Hello there, Ladies and Gents! Unmistakable here for an unconventional No-Cash Commander this week. While brewing his deck for the next edition (Mill-less Wrexial, as per /u/En-Zu on Reddit!), Crazy came to me and said ‘Hey Guy, this Wrexial deck I’ve got a brewin’ has a lot of Prowl in it. Would you care you join forces for a super special No-Cash Commander?’. I said yes, and here we are. Fear not however, we will return to scheduled programming with Crazy’s next big build shortly. For now, enjoy the ride!
If you are joining me for the first time, Welcome to Under the Hood; Where I look into the mechanics of Magic and have a good old root around! For this edition, I’m having a look into the roguish mechanic of Prowl.
Prowl is a Blue/Black alternate cost mechanic featured in Morningtide, as a class tie-in between Goblin and Faerie Rogues. The Mechanic itself is simple enough – if you make contact with a player with one of your rogues, cards with Prowl get a pretty substantial discount (except in one case, which we’ll get to later). These Prowl effects often also come with additional benefits (See Latchkey Faerie). If anything it’s flavourful – in some senses it could be additional Rogues seeing the opponent being kicked when they’re down and jumping in opportunistically; though I prefer to think that rather the rogues steal from the defending player, allowing you to pay for what you’re looking to cast at an effective discount using ill-gotten means. Being an alternate cost, it’s pretty one-dimensional – what sets it apart from other alternate costs (Such as, for example, Emerge) is two-fold: Firstly, it can only be triggered by Rogues, pinning it primarily as a tribal mechanic. If you’re loading up on Prowl cards (Ahem, more on this later), you’re going to want a lot of rogues to trigger these. Secondly (luckily), most rogues are incredibly evasive and difficult to pin down, making Prowl a perfect mechanic. Marang River Prowler, Canal Courier, Cutthroat Il-Dal, Deathcult Rogue… They’re all pretty hard to nail down. Once Rogues stick, they’ll get hit after hit in until they’re removed. Some, like Auntie’s Snitch, Invisible Stalker or Neurok Commando, are resilient to removal in the first place!
Regardless, Prowl (for what exists of it) was quite successful. The rogues, being evasive little blighters, were popular in draft; Prowl synergises well with these evasive beaters to create a synergistic monstrosity. In standard Rogues were also all the rage with Morningtide, mono Black Rogue Aggro being incredibly popular. Often featuring full sets of Noggin Whack and Earwig Squad, some variations of the build also included some numbers of Morsel Theft for a cheap 6 life swing (with cantrip).
In other formats however…. not so much. Prowl is non-existent in Modern, as put nicely, the format is too aggressive. A lot of rogues are fairly fragile creatures; between Lightning Bolt and the newer additions of Fatal Push and Collective Brutality, a lot of the smaller creatures in your deck had better squeeze value out of every drop of mana you put in. Auntie’s Snitch is cool and all, but for that CMC you could drop a Liliana of the Veil or a Vendilion Clique. The beatsticks come with more than 1-2 toughness (Ahem, Tarmogoyf), and Rogues can’t keep up with that, unfortunately. In Legacy some cards see play, but I am talking almost universally about Earwig Squad. With a set of Goblin Matron and Goblin Lackey in the mainboard, Legacy goblins (while hurt by the printing of Deathrite Shaman) still finds itself running a toolbox of one-ofs to hate our its opposition. Earwig Squad is one of these, as resolving it (or playing it through the Lackey’s ability) against decks that use less-than full sets that are absolutely vital to the deck, such as the various win conditions of Storm.
Implications on EDH
Enough about those formats though, how does Prowl do in EDH?
… Well, having Nine cards to its name after as many years as a mechanic certainly isn’t aiding its cause in making splashes in the format, I’ll be honest with you. Some of the splashiest uses of the mechanic (covered shortly) are pretty spicy additions to the decks that want them, but the NEED for them is hindered somewhat by the parasitic nature of requiring a certain creature type.
Nevertheless, they do have some fans. Some popular legendary creatures would enjoy Prowl (even if they don’t typically run them); for example Edric, Spymaster of Trest, while not typically a Casual choice for Commander, is a Rogue himself. To get the most out of his effect, any deck would be happy running a ton of hard to block creatures – a lot of these, handily, can be rogues. Blue rogues as commander staples include True-Name Nemesis and Thada Adel, Acquisitor, who would both happily trigger prowl upon making contact.
