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Top 20 Wizard Enters-the-Battlefield Triggers (Exclusive Dominaria Preview)


Panharmonicon is one of the sweetest Magic cards ever printed. While it hasn't made too many waves in the tournament scene (although for a brief, glorious moment before Reflector Mage was banned, people were playing it at the Grand Prix level in Standard with some success), it's one of the best "build around" cards in both Standard and Modern. As a result, when another cheaper version of Panharmonicon comes along, even with a tribal restriction, it's worth standing up and taking notice. Let me introduce to you Naban, Dean of Iteration!

Naban, Dean of Iteration

On level one, Naban, Dean of Iteration is basically a Panharmonicon that only works with Wizards. While it trades in the flexibility of doubling up triggers from Cloudblazers and Noxious Gearhulks, it also gains a huge advantage over Panharmonicon, in that it's only two mana and comes with a mostly on-curve 2/1 body. One of the challenges of building Panharmonicon decks is that you are essentially taking off your entire fourth turn and hoping that the value from Panharmonicon will allow you to catch up later in the game. Naban, Dean of Iteration avoids this issue altogether. There are about a million 2/1s for two mana with some sort of upside that are playable, not just in Standard but in Modern as well, which means Naban, Dean of Iteration—while restrictive in another way (only working with Wizards)—is much easier to build around than Panharmonicon

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While we'll talk about some cards that work well with Naban, Dean of Iteration in a minute, it's also important to point out that there's a second level to Naban, Dean of Iteration that isn't present with Panharmonicon. Naban, Dean of Iteration doesn't really care what trigger it's doubling, just that it's a Wizard entering the battlefield that causes the ability to trigger. While this will mostly be relevant in casual play, it's worth pointing out that if you have a Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield, every Wizard that enters the battlefield will trigger Warstorm Surge, Fathom Mage, Angelic Chorus, and Purphoros, God of the Forge (among others) an additional time, which opens up an entirely different layer of deck-building potential that was missing with Panharmonicon, which only triggered abilities on artifacts and creatures. 

While triggering strange permanents is a nice bonus—and if you are building around Naban, Dean of Iteration, it's certainly worth considering these cards (and cards like them) for utility slots in your deck—if there's one thing we've learned from Panharmonicon, it's that most of the time, the right (and easiest) way to build around a card like Naban, Dean of Iteration is to play a ton of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. While being Wizard-only limits our options here, the good news is that the Wizard tribe has a ton of "enters the battlefield" creatures that work extremely well with Naban, Dean of Iteration. So, let's break down the best options for Standard, Modern, and Commander, with some deck lists thrown in for good measure!

Top 5 Wizard Enters-the-Battlefield Triggers—Standard

In Standard, our options for building a Naban, Dean of Iteration deck are somewhat limited by the fact that we are still very early into Dominaria spoiler season, and Dominaria is the only set in Standard where Wizard is a supported tribe. As such, it's very possible that we get some sweet new options as the rest of Dominaria is previewed. However, there are two pieces of good news. First, we've got some really powerful incidental Wizards from sets already in Standard that will work great with Naban, Dean of Iteration. Second, unlike Panharmonicon, which really needs to be built around, since Naban, Dean of Iteration is already an on-curve creature, we can get away with playing fewer enters-the-battlefield creatures while still making Naban, Dean of Iteration powerful. For example, when we build a Panharmonicon deck, we want nearly every creature in our deck to have an enters-the-battlefield trigger—the cost of skipping Turn 4 to play Panharmonicon is so high that we need it to be absurdly powerful to be worth the investment. Since we're playing an already okay two-drop with Naban, Dean of Iteration, we can get away with playing a few really good enters-the-battlefield Wizards and filling the rest of our deck with other cards and still have Naban, Dean of Iteration be worthwhile. 

#5: Silvergill Adept

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One of the best ways to abuse Panharmonicon effects is with creatures that draw a card when they enter the battlefield. Take Silvergill Adept, for example. With a Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield, it becomes a two-mana Divination that also leaves behind a body, which is a great card. Of course, the potential of Silvergill Adept is somewhat limited by the fact that you need to play it in a Merfolk deck to cast it for two mana, and Naban isn't a Merfolk, but as the only straightforward "draw a card" Wizard in Standard, it still might be worth the effort if we can find a build to support the mixed tribal synergies. 

#4: Dire Fleet Ravager

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Dire Fleet Ravager seems like it could be extremely powerful with Naban, Dean of Iteration because it can cause the opponent to lose a ton of life. Let's say the opponent is at 20. The first life-loss trigger will drain them for seven down to 13, while the second will cost them another five life, putting them to eight, which essentially makes Dire Fleet Ravager a 12-damage burn spell for five mana. Of course, Dire Fleet Ravager will also make us lose a lot of life as well, which means we'll have to make sure that we have a way to keep our life total above our opponent's life total, or we risk draining ourselves out of the game when we cast Dire Fleet Ravager (or being stuck with an uncastable Dire Fleet Ravager in hand). Thankfully, the Wizard tribe has this problem covered.

