CCC: Tiny Leaders

We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a new blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.

As some of you out there might know I'm a huge fan of EDH (or Commander). A big goal of mine has been to prove that it's possible to have fun playing magic without breaking the bank and I personally think EDH is perfect for that. Now of course you could always spend a bunch to full trick out a deck but where's the fun in that? My first commander deck remains my main, it's a childish Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind deck. It started as a stack of every card I owned that said draw a card and a bunch of lands, now it's more of an actual threat and has pulled of some impressive victories. My other mainstay is my mono-black deck usually headed by Chainer, Dementia Master. Aside from being one of my favorite characters from all of Magic's story Chainer is also a decent card. I say usually headed by because one of the concepts of the deck is that depending on the opponents any of the deck's legendary creatures can be swapped out into the command zone. Now I could go on for pages about my personal EDH decks but that's not today's article. No, I bring up these two decks because they share something all too common in EDH, a consistently high mana cost across all it's cards. These high mana cost cards can really be a pain when they're just sitting in your hand without the resources to cast. It can also suck to be on the recieving end of some higher CMC cards for obvious reasons.

Now what if I told you that there's a format where such costly spells weren't even legal? What if there was a format where all you need to worry about is having at least three mana? What if an extra crazy deckbuilding restriction could give birth to a fun format? It's called Tiny Leaders and I love it.

Tiny Leaders is similar to EDH in a lot of ways; it's a singleton format, you need a commander, color identity of cards must match your commanders, etc. However there are a few key differences; only cards with CMC three or less may be played, you start with 25 life, decks are only 50 cards, and there's no commander damage! (For more comprehensive rules see Today I want to show you guys my top six favorite commanders for Tiny Leaders and some cards that I think work in their decks. my personal decklists will also be included.

Number 6: Danitha Capashen, Paragon
Danitha is actually at the head of one of my regular commander decks so this transfer wasn't much of a change. For creatures you have some great choices for a voltron style deck. Auriok Steelshaper and Hero of Iroas help reduce your costs on top of Danitha's reduction while Kemba, Kha Regent and Graceblade Artisan give us valuable targets for our equipments and auras. As for our actual pieces Strata Scythe combined with Sword of the Animist can equal a massive creature since we're in monocolor anyway, and we can double up our bonuses since Masterwork of Ingenuity is legal. As for auras we have the classic Ethereal Armor which pairs quite well with Battle Mastery. I also like to run Bonds of Faith since it can double as a pacifism if needed. A lot of really good equipments and auras are within our limitations so customization here is super easy.
Number 5: Depala, Pilot Exemplar
For anyone who's played Brawl I'm sure you've seen the power of Depala unleashed. Her buff to vehicles can make or break games and the ability to filter for vehicles and pilots for them is incredibly useful. For vehicles we run some of the best and deadliest. Heart of Kiran, Peacewalker Colossus, and Aethersphere Harvester are insanely good in general and since it's not banned in Tiny Leaders we get to run Smuggler's Copter. The problem with crewing is that it taps the creature, leaving you often without tricks. So a lot of creatures we run have sacrifice effects; Kami of False Hope and Sanctum Guardian protect your life total while Ember Hauler and Hearth Kami act as pretty good removal. We also have access to undercosted creatures with high power such as Vexing Devil and Torpid Moloch which act as incredible pilots. I also like how Stonybrook Schoolmaster works in this deck, getting us a token every time he crews. This deck focuses on getting that kill fast, it can suffer heavily if the game goes on too long.
Number 4: Naban, Dean of Iteration
I love wizards as a tribe, at every Dominaria draft I've been to I forced wizards and I haven't lost yet. Naban is an interest commander giving us a tribal Panharmonicon effect so we want to abuse that as much as possible. To that effect we run Sage's Row Denizen as a win con, attempting to mill our opponents as well as Simic Manipulator to take their threats. Exclusion Mage, Aether Adept, and our multitude of bounce spells keep the board ours or can return our own wizards so we can get their ETB effects again. Metallic Mimic and Adaptive Automaton give our scholarly type creatures the buff they need to get in some serious damage. All in all this was just a fun deck to make and even more fun to play. Naban is truly and underappreciated treasure.
Number 3: Zo-Zu the Punisher
I took this deck on as a challenge to myself, I knew that there wasn't much land destruction at this low of a CMC so I thought it wouldn't really turn out well. And y'know turns out I was only half right. For destruction our all stars are Raze, Stone Rain, Pillage, and Molten Rain plus some other much, much worse cards. Our punishment package is pretty limited to Zo-Zu himself, Ankh of Mishra, and Countryside Crusher. To get rid of our excess lands in hand we run Seismic Assault, Land's Edge, and Molten Vortex. This is a very odd deck and it plays either annoyingly well or disastrously bad. The reason it's so high is because in all honesty that's how I like to play Magic. Sue me.
Number 2: Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
Gwafa as a card embodies one of my favorite types of commander decks, political. He makes the transfer to Tiny Leaders extremely well at the head of a hyper effective prison control deck that works similar to Owling Mine. For protection we run Island Sanctuary, Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Reflector Mage, and Orzhov Advokist. These protect us and can turn our opponents against each other. Gwafa provides our opponents with cards so we want to encourage that. Running Horn of Greed, Temple Bell, Vision Skeins, Remand, Howling Mine, Mikokoro Center of the Sea, and Eidolon of Rhetoric means our opponents hands will often be full so we take advantage with Windfall, Black Vise, and Ebony Owl Netsuke. This deck is evilly fun to play and I might expand upon it to create an actual EDH deck in the future. God I love politics.
Number 1: Mathas, Fiend Seeker
We start and end this list the same way, with a commander I actually use in EDH. Mathas is my favorite kind of political commander, one who turns your opponents against each other. To ensure the backstabbing we run Vow of Malice, Vow of Duty, Vow of Lightning, and Spectral Grasp all of which make it so the enchanted creature can still attack, just not us *insert evil laugh* We also run a lot of the same white prison cards from the Gwafa deck like Ghostly Prison and Advokist but red gains us Circle of Flame and Besmirch. Black brings the best removal around as a looming threat I like to run Royal Assassin and Kiku, Night's Flower both of which highly discourage lifting a finger against us. I could go on for a long time about this one but I suggest actually building it and seeing the mayhem and bloodshed for yourself.

High price tags can really turn people of of certain decks in magic so I tried very hard to keep my suggested decklists for these commanders under 50 dollars. This doesn't mean you can't upgrade them with some more expensive additions. For example Zo-Zu benefits immensely from the inclusion of Crucible of Worlds while Naban is a great enabler for Snapcaster Mage. The possibilities are truly endless. As always remember, this is a fun game so let's try and keep it that way. See you all next month.

East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.

Aug 14, 2018 by East2West
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