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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Commander Review: Fate Reforged – Mardu of the Past

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Commander/General Ideas, Review

Zurgo Helmsmasher Trailer

Raiding in Another Time.

Hi there fellow EDH-ers and a big thank you for following this series of Commander Review for the Fate Refroged set. We welcome you back as we continue to review yet another khan of Tarkir past. Today khan of topic will be of the Mardu Horde; a clan which admires the ancient Dragons’ aspect of speed. They admire it so much so that the clan mechanic then is like a reflection to their admiration and different from the present clan mechanic.

 

Speedsters

Pioneer of an Art.

Pioneer of an Art.

In the present, the clan mechanic of the Mardu is called Raid; a trigger ability which adds on advantages effect if the controller attacked with a Creature. In the past the Mardu are even more vicious than they were in the present as they believe in the essence that the best defense is to attack. Like how they admire the speed of the Dragons, their clan mechanic then called Dash also reflects that liking. The mechanic was first seen back then in MtG without an actual name on Viashino Sandstalker and later other similar cards (Archwing Dragon; Glitterfang; Viashino Sandscout; Viashino Cutthroat). Dash basically summarize all of what the Sandstalker and friends do into one ability. What it basically does is allow Creatures with it to be cast with their alternate Dash cost, which is usually lower than their actual casting cost. These Creatures will then gain Haste and will be bounce at the end of the next end step. Many of these Creatures also has attack or ETB triggers which makes them sort of like spells with legs as you get an effect out of their triggers. Dash Creatures are also very effective in dodging board sweepers as most of it are Sorceries. By the time opponents are able to cast those board sweepers, the Dash Creatures have already bounced back to their owners’ hand. In short, Dash presents to us the choices depending on the situation of having a permanent Creature or a temporary Creature. This is actually quite flavorful to the Mardu of the past as the Dragons they are fighting to protect their region are very fast and agile Creatures. Dash is very much like how they defend themselves while fighting the Dragons in a hit and run fashion. As q quick reference below are the available Dash Creatures till date.

Alesha’s Vanguard / Kolaghan Skirmisher / Mardu Scout / Pitiless Horde / Reckless Imp / Screamreach Brawler / Sprinting Warbrute / Zurgo Bellstriker Basic Dash Creatures.
Ambuscade Shaman Whenever it or another Creature enters the battlefield under your control, that Creature gets +2/+2 till end of turn.
Flamerush Rider When it attacks, put a token that is a copy of another target attacking Creature tapped and attacking onto the battlefield.
Goblin Heelcutter When it attacks, target Creature cannot block this turn.
Kolaghan Forerunners Trample.
Power equals to number of Creatures controller control.
Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury Pumps your Creature by +1/+0 till end of turn whenever a Dragon you control attacks.
Lightning Berserker R: +1/+0 till end of turn.
Mardu Shadowspear Each opponent loses 1 life when it attacks.
Mardu Strike Leader Create a 2/1 Black Warrrior token when it attacks.
Vaultbreaker May draw and discard a card when it attacks.
Warbringer Dash lord. Reduce Dash cost by 2.

 

Rush Hour.

Rush Hour Help.

 

What’s in a Name

Mardu Runemark

Living up to the Name.

With the clan mechanic introduction done, let’s have a look at the khan at this time. The khan of the Mardu in the past was a transgender woman who had took up her grandmother’s name. To the Mardu, a name is chosen by each and confirms by the khan to signify their great deeds to the clan as a form of earning their mark as a Warrior of the clan. Alesha had chosen her grandmother’s name when she was asked of it out of the respect she had for her. In time she would earn her namesake as the one who smiles at death for her fearlessness in battle. She rose to khan status soon enough and was fighting fearlessly with her clan with Kolaghan and her Dragon brood who conducted constant outpost siege on the Mardu region. Although there are constant casualties with each siege, the Mardu were able to work together and stood up against the Dragons slowly killing off their numbers. Eventually when the Dragonstorm dies down after Ugin’s death, the Mardu gained reign over the region.

Pyrotechnics

Slaying One at a Time. Gaining Grounds Slowly but Surely.

