First Draft Friday: Tymna, Kraum, and Friends!
Hello and welcome to First Draft Friday! This article series is the spiritual successor to Fresh Spice Friday, a short column I used to write for our Facebook page. This time, things are a bit different. Instead of showcasing new decks from the community, I will let you, dear reader, vote on which cards you want me to build a deck around. To facilitate this, I set up a poll at the end of this article. Each poll will feature four cards. The most popular option will be chosen for a future article, and the least popular option will be dropped from the poll. If there’s a card you would like to see on the poll, please let me know on Twitter or Discord!
The decks in this series are meant to be exactly what the title says: first drafts. If you find any of these ideas interesting, I highly encourage you to pick them up and tinker with them. The aim here is not to create the most competitive decks on an absolute scale, but rather to explore interesting cards and ideas and provide outlines for decks that can be cEDH viable with further refinements.
First off, let’s take a quick look at the poll I put up in my last article. The choices were:
At the time of writing, we have have two cards tied for last place: Humility and Archmage Ascension with 43 votes each. Since I personally voted for Humility because I have a sweet build in mind (I’m totally not telling you to vote for Humility here), I will make use of my authorial powers and announce that unfortunately, Archmage Ascension isn’t going to make it onto this week’s poll. Meanwhile, with 95 votes, the winner of the most recent poll is… Jeskai Ascendancy! We’ll be taking a look at a deck that features this card in the next First Draft Friday article.
Before we move on to the decklist, let’s take a quick look at today’s featured card: Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God.
This deck both looks and feels a bit different from most other cEDH decks I’ve brewed and played. The closest deck that already exists is kiebitzen’s HEMP build, but even that one is going in a somewhat different direction with its abundance of board wipes and the Humility plan. While our deck has a many elements of a standard Tymna Kraum Consultation shell – lots of interaction, some good card draw, and a really compact win condition – TKF plays a different mid- to late-game. Instead of gaining value through Wheel of Fortune effects like Opus Thief or having 1-card wins in Ad Nauseam, Divergent Transformations or Doomsday, it leans heavily on incremental advantage and asymmetrical hate pieces to grind to a Demonic Consultation/Tainted Pact + Laboratory Maniac/Jace, Wielder of Mysteries victory.
But how do these strategic choices relate back to Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God? His most relevant abilitý for this strategy is the +1. It lets us draw a card while each opponent takes a hit to their hand or board state. This is what pulls us in the direction of incremental card advantage over a burst draw/big pay-off spell-type shell. His abilitiy becomes less useful when people regularly refill their hands, as that would mitigate the discard effect. His static ability is also somewhat relevant as it allows us to activate another one of our planeswalkers twice a turn. This is especially useful with Dack Fayden‘s -2 ability if we need more mana and Narset, Parter of Veils‘s -2 ability if we need more dig. Let’s take a look at how the other Planeswalkers facilitate our deck’s strategic facets.
The new Planesalker designs we got in WAR came with powerful static abilities, some of which can serve as relevant hate pieces in cEDH. For this build, we’re focusing on two types of hate: creature hate and graveyard hate. For graveyard hate, we have Ashiok, Dream Render – but that’s not all: Ashiok is also a Stranglehold. Two powerful types of hate on one card should make him quite useful here. For creature hate, we don’t have a lot in the way of Planeswalkers, but Kaya, Ghost Assassin and Jace, the Mind Sculptor can remove a problem creature for a turn cycle, and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God can destroy them outright.
The second facet of this deck is incremental card advantage. There are two ways in which Planeswalkers can help us with that. On one hand, we want to look at Planeswalkers that can draw more than one card per turn. That’s where Dack Fayden and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are useful. On the other hand, Wheel of Fortune effects are often used to “reset” card advantage at a table, e.g. after one player has drawn a lot of cards via Mystic Remora. Since our goal is to continuously generate card advantage throughout the game rather than empty our hands and refill with burst draw effects, we want to find ways to prevent those Wheel-based resets. This is where Narset, Parter of Veils plays a big role. She’s also useful for keeping other Tymna players in check.
One thing people often raise concerns about when it comes to Planeswalkers in cEDH is how difficult it is to defend them against three other players. Instead of going the heavy board wipe route like kiebitzen did in the HEMP build I linked above, I chose to play a suite of creatures that makes it difficult for opponents – more specifically other Tymna decks – to attack into us. Several of our creatures have 3+ toughness, which is hard to fight through with Tymna and mana dorks. On top of that, we have Loyal Apprentice, which should make enough Thopter tokens to give us Tymna draws while also blocking our opponents’ creatures. These creatures, coupled with our removal suite and Planeswalker abilities, should be enough to keep our board safe.
All in all, if we look at Planeswalkers as card advantage engines, this type of engine-heavy build with a compact win condition and asymmetrical hate can be quite strong, and if you want to play with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, then TKF should be a decent start. My main concern with the build right now is whether we have enough mana acceleration to run out our 4+ CMC Planeswalkers while also leaving up enough mana to interact with other players. If any of you decide to pick this up, let me know how it goes!
Finally, please don’t forget to vote for the card you’d like to see featured in a future article! I’ve got some sweet ideas for these four, so stay tuned. The next First Draft Friday article will release on the 21st of June.