Tiny Leaders with Anafenza, the Foremost by Mark Pinder

Anafenza, the Foremost

Tiny Leaders with Anafenza, the Foremost by Mark Pinder

It’s been a while since I’ve written an article, I thought I’d write about the growing Tiny Leaders format and my first general I used. For those of you not aware of the Tiny Leaders format, it is a “mini-Commander” style format where you are limited to cards of Converted Mana Cost (CMC) of 3 or below. Your deck is 49 cards and your Commander is the 50th Card.

You may only have one of each card in your deck apart from basic land which must also be within the colour identity of your Commander. Cards with X in the cost may be played as long as the other mana cost is 3 or less, x is 0.

e.g. Fireball is R (x) and has CMC 1.

e.g. Sphinx’s Revelation is BBW (X) and has CMC 3


All ante and manual dexterity cards are banned, as are the following cards:

Ancestral Recall (0)

Balance, Black Lotus (0)

Black Vise (0)

Channel (0)

Chaos Orb (0)

Counterbalance (0)

Demonic Tutor (0)

Earthcraft, Edric (0)

Spymaster of Trest (0)

Fastbond (0)

Goblin Recruiter (0)

Grindstone (0)

Hermit Druid (0)

Imperial Seal (0)

Library of Alexandria (0)

Karakas (0)

Mana Crypt (0)

Mana Drain (0)

Mana Vault (0)

Metalworker (0)

Mind Twist (0)

Mishra’s Workshop (0)

Mox Emerald (0)

Mox Jet (0)

Mox Pearl (0)

Mox Ruby (0)

Mox Sapphire (0)

Necropotence (0)

Shahrazad (0)

Skullclamp (0)

Sol Ring (0)

Strip Mine (0)

Survival of the Fittest (0)

Sword of Body and Mind (0)

Time Vault (0)

Time Walk (0)

Timetwister (0)

Tolarian Academy (0)

Umezawa’s Jitte (0)

Vampiric Tutor (0)

Yawgmoth’s Will (0)

Additionally, these Legendary creatures can not be used as Commanders:

Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

This is a fun format that allows you to use your older as well as newer cards.

1 Anafenza, the Foremost

Abzan is a very powerful colour combination with access to the best removal spells in the format and powerful creatures. Indeed when I did my first draft for my deck I was pretty old school taking cards from my folders ready to use, I discovered I had enough for two decks. I did consider Doran, the Siege Tower to be my commander but Anafenza comes with the bonus counters and potential to exile creatures whilst in play.

When I started building the deck I was using my spare cards but as you get into the format you find yourself hunting out extra cards for the deck, since I also collect I’m still toying with moving my Modern Masters II Dark Confidant into the deck.


The mana base

Volrath's Stronghold

1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Marsh Flats
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Command Tower
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Murmouring Bosk
1 Windswept Heath
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Godless Shrine
1 Woodland Cemetary
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Temple Garden
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Shambling Vents

A good mana base is available in tiny leaders due to the quantity of multi coloured land cards available, the trick is doing so and having land coming in untapped.

Volrath’s Stromghold is by far the most powerful land in the deck and means any creature can be returned especially when you have Eternal Witness to return any card, Qasali Pridemage can be used repeatedly to remove threats. Funnily enough this is one of the purchases I have made for the deck, I wasn’t around when it was printed so wasn’t aware of the card until I saw it in card traders binder at a Grand Prix and saw the potential of the card.

I’ve not many basic lands in the deck so the new “Battle Lands” wouldn’t just be another come into play tapped land though they would make the M10/Innistrad duals stronger but you can usually have fixed this issue with fetching for the appropriate land.

I’ve always liked man lands so Shambling Vent and Stirring Wildwood both made the cut, Treetop village is also an option I’ve tried in the past.

Command Tower is a card that can be played in any deck though it grows in influence the more colours you are running.


