cPDH Duskmantle Guildmage
02 Feb 2022 - 10 min read
There are certain lines on magic cards that cut right to the primitive animal brain and release such a dopamine hit you’ll think it was your birthday on a private jet. For me, that line has always been: “A deck can have any number of cards named…”. The card copy limit is so fundamental to the game of Magic, whether that be for consistency and power considerations in a 60-card format, or singleton defining the nature of Commander. When we can do away with that restriction, we’re presented with an absolutely amazing deck-building puzzle. Suddenly cards unplayable outside of draft deserve a second look, and in this case, certain tribal synergies become exponentially more powerful. Since breaking these card count requirements is so antithesis to how the game functions, it makes sense that in Magic’s 28 year history there have only been 5 cards sporting this particular clause. The most recent is Dragon’s Approach from Strixhaven, the first time we saw this clause on a non-creature card. But I’m not here to talk about burn and dragons, nor am I here to mention rats or weird demon priests. Today, I want to talk to you about a deck that recently found its way into the cPDH database(!!!) sporting 25 copies of everyone’s favorite advisor.
Already, that’s a quarter of our deck figured out. Throw in 35 lands and this is the quickest I’ve ever gotten to a 2/3 complete build EASY! We’ll dive into the remaining 40 in a minute, but first I want to introduce the commander of our misfit band of millers: Duskmantle Guildmage
Truly, the multiverse is in dire straits when we see Dimir teaming up with Azorius, but hey, that’s showbiz. Persistent Petitioners are dangerous on their own when you get multiples of 4 together, but you’d still have to mill someone down through 5-6 activations, or 60-72 cards, in the average game to take out a single player. This…doesn’t scale well. Especially when you add the feelings of the other players watching combo pieces and precious removal slipping away, you and your band of advisors are going to become targets fast. So we need to speed up that 6-7 activations clock a bit. Enter Duskmantle Guildmage. For a paltry THREE mana, we can turn that mill 12 into 12 damage. This effect alone halves the number of activations required to kill each opponent to a much more manageable 3. Oh, and the best part? Duskmantle Guildmage’s ability stacks. If you’ve got 6 mana lying around and 4 petitioners you can hit someone for 24 damage. Like I did last week, right to Eric’s face. It was glorious.
So, now that I’ve got you hooked on our truly diabolical plan, let’s dig into the rest of the deck.
Appreciating the Classics
Since we need to dedicate around 25 slots of the deck to our prized petitioners, there isn’t a ton of room for choice in the basic categories of ramp, counters, protection, and draw. We’re basically running the best-of dimir options for each so expect everything from Arcane Denial to Treasure Cruise for these card categories. I settled for around 8 Counters, 12 Draw spells, and 9 Pieces of removal and so far that’s felt pretty good. We’re running 35 lands, Bonder’s Ornament and Honored Heirloom for mana, and finally we’ve got about 4 pieces of protection. Some of the cards find their way into multiple categories ( Aether Spellbomb ) so don’t try too hard doing the math.
On their own, none of these cards are particularly exciting and have the most room for meta adjustment considering what you’re up against. The main goal for 60% of the deck is supporting our Petitioners and doing everything we can to get the “5 card combo” of 4 Persistent Petitioners and Duskmantle Guildmage going, since that is essentially our only win condition.
