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Nitōichi - Two Swords As One:

As a nod to Miyamoto Musashi, Isshin makes use of Musashi's Nitōichi -Two Swords As One- dueling style. "In this technique, the swordsman uses both a large sword and a 'companion sword' at the same time, such as a katana with a wakizashi."

Isshin's ability, art, and name are all flavorful nods to Musashi's unique dueling style. Isshin doubles all attack triggers in a manner that lend themselves well to relentless offense or hardy defense.

In unison, these capabilities should let the deck either become the beat down once boards are cleared, or play defensively and politically, forcing the rest of the table to fight each other.

Isshin can lean heavily into various avenues such as Offense/Go Wide with tokens, Exalted and Equipment dueling, or Forced Combat Control and Pillow Fort. My build leans most heavily into a Tokens Go Wide build.

This deck changed a lot in the months since I started brewing it, and is now focused on the Aggro Go Wide theme. Over the past 9 months I incorporated some of the pillow fort elements, but felt that they watered down the aggressive focus I was aiming for. I'm excited to see how this deck will continue to evolve over time.

"A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study."

"Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life."

My custom Musashi sleeves. The source image is a woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

My Moxfield version of the deck - This version is always most up to date, especially during spoiler season. Spoilers tend to get added to Moxfield within a day of being posted online.

I received some rather unexpected but welcome feedback on this deck when I saw that someone posted to /r/EDH on Reddit that they used this deck as a base for theirs, but were getting dismantled and focused fairly early. This section of the primer is intended for newer players and players that may be newer to playing Aggro.

Disclaimer: I play with a fairly consistent play-group, so a lot of my approach is informed by those experiences, and my occasional visit to LGSs in my area My playgroup has a house rule where Monarch is introduced to the game at the end of Turn 3 for the player going last in turn order. Because of this house rule, swinging aggro is expected and encouraged.

When I play this deck, I tend to look for a couple of things in opening hands, especially in context of the other decks around the table:

  • I tend to swing at whichever board I think will provide the least resistance, whether it means smaller creatures or total bodies on board, and/or are tapped out for mana for possible removal. On occasion this may mean swinging out at other token strats that are behind on board development, or more combo/spell-slinger based strategies that will have fewer and smaller creatures.

  • When playing against other token strategies, I tend to keep hands that are heavier on removal and ramp, but have at least 1 token producing creature that I can start building my own presence with once boards are cleared.

  • If I'm playing against spell-slingers or other strategies that may commit to a squishier creature board, I will try to keep hands with a couple more creatures and an anthem if possible.

  • Starting with some kind of board protection spell, whether it's Teferi's Protection, Dolmen Gate, or even just a Tibalt's Trickery are all very helpful to maintaining momentum. I try to keep hands that have at least 1 protection effect.

  • If I am one of the more aggressive decks at the table, I will tend to lean into that and build as much momentum as possible. Either I become the Big Bad and get focused, or I gain too much momentum to meaningfully interact with.

  • If I am not the only token strat at the table, I may slow roll my board deployment a bit and accelerate once a few removal spells have hit around the table.

  • I try to keep the curve for this deck as low as possible so I can: muscle out early aggro momentum, rebuild my board quickly and efficiently in the event of wipes and removal, and hold mana up for cheap removal and interaction.

  • Purphoros, God of the Forge, Commissar Severina Raine, Mishra, Claimed by Gix  , and Tectonic Giant to a lesser extent are all group-slug effects that can act as finishers with a well-protected board state.

I think it is cool that others have used this deck as a primer for their own, but I highly encourage people to tune to their metas and budgets. This deck is not intended to be a "Be-All, End-All" for Isshin token strats, but is hopefully a helpful starting point.

Cards I considered at some point

  • Intangible Virtue - Excluded so far because it only cares about Token creatures

  • Reckoner's Bargain - A bit more cantrippy draw to sacrifice tokens to.

  • Always Watching - Exluded so far because it only cares about non-token creatures.

  • Cunning Rhetoric - The effect wasn't much of a deterrant in my meta, especially since it triggered per opponent, instead of per creature attacking.

  • Custodi Soulcaller - Some more recursion could be useful in particularly grindy games.

  • Fable of the Mirror-Breaker   - A Saga with the upsides of mana acceleration and optional looting. The backside is like a pseudo-Kiki Jiki and can create some token clones for combat.

  • Florian, Voldaren Scion - Florian could be great card advantage for a deck that aims to play aggressively and throw a lot of combat damage around, or Isshin builds that utilize more Group Slug effects like Vicious Conquistador.

