Slicer in cEDH: Sperling’s List, Tips, and Reflections
When word started spreading around the room at Silicon Dynasty in January, that multiple people were playing some mono-red transformer deck in a cEDH tournament with real prizes, most of us 1) looked up the card, and then 2) dismissed the idea of this being a real cEDH commander. But the first time you see the deck in action is an experience you remember, and the first time you sleeve it up and play it is an experience you remember. And what lingers, for me, is both a sense that the deck is pretty good and a reminder that when we get too dismissive about new cards or ideas, we close ourselves off to portions of the vast possibility space that cEDH offers. A lot of fun and a lot of winning might be in portions of the possibility space that you or I am or were closed off to. I’m not going to drop a “More than Meets the Eye” reference here, sorry, Slicing people up is serious business.
I’m going to walk you through some of the pros and cons of Slicer as a commander, reveal my decklist to you, and walk you through some of the card choices and strategies.
Pros and Cons of Slicer in cEDH
- Easy to learn and play
Even when I get bored with Slicer, I might want to keep at least a proxied copy together to have a fun, powerful, easy to learn and play deck in my backpack for players who are new to cEDH or who just want to give it a try. Sometimes at our LGS we end up with 7 players and want to fire 2 pods. There may be a 60-card player or an EDH player hanging out who wants to jump in and I think Slicer is a great entry point.
- Powerful and Proactive
In any meta, Slicer has draws that threaten to run over the table and stax pieces that have a chance to slow or stop each opponent. The mulligan rules in cEDH (same as EDH of course, like all rules and card legalities) are favorable to decks like Slicer that require a fast start and are hard to interact with (remember, it’s easier to interact with spells than creatures in cEDH). The old saying goes, “There are no wrong threats, only wrong answers” and while that’s not a universal truth, it certainly can apply to many Slicer games. Many of my 2 or 3 game sets include a game or two where Slicer was dealt with 1 or 2 times or someone combo'd fast enough, but another game or two where Slicer was simply doing something too fast and with just enough stax to take the game.
- Pure Magic: The Combat Step, Lethal Damage, Commander Damage
There is something pure and cleansing about winning in the combat step, a chunk at a time, while players struggle to find blocks and removal. We don’t always get to scratch this itch in cEDH. Ragavan or Malcolm connecting is more like tutoring a Lotus Petal than real combat. Najeela is a combo time bomb more than a true beater, and with Slicer people better track that commander damage, not just their life total. The “cleansing” feeling might be a little more abrasive for opponents, but hey, they get to make attacks with Slicer too, and everyone gets to participate.
- It’s just an insanely well-designed Magic card
They thought of everything. Goad keeps it from attacking you. The no sacrifice clause makes it compatible with popular cards that would otherwise own it (but beware that Grim Hierling and Derevi can sometimes get you!), the legend rules makes Clones into removal but not wacky multi-ball pinball mode (Sakashima and Helm being exceptions - and it’s fun to get into that mode in rare instances). The backside and front side give you optionality and some tough choices when there’s a huge blocker out or Grim Hierling might be lurking. The standard cases are fun, the corner cases are fun.
- Games are fast
Sometimes stax pieces can make a slower game, so there is a nice variance here, but the default position you often force the table into is “slice or be sliced” and it doesn’t take long. If you find your interest level in cEDH ever waning because your games are taking longer than you’d like, try Slicer.
Interaction points are limited, so if someone does have a turn 1 or turn 2 kill, you will sometimes be at the mercy of the table’s interaction and not provide any. Standard fare for non-blue cEDH but certainly true here.
If people can kill or counter Slicer repeatedly, you may not be doing much else.
I’ve added Godo to my list and I have equipment that e.g. Dockside or Magus could pick up and often do, but in reality, you can get stuck some games not doing anything when you, say, ritual'd out a Slicer and it got killed. No deck works 100% of the time, but since Slicer doesn’t interact much, you may just be sitting there for cycles at a time.
- You don’t monopolize the stack in your wins
Some cEDH players, especially in my experience ones that have a Storm combo background in 60-card, like that Big Brain feeling of monopolizing the game actions and having a big turn and going off. You’re allowed to like what you like, and I caution the reader that Slicer doesn’t do this. Slicer is the assassin in the crowd, not the self-righteous, bloviating politician at the podium.
- Transformers IP is lame
I’m not a Universes Beyond guy generally, so this shows up on my cons list. Could be a pro for you (or your 12 year old child).
