“Draw a card.” It’s arguably some of the best words to see printed on a Magic card, made better when you’re told to draw multiple instead. They’re at their best when they’re a rider to something else, of course, or are simply costed aggressively. At the heart of it though, drawing more cards is just value.
Some players, myself included, may take this to a bit of an extreme. After all, drawing more cards doesn’t inherently do anything – you need to be drawing into other cards that have an actual effect on the board. To top that off, there’s only so many cards you can draw in a game. Arjun, the Shifting Flame is a big Sphinx that solves the latter problem handily, and once that’s done, building a deck that just cares about drawing cards becomes a breeze.
Arjun’s a commander that’s been out for a good while, but with more cards being printed in the last year or so that care purely about drawing cards – either the quantity or simply the act – Arjun has picked up some much-needed toys or redundant copies of effects to make a deck with him at the helm viable. He’s very much just a utility piece, though a powerful one. Having such broad utility means his services can be lent to Storm, Spellslinger and generally any generic blue-red deck that wants to see more of its library each game.
Arjun, the Shifting Flame Commander/EDH by Lee Livingston
This list leans into Arjun’s card drawing capabilities, not particularly caring about going up in cards as long as there are a few in hand to send to the bottom with each spell cast. Throne of Eldraine in particular added a few cards that work well with Arjun, but one of the main kill conditions is milling out opponents with Jace’s Erasure, Sphinx’s Tutelage, Psychic Corrosion and Teferi’s Tutelage.
There are definitely backups, but while having so few primary win conditions would be pretty light in most decks, Arjun helps you see so many cards every game that it’s really an inevitability that you’ll find at least one of them. Add in some other cards that care about explosive card draw and a pile of interaction and you’ll be ripping through your deck, while the unpredictability of a constantly shifting hand will add an extra level of excitement.
The core interaction of the deck is taking advantage of Arjun wheeling you, and only you, through your library at a breakneck pace in combination with any of the Jace’s Erasure effects, ranging from the original to the newest in Teferi’s Tutelage, to mill an entire table of players out all at once.
With a fully stocked hand and a few cheap spells, the mill adds up fast. It’s not always an immediate blowout the turn or two after one of these effects hits the table, though. Some games are a slog, with your graveyard steadily growing as you try and get the last triggers needed to knock out your final opponent. In those instances, Psychic Spiral can reset your own library while milling another player and Clear the Mind is a reasonable backup to ensure you don’t succumb to decking before the rest of the table.
The beauty of Arjun is that cards that care about the sheer quantity of cards you draw rather than the quality shoot up in value. Since you can draw so many cards for the low investment of a few cantrips, you’ll only be out a fraction of the mana it would cost you to draw the same number of cards and keep them.
It’s not hard to have a board state where a single unblocked token can turn into lethal from a Fists of Flame out of nowhere. Thundering Djinn doesn’t have the same surprise factor, but it’s a repeatable cannon that demands an answer immediately or creatures, planeswalkers and life totals will all get chunked in short order. Diviner’s Wand is just a resilient option, able to continually turn any creature into a huge problem, which is huge for a deck like this with a lower creature count.
Not everything can be these huge chunks, though. Niv-Mizzet, Parun can grind out games, showering damage wherever it’s needed most before directing the rest to pesky life totals.
Psychosis Crawler is much more aggressive, filling another large finisher role by being a fairly sizable body that also chips away at life totals. Note that, thanks to state-based actions not checking in the middle of an ability’s resolution, Arjun doesn’t just kill your walking tank-bug-thing.
Irencrag Pyromancer is easily the weakest of this category, but it’s no less potent. A four toughness cheap creature that repeatedly bolts any target is still fantastic in this deck. With Arjun out, the first spell of every turn gets a free Lightning Bolt. What’s not to love?
Another pickup from Throne of Eldraine, Improbable Alliance trades a free Lightning Bolt for a free 1/1 flyer with the first spell of every turn. Stapled to a very cheap enchantment, that’s a steal of a deal, and one that can help you grind out games until you find the right pieces at the right time.
Murmuring Mystic offers up flyers of its own, and in abundance, but as a creature itself, it’s unfortunately more susceptible to being removed than the Alliance or your other token generator: Saheeli.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer makes the weakest tokens of the bunch easily, but triggering off every noncreature spell and being one herself makes her flexible and resilient. Her activated ability can also be used in a few creative ways, giving you an extra boost of mana with a rock or an extra of either Diviner’s Wand or Sphinx-Bone Wand on your final turns.
Some of the fun of Arjun is the element of not always knowing what’s going to be in your hand moment to moment. Versatile answers and redundancy go a long way to help prevent that from tipping from fun to frustrating, and Kaldheim added a fun way to keep a few answers up your sleeve, no matter how many times you roll the dice. Foretell tucks a card off to the side for later, which is perfect for when you want to make sure you always have access to a spell to trigger Arjun or stop a threat, and discounting them on top of it all.
Saw it Coming is honestly one of the cards I’ve been most excited about for the deck in a while. Having a counterspell always available in case you just can’t spin your way into one is fantastic.
Considering the deck is very much built around using and abusing Arjun’s trigger, you want it going off as often as possible.
After that, spells that function as more than one cast leap up in value. Mindclaw Shaman might be a touch expensive, but the combination of two triggers for five mana and the fun and potential power of snagging an expensive card from an opponent’s hand to cast yourself is well worth it.
Snapcaster Mage and Torrential Gearhulk recycle your own spells instead, on top of the numerous cards that have flashback inherently. Flashback also helps with the aforementioned problem of wheeling into hands without more spells to cast – or the wrong ones. Some might not be the most powerful, but when you’re staring at a grip of lands and situationally useless spells, flashing back a Think Twice feels pretty great.
Add in a bit of ramp and card draw to round out the list, and you end up with a fun and chaotic brew that attacks from different angles and has a fine balance between consistency and randomness. Notably, this list in particular eschews a few effects that can make it more powerful but much less friendly for the whole table.
However, if you feel it needs juiced up, more wheel effects like Teferi’s Puzzle Box and copies of Narset, Parter of Veils and Hullbreacher can pack a punch. I opted for something that focused on yourself and maximizing what you get to overwhelm the table rather than lock it down.
If you’re looking for something that feels remarkably consistent over the course of a game while being random moment to moment, give this list a shot and if you do, let me know how it went!