In a similar vein, new kid on the mono-black block Gonti, Lord of Luxury could perhaps appreciate some measure of prowl cards. He himself is also a rogue, with an evasive ability that makes him difficult to block. You also wouldn’t mind casting him multiple times if he died in combat; in fact Gonti decks I see regularly aim to capitalise on this, flickering, reanimating him and sacrificing him every which way to get the most out of his ETB effect, so death by combat suits our Aetherborn friend.
Want to build an all-in (as far as you can) Prowl deck? While not tackled in the Deck section today (Aww) I would personally use Vela the Night-Clad. While not of the Rogue creature type, she is an evasive threat (Opening up potential Conspiracy/Xenograft Shenanigans?) while also giving you board intimidate, running all decks that aren’t using Black, Blue or Artifact creatures out of luck when it comes to blocking the Rogues. Further, she dissuades blockers by existing, allowing you to exact a bit of life loss when one of your creatures is lost through any means, including combat. To couple with this, she is in the colour identity of both halves of the Prowl mechanic, so you are free to use every instance of Prowl, from Latchkey Faerie to Noggin Whack, the freedom is yours.
For a mechanic with only nine cards to its name, some of them are spicy as you can hope for. I’m legitimately considering giving these some of a try (if only because I hadn’t strictly heard of them before today.
I’ll begin with Earwig Squad, the constructed all-star that can potentially put the clock on for a measly three mana. This sort of effect is necessary for the format, and if you’re against combo in your meta (you’ll have to beat them there first), these little guys can jump into their deck and neuter them for the rest of the game. Doomsday a problem? Nah, sorry friend. Goblins don’t like that. How about Ad Nauseam? Pff, who needs to draw cards THAT quickly? Oh, and by the way, I took Necropotence on the way out. Nerd. Stopping combo decks before they hit their stride can lower the amount of games where you feel powerless under the glass cannon decks of the format, and produce more situations where Midrange and aggressive creatures strategies can shine, too.
My prize for spiciest never-heard-of addition is Notorious Throng. The only card to have a higher Prowl cost than its hard cast, it delivers one HELL of an upside. It doesn’t do much when you’ve fallen behind, but in EDH that doesn’t matter too much, as you can easily rebuild your empire when it gets destroyed. And with the right amount of card (shout out to Myriad, particularly Broodbirth Viper and Blade of Selves), you can catapult yourself back into the driver’s seat, creating a board of effectively hasty fliers at a moment’s notice.
And finally to round out my showcase of Prowl I’d like to show you the most used Prowl card in EDH: Knowledge Exploitation. While not great in 60 card because some decks don’t run sorceries, in EDH this will always get something good. It can be a Wrath of God when you want it, Cultivate when you need it. Sometimes, you’ll hit the jackpot and hit something juicy like a Primal Surge, or Expropriate. Pretty good deal, wouldn’t you say? Some decks can’t particularly interact with the graveyard and make the best target for something like this; I wouldn’t hit a deck like Mizzix who is just one Mizzix’s Mastery away from wiping out my board and/or favourite facial features. But, all drawbacks aside, this is a premier addition to any deck that wants it.
This would be the part in my article where I go into my decklist, but I’m going to hand over to Crazy now. If you liked what you saw here, I have others detailing Infect, Emerge or Revolt with really fun decklists included! For now though, I’ll hand over to Crazy:
Thanks Unmistakable. A quick rundown of the rules for those who haven’t been here before – $50 limit EDH deck (TCG Mid) intended to let you try something new and steal a few wins without the investment of a full-powered deck. As mentioned near the start of the article, today’s request comes from another Reddit user who put a suggestion on one of our previous articles, a somewhat fresh twist on a fairly old commander – Wrexial the Risen Deep, with a win-condition that isn’t mill. So clocking in at $49.02 we have Roguelike Wrexial:
So I decided to take it in a semi-tribal direction, mostly after seeing Knowledge Exploitation and realising how stupidly good that would be in a Wrexial list. We’re playing a fairly traditional midrange deck with a modest suite of EDH haymakers if need to play our own plan – and enough ways to play our opponent’s best cards if we decide their plan is better.
So let’s start with the bulk of our ground forces:
The Thieves’ Guild
Balustrade Spy – So considering I said this deck wasn’t a mill deck this doesn’t look particularly good huh? But it’s still an nice evasive rogue that fills the yard some for Wrexial triggers and other such things
Canal Courier – Another rogue that’s hard to block (You’ll be hearing that a lot) but also provides a helpful source of card advantage that shouldn’t be too hard to keep with all those hard to block creatures.
Deathcult Rogue – It’s a 2/2 mostly-unblockable rogue. It’s fine and triggers prowl and combat triggers.
Deepchannel Mentor – The best 2/2 for 6 you’ll ever play. Mostly because it makes a good half of your creatures unblockable.