#3: Sunscourge Champion

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Sunscourge Champion is great with Naban, Dean of Iteration and gives us a shining example of how Naban can be so much stronger than Panharmonicon in the right deck. Sunscourge Champion is fine with Panharmonicon but worse than it looks because generally you want to cast Sunscourge Champion on Turn 3, which happens to be the turn before Panharmonicon hits the battlefield. On the other hand, Naban, Dean of Iteration comes down on Turn 2, which means Sunscourge Champion is right on curve. While it isn't game breaking, playing Naban, Dean of Iteration on Turn 2 into Sunscourge Champion on Turn 3 to gain four life is a nice value start for a Naban deck, especially considering that Sunscourge Champion can come back to gain eight life later in the game thanks to eternalize. If we throw Dire Fleet Ravager into the mix as well, the life gain of Sunscourge Champion is especially important because it helps us break the symmetry of the drain trigger and hopefully means our opponent's life total will hit zero before ours does.

#2: Resilient Khenra

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The problem with Resilient Khenra is that it's one of only three green Wizards in Standard (with the others being mostly unplayable), which means it's probably a stretch to imagine a Naban, Dean of Iteration deck ending up in green. However, Resilient Khenra does offer really aggressive starts with Naban, coming down to double pump a creature (potentially Naban, Dean of Iteration itself) to hit for a huge chunk of damage on Turn 3. In Dominaria Standard, it looks like the primary Wizard colors will be blue and red. Could Temur Wizards be a thing? Maybe not, but imagining a curve of Turn 2 Naban, Dean of Iteration, Turn 3 Resilient Khenra, Blossoming Defense with the trigger on the stack, double pump Naban, Dean of Iteration to a 10/9, hit you for 10 is fun.

#1: Champion of Wits

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The best Wizard enters-the-battlefield trigger in Standard, by a significant margin, is Champion of Wits, which just happens to be blue, making it an easy inclusion in a deck built around Naban, Dean of Iteration. Long a staple in Panharmonicon builds, the ability to double-filter when it enters the battlefield and eventually draw eight cards (and discard four) with eternalize is incredibly powerful. Amazingly, Champion of Wits is arguably better with Naban, Dean of Iteration than it is with Panharmonicon for a couple of reasons. First, like Sunscourge Champion, you can play Naban on Turn 2 and curve into Champion of Wits on Turn 3, which is a great start for any deck but especially a deck that can abuse the graveyard in some way. Second, the filtering aspect of Champion of Wits is helpful, since it gives us a way to discard extra copies of the legendary Naban, Dean of Iteration. One of the biggest challenges of building around Naban, Dean of Iteration is that if you are building a Naban deck, you'll pretty much have to play four copies, but since Naban is legendary, this will lead to some clunky dead draws. Champion of Wits is a great way to solve this problem. Here's where I'd start with building around Naban, Dean of Iteration in Standard. 

Top 10 Wizards Enter-the-Battlefield Triggers—Modern

#10: Auratouched Mage

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Auratouched Mage might seem like a long-shot to be playable in Modern, and honestly it is, but it's worth mentioning because it allows for a pretty sweet combo with Naban, Dean of Iteration. The basic idea is to take advantage of the fact that Naban, Dean of Iteration allows Auratouched Mage to tutor for two auras and attach them to itself to build a potentially game-ending threat for just six mana by finding Eldrazi Conscription and a haste-granting aura like Hammerhand, Cartouche of Zeal, or even Primal Visitation. The end result is pretty close to using a Through the Breach to put an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play, with Auratouched Mage being something like a 10/10, hasty, annihilating threat out of nowhere! While tournament decks will probably still go with the more consistent Through the Breach plan, using Naban, Dean of Iteration to build an Eldrazi with Auratouched Mage could at least make for a fun budget option in the format. 

#9: Izzet Chronarch

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While there might be a combo that I'm not thinking of at the moment, even if Izzet Chronarch is played fairly with Naban, Dean of Iteration, getting back your best two instant or sorcery cards from the graveyard offers a lot of value. If you throw in something like Ghostly Flicker, you can keeping getting it back to protect your combo pieces while also getting back a second spell as well. While the plan is slow and can be disrupted by removal if we don't leave up mana all the time, it offers a lot of grindy value if the game goes long.

