This entry is part 13 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

Cabal Coffers. If you’re new to Commander you may not have played against this card, but it won’t be a long wait before you see it in action. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Cabal Coffers is an uncommon land from the Odyssey set with the text of “{2}{T}: Add {B} to your mana pool for each Swamp you control.”  It was reprinted once in the Zombie Empire Planechase deck. It’s a relatively cheap card, making it fairly accessible to most players who can find a copy, and it is powerful making it a worthwhile inclusion into any mono-black deck. Coffers can find its way into at least a few two-colour or three-colour decks despite the dependence on swamps.

Cabal Coffers is indeed a powerful card. If you haven’t experienced the rush of black mana from Coffers, when you hear people complain about Exsanguinate ending a game you might be puzzled. You might even be wondering how Exsanguinate could even deal enough damage to kill a player or two. Look no further; Cabal Coffers is the answer to all your questions. Any time someone mentions an spell with X in its casting cost, and some unreal amount of damage or board state change, it’s probably because of Coffers. Especially if the card is not green.

There are other cards that enable this kind of play, namely the mana doubling cards – Extraplanar Lens, Gauntlet of Power, Caged Sun and Nirkana Revenant. However, these cards are usually reserved for mono-colour decks, and excepting the latter two, can help other players. While the mana doublers do a bit more than Cabal Coffers, owing to the two mana activation cost of Coffers, probably most important in the differences between the mana doublers and Cabal Coffers is the mana cost. Each of the others costs a significant amount of mana, and may have other costs associated with it, namely the 5 or 6 mana. To make matters worse for gauntlet-style artifacts, they are more vulnerable to destruction. If a gauntlet-style artifact gets destroyed, it often creates a huge loss of time because of their cost and the ease of their destruction. In contrast, Coffers can be used immediately with relative ease, and even if it gets destroyed, it still acts as a kind of powerful Dark Ritual.

Part of what makes Cabal Coffers so powerful is that there is a great deal of supporting cards available to magnify its use. I’ve said that Coffers is available for two-colour decks, and that gauntlet-style artifacts are not. The reason for this is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. At its very worst, this card makes Cabal Coffers and itself a swamp, which increases its ability to produce mana. At its best, it makes Cabal Coffers powerful in two, and even three-colour decks and increases the playability of lands that do not produce mana like Maze of Ith. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth also enables swampwalk from cards like Wrexial, the Risen Deep and Filth. It is, perhaps, with a touch of irony that Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth has a greater sticker price than that of Coffers itself. In short, with Urborg, you’ll be able to play all your favourite non-basic lands, and still have Cabal Coffers produce its maximum possible amount of mana. This will be critical, as the next few Cabal Coffers helpers are revealed.

The next enablers are both from Cabal Coffers’ original set: Odyssey. Deserted Temple allows you to untap Cabal Coffers and activate it again for more mana, serving as a functional replica of Cabal Coffers once you have the first one on the table. Deserted Temple can untap other lands as well, like the aforementioned Maze of Ith, but by and large, this one is unremarkable unless Cabal Coffers is on the table. In its favour, however, it is a useful land in the absence of others; it can always tap for a colourless mana, and does not come into play tapped. The second goodie from Odyssey is Petrified Field. Inevitably, Cabal Coffers is destroyed. Someone will use Tectonic Edge or Ghost Quarter or any number of other land destruction cards, and the Coffers player will be back where they started. Petrified Field lets you dig that Coffers out again, play it and continue on. Like Deserted Temple, Petrified Field has few redeeming qualities; only that it taps for colourless mana and is otherwise unobtrusive.

By this point, the use of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth should be pretty clear; there are a lot of non-basic lands that need to be changed into swamps if the full advantage of Coffers is to be realized. Still yet, there is another. Vesuva can make a copy of Cabal Coffers, acting a bit like Deserted Temple without its activation cost, and can keep up the swamp count with Urborg. Vesuva has many other advantages; it can act as land destruction against an opponent’s Legendary lands, or copy other powerful lands in a pinch (like Maze of Ith, again). On its worst day, it’s another swamp, but it has the potential to be so much more.

