Primer: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death as a Tiny Leader
Primer: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death as a Tiny Leader
While I was initially reluctant to embrace the Tiny Leader format, it does seem like it's poised to be the next big thing. After playing it a bit, it is actually a surprisingly fun and deep format. It should come as no surprise after my last article that my commander of preference is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. As soon as I saw the card spoiled (I found out about Tiny Leader around the same time) the gears in my head started turning. A Mardu commander with decent base stats and an abuse-able activated ability? Sign me up. After learning about Alesha's back story (Read HERE)
I definitely knew the foil pre-release card I opened was going to be my commander. This article will serve as a primer for those looking to make Alesha their tiny leader. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my friend and contributor, forum user Redthirst from diestoremoval.com. He has given me a lot of ideas and really helped me with this deck, so I owe him a shout out. Let's start by having a look at Alesha.
Three mana for a 3/2 first strike is a decent rate, but likely not good enough for constructed. However, in the context of Tiny Leaders, three power and first strike is enough to chew through a lot of the formats creatures. Then, you get that ability. It's the only thing that makes the card interesting as a commander at all. For two white / black hybrid mana, you can reanimate a creature with power two or less. That seems like something I could abuse.
Say, with cards like these:
Yes, we are that mean. You might not make friends with this deck.
"Boundaries drawn on maps or marked with stone have no meaning for the Mardu."
So that's basically the skeleton of the deck, and those are the key synergies (more details below). Here's the rest of the decklist.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death by Keith Ambrose
Aside from the skeleton and key synergies outlined above, you have tutor packages, a range or aggressive options, and must answer creatures (which Alesha can bring back conveniently).
Blind Zealot and Bone Shredder fill similar roles, in that they both kill a creature and hit for damage. With Zealot, anytime they have a creature in play, you're going to sac it. With Bone Shredder, you're not usually going to pay the Echo cost. Neither one is really better, but they both have situations where they are situationally better. Fulminator Mage hits for two then wastes your opponent's land. I'll gladly pay 2 for that any day. Ghitu Slinger is a repeatable Shock for two mana. It swings for two as well, so it's basically pay two, kill a creature and force through damage or deal four to your opponent. Remember that Punishing Fire / Grove of the Burnwillows was strong enough to get banned in Modern. This is potentially stronger than that. Mogg War Marshal is a repeatable token generation effect that plays nicely with Goblin Rabblemaster (which Alesha can also bring back if they kill it). Necrotic Sliver basically gives you repeatable five mana Vindicates (with two damage attached to them) which it pretty nuts. Finally, Stingscourger (which is probably the weakest card here) gives us repeatable bounce effects in case there is something nasty we can't kill. In order to search up these creatures (and place them conveniently in our graveyard), we play Buried Alive. That's tutor package number one.
Other Tutor Packages:
Once people realize what this deck is up to, Alesha dies. A lot. The best way around this is with Lightning Greaves. Your opponent needs removal then and there or they won't be targeting Alesha. Stoneforge Mystic allows us to search for our boots, or for Sunforger, which is out other tutor package. After sideboarding, Mystic can also grab Whispersilk Cloak (for those times where Alesha's first strike + effect won't be enough) or the Swords (which you can choose based on your opponent's deck). If your opponent kills Mystic (and they might because they forget Batterskull isn't in the format) then you get to tutor again. If they don't (which I think is correct) then you get a chump or a discounted equipment. I'm fine with any of those scenarios.
Sunforger allows you to search for any spot removal spell in the deck and for your Boros Charm in the event of an Anger of the Gods (which is our Achilles Heel). You can also search up Wear // Tear in case of trouble artifacts / equipments. Sunforger on Alesha also makes her a 7/2 first striker. She'll chew through even the little kid mono hydra decks.
These are pretty basic, agressive creatures. With the exception of Ash Zealot, they're all two power one drops that just want to turn sideways early and often. If they die, they die. We can get them back later is we want for reanimation targets.
Must Answer Creatures:
If Bob isn't dealt with, you just draw enough cards that you beat your opponent. With everything costing three or less, you can survive a lot of Bob triggers. Figure of Destiny, Kargan Dragonlord and Student of Warfare all act as late game mana dumps and they get bigger / nastier than most creatures in the format can. If they die, you just reanimate and regrow. Pack Rat needs no explanation after a year of dominance in standard. If it doesn't die on site, you go all in on rats and you win the game. It, along with Liliana of the Veil, can dump value creatures into the graveyard for later resurection with Alesha. Goblin Rabblemaster isn't as good as Pack Rat, but it's the closest this Red has. It needs an answer or it spawns an army.
The only two cards that I haven't covered are the Elixir of Immortality and Glaring Spotlight in the board. Elixir is there for matchups where your opponent tries to mill your 50 card deck (you'll only do it if you're about to lose, this might just be incorrect / win more) and spotlight is for the inevitable bad guy who builds Geist of Saint Traft.
So far the deck has been a blast to play, and I'm seriously considering expanding it into an EDH deck for 1v1. The creatures are for the most part, independantly powerful, but they really shine with Alesha abusing them. The two tutor packages do their best to work around the format's ban list which prevents us from running Demonic or Vampiric Tutor. It may be correct to play Enlightened Tutor, but I think that may be going a bit deep. I've done a fair bit of testing with the deck and I think the various choices / manacurve feel streamlined and well tuned. Whether Wizards of the Coast admits it or not, I really do think Alesha was designed with Tiny Leader in mind. Let's just hope the format continues to pick up steam and sees support at out local stores. Thanks for reading, and good luck!