It is time for more...'experiments'... The pain will only be passing; you should survive the process...

Formatting courtesy of Suns_Champion's Suns_Champion's Well of Ideas

I wasn't initially interested in Mairsil, the Pretender for a number of reasons, probably chief among them being the "only once each turn" clause. Recently though I've been wanting a deck that I can just throw fun cards into. All my other decks are so focused on a particular strategy that they don't allow for very many off the wall cards. Mairsil however just wants activated abilities and the only real limitation on him is no or . This gives us access to every activateable in and that is a lot of crazy.

Mairsil suffers from the voltron problem. This might be the worse case of it I've ever seen in fact... Most of the creatures in most Mairsil decks get shoved into the cage to take advantage of their abilities so often Mairsil will be the only creature in play. Many of the artifacts are treated the same way. Luckily some the best methods of abusing Mairsil take the form of AEtherling , Mirage Mirror , and Pack Rat . More on these later.

Mairsil, unlike other commanders, can only be built one way unless you are only using his colors I guess. The only option with him is to use activated abilities, any other strategy and we should just use something else. There are several ways to go with activated abilities though. So keep reading ;)

By the way 'The Cage' is simply a reference to any card which gets exiled with a cage counter on it.

Reading the Decklist: Here is an explanation for my custom categories.

There are 4 Custom Categories and a list of 'Other' because I just don't know how I want the rest of them organized.

Mana: This includes everything that has the main purpose of making mana or accelerating mana.

Card Advantage: This is everything that has the main purpose of drawing cards, searching for cards, or putting things in the graveyard.

Removal: This is everything that has the main purpose of taking resources from our opponents.

Abuse: This is everything designed to brake Mairsil's rules

Other: An assortment of the rest of the effects in the deck, it would just take too many extra little categories to organize these.

Specific Card Choices: Here are all of my card choices and explanations.

Island , Mountain , and Swamp because I need mana to run the deck?

Arcane Lighthouse - I'm running a lot of targeting effects and sometimes need to bypass protections on creatures.

Cephalid Coliseum - acts as an island most of the time but also helps dig deeper into the deck for cheap.

Command Tower , Crumbling Necropolis - mana.

Detection Tower - Much like the lighthouse but only for hexproof, does have the added benefit of getting past hexproof on players. Needed rarely for some combo wins.

Dimir Signet , Rakdos Signet , Izzet Signet - Low cost color producing mana rocks.

Dreamstone Hedron - produces with a single tap which is important for some combos and just helps accelerate in the mid game.

Evolving Wilds , Terramorphic Expanse - mana fixing.

Hanweir Battlements , Flamekin Village - a source of the very important haste.

Gilded Lotus , Prismatic Geoscope - much like dreamstone hedron except that it allows colored mana.

Watery Grave , Steam Vents , Blood Crypt - Shock lands to shock me? Makes the mana base a little easier to play.

Heartstone , Training Grounds - the best mana 'production' in the deck often saving me 12+ mana over the course of a game.

Homeward Path - the deck is very focused on having Mairsil, especially after 4+ cards have been caged. this card gets him back.

Inventors' Fair - a cheap way to tutor up an important artifact for any situation.

Liliana of the Dark Realms - mostly here because I love liliana but also produces a ton of mana for a mana hungry deck.

Minamo, School at Water's Edge - untaps Mairsil and other legendaries, not really worth the money for this deck but I happened to have one.

Path of Ancestry - free scry 1 when casting the commander or some other creatures.

Rogue's Passage - it is rare for this deck but Mairsil can win through commander damage and this makes it easier.

Sol Ring - mana hungry deck needs mana.

Arcanis the Omnipotent - amazing card draw, often goes in 'the cage' and also has a bounce ability when all else fails.

Buried Alive - able to set up a win by grabbing a 3 card or less creature only combo.

Chandra, Flamecaller - just like I love liliana I also love Chandra... The 0 ability is also pretty nutty for digging really deep pretty quick for cageable targets.

Demonic Tutor , Diabolic Tutor - one of these is obviously better but both tutors are rather nice to have to grab answers or combo pieces.

Faithless Looting - really cheap and extremely efficient for digging for cageable targets.

Jace's Archivist - More digging for more cards and can disrupt opponent's plans.

Mercurial Chemister - really good in 'the cage' not so good outside of it, cheap draw and solid removal.

