list that was struggling to keep up in the face of an Azorius deck that lands hard locks on the board fairly early on in the game. Sometimes, however, effecting change in your local playgroup goes beyond tweaking your current strategy. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve got.” -Henry Ford Sometimes you’ll have to come at your problem from an entirely different angle to shake up a stagnant meta. In this case we’re going to explore the idea of ditching Dralnu as a commander and going with something a little more meta-appropriate. In this installment we’ll explore a different archetype that dovetails quite nicely with our Dralnu strategy, but explores a slightly different method of setting up the Rise of the Dark Realms or Living Death finisher. Note: I wrote this article before Conspiracy 2 was spoiled. Leovold is probably a superior hand hate general and provides an interesting (and very powerful) shell, but rather than re-writing this entire article I decided to include him as one of the 99. Hand Hate and Response to Threats in EDH Before we begin, I just want to add a bit of a caveat here. We’re going to be exploring a concept that not every playgroup will be comfortable with – hand hate. Some people lump hand hate in with mass land destruction, stax, and other such strategies due to the fact that it is a means of denying your opponents access to resources. This is a fair description. My current meta is 100% accepting of all kinds of resource denial strategies, but your mileage may vary. When we look at big, bomby threats in EDH, there are a number of ways we can deal with them. Counterspells, spot/mass removal, and boomerang effects are the most common you’ll see because they generally fall under the concept of the “spirit of Commander”. Beyond that, there are resource denial strategies like mass land destruction, tax, stax, and hand disruption. Rather than dealing with threats as they come up, these strategies focus on preventing these threats from ever becoming relevant. They tend to be a little more difficult to build around, as the effects are usually templated to be symmetrical. This means a fair amount of deckbuilding has to go into breaking the symmetry so we’re left with all of the positives but none of the negatives. Why Damia? The resource denial strategy I’ve selected for breaking through the staxy meta we’re dealing with is hand hate. While forcing our opponents to discard threats, we’re often forced to discard some of our own cards in the process. This means to pull this off, we’re going to need a card draw engine in a can to keep our foot on the gas. Damia is one of the best commanders to do this, and her Sultai colour identity gives us access to black for discard effects, green for ramp, and blue for stack interaction. Another option for this archetype would have been Nekusar, the Mindrazer, but most Nekusar decklists I’ve seen have been fairly similar and you don’t need to me to tell you why everyone plays essentially the same Nekusar list. Let’s have a look at a Damia list I threw together and break it down into packages: Animate DeadCultivateAdarkar WastesBeast WithinCabal InterrogatorConcordant CrossroadsDark DealBreeding PoolCabal RitualConsuming AberrationCreeping DreadDark PetitionCabal CoffersDarkblastCunning LethemancerForced FruitionDelirium SkeinsDakmor SalvageDark RitualDralnu, Lich LordLiliana’s CaressExsanguinateFlooded GroveFrantic SearchGolgari Grave-TrollMegrimIll-Gotten Gains7 x Forest (347)Golgari CharmHell’s CaretakerMonastery SiegeKodama’s Reach7 x Island (335)Krosan GripJace’s ArchivistNecromancyLife from the Loam Overgrown TombLim-Dul’s VaultMagus of the JarNull ProfusionLiving DeathPolluted DeltaMurderous CutMindslicerRecycleSunken RuinsPerplexOracle of Mul DayaReanimate13 x Swamp (339)StiflePrized AmalgamChromatic LanternRise of the Dark RealmsTwilight MireSwan SongRotting RatsDimir SignetStrongarm TacticsUrborg, Tomb of YawgmothTrickbindSidisi, Brood TyrantGilded LotusWhispering MadnessWatery GraveVoidslimeSidisi, Undead VizierGolgari SignetWindfallStinkweed ImpSimic SignetStronghold Rats1 x Leovold, Emissary of Trest Buy This List First and foremost, I want to talk a little about the cards that are fairly unique to this deck – Null Profusion and Recycle. The synergy is real, and if you’re in the mid-game and you draw a tutor this is essentially what you should be grabbing. Next, the dredge package of Dakmor Salvage, Stinkweed Imp, and Darkblast gets some new tools in Golgari Grave-Troll and Life from the Loam – two of the best dredge cards in the game of magic. Green also gives us access to Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, which synergizes really well with the dredge package in general. Finally, the meat and potatoes of this deck is the hand disruption package: Although they’re not hand disruption, Megrim and Liliana’s Caress (standard Nekusar tech) give us access to an additional wincon so I would include them in this package. The lines of play with this deck are fairly straightforward. We’re going to fill up everyone’s graveyards and hopefully keep them hellbent as often as possible while we ramp and apply pressure. This is a much more proactive deck than the original Dralnu list that we started out with, but it still allows us to play Dralnu as one of the 99! Interestingly enough, this deck’s reliance on instants and sorceries and the expanded dredge package make Dralnu an incredible way to keep our opponents’ hands empty in the late game. In closing, I want to say that although this strategy won’t be very popular with every playgroup, the core idea behind this approach would generally be very effective with most playgroups. I say that because the one thing that’s going to keep a playgroup healthy is communication. We can always come up with responses to strategies, players, or even individual cards, but what’s going to keep a playgroup fresh and interesting is when people communicate what they’re okay with (or not okay with) and why. If you feel like your only response to a stax strategy is to dive head first into resource denial strategies, talk to the person playing stax to let them know you’re going to do it. If it’s not something they want to play against, you might find that that conversation is all they need to nudge them into shaking up their deckbuilding style. That’s it until next time. If you are struggling with a problem in your local meta, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a detailed description of the dominant threats in your meta. Be sure to include the commander (and archetype if applicable) as well as the pilot’s preferred ways of closing out the game. Also include your decklist, budget, and any deckbuilding restrictions you’ve imposed on yourself (themes, house rules/banlist, and overall spikiness of your playgroup). Your situation may be solved in a future installment of The Metaworker. 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