Hello and welcome to A Seat at the Table, the column where I pick a commander and talk about what I’d include in the 99. This week, another team-up card I think is cool as hell but will absolutely ruffle feathers at any table – Drana and Linvala!
For 1WWB, Drana and Linvala are a Legendary Creature – Vampire Angel 3/4 with flying and vigilance. Look at this textbox:
Activated abilities of creatures your opponents control can’t be activated. Drana and Linvala has all activated abilities of all creatures your opponents control. You may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to activate those abilities.”
It’s a fun mash-up! Linvala, Keeper of Silence is a Flying 3/4 Legendary Angel that says “Activated abilities of creatures your opponents control can’t be activated.” That’s most of the card! Drana brings the vigilance and the ability theft to the card. This can either do a lot or nothing at all, but ultimately, the commander screams stax.
So let’s talk stax. First, what is stax? Stax is a playstyle that derives its name from Smokestack. A card like that should tell you all you need to know. It’s about resource denial. It’s a permanent-based control deck. It’s a prison deck.
A few things to remember:
- D&L only shut down activated abilities. Of creatures. Your opponents control. Activated abilities have a cost and involve a colon (:). Take Llanowar Elves for example. That textbox is “T: Add G.” This would be stopped by D&L if your opponents controlled the Elves.
- D&L get all the activated abilities of creatures your opponents control. Drana and Linvala will be a mana dork a lot of the time!
Here are some cards I’d put together in a Drana and Linvala deck.
There are ways to get your opponents to slow down. This is a big deal in stax. Stuff like Authority of the Consuls makes your opponents’ creatures enter tapped and boost your life to shoulder the brunt of whatever attacks you’ll be receiving. Blind Obedience does the same with creatures, but also your opponents’ artifacts. The Extort ability on Blind Obedience can make the difference in the long run. Make sure you keep using your mana to drain the table! Need a creature to have your back with this effect? Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Archon of Emeria are solid inclusions.
Deafening Silence can be backbreaking against spellslinger decks and be a boon for you if you’re going more for of a creature build. Same goes for Ethersworn Canonist if you’re more of an artifact build. Similarly, Eidolon of Rhetoric restricts everybody’s ability to cast multiple spells a turn, just like Rule of Law. Don’t want things to untap? Winter Orb is hated big time for a reason.
Spirit of the Labyrinth restricts card draw to just one a turn. Containment Priest stops pesky reanimate decks from doing their thing (or worse, like Winota). Phyrexia: All Will Be One gave us one of the craziest versions of a Praetor in Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines – shutting down ETB triggers and doubling yours.
Okay, this one is a little messed up: Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Kormus Bell. Using this combo with your commander out means that your opponents can’t tap their lands for mana and you get to use any of the abilities from those lands with D&L. And if anybody plays a board wipe, that’s an Armageddon for everybody.
Everything your opponents do against a stax deck costs a little extra. Smothering Tithe turns their card draw into a Treasure for you unless they pay two. It gets out of hand quickly and there’s a reason it’s one of the all-time best white cards.
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse gives you life when you draw and your opponents drawing their cards costs two life now.
You want to attack me with two or more creatures? You want to cast two spells? Gotta pay the Mangara, the Diplomat toll and I’ll draw a card! One of my recent favourites is Aerial Extortionist – exile a non land permanent on ETB or combat damage to a player and when your opponents cast spells from anywhere but their hand, you get a card.
Damping Sphere and Rug of Smothering make storming off a lot harder to do and turn spellslinger decks into an expensive affair. Aura of Silence makes artifacts and enchantments cost two more and can be cashed in to get rid of a strong artifact or enchantment when it does land. God-Pharaoh’s Statue puts another clock on the game while making everything your opponents cast two more mana. Painful Quandary makes their spells cast an extra card or five life. It adds up!
You need to control the board by diverting attention. Sphere of Safety, Ghostly Prison, Windborn Muse, and Archangel of Tithes make attacking you cost mana or impossible altogether. Deter them more with Cunning Rhetoric which lets you have one of their cards if they attack you.
You’ll need spot removal and board wipes. Cleansing Nova, Austere Command, Farewell, Damn, Swords to Plowshares – there is so much removal in the format. Pack a Shadowspear for your commander and use that activated ability to get rid of pesky cards making things difficult for you.
You don’t want to make everything a bad time. It’s time to make some friends.
Loran of the Third Path allows you to blow up an artifact or enchantment when she ETBs but can also tap to snap cards for you and an opponent you like. Cut a Deal is a draw three for three that gives your opponents a card too. Secret Rendezvous does the same but give the three cards to a single opponent. Maybe they’re going to die soon anyway! Forbidden Orchard can give a creature to an opponent. Hunted Horror does the same while adding a 7/7 to your board.
Turn an artifact an opponent controls into a creature with Karn, the Great Creator so you can use artifact activated abilities with your commander.
If you really want to make friends, give them your commander! Assault Suit on your commander means that they’ll be able to use everybody else’s creatures activated abilities and their opponents won’t be able to during their turn. Goad D&L with Parasitic and Martial Impetus. This should put a solid clock on the game.
We talked about Extort with Blind Obedience but it’s worth mentioning with Crypt Ghast and Pontiff of Blight. Life Insurance does double duty as it turns aristocrat decks into further fuel for your decks.
Exsanguinate, Debt to the Deathless, and Torment of Hailfire are X spells that are perfect for all the mana you’ll have saved up to end the game. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a massive drain on legs with its ETB draining for black devotion. If that’s not enough to kill your opponent, you should have enough life for Aetherflux Reservoir to finish the job. Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and Sanguine Bond turn all your life gain into life loss for your opponents. Exquisite Blood paired with either of these turns either of those last two cards into an infinite combo win.
That does it. Let me know if there’s a commander you’d like covered! @mikecarrozza on Twitter and Instagram!