The Spice of Life
Okay, we’ve gotten the boring stuff out of the way - allow me to introduce you to the 4 allstars of our deck. One of the first things you should realize (but could potentially forget) when you’re building a deck with multiple copies of the same creature is it’s also a tribal deck! You don’t just have 25 Petitioners, you’ve got 25 Advisors! And 26 (Duskmantle) Humans! While using Path of Ancestry to let you scry on every creature cast is incredible tech on its own, there are a couple more devious shenanigans I would like to draw your attention to today:
Distant Melody - A pauper staple for years, and even more potent in this larger deck. Usually, you can turn this into a 4-mana draw 3, but sometimes it’ll be double that. Even in our ideal combo/board state this is a draw 5 targeting humans as the relevant type. Take that Treasure Cruise ! (Don’t worry, we’re running that as well)
Echoing Return - Modern Horizons 1 got us excited with Return from Extinction , a tribe-agnostic recursion spell that we’d seen specific versions of before in March of the Drowned and Ghoulcaller’s Chant . Raise the Draugr made “choose 2” for 2 instant speed in Kaldheim…and then Modern Horizons 2 blew them ALL out of the water, as it tends to do. Return. All. Cards. With. the. Same. Name. Very niche, but incredibly explosive with the rate your Persistent Petitioners will be hitting the graveyard. They’re going to be cannon fodder and easy targets from opponents trying to hold onto their cards, so having a way to return all of your lost souls for the low price of 1 pip is witchcraft. Welcome to the circus of value.
Moving on. While not specifically tribal (or name) related, the following 2 cards are perhaps the most powerful in the deck outside of our main loop:
Dramatic Reversal - Normally used as a combo piece to untap mana rocks and other such nasty shenanigans, here we’re using it for the much more honest interaction of untapping all of our Petitioners for multiple mill activations! With Duskmantle Guildmage out and activated too, things just get silly. Since the activation lasts for the whole turn, technically as long as you can keep tapping petitioners, you can keep dealing damage.
Echoing Truth - Something about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer? While a well-placed Echoing Truth can decimate our evil plots, it’s also an incredibly powerful mass-protection spell for our Azorius Army. Pestilence, Crypt Rats, you name it, there are still plenty of ways to get over their 1/3 stats and decimate our board. So having an ability to bounce all Petitioners back to hand can be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Since this deck is based solely on the premise of amassing a boardstate with 4 identical creatures, there’s been a lot of work going into what is the best possible number of Petitioners to make the deck function. You never want to be hurting for your fourth copy, but you also don’t want to be flooded and overextend into a blow-out. While it would be amazing to land something like 8 persistent petitioners onto the board for some truly painful turns…your opponents just won’t let that happen. So, how many Persistent Petitioner copies should we include?
For this build I’ve settled on 25 copies, which gives us 1:4 odds to draw a petitioner. This ain’t a casino, we’re trying to win, so I don’t think I’d want my chances any lower. These copies are backed-up by the 12 draw effects referenced earlier, most of which are replacing themselves + 1 ( Blood Pact, Night’s Whisper, Syphon Mind ) so we can churn through our deck and find as many petitioner copies as possible Could you potentially drop a few copies of our creature for an extra couple draws? Potentially, but you’ll want the data to back that up.
So far, the metric I’ve been trying to calculate is how often I can get my ideal boardstate of 4 petitioners and commander by the end of turn 7. Turn 5 is the earliest possible turn to amass everything, including activating Duskmantle, but that requires a lot of goodwill around the table.Turn 7 is far more reasonable to hold up removal and replace petitioners that got boinked. This research is ongoing, and I’ll update this article once I have enough data. (Of course until then if you’re looking to try and help with some gameplay and cPDH rounds, our email is always open…)
So that’s it! That’s the deck! Control the board with a suite of the finest cPDH counters, removal, and draw while slowly amassing enough bodies to painfully mill your opponents and cackle as their High Tides and Evincar’s Justices fall into the void, gleefully skipping upon the ashes of their broken decks missing any and all wincons as you reign supreme on a throne of bone-(Editor’s Note: I uhh I think Chev’s officially lost it, let’s go ahead and wrap this one up before he starts calling himself ‘The Skeleton King’ again.)
1x Behold the Multiverse
1x Blood Pact
1x Dive Down
1x Dramatic Reversal
1x Echoing Truth
1x Faerie Trickery
1x Into the Roil
1x Mizzium Skin
1x Muddle the Mixture
1x Mystical Teachings
1x Snuff Out
1x Tragic Lesson
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