Commanding Respect: Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Welcome back to Commanding Respect, once again under new management! If you’re anything like me, you enjoy playing new and interesting decks, and you like building new decks at least as frequently as this series gets new authors. Today we’ll be building a deck around Zendikar’s favorite roilmage, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper.
At a quick glance, Noyan Dar offers a unique ability that rewards spellcasting—something his two colors of white and blue excel at—by turning your lands into large creatures. However, the risk of turning your lands into creatures, combined with not having green and its impressive land abilities in his color identity means that Noyan Dar decks don’t often make it to the table. In this article, we’ll talk about ways to mitigate Noyan Dar’s weaknesses and find ways to highlight and abuse his strengths
Whenever building a commander deck, one of the first things to look for is abilities similar to your commander. While Noyan Dar’s ability is unique to his card alone, there are several abilities that trigger off spellcasting. While there are many spells which grow temporarily bigger when you cast instance and sorceries through prowess and similar abilities, but we want to find spells that give us permanent benefits from spellcasting. Talrand, The Sky Summoner was one of the first cards printed to give us such a benefit, and he remains one of the best. It is easy to quickly amass a large horde of 2/2 fliers with Talrand, which can be a headache for you opponents even before you add in your army of animated lands. The more recently printed Docent of Perfection//Final Iteration likewise gives us tokens for our spells, and while it takes a little more work to make them fliers, flipping this card gives ALL wizards +2/+1 and flying, meaning creatures like Talrand will also benefit should you have them out at the same time. Finally, Metallurgic Summons rounds out our token generating suite, and also gives us a handy option to refill our hand with spells should we start running low on gas later in the game.
Aside from generating creatures, other effects worth looking at are those like Jace’s Sanctum and Baral Chief of Compliance. Both give us more control over our hand by either setting up draws or letting us loot for cards, and additionally make our spells cheaper to cast. The last part is huge in this deck, as the less lands we need to tap the more we can turn into creatures and swing or block with later on. While there are some other creatures and a few enchantments that also give us benefits from casting spells, we are going to keep non instants and sorceries—particularly creatures—in this deck to a minimum, since each instant and sorcery is a 3/3 or a permanent giant growth while Noyan Dar is out.
While the above creatures and spells give us extra benefits out of casting spells, there is a vital category of spells that will give us extra creatures or counters once cast. From Noyan Dar’s own block, spells with Awaken can provide a huge benefit with cast in conjunction with his own ability. Cheaper spells like Clutch of Currents give us a 6/6 for only 4 mana, and huge spells like Planar Outburst and Part the Waterveil only become more powerful when we have the mana to sink into making a creature as well. In particular, Planar Outburst, Scatter to the Winds, and Encircling Fissure are great for us, as they all provide abilities that synergize well with our land creatures, either by leaving them as the only creatures on the battlefield or by protecting them from other creatures or spells.
In addition to it’s awaken ability, planar outburst fills an important boardwipe slot in our deck. Nearly every EDH deck wants to run at least 2-3 board wipes to serve as a reset button, EDH will often produce a boardstate where one or more opponents has too many things to deal with and it becomes better to pull out and nuke the entire site from orbit…just to be sure. Ordinarily removing all of your opponent’s creatures comes at the cost of also losing any board presence you have created, but in Noyan Dar we can take advantage of most of our creatures being lands and keep a significant portion of our board while the rest of our opponent’s don’t. There are several spells which destroy, exile, or return to hand all non-land permanents, meaning the land creatures that Noyan Dar makes will be unaffected by the removal. The benefit of this is so huge it probably barely needs to be stated. Being able to board wipe with impunity means that in the late game our by now healthily sized land creatures will be able to swing at an open board and quickly shave down life totals. The reduced effect of board wipes on our board means that we will be running far more than the usual number of board wipes, the deck list at the bottom of this article includes 7, more than twice as many as one normally would! One thing to note about board wiping is that while our land creatures are safe, the rest of our board—particularly Noyan—isn’t, unless you’re using Tragic Arrogance, Cyclonic Rift, or have some sort of protection/flicker effect be prepared to lose some helpful artifacts or enchantments and re-cast your commander from either your hand or the command zone after resolving the board wipe.
