Oath of Nissa

Posted in The Week That Was on January 1, 2016

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Do you remember back when blue got all the fun toys? Now, you might think I am talking about cards like Force of Will or Control Magic, but I am actually thinking a little smaller—a lot smaller, actually. I have always been drawn to the cards that let you cheaply dig through your deck and—at the very least—replace themselves. Cards such as Preordain, Ponder, Sleight of Hand, and even Gitaxian Probe (although that barely qualifies as a blue card) have all been staples in Eternal formats, providing velocity to get you closer to your essential cards as quickly as possible.

Cantrips like those are among my favorite cards in the game to play. I will often try packing cards such as Street Wraith, Edge of Autumn, and Gitaxian Probe into decks that can't even cast them to get that velocity edge that blue has always had into my non-blue decks. Something weird has happened over the last couple of years, though.

You still get the counterspells in blue (like Scatter to the Winds) and Control Magics (like Exert Influence), but the velocity cards have shifted away from blue. You still get card-drawing spells like Ugin's Insight, but that is not the early-game setup card that blue has traditionally been known for. Instead, those cards have become much more likely to be green. They usually don't draw a card per se, but let you look through some number of cards on top of your deck in search of a card that falls within certain parameters. Sometimes they aren't even instants or sorceries!

This is an intriguing card that should replace itself whenever you play it. After all, what is the point of playing green if you are not going to be packing your deck full of lands, creatures, and planeswalkers? The fact that it is an enchantment is an interesting wrinkle on this type of card. While it won't fuel your graveyard—it puts the other cards on the bottom of your deck and doesn't even go to the graveyard itself when you cast it—it does provide a permanent that can be used for various accounting purposes like devotion or Enchantress decks. Although, if you play a second copy, you will put one of them in the graveyard since it is a legendary enchantment.

I love how this card will play a role throughout the game. Often on turn one you are going to be looking to find another land and keep your deck chugging along to the critical amount of mana you need to cast your Siege Rhino or Nissa, Vastwood Seer (to, of course, find more lands) over the next few turns. With a glut of mana, and nothing to do with it, Oath of Nissa helps you dig for one of those aforementioned creatures or a planeswalker. That last type is one of the things that is so interesting about this card to me.

I play a lot of these cards in green, whether I'm playing Standard, Modern, or casual formats. I love digging through my deck with cards such as Mulch, Tracker's Instinct, Ancient Stirrings, Grisly Salvage, and even the occasional Seek the Wilds. I play most of these in my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant Commander deck, and I can't tell you how many times I have had to glumly let a Kiora go by the wayside and take some lowly creature because those were the rules. The ability to find the right tool for the right job makes this a very appealing card.

Velocity is not the only thing this card brings to the gaming table. It has an effect while in play that smooths out your mana when casting planeswalkers. It basically functions as a Prismatic Omen for planeswalkers, meaning you could play this on turn one off a Forest, find Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, play another Forest on turn two, and be able to cast Tibalt. You might want to do that; I won't judge you.

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded | Art by Peter Mohrbacher

I am looking forward to trying Oath of Nissa out in a planeswalker-heavy deck that lets me continue to find cards to play while "fixing" my mana to play them. If almost all your permanents are planeswalkers, then your mana is going to be pretty much perfect—assuming you can find a green source and Oath of Nissa. It seems counterintuitive to play four copies of a noncreature legendary permanent, but you can just cycle through these one after the other. Even though you are going to have to sacrifice one to the legendary permanents rule, you will still get the effect when it enters the battlefield.

Oath of Nissa is not strictly a cantrip, and it is possible to whiff with this type of card. US National team member Neal Oliver recently talked about missing with Ancient Stirrings in an Amulet Bloom deck during the Modern GP in Pittsburgh, but from his incredulous reaction, that was not something that happened to him very often. If you are going to play this card to effectively "shrink" to a 56-card deck this February, the trick is going to be building your deck to make sure you are not overloaded with potential swing-and-misses—after all, you will already have three other enchantments in your deck to worry about.

I have been playing an Enchantress deck in Vintage Highlander, and this is going in straight away. A card that can help me get closer to drawing an Enchantress, find me my Serra's Sanctum, or nab me a Garruk Wildspeaker to untap some lands—while being an enchantment to boot? Sign me up!

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