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By: KaraZorEl, Winter Trabex
Oct 08 2014 12:00pm
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Narset, Enlightened Master MtG Art by Mangali Villeneuve

Hello friends, after a protracted absence, I decided I would start writing articles about magic again. This time, I decided I would have a five-week article series on each of the new commanders from standard. Each commander represents its various clan. This article will focus on Narset, Enlightened Master from the Jeskai clan.

The Jeskai is a clan that, at first glance, doesn't make a lot of sense. The clan more or less demands that players play creatures to set up prowess abilities- yet prowess triggers only when non-creature spells on played. This means that the creatures which are played in a Jeskai deck must be game-winning creatures all by themselves. Here is one such example:

Pearl Lake Ancient

Unlike the Krakens and Leviathans from the Theros block (whose primary purpose appears to be to make things more fun for Quest for Ula's Temple players), Pearl Lake Ancient is a great finisher for a control deck. He doesn't have hexproof, but it's near enough as to make no matter. He can be cast during an opponent's turn during their attack. He can't be countered- which is a big deal by turn 7-8. He gets stronger with non-creature spells and he can help with landfall triggers, if that ever becomes an issue in standard.

If it ever becomes possible for control decks to get the upper hand against Rabblemaster decks, Pearl Lake Ancient will be a card worth playing. His bounce ability means you can save him from a board nuke, if you must use one. There is very little wrong with this card that I can see or discover.

Similary, Narset, Enlightened Master also proves a good finisher in Commander. He only needs to attack a few times before the advantage becomes apparent. Here is what Narset's card looks like:

Narset, Enlightened Master

First strike and hexproof are a big deal, given that his toughness is so low. He's not very strong by himself. It's what he does that makes him strong. The best card to pair him up with is Mana Severance. This card exiles all the lands in your deck, allowing Narset to always do extra things. When I pulled him in the Khans paper prerelease a little while ago, I decided the best way to go would be to build an enchantment deck around Enduring Ideal, which has always been one of my favorite cards.

Unlike Kaho, Minamo Historian where you lose the exiled cards after Kaho dies, it doesn't matter if you lose Narset to whatever effect. You can still cast the cards he exiled without paying their mana costs. Omniscience much? 

Narset, the Enchanter

Here is the deck list I constructed around this theme. I did not use that many non-basic lands, as I eventually want to put a Blood Moon in this deck- I've just had trouble finding one. 


On the surface of it, this deck doesn't appear to do a whole lot. The goal is to get Narset attack by turn 7 or earlier and then do some silly things with him. Here are some cards that aid him in his quest to do what he does:

Magic The Gathering Scourge: Long-Term Plans Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Mirage: Mystical Tutor Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering 6th Edition: Enlightened Tutor Card Kingdom

The goal here is to put the card you want on the top of your library, or within the first four cards. So long as Narset doesn't find any two of these cards together, you can use Mystical Tutor to find Long-Term Plans, cast Long-Term Plans next turn, put Enduring Ideal on third from the top and off you go. There are a few different choices (more than 40) available for an Enlightened Tutor. It depends on whether you can put it into play with a trigger or cast it. What you find will also depend on the game state- whether you are behind because people have been attacking your empty board or whether your hand is empty.

What do you do when you cast Enduring Ideal? First, the card:

Magic The Gathering Saviors of Kamigawa: Enduring Ideal Card Kingdom

If you like winning by attacking, Enduring Ideal will stop you in your tracks. Don't attack while you have an Epic trigger happening. You'll just exile four cards for no reason, since you won't be able to cast them without paying their mana costs. Only casting two spells per turn and only during your turn is a bit rough, so the enchantments found have to be strong enough to make up for it. Here is the order I usually settle for, provided I don't have any of these in play already.

Turn 1 Ideal:

Magic The Gathering Time Spiral: Paradox Haze Card Kingdom

Paradox Haze gives you one extra upkeep. This is a very big deal. As the game goes along, provided you can survive that long by stalling, things can get out of hand.

Ideal Turn 2:

Magic The Gathering Return to Ravnica: Sphere of Safety Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Ravnica: Copy Enchantment Card Kingdom

Copy Enchantment is an all-star that does awesome things. Here, I use it to prevent players from attacking me unless they pay ten to twenty mana, depending on how many enchantments I have in play. If they can pay twenty for an attacker, it's unlikely they will be able to pay any more than that.

Ideal Turn 3:

Magic The Gathering Shadowmoor: Enchanted Evening Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Urza's Destiny: Opalescence Card Kingdom

By now, with players unable to attack me, I choose to turn off lands. I always set up the defense first because these two cards together make people angry. All permanents become enchantments. All enchantments because creatures with power and toughness equal to its converted mana cost. This means that all lands are 0/0 creatures. It's just not Armageddon- it stops people from playing lands for the rest of the game.

