The Commander’s Chair #2 – Off Color Remarks

Blue mages are notorious thieves.  They have an extensive list of tools they can use to steal permanents from their opponents.  But, what do you do if you are not a fan of tapping islands?  Today, I am here to let you know that you aren’t stuck destroying and exiling creatures.  You can be a thief too.

When you are not playing the blues, your options are limited.  The control magic you can use will take a little more effort to get to work.  The advantage you have to using non-blue control magic is you get to have the surprise factor on your side.  Who doesn’t like the look of surprise and confusion on your friends face when you do something completely unexpected?



Preacher is a strong card, it cost 3 to get it out, and it has a tap ability.  The downside here is that your opponent gets to choose the target.  I suggest playing preacher after a wrath as a rattlesnake effect.  Your opponents will be apprehensive about playing strong creatures when you can steal them at will.  White has enough spot removal that you can remove creatures you don’t want to make it easier to steal the good ones.



You have to love planar chaos.  This card is hilarious.  You grab control of the creature and the player who you stole it from will take additional damage for as long as the creature sticks around.  Unless you are taking back one of your own creatures, there is no downside.

Captivating Vampire

This card is probably the hardest card to get going on the list.  You either have to be playing a vampire tribal deck or be playing with cards like Mirror Entity or Conspiracy.  This card also has some of the biggest advantages of any cad on the list.  It can steal multiple creatures. In addition, it’s one of the few cards that allow you to retain what you have stolen after it dies.  The more you steal, the better it gets.


Red has many ways to take creatures or permanents until the end of the turn.  Doing so is not incredibly surprising.  Stealing something permanently is a little harder.


While this isn’t the best looking card in the world, it will take people off guard.  A well placed Mycosynth Lattice or Liquimetal Coating will have you stealing everything from your opponents.


Brooding Saurian

Ok, so technically he doesn’t really steel things from opponents, he just gets them back.  When you talk about control magic, it is hard not to mention this little fella.  He has been steadily increasing in popularity since Memnarch was made a general.  There are no small numbers of blue decks that depend on control magic to survive.  When you take that tool away from them, they aren’t nearly as scary.

Scarwood Bandits

It may say its creature type is bandit on the card.  In truth, it is a human rogue.  This is the same type as Aladdin.  Wizards decided that it is ok to have an off-color ability, it’s just going rogue.  This is another card that pairs well with spells that change permanents into artifacts.  My favorite part of this card is the “You lose control of target artifact if Scarwood Bandit leaves play or at the end of the game”.  Can you imagine if wizards had not printed that last tidbit?

Willow Satyr

Ok, so he is a 1/1 that costs 4 mana and looks . . . well it just looks terrible.  It may be a little hard to keep him alive, but you do you can steal someone’s general with your mono green deck.  The confused look on someone’s face when they read the card is more than worth it.  It’s very similar to the Satyr in the picture.


Vedalken Shackles

You may be confused right now.  Vedalken Shackles is usually played in decks that play islands.  Well thanks to some fancy tech made popular by certain Extended decks, Vedalken Shackles aren’t just for blue mages anymore.  By adding Prismatic Omen or Elsewhere Flask, you can start shackling enemy creatures at will.

Helm of Possession

This is an artifact that can be used by most decks.  Of all the cards on the list, I would recommend trying this out first.  You can use it multiple times, and it has a relatively low mana cost.  It gives decks a sacrifice outlet for cards like Solemn Simulacrum.  In red decks you can cast a Threaten effect, and then sacrifice the creature to kill one of their creatures and steal another.

Gauntlets of Chaos

I’ve yet to see anyone else play this particular card.  I sometimes prefer it to Helm of Possession because an Icy Manipulator or Clock of Omens won’t get someone their creature back.  The biggest problem is the intensive mana cost required to both cast and activate its ability.  To take the biggest advantage of this card you will want to sacrifice something that hurts the opponent such as Forbidden Crypt, Nefarious Lich or Transcendence.

This all goes to show you that control isn’t just for blue.    Choose whatever colors you want to play and don’t let yourself be restricted by preconceived notions of what that color should let you do.

Thank you to everyone who is taking the time to read these articles.  Red Site Wins is just starting up and we are getting great feedback so far.  If you want to keep up with what is going on, follow me on twitter @SwordsToPlow.  I am always happy to give deck advice, answer questions or discuss anything related to Magic the Gathering.


About SwordsToPlow

I like building and tuning decks to make them more fun and more effective.

Posted on April 5, 2011, in Articles, The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I always considered myself a pure Aggro player until my friend and I swapped decks for a game. I guess I just enjoy cackling in laughter as I more or less control the game. “I cast this!” “Uhh no you don’t”

  2. Good article. Permanent-thieving cards are my favorite spell cards and black is my favorite color.

    I’ve got a deck with 2 Captivating Vampires, a total of 15 vampires, the ability to scry and draw out the wazoo, a few Diabolic Tutors, and a few Rise From the Graves in case I lose him…yet I have NEVER had the opportunity to use the Captivating Vampire ability. The game always ends before I get him or I just can’t get 5 vamps out at once. It’s pretty frustrating to say the least, but it’s still my favorite deck to use.

