January 30, 2017

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Partners Without a Partner - Ishai

You want to play a deck led by two Partnered Commanders, but you can't decide. Never fear, you've found part two of my Partners without a Partner series, Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker!

If you want to catch up on part one, read all about Vial Smasher the Fierce here!

To quickly recap our process, this series aims to come up with a unique half-deck brew of each colour-pair among the new commanders. That's ten total half-decks that are intended to be squished together in any combination into a fully playable deck. Whichever two Partners get merged, the deck will have forty lands and six staple artifacts that will be added last. That leaves 52 cards up for grabs, 26 coming from each Partner. Let's get into some of the strategies that Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker is bringing in her 26.

Ishai's strength is clearly her ever-expanding size. It doesn't take too many laps around the table before she becomes a formidable threat capable of sealing your opponent's fate via Commander damage, so naturally, we aim to take advantage!

Ishai benefits from our opponents casting spells, so let's "let" them cast their spells more than once. We're talking about bounce spells! The greatest card that bounces permanents by a long shot is Cyclonic Rift. Any blue deck benefits from it's inclusion, but since we could end up pairing Ishai with another blue Partner, we can't use any card more than once. Ishai has the most to gain by our opponents having to recast spells, so she gets it! Another card that is meant to serve a similar purpose is Aether Gale. There must be at least six eligible permanents to even be able to cast this, but in any game of Commander, that shouldn't be a problem. One more card that works for us is Rebuild. Knowing it's coming, we can tap our rocks for mana before they come back and get them back down for "free", but our opponents will have to recast a few spells pumping Ishai, and since we probably hit a few mana rocks, they've likely been set back quite a bit in tempo. That's more +1/+1 counters for us!

The biggest weakness of this deck is the fact that it's all about Ishai. We've got to protect her. If we get her equipped with a Whispersilk Cloak, she'll become immune to any spot removal that may be floating around. More importantly, though, we'll get to swing in with an unblockable Commander. This will guarantee some quick kills! This still doesn't protect us from wraths. Wraths don't target, after all! That's why we're running Bastion Protector. Any wrath that merely destroys all creatures will do nothing to our commander. Not to mention the protector also ensures our other Partner will survive, regardless of who that is. Bonus! If there are any other spells that threaten this half's Commander, we've always got the option to counter them. Arcane Denial fits here perfectly since it will draw us a card, and giving our opponent a couple cards just means more spells for them to cast.

Ishai gets sole access to cards in the Azorius colours, so I'll mention a few that are real gems for this deck-half's strategy. I presented a few ways we can protect Ishai from various threats, but there will always be something that gets through and will make us start all over. So, if we are going to start again from her base 2/2 size, why not respond with Vanish into Memory. The beauty here is that we'll get Ishai back without having to cast her, and the number of cards we'll be drawing on her way out will surely outnumber how many cards we discard on her way back in. One multicoloured way we can enforce a dominant board position is with Dovescape. It might deter our opponents from casting spells, but if Ishai is already massive, that's a great thing! Less ways to stop her! And even if we give our opponents numerous birds, hopefully we've had a chance to enchant Ishai with Steel of the Godhead. Lifelink and Unblockability? What a fantastic combo on a gigantic commander!

There's a quick summary of the half that Ishai would bring to the deck. Take a look at all 26 in the list below, and let me know if you'd make any changes!