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Building Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper

If you follow me on Twitter (@CMDTower) then you may of seen a post I did recently on my technique for building an EDH deck. After I made the initial post, I started to receive questions and requests to expand on my process. Instead of trying to explain this process in 140 characters or less, I thought I would just walk you through it here. To adequately explain this process I will be building a Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper EDH deck. 

Just a note before I begin, I don't build "Good Stuff" EDH decks. I build decks that have themes and I use those themes alongside good cards but I just won't pick a Commander and smash only staples into it. 

Picking a Theme

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To begin building Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper I looked at all his attributes to find themes and sub-themes. One area I could pursue is the tribal aspect since he is a Merfolk. Since he is also an Ally I could look there but since he is only two colors I would be hard pressed making a tribal deck there. The last is his primary ability which states: 

Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, you may put three +1/+1 counters on target land you control. If you do, that land becomes a 0/0 Elemental creature with haste that's still a land.

The cool thing about this ability is I could build a "Lands Matter" deck. Also since the lands get +1/+1 counters, I could incorporate that into my theme as well. Proliferate is the first ability that comes to mind. If I go that way, I would look at other ways to exploit counters as well (Planeswalkers etc.) 

After evaluating the options I decided to go for a Lands Matter primary theme and a Merfolk sub-theme.

Ramp and Draw

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I usually start with the Ramp and Draw cards as this is the most overlooked area and happens to be the most critical in any EDH deck. I start with a standard package:

Since Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper only falls into two color identities, I will also use Azorius Cluestone. If you are running a three color general I would suggest checking out the Banners from Khans of Tarkir. 

Let's evaluate our initial Ramp and Draw package: 

I can get 8 cards at a cost of 5 cards, so this nets me 3 cards (not bad). The total amount of mana I can generate from this is 8 with an initial investment of 18 mana (assuming they come out at the same time). The average number of turns to recoup this mana would be 3 turns for each of the cards so this is also another area to consider. The total monetary cost of this package is under $1 so it's a good pickup for the value; I can also use this again should I ever take apart the deck. 

Mana Rocks

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Next I look mana rocks, which are used to accelerate me so I can get my General onto the Battlefield sooner since he is a key component to the "Lands Matter" theme of the deck. 

The usual suspects are: 

  • Sol Ring costs one-mana to get out but can generate 2-mana the turn it comes out so I get a net gain of one on the first turn and 2-mana every turn after that. This is a staple that needs to be in every deck. 
  • Coalition Relic is one that takes some understanding on how to play. The turn it comes out it can generate one mana at the cost of 3, but the real way to use this card is wait until your opponent's end-step and add a counter to it so you can generate 2-mana the following turn. The reality is no matter what way you are going to use it, it will take 3 turns to recoup its casting cost. If the card can stay on the battlefield it is worth it because it produces color mana, whereas most rocks only produce colorless mana.
  • Azorius Keyrune is another rock that takes 3 turns to pay for itsself but I like it for a couple of reasons. One reason is it produces color mana; since this deck will have a good deal of spells, I will need the colored mana to cast them. The other reason I like this card is that it is a blocker should I need it — sometimes you just need a body to take a hit. 
  • Azorius Signet is a card that I like because it can be played the same turn as Sol Ring. Assuming I have this in my opening along with one land and Sol Ring, I can generate 4-mana at the start of my second turn. If I play another land on turn two I could cast Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper that turn. 
  • Gilded Lotus has become a staple in many decks. It pays for itself on the second activation netting one-mana, then nets three-mana every turn after. It also creates colored mana which helps us cast our spells. 
  • Land Tax is a solid card to add to this list as it not only thins our deck but it also provides more lands to use for our "Lands Matter" theme.

Now that I have 11 mana rocks I know I have about a 11% chance of drawing one and 5% chance to draw one that also has an option to draw cards. Usually I will stop here until I reach the end of the list and evaluate if I need anymore ramp. Personally I won't go under 10 rocks but I will go higher. 


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Spells are going to be crucial to the success of this deck as small spells can turn into big rewards with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper. To get you into my mindset, consider the following: If Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is in play and I cast Brainstorm, not only do I get the awesome effect of Brainstorm, but I also get to animate one of my lands (or add counters to one that is already animated). That's a lot of value. 