    Good tips about the rest of the colors, too, though; you’ve informed me about a lot of cards I’d never come across.

    • I had noticed the same thing with Captivating Vampire in 60 card decks. Really the only times I have seen him take over is in EDH. He is similar to Catapult Master in this way. They are both good creatures with great abilities, but their tribe is so fast at killing that you almost never get to see them shine. I am hoping in Inistrad we will get some vamp token generation.

  3. Bazaar Trader is hilarious tech with all the temporary control that red (and a few other cards in other colors) have. Too bad he’s not a Commander, he’d be so fun/annoying.

    • Bazaar Trader is a super fun card. In Commander I like to use him for unexpected diplomacy. You pass someone a creature to block and save their life so you can team up on someone else. >=)

  4. Great article- I loved the very simple, focused approach to introducing us to a specific effect and how each colour represents it in the Commander environment. For players who’ve never played Commander but are curious about the format, this is a very solid point of access. A lot of Commander articles seem to be written more for the experienced player and overwhelm with a ton of cards. Keep this vein up and this’ll be my go-to read for the format.

    • Thank you for the support on for the articles and the site as a whole. If there is anything you would like to see discussed, don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. Thanks for your insight, displaying a profound knowledge of cards. I really like the idea of expanding permanent permanent control (sorry for the pun *g*) to colors other than blue.

    Back in the days, I ran a pretty successful blue deck based on this strategy featuring Ray of Command and Legacy’s Allure, but your approach sounds tempting. Bending the prerequisites a little, would you think Broken Visage from 5th Edition would make an appropriate replacement in the instant slot? That card recently caught my attention again as a very sneaky chance for a 2-to-1 exchange …?

    • Broken Visage is a very interesting card that can take a lot of people by surprise. I do like the idea of destroying one creature and being able to block another with a single instant. I would give it a try. The other card that may fit well in this slot is Feast or Famine. This card can put a smaller token into play, but if there is nothing else to block, you have a creature that doesn’t disappear at the end of the turn.

  6. I would like to mention some other cards, that are really good:
    Evangelize is Preacher as a sorcery and with Buyback! Even better than the original, though with high manacost.

    Avarice Totem is kinda similar to Gauntlets of Chaos, but as you don’t sacrifice it, you can do a few tricks with enough mana.
    You could just bounce it, or destroy it to prevent your opponent from trading around, or, with 10 spare mana, you target one of your permanents and respond with another totem activation targeting the thing that you want.
    What happens is that you trade your totem with your opponents permanent, and than trade the permanents you targeted in the first activation with the totem (wich at this point is on your opponents side), in the end, you will keep your totem, and trade one of your permanents, with one of your opponents.
    Though you have to be careful, as your opponent can use the totems ability, too in the short moment between trades.

    Regarding Broken Visage and Feast or Famine, Broken visage kills a creature and gives you a token, Feast or Famine, does only one of those two.
    An upgrade to Broken Visage would be Nemesis Trap. It exiles the creature, and gives you a temporary token, that’s an exact copy of the creature. Also you can sometimes cast it for just two mana.

    • Wow, I can’t believe that I forgot to put Evangelize on this list. Aside from the higher mana cost, that card is a perfect example.

      Avarice totem is very fun, as are other continuous trade abilities like Confusion in the Ranks. It has the benefit of being able to be in any deck, and with 10 mana being able to just swap any 2 permanents. (As long as your opponent doesn’t have the mana to respond in between triggers.)

      Good catch on Feast or Famine, I read the card incorrectly. Thank you for the correction and a great suggestion.

  7. I’m not much of a blue mage myself. In fact, I dislike it’s trickery. I am a burn and exile type of player (read: Boros). I’m not sure I even like Act of Treason that much. In my estimation, I would rather Disintegrate an opponent’s creature than steal it. That’s because I like destruction, not because it wouldn’t be more useful on my side of the table. But, that’s why there are five colors right? So that they can oppose each diametrically and add a wonderful sense of tension to the game! I do, however, love multiplayer and would like to get back into it. The EDH articles are a great way to be introduced to the format.

  8. You remind me of someone. Hmmm . . . .
    “Some have said there is no subtlety to destruction. You know what? They’re dead.”
    -Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

    “Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire.”
    -Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

    I am glad you like the articles. I will make sure to cover some topics that keep colors within their flavor.

    • Oh, I didn’t mean to criticize the use of stealing effects in other colors or to say that there was something wrong about non-traditional uses for the different colors. There are always outliers for each color. I think I was just fanatically stating my love for fire and burning and mayhem.

  9. You spotlighted some interesting synergies here. Wrath of God + Preacher is good, as is Vedalkan Shackles + Prismatic Omen. On that last one… I wonder if you could build a Prismatic Omen combo deck… how many cards rely on basic land types?

    • I was going to reply with all the cycles of cards that depend on basic land types. I realized while typing my response that there are simply too many to cover in a short response. The article tomorrow will be all about these types of cards. A Prismatic Omen deck is very possible and could be really, really fun.

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