Some cards deserve more love that you’re currently giving. Maybe they came out before you started playing, and haven’t made it to the top of EDHREC. Maybe you drafted it, slotted it in your binder without a second a thought, and now it’s collecting dust. Maybe it’s always the first draft of your deck, but always ends up being your 101st card. No matter what, you should be playing: Dauthi Embrace

 

Welcome back you mad scientists and brew masters. This week we’re taking another trip down memory lane, and looking at an underappreciated Commander card that has a lot more going on that meets the eye. 

But first, a history lesson.

Did you know the first few years of competitive Magic were dominated by card advantage engines? Creatures we’re not good compared to busted cards like Necropotence and Counterspell, your average 2/2 for two wasn’t going to do it. If your deck won through creature damage at all, it was usually a Serra Angel after you gained full control or an Erhnam Djinn after you landed an early Armageddon

Then Tempest happened. 

By this time Jay Schneider unveiled red Sligh on the world, but it was kind of an outlier (a super important outlier in the history of Magic theory, but still…). But Tempest let red mages like Schneider and Dave Price trade their wonky Ironclaw Orcs for monsters like Jackal Pups, Mogg Fanatic, and Cursed Scroll

But red wasn’t the only color to get a boost. A little mechanic called Shadow was just the shot in the arm needed to power-up black and white aggro too. Creatures with Shadow can only be affected by other creatures with Shadow. It’s kind of like a suped-up Flying. Shadow creatures can’t block normal creatures, but they can’t be blocked by them either.

But really.. Who blocks anyway?

Combined with Cataclysm and Empyrial Armor, Soltari Priest took down 1998 U.S. Nationals. Sooner after, Dauthi Horror teamed up with Hatred and Dark Ritual to power out turn-three kills. 

But like many other competitive aggro decks, these cards don’t really make it to the Commander tables. Every once in a while you’ll see some Soltari Guerillas or maybe a Soltari Visionary, but mostly Shadow has been left in the… uh… shadows (sic)

It’s a shame to ignore Shadow though – especially when you can give to a creature at will. So today, we dive deep on Dauthi Embrace.

Why You Want to Play Dauthi Embrace

You’re a sneaky $*!#. You like turning guys sideways and avoiding all the consequences. You like being the kingmaker and forcing others to do your bidding – if they don’t, you’ll just turn your attentions to them. 

Tech, Tactics, and Strategies

Dauthi Embrace is most useful in the attack step – but don’t think all you can do is force through some extra damage. There is a ton more going on under the surface with this card. 

First off, shadow is a great way to make sure you get all your saboteur triggers. Cards like Dimir Cutpurse, Raven Guild Master, and Ashling the Extinguisher all have busted abilities when they do combat damage to an opponent, but they can quickly get outclassed at the table. Shadow makes sure they always get through. 

Cards with Cypher let you build your own saboteur. Hands of Binding turns from fringe playable to a lockdown piece if you can guarantee a hit every turn. Call the Nightwing grows your board, Hidden Strings controls the entire table, and Stolen Identity doubles down on any EtBs you might have. 

Some of the best saboteurs also have another ability to abuse with Dauthi Embrace – ninjitsu. A Ninja deck wants two things: to get their creatures unblocked in the red zone, and to connect with their opponent’s faces. Shadow makes both of these possible by making your first creatures unblockable, and then letting your Ninja of the Deep Hours, Throat Slitter, Fallen Shinobi, Ink-Eyes hit again and again (and again and again…) 

While there are plenty of creatures that have to connect with a player in order to get their ability, Dauthi Embrace doesn’t just have to be about damage. Sometimes, you need to tap a creature and shadow lets you do that without risk. 

Shadowmoor was full of creatures that have an “untap” ability. Some of these abilities are really strong, but they rarely see play because they were balanced around a downside of having to attack. You really don’t want to send Order of Whiteclay into the Red Zone. His untap ability is sweet, but it’s not worth it if he’s going to be eaten by a Wurm. Gilder Barin is the same. But what if you didn’t have to worry about losing them in combat? Deurgar Mine-Captain could be a really powerful piece of an aggro Alesha deck if you didn’t have to worry about losing him.

(FYI, Alesha also really loves Dauthi Embrace.)

A similarly forgotten mechanic is Inspired. How much better do King Macar and Daring Thief get when you can tap them with impunity? 

Before we jump into the real fun of Dauthi Embrace, we’ve got to cover Voltron strategies. If you’re running a Voltron commander with a black color identity, there is no excuse for not running Dauthi Embrace. Drana Kalistra Bloodchief, Greven Predator Captain, and other massive bangers love getting in guaranteed damage. Basically, if you’re a black deck and you’re already running Whispersilk Cloak, you should at least consider running Dauthi Embrace instead. 

Sure, Dauthi Embrace is a great tool for triggering your own combat damage triggers and dropping your opponents’ life totals. But the reason I play it over other evasion-granting cards is that it’s also secretly a political powerhouse. 

How many times have you seen a player swing in with the most of the team, but leave a single, massive blocker behind? They better not be attacking you, because you can just give their blocker shadow and crack back even harder. This works on other player’s turns too. Turn an ally’s creature all shadowy to deal some extra damage to the leader, or to trigger a useful attack trigger. 

Often just the threat of what you can do will be enough to have the table do your bidding. 

There’s one last avenue we need to explore with Dauthi Embrace, and that is the fact that it is an easy way to reliably and repeatedly target creatures. And sometimes that ability means Dauthi Embrace does more than encourage attacking. It can also be one of the most oppressive board control cards you can play. 

Team the Embrace up with Horobi Death’s Wail and every two black you have turns into a Murder. It’s even scarier with Willbreaker. Now you aren’t getting rid of the creature, you are bringing it to your side to smash it’s former master.

Games aren’t going to last long if you are the only person with creatures – especially if they can’t even be blocked. 

So Where Does Dauthi Embrace Fit?

With all the possibilities Dauthi Embrace provides, you really should consider it for any deck that has black in it. 

Dimir is a natural color combination with decks like Yuriko the Tiger’s Shadow wanting ninja and saboteur synergies. The Embrace makes Errata the Silence even less fun. It also ensures you can keep triggering Sygg River Cutthroat and Mirko Vosk late game when the board gets clogged up. 

Mardu and Rakdos also get great benefits from giving their creatures repeatable shadow. We already mentioned Alesha Who Smiles at Death above, but decks like Queen Marchesa and Rakdos Lord of Riots has plenty of reason to want to keep smashing. Shadow also makes Kaalia of the Vast stupid (well… stupider…)

Dauthi Embrace is everything I love about Commander. It’s an old card that a lot of people may have never seen before. It’s super inexpensive. It makes other forgotten cards playable. And it can be used creatively to achieve multiple goals in game. 

What other forgotten mechanics do you like playing? Sound off in the comments below and maybe I’ll cover some of them in future articles.