“The most powerful card in magic is an Island” – Wise Magic Player

Happy Battle for Zendikar spoiler season, GDC readers!

Before we get to today’s article. I want to welcome James D and Jon Pflug to theTeam GDC writing staff. Both James and Jon have been writing excellent Commander articles, sharing their deck ideas and reexamining the fabrics of the social contract, and I can’t wait to read their upcoming articles – please stay tuned and check out what thet have to say about the best format in Magic.

Now, to get back to business, the discussion today is about a very special Merfolk from Battle of Zendikar that empowers lands.

Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper – One if by Land Two If by Sea

“The most powerful card in magic is an Island.” this quote is expressed by many Magic players. The case for blue as the premier color of Commander is rather simple – blue has the widest set of tools to handle any problems and create solutions for you. Are you having problems against with an opponent’s Avacyn, Angel of Hope?   Blue cards can send her back to into their hand. A huge Fireball is taking aim at you?  Blue cards can counter that spell before it ever comes near you. Running out of gas without spells you can cast from your hand?  Blue cards can replenish that as well.

I have more wonderful news for all the blue Commander players – there is a new tool in blue’s arsenal. Introducing Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper Blue players will now have a way to beat their opponents down (literally) with Islands, that sounds like a fantastic theme for this week’s Double Down.

If you are new to “Double Down,” I offer several pairing of cards to remedy sticky situations you may encounter in a game of Commander, or take a specific card that is fun to play and tie it together by a related theme to another. These pairings are tied together by a theme or a strategy you deck aims to do, and can probably be found in a bargain box somewhere at your local game store.

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Double Down: Buyback Your Growth

In breaking down what you will need to fuel Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, instants and sorcery spells are pivotal and necessary – unlike permanents such as other creatures, artifacts, lands, enchantments and planeswalkers. Instants and sorceries are one-shot effect that go into the graveyard after the spell resolves, leaving you with an ephemeral effect that doesn’t stick on your board afterward like a permanent would.

So how do we remedy this fleeting gain?

Taking a look back into Magic’s vast library of cards created, the Buyback mechanic gives you the persistence that Noyan Dar is looking for. The two cards spotlighted – Mystical Speculation and Mind Game – are reusable spells, and in conjunction with Noyan Dar, can grow your elemental land army with each time you cast one. Mystical Speculation is a repeatable way to remove cards from library you don’t want to see and keep the cards that you want to draw into. Mind Game has the added utility to lock down an attacking creature, creating openings for an attack for your lands and keeping those pesky Maze of Iths at bay. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper needs instants and sorceries to turn lands into creatures, and including spells that are reusable is key to sustaining success.

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Double Down: Break In Case Islands are Not Good Enough

Lands are a given in every Commander deck. When most players share their Commander deck, lands are often ignore in the discussion. Why is that? Well, lands are necessary in every Commander deck, but lands are not the sexy cards we to talk or write about. Players will talk about how their creatures or a combination of spells result in a game-altering way, while land ends up being merely the vehicle that gets you to the destination. Another analogy is that lands are the bread of the sandwich. Bread is the staple to make a sandwich, yet bread is boring compared to the filling inside sandwich.

Now – let me tell you, lands are not boring with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper. The exciting thing about Noyan Dar is the ability to turn lands into elemental creatures, giving you another resource for your lands to deliver other than tapping for mana. Adding counters to a Faerie Conclave can turn into a nominal land into a havoc-wrecking faerie to your opponent. Turning a Darksteel Citadel into a formidable and resiliant creature while your pile on more counters onto an engine of destruction is pretty awesome. In the end, what lands you animate with Noyan Dar matters – finding the lands that add additional utility or resiliency makes a remarkable impact in your game plan.

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Double Down: All Nonland Synergy

Commander is often about maximizing the potential of your niche cards or theme in which you are brewing your deck. Making sure each card matters in your deck is important – but just as important is how a particular card works in conjunction with the theme or a subset of cards in your deck. Let’s take a closer look at this idea.

If I was looking to add answers and removalsthat plays well with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, I could add a genetically powerful card such as Wrath of God or Akroma’s vengeance that will do the job. However, I am not maximizing the advantage of my chosen theme by destroying my own resource – animating lands with Noyan Dar. With a standard board wipe, you are effectively losing two cards per animated land when this happens. (One card to animate the land and the land card itself – gone)

To press the ‘land matters’ theme advantage cards like Planar Outburst and Devastation Tide are removal that keeps your leveraged land theme intact by leaving your animated land alone – while still removing your opponent’s board position. These options leave you with the best possible board position after the removal is resolved.

This is a key lesson – having cards working in conjunction with your theme and maximizing card selection can mean making your deck work better for you and playing more memorable games in the long run.

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Double Down: Go Big Or Go home

There will be time when  animating lands is not enough to past  your opponent’s defences and buffered life totals. SoulBlade Djinn and Inexorable Tide are a great pair of cards that will pump up your creature-land’s power through the roof. Instants and sorceries you cast are noncreature spells that will trigger both cards’ abilities, and with each succession the overall power and number of your land army grows. To sum it up, the more you cast, the bigger and more your lands grows.

It’s dangerous to go alone with Noyan Dar, take these two with you on your journey.

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Double Down: Insurance Policy

Wrath of God]/card] effects are the most common removal types in Commander, and the premier answers to problematic permanents on the board.

The perils of animating lands as creatures is the hazard of getting your animated land-creatures removed by a board sweeper – this is detrimental in two folds, as you are losing both a creature and a source of mana.  We will need to hedge such devastating effects with [card]Sacred Ground and Terra Eternal. Both of these enhancements provide your lands added resiliency; Terra Eternal is a favorite of mine because it turns your lands into Darksteel Citadels. 

Wrath effects and removal will happen in a game of Commander, so it’s a wise plan to add in protection to minimize the damage it will cause to you.

Let’s Bring it all Together

I am listening – What are some of your favorite cards that play well with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper? Would you play Noyan Dar as your commander, leading the pack – or part of your other 99 cards? What are some hidden gems for Noyan Dar that you may play with or want to share now? I would love to hear your comments and feedback below.

Thanks again to @RyanSainio for making all the wonderful graphics you are seeing in this article.

Until next time,