One of my favorite decks is one I haven’t played in ages. I actually pulled it apart several years ago because it was just drawing too much hate. I guess that is to be expected from a deck with a creature that lets you search for the other cards in your deck?
Captain Sisay is a vulnerable card with a very limited ability. It is only a 2/2 creature, so it dies to pretty much any burn. It is not indestructible. It is not hexproof. It doesn’t have any form of protection. It costs four mana in two different colors. But in the right deck, that limited ability is amazing.
When most people make efforts to build a 60 card deck with Captain Sisay, they use her in two different ways. The first option is to use the Captain as copies 5 through 8 of another legend they want to be using. Sisay hits the board and as soon as possible, it is used to tutor up the legend you are looking for. The second option is to use the Captain as a tutor in a legends deck.
I’m not here to tell you how to build your deck. Well, actually, that’s exactly what I’m here
to tell you, at least for this article. Using the Captain as a way to find a single legend is just
ridiculous. There are so many other cards that do a much better job of tutoring a single creature, that using Captain Sisay in this way is just wrong. Captain Sisay is best used as a tutor in a deck full of legends.
So if I’m going to build a deck loaded with legends that Captain Sisay is going to find, what do you suppose are the likely problems this deck is going to face? It’s okay, I’ve already built and played the deck, so let me tell you what I have found to be problematic.
1. Captain Sisay gets killed. It takes my opponents about as long as it takes to read the card to realize what I’m playing and what is about to happen. My group isn’t rife with counterspells, so I was mostly looking for a way to keep her on the battlefield.
2. Mana. The Captain costs 4 mana in two colors. While multiplayer is generally slower than duals, you cannot wait until turn 6 or 7 to play Captain Sisay. You are then waiting
another turn to tap her to find a legend, then you are hoping to play the next cool card in your deck then. Those are a lot of conditions and a lot of waiting.
I also wanted to play funky legends that weren’t necessarily green and/or white. This meant I needed a five color mana base to support my wild deck choices. Whatever I’m doing for mana has to be able to support these extreme mana requirements.
The average Commander player looks at the issue of Captain Sisay getting killed and responds exactly the way they have been taught to respond when looking at ways to protect their general: “you should have Lightning Greaves/Whispersilk Cloak.” Swiftfoot
Boots or in this deck, Champion’s Helm would also be comparable. These are all good options, but I went in a different direction:
Karakas is not ideal. Your opponents can really slow you down by forcing you to bounce Captain Sisay back to your hand. However, Karakas more than makes up for its limitations. Not only does Karakas protect Captain Sisay, it can bounce any of your legends to your hand, including itself. This card forces your opponents to spend more cards trying to limit your threats, and most times they aren’t stopping you, just slowing you down. Karakas itself is a legend, so if you don’t already have it in play, this is the first
legendary card you will want to find with Captain Sisay. Captain Sisay makes the deck difficult for your opponents to deal with. Karakas adds a level of degeneracy that makes the deck feel a little unfair.
Another way to deal with the threat of having Captain Sisay killed is by putting out other, bigger threats that must be dealt with right away. If I have Numot, the Devastator on the battlefield, and you can kill only one of the creatures, are you killing the Captain or Numot? We all know that the smart choice is Captain Sisay. She can find another
copy of Numot, or something else that could be even worse. The problem is that Numot is then left on the board. This will be enough to tempt many players into the wrong decision. If you are playing this deck, and an opponent makes the correct choice, killing Captain Sisay, you know where Numot is attacking next turn. You know who is about to lose two lands. Not only did that player kill off your Captain, but they have demonstrated the willingness to kill off your Captain again in the future.
The mana issues for the deck were solved in two ways. The first solution was mana creatures. Birds of Paradise, Silhana Starfletcher, Skyshroud Elf, Nomadic Elf, and Priest
of Titania were all there. The Birds of Paradise, and Nomadic Elf would help with mana of any color, while Silhana Starfletcher (usually set to white), Skyshroud Elf and Priest of Titania hurried Captain Sisay into play. This was not an elegant solution, and were I to rebuild the deck, I would undoubtedly choose differently. The Nomadic Elf was far too slow to be helpful with producing multiple colors. Silhana Starfletcher was cute, but I rarely used the reach ability, so in the end he was simply an expensive elf that produced white mana. Druid of the Anima or Quirion Elves can both produce the green or white mana needed for Captain Sisay.
As far as the mana for other legends, the elves were helpful there, but I included two other options. The first option was Dragon Arch. I was noticing that most of the legends I was considering for the deck were multicolored, so the Arch solved all the mana issues. In many games, this was Plan B for the deck. There were many games where I could not keep Captain Sisay on the board, and the Dragon Arch worked very nicely in most of those games. It is a joy to see a legendary dragon cost two mana to put into play! The Arch also
gives your creatures virtual haste, since you can put them into play at the end of your opponent’s turn. The card was also quite a rattlesnake since your opponents would be reluctant to attack since they weren’t sure what was going to come into play. With Captain
Sisay to accompany it, the difficulties in attacking me were nightmarish. Tap the Captain to find your ugly Legend, then tap 2 with the Arch and the Legend you needed was now in
play doing its thing.
