Challenger Series: Ith, High Arcanist

Welcome to the first installment of the Challenger Series. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time trying to learn about magic. I love reading articles, watching videos, looking at new cards, and just playing the game. I love learning about new cards, interactions, and strategies, as to me, learning more about magic makes me a better player. I seem to learn the most about these things when I sit down for a game of commander. When I have to lean across the table and read a commander I have never even heard of, or I lose to some sort of complex six card combo, I get so excited and my desire to learn more becomes stronger every time. Because of this, today I want to start a series that looks at some unpopular commanders for each of the two color combinations, as well as strategies that go along with that commander. Let’s see if we can learn something new!

Blue White- Ith, High Arcanist

To begin, lets look at a blue white commander that I’ve never seen played or even really mentioned online, Ith, High Arcanist. At 7 mana, he costs a lot, but he can also have quite an impact when he comes down. First off, let’s look at what Ith does.

He is a 3/5 Human Wizard with vigilance, so he has a solid body to block with, but that isn’t what makes him interesting. Ith says “T: Untap target attacking creature. Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to and by that creature this turn.” That text sounds familiar doesn’t it? Thaumatic Compass//Spires of Orazca from Ixalan does this, but that doesn’t see much play. What about Maze of Ith, named after Ith himself? The effect of Maze of Ith is unique as well as a powerful political tool. (It is important to note, Ith has suspend 4, but you cannot suspend from the command zone. Command Beacon is in the deck to make use of this ability but it does not come up often.)

Now what kind of strategy does Ith lend himself to? When I look at him, his ability, and his high mana cost, I tend to think of Blue White control deck, although with more of a political theme as his ability can save other players from dying, especially if you untap something like a Blightsteel Colossus. Typical control cards like the classic Counterspell, Cyclonic Rift, and Blue Sun’s Zenith, as well as some political cards like Split Decision, Plea For Power, Expropriate, and Council’s Judgement seem to warrant inclusion in an Ith deck.

Control decks tend to not do the best in a multiplayer setting as having to deal with three people’s spells versus just one person means that the control deck runs out of resources and cards quickly. By keeping your deck political, you can fill in these weak spots and make it into the long game. Let’s dive more into that.

Control decks, draw-go, permission, they all do one thing: stop other people from doing things. In 60-card, one versus one magic, control decks can do rather well. They only have to worry about that person’s spells rather than three other people. The multiplayer dynamic can make control decks struggle, so how do we circumvent that? Through politics. Commander is a game of politics. You can wheel and deal and backstab your way straight to victory using politics, even if your deck cannot on it’s own. I feel like Ith is a perfect example of this. His main ability doesn’t seem super flashy, but it has a massive political impact! People see that ability and almost always have to think about that if they attack you, it’ll be like they did nothing. They’ll usually hold back or attack someone else, all without you ever having to activate it. It seems minor on the card, but the impact it has on the game is huge. Then, you pack the deck with political cards such as the voting cards, attacking deferrers like Ghostly Prison and Propaganda, and control cards like Sphinx’s Revelation and Supreme Verdict, and you have a pretty coherent control deck coming along.

Overall, I think Ith may present a somewhat narrow strategy but by doing some unique things along with your main strategy, I believe that an Ith deck can be unique as well as a lot of fun for both you and you opponents. Let’s look at an Ith list I’ve drawn up and have been testing out recently!

Ith, High Arcanist EDH

Commander

Creatures

Artifact

Enchantment

Instant

Sorcery

Land

I started off the list with the shell of a typical U/W control list. Things like Wrath of God, Counterspell, and Sphinx’s Revelation. Adding in political elements gives us a way to keep the target focused on someone else while controlling the game from behind the scenes.

Let’s start with our political combat tools. These kind of cards make it difficult for the opponents to attack you, although if you’ve been politicking enough they won’t even want to attack you! Cards like Maze of Ith, Propaganda, Crawlspace, and Silent Arbiter all change how people attack and will make them decide if they even want to attack. Maze of Ith and Silent Arbiter even combo a little, taking the one creature that they are allowed to attack with out of combat, protecting yourself. You can even use this as leverage against other players. If a player is about to be swung out with a Blightsteel Colossus or a huge Omnath, Locus of Mana, you can make a deal with that person and save them from dying. Along with this, Propaganda and Crawlspace limit the amount of creatures that can attack you, and I’ve seen many people tap out only to realize now that don’t have enough mana to attack your way.

Our next category I would call our control cards. Board wipes like Wrath of God, draw spells like Blue Sun’s Zenith, and counterspells like, well, Counterspell. These cards let you decide what will resolve, what lives, and will help you fight until the late game where you drop Ith, Isperia, Supreme Judge, and Sun Titan.

Our last unique category would be our political cards outside of combat. Both conspiracy sets brought one of my favorite mechanics to Magic, the voting mechanic. Cards like Expropriate and Council’s Judgement involve everyone at the table, and no matter what have an upside for you as the caster. There is two types of voting mechanics, Will of the Council, and Council’s Dilemma. Will of the Council has each person vote for one of two things, and the option that gets the most votes happens. Council’s Dillema has each person vote for one of two things, and option one happens for each vote of option one, while option two happens for each vote of option one. A little confusing, so let’s look at an example for each.

Will of the Council-Split Decision

With this card, you target an instant or sorcery and everyone gets to vote for either denial or duplication. If denial wins, the spell is countered. If duplication wins, or the vote is tied, the spell is copied and you get to choose targets.

Council’s Dilemma-Expropriate

Expropriate let’s each person vote for time or money. For each person that votes time, you get an extra turn! For each money vote, you can steal a permanent that voter controls.

These type of voting cards help take a little bit of the target off of you because everyone is involved, as well as being really interesting cards in general!

With the groups outlined above, plus some ramp and early utility creatures, Ith seems to be a pretty solid deck. I’ve been testing the list above and I’ve been enjoying it a lot! He makes it far into the late game and I’ve won with him a few times, even against some combo decks. The biggest challenge with Ith is knowing when to counter, when to hang back, when to be aggressive, and how to politic.

Thanks for reading today, and let me know what you think! If you play Ith, High Arcanist, send me some decklists! Let me know if you agree or if I totally missed the mark. Next week we’ll focus on a commander in my favorite color combination- Blue black!

 

Cameron

@camcole113 on twitter

 

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