O Captain! My Captain!

Posted in Serious Fun on February 17, 2015

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

When you talk leadership in Magic, the name that jumps to the forefront for me is Captain Sisay, Captain of the Weatherlight and one of the coolest characters in Magic. Gerrard was the chosen one, but could be a whiner. Captain Sisay understood what needed to be done and got it done. I've always equated Captain Sisay as Magic's version of Han Solo. Perhaps not the main character, but someone who understands her role and walks with a confident swagger.

Captain Sisay | Art by Ray Lago

While some look at the Captain Sisay card as simply a legend tutor, I see Captain Sisay as a charismatic leader whom others are drawn to. Captain Sisay, like other tutors, can be used to find just the card you need, exactly when you need it, or as a way to find all sorts of options, giving you something a little different every time. After suggesting that Captain Sisay's ability would make any Commander deck she led into a degenerate mess of cards, Dave Lee (@derfington) described his Captain Sisay deck as efficient.

Derfington's Captain Sisay

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Captain Sisay
99 Cards

Dave used Captain Sisay as a way to keep the deck rolling. The only time he found the deck truly getting ugly was when Captain Sisay would hit the battlefield early (turn two) and be allowed to sit there, drawing card after card after card. In most games, Captain Sisay would let Dave find a few legends before she would be killed off. This made the deck efficient without being degenerate.

Dave's list offers a well-tuned deck capable of handling most situations. While Dave's "fearful trip" with the Captain ended over a year ago, when I asked him how he would update the deck, he suggested: Angel of the Dire Hour; Titania, Protector of Argoth; Creeperhulk; Arcane Lighthouse; and Soul of New Phyrexia. Each of these offers more resiliency and efficiency to an already well-tuned machine!

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

After reading Dave's thoughts relating to degeneracy, my concerns about degeneracy when it comes to Captain Sisay, or any commander that can search a library for a card or a subset of cards, shifted to a concern over repetition. @Syd_Lexia also ran a Captain Sisay deck, but was finding that more and more it was turning into a puzzle that involved getting out several legends and Heroes' Podium as the primary path to victory.

Syd Lexia's Captain Sisay

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Captain Sisay
Sorcery (1)
1 Terminus
Instant (1)
1 Enlightened Tutor
99 Cards

The Podium does a nice job filling in for Captain Sisay when the cost to get her back into play becomes too much. The Podium encourages a style of play that involves overloading the board with legendary creatures and putting you at risk in an effort to hit hard all at once, yet it doesn't need to be on the battlefield long to put an end to games.

Syd tried to break up this predictable pattern by adding more fun legends to search out with Captain Sisay. Syd's list of targets runs longer than Dave's, leading to cards that can send games out in bizarre and curious directions. Syd finds the deck is a lot of fun, although Heroes' Podium is still the strong finisher for the deck. It is a shame to me that a card that looks like so much fun is leading to games that play out like each other.

My Captain does not answer, [her] lips are pale and still,

My [mother] does not feel my arm, [she] has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

—Walt Whitman, "O Captain! My Captain!"

My Captain Sisay deck is an old-school, 60-card deck that offers something different. Captain Sisay stops being the card that finds the big creatures when you need them, and turns into the card that sets up your five-color mana base so you can cast the bomb you wind up drawing. Without the color restrictions of Commander, I let my mana base and card collection be the limiting factors for my deck. When the deck was originally built, my collection of land was far too limited to be able to build an effective five-color base, so Captain Sisay became the way for me to be able to run five colors.

O Captain, My Captain

Download Arena Decklist

I specifically created a list that focused on multicolored cards to take advantage of Dragon Arch. The idea was that I would only have to spend two mana to get so many multicolored cards. Sisters of Stone Death or a three-colored Dragon for only two mana sound like wonderful things! Add to that the instant-speed surprise factor. Spending two on an opponent's end step to put Dromar onto the battlefield ready and able to attack on your turn is a wonderful thing.

Dragon Arch and Captain Sisay make a great team on defense as well. As long as you have two mana available, your opponents know that you have the ability to get any multicolored card from your library and put it on the battlefield in response to their declaration of attackers against you. Whether they know the cards in your deck or not, this is an amazing deterrent!

A quick perusal of the list also makes it obvious that the list is not optimized and in serious need of an update. I pulled the deck apart over six years ago and haven't come back to it since then. At the time, I opted to use the cards I had available to me in my collection, without trying to get the cards that would improve the deck. Nomadic Elf and Silhana Starfletcher should be replaced with cards like Chromatic Lantern to make a five-color deck much easier to manage. The multicolored creatures that were in the deck were constantly changing, since I was looking for something new all the time.

I finally let the Captain die as the deck had "no pulse nor will." It was simply drawing too much hate. It proved impossible to keep Captain Sisay on the battlefield. Sisay allowed me to ramp into far too many good lands that would let me do other things. Karakas was a great way to protect Captain Sisay, but it demanded my opponents deal with the Captain as quickly as possible. Dragon Arch turned into an artifact that cost seven mana to cast a single multicolored card. It too would be targeted early and needed to be used right away. Seven mana and no repeatable effect isn't nearly as good a deal as two! All my games ended with either a quick exit or a later exit after getting one or two bigger creatures into play. Much like any card, when the fun level fades, it is time for retirement, so Sisay faded away.

However, with so much time passed, perhaps with a little more protection for the Captain, we can revive her! There are new prizes to be sought and no one keeps a keel as steady as My Captain!

Bruce Richard



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