List and Card Choices
It’s somewhere between 30 and 40 cards different than Silicon Dynasty lists, but it certainly stands on the shoulders of what those players were unveiling.
Jeska, Thrice Reborn
The triple damage effect last until your next turn, so people can be made dead very rapidly.
Tip: It only triples damage to players, not blockers, so don’t think you can just plow through someone’s 8/8 with a “tripled” Slicer.
Tip: You can only cast it after you’ve cast Slicer 1 or more times this game, due to how Jeska’s starting loyalty works when she is not a commander.
Karn, the Great Creator
A massively underplayed card in cEDH that works best when you’re a creature deck and even better when you’re goading stuff and forcing people to block.
Tip: Although there are no cards outside the game in cEDH, look for situations where there may be an artifact in exile. Exiling your Reaver Cleaver or Twinshot Sniper to Fury or Pyrokinesis creates such an opportunity, as does an opponent’s Rest in Peace or Dauthi Voidwalker or your own Scavenger Grounds.
Tip: Animating a stax piece or equipment that isn’t critical could be the difference between Karn surviving or dying. Animating someone else’s artifact before a Pyroclasm or other sweeper could be extra removal.
Eidolon of the Great Revel / Rug of Smothering / Pyrostatic Pillar / (Scab Clan Berserker in the Considering pile)
These life tax effects are pretty hard to combo through and have done great work for me. While they aren’t typically very strong in cEDH due to life totals starting so high, Slicer is often doing REAL work lowering those life total reserves and creating a crunch even sometimes for tutor Thoracle consult type lines that would be easy to get off through life tax effect if Slicer hadn’t been connecting. One such piece isn’t platinum protection, but they stack with each other in addition to the combat damage that’s going around. Scab Clan is on the sidelines for now simply because 1RR is a lot steeper than 1R or 3, and you can’t play with all the toys.
Fury / Pyrokinesis
Overperformers, play both. You’re casting from hand so they serve as great and necessary Drannith insurance, and you’ll take a mana dork with you when that does come up. In other game states, they’re taking out someone else’s key commander or blocker or mana dorks (plural) and giving you interaction vs. creature decks that the stax pieces sometimes aren’t giving you.
Godo / Treasonous Ogre / Helm of the Host
It’s not free or near free to have this package, but the cards have non-combo utility and the rituals that enable them are already in our deck, so I like a little plan b equity if I can find it with just a few slots and this fits the bill. Available slots if looking to make room for your favorite cards.
Tip: You can get low enough with Treasonous Orge that Slicer’s Goad not working when 2 other players are dead can come up. In those spots, you may need to decline to Slicer donate and flip it, settling for a smaller slicer on your turn, so you don’t get attacked by it. If you’re at 38, don’t bother.
Not a card you have to play, but it lets you contribute to the table’s interaction when someone is using Grand Abolisher, and that card is just extremely popular right now. People also Ad Nauseum to really low numbers sometimes out of desperation due to only starting the Ad Naus at something like 27 life, and they may think the counters they find will save them. Not the case (except for Swat).
Tip: The card is red but fear not, just like Slicer, a Mishra’s Workshop will help you cast it.
I wish all cards from this set were not legal in EDH so that stickers and attraction pregame was not a thing, but just like with Lim-Dul’s Vault, if they keep the annoying cards legal I’ll play them when it makes sense for the deck.
Tip: You don’t need to own stickers, the rules let you proxy the stickers even in non-proxy events.
Tip: If the goblin dies before the trigger resolves, I don’t believe you can place a sticker on it so you get no mana. (confirm with a judge).
The new kid on the Grafdigger’s cage / Weathered Runestone block, I feel it’s substantially weaker and not a must-play like the other two are. It’s nice that it hits some incidental stuff like Mnemonic Betrayal and Birgi’s Butt, but on balance that’s not that many cards compared to what the others shut down like Eldritch Evolution or Citadel or Winota or sometimes even the fact that they can still Breach out a Dockside and/or a Thoracle because of how it’s worded. Might get cut after I have more reps with it, I’m not sure.
Pyroclasm / Rolling Earthquake / Volcanic Fallout / (Delayed Blast Fireball and Whipflare and Brotherhood’s End on the Consider list)
The first one you draw is excellent, but you have to be a little bit careful since too much of a good thing (diminishing returns) is very real here and many tables have 2 or 3 opponents who don’t care much. Still, I could imagine going all the way up to 5 especially if my meta skewed towards mana dorks and Malcolm. Brotherhood’s End seems like something I’ll try at some point. DBF was good in Rocco and probably is good here. I have Rolling Earthquake ahead of them because the 1R sweep the dorks up mode is a really valuable mode, and going upstairs for 6 or whatever to finish someone is also a mode.
