Over the past few years I have tried very hard to teach my then girlfriend and now wife, Laura, to play and enjoy MTG. She has always played primarily with my cards to placate my requests, but in the past 6 months or so, she has actually begun to build her own decks with my help and find more of a passion for the game. As anyone who has met my wife can attest, she is obsessed with bunnies, to the extent that rabbit decorations adorn the majority of surfaces in our house and we even adopted a pet rabbit named Lucy a few months ago.
When a commander like Cadira, Caller of the Small was released that would let my wife swarm the field with an army of her favorite playful pals, she was ecstatic to get to it.
Cadira is an interesting commander that focuses on flooding the board with an army of rabbits like your traditional Selesnya token deck, but also allows for a variety of different avenues to victory through its focus on Cadira’s combat damage trigger and her synergy with a number of different types of tokens other than just creature tokens. Below is the decklist, some general guidelines as to how the deck runs and some of the things I learned through its creation.
In order to ensure that there is some kind of token present when Cadira’s combat damage trigger goes off, the deck plays a number of cheap cards that generate some type of token when they enter the battlefield. One of the key components to making the deck run as smoothly as possible was to find token generation stapled onto effects that the deck already wants to be playing and being in green, there was no shortage of these plastered on to mana acceleration effects like Gilded Goose and Tireless Provisioner or tacked onto something as relatively free as a land drop in the case of Khalni Garden. Importantly, these tokens can be of any type, leaving the strategy more resilient to creature-based board wipes because all it needs is Cadira and a couple clues or food tokens to get up and running again.
Laura particularly loved the “flavor” of cards like Gilded Goose and Tireless Provisioner making food for her rambunctious rabbits to eat.
Given that the deck is themed around rabbits, Laura really wanted to make sure that her commander would connect, especially because a commander with as much setup as Cadira may come down later in the game when a 3/3 with trample isn’t good enough to deal combat damage. Our solution to this potential problem was to fill the deck with equipment that make Cadira either more evasive in the case of Gilded Pinions or more of a threat to block in the case of Horn of Valhalla and Goldvein pick. All of these cards also have the dual role of generating a token for Cadira in some fashion, making them a useful early game play before Cadira comes down, but also not completely dead after she has resolved.
As illustrated above, the deck aims to overwhelm its opponents with a cavalcade of crepuscular creatures through passive token generation from cards like Felidar Retreat or Monologue Tax and then turn that into an explosive board advantage with one swing of the commander. Given that this makes her a prime target for removal, the deck runs a few of the standard token doublers like Anointed Procession and Parallel Lives in order to really maximize the sheer number of rabbits that Cadira can make in a single turn while also synergizing with most of the other cards in the deck when Cadira isn’t on the board.
The deck has a number of different routes to victory which all rest on the backs of the massive boardstate that we aim to assemble. The deck aims to leverage all of these creatures to finish off the table with a number of the standard token finishers like Craterhoof Behemoth and Triumph of the Hordes. Usually, these single cards are enough to take out the table in a singular strike.
An include that Laura brought to the table and that shores up the weakness the deck has in relying completely on the combat step to win is Halo Fountain. The card serves as a token maker, card draw engine and win condition all on one card. Sometimes a deck like this can be shut down with a single fog effect, and having a backup plan to untap the tokens after declaration of attacks is especially potent or even surprising with cards that let her tap the tokens for mana like Cryptolith Rite.
In my time as an enfranchised magic player, and especially as an employee at RIW, I have helped build many commander decks, but this was particularly special because it combined my passion for the game of Magic with the collaboration of my closest companion. Through this experience I was able to grow a connection with my wife along a new axis that I didn’t know we had.
It was awesome to be there as Laura got to experience some of those moments of exploration that come with being a newer deck builder, like looking through my bulk for fun new cards for her deck. Furthermore, as Laura looked for cards for HER deck, I resonated with the sense of identity that Laura was beginning to tie to the arbitrary pile of cardboard in front of her. We had several in-depth conversations about coordinating sleeves, deck box and playmat to fit her specific color scheme or choosing thematically appropriate lands with “trees for the bunnies to hide in”. In my eyes, commander is the ultimate format for self-expression and that is what sets it apart from all other formats. Being able to help another player find this same sense of identity, especially someone I care about, in one of my favorite hobbies is amongst some of my happiest engagements with this game.
This isn’t to say that there were no hiccups in this process and we faced a number of different challenges along the way. One of the primary challenges that we faced as a duo trying to build a singular deck was how to meld my tendency towards optimization with Laura’s desire to construct a fun, flavorful brew that represented her as a player. In this case, I was here to help Laura parse through the mountain of information to figure out what would help her deck run the most efficiently and Laura was there to reign me back in when I tried to push her deck in a direction that she didn’t want it to go. As a result, I think we both made some important strides as magic players and as deck builders. Below are a few cards that I thought were emblematic of some of the things that we learned building Cadira:
Fae Offering-throughout the deckbuilding process, I was vehemently against including this card in the deck because I tend to dislike high variance cards. However, in my experience playing with Laura, I have yet to see this card be dead on the field. I think that Laura determined the ratio of creature to noncreature spells in her deck to be sufficient that the payoff of this card was worth the risk and this helped push her to be more confident in her deck building decisions. Furthermore, the success of this card has helped me be a little more open to the idea of running more high variance cards in some of my decks.
Rescuer Chwinga- this card was a card that Laura added as a thematic include because it has a number of adorable puffballs in the art. However, it has proven to have some utility as a protection spell for some of the high value permanents in her deck.
Spore Frog(Bunny)- this is a small, powerful fog effect that is stapled to a 1 mana 1/1. While not particularly amazing in the deck, it has some utility at keeping Laura protected on the crackback after Laura swings her bunny army for massive damage.
So much so, that I got the card professionally altered to have a rabbit in the art, just for her. When Laura built her own rabbit themed deck, I knew I had to part with it so that it could be appreciated to its fullest extent. As someone who tries to include Baleful Strix (Brian DeMars Baleful Strix PDH Deck: in any deck I can, I can get behind wanting to add your pet cards to all your decks and I respect putting that individuality above what might be the optimal include. https://riwhobbies.com/pauper-commander-baleful-strix/)
In short, this experience has been an eye opening one for me. It has been wonderful, challenging, and rewarding to discover more about how someone so close to me thinks about the hobby that means so much to me. I had a blast helping Laura build this deck and I can’t wait to participate in what she does in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to read one of my more personal articles, I hope you got something out of reading it, just as I did writing it!