Turn 4 Ideal:

Magic The Gathering 9th Edition: Form of the Dragon Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Tempest: Humility Card Kingdom

The lock is on! There are no lands in play. All creatures become 1/1s that can't attack me because they don't have flying. At the beginning of every upkeep going forward, I deal five damage to a player. Having five life really doesn't matter at this point, since players have no way to cast anything and no way to attack me.

If players haven't rage quit on you by then, you can add on the damage by using Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods.

The primary problem is that there are no creatures to block with. How do I stop players in a commander match from ending the game really fast for me? There are a few ways.

Magic The Gathering 3rd Edition: Smoke Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Commander: Propaganda Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Judgment: Web of Inertia Card Kingdom

Smoke is a card that's been around for a while, one which fits a Narset deck perfectly. Untap Narset only, swing again, and so on. Propaganda and Ghostly Prison are both cards which should not be overlooked. If players do force themselves to pay for attackers, they will pay less mana to cast spells. It's a bit of a gamble- if the creatures in play are good enough, they'll win. If they're not, that player won't attack in favor of getting more business on board. Web of Inertia is a card I don't use, but I mention it here as an option. This card more or less says, "Okay, I'm going to be attacked" or "Okay, I won't be attacked." In the early stages of the game, it's a safe bet that most players won't have too many cards in the graveyard for them to continuously exile something. If they do have cards in the graveyard- perhaps for some silliness like Morality Shift it's just that much less likely the card they want will be in play, instead of buried.

Two more cards to mention. These are defense cards aimed at preventing enchantments from being removed.

Magic The Gathering Planeshift: Cloud Cover Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Shadowmoor: Greater Auramancy Card Kingdom

Cloud Cover was a card I had never heard of until I researched putting this deck together. Being able to keep stuff in play- instead of having to use recursion- is a big deal. You can't force it yourself, but you can- for example- bounce Greater Auramancy itself and then cast it again next turn. The lesson here: making removal ineffective is almost as good as your opponent having dead draws.

Narset, the Time Lord

The next deck I'd like to focus on has to deal with Narset making infinite extra turns, or at least as many turns as are needed to create a severe one-sided imbalance in the game. This deck focuses on the interaction of two cards and makes an attempt to prove that, once again, no creatures in the deck are better than tons of them. 

This deck has one primary goal: take as many extra turns as possible! No player will ever get another turn ever again if you do it correctly. How does this happen? Observe:

Magic The Gathering 2010 Core Set: Fabricate Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Mirrodin: Proteus Staff Card Kingdom

Fabricate is, in my opinion, powerful enough to be a rare. If Idyllic Tutor can be a rare, this can too. But since it's an uncommon, it's a little bit less expensive than it would be otherwise. In this example, use Fabricate to find Proteus Staff. Then cast Proteus Staff. Once you have your general in play, use the staff on him. Since Narset has hexproof, no one will be able to respond by killing the creature. You'll put Narset on the bottom of the deck. Then, following the activated ability's order, you will reveal your entire deck until you find Narset again. Put Narset in play and order your library however you like. One of the top four cards should be:

Magic The Gathering Fifth Dawn: Beacon of Tomorrows Card Kingdom

Remember that it should not be the very top card, or you will draw it next turn. So long as Narset is not killed during combat, which is purpose of Trailblazer's Boots, you can use the staff on Narset, re-order your library, take an extra turn, staff on Narset, re-order your library, take an extra turn, unto infinity.

What's up with the auras then? They don't seem to fit, do they? In fact, there's another condition the deck likes to utilize: killing someone for commander damage. With this strategy, infinite extra turns is not presumed. Instead:

Magic The Gathering Onslaught: Aggravated Assault Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Mirrodin Besieged: Sword of Feast and Famine Card Kingdom

Oh look! Infinite attacks. So long as you can reliably hit for damage and activate Aggravated Assault's ability, you can attack for as much as you want. It won't be long before all of your opponents have empty hands- if they haven't died to general damage by this point. Remember that unlike Aurelia, the Warleader, Aggravated Assault does not specify one extra attack per turn. So long as the mana is there, go go go go.

Is this a good card? It seems bad, but...

