The Great Pretender

Back on the Chain Gang

Mairsil, the Pretender
I put off writing about what I consider one of the most exciting commanders in all of Commander 2017 to give other people a chance to do all of the difficult work for me. Here at the 75% project, I’m very much interested in teaching people to build a deck in a manner that means their deck isn’t going to stomp casual players, but will also have a chance against players who take Commander a little more seriously. I try to spread the message of 75% deck-building which is a message of love. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as easy as it sounds; I don’t kid myself and think this deck-building ethos is for everyone. Achieving a perfect 75% build is almost a mystery achievement, because if it’s done right, no one will know you’ve done anything at all. A middle of the road build is what I’m shooting for and whenever I go to sleep, I do so proud that I managed to teach the world about a new way to play Commander that’s precious to me. With all of the work that goes into making a deck 75%, I don’t always want to devote a bunch of extra time and energy into scouring lists of every creature ever made with an activated ability to find the best ones. I was overwhelmed faced with the prospect of checking every creature in Grixis colors for good abilities. “Stop your sobbing,” I told myself “and let some other people figure it out for you.” Time the avenger has done its work and a few weeks later, people are full of ideas about what to put in a Mairsil, the Pretender deck and now I can use some of their choices as a basis for building my own deck that I hope is the talk of the town. I’m ready to become a dark Grixis Wizard, feel the night in my veins and cause a holy commotion on the battlefield. Let’s build Mairsil, the Pretender as 75% as we can!

Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I like the idea of having a large graveyard which effectively makes my “hand” huge so I will be running Traumatize and emphasizing discard effects like Mind over Matter. I want my Mairsil to be the best-equipped creature ever, I want there to be some 2-card interactions that can generate me enough of an advantage to win, and I want to be able to do that without dumping my entire deck into the graveyard, which is just begging for people to pull down my pants. Even simple interactions like Mercurial Chemister and Horseshoe Crab are good enough in most playgroups, although I’m not going to sneeze at Minion of Leshrac instead of Chemister. You paint a target on yourself with this deck from what I have seen, so in typical 75% fashion, we’re going to need to remember one of the rules we established in the first year of this project: “Do what you need to do to protect the execution of your strategy.” We’ll run more countermagic than we ordinarily would because we need to both keep our opponents from wiping our graveyard and also keep them from being able to murder Mairsil at will. We’re all-in on one creature and as risky as that seems, it’s also going to be a lot of fun. However, we’re going to need to be careful and we’re going to need to protect our neck more than usual; everyone knows that people who are coming for us are going to try and go for the neck.

If we’re going to win with this deck, we’re going to do more than just protect ourselves: we’re going to have to cheat. Playing fair is for suckers and if we’re going to beat tuned decks, we can’t be suckers.

A lot of the abilities that Mairsil will have will be activated abilities; which is why I think doubling them is the fastest way to pull ahead. Illusionist’s Bracers, Rings of Brighthearth, Panharmonicon, Conjurer’s Closet, and other doubling cards will make sure that when we do get online, we can maximize the effect of a powered Mairsil if we can’t rely on him sticking around for multiple turns in a row. Doubling effects are the best way to cheat and with Mairsil able to tap to do very strong things, like destroy a creature, take away half of their life, or draw cards, doubling those abilities and keeping the cost the same will put us ahead.

Thousand-Year Elixir
Since a lot of the best abilities are tap abilities, we also want to be untapping Mairsil as much as possible. Since we’re not going to be playing many other creatures or spells, cards like Paradox Engine and Intruder Alarm aren’t quite as good here as they would be normally. Instead, cards like Thousand-Year Elixir, Magewright’s Stone and, probably the best one, Mind over Matter (our graveyard might as well be our hand and we can keep using this more than once a turn) shine in this deck. Creatures that untap Mairsil such as Horseshoe Crab, Knacksaw Clique and even Cinderhaze Wretch will make our Mairsil a murder machine. Redundant copies of each ability are important since you can only activate each one once (until we locate Quicksilver Elemental), but with enough cage counters, the ability to untap a lot is crucial.

