Commander: Mirror Mastery Review (Part 1 of 2)
One deck down and four to go, and it’s been some time since we’ve been quite this eager to tear into new decks. Our first review was for Heavenly Inferno, which although fun seemed to be a construction not unlike a regular constructed Black/Red deck, only on a larger scale. Like a Rakdos deck, it tended to burn itself out early and struggle to refill its hand. Looking to see something in quite the opposite direction for our next review, we selected Mirror Mastery, a deck by name and commander that promises a great deal of trickery and shenanigans.
Mirror Mastery’s bit of the colour pie consists of the unique joining of Blue with its enemy colours, Red and Green. Thematically, one can only imagine what might result of a crossbreeding of Simic and Izzet, and that’s what looks to be in store for any pilot of this deck. We’ll begin as we shall, working our way down from the top.
Spells and Flesh
The deck’s primary commander is a rather intriguing fellow by the name of Riku of Two Reflections. With Riku in play, most anything you do has the chance to be copied for what will often be a mere pittance. The Izzet (Red/Blue) reflection cheerfully copies your instants and sorceries, while his twin (the Simic, or Blue/Green) does precisely the same but for creatures. Mirror Mastery will be a deck short on early board dominance but long on card economy, as it effectively doubles most of your plays. What does this leave out? Noncreature permanents, which includes the planeswalker this deck carries that sets it apart from all the other decks. Fortunately, Mirror Mastery has been built with this in mind. In order to maximise the utility of Riku, you must minimise the prominence of artifacts and enchantments. Although you can hardly build a deck without some of them, the number is quite small- 11- typing it for least amount of permanents of these types with Devour for Power. Riku demands sorceries, instants, and creatures… and for the most part, he gets exactly what he wants.
The next mythic commander in Mirror Mastery is Animar, Soul of Elements. In addition to being the cheapest wedge-colour commander in any of the decks, he provides a very different play experience than his counterpart. To appreciate the role of Animar in your deck’s grand scheme, let’s go ahead and steal a peek at that mana curve for creatures:
With no creatures in the two-drop slot and only two one-drops, Animar’s message is quite clear: play me first. Obviously this is only possible if the Gods of Mana are generous to you and you happen to hit the trifecta one-two-three, but this commander wants immediate deployment. It’s important to weigh this as well in light of his protection abilities. He starts out as a brittle 1/1, but his invulnerability to White and Black removal mean that it’s Red you’re going to have to watch out for most often. Growing him quickly helps put him out of the range of a lot of burn, and from there it’s only the odd bit of Blue bounce- ersatz removal like Ice Cage and Narcolepsy won’t stop him from helping you power our your beaters cheaper.
Finally, there’s your Dragon in the shape of Intet, the Dreamer. Like Riku, Intet looks to give you a leg up through card advantage, though the virtual card advantage afforded by Riku is virtually peerless. Still, Intet does something Riku seldom can- provide a menacing bruiser and threaten to take games on the basis of commander damage. The 2/2 Riku doesn’t hold a candle to this fighter’s general.
Disaster Stalks with Gaping Jaws
These three commanders lead a rather piecemeal army, but one that has some synergies to empower you. Although neither Animar nor Intet have any real interactions with the creatures you’ll be summoning, the same can hardly be said of Riku. Riku’s ability to duplicate creatures when cast screams build-around-me with enters-the-battlefield ability creatures. Mirror Mastery does possess a small group of them, though not in numbers you’d prefer to see. Perhaps one of his stronger synergies involves the evoke keyword. Evoke, which has you cast a creature for less mana on the provision that it is immediately sacrificed leaving behind only its enters-the-battlefield effect has a potent friend in this commander. Pay the evoke cost, pay the extra mana to copy the creature, and you’re in buisness, sometimes getting one creature and two evoke triggers for less than the creature’s hardcast cost!
Perhaps an example is in order to illustrate this powerful interaction. We’ll look at the Spitebellows, a 6/1 Red creature which costs six mana, but it’s evoke cost is half that. It has a nifty little landkill ability when it comes into play, and if you cast it paying it’s evoke cost (three mana), then copy it with Riku (two more mana), you’ve paid a total of only five mana for a 6/1 creature and the destruction of two lands. A steal! Sadly, only the Spitebellows, Æthersnipe, and Faultgrinder are included to take advantage of this interaction- sadly, not a Mulldrifter in sight.
Still, there are a few other creatures worth copying for more than just their bodies. A Deadwood Treefolk lets you Regrow a creature from graveyard to hand. The Nucklavee can see you pulling up to four cards back from your graveyard under the right conditions, and two Fierce Empaths will let you double-tutor up some of your more ferocious beaters. Don’t be taken in by the Artisan of Kozilek, though- its ability to return a creature from the graveyard to the battlefield triggers when its cast, not when it enters the battlefield- but don’t let that stop you from copying it for another massive beatstick!
