No Cards For You: Narset Shutdown

In commander, there are many cards that can take over a game. While these cards are strong, players are attracted to combinations of cards that interact in such a way they either win the game outright or will take over a game. These are cards you need to be aware of and have an idea of how to answer them. Today we will look at Narset, Parter of Veils.

War of the Spark was a set that included several cards that commander decks want. The static ability of planeswalkers creates a utility that was previously unseen. Even if a planeswalker just sits on the battlefield, it influences the game. This makes the War of the Spark planeswalkers act as a slightly more vulnerable enchantment.  Narset, Parter of Veils is one of those cards. 

The Culprit

Commander games are often won in the trenches with card draw and mana ramp. Narset shuts down your opponents from drawing insane amounts of cards. It is an uneven effect that contains the words “each opponent.” This will allow you to continue to draw cards while limiting your opponents. Narset creates a soft lock that is acceptable for casual commander. Your opponents will always draw one card per turn allowing them to play magic even if it is limited. Cards like Greed or Ephara, God of the Polis, that allow you to draw a card on other players turns to get around Narset and build incremental value. What Narset does excellently is limit your opponents from having explosive turns that will often win games. 

Breaking Narset

While strong on her own, Narset’s ability can be broken. Wheel effects are devastating. A wheel effect is an effect named after the card Wheel of Fortune where each player discards their hand and then draws cards. They are mostly red but there are a couple in other colors. you can find the list on gatherer, By casting a wheel everybody discards their hands. You will get to draw your full complement of cards but your opponents will only draw one card.  While most wheel effects are strong there is an artifact that can go into any deck that is even more devastating.  

Teferi’s Puzzle Box creates a powerful interaction with Narset. The turn order is specific and if someone challenges you on it you can bring up the rulings on gatherer to affirm this is indeed how it works. The Puzzle Box triggers only for the person whose draw step it is. First, they draw a card. Then The Puzzle Box triggers. They must put the cards in their hand on the bottom of their library. Then they draw a new hand of cards. Since they already drew a card this turn, they do not draw any more cards and are left with an empty hand. 

You do your normal draw before this ability is put on the stack.

Magic the Gathering : Gatherer rulings

Combating Narset

As mentioned above this is a soft lock. Instants and cards with flash can be cast after the puzzle box’s trigger goes on the stack but before it resolves. In many cases, this can lead to less than optimal plays. It also means instant speed artifact or planeswalker destruction can break the combination. However, the combination is in blue. Oftentimes decks with this combination of cards also run counterspells to protect from these cards. Destroying the planeswalker the old fashioned way by combat could be the best option depending on the battlefield state. It’s for this reason if you employ this combo, then you need to be very judicious about the battlefield you enact this combination into. If you can’t protect it for a turn around the table do not cast it. 

The Narset-Puzzle Box combo is strong because it causes an empty hand every turn. If your deck contains a lot of instants or flash cards like Greed or Ephara, God of the Polis will allow you to draw a card a turn and you might get to play a couple of them. If you are in Bant or Sultai colors Alchemist’s Refuge can allow you to utilize these few cards you draw to try and fight your way out of the soft lock. Finally, Emergence Zone can give you flash for one turn. That’s is enough time to break the lock. 

Final Thoughts

This combination is very strong. While there are ways to beat opponents have no cards in hand scenario, it is very difficult to do. The combination needs only blue to make it work so it is an option for many different deck choices. The combination can be protected with counterspells or other disruption. It is also a synergy between two cards. While assembling two-card combinations in commander can be difficult, it is far more likely to occur than some three or four card combos and is worth inclusion. It is also very affordable At the time of this writing, both cards can be purchased for under $15 from Card Kingdom and a little over that at Star City Games.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Greg

    I discovered this combo accidentally because I had always run the puzzlebox trigger BEFORE the draw (i picked up one with rules text on it to keep from making this mistake) and locked out a game turn 3. (Got to love artifact ramp)

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