Meta Morphin – Skyward Eye Prophets
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
Welcome to the first installment of the 'Meta Morphin' series. In these articles I will take a commander and look at how it can be built for differing metas. I will divide the metas very broadly into two categories: Competitive and gindy.
Competitive – this is where the playgroup plays to win first and foremost. Sure you can bring your jank but in general people want to play powerful stuff and face challenging decks.
Grindy – this is the place you go if you want to have a fun night playing magic, slugging it out and bashing in with your dudes. Value and casual atmosphere are the name of the game.
Of course this is very simplified and most playgroups will probably be a mix of these with other stuff thrown in too but there might be a tendency and you can tweak your deck to go with the flow. Now that we're on the same page, let's take a look at who I'll build today.
There aren't too many choices for three color commander in our format but three colors is really good because you have a wider range of tools to work with. With the quality of our mana base and our available fixing it is slightly more difficult to do compared to regular EDH. We are in green however so we should be fine. We are also in blue and that means access to good card advantage. Speaking of card advantage the Prophet itself is a card advantage and ramp engine. Lastly white, while not the most exciting color does give us some very good tools as a supporting color.
The biggest downside the Prophet has is it high mana cost at a great big six. However since we need the ramp for fixing either way we should be able to play him reliably on turn 3-5 depending on what meta we are building for. What we don't want to happen is that we need to replay our Prophet from the command zone. The different builds will go about that goal in different ways but he just becomes uncastable very quickly if we can't protect him.
The Competitive Build
Speed and consistency are really important here. The premiss is simple: If our commander can use his ability and we have a way to untap him over and over we win the game on the spot by drawing our entire library. To do that we have a main combo and that is Village Bell Ringer + Banishing Knack/Retractor Helix for infinite mana and creature untaps. Vitalize, Call to Glory and Dramatic Reversal paired with a Mnemonic Wall or Scrivener are harder to pull of but work as a backup plan. I would not run Acheomancer or Salvager of Secrets as the double blue can be problematic. Escape Routes and Aegis Automaton are backups for the helix but again harder to pull off. Escape Routes will most likely not make the cut, as they would only combo with the Bell Ringer, doing nothing much else for the deck. That is a bit too narrow, especially for a backup plan.
We will include a few tutors such as Merchant Scroll and Drift of Phantasm to increase the consistency of finding our combo. Other tutors can be included even if they don't find combo pieces as long as they find enough relevant cards for our deck such as Muddle the Mixture, Trinket Mage or Wirewood Herald.
Next we need mana. A lot of mana. We also want our mana to come from creatures so that when we enter our untap loop we have enough mana to keep the loop going. This makes pretty much every one CMC dork an auto-include. Besides that we are interested in dorks that can produce blue or white mana and dorks that can produce more than one mana. This will push us towards a lot of elves but a fair amount of defenders as well. A great all-round card for this deck is Freed from the Real. It can generate infinite mana with Axbane Guardian or Krosan Restorer but it can sometimes just be pure value on our commander.
Haste is something Bant does not have a lot of access to but it is crucial to win out of nowhere with our commander. It is also the best way we have of protecting our commander since it allows us to win the turn we cast it, thus blanking all sorcery speed removal. Our options are Striders Harness, Fleetfeather Sandals and the new Crashing Drawbridge. The Drawbridge is a defender so that helps Overgrown Battlement and Axbane Guardian.
Interaction is the next big thing we need. This is a competitive playgroup so they will be doing busted stuff that we have to stop as well. Besides the suite of counter magic such as Counterspell, Arcane Denial, Negate, Dispel or Unwind we can also run versatile interaction such as Vines of Vastwood, Snap and Snapback. We can also utilize some nice permanent answers such as Last Breath or Return to Nature. We also want some Voltron insurance that can come in the form of Moments Peace or Righteous Aura. Lastly we can have Relic of Progenitus/Tormod's Crypt and Aether Spellbomb for our Trinket mage to find.
After all the setup and interaction we finally also need a way to win. If you are drawing your entire deck with infinite mana the how of winning is a bit of an afterthought. I like Viridian Longbow and maybe a Psyonic Gift as a backup if you want some aura package with Heliod's Pilgrim for instant. With defenders in your ramp package Doorkeeper becomes a viable option because it helps you even when you are not going off by increasing the mana Overgrown Battlement and Axbane Guardian produce.
To round out the deck we want more stuff that helps us find what we need. Cantrips like Ponder and Preordain but also raw card draw like Secrets of the Golden City and Rhystic Study as we need a critical mass of dorks to go off. The exact configuration is up to you but I do want to mention Distant Melody. It's terrible when we're really far behind but when we are just a little behind our core of elves/druids should get us a decent amount of draw from this. It depends a lot on the configuration of dorks if it's worth it or not. On the topic of elves, you can take this a little more into an elf ball direction, adding cards like Timberwatch Elf and Elvish Vanguard. They give you and alternate win con at the cost of diluting our main game plan. This is where the deck can be geared to personal preference a bit.
Depending on the decks we expect to face the most it may be wise to bring in some hate bears as additional disruption. Cards like Benevolent Unicorn against storm decks Suture Priest against flicker or Standard Bearer against freed and flicker combo.