Mirror-Mad Phantasm - fairly random when used outside of 'the cage' but can take you from 0 to 100 in a single turn, in 'the cage' use is limited to having a Laboratory Maniac in your deck.

Planar Bridge - slow but fun value producer, goes nuts in 'the cage' with infinite mana and flicker.

Razaketh, the Foulblooded - very powerful repeatable tutor.

Search for Azcanta  Flip- helps dig into cageable targets

Tezzeret the Seeker - another way to find specific artifacts and helps make extra mana for a mana hungry deck.

Windfall - single use Jace's Archivist.

Captivating Crew , Memnarch - not actual removal but often times better.

Olivia Voldaren - similar to above but can act as removal or theft.

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast - decent removal with the potential to push mana production into overdrive.

Diaochan, Artful Beauty - this is one of my stranger choices because it allows an opponent to potentially remove one of my creatures (aka Mairsil). However smart use of it has resulted in me never losing a creature to it, silver tongue may be required for best results. The controller of the creature you choose does not need to be player that chooses the second target.

Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief - can be mana intensive but does a great job of eliminating indestructible creatures and works great with rogue's passage.

Galecaster Colossus - great in and out of 'the cage' and gives Mairsil something to do when lacking haste.

Hoard-Smelter Dragon - mana-inefficient most of the time but another fun piece to use in conjunction with rogue's passage, good for pesky artifact removal too.

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage - discard cageable targets for best results, very useful for wiping the board and removing untargetable players.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion - can draw some cards if you happen to cast but really useful in 'the cage' for countering things that might mess up your plan.

Nevinyrral's Disk - might be the most broken thing I've ever put in the cage with a flicker effect...

Oblivion Stone , Perilous Vault - not as good as nevinyrral's disk but still great in 'the cage' and fine when used outside of it.

Shauku, Endbringer - I don't run many things that are awful outside of being in 'the cage' but this is one of those cards, it is simply too efficient and powerful not to use.

Spikeshot Elder - part of a game winning combo but also a nice ability that doesn't require haste.

Steel Hellkite - another way to wipe the board but more targeted.

Visara the Dreadful - similar to shauku, endbringer but only destroys.

AEtherling - only truly useful in 'the cage,' for it flickers Mairsil, can also be a cheap rogue's passage.

Argent Sphinx - another aetherling with fewer abilities and requires metalcraft making it less useful but still good enough.

Conjurer's Closet - a non-cageable that makes caging extra cards cost nothing when compared to other options.

Deadeye Navigator - perhaps one of the more broken flicker abilities since it brings Mairsil back immediately allowing you to cage creatures/artifacts and use abilities over and over as long as you have mana. really opens up possibilities.

Mirage Mirror - useful outside of 'the cage' but ridiculous in 'the cage,' for the simple cost of Mairsil can become a copy of himself, this allows the use of his abilities again.

Quicksilver Elemental - a more efficient but color restrictive version of mirage mirror.

Nezahal, Primal Tide - great outside 'the cage' and a fine flicker effect for in 'the cage,' probably one of the last things to cage if you can get a different flicker ability.

Pack Rat - makes copies of Mairsil which cage more things and you can sacrifice the original to keep using caged abilities.

Rings of Brighthearth - copies activated abilities...

Staff of Domination - has a whole piles of different effects any of which can be used indefinitely with mana and flicker.

Amaranthine Wall - only really useful in 'the cage' to make Mairsil indestructible

Anger , Fervor - great source of haste.

Chaos Wand - mostly just a fun card to spin the wheel and see what you get, does occasionally have powerful uses.

Hex Parasite - in or out of the cage this thing eats counters, great against scray planeswalkers but really just good against counters in general.

Morphling - untap or give flying or shroud to Mairsil.

Torchling - untap Mairsil or force a bad block or redirect a single target spell.

Oona, Queen of the Fae - usually used as a win con but can be nice to just make a random number of faeries.

Skyship Stalker - good in 'the cage' for haste and sometimes first strike comes in handy.

Soul of New Phyrexia - makes all my stuff indestructible, great in conjunction with nevinyrral's disk.

The Scarab God - usually used to exile dead things my opponents my reanimate, also gives me a token copy.

Thousand-Year Elixir - effectively gives haste.

