Your Wish is Ojutai's Command

Posted in Reconstructed on March 3, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Usually the question with preview cards is: "What kind of deck does this go into?" You have to figure out where the card fits, what kind of deck wants its effect, how strong it is, and so on.

But with this preview card, my thought process is something a little different. This is something that lends a bit of a sparkle to my deck-building eye.

"What kind of deck doesn't this go into?"

I mean, there are limits due to its colors, of course. But outside of that, this has so many applications!

Let's step back a bit.

Way back in 2007's Lorwyn block, the designers were searching for a new kind of spell cycle to make. We had done Charms before—cards like Dromar's Charm, where you picked one of three modes—but that wasn't going to be good enough that time. Not for a cycle of rares.

So, they invented something new. They invented a new type of card that would be felt throughout all of Magic. They invented Commands.

Instead of "merely" choosing one of three options, this time around you got to choose two of four! There's a good chance you're familiar with one of them: a little card called Cryptic Command.

But what you might not know is that every single Command saw a reasonable degree of Standard play. Profane Command killed people out of nowhere in Elf decks. Austere Command gave white decks selective board control. Primal Command pushed creature decks ahead on exactly the axis they needed. Even Incendiary Command saw a bit of play as both a sweeper—and a land destruction spell!

Even today, you still often see these cards in Commander decks, Cubes, and occasionally even Modern and beyond. Cryptic Command has made sure memory of the lineage stays sharp—but they've all made an impact.

After Lorwyn, the Command design space was locked away. That was a place that hasn't been ventured back into. In the entire history of Magic, there have only ever been five Commands. Despite their popularity, it's a cycle we've never revisited.

That is, until Tarkir. No, not just Tarkir. Until the new Tarkir. Until a world of dragons.

Prepare yourself for some new entries in the Command lineage.

Introducing: Ojutai's Command!

I'll give you a moment to digest. Take it in. Start to think about the six different options you have when casting this card.

In Dragons of Tarkir, the five rare Dragons from Fate Reforged are back. They've had more than a millennium to grow into their position. They're Elder Dragons now. They have quite a few dragons to do their bidding and special spells at their disposal. And each has a multicolored Command.

And these Commands are…. Well, let's just say you can expect to see them played a lot.

Okay, so Ojutai's Command. Let's look at that for a moment.

Draw a card is part of the special sauce that has made numerous cards so powerful. When you use a Command to draw and do something else, you're in excellent shape: you know you're going to end ahead on the exchange since it didn't cost a card to cast at all! You'll choose this mode when casting this spell a lot of the time—and that's excellent. It's a huge part of this card's strength.

"Counter and draw."

Ever since the days of Dismiss, this simple phrase has made blue mages' hearts soar everywhere. It was great on Dismiss. It was great on Exclude. It was great on Cryptic Command. And here it's excellent once again. While it only hits creature spells, that's okay: that means you can use it when it's good in the matchup and ignore it if not. Unlike something like Bone to Ash, which rots in your hand if your opponent isn't playing a lot of creatures or has too much of an on-board presence already, Ojutai's Command gives you the flexibility of using this mode when it's awesome and doing something else if it's not.

So maybe you're being beat down by a creature you didn't manage to counter. Like many breeds of white-blue decks, you're desperately trying to stabilize. Can I interest you in turning your Bone to Ash into gaining 4 life and drawing a card? While that's not a card you'd play on its own merits, it's a card you're certainly happy to have in your hand.

Imagine you're playing against a burn deck. Normally, you wouldn't be packing much main-deck lifegain. Now, you just incidentally have a way to gain a bunch of life in your main deck! That can make all the difference.

Now here's the one that was perhaps a little more unexpected. This is the one that makes it a bit more universally applicable outside of just control.

Get back a creature for free at instant speed, you say?


In aggressive or midrange decks, you can use this to bring back a creature that died early while simultaneously cantripping or countering a crucial creature. In control decks, if you build your deck right, you could use this to bring back, say, a Soulfire Grand Master. (Or perhaps, an Orator of Ojutai—you'll learn more about that card soon enough…)

And not just on your turn, but at any time. End step, make a threat? Absolutely. Muck up combat with another creature? You bet.

