Ghost in the Machine

The Pro Tour has come and gone, and now it’s time to look at other formats with Dragons of Tarkir—namely, Commander. The set has a ton of legendary creatures, but most of them are pretty straightforward. They’re well suited to playing the value game, but they’re not cut out for the sort of mental gymnastics I’m so fond of. Thankfully, there’s an exception to the rule.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit wants lots of nontoken creatures to come down on your side and your creature with the least toughness to be especially fond of +1/+1 counters. I don’t know what just came to your mind, but mine filled with recollected adventures playing Chorus of the Conclave and Brago, King Eternal and arrived at one word: Triskelion.

Triskelion by Christopher Moeller

First, I tried to make bolster triggers with Whitemane Lions and their ilk, but at some point, you have to wonder why go to all this effort just to save a mana over activating Echoes of the Kin Tree. In order to really do something novel with Anafenza, we’ll need to subvert the way that bolster’s supposed to work. Well, it’s not supposed to make one big threat. In fact, if you don’t have other small fries to bolster onto, Anafenza will buff herself rather than continue to grow an existing fatty—unless, of course, you can somehow put together a singular threat from a lot of low-toughness creatures. I contemplated this while looking through my prerelease Sealed pool, and then I saw Servant of the Scale—not that I could play it in a mono-white deck, but it reminded me of something.

Arcbound Fiend by Ittoku

Modular triggers let us build up counters all over the place and then move them where they need to go instantaneously with a sacrifice. As you might expect, that offers some resilience against point removal, but we can also thwart sweepers with just a smidge of Darksteel.

Fatal Error — Commander | Jules Robins

Commander (1)
Threat-Builders (17)
Counter Mules (11)
Sacrifice Outlets (7)
Additional Uses (19)
Answers (5)
Mana (40)
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Best-Laid Plans

So that’s Plan A: Cast some creatures with modular, bolster onto them, and eventually pile most of the counters onto a big threat or something like Mindless Automaton that can abuse them. It sounds straightforward, but there are a couple of added twists.

Ever consider sunburst in a mono-colored deck? It might not seem like a bright idea, but even in mono-white, a few cards have room to shine when something else is putting counters on them.

Etched Oracle by Matt Cavotta

But that’s not the only seemingly odd inclusion to have its day in the sun. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit doesn’t seem to play nicely with tokens. First off, it says right on the card that they don’t trigger her; second, they tend to have very low toughness and draw all the bolster triggers away from whatever you want to put counters on. That’s sad news given how many Tetravus lookalikes there are just begging for +1/+1 counters. Luckily, things aren’t always what they seem.

The deck already needs numerous sacrifice outlets to take advantage of modular triggers, but they also allow you to control where bolster counters go by eating up smaller creatures that would get in the way. That’s a pretty wasteful approach to take generally, but when the sacrifice outlet is something like Kuldotha Forgemaster, it means that Pentavus can parlay your bolster triggers into shiny new artifacts.

Spine of Ish Sah by Daniel Ljunggren

But the real sacrificial fun comes from reusing your creatures over and over for a torrent of bolster and modular triggers. Cauldron of Souls lets you sacrifice the whole team every round and bolster them to cancel out the persist’s -1/-1 counters. Gift of Immortality does much the same for a single creature on each player’s turn. Enduring Renewal lets you reuse your creatures as often as you can cast them.

With enough redundancy, these cards let you turn just about any creature in the deck into an engine. Find all your lands with Solemn Simulacrum; cast Plague Wind with Duplicant; Praetor’s Counsel with Sanctum Gargoyle, or even both with Angel of Serenity—or, you know, worst comes to worst, keep playing something irrelevant and sacrificing it with Anafenza’s bolster trigger on the stack so she can grow herself to enormity.

Playing Dead

I, for one, have immensely enjoyed my adventures with Anafenza thus far. This deck isn’t going to break any records for power level, but if you have a casual group and are looking to make clever plays, attack with big creatures, and use cards in ways they were never meant to be used, this might be the approach for you. It is, after all, in the spirit of the format.

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