  • Guardian of Faith - Flexible board protection. Definitely a budget option for players who may not want to pick up a copy of Terferi's Protection yet.

  • Black Market Connections - A card that has more or less out-classed Phyrexian Arena since it debuted earlier this year. I

  • Phyrexian Arena - Something I had in initial drafts of the deck. The more I play tested it, and played the deck, the more I felt that it was out of place pacing-wise. In early game it competed with ramp, getting Isshin online, or curving into a creature for Isshin to improve on Turn 3 or 4. Beyond a Turn 4 play, this felt clunky and slow.

  • Raid Bombardment - Front load some damage on token swings

  • Shared Animosity - A board full of tokens gets that much scarier. Would be more useful for smashing through other board states, especially if my creatures lack evasion.

  • Thorough Investigation - I like Clue tokens and Investigation, but I like them a bit more in other decks. The stapled on dungeon value was cool, but I think I generally prefer to leave mana up for removal/interaction

  • Faith's Reward - Boardwipe insurance that hits all my permanents. I'd like to include it, but 4 cmc kinda sucks to hold up, and creatures are more vulnerable to board wipes than other permanents in my meta.

  • Fireflux Squad - A card I had a lot of fun playing for a decent chunk of this deck's initial 4-5 months. It shined best with a token producing attacker on board, but benefits from having a "may ability" trigger. As fun as it was, felt very Boom or Bust in terms of what it would dig out. I finally cut it for more consistency at the 4 drop slot.

  • Grim Hireling - Although Hireling is a combat damage trigger I think it could have some potential since a wider board can be harder to block, and Brutal Hordechief exists.

  • Kardur, Doomscourge

  • Mangara, the Diplomat - Dissuades attacks, since it could lead to drawing 2 cards. Also gives spell-slingers something to pause and consider. Swapped out recently since it didn't trigger off either of its clauses much at all. Could be great in metas with a greater abundance of spell slinger strategies.

  • Marton Stromgald - I swapped him out for Purphoros, God of the Forge. I figured that Purphoros has the upside of being Indestructible, is a beefier Impact Tremors, can add some Firebreathing if I have the mana up, and is a much beefier body than Marton when it is a creature.

  • Smothering Tithe - It's good. That much is obvious and not much else needs to be said lol. If I'm lacking for mana or taxing effects, then I know what could help fix that.

  • Winota, Joiner of Forces - . Winota could be a future include, but I think I would need to up my Human count a bit, as I currently have 9 in the 99 that Winota could hit with her ability, as of 2/22/22.

  • Sun Titan - I had this in the initial build, but eventually cut it for some other effect around 5cmc. It's slower than Custodi Soulcaller in some ways, but has the upside of recurring other permanents in addition to creatures.

Upgrades

These are cards I don't currently own, but could be strong inclusions in the deck. These are all kind of expensive in their own rights. For me, all of the permanents carry a little tagline of " At worst it's removal bait, at best it can lead to some blowout turn."

  • Sneak Attack

  • Aurelia, the Warleader - Extra combats are cool, but feel a bit unnecessary for now. I think that there is too much setup needed in terms of getting a Vigilance anthem on board so that all of my creatures can swing in on every extra combat.

  • Scourge of the Throne - 6 cmc, doesn't have Haste, and it has an extra hoop to jump through for the extra combat. The extra hoop isn't super restrictive, but something to keep in mind.

  • Utvara Hellkite - Getting a board full of dragon tokens seems pretty fun and crazy, but 8 mana is a lot, especialy if I don't have a Haste enabler ready.

Eldrazi Titans and Annihilator Drazis are obviously worth mentioning, but are not my personal playstyle, and are cards I wouldn't pick up. Additionally, I think the steep CMCs of most Eldrazi aren't worth it, especially in Mardu colors.

As with any deck that isn't running Green, this deck is going to play a whole lotta Mana rocks.

Rocks

"Ramp"

These cards aren't ramp in the traditional sense, but have an even higher ceiling thanks to Isshin:

  • Zhentarim Bandit - Can produce treasures on swing, and the "may" trigger is helpful for scaling if needed.
  • Sword of the Animist - It can grab 2 Basics per swing now. Will be super helpful even if it only triggers once or twice.
  • Captain Lannery Storm - Pumping out 2 treasures per swing with Isshin active will be spicy.
  • Professional Face-Breaker - Complimentary to Zhentarim Bandit, Captain Lannery Storm, and Battle Angels of Tyr since it can pump out Treasures with them.
  • Battle Angels of Tyr - More so of a "catch up" mechanic than ramp, but does help generate a bit of Treasure. Will most likely be used against whomever is running the most Green ramp.

