I occasionally play the Magic: The Gathering variant called “Commander” or “EDH”. My first deck was the Arcane Wizardry preconstructed deck, which I’ve made some changes to over the years. Several of the cards interact with one another in ways that can be difficult to figure out in the middle of a game; I wrote this to clarify exactly how those cards work and interact, so I don’t have to derive everything from first principles each time I play.
(A table showing all the combinations of interactions is at the bottom of this article, if you want to just cut to the chase.)
Inalla, Archmage Ritualist
The commander of the deck is Inalla, Archmage Ritualist. Her deal is that she can make a temporary token copy of any wizard as it enters the battlefield (ETB). Thus, the deck is built around a bunch of wizards with useful ETB abilities. A simple one is Cloudkin Seer, whose ETB ability is just “When Cloudkin Seer enters the battlefield, draw a card.” I’ll use it as my example in the discussions below.
For the simplest example, let’s say Inalla is in the command zone (not on the battlefield), and I spend 3 mana to play Cloudkin Seer. As it enters the battlefield, both its and Inalla’s abilities trigger. For its ability, I draw a card. For Inalla’s ability, I have the option to pay 1 mana; if I do, I make a temporary token copy of Cloudkin Seer, and when that copy enters the battlefield, the copy’s ability triggers, and I draw a card. (Inalla’s ability doesn’t trigger again, because it only works on nontoken wizards, but this copy was a token.) Thus, I end up paying a total of 4 mana and drawing two cards, and at the end of the turn, the token copy leaves the battlefield.
(The token leaving the battlefield is usually fine — I care about most of the wizards in the deck for their ETB abilities, not so much for the wizards themselves. In the case of Cloudkin Seer, for example, paying 1 mana to draw two cards is an excellent value, so it doesn’t matter that I don’t end up with an extra copy. Similarly, some of the wizards in the deck are legendary, in which case the copy generally dies immediately, but if it had an ETB ability, that ability triggers before the copy dies.)
The deck includes three other cards that can substitute for, and/or augment, Inalla’s ability. The interactions can be a bit complicated, so I’ll explain how they work with Inalla and each other.
Reflections of Littjara
The simplest one is Reflections of Littjara. In this deck, when I play this card, I choose “wizard”; then, whenever I play a wizard, Reflections of Littjara automatically makes a token copy of that wizard for free (unlike Inalla, where I need to pay 1 mana to make the copy). This is basically a second Inalla, except that it’s vulnerable to being removed (Inalla functions even when not on the battlefield), and the copies are free (once I’ve paid 5 mana to cast this).
For the Cloudkin Seer example, when I cast the Cloudkin Seer spell, but before it enters the battlefield, Reflections of Littjara makes a copy of it. Then, Reflection of Littjara’s copy enters the battlefield; it’s a token, so Inalla’s ability doesn’t trigger, but its own ability does, and I draw a card. Then, the “real” Cloudkin Seer enters, and its and Inalla’s abilities trigger. For its ability, I draw another card, and then for Inalla’s ability, I get to choose whether or not to pay 1 more mana.
If I choose not to pay, I get two long-lived wizards (the original and the copy), each with an ETB effect (for a total of two). If I do pay, I get those two long-lived wizards and one temporary one, each with an ETB effect (for a total of three).
As long as I cast a couple more wizards after Reflections of Littjara is on the battlefield, I’ve probably made my mana investment back.
Harmonic Prodigy makes any wizard’s ETB ability trigger twice. (ETB abilities are all triggered abilities, which Harmonic Prodigy affects.) Thus, when Cloudkin Seer enters the battlefield, I would draw two cards, because Harmonic Prodigy causes Cloudkin Seer’s ETB ability to trigger a second time.
However, Harmonic Prodigy wouldn’t affect a card like Impact Tremors (which I have in the deck), which has its own trigger for other creatures entering the battlefield (“Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, Impact Tremors deals 1 damage to each opponent”); Harmonic Prodigy only works on the wizard’s own ability.
Harmonic Prodigy’s mana investment is 2 mana, which I’ll basically make back after casting a wizard.
Naban, Dean of Iteration
Finally, Naban, Dean of Iteration, is similar to Harmonic Prodigy, but with an important difference. In addition to making a wizard’s ETB ability trigger twice, it will do the same for any other ability that triggers due to the wizard entering.
If I choose not to pay for Inalla’s ability, I get one long-lived wizard with two ETB effects. For example, if Cloudkin Seer enters the battlefield, its own ability would trigger twice (the second time due to Naban), and I would draw two cards. The Seer would also cause Impact Tremors’s ability to trigger, and Naban causes that ability to trigger a second time, dealing 2 damage to each opponent.
If I do pay, I get one long-lived wizard and one temporary one, each of whose ETB effects trigger twice (for a total of four times); for Cloudkin Seer, I would draw four cards, and if Impact Tremors was on the battlefield, it would deal 4 damage to each opponent.
(The ability of Reflections of Littjara is not affected by Naban, because its ability is triggered by casting the spell, which happens before the wizard enters the battlefield.)
Generally, it’s best to keep Inalla in the command zone, since her main ability functions from there and she’ll be safe from other players. However, there are a few scenarios where you might consider bringing her onto the battlefield. One of those scenarios is when Naban is on the battlefield. If Inalla and Naban are both on the battlefield, when Inalla’s ability triggers due to another wizard entering the battlefield, Naban will cause her ability to trigger a second time. Then, you have two opportunities to pay 1 mana to make a temporary copy of the incoming wizard. Thus, in the two tables immediately below, paying 2 for Inalla’s ability is only possible if both Inalla and Naban are on the battlefield, not if Inalla is in the command zone.
If Reflections of Littjara is also on the battlefield, its copy’s ETB effects get doubled, but as before, Inalla can’t make a copy of the copy.
Like Harmonic Prodigy, Naban costs 2 mana, which I should make back after casting a wizard.
For completeness, I’ll mention Panharmonicon. For the purposes of this deck, it’s basically another copy of Naban (though somewhat broader, since it triggers on anything entering the battlefield, not just a wizard). I don’t have a copy in the deck, so extending this work will be left as an exercise for the reader.
Adding it all together
Impact Tremors triggers
(Card images are from Wizards of the Coast’s Gatherer service, a complete database of all Magic cards that have ever been printed.)