The Metaworker: Teferi Tax/Lockdown and Symmetry Part 1 James LaPage January 11, 2017 The Metaworker In the past few weeks I’ve had a considerable amount of feedback on these resource denial articles, so I figured I’d keep the ball rolling and take an even deeper dive into the archetype to pick apart how they work, and what makes them effective. At its heart, lockdown Is a strategy that pins the opponent down, preventing them from interacting with the board or their opponents. In general, we’re looking for cards that have persisting effects on the board that tell an opponent they can’t do something. Void Winnower is a perfect example of this: This beast of a card prevents our opponents from casting spells with even converted mana costs, and also prevents them from blocking with creatures with even converted mana costs. Right out of the gate, we’ve essentially turned off half of their deck. This is one of the more devastating lock pieces that you can stare down in a game of EDH. Other notorious lock pieces include Iona, Shield of Emeria, or just about any of the Praetor cycle from New Phyrexia (yes, even Urabrask the Hidden can lock people out when paired with a Meekstone). What’s the common thread? When I think of my favourite lock pieces, a ton of them are up in the 6-10 mana range, but why is that? From an EDH deckbuilder’s perspective, it’s important to know that they’re expensive to cast because they provide an asymmetrical effect on the players of the game. That is to say that they don’t affect all players equally. The controller of Iona, Shield of Emeria doesn’t have to worry about playing with 30% of their topdecks being dead draws. The controller of Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger doesn’t have to worry about their lands not untapping during their next untap step. Discounts for everybody! I’ve got some good news for you – you don’t always have to pay that 6-10 mana to achieve this kind of lock. We can get there by playing symmetrical effects and putting in a little bit of work to design our deck to avoid the drawback. Rather than playing Vorinclex, we can play a card that is near and dear to my heart – Winter Orb. Winter Orb doesn’t have a 7/6 body and doesn’t double your mana, but it comes in at a very reasonable 2 generic mana investment. In the late game you can play it without spending a whole turn, and it isn’t nearly as big a tempo loss if it gets countered or removed. Perhaps my favourite part about Winter Orb is that the symmetrical effect occurs regardless of who owns it, meaning you’re not going to get hosed if someone steals or copies it like you would with Vorinclex. What kind of a deck can thrive when Winter Orb is in play? That’s a great question. Off the top of my head, I’d say you could reasonably play Winter Orb if your deck fits one or more of the following descriptions: Mana base includes a lot of mana rocks. As a benchmark, shoot for 14+. Having mana rocks on the board means Winter Orb’s effect doesn’t affect you as much as it affects everyone else. Deck strategy includes ways to untap permanents. Decks with extremely low mana curves Deck strategy includes ways to tap artifacts at instant speed. If Winter Orb is tapped at the beginning of a player’s untap step, its effect does not apply to that player. This is due to a change in Oracle text that occurred just before Eternal Masters was released. Deck strategy includes cost reduction or alternate cost effects. Things like Chief Engineer and Mycosynth Golem let you cast spells without tapping lands. Essentially what we’ve got here is a list of ways to break the symmetrical effect of Winter Orb, and it’s one of the ways that I approach deckbuilding. Sometimes it’s easier and less expensive to build your own asymmetry than to work with one that’s pre-assembled on a card like Vorinclex. For points 2, 4, and 5, these are doubly effective if you’ve got those types of strategies in the command zone. That’s not to say that you always need to play Winter Orb instead of Vorinclex – this can be a great way to build redundancy into your decks. Starting with something like Vorinclex as a reference point, you can pack your deck full of build-your-own-Vorinclex components to increase consistency and synergy. Let’s take a look at an example of this concept in action. This deck comes from Reddit user /u/Radiophage, and it really embodies points 1 and 2 above. Teferi, Temporal Archmage 1 x Teferi, Temporal ArchmageSorcery (11)1 x Call to Mind1 x Devastation Tide1 x Drain Power1 x Enter the Infinite1 x Expropriate1 x Fabricate1 x Merchant Scroll1 x Preordain1 x Relearn1 x Reshape1 x WindfallCreature (5)1 x Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy