So Many Choices - Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths in Commander
Have you ever had a card spoiled and immediately reacted with “Oh, that one’s for me!”? Well, that was my reaction to seeing Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths. It took minutes for me to assemble a decklist for Atris and I simply cannot wait to play it.
So, exactly what about this card is so awesome? To be honest, it’s that it reminds me of when I first started playing Commander (or, EDH as it was known). Atris has the perfect sort of small-effect-on-a-mediocre-body that makes him more of a flavor than function build-around which so much of early EDH was centered around. Before the pre-cons and supplemental products and for-Commander designs planted into Standard sets, scrounging through the draft chaff was the heart of the format. There is no way to really go back to the days before Atraxa, Thrasios, Aminatou, or even Derevi, and that’s okay! However, when I get the chance to build with a card like Atris, Feather, or Raff Capashen, I get excited to go through my bulk box yet again.
With that in mind, we still need to play good cards. The way around Atris’s drawback of not knowing one of the piles is to simply be happy with whatever you’ll get! So… what do we want to put in this deck?
With a Commander as generic as Atris, we get to pick a theme instead of being limited by a build-around ability (unlike Feather or Raff). However, we should still include cards that allow us to abuse Atris’s enter-the-battlefield trigger. Looking at classics like Conjurer's Closet and The Scarab God, along with an exciting new addition of Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is a good place to start. To further synergize with this package, we include some creatures that are also fond of entering-the-battlefield multiple times. Here we have some all-stars from recent sets like Ravenous Chupacabra, Hostage Taker, Agent of Treachery, and Scholar of the Ages.
Luckily, this package, while powerful, is small in blue-black, which allowed me to add an entire other theme to the deck! Atris means fitting in choices. This means me making choices, my opponents making choices, and, most excitingly, us voting!
I started with the cantrip suite of Brainstorm, Ponder, Opt, Serum Visions, and Preordain. However, we also get to play powerful effects like Fact or Fiction, Mystic Confluence, Wretched Confluence, Archmage's Charm , and Epiphany at the Drownyard not just because they are good, but because they fit our theme. With the raw amount of powerful card draw we naturally want to play alongside our theme, we don’t need to add any more beyond what fits flavorfully.
The same concept is true for our counter spells and removal. We can justify all our removal as either decision-based or synergizing with enter the battlefield abilities. This is also where the addition of voting cards really helps push our theme. A lot of the vote-based conspiracy cards like Bite of the Black Rose and Split Decision make for fun gameplay and are, in my opinion, underplayed in Commander. While the card draw suite is similarly amplified by vote cards (Messenger Jays and Plea for Power), getting to justify playing Capital Punishment is particularly exciting for me.
Now, with all this card draw, mana ramp is extremely important. We have a million ways to gas up, we just need to make sure we can cast our spells. Unfortunately, we don’t have much in the way of choices here, we’re just playing all the good spells.
So, how do we win? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to win that require your opponents to make choices (although all the options tend to end with their demise). While I am not a fan of Expropriate as a card, it is the literal perfect card thematically for this deck to finish with. We are already running Illusion of Choice, so we might as well put 7UUU take 4 extra turns in our deck! We also get to play Commander all-star Torment of Hailfire and super-cool somewhat janky Cruel Reality. These three cards give us plenty of closing power when combined with our mountain of value. For those of us that played M20 limite, we know that pairing Scholar of the Ages with a spell to recur them can win most games on its own, so I included Blood for Bones and Rescue from the Underworld for that sweet, sweet value.
Personally, I am very excited to play with many of the Theros: Beyond Death cards and will likely be building more than one commander deck (especially after seeing the Titans). Honestly, I am more excited for this than I was for the Brawl pre-cons and that’s really saying something considering how terrific those were. This first set of the year has me optimistic for Commander in 2020!
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