Tree of Perdition - combo piece that works great when put in 'the cage'

Laboratory Maniac - can combo with Mirror-Mad Phantasm to win the game but is probably a little too spicy for my table.

Hateflayer - same result as spikeshot elder but requires haste making it more difficult to use sometimes.

Sage of Hours - easily creates infinite turns with Anthroplasm, makes for boring solitaire.

Anthroplasm - little use outside of interaction with Sage of Hours.

Vector Asp , Pestilent Souleater - works better when the plan is to attack rather than to combo.

Also feel free to refer to this list MTG List: Mairsil Possibilities. These are all cards that I have given at least some thought to running and likely just haven't yet or I have run them and took them out temporarily to test something.

Amaranthine Wall - I've never used it because I either flicker Mairsil or use Soul of New Phyrexia.

Search for Azcanta  Flip might come out to make room for Stitcher Geralf

Evaluating the Deck: Here is a breakdown of the deck's strength, weaknesses, combos, non-bos, synergies, and politics.

Strengths: Once a card is put into exile with a cage counter on it your opponents almost can't interact with it. There are a few, very few, ways to hassle cards in the exile zone but they are pretty rarely used. This means once a game winning combo is caged it is only a matter of time before Mairsil wins the game. Another strength is that while the activated abilities can be overcosted or be on overcosted cards they can be played outside of the cage and often still have a powerful effect on the game without being abused by Mairsil.

Weaknesses: While the deck can play without Mairsil doing so makes some of the combos significantly weaker and others just don't work. As such if someone steals/kills/ Nevermore s/etc Mairsil you may find yourself unable to win.

Characteristics

Flexibility: This deck likely has more interaction than any other deck I've made. I would say it is pretty capable of reacting to new threats and as such is rather flexible.

Resilience: This is a weird one. On one hand the deck is rather reliant on Mairsil and getting a combo into the cage. On the other hand as long as mana is open and the right cards are caged it is nigh impossible to stop Mairsil from going off. Spells can be redirected or fizzled or Mairsil can pop out and come back in after the effect goes off... Needing the right cards in the cage lowers the overall resilience but once those cards are there I don't think I've seen anything as resilient as this deck. And needing to recast Mairsil just means another card gets caged.

Sustainability: The early game of this deck sucks. There really isn't any way around that either... However once you get to the mid to late game you just keep going. The draw power of and is just nutty and keeps the deck alive despite not having the best ramp. So I would say sustainability is so-so.

Consistency: The deck relies on digging into the right cards to fetch the right combo to do the right thing at the right time... There is a lot of room for things to go wrong. Despite this I've had pretty good success with the amount of redundancy I have in the deck. I would again rate this as so-so.

Cohesiveness: The deck is extreme in it's cohesiveness. Most of the cards, especially the combo pieces, get much better as more and more cards enter play or enter the cage.

Efficiency: Here is another one that is probably a little strange. Quite a number of the cards are maybe a little high on CMC but quite a number of them can also be shunted straight into the cage. As a result of this you don't have to ever play a lot of the more expensive cards you just need to get them caged to use their abilities. So instead of , 2 life, and a creature to tutor off of Razaketh, the Foulblooded or and tap to use Planar Bridge once, you only pay the activation costs.

Effectiveness: I would rate the effectiveness of this deck quite high. Once all the pieces are collected you just win. Collecting those pieces is sometimes a challenge but with the amount of card advantage and interaction in the deck you can often delay the game long enough to pull something together.

Tree of Perdition Caged + Spikeshot Elder Caged + a Caged flicker effect, this allows you to set target opponent's life to Mairsil's toughness and then spend a little mana to do his power in damage to that player. You need the flicker effect to reset Mairsil's toughness and untap him to hit another opponent. Often with a haste effect I can use this to win in a single turn.

Staff of Domination Caged or other untap + Gilded Lotus Caged or other mana producing artifact + Quicksilver Elemental / Mirage Mirror /other way to reset Mairsil, produce infinite mana.

Mirror-Mad Phantasm Caged, mill your entire library. Often just kills you on your next draw effect but if you have Deadeye Navigator or Pack Rat or another way to flicker Mairsil multiple times in one turn you can likely grab a combo into the cage and win. You have to be very careful with mana doing this as it is all or nothing and a Temple Bell will make you lose...