I could split hairs a bit, but this is my umbrella for "burst" draw (2 or more cards in 1 instance), Cantrips (1 for 1), and repeated Draw:

Under Consideration

  • Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor - A group hug/slug. Gives my opponents the option to attack each other and benefit from it at a cost. Could be a potential swap with Tymna. TBD.
  • Brazen Cannonade - Group slug off of token deaths is cool, but having Raid to "draw" from is a nice upside. TBD on how I could shoe-horn it in.
  • Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant -The life loss stapled to the draw feels risky, on top of giving my opponents the additional draw triggers.

Removal

Board wipes and spells that destroy or exile single to multiple targets. When possible, I try to make the wipe and multi-target removal be as asymmetrical as possible:

Under Consideration

Interaction

I tend to think of "Interaction" as any effects that prevent opponents from interacting with my board, spells being cast, or their own resources as intended.

Under consideration

  • Mana Tithe - Who ever expects a white counter spell? Just gotta hope they're tapped out for follow up responses.

  • Pyroblast - Blue Mages Hate This One Weird Trick

  • Smothering Tithe - I have a copy. It's an obvious include because it's so good. Will wait and see which 4-5cmc creature or enchantment feels most lackluster as a potential swap.

Here are the meat and potatoes of Isshin's attack trigger doubling for offense and defense

Offense - The Katana

Creature Token creation

Painful slices

Cards that punch heavily on their own, or front-load a lot of damage before blocks in conjunction with token production

Anthems and Buffs

Defense - the Wakizashi

This is a section that originally consisted of pillow-fort effects, but I've since shifted to focus more on board and creature protection.

These are all routes for Isshin that I think are cool and worth mentioning.

My initial build had a sprinkling of Exalted, but I decided against this route since board states in my meta tend to get gummed up, and I already have a couple of Voltron type builds.

This route could utilize equipment and its support with Exalted to go very tall with a single creature.

Exalted Triggers

Samurai & Warrior "Exalted" from Neon Dynasty

I won't name them all, but a few examples

Maybe instead of being full on aggro, give the rest of the table better incentive to fight eachother, or force them to.

Curses

Goad

Monarch

Forced Combat

Forced Combat Payoffs

Not a definitive list, but generally some types of effects that could work with forced combats as creatures may block and die:

Rattlesnakes

More Musashi quotes that lend themselves to the concepts for brewing with Isshin-

  • "In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won."

  • “If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you”

  • “The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.”

  • “The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy's useful actions but allow his useless actions”

It ultimately doesn't really matter all that much, but I am proud that this is (currently) the #1 Isshin deck on both TappedOut and Moxfield, and my post popular deck to date.

This is now my first deck to break 100 votes on both my Moxfield and Tappedout profiles. Lol what.. Beginner me on Tappedout 9 years ago would be so happy.

All in all, internet points don't really mean much, but it does make me happy that so many people have engaged with this deck and something about it resonated with them. I've spent a lot of time writing and updating this primer and have had a lot of fun doing so. I hope as this deck continues to evolve, people will continue to find something about this deck and primer that they enjoy engaging with.

Will this always be the #1 Isshin deck on both sites? Probably not. For me, this is a personal achievement as someone who has been on Tappedout for almost 9 years, and started with very janky decks and half-baked descriptions/primers.

Suggestions

Updates Add

Neyali, Sun's Vanguard was officially spoiled today, after being leaked from Brazilian Amazon screenshots a couple weeks ago.

I can see her potentially swapping out with Professional Face-Breaker in my list. Hard to turn down a Double Strike anthem for tokens, and impulse draw with less of a timing downside.

In general excited for more tech from this Boros precon


Mondrak, Glory Dominus also seems nuts as a self-protecting Anointed Procession

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32% Casual

68% Competitive

Revision 87 See all

(22 hours ago)

+1 Skyhunter Strike Force main
Top Ranked
Date added 11 months
Last updated 22 hours
Legality

This deck is not Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

13 - 0 Mythic Rares

57 - 0 Rares

18 - 0 Uncommons

2 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.68
Tokens Astartes Warrior 2/2 W, Cat Soldier 1/1 W, Copy Clone, Elephant 3/3 G, Goblin 1/1 R, Goblin Shaman, Human 1/1 R, Human 1/1 W, Soldier, Soldier 1/1 W, Treasure, Zombie 2/2 B
Folders Attack harmonicon, Following, Isshin, EDH, Theme, EDH, Favorite Decks, Hello, I am stealing your deck. Thanks!, Cool, EDH, See all 63
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