#8: Anathemancer

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Anathemancer is on our list because it's so different from any of the other Wizards enters-the-battlefield triggers in the format. For the most part, Wizards have triggers that draw cards or annoy the opponent by bouncing things, but Anathemancer goes straight for the heart for a ton of damage. Most Modern decks are overloaded with nonbasic lands, with means it's pretty realistic that on Turn 5, Anathemancer would be dealing at least four and maybe five damage per trigger. If we double that up with Naban, Dean of Iteration, that's somewhere around 10 damage. Throw in the life the opponent is paying for their fetch and shock mana base, and it's fairly realistic that just a Lightning Bolt or two could finish off the opponent after just a single Anathemancer!

#7: Trinket / Treasure / Trophy Mage

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Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, and Trophy Mage are all in the sweet spot of being three mana, meaning they come down the turn after a Naban, Dean of Iteration to double tutor artifacts. While I'm not 100% sure what to tutor up, there are plenty of options in the format. Trinket Mage gives a bunch of powerful but narrow options like Relic of Progenitus, Engineered Explosives, and Chalice of the Void. Trophy Mage finds swords of all ilks or maybe something like Crucible of Worlds to start attacking the opponent's mana with Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin. Meanwhile, Treasure Mage provides finishing power with Mindslaver, Wurmcoil Engine, or basically any big, powerful artifact you can imagine. Maybe throw in Grand Architect so all of our random Mages and Naban, Dean of Iteration tap for mana to cast all of the powerful artifacts we're tutoring up, and you have the basis for a potentially powerful mono-blue artifact Wizard deck in Modern! 

#6: Sower of Temptation

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Sower of Temptation is a risky card. In conjunction with Naban, Dean of Iteration, it can be incredibly powerful by stealing the opponent's two best creatures, although something like a Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, or Fatal Push undoes all of our work by giving the creatures back. One way around this is to play Sower of Temptation as the top end of a more tempo-focused Wizards deck, using it to get two blockers out of the way while knowing full well that the next removal spell the opponent finds is going to take down the creature-stealing Sower of Temptation. The plan just might work if you can kill the opponent with one or two big attacks, minimizing the time they have to draw an answer to Sower of Temptation. Plus, there will be some games where the opponent simply doesn't draw the right answer; in these games, doubling up a Sower of Temptation trigger with Naban, Dean of Iteration should be enough to win the game by itself. 

#5: Reflector Mage

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It's possible that Reflector Mage should be higher on our list because it's absolutely absurd with Naban, Dean of Iteration in any sort of creature matchup, but the fact that Modern has a reasonable number of creature-free control and combo decks where the combo of Naban and Reflector Mage is pretty bad keeps it in the middle of the pack. The idea is simple: play Naban, Dean of Iteration on Turn 2; play Reflector Mage on Turn 3; bounce your opponent's two best creatures while also pseudo-Time Walking them, since they can't spend their next turn recasting the creatures you bounce; and win the game. 

#4: Master of Waves

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Master of Waves is a very powerful card, but its power is somewhat limited by the fact you need a ton of blue mana symbols to really make it function. However, Naban, Dean of Iteration might change this equation. In theory, with a Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield, you only need half the number of blue mana symbols on the battlefield to make Master of Waves good (for example, in the worst-case scenario where you have just a Naban, Dean of Iteration and a Master of Waves, you'll still end up with 10 power across five bodies, which is a pretty reasonable deal for four mana, and if you throw just one other Wizard into the mix, things cat get out of hand really quickly when Master of Waves' enters-the-battlefield trigger is doubled). The end result is that Naban, Dean of Iteration could easily slot into an updated build of the Wizard Devotion deck we played on Budget Magic a little while ago and make it even more powerful.

#3: Sea Gate Oracle

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Sea Gate Oracle isn't flashy but offers a ton of value with a Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield by drawing two cards but actually being more like a Read the Bones than a Divination, since you get to choose the best of your top two cards twice. While not nearly as exciting as hitting the opponent for 10 damage or stealing your opponent's two best creatures, drawing extra cards is the foundation of a good Panharmonicon deck, and Sea Gate Oracle offers the best on-curve way of drawing extra cards with Naban, Dean of Iteration.

#2: Venser, Shaper Savant

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Venser, Shaper Savant is probably my favorite card to play with Naban, Dean of Iteration, since it offers so much flexibility in dealing with both spells and permanents. While the dream scenario is to bounce your opponent's best spell along with their best permanent, there's almost no situation where Venser, Shaper Savant is bad, since in the worst case, you can always just run it out on your opponent's end step and bounce two of their lands to set back their development. Throw in Venser, the Sojourner or Momentary Blink, and you suddenly have a really weird one-sided Armageddon that can lock your opponent out of doing anything meaningful forever!