Earwig Squad – As you may have read above, Unmistakable is a big fan of this card. I share this sentiment, as stripping a combo deck of it’s key pieces brings me a special kind of happiness.
Frogtosser Banneret – Helps us pop out most of the rest of the thieves’ guild, and also, notably, makes all of our Prowl cards cheaper by virtue of them being spells with the “Rogue” creature type.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury – Another one mentioned in the “Under the Hood” above as an all-star Rogue. Another sentiment I share as this is a Rogue that actually steals something when he comes in too.
Keeper of Keys – Like Canal Courier, gives us a great source of card advantage and, if anyone lets us keep it for a turn, lets us deliver one hell of a haymaker.
Nezumi Graverobber – On the front side, a valued rogue who messes with reanimator decks. On the other? an all-powerful wizard that turns creature-based decks in on themselves – An excellent plan for us to have against any creature deck.
Notion Thief – As well as being absolutely absurd with the wheels we have in the deck, it’s pretty great to drop in response to a big draw spell or if someone has a big source of card advantage. Say, if another player were the Monarch.
Oona’s Blackguard – A rogue that buffs the rest of your rogues a hell of a lot considering that they’re mostly unblockable or highly evasive anyway. Under the right circumstances you can strip a table of their hands very quickly.
Thada Adel, Acquisitor – Works with a lot of the same pieces we’ll be using to help our Commander relocate to their facial area but also lets us steal important artifacts from their deck, from Sol Ring to Blightsteel Colossus to any number of combo pieces.
Whirler Rogue – A rogue that helps everyone else get even more evasive and provides a fair number of bodies. Great addition to the Rogue’s Gallery.
Of course, no guild can get by without a little bit of support:
Brass Herald – Draws some cards and buffs our field of, as a I keep saying, highly evasive creatures. That fact making the buffs all the more relevant.
Cloak and Dagger – The classic Rogue’s arsenal should always include these two items. In the game we’re looking to play especially making our already evasive threats untargetable and hit harder is great.
Xenograft – The guild’s recruiting drive went well – play this naming rogue and suddenly it doesn’t matter who you hit with, you still trigger all of your prowl costs.
Speaking of which – Here’s the payoffs for all this Rogueish behaviour.
Knowledge Exploitation – Casting a card from our opponent’s deck for only 4 mana is already good, but the fact it leaves the card in the graveyard afterwards is real convenient for Wrexial.
Notorious Throng – The big payoff. If you’re ahead on board already this should kill at least one person since you should be near enough doubling your boardstate in time for the extra turn. Especially since the tokens are Rogues for things like Brass Herald and Oona’s Blackguard.
So that’s all of the tribal stuff – Of course we’ve got plenty of other ways to take advantage of our overly-evasive forces:
Necropolis Regent – One of the hugest payoffs for having a mostly-unblockable army, because now they’re a mostly unblockable army that’s doubling in size every time they hit.
Bident of Thassa – Insane amounts of card advantage from a developed board that can also be used to force the guy with all the utility creatures to turn it all sideways so you can take out some of the more annoying things.
Mask of Riddles – As well as giving Fear, it also lets us draw cards for using said fear. Great card.
Larceny – The opposite of Bident, in that instead of giving you more options it instead restricts your opponent’s options. Still kinda needs a boardstate though.
Now you may remember that we have another plan in this deck, and he’s sitting in the command zone – So of course there’s a reasonable amount of support for him in here:
Stormtide Leviathan – Guarantees your commander’s Islandwalk is always relevant, as well as stopping opponents from striking back for the most part and being a haymaker itself. Excellent pick in this list in particular.
Whim of Volrath – Are you at one of those rare tables that have no blue or black? Well now Wrexial has Mountainwalk or Forestwalk – How convenient! Also quite interesting with Deepchannel Mentor if the other half of your board needs to be unblockable instead.
Blanket of Night – I prefer to call this card “We couldn’t afford Urborg” because if we could this wouldn’t be here. Does make Wrexial very unblockable though.
Spreading Seas – Similar to above, but works with some of our other haymakers as well. Conveniently, also cantrips.
I keep mentioning these “Other haymakers”. We’ve met one in Stormtide Leviathan, but here’s the rest:
The other Blue meat
Inkwell Leviathan – Hard to block with or without your opponent having an island and even harder to get rid of without a boardwipe.
Mindleech Mass – Contributes to every plan this deck has, it can deal a lot of damage, put instants and sorceries into the graveyard for Wrexial’s use later and allows us to play our opponent’s deck for them.
