26 Decks in a Year, Episode 22 — Temur

There aren’t many wedge commanders. For Temur, we have the following choices: Animar, Soul of Elements, Intet, the Dreamer, Riku of Two Reflections, Surrak Dragonclaw, Yasova Dragonclaw, and Maelstrom Wanderer. Of those choices, one really jumps out to me.

Maelstrom Wanderer

It may be a $15 card, but we have enough money to pay for this and still build a great deck. Cascade, cascade is absurd for 8 mana, and it lets us have a much bigger board state than we normally should. Granting creatures haste encourages us to run them so we can cascade into them and attack. The converted mana cost of 8 means we want everything to be less than that, so when we spin the wheel with Maelstrom Wanderer, we’ll hit everything.

Command Tower
Maelstrom Wanderer can be built to be really consistent and mean. However, we can build a fun deck, with a bit of chaos and a good amount of power, that doesn’t just make our opponents hate us.

So we have to reach 8 mana, of three different colors, and since we’re basing everything on our commander, we want to get there pretty quickly. We’ll cascade right past extra lands, so we can run a bunch of ’em. There are forty, and thirty-five of them are basic because we’re going to be fetching a lot of them. Command Tower does a good job of fixing colors in the early game, the three on-color Guildgates are targets for Gatecreeper Vine, and Temple of the False God can jump us from 6 to 8 a turn early, which gives opponents one fewer turn than they think they have.

And we’re going to ramp. We’re going to ramp really, really hard. Twenty-three of our nonland cards somehow relate to lands—bringing them into our hands, such as with Armillary Sphere or Seek the Horizon, or, more often, pulling them straight out of the library and onto the battlefield, such as with Cultivate or Peregrination. Firewild Borderpost helps ramp and fix, as does Darksteel Ingot. Frenzied Tilling and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss both destroy an opponent’s land (don’t keep someone off a color; just aim for something utilitarian, like Reliquary Tower or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth). Farhaven Elf and its friends leave bodies behind (which are nicely reusable). Into the Wilds helps us find more lands when they happen to be on top, and Elfhame Sanctuary makes sure we draw nothing but lands. The big daddy of all ramp spells, Boundless Realms, is here, too. When it hits, it hits huge—all the mana is belong to us.

Elfhame Sanctuary
What we’re not going to do is draw. We really don’t want to draw any cards past our opening seven. Why put a card in our hand, where we have to pay for it, when we can get those cards for free by cascading into them? Yavimaya Elder draws a card, but it’s worth it because of the lands it fetches. Otherwise, there are no draw spells. This is why Elfhame Sanctuary is great in the deck—it means we always hit a land instead of drawing action we’d rather leave in the library.

We’re also heavy in the threats department. We want our creatures to come down fast and hard and make an impact. A whole bunch of Beasts, such as Stampeding Serow, Roaring Primadox, and Species Gorger, join with a trio of Gods—Kruphix, God of Horizons, Nylea, God of the Hunt, and Xenagos, the Reveler—to be huge. Surrak Dragonclaw is among the best creatures we can hit, granting everything we have trample in addition to haste and making sure our creatures can’t be countered. (This works when we cascade into them, too—we cast the spell without paying its mana cost, so it’s still cast, which means it can’t be countered with Surrak out.) Giant Adephage plus haste makes a swarm of giant, trampling Insects. Inferno Titan can cook an opponent pretty quickly, and with all the mana this deck can make, the firebreathing is relevant. Kiora, the Crashing Wave can also ultimate and give us Leviathan after Leviathan, which ends a game in a hurry.

Stolen Identity
Answers, on the other hand, are a bit random. They’re there, but we mostly can’t control what we hit and when. Indrik Stomphowler, for example, destroys an annoying artifact or enchantment, but we sometimes just hit it and all we can hit is someone’s Worn Powerstone (on the other hand, we sometimes hit an Eldrazi Monument). Reclamation Sage is Stomphowler number two. Ancient Grudge is nice because we can cast it a second time whenever we want. Phyrexian Revoker eats whatever we want it to (my favorite was eating Sheoldred, Whispering One) and makes sure it never, never comes back. Stolen Identity at least can give us whatever someone has, and Zealous Conscripts gives us a shot with someone’s best thing. Decimate will almost always have four targets—remember it can hit anything, not just one player. Warstorm Surge is among our best hits early in the game—that enchantment throws a lot of damage around.