Finally, anything we can do to steal their creatures will be appreciated. Empress Galina is the first card I thought of and if you want to run this, buy her while you still can since she got a lot better with the rules change that allows her to take control of planeswalkers. The internet is charging and arm and a leg but your LGS may still have cheap copies in a binder somewhere. Commander’s ability to make old, irrelevant bulk rares into valuable staples is truly remarkable and more and more older, forgotten cards become new and relevant every few months. Mairsil is making me dust off my old Phyrexian Devourers and Necrotic Oozes from that old Legacy deck and I couldn’t be happier to be getting more mileage out of them. Knacksaw Clique does some double duty here, untapping Mairsil but also letting us cast their spells. Olivia Voldaren also shines here, not only capitalizing on the popularity of Vampires, but also letting us shoot their small creatures down and steal their stuff big enough to survive. However, Illusionist’s Bracers on Mairsil makes her ping ability a lethal option, since the mana requirement to kill something is basically half what it was before. I still prefer to swipe their creatures, though, since this is 75% after all. Chainer, Dementia Master does some work here and even Dominating Licid is an option, albeit a very fragile and risky one. I want to maximize stealing from opponents since we won’t have a lot of blockers of our own.

Finally, I want to remove a little of the linearity the decks normally have without sacrificing power. I like the idea of including a few ways to give Mairsil Infect and accordingly, I won’t include ways to tutor for those cards. If they come up when we Traumatize ourselves or during the normal course of a game, super, but I’m not going to worry about seeking them out. This means that we won’t get Infect every game and therefore won’t really be able to rely on it, which is fine with me. I won’t apologize for having an “oops, I deleted someone” option in the form of Infect, but I’m not relying on it and therefore we’re going to likely line up with our goal to win 1/x games where x is the number of players in the pod. Infect is no guaranteed win, so you shouldn’t hear any complaints from anyone if you choose to run Pestilent Souleater in your deck,

Finally, we want to run ways to protect and rebuy Mairsil, so the ability to phase out to avoid danger, return to our hand, or blink out of existence are very useful. A lot of those ways to prevent Mairsil from coming to harm also trigger his ETB ability and let us accumulate cage counters. We’ll run more countermagic than we typically do, but with our creatures giving Mairsil the ability to remove their permanents, we will have room since we won’t run as many removal spells. What is our deck going to look like when we put a 75% spin on Mairsil?

Tattooed Love Boy - Commander | Jason Alt

Even though we run Quicksilver Elemental to negate some of Mairsil’s inherent limitations, I still wanted to avoid making this a combo deck and instead focus on generating some advantage and using that to make him large and quickly kill opponents. I’m not necessarily saying this deck wouldn’t be 75% as a combo deck. If you want to go that route, I would add the following interactions.

Laboratory Maniac
Add Basalt Monolith and possibly Grim Monolith as well as Power Artifact. The monoliths plus Rings of Brighthearth can generate infinite mana. I would also add Metalworker to the deck and some more ways to untap. We can either draw our entire deck with Staff of Domination and win with Laboratory Maniac or we can generate infinite colorless mana to kill them with Walking Ballista. The Traumatize I added does even more work in this instance. Mycosynth Lattice does a lot of work in this build, since you will rely much more heavily on artifacts than creatures and I would likely run Darksteel Forge to protect your investments. The build I suggested is less heavily reliant on permanents in play than a combo artifact build, but if you want to go that way, we can make fewer than 20 changes and end up at that build. I don’t recommend this build, but it is there if you ever want to try it or find this build of Mairsil needs a little juicing. With cards like Jace’s Archivist, you can go for other ways to win with Laboratory Maniac, but those always bore me quickly and I tend not to go for that.

The way the deck is currently constructed, you maximize the blinks and ETB triggers, which means you can quickly cage a lot of cards and start building a monster Mairsil. We added as many ways to steal their creatures as we could without compromising the ability of the deck to run smoothly. I also went deep on countermagic (deeper than I go, anyway) and cut down on the typical amount of removal since Mairsil can do that already.

This deck makes cards like Anthroplasm and Shauku, Endbringer relevant again and this is likely the next deck I build. Good cards like Memnarch and Mind over Matter combine with questionable cards like Mercurial Chemister and I couldn’t be happier to run a pile like this. I’m going to be countering spells that threaten the Voltron monster I’m building, stealing their creatures and making Mairsil big enough to wipe someone out in one hit. This deck is going to be my baby. What more could you ask for? Hate some of my choices? Did I find cards you didn’t even know existed? Did you build Mairsil already and do you have some insight to share? Leave it in the comments section. Until next week!

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