Speaking of that third plan…
Jace’s Mindseeker – Mills a dude, lets you steal an instant or sorcery and – conveniently – leaves it in the graveyard for later.
Puppeteer Clique – As you may know if you read my old Sedris, Traitor King article, I love me some Unearth. This lets us Unearth from an opponent’s graveyard and remove it as a reanimation target afterwards. Twice.
Acquire – Similar to Thada Adel from earlier, this lets us steal any number of powerful artifacts from our opponent’s deck. However unlike Thada we don’t have to cast these ourself so it might be advisable to go for a higher ticket item like that lovely Wurmcoil Engine or Blightsteel Colossus.
Beacon of Unrest – Pretty standard reanimator spell, but we can use it to steal creatures and artifacts from our opponent’s graveyard as well as our own.
Extract from Darkness – Another pretty standard reanimator spell, but with a chance of giving us a better target than we thought we were getting.
Praetor’s Grasp – Steal target card from an opponent’s deck. But because they don’t know what card you took it can be really great to screw with someone.
Psychic Intrusion – You know what’s fun about casting a card exiled with this or Praetor’s Grasp? It goes back to their graveyard for another run through Wrexial. So if you’re torn on targets, go for the instants and sorceries.
And with so many ways to grab things from the graveyard we need some ways to fill all the graveyards. With mill mostly off the table I thought we’d go with something a little different that I alluded to earlier:
Wheeling round and round
Obviously there’s only so much room for wheels so we just have two repeatable ones.
Jace’s Archivist – The wheel with legs. Lets you dunk all the hands whenever you feel like someone’s getting close to having a plan or you need to drop a haymaker in the graveyard for a reanimator spell.
Whispering Madness – The wheel you give legs. Has the benefit of being usable without broadcasting it but you have to be able to make contact to re-use it. Luckily, that’s not really a problem in this deck.
Now, I did think of the problem that a deck can only have so many targets – and we tend to exile a lot of them when we steal things. I decided we’d fit a second underappreciated mechanic in here to fix that problem:
Blight Herder – Processing ramp is never terrible, especially when we need to power out a Wrexial.
Cryptic Cruiser – Keeps a big creature at bay while also keeping you in targets for Wrexial and other things.
Mind Raker – Provides additional targets on multiple fronts, by letting you reuse an exiled target and forcing discards from each opponent too.
Oracle of Dust – Easily and cheaply re-usable processor that provides some pretty good card selection.
Ulamog’s Nullifier – A counterspell with legs that also processes. Super fine by me.
And other than that, we have all other things that make a deck work:
Draw, Removal and Ramp
1 mana: Sol Ring
The only particularly notable cards in that set are the Keyrune for being an unblockable body and the Obelisk for also being a decent impersonation of a Spine of Ish Sah when you need it.
Diabolic Tutor – Find a useful card. Enough said really, just a great budge tutor.
Capsize – Do love me some repeatable bounce, especially with the amount of ramp we have above. At instant-speed too!
Dimir Charm – Counters spells, kills weenies and can Fateseal an opponent while providing us with Wrexial targets. Fits so incredibly well in this deck.
Assuming we had some more budget, oh the changes I’d make…
These are all great in this deck – Bitterblossom provides more bodies to help maintain density of creatures, Door of Destinies and Obelisk of Urd boosts the power of our already-evasive field and Urza’s Incubator makes all of our rogues (And Prowl creatures) cheaper.
You’re a rogue deck – play like it! Treachery is one of the prime cards for making things yours from the board, mostly because it’s free or better. For things not currently on the board though Memory Plunder and Bribery are both some of the best in their class.
Both of these planeswalkers do a lot of things we want to do. Liliana Vess can provide us with targets for stealing via +1 discarding and then find us the tools to steal it with her -2. Jace can be a bit of a trap if you use the +0 a lot but if you stick to the +1 you get a decent source of card advantage that occasionally gives you a great thieving target.
Urborg is the best possible land to put in this deck because as long as you have it Wrexial can swing with impunity, which is hella impressive for a land. Hatred on the other hand is a card that should be in any deck with a highly evasive commander in Black, because you just get to delete the player giving you the biggest issues for 5 mana and (in this case) 16 life. Which is a pretty good deal if I do say so myself.
And there it is – The first Blue no-cash commander. Do you like what I did with the deck? Think I could have taken it a different way? Think I SHOULD have taken it a different way? Let us know over on Facebook or leave us a comment below – We’re always looking for more ideas so if you can think of a commander you want to see leave that as well!
This article was suggested by Reddit user /u/En-Zu in the comment section of one of our previous articles on /r/edh