Magic The Gathering Worldwake: Selective Memory Card Kingdom

Pair it up with Mana Severance and you've exiled all the cards you don't want to see in your deck. Then you can very quickly narrow down the choices you wish to have. You only (very likely) need four cards if you are using a Narset attack. One of these cards are:

Magic The Gathering Fifth Dawn: Possessed Portal Card Kingdom 

Possessed Portal is bad, right? Really bad? Atrociously horribly completely unplayable bad, right? Well...maybe not. If you put only four cards left in your deck, one of which is Beacon of Tomorrows, the Portal will keep you from drawing it. It will also keep your opponents from drawing a card at instant speed to try and figure a way out of the situation. At this point, you are taking an extra turn every turn, shuffling Beacon back in as the one card in your deck. It's up to you to figure out what the other two cards should be to help you win before you have to sacrifice all your permanents. Two suggestions:

Magic The Gathering 2015 Core Set: Spectra Ward Card Kingdom Magic The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers: Rage Reflection Card Kingdom

Anything that lets Narset double up on damage is what you need here. In this scenario, you have a 5/4 general with hexproof, double strike and protection from all colors. If you've got a sword, or another buff for your general, it will go even faster. Dragon Mantle might be the way to go there. In a race to see if you can kill everyone with general damage before you've sacrificed all your permanents, chances are good, you're going to win that race.

Possible downsides to this strategy: any circle of protection enchantment or Story Circle, which doesn't target. These cards aren't widely played, though.

Narset, the Lone Wolf

It might be redundant, at this point, to call Narset a lone wolf. Yet the third and final deck highlighted here will show that not only does he become the only creature in play, there are also occasions where he becomes one of only a few permanents in play. Please note: the deck was created by someone else. Observe the following: 

Hexproof Auras on Steriods
0 cards

Other Spells
1 Mystic Monastery
1 Slayers' Stronghold
1 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Terramorphic Epanse
1 Tranquil Cove
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
1 Banishing Stroke
1 Boros Charm
1 Brainstorm
1 Jeskai Charm
1 Path to Exile
1 Savage Beating
1 Spin into Myth
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Argentum Armor
1 Azorius Signet
1 Boros Signet
1 Butcher's Cleaver
1 Crystal Ball
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Darksteel Plate
1 Fire Diamond
1 Godsend
1 Izzet Signet
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Mind Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Strionic Resonator
1 Sunforger
1 Sword of Kaldra
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
1 Tenza, Godo's Maul
1 Vedalken Orrery
1 Wayfarer's Bauble
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Armageddon
1 Cataclysm
1 Catastrophe
1 Dimensional Breach
1 Divine Reckoning
1 Dream Cache
1 Mass Calcify
1 Mind's Desire
1 Razia's Purification
1 Relentless Assault
1 Seize the Day
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Waves of Aggression
1 World at War
1 Aggravated Assault
1 Aqueous Form
1 Celestial Mantle
1 Drake Umbra
1 Eel Umbra
1 Fool's Demise
1 Gift of Immortality
1 Gratuitous Violence
1 Holy Mantle
1 Leyline of Anticipation
1 Reconnaissance
1 Righteous Authority
1 Scourge of the Nobilis
1 Spectra Ward
1 Spirit Mantle
1 Steel of the Godhead
1 Tricks of the Trade
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Flight
63 cards
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Glacial Fortress
4 Island
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Mana Confluence
4 Mountain
7 Plains
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Rogue's Passage
1 Sejiri Refuge
1 Shivan Reef
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Temple of the False God
30 cards
Savage Beating

This deck more or less hopes to win the game with Narset attacking all by himself. In this situation, with no blockers present, both lifelink and board nukes become more important. The player who constructed this deck realized this at once, leading to the inclusion of some unique cards.

Razia's Purification Dimensional Breach

Once more, Narset makes good use of bad cards that would probably be useful nowhere else. The choice will almost always be to keep Narset in play, along with one land and one thing that makes him hit for combat damage. This is useful in several ways: Narset's trigger will continue to put extra permanents in play while everyone else has to sit and do it the old-fashioned way. After two or three turns, the advantage will become obvious- especially if one of those permanents happens to Celestial Mantle.

Catastrophe is also a good choice for this deck, as Narset doesn't need lands in play once he gets going. He just needs to hit the right stuff.

The downside of this deck is it does not really have a consistent strategy for what happens in case Narset keeps dying (since he will be the most powerful creature on the field) or if the enchantments keep getting blown up. Replenish cast at the right time will more than likely be a huge blowout.

Final Thoughts

Narset, much like Zedruu and Kaalia of the Vast, has a chance to become a thing in commander. Mana rocks together with the possibility of making two to three free spells every turn is just too much to ignore. He is, as shown above, a fantastic commander for combo decks, as the combo cards don't actually have to be drawn and then cast. This makes the combo go off that much faster.

His condition requiring no other creatures to be in the deck- or at least, very few creatures- helps more than hurts. Creatureless builds which focus on spells can be far stronger than anyone would expect. As long as you are willing to think outside the box and find ways to win that don't involve attacking, Narset will serve you very well.