 

Due to Sarkhan’s intervene, the Dragonstorm intensified and the Mardu were unable to deal with the Dragons in time. In an attempt to save her clan, Alesha attended the meeting of the khans only for it to fail disastrously as the Dragons attacked. Following the khanfall, she readied herself for a final stand and was prepared to fight to the death with the Dragons as she returned to her Lands. She found out however that unlike the other tyrannical Dragon brood leaders, the Dragon leader of her Lands has neither any intention nor interest in leading or enslaving the Mardu. Thus Alesha and her Warriors simply tossed their banners aside and followed the Dragon leader Kolaghan as equals. All things were well for some time till Kolaghan later became increasingly brutal and domineering over the ages. The Dragon leader eventually follow suit as the other Dragon leaders and took over the Mardu by force; forbidding their ways of life and forming her own clan under her name. Eventually the Mardu also finally lost their identity and over time became increasingly barbaric and savage under the Dragons’ rule, abandoning and forsaking whatever honor they had once possessed before.

Kolaghan Forerunners

Honor and Glory No More.

 

Basic introduction of the khan of Mardu past done, let’s have a look at her stats below before we move on further.

 

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Card Name: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

CMC: 2R

Types: Legendary Creature – Human Warrior

Card Text: First Strike

Whenever Alesha, Who Smiles at Death attacks, you may pay W/B W/B. If you do, return target creature card with power 2 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped and attacking.

P/T: 3/2

Following the footsteps of the other khans of the past, Alesha although mono Red in casting is also Mardu (Red, Black, White) color identity through her attack trigger activation cost. I like her unique reanimating attack trigger which is very in sync with her clan’s violent nature of keep attacking. Although the attack trigger can only reanimate small Creatures with power 2 or less, it is still quite powerful in its own right if you chose to go with those Creatures with ETB triggers. If you go towards that direction then suddenly it becomes a bonus for those Creatures to be reanimated tapped and attacking. Built right, every attack with Alesha will come with many other effects as you bring back attackers from the graveyard. That best thing about the trigger is it is a real reanimate, unlike most other ways which are temporary and will either sacrifice or exile the Creatures afterward. The Creatures will instead stay on after the attack. All that is not without risk though as Alesha needs to attack in order to trigger the ability and she might die in the combat given her low toughness. She does offer some good in combat with her 3 power and First Strike but will still need some extra protection from direct removal or board sweep thrown at her to keep her going for more attack (General’s Kabuto; Indestructibility; Lightning Greaves; Shield of Kaldra; Swiftfoot Boots; Whispersilk Cloak). Luckily her cc is relatively low at 3cc and you can afford to pay for her Commander Tax a couple of times. If the tax becomes too high, then you may also consider sending her to the graveyard instead and reanimate her from there when needed.

 

Attacking Advantages

Animate Dead

Back from the Dead.

As mentioned earlier, Alesha real powers lies in her reanimating attack trigger. To really abuse it, you can just pack your deck with a lot of power 2 or less Creatures with ETB triggers. That way, each of your attack will be full of triggers being thrown at your opponent. There are many ways to fill up your graveyard with Creatures for Alesha to bring back. From letting them die, to discarding them (Avaricious Dragon; Bedlam Reveler; Burning Inquiry; Cathartic Reunion; Tormenting Voice; etc), or milling them away. Once they are there, you can take your picking with each attack. What kind of Creatures to bring back at such low power to make an impact on the game you may ask? Well, there are many to choose in Alesha color identity. Ranging from damage, disruption, removal, retriever, you are not short of choices. Below are just some that you may be of interest to add into your deck, all of which are power 2 or less.