The creatures

Vampire Nighthawk

1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Transcendant Master
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Eternal Witness
1 Herald of Torment
1 Loxodon Smiter
1 Liliana, Heretical Healer
1 Master of the Feast
1 Tarmogoyf
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Warden of the First Tree
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise and Deathrite Shaman can be used with Exploration for an explosive start, Anafenza on turn 2 is quite a beating.

When selecting creatures for the deck I either wanted them to have utility or be very powerful this made Tarmogoyf, Loxodon Smiter are great picks as they have higher power/toughness than their mana cost making them very efficient. Master of the Feast has a down side but dealing with a 5/5 flyer is a stretch for most opponents.

Herald of Torment was not originally in my deck but was in the second pool that I built, I ran the second deck several times to try out alternative options and the Herald back breaking. With the acceleration in the deck it can be bestowed on turn three or four. Imagine it bestowed to Anafenza, swinging in the air as a 7/7. I’ve considered having Boon Satyr in the deck for similar reasons but without trample and evasion its not so good.

Warden of the First Tree and Transcendant Master are nice slow burn creatures that can be built up late game for inevitably for the win.

There are so many creatures I could play but it seems rather strange not playing Fleecemane Lion as a 3/3 with upside as better creatures are available. Scavenging Ooze has been and is a popular card in so many format’s, I feel it has the edge as a two drop over many cards late game.

Doran, the Siege Tower has also been included in the deck as extra threat which has some synergy too, a lot of the creatures have a higher toughness than power e.g. Vampire Nighthawk and Brimaz, King of the Oreskos.


Sword to Plowshares

The spells

1 Nevermore
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Armadillo Cloak
1 Eladamri’s Call
1 Vindicate
1 Unflinching Courage
1 Gaze of Granite
1 Smother
1 Sword to Plowshares
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Abzan Charm
1 Exploration
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Path to Exile
1 Martial Coup

The deck has access to some of the best single removal spells, Smother can kill anything in the format pretty much and mass removal like the recurring Black Sun’s Zenith. This is one of the decks strengths that it has multiple mass removal and some very powerful but flexible single removal. Gaze of Granite can clear the whole board to start again and the likes of Abrupt Decay can dodge counter spells.

Nevermore is really main deck, with the acceleration it can disrupt your opponent on turn two naming their Tiny Leader. Many of the spells are flexible like Vindicate as it deals with anything.

Armadillo cloak and Unflinching Courage enable you to win a quick race which if not dealt with are formidable threats, trample and life link are formidable assets to the deck.

I run both Liliana, Heretical Healer and Liliana of the Veil, ultimately they are very powerful planeswalkers and with them being singletons the chance of having both in hand is not that high.

Eladamri’s Call is a tricky little tutor spell that can be used to get just the right creature e.g. Qasali Pridemage, Herald of Torment can be sought to give your guy evasion and pump via the bestow option. This one card provides flexibility and depth. The format has plenty of tutors though the best are on the Banned List e.g. Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. You can be quite sneaky using the Ravnica transmute spells Shred Memory and Dimir Machinations but I much Eladamri’s call in this deck.


The sideboard

Maelstrom Pulse

1 Drown in Sorrow
1 Putrefy
1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Vampire Hexmage
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Sin Collector
1 Phyrexian Crusader
1 Stony Silence

The Sideboard is still a work in progress but 10 cards makes it very tight on the choices. Putrefy is a favourite of mine as it can be brought in against decks running swords, Stoneforge Mystic searching out a weapon is a thing. Vampire Hexmage doesn’t have many Planeswalker’s to work with but still has solid game. Maelstrom Pulse was main deck but mainly comes in against tokens in a single card format. Drown in Sorrow can be a blow out for the faster decks.


Tiny Leaders is a fun format, hopefully just like we see Commander Decks from Wizards one day we’ll see Tiny Leaders too. I’ve made several decks but this is my favourite and I’m always on the look out for new cards, Shambling Vents recently made the cut to the deck.

Thanks for reading,

Mark Pinder

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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.