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November 17, 2015

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Taking a look at Tiny Leaders

(Before we start this column, we’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to the citizens of France and in particular those in its capital, Paris, who are still reeling from last Friday’s terrorist attacks. The world’s hearts beat with yours.)

Welcome back everyone. This week we’ll be examining the Tiny Leaders format, a Commander variant which may come closest to Legacy play for those that want to bridge that gap between formats. The format was created in 2013 by Manitoban Bramwell Tackaberry and directed creatively by Steven Hamonic, who centers the format on the Tiny Leaders blog at tinyleaders.blogspot.ca. There is also a public Facebook page for your perusal here. The format centers around having no card over converted mana cost 3 in the deck, your deck being no more than 50 cards and having a 10 card sideboard. Additionally, players start with 25 life instead of 40 and there is no death by commander damage. Lastly, the format uses the Vancouver Mulligan, which has you Scry 1 if you went down six cards or less in your opening hand.

The format’s banned list follows, and includes all manual dexterity and ante cards.

The following commanders are also banned: Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Erayo, Soratami Ascendant and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. Additionally, since there is no Sultai commander, a format exclusive card called “Ana Battlemage” exists as a UBG 2/2 – Human Wizard for those wishing to try that colour identity.

The banned list is interesting in its absence of Crucible of Worlds in a format that still has Azusa, Lost but Seeking, but perhaps the games are simply too quick for Ghost Quarter or Wasteland recursion to truly matter. I’d like to posit that the changes to the tuck rule hurt mono-blue decks like Vendilion Clique but it seems they have enough supplementary defensive magics to overcome this flaw. Black and green seem to be the two top dogs in the format though, and we’ll get to that in our analysis of the format’s top cards and a sample deck following.

What are some of the format’s more important cards?

Toxic Deluge and Black Sun’s Zenith are two of the top removal spells of choice. The first will quickly eliminate an opponent’s board presence for three mana and at most five life, while the second aims at the long game and can recur itself for later use. Ezuri, Renegade Leader can put forth one of the most aggressive strategies in the format, while Inquisition of Kozilek is a house, discarding everything and anything that might bother you.

Is the format seeing much traction these days?

That’s harder to gauge. There were tournaments being run in early 2015 but they seem to have cooled off somewhat. There are still pockets of players in the city with Tiny Leaders decks, but the non-standard Commander crowd is pretty split between Tiny Leaders and Duel Commander, as both formats aim toward the same audience. Kessel Run seems like it runs Duel Commander events, so perhaps interest has shifted toward that. It does seem slightly less restrictive, anyway. There’s been some talk of Modern Commander as well, since Modern is a fairly popular format in the city. I may be looking at Modern Commander later on, but for now let’s finish with a pretty standard Ezuri decklist and look forward to where that leads us.

”Ezuri

Commander: (1)
Ezuri, Renegade Leader

Creatures: (27)
Arbor Elf
Birchlore Rangers
Boreal Druid
Copperhorn Scout
Devoted Druid
Eladamri, Lord of Leaves
Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Champion
Elvish Harbinger
Elvish Mystic
Elvish Visionary
Eternal Witness
Fyndhorn Elves
Imperious Perfect
Joraga Treespeaker
Joraga Warcaller
Llanowar Elves
Priest of Titania
Quirion Ranger
Reclamation Sage
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Seeker of Skybreak
Sylvan Ranger
Taunting Elf
Tribal Forcemage
Wellwisher
Wirewood Symbiote

Enchantments: (1)
Concordant Crossroads

Sorcery: (3)
Genesis Wave
Green Sun’s Zenith
Lead the Stampede

Instant: (1)
Crop Rotation

Lands: (17)
14 Forest
Gaea’s Cradle
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Wirewood Lodge

Sideboard: [10] (10)
Back to Nature
Choke
Gaea’s Herald
Jagged-Scar Archers
Relic of Progenitus
Seedtime
Song of the Dryads
Steely Resolve
Tormod’s Crypt
Wrap in Vigor

How does the deck play out, and what are its weaknesses?

You want to crank out a ton of mana elves, get Ezuri out and start using his activated ability as quickly as possible to deal 20+ damage. You can generate obscenely large amounts of mana through Priest of Titania combined with Quirion Ranger or Wirewood Symbiote. This is very much an “all-in” deck, and cards like Toxic Deluge will set you back several turns. Persistent removal is bad as well. Your sideboard can shore up problematic interactions like a blue matchup removing your elves from the stack, or reanimation strategies that might overwhelm you. Still, this deck looks like a ton of fun to play. I ran Ezuri under regular commander rules and it was a blast, so I hope this version pleases as well.

I hope this look into an alternate Commander format was at the very least enlightening. Until next week, may your Prophet of Kruphix always meet an untimely end.