Exploit Painter’s Servant and Pili Pala

Fall brings cooler weather here in the northeast US. It also brings harvest season for the country farms and corn stalks. They shift from green to the dying yellow-brown waiting for harvest. It is this time that we begin to think about scarecrows . I do not see them as I drive down the road here in rural PA. Are they further in the fields? Maybe, but they are prevalent in Shadowmoor. Like here in PA they may not be prevalent enough in commander. Let’s take a look at some scarecrow combos that can be tucked away in the 99.  

Painter’s Servant

Tucked away in the 99 like a cornfield
is Painters Servant

Painter’s Servant saw an unbanning in 2019. At the same, time Paradox Engine and Iona, Shield of Emeria received a ban.  Iona may have still been banned if Painter Servant was not unbanned, but with the servant coming off the list it was guaranteed. Painter’s Servant is powerful and one of the few cards that affect cards that are not in play. No matter what color you choose, every card becomes that color. There are things that you can do to abuse this ability. Let’s exploit Painter’s Servant


The first card interaction is not that devastating. it’s to pair Painter’s Servant with a commander that has protection. If you are playing a Voltron strategy all of a sudden nothing can block your commander. This can be powerful, but it will take several turns to kill your opponents. There’s a vulnerability to player removal. The downside is that once your commander has protection he can not be affected by your cards either. He still is vulnerable to non damage based board wipes too. This is one of the fairer ways to exploit Painter’s Servant.   

Counterspells in Green and Black 

Countering spells is a traditionally blue effect but there are a few non-blue outliers that can counter spells. Dawn Charm sees little play, but if you have even been on the receiving end of a counterspell from it you will know how powerful it is to come out of nowhere. Deathgrip and Lifefore are older cards that allow enemy colors black and green to counter each other’s spells. They are enchantments and as long as you have the mana you can counter as many spells you want. Each has their own strengths. Black has tutors that will allow you to go get it. While green provides mana ramp and Seedborn Muse to allow you to counter more spells. If you are in Golgari colors you can run both. 

These cards become deadly when you add Painter’s Servant to one of these cards on the battlefield. Just choose the appropriate color and now you can shut down any spell you want. With a Seedborn Muse or Wilderness Reclamation in play you can stop almost all spells from resolving, making Lifeforce the stronger of two cards. Where black will allow you to tutor for a combo win although you will need to be careful with the mana you spend. Either way you will want to leave six or more mana up for countering spells. With such open mana it will be less likely your opponents will cast spells in order to make you use your mana to try and get something through. 

Grinding the Win 

The most devastating combo to exploit Painter’s Servant is an old one with Grindstone. It is a simple one mana artifact that if you spend three mana target player mills two cards and if they share a color do it again. Painter’s Servant makes every deck a monocolored deck. Better than a mono color deck, all lands and artifacts now are the same color. This allows you to mill the entire deck guaranteed. 

But what about Mill Protection? 

Normally, mill protection is shuffling your graveyard back into play. This can be repeatable with the original Kozilek and Ulamog. It’s one of several reasons they made our first installment of cards that should be in your EDH collection. If playing black, then use Leyline of the Void. In green play Scavenging Ooze and remove the offending eldrazi from the graveyard. Add the trigger after the shuffle effect goes on the stack. Mill again next turn to kill. Finally, since the eldrazi trigger happens after all cards are milled you can stack an instant speed card draw on top of the shuffle trigger to kill the player.  

Progenitus or cards that put themselves in their library from ANYWHERE is a little different. If there is one such card, then, the loop will end and they will end up with a lone card in their library. If there are two or more such cards the loop is infinite and unbreakable. In this case the game ends in a draw. 

Best Color for Grindstone

Unlike the counterspell options above, blue is the best color to run Painter Servant for mill. Eldrazi and other reshuffle mischievousness can create difficulties when trying to mill other opponents. Card draw gets around these difficulties. However, blue also has several win conditions when you mill yourself like the Innistrad classic Laboratory Maniac. It also provides counterspell protection to protect yourself so that you can win the game. This can be one of several different win conditions that will let you win the game in a blue deck.  

Pili Pala

In red Pili Pala can end the game quickly.

Pili-Pala is an unusual card because it has an untap ability. Most often you will find cards that will allow you to tap for mana but not untap. If you can find a way to tap Pili-Pala reliably you are halfway to an infinite mana combo. There are several ways to do this. 

Grand Architect

This card is the easiest way to go infinite. You pay 1 blue to make Pili-Pala blue. Then you use Grand Architect to tap Pili-Pala for two colorless mana. Finally, you can use that two mana to untap the scarecrow and make a mana. Rinse and repeat. 

Cryptolith Rite

The Rite or a well timed Song of Freylise will let you tap Pili-Pala for one mana but you will need to find another way to double his mana output. Three card combos are still achievable but they will require a little work to get them. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, Nyxbloom Ancient, Mana Reflection and Leyline of Abundance can all add additional mana to the tap for mana trigger. Then it’s just tap for the two mana to untap him and reap one mana of any color mana on his untap. For this combo needs a commander with green in it. Although any color combination has its uses, Gruul is a great combination as the deck would be loaded with fireball type spells. Check them out on MTG Assist

Necrotic Ooze 

Another well known combo for infinite mana is to have Necrotic Ooze out on the battlefield and a Palladium Myr in your graveyard. This lets Pili-Pala tap for two mana and then use that two mana to untap it for one mana of any color.  Again it is a three card combo which is achievable. The deck must have black in it and works best in graveyard strategy decks as they synergize best with it. 

Summing it up. 

Scarecrows are not all that often used in EDH, especially in the 99 of decks. We can exploit Painter’s Servant and Pili-Pala. They can be useful and combo well with other cards as well as with each other. Some can be back breaking and prevent your opponent from doing much of anything. In the case of Grindstone it works best as an alternate win condition when your opponent shuts down your main strategy. Pili-Pala goes infinite although he is very fragile to removal. We can take a page from modern and include Aether Vial to flash in PIli-Pala a turn before we go infinite to protect him.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me at commanderclinicmtg@gmail.com . Check back often for weekly EDH content.

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