My wife Emily’s favorite Commander deck is her Selenia, Dark Angel deck.
The central thesis is simple: since Selenia dodges the Commander tax for a modest payment of life, she’s easy to recast, meaning Commander damage is the win condition. Since Selenia is only a 3/3, equipment is plentiful, and she plays lots of wraths and removal to make sure her Commander has little to no on-board competition.
So, when previews for Commander Legends started in earnest and I saw this card previewed, I immediately sent Emily a link, because this card is basically Selenia 2.0, with modern design ideals and some Commander-specific language thrown in.
Liesa has the same overall energy as Selenia, but for the price of a barely more restrictive mana cost, the power level difference is palpable. Right off the bat, +2/+2 and lifelink above Selenia’s stats is a huge improvement. The progressively higher life loss vs. commander tax is a downside, but that’s ameliorated by Liesa’s built-in lifelink – giving her haste will be a priority in order to make sure this doesn’t backfire down the line. The final ability, which causes players to lose 2 life each time they cast a spell, certainly puts a target on Liesa’s head, as if there wasn’t one already. The kind of strategy Liesa seems to imply makes it easy to break the symmetry here – the play pattern is to cast equipment before casting Liesa, then suit up and attack, forcing other players to act and lose life themselves.
Let’s take a look at some other already-previewed Commander Legends cards and see how they play with Liesa:
For six mana before the first payoff, this is a high cost for what amounts to a Vulshok Morningstar unless conditions are met. If you do make a 4/4 Angel, though, it’s not cut from the same cloth as the Geist of Saint Traft token – instead, it sticks around, making this look more like a significantly upgraded Moonsilver Spear when it’s “on.” This is a card I’m happy to try out, but it’s going to be evaluated strenuously and considered for early replacement if it doesn’t perform well.
The 1/1 Soldiers might not seem like a big deal, but with a critical mass of equipment, a creature’s base stats eventually cease to matter very much. The really big deal, though, is the reactive ramp ability, which cements this as a definite inclusion.
As I’ve said before, I was overjoyed when this cycle’s completion was revealed, and I’m very excited to slot these into tons of existing decks. In 2020, if you are focusing on efficiency, you want your mana rocks to cost 2 and your lands to enter untapped as much as possible. Though some of my decks may still be designed like it’s 2010, it turns out time does actually pass.
So what else ends up in this decklist? Well, let’s take a look at the build.
We’ll sometimes need to put equipment on something besides our Commander, and for times like those, we have some strong candidates here. Balan’s magnetic personality allows her to grab all the available equipment at once, which makes her ridiculously powerful in one fell swoop. The rest will have to be manually suited up, but they’re all ready for the job on various fronts – Elenda threatens to leave behind enough Vampires to file a class-action suit against whoever destroyed her, Kunoros has a pile of abilities and reminds you that you’re still halfway through a run of Hades, and Sun Titan is just big and loves to attack. If your playgroup skews to a higher power level or just likes being poisoned, this is where Skithiryx would live, and you’d probably be playing Inkmoth Nexus and Tainted Strike too.
Danitha lives right in between the last category and the next one – she’s a great candidate for equipment and a great equipment enabler. Lifelink is a big deal here, just as it is on Kunoros and Elenda, as we’re going to be paying a lot of life to Liesa over the course of any given game.
That’s a lot of creature slots dedicated to equipment support, but given that you’ll be seeing 15 pieces of equipment in this decklist, I think it’s worthwhile and/or necessary to make this investment. This list is so jam-packed with equipment that Sram and Puresteel Paladin are doing a lot of the card draw lifting, and anyone who can forge or hew stone can pull equipment out of our deck as well. Two classic Leonin round out the lot, protecting our artifacts and allowing us to equip at instant speed.
Protecting Liesa is the name of the game, and who could be better for the job than our resident runewielders?
It may be 2020, but I’m still building decks with 2010 levels of wrath effects. In this one, it at least makes sense. You could go harder on the board wipes – Merciless Eviction, Divine Reckoning, and many other worthy candidates were left on the sidelines here, but once you get toward double digits it starts to become a little scary. That said, when your deck becomes known for being full of wraths, that can be an asset in table politics – you become the responsible adult who is nice to have around because of your ability to put the game back to a fairer state. Oh, and look at me dunking on Ondu Inversion in my set review and then putting it in decks. That’s called personal growth.
Point removal in all shapes and sizes! Exiling things is easy to do in this color combination, so we do it a lot. Heliod’s Intervention may sometimes need to be cast for its lifegain mode in this deck due to the costs associated with Liesa. I have a feeling Hagra Mauling is going to become one of those cards I just put in tons of decks because the overall package is so great – bad Murder is fine when it has a land on the other side.
I’m not usually a big tutors person, but when the name of the game is getting the right equipment for the job, I change my tune. We already saw Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant, so these shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
You could go really deep on effects like this, but I say just play the best one and keep your opponents guessing. If you want to go deeper on Flawless Maneuver, Make a Stand, and so on, that might be worthwhile, but I’m skeptical.
I just like the idea of giving Liesa double strike, okay? Plus, you can use it to wreak a little extra havoc in other players’ combat steps. It’s a fun card.
More equipment support, I say! More! We all know how nice snap-on equipment is thanks to Zendikar Rising, so don’t sleep on this card, even though it does nothing by itself. (Not that I think people are sleeping on Sigarda’s Aid, realistically.)
A little bit of card draw, for when times get tough. This deck needs a little less simply because Liesa can be cast over and over again so easily. Land Tax is card draw, right?
Fifteen pieces of equipment, just like I said earlier. It’s actually sixteen with the Seraphic Greatsword I mentioned in the opening! I went deep on Swords of This and That because Emily’s original Selenia decklist does the same, but if you and your friends aren’t fans of protection (which I tend not to be) then I recommend Champion’s Helm, Godsend, Hero’s Blade, Ring of Xathrid, and Sword of Vengeance. We have a decent spread of abilities here, with Maul of the Skyclaves possibly being on the weaker end but still making a difference on some of our lesser battlers.
Like I said, our mana rocks need to stay cheap these days, so here’s the mix I’m working with.
A little graveyard hate goes, well, not that long of a way, but with a Bojuka Bog in the deck as well, we’re doing fine on that axis.
Untapped duals. I wasn’t joking. If you include Vault of Champions, that’s eight, although Brightclimb Pathway only kind of counts. I’d add more, but we have Land Tax and Keeper of the Accord, so I want to be sure we have enough basics.
Some hate cards and some extra utility. Vault of the Archangel can help get out of life debt to Liesa, which is good overall, unless you are looking for some of the dramatic elements that the Han Solo/Chewbacca relationship brought to the silver screen. Volrath’s Stronghold bolsters our limited creature base, and Shizo can send Liesa into the red zone unfettered while being less clumsy than Rogue’s Passage.
That’s it! That’s the list! Well, you need another 16 Plains and 8 Swamps, but this seems like a great starting point. If you’re as excited about Commander Legends as I am, then you’ll be happy to hear we have plenty of Booster Boxes available – make sure you get your preorders in now. Here’s the full decklist; I hope you enjoy it!