Well folks, there’s no easy way to say it: this will be my last article for the foreseeable future. Work and other obligations are starting to become more time consuming and so I have to put this blog to bed for the time being. Thank you all for taking the time to read my ramblings on EDH. I’ve had a blast. There’s still one more decklist I’d like to cover on my way out though: Geist of Saint Traft.
Commander: Geist of Saint Traft
Venser, Shaper Savant
Instants/Sorceries: 42Reality Shift
Pact of Negation
Path of Exile
Wrath of God
Swords to Plowshares
Gift of Immortality
Steel of the Godhead
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Body and Mind
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of Fire and Ice
Temple of Enlightenment
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Geist is a popular choice for 1v1 EDH and for good reason. Backed by two of my favorite colors, Geist is pretty hard to deal with and when supported properly he can be a nightmare for any opponent. While some people try to just voltron up Mr. Saint Traft, I believe the true power of the deck lies in a tempo based strategy. Playing the deck also takes a greater deal of thought than just suiting Geist up and attacking; we have to chose when to tap out or when to hold up counter magic, or when to bluff in either case thanks to cards like Daze or Pact of Negation.
As you might have guessed, the creature list is pretty light but there are still some worthy inclusions.
The most crucial choice to make when playing the deck is when to go all in on the Geist plan and when to just sit back on a pile of counterspells. Go in on Geist too early and you’ll allow your opponent a moment to play something relevant themselves. Wait too long and Geist will get outclassed by a wall of midrange beaters.
Lifelink is very important to this deck. While most people would argue that gaining life is rather pointless in EDH, it becomes much more relevant in a deck that leaves itself wide open on defense every single turn. Sword of War and Peace is one of my favorite artifacts in the deck simply because it rewards you for sitting back on a hand full of counter-magic and forces your opponent to get rid of their hand. Geist is rarely a blocker and if you find yourself in that situation, even if he has protection from whatever color creature he’s blocking, you’re on the wrong foot and probably losing. As long as Geist is recouping some of the life we might lose on the defending end of combat, I feel pretty confident that the win is in the pocket.
Perhaps the strangest inclusions in this deck are Silence and Mana Short. They are hard cards to play insofar as you will have to verbally ask your opponent for priority on their upkeep for these spells to be of any use. In a typical game of Magic, you yield priority on your opponent’s upkeep automatically: there’s generally no reason for you to need to do anything on their upkeep. Casting Silence or especially Mana Short on your opponent’s upkeep is almost as good as a Time Walk in most cases, especially in the early turns of a game. The hardest part is knowing how to ask for priority in a polite way before they draw their card for the turn. I like to ask for priority on my opponent’s upkeep in the same breath as I announce it’s their turn. Awkward but better than asking them to rewind once they’ve drawn their card for the turn.
As I said before, most of the enchantment and equipment choices are obvious and standard from one Geist list to another. The counter-magic choices probably are too but I fussed over them quite a bit more than my decision to include Umezawa’s Jitte. There are obvious inclusions of course; Mana Leak and Remand are in the running for best tempo counter-magic out there. While I have heard a great deal of praise for Mental Misstep and Spell Snare, and I am playing them, I do not particularly like either of them. Misstep can be a “free” counter against Innocent Blood which is one of the most unfortunate ways for Geist to die and Spell Snare takes care of all the 2-drop Edict effects, I feel like more often than not I’m just waiting for either spell to be relevant. More often than not I’m Spell Snaring my opponent’s Farseek which feels kind of rotten. They do efficiently shut down my opponent’s turn 1 and 2 though and that alone makes them worthy inclusions. Perhaps after a few more matches, I’ll appreciate them more.
When playing Geist, you should always accept the fact that eventually your opponent will find an opening. You’ll tap out at the wrong time, they find some kind of mass removal or in the worst case scenario, they have Supreme Verdict. To that end, I like to not over extend with Geist’s enchantments. I like being able to enchant Geist and swing (no equipping fee) but I also like to hold onto at least one decent enchantment in my hand so that I can get back in the game quickly if Geist dies and I have to recast and re-equip/enchant him. I guess what I’m saying is just because you’re playing a Hexproof commander, don’t expect him to stick around forever and plan accordingly.
I also have a “maybeboard” for the deck that I’m still testing out and most of it revolves around my 1v1 meta. Batterskull is something I’ve tested a lot and never liked. While I really appreciate powerful equipment, Batterskull simply costs too much to cast and equip in one turn and if the game really has gotten to the point where I have ten mana to do so, something has probably gone quite wrong for me in the game in question. As a 5 mana 4/4 with Vigilance and Lifelink creature, Batterskull is pretty good but I don’t want a chump blocker in this deck and I don’t have much interest in swinging with the germ.
Pithing Needle is something that feel obligatory but I can’t bring myself to include in the main. Rhystic Study is one of my favorite cards in the format and something I had a hard time cutting from the main board. The awkward part of Rhystic Study is I want to drop it early but tapping out on turn 3 for it leaves me wide open and playing it late means they probably have the mana to pay for its triggers. Turn 3 is almost always when Geist comes down too. Vedalken Shackles has proven very strong in the main but it does more on defense and this deck is all about offense. Torpor Orb is a nod to my local meta which has been dominated by a Roon deck lately (shout out to Creyson for an excellent job on his French deck).
There are an unfortunate amount of non-bo’s or anti-synergy interactions in this deck. Most of the Swords give protection from White or Blue, thus negating all of the enchantments we could use on Geist. I also played Whispersilk Cloak and Lightning Greaves for a time but the Cloak was occasionally awkward and the Greaves were never as good as I wanted them to be. Sure I could play them on the second turn and have Geist swinging in on turn 3 but without another creature to move the Greaves over to, I couldn’t stack relevant equipment or enchantments on my commander and he quickly got outclassed by any random 3/3 creature.
The first few turns of each game are quite critical for this deck’s success and as I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to decide when to switch from countering everything your opponent does to tapping out for Geist and getting proactive. Turns 3-5 are perhaps the most crucial. I want Geist to be online and swinging by turn 4 but sometimes it’s better to sit on open mana and a counterspell. This decision is made easier if our hand doesn’t have any equipment or enchantments that grant evasion. Since Geist is never going to be a chump blocker, it makes more sense to play the tempo game. By the fifth turn, the train has more or less left the station. If we aren’t in a winning position by the mid game it can start to get ugly. Control or ramp decks begin to gain some traction at this point, our opponent has probably found their mass removal like Damnation and if we don’t have Geist loaded up and swinging for lethal in short order it can be lights out. Why I believe the deck is so strong is because I rarely find myself in that situation. Even something as innocuous as Aqueous Form can get the job done in short order and it only takes 5 unblocked attacks from Geist to win the game. We can shave that timeframe down quite a bit with the right combination of equipment. I suppose what I’m getting at is that even though this is an aggro deck, it doesn’t mean the lines of play are easy to see or act upon without some degree of thought.
Thank you all so very much for reading my articles and a very special thanks to Laura Montagna for giving me the opportunity to discuss my favorite format. I look forward to seeing you all at Nu Games for Thursday night commander!