You can take a look at my build of a competitive Skyward Eye Prophet list here.
The Grindy Build
Okay, enough of this combo nonsense. Everyone on board, the train back to value town is about to depart. First of all we will keep a good number of cards from the competitive list. Freed from the Real on our commander is value for days. The Trinket Mage package is sweet and could even use some more pieces. I heard something about Heliod's Pilgrim, sign me up.
We are also facing some of the same problems we faced before. For instance our mana base still has to be three colored. This time we will rely less on fragile one toughness elves to get us there. Abundant Growth replaces itself and fixes just like Nylea's Presence. ETBs always mean potential value so Farhaven Elf and Coiling Oracle will join our ramp package as well. If we are leaning more into artifacts we can use Springleaf Drum, Arcum's Astrolabe and Prophetic Prism for ramp or fixing with additional value.
Repeatable effect are what we are looking for for the other parts of our deck too. For card draw Mulldrifter may be the best one we have. There are a number of cantriping or scrying flyers that will complement the winged elemental fish quite nicely. Flyers are great because the evasion will help us get damage through in board stall situations. There are non flying card advantage creatures that we can consider like Seagate Oracle or Citanul Woodreaders. Then there is Kor Skyfisher. Not only is it an incredibly efficient creature it also goes well with all of our ETBs. On top of that it's white so it gives us a slow but viable way to use Escape Routes to replay non-white creatures as well.
We will also need some ways to get rid of troublesome creatures, blockers and threatening commanders. It's great if we can get it strapped onto a creature like Man-o'-war but those are often very costly as far as mana goes. Other value oriented ways are counters that cantrip like Exclude or bounce spells that also draw a card like Into the Roil. If we have the enchantment package we should consider cards like Hobble. While slow it is still removal that replaces itself. On the artifact route we again have Aether Spellbomb as it can also draw a card when the bounce is not needed. Viridian Longbow can be great for gunning down tokens or utility creatures and becomes a beast on any death touch creature. We can also use the new Scalding Cauldron and use a Leonin Squire to recur it. There are also some good creatures with kicker that can serve as repeatable removal. The effects of cards like Kor Sanctifier, Mold Shambler and Oran-Rief Recluse are quite powerful.
As for our defenses we can use more counter magic, though the non-creature counters are here slightly less valuable compared to the other version. We can however also make good use of life gain as combat and damage will be important. Soul Warden type effects can gain a huge amount of life in any multiplayer setting. With us constantly replaying our creatures even more so. Lone Missionary is a good chunk of life on a stick and it should be obvious that we like ETBs by now. Stonehorn Dignitary is a better Fog with legs and is a great card for the deck. To protect against other flyers we can run things like Spidersilk Armor and Righteous Aura is once more a Voltron catch all.
With the density of ETBs that we want to reuse we need consistent ways to do so. Our commander does provide us with constant value but not with recursion. In addition to some of the self bounce tech we can also use some flicker effects to get the most out of our cards. Ghostly Flicker and Displace are fantastic even when you don't want to run a drake combo with them. Ephemerate is a fairly new addition that is a bit slower to loop but faster when you are still setting up your board state. Otherworldly Journey deserves a special mention because it can target opponent creature too making in incredibly versatile especially if your meta is more mixed.
We still need a way to actually win the game. If we go more enchantment focused we can add a few powerful auras that can turn our commander into a voltron threat very quickly. Shield of the Oversoul, Ancestral Mask, Steel of the Godhead, Empyreal Armor, Rancor, Armadillo Cloak, Ethereal Armor just to name a few. If we focus more on the artifact side we can use equipment to suit up our flyers and win through air superiority. Here Bonesplitter, Copper Carapace and the new Rosethorn Halberd are all fetchable with our Trinket Mage and turn any flyer into a threat. Opaline Bracers are a beast if we can get to sunburst of four. At three it's still fine and we should always have that but four is doable with the help of our fixing. When going the artifact rout Whispersilk Cloak should be there to protect our commander since we are probably not running Shield of the Oversoul, though you can run both if you like.
At this point, you might be thinking, 'Why not just play Mistmeadow Witch or Species Gorger?' A different question: Why not both? A grindy Skyward Eye Prophet works a lot like these commanders but with the added benefit of being tri colored. Also we can use both white and green kicker creatures as well as the new adventure mechanic that I will have to test first. Add in the fact the he can draw and ramp all on his lonesome gives him much more value when you are behind as well. Lastly, the fact that he is a CMC six commander is not always bad. For instance we can play Rush of Knowledge and know that we will always have access to a setup that lets us draw six off the Rush. With enough ramp we can even play an eldrazi or two to raise the potential of the Rush even more.
So there you have it, same commander but fundamentally different decks for different metas. I was considering to add a third category that I called 'themed'. That would have been more the realm of fun, theme and jank focused metas.
In this case it would probably have ended with something like Twiddle tribal. On the other hand, I did not want to make the article too long. I'd be interested to hear from you if you think I should include that or if it's better the way I did it this time round. Also let me know if this style of deck tech is of interest to you.
I had a lot of fun writing it so I hope you enjoyed reading it too. Until next time, take care.