Breaking Commander 2016 Series

Kynaios and Tiro of MeletisBreya, Etherium ShaperYidris, Maelstrom WielderAtraxa, Praetors' VoiceSaskia the Unyielding

Let's talk cascade. See this happy little fellow?

Maelstrom Wanderer is pretty busted. Haste, high power and, most importantly, double cascade. Cascade is one of those mechanics I affectionately call dumb. It was designed with fun and randomness in mind, and when I play with it my spells cascade into wonderfully weird amalgams of value.

It's dumb because it can be fixed, like a gambler's die or totem in Inception. Just look at this deck:

Or how about this deck:

Or this old Extended deck:

It's been so long since Extended was a format, and Matt Nass blessed us with his first Grand Prix Victory, that we've forgotten why Hypergenesis is banned in Modern. Cascade is absolutely busted. But let's start at the beginning.

Maelstrom Wanderer is a very good commander. I've seen it in my hands and the hands of many other players (Props to Jeremy Noell at PAX East this year!) and it's always just really good. The reasons are twofold: it gives all your creatures haste, and it effectively draws you two cards. Every. Time. You. Cast. It.

Cascade is broken.

But most spells in Magic don't get cascade, and dedicated five-color decks that make the most of Maelstrom Nexus are unwieldy. Enter Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder.

Yidris is a "fixed" version of Maelstrom Wanderer. Now, you have to hit home in combat with a creature and it doesn't generate any inherent value until you do that, and you only get the bonus for a limited time.

Those doesn't change the fact Yidris is still being pretty broken.

@the_stybs i think the question is, what cards are not busted with cascade...

— A-liks SEE-toh (@Alexckszeto) November 3, 2016

@the_stybs its not a question of what spells are busted with cascade, its a matter of what busted spells you cascade into

— RayZoh (@RayZoh) November 3, 2016

@the_stybs All of them.

— Andrew Weisel (@_SEV8) November 3, 2016

Do You Want to Build Some Value?

@the_stybs Possibility Storm and Maelstrom Wanderer. Anything to give double strike + extra combat steps for stacks of cascade,. :-)

— Sean (@SwordsToPlow) November 4, 2016

@the_stybs unblockable and haste are huge too - anger Rouge's passage etc

— David Roshinski (@HomebrewedDwarf) November 4, 2016

There's a couple ways to get the most out of Yidris. Let's start with our baseline requirement: We have to attack and deal damage to another player first. Tried and tested ways to accomplish that, specifically Equipment like Sword of Light and Shadow and Lightning Greaves, work the same here. The tricks and tools of combat damage-matters commanders are all great.

The real next level fun for Yidris comes with amplifying combat and clever ways to get the damage through. Key to the City is quietly becoming one of my favorite cards since it not only helps push through damage, it also digs you to better cards. Missing haste or hexproof/protection is a tough trade-off, but the Key can be used on other players' creatures to great effect as well.

Getting more cascade added to spells is another approach. Multiple combat steps (See Hellkite Charger, Aggravated Assault, etc.) work as you want them to but another key card to get more out of Yidris is Strionic Resonator.

@the_stybs Yes. (Also works with granting double strike.) #WotCStaff

— Lee Sharpe (@mtg_lee) November 9, 2016

An easy-to-cast artifact in a four-color deck, Resonator can not only copy the Yidris combat damage trigger but also other random triggered abilities, including cascade on other cards like Maelstrom Wanderer.

@the_stybs Sensei's divining top into Ancestral Visions. :-P

— Sean (@SwordsToPlow) November 4, 2016

The other route to breaking Yidris lies in clever choices of spells. For example, let's consider what Trinket Mage can do for us. Searching up a one-drop artifact, like Sensei's Divining Top, means if we give it cascade we warp straight to something like Living End or Ancestral Visions. It's the same trick competitive Constructed decks have used for years.

@RevEnFuego @the_stybs and free spells. Good ol' Palinchron.

— Russel (@RogueArtificer) November 4, 2016

Okay, yeah. Palinchron is already just broken so adding cascade isn't really rocking the boat there. More interesting cards like Peregrine Drake or Snap (assuming you have a narrow selection of things that cost one or less mana) are a wrinkle worth exploring too.

@the_stybs Thoughtcast seems good

— Carlos (@cag5383) November 4, 2016

@the_stybs anything delve

— Justin Robinson (@RevEnFuego) November 4, 2016

Delve doesn't make spells "free" per se, but when have you seen Treasure Cruise cast for more than one blue mana?

All of the delve spells (and, similarly affinity spells) you're likely to play in Commander are great, but adding cascade puts them well over the top. Since the converted mana cost of delve spells are high even if the mana paid is low you're live to hit something big for free.

We Have to Go Deeper

@the_stybs planeswalkers are the best to cast. Built a jund shell and even w/o cascade it's mostlu 2-1s.

— Rafael Balangaz Paiv (@balangaz) November 4, 2016

There are many ways to slice the four-color commanders, and looking at them as "familiar wedge plus a new splash" is a solid one. Jund, infamous for a variety of potent two-for-one effects (See Broodmate Dragon, Bloodbraid Elf, etc.) and powerful planeswalkers.

The idea of casting the humble Liliana Vess and getting both a free spell and Demonic Tutor for five mana is amazing.

@the_stybs It's time for Grinning Ignus! #wotcstaff

— Gavin Verhey (@GavinVerhey) November 3, 2016

If you recall Palinchron and the Trinket Mage tricks above the question presents itself: Can we do both together? Gavin Verhey himself found it in Grinning Ignus, and it's really gross. Assuming you build your deck with that in mind, firing off free (albeit lower-cost) spells for one red mana each sounds exciting.

And if we're looking to cast the same spell over and over again…

@the_stybs Capsize. Do it.

— Marcus Hensing (@Lobster667) November 3, 2016

Ah yes, buyback. If you like playing the same reductive game of Magic again and again this mechanic is for you! Repeatable effects are powerful in Commander, and here buyback spells with carefully chosen costs get to shine. Constant Mists is great if you have ways to pile up the Forests first. Corpse Dance is underused and underappreciated. Mystic Speculation can massage your deck and is a general way to spend extra mana when you have it.

Sprout Swarm is, however, my ideal buyback card for Yidris. Going with a tokens theme, the ability to dig out every cheap spell from your deck. While spells of a converted mana cost of one (or zero) are limited, the control you can exercise while deckbuilding mitigate that. Buyback and cascade are great.

What Did We Learn?

That's all just the start for Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder. Cascade is a tough-to-break mechanic because it's already broken. The best ways to take advantage of it are through clever deck construction or easily repeatable ways to cascade at higher converted mana costs.

Yidris sits in a sweet intersection of colors, taking all of Jund's answers and combat prowess and pairing it with blue gives it access to more answers and better card drawing engines. Getting all of the best of delve, buyback and some Counterspell action in there too means setting up a chain of value is straightforward.

Artifacts, too, play a role in setting up the best possible cases for Yidris to appear. Between good Equipment to get combat damage through or ways to set up and filter cards in the library (Shoutout to Vessel of Endless Rest for resetting Living End and friends!), there are plenty of reasons to put cards in that won't push on a stretched manabase.

How far you want to take Yidris is up to you, but breaking the game with cascade is going to be a lot of fun.