Flip1 x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth1 x Spellskite1 x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir1 x Trinket MagePlaneswalker (3)1 x Karn Liberated1 x Tezzeret the Seeker1 x Ugin, the Spirit DragonLand (34)1 x Academy Ruins1 x Buried Ruin1 x Ghost Quarter1 x Inventors’ Fair25 x Island (335)1 x Lotus Vale1 x Reliquary Tower1 x Seat of the Synod1 x Soldevi Excavations1 x Tolaria WestArtifact (19)1 x Basalt Monolith1 x Coalition Relic1 x Gilded Lotus1 x Grafdigger’s Cage1 x Hedron Archive1 x Imi Statue1 x Mana Crypt – Book Promos 1 x Mana Vault1 x Mana Web1 x Pithing Needle1 x Sculpting Steel1 x Sol Ring1 x Static Orb1 x Tangle Wire1 x Teferi’s Puzzle Box1 x The Chain Veil1 x Thran Dynamo1 x Trinisphere1 x Winter OrbEnchantment (8)1 x Back to Basics1 x Copy Artifact1 x Mystic Remora1 x Omniscience1 x Pendrell Mists1 x Propaganda1 x Rhystic Study1 x Stasis CocoonInstant (19)1 x Arcane Denial (Axe)1 x Blue Sun’s Zenith1 x Brainstorm1 x Counterspell1 x Cryptic Command1 x Cyclonic Rift1 x Dig Through Time1 x Dispeller’s Capsule1 x Fact or Fiction1 x Force of Will1 x High Tide (Tucker)1 x Memory Lapse1 x Mystical Tutor1 x Stifle1 x Stroke of Genius1 x Trickbind1 x Vapor Snag1 x Warping Wail1 x Wipe Away Buy This List Radiophage writes… I’m running into a wall in my cEDH meta, and I’m hoping you can help. I run a semi-budget Teferi, Temporal Archmage lockdown deck. About the only thing I’m missing from the absolute top-tier lists are an SDT/fetchland package and a more optimized mana base. My meta consists of the following decks: Zur Doomsday Two Food Chain decks, Prossh and Tazri Boonweaver Karador Kaalia Gonna Kaalia Azami Control Brago Stax Selvala Stax Alesha Stax … and the wall I keep bashing my head into, Nin Combo. It feels like I have plenty of game against the rest of the meta — especially with all the other stax present, half the time my deck’s job is being done for me — but victory against Nin keeps eluding me. The Nin list is extremely low to the ground, running almost exclusively mana rocks, draw spells, and instant-speed interaction. If I don’t get a stax piece down, Nin wins T4-6. If I do get a stax piece down, Nin waits patiently and sculpts their hand, disrupts everyone else (including me), and then goes for the win when the coast is clear. Another difficulty is that Nin ignores several of my stax pieces. I have some meta inclusions specifically to help combat Nin — among them, Imi Statue and Tomorrow — but since Nin gets most of their mana from rocks, all of my stax that taps down lands only hits about 10% of Nin’s available mana each turn. What do? Metaworker disclaimer: This submission is asking for help in a competitive meta. Competitive decks are designed to win, and this article’s recommendations will not be an analysis of the flavour, budget, or “fun factor” of playing EDH. Radiophage already knows that he should be running Sensei’s Divining Top and a blue fetchland package, so I won’t be discussing those either. There’s so much to talk about here. This week I’m going to analyze the deck, set out some goals for improvement, and tune up the mana base. In the next episode we’ll dive into the meat of the deck – the lockdown package and support for the lockdown package. Let’s talk about wincons The deck wins by having both Teferi, Temporal Archmage and The Chain Veil in play, along with 3 permanents that produce a total of: 1) At least 4 mana if we have enough to recast Teferi once from the command zone If Teferi has 5 loyalty counters, its -1 ability allows us to untap 4 permanents: The Chain Veil and 3 other permanents. Those 3 permanents allow us to activate The Chain Veil for no net mana gain. After completing the cycle 5 times (and sending Teferi to the command zone with the 5th activation), we recast Teferi. Because of the way The Chain Veil works, this new Teferi has 5 activations “in the bank”, so to speak. This is due to The Chain Veil’s second ruling: 7/18/2014 Because the last ability modifies the rules of the game, it affects not only planeswalkers you control when it resolves, but also planeswalkers that come under your control later in the turn. With 5 activations in the bank, it’s not too difficult to start floating huge amounts of mana, activate Teferi’s first ability a few times and wait to draw into another permanent that taps for more than one mana. At that point we proceed to step 2. 