The really fun part of this deck, though, is making it work over and over. Those Beasts from before join with Trusted Advisor, Cache Raiders, and Oni of Wild Places (along with a couple of others) to return creatures to our hand at the beginning of our upkeep. That means we can cast Maelstrom Wanderer from the command zone and then return it to our hand next turn and recast it. Casting three spells for 8 mana a turn seems pretty good.

Sometimes, we wind up having to return more than one creature. Great! Phyrexian Revoker is hilarious when cast every turn . . . for us. It makes our opponents sad. We can always return one of the returners to keep it safe in our hand in case we get Wrath’d—then, we’ll have another one to start over post-board-wipe. Eternal Witness is awesome to be able to cast over and over. Any of the land fetchers, too, work great. Note that, as long as it stays legal in the format, Deadeye Navigator can do this even better by just flickering our creatures back and forth. (It doesn’t work with the commander though—Maelstrom Wanderer has to be cast, not just enter the battlefield, for cascade to trigger.)

Berserkers' Onslaught
Last episode’s find Berserkers’ Onslaught is great in this build; if we’re lucky enough to hit it and Surrak, we’re basically unstoppable. Prophet of Kruphix makes it so we don’t have to leave up any blockers, and added to the God of Horizons, it means we are able to bank all our extra mana. We also can get very lucky and hit Bloodbraid Elf or Etherium-Horn Sorcerer for extra cascade fun. The archetypes are both really deadly—flying or trample for all our stuff is nasty—and draw a ton of attention to themselves. It’s nice when all the attention is pointed at that one creature while we’re off doing something else.

And that leads us to cascade and the complex nature of the ability. Here’s how it works:

Cast the spell with cascade. It goes on the stack.

The cascade goes on the stack (in the case of our commander, two instances of cascade go on the stack).

The cascade resolves, flipping cards until a valid one is revealed. That spell goes on the stack (though it’s a may ability). Since it’s now the top spell, it resolves.

Any additional cards are put on the bottom of the library in a random order. If Maelstrom Wanderer was the original spell cast, cascade again.

Finally, the original spell resolves.

Note that each spell resolves before the next one goes on the stack, so something like Flusterstorm will only stop one spell.

If a cascade spell is hit via cascade, the new spell will go on the stack and put its instance of cascade on the stack above it. So, if Maelstrom Wanderer is cast, and the first instance of cascade hits Bloodbraid Elf, that means the next cascade will be the Elf’s and that the final cascade will be the Wanderer’s. Whew!

There are plenty of ways to spend more money on this deck. Avenger of Zendikar comes to mind. Xenagos, the Reveler and Ral Zarek are both excellent. Keranos, God of Storms is great fun. Shardless Agent is nifty and on-theme but pricey, especially when it doesn’t hit much, and Glen Elendra Archmage gives the deck some welcome protection from, say, Decree of Pain. Homeward Path is great in any deck using a lot of creatures, and my editor likes Erratic Portal more than Trusted Advisor—it’s harder to kill with more utility.

It may seem that the deck wants to be as aggressive as possible, but that’s actually not true. Feel free to cast Maelstrom Wanderer and spin the wheel as often as you can, but pay a lot of attention to the interactions on the board and protect the ability to return the Wanderer. When there is no way to bring the commander back, throw it into combat with abandon and make opponents kill it so it goes back to the command zone to be recast.

Phyrexian Ingester
Also, the opening hand is probably the single most important moment for this deck. We want a green source and a ramp spell. If we don’t have that, it’s probably not worth keeping, no matter what else is in the hand (though I suspect I’d keep a seven-land hand). Finally, Elfhame Palace makes things confusing—it doesn’t ramp, but it makes sure we won’t draw another ramp spell. The trick is to commit—play the Elfhame Palace, and find a land every turn. That makes Maelstrom Wanderer a definite turn-eight play and leaves all our toys in the library to play with later.

Finally, let’s be honest—we’re sometimes going to fizzle. We might be really unlucky and hit nothing but ramp spells and just be outclassed. We might never find a bounce creature and get stuck against an opponent with token chump-blockers for days. Or maybe we need to hit Phyrexian Ingester to take care of Blightsteel Colossus and don’t. It happens, and this is the chance we take when we spin the wheel.

What do you think of this deck? Is this amount of randomness fun for you? What other cards are really fun to cascade into? Please let me know—I play this deck, probably more than any other, and I’m always looking for things to try!

Spinning the wheel with Maelstrom Wanderer is really fun in Commander. Everyone watches intensely as the cards flip over, waiting to see what hits. Another ramp spell? A God? A massive creature? It’s random, it’s powerful, and it’s a lot of fun.

Total cost: $74.95

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