#1: Snapcaster Mage

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Unsurprisingly, the best Wizard enters-the-battlefield trigger in Modern comes from one of the best cards in Modern: Snapcaster Mage. While there are some diminishing returns with Naban, Dean of Iteration and Snapcaster Mage, since you need mana to cast the spell you flash back from the graveyard, the potential to play a Snapcaster Mage on Turn 4 and flash back a Thoughtseize to take your opponent's best card while also getting to Serum Visions or Thought Scour is pretty appealing. Of course, Snapcaster Mage doesn't need help to be good, which might mean that playing it with Naban, Dean of Iteration is win-more, but this is where the power of being a 2/1 rather than a do-nothing four-mana artifact like Panharmonicon becomes clear. A 2/1 for two is already fine, and if Naban, Dean of Iteration draws you two or three extra cards over the course of the game, you've already built yourself a blue version of Dark Confidant, so perhaps there is more potential here than it looks at first glance. Regardless, any list ranking the best Wizards enters-the-battlefield trigger in Modern would be remiss to not have Snapcaster Mage on top—not only does it offer the best Wizard enters-the-battlefield trigger but likely the best enters-the-battlefield trigger in the entire format. 

Top 5 Wizard Enters-the-Battlefield Triggers—Commander

As far as Commander is concerned, you can play any of the good Modern or Standard Wizards as well, so I intentionally left things like Venser, the Sojourner and Champion of Wits off the list even though they are great in Commander, so we could focus on cards that probably won't see play in other formats. This being said, Commander offers some spicy Wizard enters-the-battlefield triggers that could form the foundation for some really fun lists. Most of these cards are in non-blue colors, which means Naban, Dean of Iteration would have to be part of the 99 rather than the commander. Thankfully, we probably want Inalla, Archmage Ritualist as commander anyway, since it provide the Wizards Panharmonicon effect from the command zone as well as from the battlefield, which allows Naban, Dean of Iteration to be backup Inalla for even more Wizards ETB fun!

#5: Battlemages

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While probably not a competitive deck, a Five-Color Wizards Panharmonicon deck built around the battlemages (along with other cycles like the Hedge-Mage cycle, featuring cards like Gwyllion Hedge-Mage and Selkie Hedge-Mage) could be a ton of fun. One of the upsides of the Battlemage cycle is they give you a lot of flexibility, since you can cast them for three, five, or eight mana, giving you something to do at every point in the game. For extra fun, play Reaper King as your commander and overload on Conspiracy and Arcane Adaptation effects to make sure all of your Wizards are also Scarecrows for maximum carnage, allowing you to blow up two permanents with every Wizard you cast once you get Reaper King on the battlefield!

#4 and #3: Disciple of Bolas and Bloodline Necromancer

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While sacrificing two creatures is painful, gaining a ton of life and drawing a ton of cards are pretty sweet. Plus, with Bloodline Necromancer, you can simply reanimate all of the creatures that you sacrifice to Disciple of Bolas! Since both of these cards are black, you'll definitely want Inalla, Archmage Ritualist as your commander, but in a deck built around Wizard enters-the-battlefield triggers, you can never have too many Panharmonicon effects, making Naban, Dean of Iteration a great support card in the 99.

#2: Prime Speaker Zegana

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I'd be tempted to play Naban, Dean of Iteration in my Prime Speaker Zegana decks even if they have only a handful of other Wizards because doubling up Prime Speaker Zegana's enters-the-battlefield even once is more than worth the two-mana investment of Naban, Dean of Iteration. Plus, assuming that Prime Speaker Zegana is your commander, you'll have access to her enters-the-battlefield effect whenever you want. This helps to line up the timing with Naban, Dean of Iteration, which is easy to sneak into play on the same turn as the more expensive Merfolk Wizard, since it only costs two mana. 

#1: Dualcaster Mage

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Dualcaster Mage can do some insane things in an Inalla, Archmage Ritualist deck, especially with Naban, Dean of Initiation on the battlefield to triple up the enters-the-battlefield triggers. The flexibility to not only copy your own spells but opposing spells as well means you should always find a good target, whether it be removal, card draw, or anything else! It gets even better if you build around it by playing spells you especially want to copy, but assuming you are in the right colors, Dualcaster Mage is the first card I'd put in every Naban, Dean of Initiation Commander deck I build. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Naban, Dean of Initiation is awesome. The multiverse can never have too many Panharmonicons, and Wizards are one of the best tribes to support the effect. Huge thanks to Wizards for not just letting us show off a card but a super-sweet card! Now that you've seen my favorite Wizards to double-trigger with Naban, what are yours? How competitive will Naban, Dean of Initiation be in Standard? Does it have any chance in Modern? Let me know what you think in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com!


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