2) At least 5 mana if we don’t have enough mana on board to recast Teferi This is essentially the same as step 1, but with the key difference that we get to float 1 mana with each Chain Veil activation. Quite often you’re not going infinite immediately, and you might have to go through a few manual iterations before you have enough mana on board to truly demonstrate a repeatable loop with no net mana loss. Once you go infinite, you’re able to use Teferi’s first ability as many times as you want to “draw” your deck. I say “draw” because the ability does not actually draw cards (which means you don’t lose the game if you activate it while your library is empty). Some lists run a backup combo of Rings of Brighthearth / Basalt Monolith or Grim Monolith / Power Artifact to make infinite mana which they dump into an X-spell. Stalling for Time The deck isn’t fast enough to race the fastest decks in competitive EDH (the Food Chains and Ad Nauseams), so – rather than trying to race, it assembles a miserable team of lockdown pieces to prevent people from getting set up or going for their win. Breaking Symmetry This deck runs a package of cards that illustrate the topic of this article perfectly: These cards all tap down permanents symmetrically. This deck is able to break symmetry very effectively by untapping its permanents using Teferi’s -1. This leaves everyone else with tapped permanents and Radiophage free to cast essentially whatever he likes. Back to Basics is slightly different from the rest of the package because its symmetry is primarily broken by the fact that this list runs 25 basic islands out of 34 total lands. With only 9 non-basics (and really only 5 of those that we’re relying on for mana), it’s pretty unlikely that this list is going to be impacted at all by having Back to Basics on the field. Where do we start with tuning this deck up? With any cEDH deck, I like to start with the mana base. Radiophage mentioned that he’s not quite ready to sink the money into a competitive mana base just yet, but I’d like to talk about what a competitive mana base might look like for this kind of a deck so we can prioritize some upgrades he might want to make in the future. The great part about this deck being monoblue is that we can come up with a pretty good manabase while having essentially no information about what’s being run in the rest of the deck. Mana Rock PackageSol RingFrench Mana Crypt – Book PromoMana VaultGrim MonolithMox DiamondMox OpalChrome MoxLotus PetalCopy Artifact Basalt MonolithGilded LotusKhalni GemThran DynamoSculpting SteelPhyrexian MetamorphFellwar StoneWorn PowerstoneHedron ArchiveVoltaic Key Buy This List Normally I wouldn’t include Worn Powerstone or Hedron Archive in a competitive mana rock package. In multicolour decks these would generally be slots for Talismans and Signets. If it weren’t for Teferi’s ability to untap permanents, I wouldn’t even be thinking about Worn Powerstone. If I were building this deck for myself, I would test the hell out of this card. My prediction is that casting it on T1 is probably fine because it means you’re untapping with 6+ mana. Casting it on T2 probably feels terrible. Casting it after Teferi is out is probably fine, and it helps contribute to the number of 2+ mana permanents that we need for the Chain Veil Combo. Realistically, I think we run Worn Powerstone but in the event that we ever end up with a Candelabra of Tawnos it’s the first card on the chopping block and we never look back. Khalni Gem is one that I’ve discussed with people on the CompetitiveEDH subreddit quite a bit. Coloured mana is important, and if we draw this later in the game on a High Tide turn, we can tap 2 islands for UUUU, cast Khalni Gem, return the two tapped islands to hand, and play 1 of them for turn. This is a net-neutral play with respect to available mana and is just one more permanent that taps for more than 1 mana for the Chain Veil combo. The lands are all pretty solid. I like the idea of tossing Boseiju and Ancient Tomb in here because the opportunity cost is pretty low, but otherwise I’m leaving the non-basics the same. Given that we’re playing High Tide we want to be very careful to make sure that the Island count doesn’t drop too low. With an increase in the number of net positive mana rocks I’d say this list could probably afford to cut 2 basic islands to bring the land total down to 32. LandsAcademy RuinsAncient TombBuried RuinGhost QuarterInventors’ Fair Boseiju, Who Shelters All21 x Island (A)Lotus ValeReliquary TowerSeat of the SynodTolaria West Buy This List That’s it for this week! In the next installment we’re going to take a closer look at how this deck slows the game down to avoid losing before it can get the Chain Veil combo online. If you are struggling with a problem in your local meta, send an e-mail to email@example.com 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). 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