Soul of New Phyrexia + Nevinyrral's Disk , just destroy your opponent's things forever while your stuff is untouched. Done in or out of the cage.

Perilous Vault Caged, send Mairsil to the command zone exiling all non-lands in play and be able to do it next time you play Mairsil. Probably not something you want to do a lot of but once you have infinite or a lot of mana you can just keep doing this...

There are many other synergies and some other combos but I'm not going to list them all. Interactions simply just happen when cards get used in ways they were never meant to be used in.

Nonbos: I'll let you know when I find them...

Politically this deck either does nothing and bides its time or is immediately seen as the archenemy. I rarely have any other reaction... Below are my experiences vs various types of decks.

Group hug: These are almost always 'hidden' combo decks, Mairsil is an obvious combo deck. It really is a race to see who combos out first. Try to take advantage of the draw and ramp they give you but don't let them accumulate value unchecked.

Pillowfort: Most pillow fort decks are meant to stop creature attacks so we don't care. Occasionally someone runs Orbs of Warding or something else like it. Get rid of these effects as fast as possible or they will just laugh at you and point out that you can't target them...

Voltron: These usually are not the worst thing to deal with. Just keep a flicker effect open so you can block the attacker and then flicker. If they use trample use your removal. I've rarely had any real problems with a voltron deck.

Swarm: These are a problem... I play very few creatures and so often can't block more than 2 or 3 things. You will want to grab a board wipe like Nevinyrral's Disk asap.

Reanimator: There are some potentially unfortunate interactions with these. I enjoy using my wheel effects but they often help out reanimator decks... So be careful with the wheels if you see one of these.

Aggro: Check 'Swarm' this is often very similar.

Combo: It is just a race to see who gets lucky first.

Control: We can play that game too. I find these often hide a combo win too so use your control to deal with their control and race them to the win.

Good-stuff: This is such a wide archetype that I can't possibly tell you how to deal with it.

Chaos/Group Slug: Sometimes we can hide behind them pissing everyone off other times their Grip of Chaos stops us from targeting players.... Try and deal with them quickly or they will mess everything up.

The gameplan is pretty simple. I will start with the opening hand and go through from there.

I always go for 3 or 4 lands in my opening hand. The deck is very mana hungry and if you start short on mana you are just going to fall further and further behind. If you start with more than 4 lands you are probably going to have a tough time getting gas... Tutors or flicker effects are great in an opening hand but not absolute musts.

Next you want to get some kind of acceleration going or it will be a slow game... Or fast... If your opponents take advantage of the blood in the water. Try and find a flicker effect in the early parts of the game too.

Do not play Mairsil until you have a flicker effect ready to be caged. In the case of Deadeye Navigator or Conjurer's Closet you will still want something to cage before playing Mairsil.

Even if you get a really cool cage target if you can't flicker or can't do something that effectively flickers Mairsil then he isn't worth playing. Just play the card out, someone will kill it for you later...

Start going for combo pieces to cage but try and cage them fast if your opponents know what to look for they will try and get rid of the pieces before you cage them. Once they are caged they have to deal with Mairsil directly.

Combo off and win?

So I'll explain a board state here that I've had and how it went as each player had their turn. This should give a little more insight into why I don't have a bunch of untap/bounce effects and why I prefer flicker like AEtherling provides.

I want to note here that untap and bounce are still useful I just grade them lower than flicker and tutors.

I had a caged AEtherling and Chaos Wand and a lot of mana available to me in a 6 player game with Fervor , Training Grounds , and Mairsil in play. This was a while into the game, turn 10+?

On my turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

On opponent #1s turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

On opponent #2s turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

On opponent #3s turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

On opponent #4s turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

On opponent #5s turn I used Chaos Wand and then flickered Mairsil

I will say I could have won that game much sooner but I had a lot of games at this point where I went straight for my win and just wanted to goof around in this game. This is the ridiculousness that flickering can do. Replace Chaos Wand with Tree of Perdition and Spikeshot Elder and there is the end of the game instead, with less mana.

Also keep in mind with each flicker a new card was caged and with each wand use a new spell was randomly cast from an opponent's library.

And yes my friends run more interaction now, lol.

I know it is a part of the base game rules but it is very important that you understand how it works if you are going to play Mairsil, the Pretender . So I'm going to explain it as best I can here and give some resources that might explain it better.

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