I’ve almost swapped it for Vandalblast so they can’t Swat it to Slicer or your other artifacts, but the replicate ability gives you a lot of flexibility to wipe out 2 or 3 artifacts at a reasonable price while maintaining the R kill the most important thing upside.
Tip: Replicate gets around Chalice for 1 if you or someone else ever casts one.
Chaos Warp / Wild Magic Surge / (Tibalt’s Trickery in Considering)
These aren’t great cards, they’re cuttable, but it’s nice to have some extra access to hard removal. The first 2 combo with Cage/Runestone, Trickery combos with Soulless Jailer. Likely to try Trickery again soon it’s on the border, just don’t love the baseline strength of the card.
Somewhat counterintuitively, this is cuttable here because you don’t control your Slicer 75% of the time. Still, though, removal does often come on your turn and even at 2R you pay a fair price for this really powerful effect in a single-big-threat and protect-the-stax style of deck. So while I say it’s cuttable, I ain’t gonna do it.
Galvanic Blast / Rending Volley
These have performed well for me. The price of entry is 1 mana and cEDH players know how much easier that usually is than 2 or 3, so I’d imagine myself heading towards more of the 1 mana stuff before I went for fewer. But in a pinch, if you decide something like Whipflare is where you wanna be, you can live without Galvanic Blast if you need to.
1 mana and snap-on out of the gate is a really attractive price, and 2 to re-equip means it’s adding value beyond the first equip. Overperformer that I’m not looking to cut.
Overperformer in the stax space. Really hard to combo through and doesn’t shut off interaction from non-active players, meaning combo players really won’t like this being out, trust me.
Tip: It hoses your own Workshop and Tomb and City of Traitors, be aware.
Tip: Track the spell count for the active player, you’ve got nothing better to do. You don’t have to yell it out but track it.
Tenza, Godo’s Maul / The Reaver Cleaver
When evaluating potential equipment to play, I recommend prioritizing trample (or flying or unblockable if you can get it) alongside other beneficial effects. The Reaver Cleaver is expensive as hell but if you connect with it once you might now be in a position to easily re-cast Slicer if someone finds removal and the trample means chump blocking is not an option. Being a red card adds a little value but
Tip: Artifacts can’t be imprinted on Chrome Mox no matter how many colors they are. Godo’s Maul makes Slicer big and also trampling, at a lower cost point. It’s much better than Cleaver but right now I have both.
Umezawa’s Jitte / Sword of Fire and Ice
Tip: Check the wording of any equipment you consider to see whether the control of the equipment gets the benefit or the controller of the Slicer. Here, you generate big advantages regardless of who controls the Slicer, every time Slicer is connecting in the case of SoFI or just dealing damage in the case of Jitte. Tip: Jitte and Double Strike not only gets you extra counters but also gives you a window to use the first 2 counters before regular damage is dealt, usually to buff Slicer but sometimes to shrink a blocker from elsewhere in the combat.
The other “Sword of __ & __ " cards don’t seem strong enough to me, but they’re not that far off. I don’t like that War and Peace isn’t helping with commander damage count making it a bit “win more” and I don’t like that the one that destroys an artifact makes you permanently vulnerable to Swat and doesn’t have another trigger since planeswalkers are rarely out.
Don’t leave home without it, as it scales well in multiplayer and especially games of multiplayer you are trying to shorten.
Tip: During opposing upkeeps, stack your triggers Slicer then Tangle Wire so that Tangle Wire resolves before they have a Slicer to tap.
Tip: Play this card in most of your mono-colored cEDH decks. For a low opportunity cost, you get a powerful effect scaled to hit the entire table. I may be playing Ramunap Ruins to get some bonus out of it but I haven’t tried it yet.
Silicon Dynasty was proxy friendly and yet the Slicer deck that made top 16 didn’t play Workshop. I don’t wanna throw too much shade at the people taking the maiden voyage with the deck, but I have to say cutting the actual best card in your 99 is not something I recommend. cEDH is a proxy-friendly format and you’ll want to proxy one of these.
Tip: Your commander is an artifact on both sides.
This card is really strong. Don’t think about playing without it.
Cavern of Souls
Tip: it doesn’t make red mana or give uncounterability to the backside of Slicer, only the front.
If you have even 50% as much fun playing with or against Slicer as I have, you’re in for a real treat. Let me know what you think on Twitter @sickofit.