It's hard to know what's going to happen while your opponent has both white and blue mana untapped. I suppose some things really never do change.

But enough of philosophy class over here. How about some actual deck-building applications? Let's take a look at some decks featuring this new Command!

Command and Conquer

Perhaps the most obvious place to put Ojutai's Command is in a control deck.

Things control decks like:

  • Countering spells? ✓
  • Drawing cards? ✓
  • Plenty of overall flexibility? ✓✓✓

Now, there are plenty of different ways you could build a control deck with Ojutai's Command. Here's a take on a straight white-blue version:

Gavin Verhey's Ojutai Control

Download Arena Decklist

As far as how this deck plays, it is very much in the vein of counterspell-heavy decks of years past. It wants to counter up the curve, then play a way to mop up anything that slipped through like an End Hostilities or a Banishing Light. And with Ojutai's Command, you can recoup some early lost life; keeps your card flow moving; and, of course, counter spells.

Now, this WU deck is really just a base to work with. WU is a little short on ways to interact in the early game to kill off creatures, so this kind of WU deck works best in a more midrange or controlling metagame. You could easily also build it to be Jeskai and gain some access to good early-game removal. For example, something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Jeskai Control

Download Arena Decklist

Ah, the power of three colors. This version has a much better time against creature decks—it's full of removal spells and then can conquer the late game.

Normally, I wouldn't want to play a situational counterspell like Ojutai's Command in a deck with so much removal—but that's where the Command functionality really shines. If I have the opponent's creatures covered and am worried about something else, I can always cycle it away to try and find my next answer—or if I need to counter something, I can spend it appropriately.

These are two takes on control, but there are plenty of others. For example, an Esper build featuring Crux of Fate (good with Ojutai!) and Hero's Downfall is one way to go. You could even look at a five-color control deck featuring more Commands if you'd like!

Battle Commands

But, as mentioned earlier, the Command doesn't just fit in control decks. It can just as well fit into other strategies!

While the first instinct when looking at it is that it's a Dismiss variant with flexibility, its return-a-creature mode is also incredibly potent! A flashed-in, cantripping creature on a card that also has the flexibility of taking tempo by countering a spell is plenty powerful.

Take, for example, this:

Gavin Verhey's Commanding Jeskai

Download Arena Decklist

Imagine you leave four mana untapped. You could have Stoke the Flames. You could just have a Lightning Strike. So your opponent casts a Siege Rhino to play around them…

And boom! You have Ojutai's Command.

Or how about you pass with mana up, representing a burn spell? Seeing it's time to sweep the board, your opponent casts Crux of Fate…only for you to cast an end-of-turn Command, bringing back a Seeker or Grand Master for you to start bringing damage with right away!

Follow my Command

That isn't even the end of what you can do with Ojutai's Command. For those more Johnny players out there, it may be time to rev your Sage of Hours engines for a Bant deck that goes infinite using the Command to return it if it dies. And in Modern, some of the most powerful creatures in the game—Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Snapcaster Mage to name a few—all come back thanks to the Command. (Yes, that's right: imagine the value on Commanding back a Snapcaster Mage!)

The Commands will no doubt change the face of Standard—and, of course, this is just one of them. Dromoka, Silumgar, Kolaghan, and Atarka all have something for you. Pay attention to previews to see what they have in store…

In the meantime, it's time to see what you can build with the addition of Dragons! What cool new ideas do you have? Your mission is to go out there and build your best!

Format: Dragons of Tarkir Standard

Restrictions: None!

Deadline: Tuesday, March 10, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Satyr Firedrinker

3 Ash Zealot

4 Lighting Bolt

…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

Note that I gave you until Tuesday, so feel free to take a few days and see what cards are revealed before sending in decks. There are more than a few doozies out there in this set—so stay tuned!

I hope you all enjoyed this look at Ojutai's Command! If you have any thoughts or feedback, you can always get that to me by sending me a tweet or asking me a question on my Tumblr.

I'll be back next week when I talk about one of my favorite cards in the set—and one that can enable turn-four kills in Standard with some cards you'd never expect. You won't want to miss it!

Have fun checking out Dragons of Tarkir, and I'll talk with you again next week!




Ojutai's Command | Art by Willian Murai

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