Board wipes are not the only way that our creatures benefit from being lands. Land creatures can be difficult to manage because it effectively costs 1 mana to swing with them (assuming they don’t have vigilance, see below). However, the benefit of this is that creatures are much easier to untap than lands. Spells like Roar of the Kha and Call to Glory allow us to generate mana provided we have enough lands turned into creatures, and if Noyan Dar is out we will also be creating or growing a land creature each time it is cast. Spells like this can turn a few creatures swinging at your mostly tapped board into a dizzying flurry of combat tricks, and manage to make one or two untapped lands even more threatening than they already are in blue and white.
Another untap spell not mentioned above is unity of purpose. Unity of purpose provides the same end result as the above spells, but gets there through the slightly different way of untapping creatures with +1/+1 counters. It is important to remember that each of the land creatures in this deck is a 0/0 with +1/+1 counters on it, and not 3/3, 6/6, 9/9, etc creatures. This means that spells with proliferate will cause all of your land creatures to get bigger, and creatures like Abzan falconer or Aniok Bond-Kin will give your land creatures useful the useful abilities of flying and first strike, letting them fare a little better in combat than they might otherwise. Abilities that keep our lands safer in combat are important enough to add a few more creatures to the deck, as the biggest weakness of Noyan Dar is the risk of losing lands while they are creatures.
Lands, especially basic lands, are probably the least vulnerable of all permanents in magic, and for good reason; as mana is an essential resource for all but the jankiest of decks it is vital that something as powerful as playable land destruction be printed rarely. On the other side of things, creatures are certainly the easiest permanents to remove, with multiple ways for creatures to be taken off the field either through direct damage, combat, sacrifice effects, or even straight out destructions and exile. Because of these factors, there is an inherent risk in playing Noyan Dar and having our most valuable resource become our most fragile. We can mitigate this damage by making sure our lands are indestructible, either outright on cards like Darksteel Citadel and Cascading Cataracts, or with support from other cards like Terra Eternal or Darksteel Garrison.
We can further mitigate the weaknesses of our lands with abilities like that found on Sacred Ground, making sure that we at least get our lands back if they are unlucky enough to be hit by removal. Sacred Ground is a poor man’s Crucible of Worlds, which absolutely belongs in this deck if possible, but at a price point approaching $50 at the time of writing it will be omitted from our list today. Brave the Sands can also make your land creatures more effective by offering them vigilance, meaning you can attack without worrying about the loss of mana. Another issue with depending on land creatures is being limited to the number you can play each turn, the first few turns of the game can be very limiting to you, especially with Noyan Dar having such a high cmc. Aside from a usual compliment of mana rocks, cards like Ghirapur Orrey and Burnished Hart can help you get out lands faster, with the former also providing some group hug that might keep your opponents friendly before you start board wiping every other turn (which tends to make people unfriendly fairly quickly).
End of Turn Brainstorm: The wonderful thing about EDH is that in the end, your deck is your own creation. To celebrate this, Commanding Respect articles going forward will include a brief section at the end that explores alternative avenues for deck building that might be worth considering. I’ll preface this by saying that there’s no guarantee that one of these will be the next tier 1 cEDH build (neither is the one above, just as a disclaimer), they’re simply things you might consider if you want something more personalized. The build above goes all in on Noyan Dar’s land creatures and attempts to win by a blowout swing after a board wipe, but you may find a way to abuse untapping land creatures with a spell Isochron Scepter to generate infinite mana for a large blowout spell like Increasing Confusion. We also haven’t focused much on Noyan Dar’s creature type Merfolk, which has enough support to flesh out a decent subtheme. Cards like Lullmage Mentor and Master of Waves already synergize well with themes present in the deck, rewarding counters and buffing your lands (which are elementals) respectively. Finally, as mentioned at the start of the article, Noyan Dar would be even better if he had access to green, and while there’s no way to change his color identity, you may find running a Bant commander and using Noyan Dar as a secret commander to open up worlds of possibilities. Be sure to run plenty of spells like time of need to fetch Noyan Dar, as well as spells to pull him out of the graveyard should he die.
And that’s it for today’s article. I hope you have fun animating your lands and throwing them at your opponents. If you have any critiques, questions, suggestions for other commanders to write about, or other thoughts let me know in the comments below. Until next time!
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