As mentioned earlier in the article, card draw is incredibly important to me. I want to be gaining access to more and more spells to abuse Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper. Cards that are auto-includes when it comes to blue draw are: 

  • Brainstorm is perhaps one of my favorite draw spells — it just does so much. For one blue mana I not only net a card, but I can also setup future plays on the top of my deck. For example, I could setup a miracleTemporal Mastery, Entreat the Angels and Devastation Tide would all be excellent additions if I take this approach.
  • Time Spiral an expensive addition (for a budget option look at Day's Undoing), but seems worth it. Now I know this can help my opponents, but I have used this card to great success in the past and in a deck where I can just cast a lot of cheap spells this seems worth it. Time Spiral also helps remove my opponent's graveyard which can be beneficial if they are using a graveyard-based strategy. 
  • Blue Sun's Zenith is a card that I have seen used without its cost considered. The way I look at card draw is each card should cost no more than two-mana. So to make Blue Sun's Zenith worth it, I would have to cast it for at least six-mana before I start to see a discount for cards. There are a few benefits to this card that are also worth noting: One, this card does go back into my Library so it does give me an option to get it later. Two, I can use this as a political tool and a finisher if I wanted to. If my opponent is low on cards in their library, I can force them to draw the remaining cards and lose the game. 
  • PonderPreordain and Serum Visions are three cards that give me some control over the top of my library (another reason I may consider adding Miracle cards) and cycle. This is just card selection and not card advantage, but setting up possible plays has power. 
  • Gitaxian ProbeOpt and Visions of Beyond are cantrips (a card that replaces itself) but in this context can also animate a land or pump one that's already animated. For the cost of one blue or two life I can get some nice effects if Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is in play. I like these a lot as they can provide a peek at my opponent's hand, scry and possibly draw more than one card if my graveyard is full.
  • Deep Analysis is one of my favorite cards as it contains one of my favorite mechanics in flashback. The option of using a card twice is one of the reasons I like the beacons and zeniths. I never really anticipate using a card more than twice but having this as an option in a pinch is a good thing. 

Now that I have 10 draw spells and 5 rocks that can also draw, I usually start looking at other cards. I can always come back and add more should I need them, but at least this provides me a starting point. 


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Since I'm in blue and white the next area I look at are counterspells and removal. These are critical areas to me in my meta as many players will just go off unless stopped. The first area I will usually address is counterspells as they are catchalls for the majority of problems. 

  • Dissipate and Faerie Trickery are two of my absolute favorite counterspells. They not only stop a spell but also removes them from the game so it's not an option for my opponent going forward. Now that we have Eldrazi that can take advantage of the exile zone this may change, but until I figure out / discover how these will affect EDH I'm going to stay the course. 
  • Spell Crumple and Hinder are two classics that many people have moved away from since the changing of the tuck rule but I personally have not. Putting something back into someone's library is not something to be ignored. There is also an interesting interaction between Hinder and cards like Counterflux. Since I can't counter Counterflux, I can target my own spell with Hinder and put it on top of my library (assuming I really need that spell). 
  • Arcane Denial and Split Decision are feel good counterspells — remember this is a casual format so you don't have to be super competitive. Arcane Denial counters your opponent's spell but they shouldn't feel bad as they get a card from it and so do you. Split Decision is one that I have just started using recently and this lets the table decide if something should resolve — I wish Wizards would make more of these. 
  • Scatter to the Winds is perhaps the card I'm most excited for in this deck. When paired with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper and with the triggers stacked properly, I can make a 6/6 awakened land and counter a spell :)

I try not to run too many counter spells as they are general "feel bad cards" so I'll stop here unless I need to change as my meta evolves. 


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Next let's look at removal, a key area of any EDH deck. The way I look at removal is this: Avacyn, Angel of Hope is a thing and I have to be able to get rid of her should she pop up. If I can deal with Avacyn, Angel of Hope, then I can deal with just about any threat. 


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Now that I have a good deal of instants, sorceries and artifacts (about 1/3 of the deck) to support Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, I want to start working on the Merfolk sub-theme. The first Merfolk I know I want in the deck is Talrand, Sky Summoner. Talrand, Sky Summoner is another Merfolk with a very similar ability to Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper

Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, put a 2/2 blue Drake creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

This pairs beautifully with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper so this is a snap auto-include. 