The last two picks are from Zendikar and will be a change of pace; they won’t be lands. The first is Expedition Map, which is a simple tutor for any land. While this seems rather somewhat boring and redundant on its face, it is very useful and flexible. Even though black has a ton of tutors already, many are expensive and hard to find. Even if they are available, it helps to have even more tutors, so that Demonic Tutor can be used on something else, rather than another land. Best of all, Expedition Map will find many of the other pieces I’ve just laid out; you could fetch Urborg, Deserted Temple or any of the others as needed, rather than just Coffers. Like so many other picks, it is not restricted to searching for just Cabal Coffers and its enablers, and plenty of other lands (… Maze of Ith?) are perfectly acceptable targets. The second pick from Zendikar is Grim Discovery. Grim Discovery serves just as well as Petrified Field except that it does not take a land-drop itself, and can dig out a creature as well. It cannot be stressed enough that Cabal Coffers is very powerful, and will be destroyed often. This helps you get around that one weakness. Further, if you were really desperate, you could cycle a Barren Moor or Polluted Mire and then pick it up after.

Finally, there are cards outside of mono-black and artifacts that can really make Cabal Coffers work. The first is Primeval Titan. With land search trigger, it can search for Coffers and Urborg, enabling Coffers fully for a two or three-colour deck. Each successive swing searches out more enablers or functional replicas while increasing the amount Cabal Coffers generates, thanks to Urborg. Similarly, Scapeshift can search for Coffers and all the land enablers at once, enabling big mana on the next turn. Finally, there are more tutors available in other colours, such as Tolaria West and Sylvan Scrying which act as another Expedition Map. Others, like Reap and Sow and Knight of the Reliquary will tutor for and place the lands right into play untapped, allowing for quick and easy mana.

Now that we’ve gone over how powerful Cabal Coffers is, and all the different ways it can be made to work, or can be made to produce more, and how it can be recovered from destruction, it is only fair to list out some ways it can be stopped. The best way to deal with Coffers is to exile the land itself. A comprehensive one-card solution for any deck is Karn Liberated’s second ability. Failing that, the most common way is going to be some sort of land destruction, sealed with some kind of graveyard hate. There are a fair number of cards that will destroy a single land, and many more that will give you options. Any colour will have access to Tectonic Edge, Ghost Quarter, Strip Mine, Dust Bowl, and Wasteland. The sticker price on Wasteland is a bit high, and Dust Bowl does not fit in every deck, but the remaining three are quick and easy ways to put Coffers into the graveyard. Other land destruction cards with other options attached are typically in green and red, like Bramblecrush or Aftershock. The next step is to seal it away by exiling cards in the graveyard. Black is probably the best for this, but there are at least a few colourless options: Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus are probably the most powerful. Exiling Coffers is only really necessary if your opponent is running Petrified Field and/or Grim Discovery, so it is not always strictly necessary, but playing cards to exile graveyards is largely a good idea because of other recursion strategies.

Beyond these commonly played tactics are a few cards that often have other uses but can be used to stop a player from running away with the game Coffers. One of these is Invader Parasite, most commonly used to sneak extra damage onto a player for playing a lot of lands (like the mono-green player with a penchant for searching their deck for forests and playing them). While you cannot expect a player to take two damage for playing another Cabal Coffers, simply exiling it is worthwhile, ahead of almost any other target. Further, if you bought the Political Puppets preconstructed commander deck, Chaos Warp is another one-card solution, though you can expect that the Coffers player will tutor for it and play it again at some point.

In blue, there is Shifting Borders and Vedalken Plotter. The beauty of these cards is that if your opponent has played Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, you could freely make use of Coffers for mana.  If you’re not it will only produce a huge amount of colourless mana, but I’m certain even that will be useful. Even without Urborg, these prevent the usual recursion tactics – Grim Discovery and Petrified Field – from working because Coffers wasn’t destroyed.

Finally, there is the final resort against any deck depending on a few cards and a number of tutors to find them: Jester’s Cap, Sadistic Sacrament, Bitter Ordeal, and Extract. Each of these will search and exile any problematic card from other player’s decks; it could be Cabal Coffers or combo pieces.

Cabal Coffers is a force in the typical Commander group; at least one player will use it and accompanying tech. I hope this guide helps players – new and old – exploit or deal Coffers in their games.

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