Of course, all this copying starts to add up, and you want to be sure you have enough mana at the right time to enable Riku to generate maximum advantage. A Valley Rannet lets you get what you need when you need it, be it another land or a robust body. A Rapacious One needs to connect with an enemy to start generating you mana (in the form of Eldrazi Spawn tokens), while an Elvish Aberration acts as a triple-Llanowar Elves in terms of mana production (and can be cycled for a Forest in a pinch). The Krosan Tusker also gives you this choice- land now or bruiser later- and even puts you up a card if you choose the former option. A Magus of the Vineyard won’t help fund Riku directly- his mana dump comes at the start of your first main phase- but knowing its coming can free you up to tap out if need be. Finally, there’s a Veteran Explorer, which is a fine “group hug” style card, but overall strikes a slightly sour note thanks to its negative synergy with the deck’s Ruination.
In addition to the aforementioned Artisan of Kozilek, Mirror Mastery also packs in a number of other strong, aggressive ‘finisher’ cards: Magmatic Force, Avatar of Fury, Simic Sky Swallower, Chartooth Cougar (which also landcycles), Baloth Woodcrasher, Hydra Omnivore, Conundrum Sphinx, and a Trench Gorger. The Gorger is particularly interesting due to its ability to strip lands from your deck, vastly improving late-game card draw quality.
The deck’s final creature is the much-anticipated Edric, Spymaster of Trest, a card that has even been mentioned as possibly playable in Legacy. Edric is deliciously political, subtly turning the attentions of your opponents amongst each other and away from you. After all, who wants to kill the bearer of all the goodies? Superb at a larger table, Edric will provide you with a damage savings over time like few other cards in this deck can.
Pook! Pook! Pook!
As you might expect, a deck as mana-hungry as Mirror Mastery is loaded with some rather dynamic ramping effects. There’s the de rigeur artifact suite consisting of the ubiquitous Sol Ring (included in every deck), trio of Signets (Gruul, Izzet, and Simic), Prophetic Prism, and Armillary Sphere. You get a Kodama’s Reach and its functionally identical reprint, Cultivate, as well as an Explosive Vegetation. Finally, there’s a join forces card in the form of Collective Voyage, which promises to amplify your manabase. Of course, the drawback here is that your enemies will stand to benefit as well, so you’ll want to take great care in timing the casting of this spell. That said, when you’re effectively casting two spells to their one through Riku, you might be able to outpace a weakened table.
Next you have the requisite removal suite. There are boardsweepers in the form of a Savage Twister, Disaster Radius, Firespout, and Chain Reaction. For a more targeted approach, you have recourse to a Prophetic Bolt and an Electrolyze, both of which replace themselves in your hand. Fire // Ice can either Shock or tap down a creature (the Ice half cantripping in the process). For artifacts and enchantments, you have far fewer options- a Hull Breach and a Tribute to the Wild. Finally, there is the trio of the “Vow” cycle of cards new for the Commander release. Each buffs a creature, but on the provision that it not be used to attack you (or a planeswalker you control). We’re considering these effectively as removal, because while they leave the threat on the board, they make it somebody else’s problem (or yours, if you happen to be attacking). The three here are the Vows of Flight, Lightning, and Wildness.
The rest of your noncreature options are a bit of a hodge-podge of various abilities. You have combat tricks (Colossal Might, Invigorate), countermagic (Spell Crumple), card draw (Brainstorm), and a planeswalker (Garruk Wildspeaker). There’s also the pre-Red Act of Treason in the shape of a Ray of Command (at instant speed, no less!), landkill (Ruination), graveyard tutoring (Vengeful Rebirth, which doubles as burn), and token creature generation (Call the Skybreaker, Death by Dragons, and Hunting Pack). Finally, there’s a Lightning Greaves to get things moving a little more quickly. Considering Riku’s rather hefty cost, giving him shroud is a capital way to protect your investment.
Take Nothing Away
To help even out your manabase, Mirror Mastery provides you with a slew of nonbasic lands. There’s a cycle of Vivid lands (Crag, Creek, and Grove), the Ravnica-block bouncelands (Gruul Turf, Izzet Boilerworks, and Simic Growth Chamber). The Rupture Spire and Command Tower tap for any colour of mana, while the Evolving Wilds lets you fetch any basic land you might happen to need. There’s also a storage land with the Fungal Reaches, a Kazandu Refuge, and a Temple of the False God. Finally, there’s the anti-theft hoser Homeward Path, a card which has been greeted with cheers from the non-Blue-playing population, and with groans from those who enjoy taking what their enemies play and using it against them. Of note, Homeward Path is at least limited to creatures only, so stealing (or donating) everything else is still within safe bounds. Undoubtedly the power level of the card has been set knowing it would be most used in a singleton format and thus infrequently drawn.
That concludes our tour of Mirror Mastery, a mana-greedy deck that abuses its commander, Riku of Two Reflections, to gain a steady advantage over its foes through copying and replicating most every other spell in the deck. Join us in two days when we take Riku and his gang into the field and see how they hold up. Join us then!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was scheduled to go up on 22 June, but accidentally posted a day early. Part 2 will go up as originally scheduled, on 24 June.