  • Merrow Harbinger is nice to include in this situation as it can not only tutor up Talrand, Sky Summoner, but it can also tutor up any other Merfolk that I may need based off the current board state. For that reason I will also be including Seahunter because he can help me find a Merfolk in a pinch. 
  • Sage of Fables is another card I want to include as it gives me options to move some of the +1/+1 counters off my lands so that I can draw cards — something I always want to be doing in EDH to keep my game going. 
  • Sygg, River Guide plays the role of Mother of Runes for Merfolk — mom is better but I want to stick with the merfolk theme. He can protect my Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper and Talrand, Sky Summoner
  • Empress Galina has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Since this is EDH I know I can take a few generals with her ability as well as some big beasties that so many people tend to play. Once she gets into the game she becomes a huge target, which is another reason I like having Sygg, River Guide
  • Enclave Cryptologist is a level up creature that is a must have in any deck I play. In a good deal of the Commander Leagues they have an achievement for leveling up a creature to its maximum, so this would fill that slot while drawing cards. 
  • Lullmage Mentor is a card that I'm not actually sure will be useful as it has a giant sign on it saying "KILL ME," but I want to give it a try. Hopefully I will have a good deal of Merfolk out so his ability will be helpful. If I have to cut cards down the road or retool the deck, this will be probably the first or second card to go depending on how well he plays. 
  • Saprazzan Heir is another creature that just begs to be blocked. When looking at cards like this many people say "I just won't block it," but people aren't thinking about the political aspect of the game. In most games players will band together to stop a bigger threat and this card can be used to draw some answers to save the board. I'll give it a test drive but my gut is telling me this is a solid pickup.
  • Scroll Thief another creature that draws me cards; I can't stress how important it is to always be drawing in Commander.
  • Seasinger. Listen, I may not be the best deck builder in the world, but I do know one thing: other people will bring some of the biggest monsters they can find to the table and if I can take a threat away from someone, this is not a bad option. 
  • Stonybrook Banneret gives me some ramp as it makes all my Merfolk cheaper to cast. This also helps with getting my Commander back on the field if he gets killed. 
  • Streambed Aquitects gives me options and this is something I always want in EDH. If I can take someone off a color at the beginning of their upkeep, I'll do it. If I can get in for some damage, I will also do it. For those reasons I would also include Tidal Warrior
  • Thada Adel, Acquisitor is a perfectly capable general on her own, but will be a welcomed addition to the Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper army. She can find ramp as well as some other nice toys that my opponents have brought to the table. She also removes a potential threat in my opponent's deck from the game (e.g. Blightsteel Colossus). Another card I'm including since it also removes a card is Rootwater Thief
  • Whirlpool Rider allows me to take a bunch of dead cards in my hand and turn them into shiny new cards (fingers crossed they aren't dead cards as well). 
  • Now I need some muscle — cards that can pump my Merfolk up making them even bigger threats. Cards like Coralhelm Commander, Lord of Atlantis, Master of the Pearl Trident, Merfolk Sovereign, and Merrow Reejerey are all joining the 99. Each of these make my Merfolk a little deadlier and pump up Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
  • Stonybrook Schoolmaster is another Merfolk lord. When paired with Fatestitcher the fun really begins. 
  • Wanderwine Prophets. Before I start getting angry comments, let me explain that I'm not an infinite combo guy. I'm a Cuddly Soft Combo guy. I do want to have at least one way of taking over the game if the board state gets out of control. I'll test him out and if he becomes a problem, I'll probably just cut him from the deck. 


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Now that I have my tribal sub-theme out of the way, I want some good wholesome ways to get my lands and Merfolk back from the graveyard. One of the best cards for this is Sun Titan. He's a solid / must include in this style of deck. 

Another card I want to include is Inexorable Tide. We're casting so many spells anyway so it will pump my awakened lands plus it can also boost planeswalker loyalty counters. 


The rest of the deck will be 37 lands. Typically at this point I would go through each of the cards to find the number of mana symbols and add them up. With the deck as-is, there are 61 blue mana symbols and 9 white making a total of 70 mana symbols. If I turn this into a percentage, 87% of my lands need to be Islands and 13% need to be Plains. Having such an extreme mana difference sets us up to be color-screwed. This is typically when I rely on cards like Command Tower to help provide some of the white mana. Also with this deck being a "Lands Matter" deck, I want to have some fun lands like Darksteel Citadel so I can make an indestructible monster with it. Other lands I would include are Dark Depths (one of my favorite cards) and since I have Dark Depths, I would also have to include Thespian's Stage (tip: always get this land if someone casts Tempt with Discovery). Some other lands I like having for utility sake are Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Mystifying Maze, Homeward Path and Arcane Lighthouse.


In closing I hope this article sheds some light on my process and how I evaluate every card in the deck. If you see any cards that I should have considered, leave them in the comments below. I would love to see what you are doing with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper as well, so please leave your links to your decks in the comments below.

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