Abbot of Keral Keep ETB exiles top card of your library. Until end of turn, you may play that card.
Abyssal Horror / Cackling Fiend / Corrupt Court Official / Disciple of Phenax / Earsplitting Rats / Hellhole Rats / Liliana’s Specter / Ravenous Rats / Rotting Rats / Sanity Gnawers / Sibsig Icebreakers ETB force discard.
Anarchist / Auramancer / Cadaver Imp / Gravedigger / Griffin Dreamfinder / Monk Idealist / Moriok Scavenger / Treasure Hunter ETB each retrieve specific card.
Anathemancer ETB punishes target player for having nonbasic Lands by dealing damage equal to number nonbasic Lands to him or her.
Angel of Invention / Glint-Sleeve Artisan / Iron League Steed / Marionette Master / Propeller Pioneer / Visionary Augmenter / Weaponcraft Enthusiast ETB Fabricate.
Arashin Cleric / Cathedral Sanctifier / Conclave Phalanx / Courier Griffin / Filigree Familiar / Jedit’s Dragoons / Kemba’s Skyguard / Kithkin Zealot / Lone MIssionary / Radiant’s Dragoons / Shu Grain Caravan / Shu Soldier-Farmers / Tireless Missionaries / Temple Acolyte / Teroh’s Faithful / Venerable Monk ETB gain life.
Attended Knight / Blade Splicer / Beetleback Chief / Evangel of Heliod / Ghirapur Gearcrafter / Haunted Dead / Knight-Captain of Eos / Marsh Flitter / Master Splicer / Pia and Kiran Nalaar / Pia Nalaar / Priest of the Blood Rite / Sandsteppe Outcast / Seller of Songbirds / Sengir Autocrat / Sensor Splicer / Siege-Gang Commander / Springjack Shepherd / Thopter Engineer / Urbis Protector ETB create token(s).
Avalanche Riders / Goblin Settler ETB destroy Land.
Aven Cloudchaser / Clouldchaser Eagle / Cloudchaser Kestrel / Enlightened Ascetic / Monk Realist / Nikko-Onna / War Priest of Thune / Wispmare ETB destroy Enchantment.
Aven Riftwatcher ETB and LTB gain life.
Aven Tactician / Elite Scaleguard / Sandcrafter Mage ETB pumps your Creature(s) with Bolster.
Aviary Mechanic / Kor Skyfisher ETB bounce your permanent. Good for resetting permanent.
Azorius Arrester / Azorius Justiciar ETB Detain.
Balustrade Spy ETB mill target player till a Land card is milled.
Banisher Priest / Fairgrounds Warden ETB exiles target Creature till the Creature leaves the battlefield.
Bloodhunter Bat / Dakmor Ghoul / Highway Robber ETB target player or opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.
Body Snatcher / Karmic Guide ETB reanimate a Creature from your graveyard.
Boggart Harbinger / Flamekin Harbinger / Kithkin Harbinger ETB tutor for specific Tribal card and put on top of library.
Bone Shredder / Nekrataal / Serpent Assassin ETB destroy Creature.
Chittering Rats ETB forces target opponent to put card from hand to top of library.
Crypt Champion ETB each player reanimate a 3cc or less Creature. Political tool
Devout Lightcaster ETB exiles target Black permanent.
Disciple of Bolas ETB sacrifices another Creature and gain X life and draw X cards where X is that Creature’s power.
Duergar Hedge-Mage ETB destroy target Artifact if you control two or more Mountains and destroy target Enchantment if you control two or more Plains.
Duplicant ETB exiles target nontoken Creature.
Entomber Exarch ETB choose one –

  • Retrieve a Creature.
  • Reveal target opponent hand and choose and discard a nonCreature card.
Faceless Butcher / Fiend Hunter ETB exiles target other Creature.
Fervent Cathar / Goblin Shortcutter ETB target Creature can’t block this turn.
Flame-Kin Zealot ETB pumps your army by +1+/1 and give them Haste till end of turn.
Ghitu Slinger ETB deals 2 damage to a target.
Gibbering Fiend ETB deal 1 damage to each opponent. Deal 1 damage to each opponent during upkeep when Delirium.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury ETB steal one of top four cards of target opponent’s library. Stolen card can be cast later using mana as though it were of any type to cast it.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel ETB each opponent lose life equal to your devotion to Black and you gain life equal to life lost this way.
Heliod’s Pilgrim / Totem-Guide Hartebeest ETB tutor for Aura card.
Imperial Recruiter ETB tutor for power 2 of less Creature card.
Inquisitor Exarch ETB choose one –