The real stars of this deck was the manabase. I’ve already mentioned using Captain
Sisay to find Karakas. Well why stop there? Most of my games involved threatening to
tutor for a nasty legend, then at the end of an opponent’s turn, I would instead tutor for a land that I needed. There are two cycles of legendary lands that tap for a colored mana and
also do something else. The first group is from Legends and are mostly useless. Karakas
is the star of that set, but the others include Pendelhaven, Tolaria, Urborg, and Hammerheim. They are fun cards, but I have rarely used their abilities. The lands from the Kamigawa block have abilities that are actually useful occasionally. Eiganjo Castle, Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers, Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep, and Minamo, School at Water’s Edge are all solid in the deck. I never owned one, but Shizo, Death’s Storehouse would have been a solid addition as well. Minamo was the most useful of the bunch, since it allowed me to untap the Captain and search again.
The Captain ensured that I was never mana-screwed and always had the mana I needed. Often during the games I didn’t need to search for a legendary creature, simply playing the ones I drew while searching out the legendary lands. Even if I didn’t need the land, I often had several lands in hand to protect against land destruction.
The Legendary dudes
We have now arrived at the comedy portion of the article. My Captain Sisay deck was built ages ago (pre 2009 if my notes are correct), so many of the choices are questionable.
Also, I only included multicolored legends, since I wanted the Arch to work. Finally, I did not buy cards for this deck, my collection at the time was the final limiting factor.
4x Captain Sisay – I’ve already explained this. Of course there are four of these in the deck.
1x Darigaaz, The Igniter – He is a solid legendary Dragon. I really liked his ability to let me peek at other players’ hands and smack them for a little extra damage.
1x Dromar, The Banisher – I liked the idea of bouncing all the creatures of a particular color back to their hands. I’d been trying to get Dromar to work in several different decks. Unfortunately, when you realize Dromar is white, blue, and black, and Captain Sisay is white and green, it means you are either bouncing one or both of them or only ever bouncing red creatures. That is not so exciting. There is also an ever-increasing presence of creatures with enter the battlefield abilities, so Dromar’s ability is becoming even less helpful.
1x Numot, the Devastator – I’ve mentioned Numot already. I will just say here that he might not make the cut if I rebuilt the deck. He drew so much hate, that it wasn’t worth the trouble. His ability allows you to target any land, not just the lands of the opponent you just damaged. This means that even if Numot can’t do damage to you, I can still take out your fancy lands. In fact, I can even take out your basic lands. I would regularly do this to stunt one opponent’s ability to stop me, while killing off another opponent. He is nasty.
1x Nicol Bolas – You read his ability and you want to live the dream. However his upkeep really limited your efforts to do anything else. I don’t recall ever seeing Nicol Bolas damage an opponent who had more than one card in hand.
1x Phelddagrif – He always made the games more fun. He was cheap to cast, easy to protect and constantly messed up combat. As dirty and wretched as Numot was, Phelddagrif was that much happiness and joy.
1x Sisters of Stone Death – This was a handy way to get rid of particular creatures. Besides, a 7/5 creature also makes quite the beatstick.
1x Sol’kanar the Swamp King – You are probably saying to yourself, “this card makes
sense since Captain Sisay can tutor up Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.” You would be correct. Too bad I never included the Tomb. I don’t know why, since I did own one at the time. I even remember thinking to myself in several games that this guy has to come out since there are no swamps in this game (shocking I know Daryl).
Why wouldn’t you put ______ in the deck?
So what would I change? Well, we have from Alara block forward to choose from, as well as a few obvious blunders that I missed. Were there any interesting multicolored legends in Alara block?
The lands are obvious. Even if Sol’kanar doesn’t make the cut, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth should be in. This just makes your mana base that much easier to run. Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper, Yavimaya Hollow, and Kor Haven are all obvious. Academy
Ruins would allow me to retrieve a destroyed Dragon Arch as well as random equipment or any other legendary artifacts you might want to add (Legacy Weapon or Mindslaver
are just two that come to mind).
There are so many creatures to choose from, the mind boggles. You can certainly point your Captain Sisay deck in particular directions. A risky path would involve Leyline
of Singularity, Empress Galina, Tsabo Tavoc, and Willow Satyr to bring the legendary feel to everyone. Of course, if someone should steal one of these creatures, your deck is the most at risk.
Sen Triplets, Rafiq of the Many, Reki, the History of Kamigawa, Yomiji, Who Bars the Way, Brion Stoutarm, Progenitus and Omnath, Locus of Mana are just a few examples of other legends who can work with others or provide the nasty beatdown.
And finally, since we are about to see Innistrad come to life tomorrow, I thought I would look at the three multicolored legends available with this set. Olivia Voldaren would be another solid choice in a Captain Sisay deck, but be sure to keep her mana requirements in mind. She needs a lot of red and black mana to really shine, and Captain Sisay decks are already five-color decks stretching their mana bases as tightly as possible.
Geist of Saint Traft offers up a creature that you can sac to Grimgrin to untap him, but you’ll need to do it before the angel deals her damage, since she is exiled at the end of combat. Perhaps including Tolsimir Wolfbloodand his 2/2 legendary Wolf is a better sac option for Grimgrin.
Best of luck to all of you at your prereleases this weekend! I hope everyone manages to find the card that fills the spot in a deck that wasn’t quite right.
 When I am ready to retire a deck I enjoy, I list it in a spreadsheet, along with the others. I started including the date so if I decided to bring the deck back, I could look at cards created from that date onwards as possible replacements for the cards in the deck. Don’t judge me!