  • Gain 2 life.
  • Target opponent loses 2 life.
Knight of the White Orchid ETB tutor for a Plains card onto the battlefield if an opponent controls more Lands than you.
Kor Cartographer ETB tutor for a Plains card onto the battlefield tapped.
Leonin Relic-Warder ETB exiles target Artifact or Enchantment.
Liliana’s Shade ETB tutor for Swamp card.
Manic Vandal ETB destroy Artifact.
Mesmeric Fiend / Vizkopa Confessor ETB exiles card from target opponent hand.
Mindclaw Shaman ETB steals an Instant or Sorcery from target opponent’s hand.
Netherborn Phalanx ETB each opponent loses 1 life for each Creature he or she controls.
Oreskos Explorer ETB tutor for X Plains cards where X is number of players who control more Lands than you.
Pilgrim’s Eye / Solemn Simulacrum ETB tutor for basic Land.
Petravark ETB exiles Land.
Priest of Gix / Priest of Urabrask ETB get BBB / RRR.
Recruiter of the Guard ETB tutor for toughness 2 or less Creature.
Stingscourger ETB bounce target Creature to owner’s hand.
Stoneforge Mystic ETB tutor for Equipment.

 

Crypt Champion

Bringing back a Friend or Two.

 

Tribal Theme – Ally

Talus Paladin

Ally Assemble.

Another way to abuse Alesha is to use her as an Ally Tribal theme Commander. As some Allies have trigger abilities that trigger on itself or another Ally entering the battlefield, you can use Alesha to bring back 2 power of less Ally to trigger those Allies. This tactic is even more deadly with our aforementioned tactic as there are even more triggers triggering when you bring back an Ally with Alesha. If you like to go with this Tribal theme then you may like to consider the below Allies to combo with Alesha.

Akoum Battlesinger Pumps your Allies up as it or another Ally ETB.
Bala Ged Thief Force discard as it or another Ally ETB.
Bojuka Brigand / Hada Freeblade / Kazandu Blademaster / Makindi Shieldmate / Nimana Sell-Sword / Tuktuk Grunts Pump itself up as it or another Ally ETB.
Chasm Guide Give Haste till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Firemantle Mage Give Menace till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Hagra Diabolist Target player loses life equal to number of Allies you control as it or another Ally ETB.
Hero of Goma Fada Give Indestructible till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Highland Berserker Give First Strike till end of turn to all your Allies as it or another Ally ETB.
Kabira Evangel Give Protection from a chosen color till end of turn to all your Allies as it or another Ally ETB.
Kalastria Healer Each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life as it or another Ally ETB.
Kazuul Warlord Put a +1/+1 counter on each of your Ally as it or another Ally ETB.
Kor Entanglers Tap target Creature an opponent controls as it or another Ally ETB.
Kor Bladewhirl Give First Strike till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Lantern Scout Gives Lifelink till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Makindi Patrol Gives Vigilance till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Munda, Ambush Leader Dig for Allies. Look at top four cards of your library and reveal any number of Ally cards as it or another Ally ETB. Put those cards on top of library in any order and the rest at the bottom of library in any order.
Murasa Pyromancer As it or another Ally ETB, it deals damage equal to number of Allies you control to target Creature.
Ondu Champion Gives Trample till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Ondu Cleric Gain life equals to number of Allies you control as it or another Ally ETB.
Resolute Blademaster Gives Double Strike till end of turn to all your Creatures as it or another Ally ETB.
Talus Paladin Gives Lifelink till end of turn to all your Allies and pump itself up as it or another Ally ETB.
Tuktuk Scrapper Destroy target Artifact as it or another Ally ETB and deals damage equal to number of Allies you control to destroyed Artifact’s controller.

 

Kazandu Blademaster

Task Masters.

 

Outsource from the Grave

One Who Smiles at Death Shall Not Fear it.

Although very selective with her reanimating targets, Alesha is still a very good build around Reanimator style Commander. I have always been a big fan of using graveyard as a resource and I very much recommend Alesha as a Reanimator style Commander. When the deck is built right around her, it can be very powerful with all the recurring Creatures’ ETB abilities. I will strongly recommend going the Ally Tribal theme on this one as you have a wider range of triggers and not just restricted to getting it from one reanimated Creature. Furthermore many of the Ally triggers affect not just one but the whole lot of them. This allow you to dish out deadly Alpha strikes over and over again with every attack with Alesha. Combine all that with Mardu’s Aggro Control nature and you have a very powerful Mardu Ally deck in the making.

 

What do you think of the Mardu khan of the past? Is she powerful enough to be your Reanimator style alpha strike Commander? Share with us your opinions in the comments below. We shall leave it here for now for the Mardu Khan. Do come back for more Commander Review of Fate Reforged. Thus till the next article…..

 

This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.

:D~

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